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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Rice: IAEA report bosters case for Sanctions against Iran nuclear program

What is happening: Iran is defying the UN, and diplomats are finding ways of papering it over.
Last update - 02:22 23/02/2008       
Rice: UN nuclear watchdog report bolsters case for tighter Iran sanctions
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
The United States wants quick action to punish Iran for refusing to roll back its disputed nuclear program, and a new report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog strengthens the case for additional sanctions, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.
The report, released Friday by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that Iran has continued to enrich uranium in defiance of repeated UN Security Council resolutions demanding that it suspend the uranium centrifuge program, which could produce both civilian nuclear fuel and the material for a nuclear bomb.
Tehran insists it is interested only in civilian nuclear energy, but the U.S. and others contend it harbors ambitions for a bomb.
"The United Nations has a very strong case for passing a third Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran after the new report from the IAEA found that Tehran failed to cooperate fully with its investigators and left unanswered crucial questions about its nuclear past," Rice said.
"There is very good reason after this report to proceed to the third Security Council resolution," Rice told reporters at the State Department.
"This report demonstrates that whatever the Iranians may be doing to try to clean up some elements of the past, it is inadequate, given their current activities, given questions about their past activities and given what we all have to worry about, which is a future in which Iran could start to perfect the technologies that could lead to nuclear weapons," she said.
Rice spoke ahead of a meeting between senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and from Germany, scheduled for Monday in Washington to discuss the new resolution. The six powers have agreed on a draft.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, the third-ranking U.S. diplomat, will represent the United States at the meeting. He said Friday there is all the more reason now for the Security Council to pass a third sanctions resolution.
The United States wants the Security Council to begin debate next week. Burns would not predict how long debate would last and would not rule out that the current package of proposed punishments might change. The proposed package slightly expands and strengthens previous penalties but is weaker than the United States had wanted.
Burns is the top U.S. negotiator on a carrot-and-stick package proposed by the UN Security Council's five permanent states, all of which are nuclear powers, plus Germany. Iran has rebuffed the offer and has brushed off the Security Council's penalties.
Iran's trade partners and sometime allies on the council, Russia and China, which hold Security Council veto power, oppose very harsh measures. Burns said the new round of sanctions would pinch Iran, but he argued more strongly that failing to act would make the Security Council look weak.
Earlier Friday, U.S. ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad expressed sentiments similar to those of Rice, saying that the IAEA report should pave the way for new tighter sanctions against Iran.

"They're increasing their capabilities," Khalilzad noted. "Not only have the number of centrifuges increased, but they're working on a second-generation, if you like, a more capable centrifuge. Things are getting worse in terms of the enrichment part."
He said he believed some were hoping the IAEA report would eliminate the need for the next resolution - by assessing Iranian cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog more positively.
"The IAEA report does give us very important points to make," Khalilzad said. "They [Iran] did not come clean."
The report states that Iran has carried out a series of experiments associated with the production of nuclear weapons, high velocity explosives, and uranium enrichment. Teheran has also reportedly carried out simulations of warhead detonations and tests involving Polonium 210, a material used to develop nuclear weapons.
IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei writes in the report that some of the data they received on Iran's activities came from countries that were interested in increasing IAEA scrutiny of Iran's nuclear program.
Teheran has stated that the data in question, which includes documents, is fabricated.
The report did detail areas of greater Iranian cooperation, and said Teheran has produced documents detailing research and experiments carried in Iranian academic institutions, activities which were previously thought to be a front for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).
ElBaradei on Friday said his agency had made "quite good progress" in clarifying Iran's nuclear program thanks to increased Iranian cooperation, but serious doubts persist.
"We are at it for the last five years. In the last four months, in particular, we have made quite good progress in clarifying the outstanding issues," he said in a statement accompanying a new report on Iran's behavior.
"On that score, Iran in the last few months has provided us with visits to many places that enable us to have a clearer picture of Iran's current program. However, that is not, in my view, sufficient," he said.
ElBaradei called on Iran to follow UN Security Council Resolution 1696, which said Iran must suspend uranium enrichment or face diplomatic sanctions. Nonetheless, the report states Iran has stocked its Natanz reactor with new, gas-powered centrifuges which are reportedly more advanced and able to enrich more uranium than their predecessors.
The report was welcomed by Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who said it provides "more evidence proving Iran's truthfulness on the nuclear issue."
"This victory is the result of resistance by the Iranian nation in insisting on its rights," Jalili said.

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Israel should prepare for change in US Relations

This observation is undoubtedly astute and valid:
The preference for a prolonged strategic relationship with the U.S. should not extend to an exclusive reliance on that relationship or preclude placing some eggs in other baskets - in Europe, in Asia, and yes, also in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
The problem neglected by Daniel Levy, is that it is not easy for Israel to develop a strategic defensive alliance with say, Libya or Saudi Arabia, and therefore Israel is not likely to develop deep ties with those countries. Likewise, Libya and Saudi Arabia, or even China, do not manufacture anything equivalent to the F-16. These are minor problems that do not interest great minds, I suppose.
However, India is a promissing partner for business and security ties, but even there, there is domestic opposition. There is also a good opportunity to pursue deeper ties with Russia. Playing hard to get never hurt. A really novel idea is independence, which has not really been tried in a while.
Ami Isseroff
 Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
By Daniel Levy

Here's something else to add to an Israeli's menu of worries: The United States presidential elections may produce change in 2009. Or so fear people like Malcolm Hoenlein, the professional head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who said on a recent visit to Israel that all the talk of "change" is an "opening for mischief," and not good for Israel.

Apparently the status quo is so idyllic for Israel that one should wish for nothing more than that it be perpetuated eternally.

Of course not all change is good, but the Israeli-American relationship could benefit greatly from a dose of new thinking - in terms of both the nature and the exclusivity of that alliance.

There are already two storm clouds looming over the blissful American-Israeli landscape, but they are the product of current, not possible future, policies. The first is that reality is forcing more Americans to take a closer look at the Middle East. They see the scorched earth left behind by their government's recent policies, and the investment of U.S. lives and lucre. As they begin to ask questions, the role of the bilateral partnership is inevitably placed under increasing scrutiny. Sometimes the scrutiny is unfair: Israel, for example, did not get the U.S. into Iraq. And sometimes it's more justified: Complicity in Israeli settlements and occupation carry a heavy toll for America's standing in the region and beyond.

The candidacy of Ron Paul, on the Republican side, has been a lightning rod for that sentiment. His campaign broke party records, raising $4.2 million in contributions in one day, mainly in online donations. Paul will not be the Republican candidate for president, but the tendency for people to ask, "What is going on with the U.S. in the Middle East, and why does our ally Israel make things more difficult?" should give cause to reflect. The business-as-usual approach of many of Israel's supporters is not sustainable over time.

Four or eight more years of aggressive, divisive, costly and failed American policies in the region - especially if supported by the so-called pro-Israel camp - will exacerbate this tension, perhaps exponentially.

The second cloud is that Israel is today hitched to an America that is weakened economically, stretched militarily, deeply divided at home and decidedly unpopular abroad. To the extent that the next president continues the policies that have contributed to those trends, Israel too will pay a price. When Israel is so dependent on the U.S., and the U.S. is wounded, we feel it.

The warm rhetoric continues to emanate from Washington, and that feels comforting. The problem is that its utility is diminished, and nice words are no substitute for the smart plans that would actually make the U.S. and Israel more, not less, secure. Israel should hope for and encourage a change that lifts America out of its current morass, while at the same time diversifying its ally portfolio.

Haaretz's "Israel Factor" notwithstanding (and most members of that panel look like the Israeli equivalent of the aging WASPs one tends to find on a platform alongside John McCain), it is Barack Obama who has best positioned himself to reverse these trends and thereby guarantee the U.S.-Israel relationship. An Obama presidency is more likely to be the antidote to further tensions than their source.

The response so far in Israel to the Obama candidacy has split between gevald and hatikva. The former has more to do with email slur campaigns and our own prejudices than with hard policy positions espoused by the Illinois senator. The latter is easily understood when set against the prospect in 2009 of a 1999 election redux, of Bibi (Netanyahu) vs. Barak (Ehud), yawn. Perhaps Obama's ability to mobilize young people and to transcend political indifference, and his audacity to hope, will be infectious here in the 51st state of the U.S.A.

But Israel should be looking beyond the election. Yes, an Obama presidency is more likely to reverse America's decline - internally and externally - and to correct the hubris, incompetence and adventurism of the Bush years. The same might also be true of Clinton and McCain, though it seems less likely. It is what Obama could do to reenergize America that is first and foremost the good news for Israel. And when he talks of "changing the mindset" that got America into the Iraq war, Obama implies a policy of realism and engagement that stands to stabilize the region and even advance genuine peace. Israel could well be a main beneficiary of such a change.

But what if the next president is all about more of the same or something very similar? Israel must plan for the possibility of an America that continues in its decline, that can deliver less, and remains militarily bogged down in Iraq and perhaps elsewhere in the region. Under this scenario, the special relationship with Israel will become an ever-more contentious issue. America itself might increasingly turn its gaze toward Asia.

So while following American developments closely, and hoping for change, Israel should also be more active out there on the dating circuit. Though efforts have been made to strengthen other alliances, results have been mixed so far, and our options will remain limited so long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved.

The preference for a prolonged strategic relationship with the U.S. should not extend to an exclusive reliance on that relationship or preclude placing some eggs in other baskets - in Europe, in Asia, and yes, also in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Daniel Levy, a senior fellow at the New America and Century Foundations, is a former adviser in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office and was lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative

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IAEA: Iran experimented with nuclear weapons production

Actually, there is nothing much new here. It is the same warhead diagrams that were unearthed earlier.
February 23, 2008
Nuclear Agency Says Iran Has Used New Technology

WASHINGTON — The International Atomic Energy Agency described for the first time on Friday the evidence it has shown to Iran that strongly suggests the country had experimented with technologies to manufacture a nuclear weapon, but reported that Iranian officials had dismissed the documents as "baseless and fabricated."
The exchange was contained in an 11-page report in which the agency painted a mixed picture of Iran's activities, and confirmed that Iran had begun to deploy a new generation of machinery to enrich uranium. The report, prepared by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the agency, said Iranian officials had finally begun to answer a number of longstanding questions about its nuclear activities.
But officials with the United Nations agency said Iran had refused to deal with the evidence that served as the basis for American charges that Iran had tried to design a weapon. Much of it was contained in a laptop computer slipped out of the country by an Iranian technician four years ago and obtained by German and American intelligence agencies.
A National Intelligence Estimate published in early December by American intelligence agencies concluded, to the surprise of many in the White House, that Iran had suspended its work on a weapons design in late 2003, apparently in response to growing international pressure, adding that it was not clear whether the work had resumed.
That report threw into disarray the Bush administration's efforts to increase pressure on Iran. Since early last summer Mr. Bush has been trying to persuade the United Nations Security Council to ratchet up sanctions against Iran and pass a third resolution intended to cause more economic pain to the country.
But with the doubts now that Iran is actively pursuing a weapon, Russia and China -- which have deep commercial and oil ties to Iran -- have balked, agreeing only to a greatly watered-down set of sanctions that has yet to go to the Security Council for a vote.
Those sanctions are not based on suspected weapons work, but rather on Iran's continued refusal to halt enriching uranium. The new report confirms that Iran has begun deploying a new generation of centrifuges that can make fuel, for nuclear power plants or for weapons, much more efficiently.
"If this resolution is not voted, the credibility of the Security Council will be very much in doubt," R. Nicholas Burns, an under secretary of state, said on Friday. "The Security Council must now vote for new sanctions."
But Mr. Burns is leaving his post in a week, and inside the administration, it is becoming clear that the Iranians have been able to build centrifuges far faster than the administration could impose new sanctions.
Since the intelligence report came out, America's allies have spun all kinds of theories about the internal machinations that led to it, including that intelligence analysts were boxing Mr. Bush in, preventing him from taking military action against Iran's nuclear sites.
Officials who worked on the report have denied any such intent. The director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, told Congress he now regretted how the intelligence estimate was presented, saying it failed to emphasize that Iran was moving ahead with the hardest part of any bomb project: producing the fuel. Designing a crude weapon is considered a far easier task.
With an eye to the decisions Mr. Bush's successor will have to make, two retired senior diplomats, William Luers and Thomas Pickering, and a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jim Walsh, are publishing an article next week in The New York Review of Books urging the United States to use the intelligence report as a reason to open unconditional talks with Iran, and ultimately to establish an international fuel-production facility on its soil.
But Mr. Burns rejected that idea again Friday, and for years the administration has argued that if such a facility was allowed in Iran, its scientists would learn the difficult art of uranium enrichment and ultimately use that knowledge in a covert bomb project.
It was the evidence that Iran had, in the past, tried to design a weapon that is at the heart of the last confrontation between Iran and the nuclear agency.
Since 2005, the I.A.E.A. has urged the United States and other countries to allow it to show Iran the evidence obtained on the laptop, which intelligence officials have said once belonged to an Iranian technician with access to the country's nuclear program. But the United States. refused to allow the information to be shown to the Iranians until a few weeks ago.
Now that roadblock has been broken. The report says that a week ago the I.A.E.A was given permission to show original documents to the Iranians. In the report issued Friday, the agency described some of that evidence in public for the first time.
The most suspicious-looking document in the collection turned over to the I.A.E.A. was a schematic diagram showing what appeared to be the development of a warhead, with a layout of internal components. "This layout has been assessed by the agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device," the I.A.E.A. wrote. But that does not prove it was a nuclear warhead, and Iran argued that its missile program used "conventional warheads only."
David Albright, a former weapons inspector who now runs the Institute for Science and International Security, said: "The issue now is whether this is symptomatic of a comprehensive nuclear weapons effort, or just individual projects. Is it part of a plan to design and develop a weapon that can fit on a nuclear missile? And if so, why are so many pieces missing?"

