Everyone understands that insistence on return of Palestinian refugees to Israel will scuttle the peace process. The peace process aims to create two states, one for Jews, and one for Arabs. Implementation of the so-called "right of return" would create an Arab state in place of Israel. So this gimmick of the "moderate" Palestinian authority of the "moderate" President Abbas and the "moderate" Prime Minister Fayyad is intended to throw a monkey wrench into the peace process and embarrass Israel.
PA urges Palestinians to 'return'
Mar. 18, 2008
The Palestinian Authority is planning to mark Israel's 60th anniversary by calling on all Palestinians living abroad to converge on Israel by land, sea and air.
The plan, drawn by Ziad Abu Ein, a senior Fatah operative and Deputy Minister for Prisoners' Affairs in the Palestinian Authority, states that the Palestinians have decided to implement United Nations Resolution 194 regarding the refugees.
Article 11 of the resolution, which was passed in December 1948, says that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."
The initiative is the first of its kind and is clearly aimed at embarrassing Israel during the anniversary celebrations by highlighting the issue of the "right of return" for the refugees.
Entitled "The Initiative of Return and Coexistence," the plan suggests that the PA has abandoned a two-state solution in favor of one state where all Arabs and Jews would live together.
"The Palestinians, backed by all those who believe in peace, coexistence, human rights and the UN resolutions, shall recruit all their energies and efforts to return to their homeland and live with the Jews in peace and security," the plan says.
"Fulfilling the right of return is a human, moral and legal will that can't be denied by the Jews or the international community. On the [60th] anniversary of the great suffering, the Palestinian people are determined to end this injustice."
Abu Ein's initiative, which has won the backing of many PA leaders in Ramallah, calls on all Israelis to welcome the Palestinians "who will be returning to live together with them in the land of peace."
The plan calls on the refugees to return to Israel on May 14, 2008 with their suitcases and tents so that they could settle in their former villages and towns. The refugees are also requested to carry UN flags upon their return and to be equipped with their UNRWA-issued ID cards.
The Arab countries hosting Palestinian refugees are requested to facilitate the return of the refugees by opening their borders and allowing them to march toward Israel. The plan specifically refers to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, whose governments are asked to provide logistic support to allow the refugees to carry out their mission.
Palestinian refugees living in the US, EU, Canada and Latin America are requested to use their foreign passports to fly to Ben-Gurion Airport from May 14-16. The plan calls for the Palestinians to hire dozens of boats flying UN flags that will converge on Israeli ports simultaneously.
To ensure international backing, the plan calls to invite world leaders, the UN secretary-general, journalists and legal experts from around the world to declare their support for the Palestinians' "right of return." The Palestinians, in return, would promise to practice their right peacefully and to denounce terror and violence.
Arab governments are requested to provide both financial and political backing for the initiative. The plan stresses that the Palestinians can no longer expect to achieve the "right of return" at the negotiating table with Israel. "We must take matters into our own hands," it states. "Negotiations, slogans and UN resolutions are not going to bring us our rights."
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The worst accusations of depraved enemies of Israel are given substance by fools or provocateurs.
The obnoxious symbol appears at a "Zionist" Web site.
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Was the US prosecution of AIPAC officials a big mistake?
Last update - 07:03 22/03/2008
U.S. govt. to appeal ruling on classified material in AIPAC trial
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
Two former pro-Israel lobbyists charged with violating Espionage Act by revealing info to Israeli diplomats.
Friday afternoon is not the best time for major news developments, but in the case of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) trial it seems to have become a habit.
For those who might have forgotten by now, the case is about two former AIPAC lobbyists, charged by the government with violating the Espionage Act, a legislation from the time of World War I, by revealing information to journalists and Israeli diplomats.
This classified information, acquired by Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman in the course of conversing with American officials, dealt mainly with the sensitive topics of Iran and Iraq.
The most tantalizing decision made in this case came a while ago, when the judge ruled that the defense will be able to subpoena a group of senior Bush administration officials.
This group includes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, the new Deputy at State William Burns, former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith and others.
The government was not happy about it, but the legal proceedings kept going toward the target date - not the first one, as the judge had to push back the trial date many times in the past - April 29. But on Friday a new development threatened to extend the trial into the future.
This has been going on for quite a while now. It was 2004 when federal agents knocked on Rosen's door in Silver Spring, informing him that he plays a role in this criminal case.