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Saudis warn they will withdraw Arab peace initiative

 Last update - 11:26 23/02/2008       
Arab states threaten to rescind 2002 Saudi peace initiative
By The Associated Press
CAIRO, Egypt - Arab officials are warning they could withdraw their landmark offer of peace and full ties with Israel in exchange for a return of Arab lands, unless Israel explicitly accepts the initiative.
The warnings reflect increasing Arab impatience with the long-stalled peace process with Israel. Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have bogged down since they were relaunched at the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis peace conference last November after a seven-year hiatus.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal - whose country sponsored the Arab peace initiative, adopted by Arab nations in 2002 - warned Thursday that despair would force us to review these options, including withdrawing the proposal.
He accused Israel of sabotaging the initiative, which is now facing grave danger.
The Arab plan offers Israel full recognition by the Arabs and peace, in return for complete withdrawal from the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, as well as the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. It also calls for Palestinian refugees' right of return to their homes in Israel to be addressed.
Israel initially rejected the plan. Last year, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert praised the plan as showing a positive approach and said it would be taken into account in the peace process. But he stopped short of accepting it and rejected its call on refugees. Israel has also rejected the full withdrawal called for in the plan, hoping to hang on to several settlement blocs in the West Bank and to keep much of east Jerusalem, with its holy sites.
Arab leaders are planning to hold a summit in March in the Syrian capital, Damascus, at which they are expected to reiterate their adherence to the peace plan. But ahead of the gathering, they have stepped up their warnings it could be rescinded.
The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, said the Arabs extended the hand of peace to Israel with the peace proposal but now face unprecedented Israeli obstinacy.
"The key to solving the Arab-Israeli issue is to hold serious negotiations, not fictitious ones," he said.
Moussa's deputy at the League, Mohammed Sobeih, accused Israel of putting the sole political initiative on the table at risk. "If Israel makes it fail, they [Arabs] have to search for other options," Sobeih told reporters on Friday.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been marred by ongoing Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas the Palestinians want for their future state, as well as by the near-daily rocket barrages into Israel from the militant Hamas rulers of Gaza and Israel's blockade of the coastal strip.
The struggling talks have thrown into doubt hopes expressed by all sides at Annapolis that a final settlement could be reached by December 2008.
Arab countries, including Syria, participated in the Annapolis gathering, hoping that it meant a strong U.S. commitment to push forward negotiations -and American pressure on Israel to make concessions. In recent weeks, several Arab leaders have expressed frustration with the talks.
Saud, whose country is a close U.S. ally, blamed Israel during a gathering of South American-Arab foreign ministers in Argentina on Thursday.
"It's unbelievable that we keep blaming the weak party in the equation, which is the Palestinian people, with all the suffering they live under, while ignoring what Israel does by expanding settlements, tightening the siege, humiliating the Palestinians and carrying out a mass punishment against them," al-Faisal said.
Egypt in particular fears a failure of the Palestinian-Israeli talks, worried this may boost the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and could eventually saddle Egypt with the responsibility for the Mediterranean area.
Egypt faced a tough test last month when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, blockaded in Gaza, streamed into Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after Hamas blew holes in the border wall.
The breach ended Israel's tight blockade of the coastal strip, imposed a week earlier in response to a spike in rocket attacks on Israeli border towns. Egyptian troops resealed the border 12 days later.

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Nasrallah: Hezbollah preparing for war with Israel

Nasrallah promises war. Nasrallah tends to make good on his "promises." It is hard to see how Hezbollah will fight with UNIFIL in place, even if the Lebanese army stands aside, but it is equally hard to see how Israel could fight as well.  
 Hezbollah chief: We're preparing for war with Israel in coming months
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that operatives within Lebanon are preparing for a new war with Israel in coming months.
Nasrallah, who made a speech in honor of the "Islamic Resistance Week," maintained that activists from his organization are ready for battle against the Israel Defense Forces and will fight the IDF soldiers "in every wadi" in ways they haven't fought in the past.
The leader of the Lebanon-based guerilla group spoke at a rally in front of thousands who came to honor Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah's deputy secretary general, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus on February 12. Nasrallah also spoke about the 1992 targeted killing of his predecessor, Abbas Moussawi.
"No one can protect the entire Israeli home front from our missiles," he said. "If they think of entering the south, to any valley, any hill, I swear you [Israelis] will carry your tanks and soldiers and your entire army will collapse under the feet of Imad Mughniyah," Nasrallah said
"I swear to you Haj Imad, your blood will not go to waste," Nasrallah said.
"We will defend ourselves the way we choose, at the time we choose, in the place we choose... With our will and bravery we will defend ourselves and our blood," he proclaimed.
At time of his death, Mughniyah was the commander of Hezbollah's guerrilla army. He had been on the United States' most wanted list and was hunted by Israeli intelligence for two decades for his role in a string of kidnappings, hijackings and attacks against Western and Israeli targets that killed hundreds in the 1980s and early 1990s. Though many accused Israel of the assassination, Israel denies any involvement.
"Destroying Israel is an inevitable outcome, a historic law, a divine doctrine," Nasrallah said. "When Israel won't have an army it won't survive, and that's what I said about Mughniyah's blood leading to the elimination of Israel."
He maintained that Hezbollah is waging an "open war" with Israel, emphasizing that "the war is open since 1948, before I was born."
Nasrallah said that Syria is responsible for investigating Mughniyah's assasination, and updating the Shiite organization with its findings.
He maintained that the investigation strengthened his view that Israel stood behind the assassination, praising Mughniyah's involvement in the kidnapping of Israeli businessman Elhanan Tennenbaum and forcing Israel to leave Lebanon in the year 2000.
Israel flights taking extra precautions due to Hezbollah hijacking threats
Israel is requiring that passengers on all incoming flights be confined to their seats in the half-hour before landing as part of heightened precautions against hijacking, aviation security sources said on Friday.
They said the Transport Ministry order, issued to local and foreign airlines on Wednesday, cited threats by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas to avenge the February 12 assassination of their operations chief by waging "open war" against Israel.
"Our new policy is that planes lock their flight-deck doors and activate the 'please fasten seat belts' signs when 290 kilometers away from Israel," one Israeli security source said.
"It's a precaution against hijackers storming the cockpit in the final approach, given the current terrorist threat level," the source said, adding that previously it was up to the airlines to decide when to ask passengers to remain seated.
The Transport Ministry had no immediate comment.
The new Israeli aviation security standards may remain in force even if Hezbollah's threats of reprisals are not being borne out and the recent alert level is lowered, sources said.
Israel last year began requiring that all pilots who fly to its airports use the Security Code System (SCS), a local invention designed to ensure any plane commandeered for an al Qaida-style ramming attack is spotted and intercepted in time.
On most flights, which approach Israel from the west, pilots equipped with the SCS must enter a personalized, technologically secured code when 290 kilometers out, so that air traffic controllers in Tel Aviv know the cockpit is in the right hands.
Aviation experts have suggested that hijackers could wait for SCS compliance to have been established before striking. Keeping passengers seated until landing would help diminish such a threat, an Israeli security source said.
"The new regulations are definitely linked to our introduction of the SCS," the source said.
Since the al Qaida attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has instituted mandatory pre-landing seating regulations for flights to some of its airports. There are also U.S. rules against incoming passengers congregating in plane aisles.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Lebanon's Saniora Government & and the Israeli Complex