So what happened Friday? That's the easy part: the prosecutors informed the court that they might be appealing a decision the judge made. The government has around ten days to decide.
However, the important issue at hand is the reason for the decision to appeal. On Thursday, the judge submitted his decision regarding one of the most crucial elements of this trial. That is, what classified material will be revealed and used in the course of the public legal proceedings. The defense was quite satisfied with his ruling, but the prosecution seems to be very discontent. The government wanted as little revealed as possible in the trial, but the judge, again, was giving the defense what he felt was necessary in order for them to present their case.
Similar to what happened with the senior officials who might be required to testify, the ruling on the classified information presents the government with a challenge that is very hard to overcome. Many observers in Washington have already concluded that this trial was a huge mistake on the part of the government, but now it seems to have become even more complicated: officials on the stand revealing how foreign policy debates are conducted and classified material that the government wants to keep secret has been revealed. No wonder a decision to appeal was made.
The question is what's next? What if the appeal does not convince the courts to change course?
Abe Lowell, the attorney representing Rosen, told Haaretz today that "It now appears that the government does not want to try this case". He believes that the problem is leadership. No one seems to be able to master "the authority or the courage" needed in order to "admit that they've made a mistake". Lowell also wanted to emphasize the fact that "these delays are terrible on the lives of the defendants".
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Last update - 01:25 22/03/2008
Christian pilgrims flock to Jerusalem's Old City for Good Friday
By The Associated Press
Thousands of Christians from all over the world crowded the stone alleyways of Jerusalem's Old City to mark Good Friday, retracing the route Jesus took to his crucifixion.
Some pilgrims carried large wooden crosses as they walked down the Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrows, stopping at 14 stations that commemorate events that befell Jesus as he was led to his death.
Many pilgrims prayed in the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally the site of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. Some chanted hymns, while others prostrated themselves on a smooth stone slab marking the spot where Jesus' body was placed after being removed from the cross.
The crowd in one of the Old City's streets included two dozen members of an American church group from Ohio, dressed in white. Eileen Joiner, 43, from Akron, Ohio, said she was moved to be in Jerusalem. "You see a picture and it looks impressive. You see it in person and it's always so much more," she said.
The group's pastor, Janice Skeen, said a recent shooting attack in Jerusalem hadn't deterred them. "You can't escape the feeling and the presence of God here. This is his special land," she said.
The March 6 attack by a Palestinian gunman killed eight young students at a the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in the city.
Police said thousands of security personnel were deployed around Jerusalem because of Good Friday and the Jewish festival of Purim, which also falls this weekend. Jews celebrate Purim by dressing up in costumes and reading the Book of Esther, which recounts a victory by the Jews over their enemies in ancient Persia.
Police are also on high alert because of fears of a revenge attack for the February assassination of a high-ranking commander in the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Israel denied involvement, but Hezbollah threatened to avenge his death with an attack on Israeli targets. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the alert level Friday was one below the maximum.
Other visitors in evidence in Jerusalem hailed from Spain, Poland, the Philippines, Brazil, and several African nations, some wearing traditional costumes.
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Last update - 22:16 21/03/2008
Tunnel collapses near Egypt-Gaza border, injuring five
By The Associated Press
A smuggler's tunnel linking the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to Egypt collapsed on Friday, nearly suffocating four Palestinians and trapping another under rubble, Egyptian and Hamas officials said.
The Palestinians were trying to hollow out a recently sealed tunnel, located some 10 meters below ground, when its vulnerable sandy ceiling crumbled under its own weight, the officials said.
Four of the Palestinians were freed by rescuers and are in serious condition at a Gaza hospital, said the Hamas official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Rescue workers on the Palestinian side were still digging down in search of the fifth smuggler, he said.
The incident comes a day after a Palestinian was buried alive under another collapsed tunnel near the Egypt-Gaza border.
The Hamas official accused Egyptian security forces of spraying a long-acting poisonous gas in the tunnel that collapsed Friday to smother smugglers.
But an Egyptian border security official said this was nonsense, adding that the mouth of the 700-meter-long tunnel was destroyed using explosives several days ago.
"Most likely, the smoke that has resulted from this choked the smugglers as they tried to reopen the tunnel," the Egyptian official said, speaking under customary condition of anonymity.
Hospital workers in Gaza confirmed the smugglers were being treated for gas inhalation, but could not say what kind.