Lebanon's Saniora Government & and the Israeli Complex
By: Elias Bejjani

February 23/08
 ("News Agencies (Naharnet) Beirut, 19 Feb 08: Syrian Border Guards Kill Lebanese Child/Syrian border guards on Tuesday opened fire at a Lebanese child killing him, the state-run National News Agency reported. The short report said Abbas Abbas, 16, was shot and seriously wounded by Syrian border guards at the Grand River borderline in north Lebanon. He died later at hospital. The development is the second of its kind in about a week. Lebanon has been demanding demarcation of its borders with Syria in an effort to control illegal activities in both directions".)
 During his two years in office, Lebanon's PM, Mr. Fouad Saniora has proved time after time, and without any shed of doubt that psychologically he is like many other "day dreaming Arabs", still possessed by the obsolete rhetoric of the "Nasser phenomenon", that was founded by the late Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser. In the fifties and sixties Nasser promised his fellow Arabs a strong, unified Arab nation, and advocated for throwing the State of Israel into the sea. In the end, he caused the Arabs more and more divisions and led them in the six days war with Israel in 1967, to the worst humiliating defeat in their history.< BR> 
 Mr. Saniora, despite all of the serious difficulties, obstacles, hardships, and setbacks that the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah Axis of Evil and their puppet Lebanese machineries continue to inflict on his government, including tagging its members with treason, often falls prey to the rhetoric of this axis and issues impulsive statements or declares stances that are not in the interest of the Lebanese people, and merely motivated by the "Nasser phenomenon." Such statements and stances are usually void of any logic, common sense or gratitude for the Western countries that strongly support his government against the Axis of Evil's overt scheme to overthrow the whole Lebanese regime and erect on its ruins a Shiite (Welaet Al Fakeh) Islamic state, a replicate of the Iranian Mullahs Islamic Khomaini Republic.
 One of the most devastating symptoms of the "Nasser phenomena" is an unconscious inclination to overlook all logic, reason, fairness, laws, international agreements, UN resolutions, national interests, etc. whenever Israel is the issue. This phenomenon comes to the surface with anything and everything that has to do with Israel, with no thought of what is right or wrong.
 It might be very helpful to inject Mr. Saniora and all those Arabs who are hit by the "Nasser Phenomenon" with a big dose of reality, and remind them that Egypt, Jordan and all the Arab countries, including Syria and the Palestinians themselves have already and for many years officially recognized the State of Israel, either covertly or overtly. Many of these countries exchange full diplomatic relations with Israel and receive the Israeli officials openly and publically. Yet, all these countries with no exception forbid to Lebanon and the Lebanese what they legalize and okay for themselves.
 These Arab countries want to fight Israel from Lebanon and through the Lebanese people, while they enjoy peace and stability in their own countries and forge peaceful agreements with Israel, directly or indirectly. They, the Arabs and the Iranian Mullahs have been and are still using Lebanon as an arena for their wars. Hezbollah, the Iranian armed Shiite fundamentalist militia has been since 1982 the spearhead for this heresy rhetoric.
 We have surprisingly heard, Mr. Saniora several times fiercely criticize and reprimanded the United States for providing Israel with weapons and other aid, although Washington is his government's strongest ally, and its staunch supporter in the face of the of Axis of Evil's bloody scheme against Lebanon. That scheme aims to erect through Hezbollah, the terrorist militia, an Islamic Shiite republic in Lebanon, a replica of that which the Mullahs run in Iran.
 We have witnessed a trend of repeated frenetic Saniora reactions to extremely minor incidents on the Lebanese-Israeli border. He called many times for filing official Lebanese complaints against Israel at the Security Council for trivial reasons, e.g. Lebanese shepherds being arrested by the Israeli troops when they get lost and cross the border between the two countries. He often overlooks the obliging requirements of the Armistice agreement with Israel, the UN resolutions 425, 426, 242, 383, 1559 and 1701 as well as the "Taef Accord". All these call among many other things, for controlling the borders with Israel, disarmament of all militias, especially Hezbollah, and the enforcement of security, law and order all over the Lebanese territories through the legitimate Lebanese armed forces. Unfortunately, Saniora loses both track and vision whenever Israeli is the issue. Here he falls into the Axis of Evil rhetoric trap, and the "Nasser Phenomena" surfaces.
 Sadly, Saniora's government reaction and official stance in addressing the cold blood killing of a Lebanese child on February 19/08 by the Syrian border guards was so shy, extremely pathetic, shameful,  inappropriate and disproportional. This blatant double standard that the Saniora government exercises regarding Syria is not acceptable and lacks credibility.
 We call on the Lebanese government to file immediately an official complaint against Syria at the UN Security Council and demand that the Syrian regime be fully accountable on all levels for this savage, heinous and cowardly crime.
 We also demand that the Saniora government, as well as many members in the Lebanese majority coalition of 4th March, put an end once and for all to their camouflaging and dhimmitude rhetoric regarding the false and fabricated role that Hezbollah alleges to have played in 2000 in forcing Israel to withdraw its troops from South Lebanon.
 The blunt reality is that Israel withdrew its troops in accordance with the UN resolution 425, and the whole matter had nothing to do with Hezbollah. The Israeli decision for withdrawal that was regretted later was based completely on domestic strategies. Hezbollah did not liberate South Lebanon in 2000; in fact Syria and Iran, through Hezbollah, were the reason the Israelis delayed their troops' withdrawal for 14 years.
 Meanwhile PM Saniora and many other Lebanese politicians and officials ought to stop their monotonous, dull and empty statement and say: Lebanon will be the last Arabic country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. In fact, all these Lebanese dignitaries should wake up and admit the fact that all the Arab countries including Syria and the Palestinians themselves have already recognized the State of Israel covertly or overtly. Only Lebanon is left as an open arena for Arab-Iranian, Israeli fights and an outlet for inter-Arab fights and conflicts.
 Enough is enough. Lebanon and the Lebanese people deserve to enjoy peace with their neighbors, Syria and Israel alike.
 The Lebanese leaders and politicians have an obligation to our people, to give priority to Lebanon's interests and only to Lebanon.

Elias Bejjani
Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)

LCCC Web Site
CLHRF Website

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McCain and Israel - According to Rosner

Supporters of Israel should have no problem with McCain - his heart is in the right place at least. Whether he has the understanding and experience to do the right thing is open to discussion.
 One aspect of McCain's policies is crystal clear: support of Israel
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
McCain is not a typical Republican, but in case he runs against Obama, that may help him draw Jewish voters.
WASHINGTON - A little while after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, a group of Israelis visited Senator John McCain in his office, armed with maps. Among them was the IDF military attache, Major General Dan Harel, and ambassador Danny Ayalon. The maps were laid out, a briefing was made, and McCain did not hesitate much at the end to declare the just cause behind the Israeli offensive.
In one of his speeches during that time, at a fundraiser in a St. Louis golf center, he said: "My dear friends, you have probably seen our European friends say, 'Well, the Israelis have got to stop.' But what would we do if somebody came across our borders and killed our soldiers and captured our soldiers? Do you think we would be exercising total restraint?"
Here is a subject with which McCain identifies a great deal more with Israel than some of the members of the current U.S. administration - his concern for the Israeli prisoners. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has given some of her interlocutors cause to understand that she believes this to be an obsession which affects Israel's judgment. She may even be right about this - but McCain, a former POW, identifies with this obsession. Whenever Israel needs someone to pick up the telephone on the subject of the prisoners, McCain is ready to help -if he can.
Israeli captives on the one hand - prisoners in Israeli jails on the other. McCain believes that Israel is the perfect example of how terror suspects should be interrogated, without torture. During one of his meetings with Shaul Mofaz, when the latter was still defense minister, McCain's aides asked for details on this subject.
At the time the senator was in the midst of a battle against the forms of interrogation supported by the Bush administration. This is one of the many issues over which McCain upset his Republican colleagues, when he ignored the party line and joined the Democratic legislators. McCain is a man of many sides, many enemies, and many friends.
An old Washington hand, familiar with all the candidates for the presidency, offered yesterday an interesting way of differentiating between them. Barack Obama is a complete mystery, he said. We cannot tell who his choice of aides will be, and also not necessarily what his policies will be. Hillary Clinton is surrounded by persons that are well known in Israel - and she will bring with her a team that is known, but it is difficult to tell what her policies will be. Clinton is a woman who keeps her cards close.
McCain is the opposite of Clinton - his policy is open or at least better known, but who will be the persons he will select to fill the posts in his administration are difficult to tell in advance.
One of the factors contributing to this is the fact that McCain is divided by two worlds. There is the realist McCain, whose friends are Brent Scowcroft, from the Ford and Bush Sr. administration, Henry Kissinger and Senator Chuck Hagel, who was not a fervent supporter of Israeli government policies, and many military and security figures, like Norman Schwartzkopf, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, former secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, and many others.
It is McCain who told Haaretz's Amir Oren of the possibility that he would send Scowcroft and James Baker as envoys to the Middle East, for which he was later strongly criticized. Richard Fontaine, an aide, who was in the interview later denied this was said, and that too much importance was given to this.
McCain's official stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is similar to that of the Bush administration in its current form: zero tolerance for terrorism, but at the same time in favor of efforts to progress toward a diplomatic solution.
It is this latter McCain who will be easier for Israel to get along with. It is the McCain who was favored by the neo-conservative faction during the 2000 elections, because of his support (once more to the chagrin of the party) for Bill Clinton's interventionist policy in the Balkans.
The former head of the CIA, James Woolsey, is one of the unofficial members of his faction and he is a McCain backer, as is the columnist and editor William Kristol, and Robert Kagan, who was an adviser to secretary of state George Schultz, and most likely also his brother, Fred Kagan, who wrote the plan for the surge in Iraq, as well as McCain's official adviser on matters of foreign policy, Randy Scheunemann.
In any case, the question of how McCain will manage the relationship with Israel will depend on which McCain arrives in the White House.
On some issues he has already made his position clear. If there is one statement that has made him popular among Israeli leaders it is this: "There is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear armed Iran."
When McCain makes such a statement, Israel believes him, because McCain - and this is precisely what makes him a candidate with a chance to win - is a man who keeps his word. In a speech at Yeshiva University he said that "Iran's choice is clear. So is ours." This will be a subject that will be high on the agenda during the confrontations between the Republican candidate and his Democratic counterpart.
But striking Iran or threatening to do so is not a policy that is acceptable to the security faction among McCain's friends. They will try to convince him that this is a mistake, and McCain will listen - as he listens to everyone - until he forms his own idea, and then he will no longer listen to anyone.
He will be a stubborn president with whom one is advised not to quarrel. George Bush is also such a president. Israel suffered from this, and still does, when he forced through the participation of Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. On the other hand, Israel benefited from this when Bush threw away Yasser Arafat's telephone numbers.
Israeli experts on American politics said in recent weeks that a campaign between Obama and McCain will place Israel at center stage and will require extreme caution on the part of Israel. McCain is hoping to attract Jewish American votes, both because of his many years of support for Israel, and also as a result of the endorsement he received from Senator Joe Lieberman.
Lieberman is often mentioned as a possible member of the McCain administration, possibly as secretary of defense.
One reason why McCain can draw Jewish votes is that he is free of the burden of George Bush, who in spite his support for Israel, cannot easily attract Jewish voters because he is a conservative evangelical. McCain, on the other hand, has adopted moderate policies domestically, and will allow Jewish voters to choose him with greater ease.
Douglas Bloomfield, a former lobbyist and now a columnist in Washington, believes that McCain is "the Republican with the best chance of returning his party to the Reagan-era level of at least 30 percent of Jewish voters."
Rumors in Israel that McCain's brother, Joe, had converted to Judaism, are false. In a telephone conversation Joe McCain described himself as a "Judeophile" and said he once dated a Jewish girl.
"In would have been proud to be Jewish," he told Haaretz in a telephone conversation, but to the best of his knowledge, this is not the case.
He says that some people may think so because of an article he wrote and disseminated among friends, on the subject of hatred of Jews, "the most abused, kicked-around race of people."
"While we mourn and seethe at September 11th, we don't notice that Israel has a September 11th sometimes every day," he wrote in support of Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism.
He added, and reiterated again yesterday, that he is not concerned about Israel's security because he believes its strong army will protect it. If Israel ever requires his help, he promised, he will stand by it side "completely," since it is "our only ally in the Midde East."
His brother has been a veteran proponent of sending military aid to Israel; maintaining Israel's military supremacy is a cornerstone of his political scope. McCain's favorite Israeli acquaintance, his aides never hesitate to say, is Ehud Barak, whose name is synonymous with security. He visited Israel many times, and has met with every prime minister, from Menachem Begin to Ehud Olmert.
Nevertheless, McCain's voting record shows a limit to his support of Israel: he is ideologically opposed to "earmarks" - private enterprises sponsored by state funds - which he calls "pork" politicians feed their voters. McCain was privy to several projects that contributed to the cash flow of the Israeli military industries, but he has never voted in their favor. This is nothing against Israel in particular - he doesn't vote in favor of similar bills even when they involve companies that are based in Arizona, his own state.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel's rocket defense plan is a chimera!

Iron Dome cannot protect against short range rockets. Probably there is no good alternative, because the alternative Nautilus system has faults too. The debate between the two systems is marred by special pleading based on financial considerations.

Iron Dome system found to be helpless against Qassams
By Reuven Pedatzur, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 03:19 22/02/2008

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was surprised to learn last Sunday that the Iron Dome defense system, which was approved last year and was supposed to protect Israel's citizens against Qassam rockets, is not capable of alleviating the distress of Sderot inhabitants. "Recent tests found the system to be effective against rockets fired from more than four kilometers away, but not against those fired from closer range," Haaretz noted that same day in its lead story. Because Sderot is less than two kilometers from Beit Hanun, from which the rockets are being fired, Iron Dome will be helpless against them.

The upshot is that the prime minister, who just two months ago declared that "we will not fortify ourselves to death," was compelled to approve recommendations to fortify 8,000 homes in Sderot and the communities of the "Gaza envelope," to the tune of NIS 300 million. Such protection is necessary because these homes lie within 4.5 kilometers of the Gaza Strip.

But a mere day later, it turned out that the plan was too ambitious and that budget shortfalls meant that only 3,600 homes in Sderot and the Gaza envelope can be fortified within the next two years. The solemn declarations to fortify the homes, revoked only hours later, are just the latest chapter in a gloomy saga replete with deception, lies, concealment of the truth from policymakers, groundless promises to Sderot residents, the unexplained rejection of the arguments for examining additional defense systems other than Iron Dome, and bizarre decisions made in the Defense Ministry.

The decision to focus on the development of Iron Dome raises so many questions that an examination of the process that led to it is in order. The questions include, for example, whether the decision was influenced by considerations relating to commercial bodies, the likely implications of a deal to export this defense system to a foreign country which is not located in the NATO continents (America and Europe), and the motives of some of those involved in the process. It may well be that nothing concrete lurks behind these questions, but we must not ignore the need to find satisfactory answers for them.

The fact that Iron Dome is not effective against short-range rockets and therefore cannot protect Sderot was long known to the system's developers and to the Defense Ministry officials who chose to focus on it. For some reason, they decided not to go public with their information. When the Defense Ministry officials, led by the defense minister, promised that the residents of Sderot would be protected after the installation of the Iron Dome system, they knew they would not be able to deliver on this promise.

One need not be privy to classified information in order to understand that Iron Dome is not the solution to the Qassam rockets. The data are public knowledge: The Qassam's speed in the air is 200 meters per second. The distance from the edge of Beit Hanun to the outskirts of Sderot is 1,800 meters. Therefore, a rocket launched from Beit Hanun takes about nine seconds to hit Sderot. The developers of Iron Dome at Rafael Advance Defense Systems know that the preparations to simply launch the intercept missiles at their target take up to about 15 seconds (during which time the system locates the target, determines the flight path and calculates the intercept route). Obviously, then, the Qassam will slam into Sderot quite a number of seconds before the missile meant to intercept it is even launched.

But besides not being able to protect the border communities, Iron Dome will also not be able to cope with rockets that are launched much farther away. According to data available from Rafael, the average flight time of the intercept missile to the point of encounter is another 15 seconds. In other words, to intercept a rocket using Iron Dome requires at least 30 seconds. This is the time it takes a Qassam to cover six kilometers.

The disturbing question is why no one bothered to apprise the prime minister of this simple calculation, to make it clear to him that Iron Dome, in the development of which his government decided to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, will not be able to protect Sderot. The questions multiply when it emerges that on January 13 an urgent personal letter was sent to Defense Minister Ehud Barak by the head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, Alon Schuster. He referred to the Qassam's short flight time, noted that the reaction time of Iron Dome is too long to cope with the rockets, and added that the system is incapable of protecting Sderot and many of the communities bordering the Gaza Strip.

The reply of the Defense Ministry was sent to the council head on February 10. The letter is signed by attorney Ruth Bar, the defense minister's assistant. "The analysis [done by the Defense Ministry] found that in regard to the threats that were identified by the warning system during April-November 2007, one Iron Dome battery has the ability to cope and cover an area far larger than that of Sderot. The capability of Iron Dome to cope with mortar shells has not yet been examined in depth. I will add that the issue of the flight time cannot be detailed in this letter, owing to security considerations."

The money issue

An examination of the economic aspect also casts grave doubts on the decision to choose Iron Dome. The cost of each intercept missile will probably be about $100,000. (Rafael claims the cost of a missile will be about $40,000, but given the cost of similar missiles, that does not seem reasonable.) In contrast, the cost of making a Qassam rocket is well under $100,000. So, if the Palestinians produce thousands of Qassams, the Israeli defense establishment will have to respond by manufacturing thousands of Iron Dome missiles, at a prohibitive cost of hundreds of millions of shekels. On the assumption that this information is known to everyone involved, it must be asked, again, how it came about that Iron Dome was chosen as the preferred solution to the Qassam rockets while other options were vehemently rejected.

The decision was made, seemingly, via a proper, orderly procedure. The Defense Ministry set up a professional committee to look into the matter, headed by Yaakov Nagel, the deputy chief for scientific affairs of the ministry's Directorate of Defense R&D. The committee examined 14 proposals for anti-rocket defense systems and chose Iron Dome. Two defense ministers approved the choice - Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak.

However, the impression of an orderly decision-making process is upended when it turns out that the senior staff at the Defense Ministry's R&D directorate strongly rejected the proposal to bring into Israel the laser-based Nautilus defense system, whose development is nearly complete and whose effectiveness was proved in a series of tests (100 percent success in 46 tests, including success in intercepting mortar shells).

Nautilus was developed in the United States in conjunction with Israel, but the Israeli defense establishment ended its participation in the project in 2001. The Americans went on with it, improved the system and changed its name to Skyguard. Northrop Grumman, the company that is developing the missile, promises that it can be delivered within 18 months at a relatively low cost. The Nautilus system itself, devised to protect Kiryat Shmona against Katyusha rockets, can be installed in Sderot within six months. By comparison, the development of Iron Dome will take another three years.

The major advantage of Skyguard is its use of a laser beam for interceptions. The beam travels at the speed of light, allowing the system to intercept short-range rockets like the ones aimed at Sderot. The cost of implementing the laser system is also far lower than Iron Dome. The cost of launching one laser beam will be between $1,000 and $2,000. On February 6, 2007, Mike McVey, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Directed Energy Systems business area, sent a letter to Ehud Olmert, with copies to the defense minister at the time, Amir Peretz, and the then director general of the Defense Ministry and present chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, undertaking to install in Israel an operational system within 18 months and at a fixed price ($177 million for the first system). As far as is known, McVey has not received a reply to this day.

Asked why Israel rejected the laser system, the Defense Ministry's spokesman replied: "The Nautilus system is defined as exemplifying technologies and not as an operational instrument. Bringing the Nautilus system into Israel today will cost about $100 million, and it might take up to two years for the system to become active. The Nautilus system is operationally inferior to the Iron Dome system, is far more costly and does not provide an answer to volleys of missiles, as Iron Dome is meant to do. Tests of Nautilus did not achieve the goal of 100 percent hits but far less, and even that under optimal conditions, which, regrettably, do not exist in the western Negev." The reply is studded with inaccuracies, to say the least. The Nautilus / Skyguard will not be "far more costly" than Iron Dome, but probably "far less costly." Nor is it clear what the Defense Ministry spokesman is referring to when he states that Nautilus "did not achieve the goal of 100 percent hits but far less." For his part, the IDF Spokesman, who was also asked to comment on the decision not to acquire the laser system, copied the reply of the Defense Ministry spokesman. Former air force commander Major General (res.) David Ivry is one of those who favors adopting the laser system, but the ministry's R&D directorate did not accept his position. Another former air force commander, Major General (res.) Herzl Bodinger, also tried to persuade the ministry to purchase the laser defense system, again to no avail.

Buy blue-and-white

Part of the explanation for the opposition to the laser system may lie in remarks made by Shimon Lavie, from the R&D directorate, who was the officer of the Nautilus project in the United States, on the "Fact" TV program, broadcast on Channel 2 last December. "We in the directorate are responsible for developing blue-and-white [Israeli-made] systems, which the Nautilus was not. We had hoped for intense cooperation with Israeli firms. If that had happened, it might have had an influence [on the decision about whether to acquire the laser system]."

Another question concerns the extent to which decision-makers were influenced by an export deal with a foreign country not among those under the jurisdiction and protection of NATO. Under the deal, said country was to purchase the Iron Dome system and share in financing the project. Also worth looking into is the influence exerted by MK Isaac Ben-Israel (Kadima), a professor and retired major general, who was formerly head of the R&D directorate, on the decision to choose Iron Dome. Until not long ago, Ben-Israel was an enthusiastic advocate of the laser-based system, explaining his position in detail in an interview with the newspaper Makor Rishon in December 2006. "The limited range between the launch site and its target allow a very short time for intercepting efforts," he said, and stressed the high cost of rocket-based interception systems. "Those the issues decide in favor of the laser weapon," he added. What made him change his mind?

In a conversation this week, Ben-Israel denied that he had changed his mind regarding the anti-rocket defense system. He says he continues to advocate the laser-based defense, but believes that the technology by which the laser beam is produced in Nautilus / Skyguard is obsolete. A little more than a year ago, Ben-Israel still believed that the laser system was preferential and efficient. It would be interesting to know what caused him to consider this system obsolete not long afterward. When asked if he serves as an adviser to the Singapore government, he said that being an MK does not allow for it. When asked if he had served as an adviser to the Singapore government in the past, he said: "I don't have to answer that question."

It is possible that some of the answers to these questions will be forthcoming in court. This week, 50 Sderot residents petitioned the Jerusalem District Court against the defense minister, requesting that the court instruct the minister "to install and operate in the city of Sderot, within six months from today, the laser-based intercept system (known as Nautilus) to provide an immediate solution to the shelling of Sderot by Qassams; to instruct the completion of the laser-based intercept system in its full operational version, known as Skyguard, and to order deployment of Skyguard systems for defense of all Western Negev settlements ... within two years from today."

Sderot inhabitants continue to wait for fortification of their houses and installment of a system that will stop the Qassam barrages. In the time that has elapsed since the decision to develop Iron Dome, they could at least have had their houses fortified. Will the public again require the help of the court to figure out what is really going on in the corridors of the Defense Ministry, because the policymakers, who are supposed to supervise it and examine the peculiar decisions made there, are not doing their job?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Israel and the Palestinians - according to Benny Morris

As many are fond of quoting historian Benny Morris to "prove" that the Zionists expelled the Arabs of Palestine because of racist motives in 1948, it is interesting to read the following letter by Morris, one of his many repudiations of this idea.
Ami Isseroff 
Irish Times
 (Letters, p. 17 Cols 3 and 4.
February 21, 2008
Israel and the Palestinians
Benny Morris
Madam, - Israel-haters are fond of citing - and more often, mis-citing - my work in support of their arguments. Let me offer some corrections.

The Palestinian Arabs were not responsible "in some bizarre way" (David Norris, January 31st) for what befell them in 1948. Their responsibility was very direct and simple.

In defiance of the will of the international community, as embodied in the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 29th, 1947 (No. 181), they launched hostilities against the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost; and one of the results was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes.

It is true, as Erskine Childers pointed out long ago, that there were no Arab radio broadcasts urging the Arabs to flee en masse; indeed, there were broadcasts by several Arab radio stations urging them to stay put. But, on the local level, in dozens of localities around Palestine, Arab leaders advised or ordered the evacuation of women and children or whole communities, as occurred in Haifa in late April, 1948. And Haifa's Jewish mayor, Shabtai Levy, did, on April 22nd, plead with them to stay, to no avail.

Most of Palestine's 700,000 "refugees" fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders). But it is also true that there were several dozen sites, including Lydda and Ramla, from which Arab communities were expelled by Jewish troops.

The displacement of the 700,000 Arabs who became "refugees" - and I put the term in inverted commas, as two-thirds of them were displaced from one part of Palestine to another and not from their country (which is the usual definition of a refugee) - was not a "racist crime" (David Landy, January 24th) but the result of a national conflict and a war, with religious overtones, from the Muslim perspective, launched by the Arabs themselves.

There was no Zionist "plan" or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of "ethnic cleansing". Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 10th, 1948 (it is open and available for all to read in the IDF Archive and in various publications), was the master plan of the Haganah - the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) - to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state. That's what it explicitly states and that's what it was. And the invasion of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq duly occurred, on May 15th.

It is true that Plan D gave the regional commanders carte blanche to occupy and garrison or expel and destroy the Arab villages along and behind the front lines and the anticipated Arab armies' invasion routes. And it is also true that mid-way in the 1948 war the Israeli leaders decided to bar the return of the "refugees" (those "refugees" who had just assaulted the Jewish community), viewing them as a potential fifth column and threat to the Jewish state's existence. I for one cannot fault their fears or logic.

The demonisation of Israel is largely based on lies - much as the demonisation of the Jews during the past 2,000 years has been based on lies. And there is a connection between the two.