Palestinian smugglers have increasingly used tunnels to bring weapons and contraband goods from Egypt into Gaza since the territory was taken over by Hamas last June. Israel says anti-tank missiles, tons of explosives and thousands of rifles have reached militants in Gaza through this channel.
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March 19, 2008
Poll Shows Most Palestinians Favor Violence Over Talks
RAMALLAH, West Bank A new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men, most of them teenagers, an indication of the alarming level of Israeli-Palestinian tension in recent weeks.
The survey also shows unprecedented support for the shooting of rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip and for the end of the peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
The pollster, Khalil Shikaki, said he was shocked because the survey, taken last week, showed greater support for violence than any other he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the shooting of rockets at Israel.
"There is real reason to be concerned," Mr. Shikaki said in an interview at his West Bank office. His Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which conducts a survey every three months, is widely viewed as among the few independent and reliable gauges of Palestinian public opinion.
His explanation for the shift, one widely reflected in the Palestinian media, is that recent actions by Israel, especially attacks on Gaza that killed nearly 130 people, an undercover operation in Bethlehem that killed four militants and the announced expansion of several West Bank settlements, have led to despair and rage among average Palestinians who thirst for revenge.
Mr. Shikaki's poll also showed that the militant Islamist group Hamas, which Israel and the United States have been trying to isolate, is gaining popularity in the West Bank while its American-backed rival, the more secular Fatah, is losing ground. Asked for whom they would vote for president, 46 percent chose Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, the current president, while 47 percent chose Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Three months ago, Mr. Abbas was ahead 56 percent to 37 percent. After Hamas forces pushed Fatah forces out of Gaza last summer, Mr. Shikaki's polls showed the Palestinian public to be disillusioned with Hamas, and in the subsequent months many argued that Mr. Abbas, with the support of Washington and Israel, had an opportunity to win public support by easing living conditions and advancing in negotiations. That has not happened.
According to the poll, of 1,270 Palestinians in face-to-face interviews, 84 percent supported the March 6 attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, one of Israel's most prominent centers of religious Zionism and ideological wellspring of the settler movement in the West Bank. Mr. Shikaki said that result was the single highest support for an act of violence in his 15 years of polling here. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
On negotiations between Ehud Olmert, prime minister of Israel, and Mr. Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, 75 percent said they were without benefit and should be terminated. Regarding the thousands of rockets that have been launched on Israeli towns like Sderot and Ashkelon, 64 percent support it.
The poll did show support for a two-state solution over the long term with 66 percent favoring normalized relations with Israel if it returned all land won in 1967 and a Palestinian state was established. But such a deal seems a long way off now.
"The anger that this poll is registering is about equal to that at the very height of the second intifada," Mr. Shikaki said, referring to the years just after 2000 when suicide attacks on Israel and Israeli strikes on Palestinian forces reached new heights. "I am very worried about what is coming."
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Last update - 21:27 20/03/2008
Jewish group seeks to purge YouTube of anti-Semitic videos
Hamburg - Germany's national Jewish body said Thursday it has filed suit against YouTube and its parent company Google, demanding a court order for the site to be permanently purged of anti-Semitic videos.
Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in Hamburg, "we charge Google with aiding and abetting racial hatred and discrimination on its YouTube video- platform subsidiary.
"We applied this week for an injunction from a court in Hamburg."
He said one example was a video clip that showed a late president of the Central Council, Paul Spiegel, being burned alive. He charged that it had been available for download for months on end.
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Last update - 21:27 20/03/2008
Israeli ex-security guard solves 38-year-old math problem
By The Associated Press
A mathematical mystery that has baffled top minds in the field of symbolic dynamics for nearly four decades was cracked last year by a 63-year-old former Israeli security guard.
Avraham Trakhtman, a mathematician who worked as a laborer after immigrating to Israel from Russia, succeeded in solving the elusive Road Coloring Problem. The conjecture assumes that it is possible to create a universal map that would direct people to arrive at a certain destination, at the same time, regardless of their original location. Experts say this proposition, which seems to defy logic, could actually have real-life applications in the fields of mapping and computer science.
"In math circles, we talk about beautiful results. This is beautiful and it is unexpected. Even in layman's terms it is completely counterintuitive, but somehow it works," said Stuart Margolis, a colleague who recruited Trakhtman to Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
"The first time I met him he was wearing a night watchman's uniform," said Margolis.