I would recommend that the likes of Norris and Landy read some history books and become acquainted with the facts, not recycle shopworn Arab propaganda. They might then learn, for example, that the "Palestine War" of 1948 (the "War of Independence," as Israelis call it) began in November 1947, not in May 1948. By May 14th close to 2,000 Israelis had died - of the 5,800 dead suffered by Israel in the whole war (ie almost 1 per cent of the Jewish population of Palestine/Israel, which was about 650,000). - Yours, etc,

Prof Benny Morris, Li-On, Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Richard Cohen: Almost getting it right about Gaza

In Rocketing Toward War, Richard Cohen (you can write to him here:  almost wrote a good article about Gaza and Sderot:
In Europe and elsewhere, where activists are just plain dizzy from their own moral virtue, Israel is denounced for inflicting suffering on Gaza. But the protesters say nothing about the Qassams raining from the sky -- sometimes as many as 40 a day. The adjectives for the Qassams are innocuous: crude, inaccurate. Yes, but they have killed 13 in the past seven years, and they make life here almost unbearable. The bus stops have been converted to bomb shelters, and a tarpaulin of steel has been thrown over a school to protect it. Question a resident and you will not get bluster. "I'm scared," says Anatoly Ahurov, 25, formerly of the former Soviet Union.
But then he spoiled it:
Sderot represents the metastasized insanity of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle -- rockets sent to kill anyone, it doesn't matter whom. The tempting solution is to respond in kind. But this has been done. In Gaza. In Lebanon. Now the northern border is -- fingers crossed -- quiet. Some sort of deal, arrangement, accommodation, understanding has been reached with Hezbollah. Maybe nothing more than a wink. Maybe just a breathing spell.
Something like this has to be done with Hamas as well. Israel has the armed might to maul Hamas. But inevitably, the rockets will return, sooner or later reaching Ashkelon, the major port not all that far away. (Nothing in Israel is all that far away.) Gaza is a pitiless trap.
Israelis don't trust Hamas, and why should they? It wishes Israel nothing but death. But some accommodation has to be reached. There are ways.
Why?? Why does some agreement have to be reached? Why doesn't the U.S. have to reach an agreement with Osama Bin Laden, and why didn't the allies have to reach an agreement with Hitler, but Israel must reach an agreement with Hamas?? What agreement could be reached with Hamas other than "Truce now, die later?"
Cohen missed two essential features of the Gaza situation: The first is that Hamas will not make an agreement unless that agreement allows it to import arms freely, which means it would get stronger. The second is that Hamas is out to destroy Israel and makes no bones about it. The agreement was Hezbollah was not a model. It is a ticking bomb.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

BBC goes too far: Terrorist Mughniyeh was a 'great leader'

Even the BBC had to apologize, though somewhat lamely, after a correspondent labelled "militiant" Imad Moughnieh, the terror mastermind, as  a "great leader." But they will still continue to refer to Hezbollah as "militants," reserving the word "terrorist" for people who blow up people the BBC likes.
The correspondent said, referring to Rafiq Harriri and Moughnieh,
"The army is on full alert as Lebanon remembers two war victims with different visions but both regarded as great national leaders."
The BBC says the remark was "open to misinterpretation." Actually, it was pretty clear, wasn't it? The BBC had to apologize because the "great leader" was responsible for kidnapping an AP reporter among things. He also was involving in hijacking a Kuwaiti airliner, blowing up the US embassy and blowing up a marine baracks.Moughniyeh was also architect of the second Lebanon war, blowing up the Israeli embassy in Argentina, and blowing up the Jewish center in Argentina. But that doesn't count. Kidnapping an AP reporter is serious though.  Comparing the guy to Rafiq Hariri is even worse. BBC should learn that "great leader" is reserved for people who only  kill Israelis and Jews.
Ami Isseroff

BBC sorry for Mughniyeh-Hariri parallel

jerusalem post staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Feb. 17, 2008

In an uncommon act of journalistic contrition, the BBC has apologized for equating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh as "great national leaders."

The BBC took the unusual step after Don Mell, The Associated Press's former photographer in Beirut, lambasted the parallel, drawn by BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawkesley in a BBC World report last Thursday, as "an outrage" and "beyond belief."

American journalist Mell was held up at gunpoint by Mughniyeh's men as his colleague Terry Anderson, AP's chief Middle East correspondent, was kidnapped in Beirut in March 1985.

Hawkesley's report on what he called "an amazing day for Lebanon," when a memorial rally for Hariri was followed by Mughniyeh's funeral, concluded: "The army is on full alert as Lebanon remembers two war victims with different visions but both regarded as great national leaders."

The clip was also posted on the BBC's Web site.

Mell's letter of complaint, which accused the BBC of doing "a huge disservice" to "your great institution and nation," was made available to The Jerusalem Post for publication.

Contacted by the Post, the BBC issued a statement Friday acknowledging that "the scripting of this phrase was imprecise" and apologizing to anyone who was offended by the item.

In his letter to the British state broadcaster, Mell wrote: "For you to refer to former prime minister Rafik Hariri and Imad Mughniyeh as 'great national leaders' in the same sentence is beyond belief. One was an elected leader who spent years and millions of his own money rebuilding his country. The other was probably the world's second most notorious terrorist, who was responsible for, in addition to running a major criminal enterprise, destroying the US Embassy, the French and US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983; the hijacking of TWA 847; the bombing of the Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires, [and] the kidnapping and murder of many Westerners in Lebanon, including Terry Anderson, Terry Waite, John McCarthy."

Mell noted that he personally had "a familiarity with these events" since he had witnessed many of them and "was with Mr. Anderson when he was kidnapped in 1985."

Mell and Anderson had just finished a game of tennis on March 16, 1985, when a green Mercedes pulled up in front of Anderson's car, bearded gunmen jumped out, a pistol was placed at Mell's forehead, and Anderson was dragged away into what became almost seven years of captivity. He was finally released in December 1991.

Responding to Mughniyeh's death last week, Anderson called him "the primary actor in my kidnapping and many others."

Anderson added: "He was not a good man - certainly. To hear that his career has finally ended is a good thing and it's appropriate that he goes up in a car bomb."

In his letter to the BBC, Mell went on, "Most recently, Mr. Mugnhiyeh was responsible for provoking the Israeli-Lebanese conflict in 2006, which one may ask, accomplished what?"

He concluded: "I seldom criticize the reporting of others because of my great belief in the exchange of differing viewpoints regardless of source, and for my great respect for the first amendment of my country's constitution. But today you went too far. You've done your great institution and nation a huge disservice."

The BBC, in its statement, said, "While there is no doubt that supporters of Hizbullah did regard Mughniyeh in such terms [as a great leader], we accept that the scripting of this phrase was imprecise. The description of Imad Mughniyeh should have been directly attributed to those demonstrating their support for him."

The statement noted that Hawkesley's report "made clear that Mughniyeh was believed to have been responsible for a series of bombings; it drew attention to his believed connection with Osama bin Laden and to the fact that he had been hunted by Western intelligence agencies for more than 20 years."

However, said the BBC, "We accept that this part of the report was open to misinterpretation. We apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this item."



Continued (Permanent Link)

Even as Obama surges in primaries, he faces new Israel-related criticism

Even as Obama surges in primaries, he faces new Israel-related criticism 

By Ron Kampeas  Published: 02/20/2008 

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Even as U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) solidifies his status as the Democratic front-runner with victories Tuesday in Wisconsin and Hawaii, he is facing a new line of attack from some Jewish circles regarding his advisers on foreign policy.

In recent weeks, writers associated with several right-wing media outlets have taken aim at what they describe as anti-Israel voices advising Obama on Middle East issues, spurring a rash of mass e-mails voicing similar concerns.
Among those cited by critics are Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser in the Carter administration; Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University; Robert Malley, an adviser on Israeli-Arab affairs during the Clinton administration; and George Soros, an international financier who has funded pro-democracy efforts throughout Europe and in recent years became a major supporter of the Democratic Party in the United States.
Fairly or unfairly, each has been on the receiving end of criticism from some pro-Israel activists or Jewish groups over positions viewed as being hostile to the Jewish state.
The Obama campaign acknowledges that it has received advice from the people named in the negative e-mail campaign, describing the meetings with these individuals as a product of Obama's "one America" philosophy of reaching out to all Americans.
But, in the end, campaign officials say, the candidate should be assessed according to his own votes and statements. Besides, they add, the personalities in question do not play any formal role in advising Obama on Middle East issues. That task, they say, falls to a collection of policy experts in good standing with the pro-Israel lobby.
Unlike the Internet attacks falsely painting Obama as a secret radical Muslim, the "adviser" e-mails appear to have struck a chord among some Jewish organizational leaders, in addition to worrying some grassroots voters.
This week, in an interview with Shalom TV, a Web-based Jewish channel, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said that "if you have an adviser that is not sympathetic to Israel -- not sympathetic to some Jewish concerns -- you have a potential problem."
"If you only have one or two close advisers and they're both anti-Israel," Lauder said, then "it's only a matter of time before the president becomes anti-Israel."
Lauder made no specific reference to Obama, but the comments come at a time when the Illinois senator appears to be the only candidate facing major questions about his advisers on Israel-related issues.
Last week, Malcolm Hoenlein, the professional head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reportedly told Israeli reporters that the "change" mantra in the current U.S. election -- mostly associated with Obama -- was worrying.
Ha'aretz framed Hoenlein's comments as an expression of concern about Obama's camp, but the Jewish communal leader told JTA that he was speaking generally about this campaign season and the calls for change coming from supporters of several of the candidates in both parties.
In an effort to counter various attacks against Obama going back several months, his campaign has responded with several long e-mails to Jewish supporters. Insiders say response has been positive -- a perception borne out by primary elections exit polls that show Jews trending toward Obama more than other whites in some states.
Even with minimal impact, attacks can still cross the line and are cause for concern, said Dennis Ross, the Clinton administration's top Middle East envoy.
"When you're in the political season, every difference tends to be magnified," said Ross, who has given the Obama campaign advice and who is now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank. "We can have political differences, but it can't lead to demonization."
Much, if not the vast majority, of the material targeting Obama's advisers is distorted and even false.
The campaign notes that its Middle East policy is strictly the province of four individuals, each of them perceived as pro-Israel and three of them Jewish: Dan Shapiro, a longtime activist and bridge between the Jewish organizational leadership and Democratic Party; Anthony Lake, a Clinton administration national security adviser; Eric Lynn, the Obama campaign's Jewish liaison who has lived in Israel; and Dennis McDonough, once the foreign policy adviser to former U.S. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who had impeccable pro-Israel credentials during his time in office.
Of the four regular advisers, only Lake has taken shots from Obama's critics. In an article in the American Thinker -- the online conservative magazine that has been the principle redoubt of Obama-Israel skepticism -- Ed Lasky faults Lake, who recently converted to Judaism, for having worked for the Carter administration and for living in the Berkshires.
Much of the material appearing in a number of Lasky articles and circulating in e-mails is similarly flimsy, especially his attacks on Malley, according to Obama supporters and some former U.S. diplomats.
Like Ross, Malley was a senior adviser to the Clinton administration at the U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian talks at Camp David in the summer of 2000.
Malley has differed with Ross and others over the degree of blame to be assigned over the talks' breakdown -- Ross singles out the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat -- but he does not solely blame Israel. And in public talks in Washington, he emphasizes Israel's security as a critical element in formulating policy.
"He is not anti-Israeli, he is not a fanatic anti-Israeli," Ross told JTA. "To use these tacks is just wrong."
The targeting of Malley led Ross and four other Clinton-era officials to publish an open letter last week defending his record.
"Whatever differences do exist, there is no disagreement among us on one core issue that transcends partisan or other divides: that the U.S. should not and will not do anything to undermine Israel's safety or the special relationship between our two nations," the letter said. "We have worked with Rob closely over the years and have no doubt he shares this view and has acted consistent with it."
Soros, the billionaire philanthropist, has donated to Obama's campaign. He has also been critical of Israel and of pro-Israel orthodoxies, but the Holocaust survivor has cast his criticisms as mindful of Israel's security.
Recently, he considered funding an alternative pro-Israel lobby, one that would more aggressively advocate for a two-state solution, while also maintaining Israel's security needs. Lasky links to a Soros article last year in the New York Review of Books to show that the financier is a "fierce foe" of Israel. In it, Soros describes his thesis as follows: "Military superiority is necessary for Israel's national security, but it is not sufficient."
Despite what Obama supporters and some observers say are distortions and falsehoods, there's enough that would worry parts of the pro-Israel community, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its allies.
Brzezinski's time as Carter's national security adviser left a bitter taste among Israelis and pro-Israel activists. They perceived Brzezinski as creating a false dichotomy between Israel's needs and the effort to recruit Middle Eastern states to America's side in the Cold War -- a key point given that his overriding concern in the Carter administration was containing the Soviets.
It didn't help that Brzezinski initially endorsed the views of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, academics who promulgated the thesis that the pro-Israel lobby fundamentally distorts U.S. foreign policy. He later backtracked to a degree, suggesting that their book overstated its case.
The Obama campaign says it does not take advice from Brzezinski, but has accepted his endorsement as a senior U.S. statesman, who says the Illinois senator has the best policy for extricating the United States from Iraq.
Power, the lecturer from Harvard, is a more sensitive problem for the campaign. An expert on genocide who has worked with Jewish activists who press the case that the United States should have done more to stop the Holocaust during World War II, she served for two years on Obama's Senate staff and is a permanent adviser -- but not, the campaign says, on Middle East-related issues.
Still, she has published lacerating criticisms of Israel's first Lebanon war -- although none that would be out of line with Israel's Labor Party. And in a 2003 Soros-funded symposium, she appeared eager to jump to the conclusion that Israel had committed war crimes in the West Bank town of Jenin.
The Obama campaign has rejected efforts to paint her as anti-Israel, although notably, it does not address her writings related to Israel.
"Samantha Power is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a book about the evil of genocide, which includes an extensive discussion of the Holocaust, so for this smear e-mail to paint her as anti-Israel is outrageous," said a statement from the campaign that first appeared in the Palm Beach Post in Florida.
Even as they defend Power, Obama campaign officials say she has little say on Middle East issues, confining her advice to issues such as the genocide in Darfur.
U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who is arguably Obama's top congressional backer in Florida, told the Palm Beach Post that the e-mail campaign criticizing the candidate's advisers was a "lie."
"I wouldn't be involved with any candidate," Wexler was quoted as saying, "that didn't recognize Israel as a Jewish state, that didn't reject the Palestinian right of return, and that didn't demand that Hamas reject terror as a condition for talks with the Palestinians."

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Jewish Khomeini: Shas MK blames gays for earthquakes

You are not going to believe this unless you live in the Middle East:  
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondent 

Shas MK Shlomo Benizri blamed gays Wednesday for the earthquakes that have shaken the region in recent months, telling a Knesset plenum debate on local authorities' earthquake preparedness that government action on homosexuality would do much to prevent the tremors.
Benizri said the government should not make do with reinforcing buildings, but should instead pass less legislation that encourages homosexuality and other "perversions like adoptions by lesbian couples."
The ultra-Orthodox party MK invoked passages from the Talmud and the Gemarrah to support his claims.
How does he know it was homosexuals and not sheep shaggers or crooked Shas MKs that upset Jehovah?
Note to anti-Zionists and anti-Semites: Before you get all excited about this, keep in mind that Shas is a non-Zionist party, and that Benizri's views are not accepted by most Jews.
Ami Isseroff

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Iran Labor Solidarity Campaign

Iran: Release jailed workers, respect rights

The ITUC and the ITF are organising a global action day on 6 March 2008 to express our solidarity with Iranian workers once again. We want Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi released immediately and unconditionally from prison. Their health conditions are deteriorating.

Mansour Osanloo. Mahmoud Salehi.

We also demand that fundamental workers' rights be respected in Iran, in accordance with the ILO core conventions. The imprisonment of Osanloo and Salehi are not isolated cases in Iran. Nine education workers were sentenced to 91 days in prison recently. The Iranian authorities claim they are "threats to the national security" although in reality, it is genuine trade union activities they want to crush.

Oppression of the independent workers' movement in Iran is escalating. That is why the global unions, together with human rights activists, wish to send a strong message to the Iranian government. 6 March falls two weeks prior to the Iranian New Year and the parliamentary elections.

Click here to Send your message! Spread the word and take part in the 6 March Action Day!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Telling the Truth about Britain and Palestine

The Letters Editor,                                                            February 15, 2008

(Dear Andy) James Avenell's intemperate language and wild exaggeration (Letters) must notprevent Britain from honouring modern Israel's 60th birthday. The conflict of long ago had faults on both sides. After we promised the League of Nations to facilitate "close Jewish settlement" in their ancient homeland, Jewish enterprise reclaimed desert, swamp and rock to provide food and jobs to both Arab and Jew. But we gave three-quarters of the territory away to an emir in Arabia to create (Trans)Jordan - barred to Jews - and then allowed unlimited Arab immigration into the remainder while restricting entry to Jews, many of whom consequently perished in the Holocaust.

Moreover, while Jewish inhabitants fought for us in the Jewish Brigade in World War II, the Mufti of Jerusalem, el-Husseini, spent the war at Hitler's side recruiting Muslims to fight us in Europe, having previously fomented anti-Jewish riots to "slaughter" Jewish "cannon fodder" (to use Mr Avenell's vocabulary) on the Mufti's home ground. It was to protect their families in kibbutzim and moshavim from murderous Arab infiltrators that the Jews (many trained by our own Brigadier Orde Wingate for the very purpose) took up arms - for which "offence" some were later hanged on British orders, leading to a couple of retaliatory hangings and the blowing up of British HQ, the King David Hotel, after due warning - which, sadly, we ignored.

Of course, all of this sorry tale is regrettable. We should have stuck by our international obligations and the Palestinian Jews - the name "Palestinian" was not used for local Arabs until Egyptian-born Arafat adopted it in 1964 - should doubtless have exercised restraint. But they were fighting for a Promised Land - by God and man - and even after the rebirth of Israel by UN vote in 1948 they had to fight for their rights against five invading Arab armies (including the British-led Jordanians) with such weapons as our military leaders had not discovered and confiscated.

Today, the bitterness has long gone and Israel is a staunch ally. The Queen has recognised it and it behoves the likes of Mr Avenell to calm down.

(Yours sincerely)WALLY LEAF, Wembley

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Terror vs Terror

February 18, 2008        No. 45
A Balance of Terror in the War on Terror
Yoram Schweitzer
The car bomb in Damascus that ended the life of Imad Mughniya also put an end to the world-wide manhunt lasting over two decades for the person responsible for the deaths of hundred of citizens of many countries.  Following the disappearance from the scene of someone who was justifiably labeled an international terrorist, the question arises whether his liquidation marks a turning point in the war on international terrorism.
Historical experience suggests the elimination of one man, no matter how important, is not enough to advance a solution to the problem of global terror or even to inflict a mortal blow on the organization to which he belongs.  That is certainly not the case with respect to Hizbullah, which is a multi-dimensional organization grounded in a firm social, political, religious and military infrastructure and enjoys massive support from Syria and Iran.  However, Mughniya's bloody record, which includes personal involvement in the kidnapping and occasional murder of western hostages in Lebanon, the hijacking of airplanes and suicide bombing inside and outside Lebanon, turned him into a ticking bomb that had to be neutralized.  Mughniya continued until his last day to have a central and active role in command of Hizbullah's operational echelon.  He also played in important part in spreading Iranian terror and introducing it to elements cooperating with Iran in various Middle Eastern theaters.
The fact that Mughniya, most of whose activity – unlike that of al-Qaeda's leaders – took place in the relatively open and nearby space of Lebanon, Syria and Iran rather than in geographically remote and topographically difficult areas like Afghanistan and Pakistan, managed to evade his pursuers for such a long time testifies to his professionalism and extreme wariness.  Nevertheless, he was ultimately unable to avoid his fate.  His liquidation after such a lengthy pursuit clearly signals to other wanted figures, especially senior al-Qaeda personalities like Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the determination of states involved in the war on terror to hunt them down, no matter how long it takes, and to make sure that they ultimately end up in jail or dead.
However, the issue of the price that states which liquidate terrorist leaders will pay is also a permanent feature of the policy debate.  The dilemma is an inherent part of the balance of cost and benefit that decision makers must take into account when considering whether or not to act.  The threats issued by Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in his pre-recorded eulogy for Mughniya which predicted for his audience of the imminent demise of Israel naturally gave expression to the growing thirst for revenge in his organization but also to the Middle Eastern cultural norm of blood feud.  But they also signaled the desire of Iran and Hizbullah to preserve a balance of terror with Israel and reformulate the rule of the game with it.
During the second Lebanon war, Israel erased the red lines that Hizbullah had imposed following the terrorist attacks in Argentina and the self-restraint that Israel has imposed on itself in Lebanon following its withdrawal in 2000.  The policy of refraining from targeting Hizbullah's leadership or leveling its headquarters in the Dahia neighborhood of Beirut came to a sudden end during that war.  It now seems that Hizbullah and its Iranian patron will want to take advantage of the legitimacy ostensibly provided by the liquidation of Mughniya to carry out a particularly severe response against the background of what they interpret as an Israeli "violation" of the rules of the game and the permitted theater of operations in order to reframe the balance of terror through some painful action or actions.  It is therefore highly probable that Hizbullah and Iran feel obliged to react, and the only remaining questions are "When?" and "How?".
In the past few days, there have been a variety of assessments in Israel of how they will choose to act.  Based on past experience and the "deviation" from the "normal theater" that they ascribe to Israel, one expected scenario includes attack on official Israeli and/or Jewish facilities and on transportation vehicles with large numbers of passengers.  The prevailing view in Israel is that Iran and Hizbullah are not now interested in getting pulled into another full-fledged confrontation on the Israeli-Lebanese border and that they will therefore urge their Palestinian allies to act against Israel and carry out attacks that do not leave an undeniable Hizbullah or Iranian fingerprint.  It should be noted, though, that whenever Hizbullah or Iran carried out showcase operations in the past, they relied on the dedicated Hizbullah terror apparatus built by Mughniya in his own image.
On the other hand, constraints and concern that revenge attacks abroad could lead to complications might persuade Iran and Hizbullah actually to prefer more focused against senior personnel in the Israeli political-security establishment, especially those whom Iran and Hizbullah hold responsible for damage to their own personnel and prestige.  In their view, such focused attacks might be met with greater understanding by the international community as a "legitimate" part of the new rules of the game that Israel established, might satisfy their own public's thirst for revenge, and might simultaneously establish a balance of terror with Israel that could prevent the latter from continuing to target senior Hizbullah personnel, especially Secretary General Nasrallah, or senior Iranians of the sort whose disappearance Israel is already suspected of having brought about.
As has already been widely reported in the Israeli media, the variety of severity of threats to Israelis has already led security agencies to step up protection on sensitive Israeli targets at home and abroad.  But if Nasrallah's threats are carried out, Israel, contrary to past practice, may fell obliged to react severely in order to create its own balance of terror.  And while Israel may indeed issue advance public warnings to the effect that attacks on Israeli leaders and/or installations result in direct attacks on the lives of Nasrallah or senior Iranians, it is also possible that Israel will act according to the famous rule of a memorable Western movie: "If you're going to shoot, shoot, don't talk."