The Road Coloring Problem was first posed in 1970 by Benjamin Weiss, an Israeli-American mathematician, and a colleague, Roy Adler, who worked at IBM at the time.
Weiss said he believed that given a finite number of roads, one should be able to draw up a map, coded in various colors, that would lead to a certain destination regardless of the point of origin.
For eight years, he tried to prove his theory. Over the next 30 years, some 100 other scientists attempted to as well. All failed, until Trakhtman jotted solved it in eight pages in pencil last year after working on it for twelve months.
Originally from Yekaterinburg, Russia, Trakhtman was already an accomplished mathematician before he came to Israel in 1992, at the age of 48. But like many immigrants in the wave that followed the breakup of the former Soviet Union, he struggled to find work and ended up employed in maintenance and security before landing a teaching position at Bar Ilan in 1995.
Trakhtman says he was lucky to be recognized, but plays down his recent achievement.
"The solution is not that complicated. It's hard, but it is not that complicated," he said. "Some people think they need to be complicated. I think they need to be nice and simple."
Trakhtman's solution is available for viewing on the Internet and will soon be published in the Israel Journal of Mathematics.
Weiss said it gave him great joy to see someone solve his problem.
Joel Friedman, a math professor at the University of British Columbia, said probably everyone in the field of symbolic dynamics has tried to solve the Roadmap Coloring Problem at some point, as well as experts in related disciplines graph theory, discrete math and theoretical computer science.
Trakhtman's achievement is not the longest open problem ever solved. In 1994, British mathematician Andrew Wiles solved Fermat's last theorem, which had been open for more than 300 years.
Margolis says the solution could have many applications.
"Say you've lost an e-mail and you want to get it back - it would be guaranteed," he said. "Let's say you are lost in a town you have never been in before and you have to get to a friend's house and there are no street signs - the directions will work no matter what," he said.
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Last update - 15:46 21/03/2008
Hamas doubts reconciliation talks with Fatah will succeed, despite extension By Reuters
Hamas expressed doubt Friday that Yemeni-sponsored reconciliation talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' secular Fatah faction would succeed, despite an agreement to extend the discussions for an extra day.
At the request of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the rival Palestinian factions agreed to meet on Saturday in a last-ditch push for a breakthrough.
"Fatah is trying to avoid reaching an agreement by all possible means," said Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, which the Islamist group seized in June after routing Abbas' Fatah forces.
Taha said Abbas was not interested in resuming talks with Hamas because of "an American veto".
Abbas told reporters after meeting the Russian foreign minister in the West Bank city of Ramallah that the talks with Hamas had "failed" so far.
But referring to Saturday's talks, Abbas added: "We do not want to predict a failure. We hope for good results."
The Yemeni proposal calls for the situation in the Gaza Strip to return to the way it was before the Hamas takeover and for Palestinian elections to be held.
The main point of contention appeared to be Fatah's demand, included in a Yemeni proposal, for Hamas to give up control of the Gaza Strip.
The plan also envisages the creation of another unity government and rebuilding of Palestinian security forces along national rather than factional lines.
Fatah has said it would agree to direct reconciliation talks with Hamas only if Hamas first consented to relinquish its hold on the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.
Abbas aides said Thursday that the negotiations had failed. But members of the delegation announced later that they would stay another day at Yemen's request.
When asked if he thought an agreement could be reached, Saleh Rafat, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee, said: "I don't think so."
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Civil Fights: Meet the world's most incompetent ethnic cleansers
Evelyn Gordon , THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 19, 2008
It is hard to decide which aspect of Mahmoud Abbas's recent "ethnic cleansing" accusation is more worrying: what it reveals about him, or what it reveals about the world's willingness to tolerate even the vilest and most obviously nonsensical slanders against Israel.
Addressing the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Dakar last Thursday, the Palestinian Authority chairman declared: "Our people in the city [of Jerusalem] are facing an ethnic cleansing campaign through a set of Israeli decisions such as imposing heavy taxes, banning construction and closing Palestinian institutions, in addition to separating the city from the West Bank by the racist separation wall."
If Jerusalem's Arabs are facing ethnic cleansing, then Israelis are surely the most incompetent ethnic cleansers in human history. After all, ethnic cleansing usually aims at removing an unwanted population and substituting your own nationals.