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Fatah is collapsing

Fatah has been collapsing for a while. What is not noted here is that the PLO is collapsing as well. This was inevitable after the death of Yasser Arafat. The question is whether the Palestinian Authority can establish itself as an organic entity with a life of its own, independent of the PLO or the Fatah. At one time, Palestinians insisted that the Palestinian Authorithy that rules the West Bank (and used to rule Gaza) and the PLO are the same thing, but that is no longer necessary true.


Ami Isseroff  

Fatah Falls Apart
Barry Rubin
February 18, 2008


Rather than unite in the face of the Hamas challenge and the task of gaining support from the West Bank's people, Fatah seems to be collapsing.

Or perhaps the feuds are not only over power but who gets to control the almost $7 billion scheduled to be given the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) over the next three years. A contributing factor is that Fatah has said it will hold a congress in March, the first full such meeting in almost 20 years.

There are at least five factions operating in Fatah today, and even that is an understatement. While PA "president" Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad enjoy Western support, they have very little from their own organization. These two are relative moderates who have no internal base of support. Even the very tiny group of those who can be called moderate is split since, for example, Ahmad Khouri (Abu Ala), is quarreling with Abbas.

Then there are the cronies of the late head of Fatah and the PA, Yasir Arafat, who have not developed any moderate tendencies but are using Abbas to cling to power. A typical example of this group is Hakam Balawi who was the PLO ambassador to Tunisia when Arafat's headquarters were there, a particular favorite of Arafat. These people are basically careerists who simply stick with whoever is leader.

A third group are the hardliners, like Abu Ali Shahin, who views himself as a revolutionary fighter. Other powerful figures in this group include Farouq Qaddumi, the actual head of Fatah; Sakhr Habash (Abu Nizar), chief of the Fatah Revolutionary Committee; and Salim al-Zaanoun, head of the Palestine National Council (PNC), the PLO's legislature. These people want a continuation of armed struggle against Israel and believe that total victory is still possible.

A fourth faction can be called the "young guard," but this is also split among different contenders for leadership. Muhammad Dahlan, formerly the leading Fatah security (i.e., military) commander in the Gaza Strip is one candidate; Marwan Barghouti, the head of Fatah in the West Bank and now imprisoned by Israel, is another. Dahlan and Barghouti are also very much at odds.

Recently, Shahin has called Abbas a failed leader who should resign. Balawi claimed Dahlan was plotting against Abbas, and Dahlan in return accused Balawi of being an Israel spy.

As if this isn't enough, the "young guard" knows that the current leaders will not give it any meaningful share of power in Fatah. The group, for instance, does not have a single member on the Fatah Central Committee.

In short, PA and Fatah politics are a mess. This has long been true but few noticed and it didn't matter when Arafat was alive since he kept the lid on everything, while playing off his subordinates against each other, and provided unity.

Now, however, things are different. It is amazing that since Fatah and the PA are the West's candidate to make good use of almost $7 billion, beat Hamas, establish a Palestinian state, and make peace with Israel, few observers take note of this disastrous situation or factor it into their policies.

Unless Fatah changes its ways, and there is no reason to believe it will do so, one can only wonder if Hamas will be controlling the West Bank, too, within five years. Certainly, one can expect the aid money to disappear without helping the Palestinian people much and be sure that this divided, quarreling leadership will not be able to make peace with Israel.

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


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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Qassam Statistics - For the Record

Thousands of Qassam rockets and mortar shells launched by Palestinian "militants" have fallen on Israeli communities in the Western Negev.
Here are some statistics:

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Hezbollah Planning To Assassinate "Senior Israeli Security Figure"

Iranian Website: Hizbullah Planning To Assassinate "Senior Israeli Security Figure"

The Iranian website Rajanews, which is identified with supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that according to knowledgeable sources, Hizbullah is planning an assassination operation against "a senior Israeli security figure."

The website added that according to the operation's planners, if Hizbullah does not respond appropriately to the assassination of senior Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniya, "Israel will have the insolence to carry out further assassinations."

Source: Rajanews, Iran, February 17, 2008


Posted at: 2008-02-17


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The Silver Platter - a Memoir of 1948

A memoir of Palestine 1948 - immigration and defense
This is a memoir of Aliya Bet Ha'apala (illegal immigration) and fighting in Israel's War of Independence. It is one man's story. Together with other such stories (Memoirs of a Palmach volunteer, 1948, Was there Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine in 1948? it tends to disprove the claims of Israeli superiority in the war, and other myths that were circulated about unwilling immigrants who were forced to come to Israel from the DP camps of Europe. It also counteracts the fabricated notion that the war was initiated by "Zionists" for the purpose of "ethnic cleansing" of Palestine. The author fought to defend a kibbutz that was attacked by the Egyptian army.

Israelis, like everyone else, were not perfect, and some of the mistakes and frictions of the early years are evident in this story. It might be much "nicer" to provide a prettified version of events, but we want to relate history, not to reinvent it, as some others are doing.

The title, The Silver Platter, is a reference to the famous poem, "The Silver Platter," written by Natan Alterman soon after the United Nations Partition decision in 1947, an advance tribute to the youth who would fall in the coming war.

Ami Isseroff

The Silver Platter

Shlomo Ramon


Where we came from

We were born 1928 and 1929, as Wenzelberg and Glaser, respectively. Greta`s family lived in the Polish city of Bielsko in Polish Silesia, but she was born in Vienna, so that her mother would get proper care after a fist stillborn child. I was born in the ski town of Zakopane in the Polish Tatra mountains.

We lived in our towns until the outbreak of WW2, when our parents had the sense to escape the invading Nazis by going to the east of Poland – each unaware of the existence of the other. This saved our lives, but it meant being exiled by the Soviets to the Urals or Siberia. We were forced to stay out there, in the frozen wastes, until almost the end of WW2.

The Soviets then restored our Polish citizenship, and we were allowed to go "where we pleased" within the Soviet Union. By some chance both our families selected a town placed on a major rail line, named Chu in central Kazakhstan By that time Greta was already a full orphan and I had lost my father. She had to work for survival. I went to school and worked part time. We became acquainted while I was working as cinema projector operator and could get her in to see a movie for free.

Back to "homeland"

By the end of 1945 we were allowed to return to our homeland –Poland. The trip was in a cargo train and lasted 5 weeks, as train had a very slow priority on the system. The cargo cars were equipped with large shelves for sleeping and even had a cooking stove- to heat up whatever food could be scavenged in the railway stops. Greta travelled as a part of a group organized to join a kibbutz in Palestine, and I was with a mother and young brother.

When the train crossed the border, it became very clear that the "homeland" did not want us back. People were yelling: " What? the Soviets take our coal in a train and use the same train to send us Jews! " Some people were pulled off the train and murdered. When we got back to Krakow, my mother decided to stay for a while – to try to sell some family real estate. I joined a "kibbutz group" intended to join kibbutz Neveh Eitan in Palestine.

I understood the hard way that I have no fatherland and had better look for a new one. Prior to that time, we were not a Zionist family and I had no idea that Jews are a nation and should have a state of their own too.

Long way to Palestine

After passing through Slovakia our group arrived at a temporary DP (Displaced Persons) camp in Salzburg. We registered as DPS under false names so as to receive the DP benefits: food and lodging. Our instructor (Madrich) who came from Neveh Eitan to prepare our group for kibbutz life, organized all aspects of our daily life. There were other temporary camps in Austria: Vienna, Innsbruck, and other places.

There were also permanent DP camps, mostly in Germany, where people grouped waiting for their immigration visas to other countries.

From Austria our group went (illegally of course) to Italy to wait for our clandestine ship. First we went to a very nice place called Bogliasco, on the Genoa seashore. It turned out that the British knew all about us and no ship would be allowed near the place by the British Navy. So we went to the south, to place called Metaponto near to Bari to wait for our Aliya Bet (illegal immigration) ship.

Eventually we did board the Hayim Arlozorov (ULUA - See SS Ulua -- the story of underground Aliyah, by Arie (Lova) Eliav, am Oved, 1977;
In Hebrew: Hasfina Ulua, Sipuro shel Arthur, Hotza`at Am Oved, Tel Aviv, 1977. (dedicated to Tanya)

Most of illegal immigrant ships were barely floating wooden vessels. Hayim Arlozorov was the first very solid steel ship, originally built as naval escort during WW1. Our group of immigrants to be ("maapilim") first boarded the Rosa, renamed "Shabtai Losinki" on 2/47 from the bay of Taranto in South of Italy. The ship had no luck. A couple of days after sailing, there was a hole in ship`s bottom and it barely returned to Taranto in danger of sinking. All the maapilim descended and began to wait on the shores of Matponto for another ship. Meanwhile, the Rosa was repaired and eventually discharged several hundred ma`apilim in Palestine, next to Nitzanim. One of the members of the Jewish crew was Moti Fein (later Hod) my future CO in the IAF.

The ship Uloa arrived a couple of weeks later and anchored a couple of miles from the shore. The water was shallow there –the only way to board was by sailing from the shore to the ship in rubber boats, which we did. The ship had come all the way from Sweden , where it took on 700 ma`apilim, mostly women survivors of Bergen Belsen who were allowed to enter Sweden after liberation.

The Uloa was in bad shape. It had survived a heavy storm in the Atlantic and had very little food and drinking water, not much room either. The crew commanded by Lyova Eliav (Arthur) loaded most of us plus some food and water. Lyova met his future wife Tanya among the ma`apilim.

In addition to the 700 or so and people from Sweden there were about 700 more boarded in Metaponto. The"Swedish" passengers threw most of their suitcases and belongings over the board to make some room for the "Italians". The ship had no passenger facilities at all, except for the crew, all maapilim were loaded into ship cargo holds. Holds were outfitted with 5 or six layers of wooden floors, separated by about 50 cm in height and leaving only a few passages. On the planks they put mattresses. We were told to get on a mattress, stay there and not move around except for going to toilet. Using toilets was another exercise in torture,, There was no flushing water and very long wait – queue arranged by special detail. We were fed, rarely, sandwiches that were brought to our mattresses. No one was allowed on the topside to prevent the Brits seeing us, but in retrospect it only prevented us from getting some fresh air and forced people to vomit on the mattresses or in passages – adding another horror. Women were separated from men.

The ship was jam packed and sailed east, towards Crete. It was soon intercepted by Royal Navy ships – five destroyers. The Brits were never able to board because of our active resistance. They forced the ship to sail in the direction of Haifa harbor, but the captain Arazi steered her toward Bat Galim and beached her on the ground rocks there. The crew tried to scuttle the ship by opening the scuttlecocks, but the Brits boarded and prevented the scuttling.

I shall never forget my first view of Mount Carmel and the beach crowded with locals from Bat Galim who tried to help us get down. Some people tried to swim ashore but were fished out by the Brits.

The ship was there for many years, part of the Bat Galim view, until dismantled for salvage.

The Brits took all us forciblu to their deportation ships to Cyprus anchored in Haifa harbor, such as Empire Rival.

Continued here

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Obama and Israel again

I wrote before that it was tough to decide if Obama is good for Israel or not based on the hype that has been circulating.
But here is something different. This is a fair assessment of Obama and his advisors, and for me it is decisive, even if Shmuel Rosner tries to be balanced. Robert Malley is bad news for Israel, regardless of his character. His father was a supporter of the PLO back when the PLO was an openly terrorist group. Malley himself produced a fictitious account of the negotiations at Camp David that seemed to vindicate the violence started by the Palestinians and blamed the failure of the talks on Israel. When he wrote that article for the New York Review of Books, his background and bias were carefully hidden from the public, so it would seem to be a "neutral" assessment by a fair minded individual. If other team members are defending his partisan leak that sabotaged US policy, that is their problem. Malley is entitled to his opinions, but anyone who has this man as an adviser on Middle East policy is not a friend of Israel.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was part of the team that lost Iran because they didn't understand the nature of Khomeini and Khomeini-ism. They lost it by malfeasance - by preventing Iranian army people from stopping the unrest using force.  To say that he has no expertise in the Middle East is an understatement.
This is really "bending over backwards" to be fair:
Obama's detractors were only too happy to find an article in the New York Sun recently which said Brzezinski went to visit Damascus to head a delegation from the RAND Corporation. The timing of the publication was somewhat embarrassing, as it coincided with the news of the assassination of Imad Mughniyah in Damascus.
But the people who informed the paper of the trip forgot to mention just one small detail: Brzezinski was scheduled to visit Israel, too, and not only Damascus.
A visit to a US ally is really not comparable and does not balance out a solidarity visit to a malevolent dictatorship that harbors terrorists. Chamberlain or Henderson may have visited both Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1938. But what did they tell the Czechs?
You can vote for Obama for any reason you like. He may have many wonderful qualities. However, if you care about Israel, beware.
Ami Isseroff

How would Obama handle Israel? Former policy advisors may offer clues 
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent 
Two of Barack Obama's aides mentioned by critics seeking to undermine his credibility with pro-Israel voters.  
Those who seek to undermine Barack Obama's credibility with his Jewish and non-Jewish voters who feel strongly about the Israeli issue, frequently mention two names: Bob Malley and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Malley was a member on former U.S. president Bill Clinton's peace team, and Brzezinski was an advisor for an earlier U.S. president, Jimmy Carter.
If these people are Obama's friends, his detractors say, then he cannot be seen as a friend of Israel. A claim which invites scrutiny.
Malley is one of the few people who believe that the Israeli-American narrative for the reasons that caused the 2000 Camp David Summit to fail does not reflect reality. Clinton and Ehud Barak both agreed that former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat was the primary person responsible for those Camp David talks breaking down.
Most members of Clinton's team agree with that statement. Not Malley. He thinks Israel - or Barak - and the U.S. - or Clinton - bear more of the responsibility for failure than they are willing to admit.
Malley is an advisor to Obama's campaign. Which means he is asked to present his opinion on various matters. He is not "The Advisor." Many others like him are asked to contribute their opinions. Most of Obama's position statements on the Israel issue do not bear Malley's fingerprints.
Malley favors dialogue with Hamas, whereas Obama says he opposes it. Obama receives flak from people in the left wing who argue that if he values Malley's opinion, then there is reason to suspect that it could influence his policy. Those who believe this influence would harm the Israeli interest have reason to be concerned about the consultations with Malley.
Those concerns are legitimate, but there were those who have gone beyond reasonable and legitimate discourse. They attributed dark motives to Malley, and they tried to dig up dirt on him. Malley's former associates from Clinton's peace team didn't like that.
In a joint statement that these associates distributed among circles that deal with the Middle East, they wrote that although they had differences of opinion with Malley - which is an understatement - they found some of what had been written about him to be a "vicious" attack on his character.
The statement was signed by the who's who of Israel-U.S. relations in the 1990s: former ambassadors Martin Indyk and Daniel C. Kurtzer, special envoy Dennis Ross, peace team member Aaron David Miller and former national security advisor Sandy Berger. It's no coincidence that they are all Jewish. This specific showdon over Obama's candidacy is a dispute between Jews.
As for Brzezinski, Obama's circle is saying he does not advise the candidate about Israel-related issues. But Brzezinski could not have placed such a restriction on himself. A few months ago, he associated himself with a group that is calling for dialogue with Hamas.
Even if he's no big expert of the Middle East, Brzezinski served as Jimmy Carter's advisor. He is suspected of fostering a chilly attitude toward Israel since his days with Carter, as all of the former president's advisors.
Obama's detractors were only too happy to find an article in the New York Sun recently which said Brzezinski went to visit Damascus to head a delegation from the RAND Corporation. The timing of the publication was somewhat embarrassing, as it coincided with the news of the assassination of Imad Mughniyah in Damascus.
But the people who informed the paper of the trip forgot to mention just one small detail: Brzezinski was scheduled to visit Israel, too, and not only Damascus.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel kills terror chief with headrest bomb

Here is another account of the life and times of the late Mr. Moughnieh, which is valuable for details of his careers. Here are some more details about Mr. Moughnieh that are not included in this article. The Iranians fabricated a story that he was the son of a famous Islamic scholar and member of an important family. It was not true, but many believed it. Moughnieh figures prominently in a recent Israeli account of Iranian and Hezbollah espionage activities, "Point of No Return" by Ronen Bergman. Moughnieh was responsible for the bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires and the Israel Embassy, for kidnappings of Americans and for the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers that began the Second Lebanon war. That was done on his birthday,
Despite Mahnaimi's speculations, there is no proof that Israel was behind the assassination. Syria has arrested some Palestinians.  
Ami Isseroff
February 17, 2008

Israel kills terror chief with headrest bomb

NOTHING seemed very remarkable about the short, bearded man who mingled with other guests on Tuesday evening at a reception in Damascus, the Syrian capital, to mark the 29th anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian revolution.

Yet before the night was over he was dead in the twisted wreckage of his car and the inevitable assumption was that Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, had killed him with an ingeniously planted bomb.

The news spread rapidly that the dead man was Imad Mughniyeh, an elusive figure known as "the Fox" who had been one of the world's most feared terrorist masterminds.

Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who spent years on his trail, said Mughniyeh was "probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we've ever run across".

As the Israelis rejoiced, Iran and Hezbollah, the militant Shi'ite group, which together had harnessed Mugniyeh's expertise, mourned his death at a huge funeral in Beirut, where he established his terrorist network.

Mughniyeh's mother, Um Imad, sat amid a sea of black chadors, a lonely, sombre figure as mourners held their hero's picture aloft.

"If only I had more boys to carry on in his footsteps," she sighed, confessing that she did not have any pictures of him, even from his childhood, as he had taken them away. He was the third of her sons to die in a car bombing.

With a price of $25m (£12.7m) on his head, he was always vigilant. Some say he had had plastic surgery to alter his face in an effort to elude the Americans and Israelis who blamed him for plane hijackings and other bloody attacks which killed hundreds of their citizens in the Middle East and as far away as South America.

He had grown accustomed to living dangerously and there was no reason he should have feared for his safety last Tuesday as he sipped fruit juice at the party at the Iranian cultural centre. Mughniyeh was on fairly good terms with everybody present – almost all the leaders of the Damascus-based militant groups were represented.

At 10.35pm he decided to go home. Having exchanged customary kisses with his host, Hojatoleslam Ahmad Musavi, the newly appointed Iranian ambassador, Mughniyeh stepped into the night.

Minutes later he was seated in his silver Mitsubishi Pajero in a nearby street when a deafening blast ripped the car apart and killed him instantly.

According to Israeli intelligence sources, someone had replaced the headrest of the driver's seat with another containing a small high-explosive charge. Israel welcomed his death but the prime minister's office denied responsibility. Hezbollah accused the "Zionist Israelis" of killing its "brother commander" but believed the explosive had been detonated in another car by satellite.

One witness said: "I held his head in my hands, kissed him farewell. His face was burnt but intact and he had received serious injuries to his abdomen."

Whatever the truth about the bomb, Mughniyeh, 45, died as he had lived – violently. He was a product of the Lebanese civil war that transfixed western governments 25 years ago.

Born in a south Lebanon village, the son of a vegetable seller, Mughniyeh joined Force 17, Yasser Arafat's personal bodyguard, when scarcely out of his teens. After the Palestine Liberation Organisation was forced to leave Lebanon in 1982, he stayed behind and joined Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite Islamic group that emerged in 1985 as a militant force resisting Israeli occupation.

He came to the attention of Sheikh Mohammed Fadlallah, Hezbollah's spiritual leader, and rose quickly up the ranks. He was shaped into a remarkably effective terrorist as, under the auspices of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the organisation grew into one of the deadliest forces fighting Israel and America.

Western terrorism experts say he was the dynamo behind some of Hezbollah's most lethal operations. These included the bombing of the American embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people and the attacks on the US marine and French paratrooper barracks that left more than 200 dead. It was Mughniyeh's decision to kidnap Terry Waite, the Church of England envoy, as he tried to broker the release of other captives.

Another notorious act attributed to him was the hijacking of a TWA flight when an American passenger, a US navy diver, was shot and his body thrown onto the runway.

In the 1990s Israel made him a priority target for his involvement in two attacks in Buenos Aires – the 1992 Israeli embassy bombing, which killed 29, and a 1994 suicide bomb attack on a Jewish community centre, in which 85 died. Then he went to ground. The FBI placed him on its most-wanted list but had to use a 20-year-old photograph for its reward posters.

Despite these difficulties, the CIA came close to capturing him. The Israelis were also hot on his trail. "We tried to knock him down several times in the late 1980s," revealed David Barkay, a former major in unit 504 of Israeli military intelligence who was in charge of Mughniyeh's file.

"We accumulated intelligence on him, but the closer we got, the less information we gleaned – no weak points, no women, money, drugs – nothing."

Mughniyeh lost two brothers, Jihad and Fuad, in car bomb explosions in Beirut. In 2000 he was targeted by an Israeli sniper in southern Lebanon. But in Meir Dagan, who became head of Mossad in 2002, he faced a committed opponent under whose leadership the organisation built a strong record in assassinating Israel's enemies.

Israel fought a bitter 34-day war against Hezbollah in 2006 to eradicate it in southern Lebanon. It believes that Mughniyeh was instrumental in rebuilding the group after the war, rearming it with Iranian-made Fateh 110 rockets which are capable of hitting Tel Aviv and which it fears could be equipped with chemical weapons.

Informed Israeli sources said that at the time of his death Mughniyeh was working for the Syrians on a terrorist attack against Israeli targets. This was to avenge Israel's airstrike on what was believed to be a secret nuclear site in Syria last year.

Since Mughniyeh's death, Israeli embassies and Jewish institutions around the world have been on high alert. "I've no doubt the Syrians and Iranians will retaliate," said Barkay.

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's general secretary, warned in a fiery oration at Mughniyeh's funeral that Israel had committed a "major stupid mistake". It was now "open war", he said.

In Lebanon, a close friend of Mughniyeh was certain that he would be avenged by Hezbollah in an attack that, ironically, he had prepared himself before his death. "Most likely the retaliation when it comes will be one that had been planned and masterminded by Imad himself," said Anis Al-Nackash, a Lebanese expert on Hezbollah.

He said Mughniyeh had prepared a variety of "spectacular" attacks to be executed by Hezbollah if one of its top leaders was assassinated. These were now being dusted off and updated.

On the day Mughniyeh was buried, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, summoned Dagan from his cottage in Galilee to Jerusalem.

"It was a one-on-one meeting," said a source. But it is believed that Dagan was complimented by his boss and told that he would stay as head of Mossad until the end of 2009.

Time will tell whether, as Israel fervently hopes, Mughniyeh's death has gravely weakened his organisation or if the effect has merely been to harden Hezbollah's resolve.

Taken out

The Israeli security service, Mossad, is thought to have killed six other militants abroad since Meir Dagan became director in August 2002:

December 2002 Ramzi Nahara, Israeli agent who defected to Hezbollah and planned attacks against Israel. Dagan knew him personally. Killed in Lebanon by car bomb

March 2003 Abu Mohammed Al-Masri, Al-Qaeda member building cell to target Israeli border with Lebanon. Killed by car bomb in Lebanon

August 2003 Ali Hussein Saleh, Hezbollah explosives expert. Killed by car bomb in Beirut

July 2004 Ghaleb Awali, Hezbollah official with links to activists in Gaza Strip. Killed by car bomb in Beirut

September 2004 Izz el-Deen al-Sheikh Khalil, Hamas official liaising between headquarters in Syria and members in Gaza and West Bank. Killed by car bomb in Damascus

May 2006 Mahmoud Majzoub, Islamic Jihad official liaising with Hezbollah. Killed by car bomb blast in Lebanon


Continued (Permanent Link)

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