But according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies, Jerusalem's Arab population skyrocketed 266 percent between 1967, when Israel annexed east Jerusalem, and 2006 (the last year for which figures are available). That is almost double the Jewish population's growth during those years (143 percent); consequently, the city's ratio of Jews to Arabs shrank from 74:26 in 1967 to 66:34 in 2006.
Even during the intifada, which prompted the fence and the closed institutions that Abbas decries, the Arab population continued ballooning: It rose from 208,700 at the end of 2000 to 252,400 at the end of 2006, an increase of 21 percent in six years, or 3.5 percent a year. Jerusalem's Jewish population grew by only 4.7 percent during those years, or less than 1 percent a year. In absolute terms, the Arab increase (43,700 people) was double the Jewish increase (21,100).
Nor was the Arab growth solely due to natural increase: Ziad al-Hamouri, who heads the Jerusalem Center for Economic Rights, estimates that some 30,000 Arabs have moved to Jerusalem since construction of the fence began; others put the figure even higher.
IF ABBAS is truly unaware of these very well-publicized facts, this casts doubt on his viability as a negotiating partner. Since any deal must be rooted in reality, it is hard to negotiate with someone who remains determinedly ignorant even about "core issues" such as Jerusalem. But more importantly, how can you trust the good faith of someone who has no qualms about accusing you of one of the most heinous crimes in the modern lexicon without even bothering to check his facts? Almost certainly, however, Abbas does know the facts. After all, both Palestinians and Israelis frequently cite east Jerusalem's Arab majority to support Palestinian claims to part of the city.
But in that case, the question becomes even more troubling - because how can you trust the moderation, good faith and peaceful intentions of someone who has no qualms about publicly accusing you of such a heinous crime even knowing that it is false? Bluntly, this was nothing less than deliberate incitement against Israel, in a forum guaranteed to receive maximum coverage in the Arab world.
Nor was this a one-time aberration. Just last month, for instance, Abbas told the Jordanian daily Al Dustour: "At this time, I object to the armed struggle, since we are unable to conduct it; however, in future stages things may change." Yet if his only reason for opposing armed struggle is that he currently believes he cannot wage it successfully, that is hardly reassuring, as this reason would disappear following a peace agreement: With the IDF gone from the West Bank and Jordan border, Palestinians could easily import quantities of sophisticated arms and plan attacks unhindered.
THEN THERE was the PA's rejection in December of a French proposal, backed by senior UN officials, for a UN resolution mandating educational activities to support the peace process. The proposal would have amended an existing resolution that requires teaching about alleged Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, thereby fostering hatred rather than reconciliation. Yet Abbas evidently prefers fostering hatred.
It is hard to imagine anything more innocuous, or more vital to the success of the process, than peace education. If Abbas cannot even agree to that, one has to wonder about his commitment to peace.
There are numerous similar examples, such as his June 2006 charge that Israel was seeking to "eliminate the Palestinian people." Never mind that, by the PA's own figures, the Palestinian population of the territories has quadrupled under Israeli rule - including a 34 percent increase in the past decade alone.
But perhaps even more worrying than Abbas's statements is the world's response. Not a single international leader bothered to condemn last week's ethnic cleansing accusation. Nor did anyone condemn his Al-Dustour remarks, his rejection of the peace education resolution, or any of his other less-than-moderate statements and actions.
Given the world's fixation with resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its reluctance to acknowledge that Abbas may be miscast as a peacemaker is understandable. Yet by tolerating such blatant incitement, the international community further undermines the prospects for peace.
First, such remarks scarcely encourage Israelis to believe that Abbas is acting in good faith, which is an obvious prerequisite for Israeli consent to any agreement. For that reason alone, the world should be interested in condemning such remarks.
Far more important, however, is the message this sends to Palestinians. If Abbas can hurl such vicious and patently false accusations at Israel without even a pro forma protest from world leaders, that tells Palestinians that willingness to live in peace with Israel is not necessary to retain international support. If the world has no objection to even the most vicious Palestinian incitement - despite knowing that such incitement routinely leads to actual violence - then it clearly cares nothing about peace; what it cares about is satisfying Palestinian demands.
That, in turn, encourages Palestinians to believe that eventually, the world will force Israel to accede to these demands even without peace - thereby obviating any need to stop the violence or make the kind of concessions negotiated agreements always entail. And as long as they believe this, peace will remain a distant dream.
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The last batch of arms supplied to Fatah ended up in the hands of the Hamas.
Last update - 18:59 21/03/2008
Israel okays Russian supply of armored vehicles to PA
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press
Israel has agreed to allow Russia to supply the Palestinian Authority security services in the West Bank with Russian-made armored vehicles, Haaretz has learned.
During Thursday's meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russia accepted the Israeli demand that the vehicles not be mounted with machine guns as was originally planned. Palestinian police officers will be permitted to carry small arms only.
According to the understandings reached, 25 Russian-manufactured vehicles will be delivered to the Palestinians in the near future. An additional shipment of 25 vehicles will be temporarily stored in Jordan. Depending on the quality of security coordination with the Palestinians, Israel will decide when to transfer the remaining vehicles to the PA at a later stage.
Last year, a political brouhaha erupted over reports of a deal in principle between Israel and Russia whereby Jerusalem agreed to the transfer of armored vehicles to the Palestinian Authority. Right-wing parties bitterly criticized Olmert for the decision.
Lavrov: Gaza blockade unacceptable
Lavrov said Friday during a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah that Israel should end the blockade of the Gaza Strip and halt all settlement activity.
After meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Lavrov told a press conference that the blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized control of Gaza in June, is unacceptable.
Lavrov added that Russia was very much concerned about Israeli construction on land the Palestinians claim for a future state. "We call for an immediate halt to settlement activity," he said.
On Thursday, Lavrov met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who expressed concern over Russia's continuing supply of sophisticated weaponry to Syria and Iran.
Olmert stressed Israel's fear that these weapons, including advanced anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft missiles, could find their way into the hands of the Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, which has threatened to destroy Israel.
Lavrov responded by saying that Russia has no knowledge of Hezbollah possessing Russian weapons, and that if Israel has any information on the topic, Russia would be happy to look into it
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Macho U.S. Jews, pantywaist Israel
By Bradley Burston
What a disappointment Israel is for machismo-oozing leaders of the American Jewish right. What a shameful wuss is this state. If only these leaders lived here. They'd show them Arabs - and this Israeli government - what for.
Just let that Olmert, and that Livni, and G-d knows who else, think one thought about horsetrading the future of Jerusalem, these leaders have put Israel on notice. No way. They'll have to get past us. American Jews.
Jews like cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, who took the trouble of personally informing the prime minister last month that Diaspora Jewish opinion must be a factor when it comes to negotiations over Jerusalem's future status.
Yeshiva University rabbinical school head Herschel Schachter, meanwhile, was considerably more direct when addressing the possibility that Israel might make territorial concessions over Jerusalem.
Using the Hebrew words for Jerusalem and the Prime Minister, Schachter was caught on video telling American students at Yeshivat Hakotel, which overlooks both the Western Wall and Al Aqsa:
"If the army is going to give away Yerushalyim, then I would tell everyone to resign from the army - I'd tell them to shoot the Rosh Hamemshalah."
"No one should go to the army if they [the army] are doing aveirus [sins]," the rabbi continued, adding, "I'm not sure if the army is doing the right thing - we have to look into that."
The respected Talmudic scholar apologized this month for his remarks, saying that they were not meant seriously and did not represent his real views.
There is every reason to believe his disclaimer. The remarks, however, are a symptom of a wider phenomenon, led by the likes of Zionist Orgnization of America National President Morton Klein, the ZOA-ization of debate over a future Israeli-Palestinian peace.
In recent months, the right wing of U.S. Jewry has lined up to tell Israelis that, where it comes to a possible division of Jerusalem into Israeli and Palestinian capitals, right-wing American Jews know best.
During a recent Jerusalem meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Boston real-estate developer Joshua Katzen was quoted as saying that Diaspora Jews can see the bigger security-diplomatic picture that Israelis sometimes miss.
"They lose sight of the wider jihad in the world," said Katzen, former chair of the rightist CAMERA media advocacy group and a board member of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs whose advisors include John Bolton and Richard Perle,
Thus American Jews can show Israelis that granting Palestinians any kind of sovereignty over Jerusalem would be a mistake because it would give an increasingly radicalized Islamic world a foothold in the city, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted Katzen as saying.
The problem is not that these men are critical of Israel, nor that they have an opinion on Jerusalem, not that they want their feelings to be respected. They have every right to be critical, they have every right to care about the holy city. Their feelings should be respected.
The problem is, in part, one of tone. These are, after all, powerful men. They are the last people who will countenance being talked down to. Perhaps they should consider what it's like when they themselves are talking down, when what they are saying amounts to "Someone has to save Israelis from themselves."
But the more profound problem is one that was raised by rightists repeatedly when the Likud dominated Israeli politics for much of the latter part of the 20th century.
At the time, defenders of the Begin, Shamir, and Netanyahu governments stressed that American Jewish critics of Israel do not face the direct and potentially lethal consequences of the policies they propound.
They were right. Yet what was once true for the American Jewish left, applies equally to the American Jewish right. It is specious to suggest that the views of rightists are perforce better for Israel's overall well-being that those of leftists.
The same day that right-leaning presidents of major North American Jewish organization lined up to rule out any division of Jerusalem, a panel of experts warned the conference that the city was in danger of losing its Jewish majority, due to the continuing exodus of Jerusalem's Jewish residents.
Allow me to suggest to those U.S. Jews who so passionately argue against any division of Jerusalem might want to expend a portion of their considerable energy in helping find ways to aid the Jews still remaining in the city, those who have not already been driven out by high housing costs, bleak job opportunities, depleted cultural life, and the mounting fundamentalism and polarization of the population, both Jewish and Muslim.
Jerusalem needs the help of all those who love the city. But to suggest that the best way for Israel to relate to the city, is by keeping it at close as possible to the way it currently is, is to ignore dangers at least as potentially destructive as those inherent in ceding areas on the outskirts, Palestinian neighborhoods which no Jews in their right mind have gone near in years.
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JJAC Before the UN Human Rights Council
HISTORIC APPEARANCE BY JEWISH REFUGEE FROM LIBYA, BEFORE THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
March 20, 2008
For decades, the United Nations has ignored the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Now they are no longer be able to do so. For the first time ever, appearing in Geneva at the United Nations Human Rights Council, was a Jewish refugee from an Arab country, Regina Bublil-Waldman, who fled Libya in 1967, in fear of her life.
Also appearing at a public program for UN officials and NGOs were Sylvain Abitbol, Co-President of the Canadian Jewish Congress who is originally from Morocco and Stanley A. Urman, Executive Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.
Celebrating her heritage, Mrs. Bublil-Waldman appeared before the UN Human Rights Council wearing her grandmother's Libyan wedding dress. At the same time, she was "mourning" the loss of her heritage, as in 1948, there were 36,000 Jews living in Libya. Today, there are none left. Ms. Bublil-Waldman ultimately resettled in the United States where she founded JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa).
At the NGO conference, Mr. Abitbol brought a message of hoped-for peace and reconciliation. He recalled that King Muhammad V intervened to protect Jews living in Morocco from the Nazi regime. While recognizing the historical plight faced by Jews who lived for millennia in Arab countries, Mr. Abitbol expressed the hope that these displaced Jews can serve as an important bridge to the Arab world, much as he does now in his business and community life.
A Report entitled "Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress" was presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Published by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, the Report contains documents - recently discovered in the U.N. archives - that reveal a pattern of state-sanctioned oppression that precipitated the mass exodus of Jews from 10 Arab countries.
"The Report discloses the pernicious and prejudicial role played by the U.N. in excluding Jewish refugees from Arab countries from the justice and peace agenda" said Stanley Urman, Executive Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. "This is not just a case of justice delayed, but justice denied. Indeed, the displacement of 850,000 Jews from Arab countries is not just a 'Forgotten Exodus' but a 'Forced Exodus."
Photo available at: http://www.justiceforjews.com/geneva-1.jpg
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries is a coalition of 77 Jewish communities and organizations in 20 countries, operating under the auspices of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American Sephardi Federation, in partnership with the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai Brith International, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the World Sephardic Congress.
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Iran has provided Syria with more than $1 billion for arms purchases, reflecting Syria's drive to build up its military power in the last year, as well as the strengthening of ties between the two countries.
Israel, Germany plan int'l summit to stop Iran nuke program
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 08:13 21/03/2008
Germany and Israel will try to initiate an international conference aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed during their working meeting in Jerusalem on Monday.
Haaretz has meanwhile learned that Iran has provided Syria with more than $1 billion for arms purchases, reflecting Syria's drive to build up its military power in the last year, as well as the strengthening of ties between the two countries.
Olmert and Merkel discussed steps to continue the international pressure on Iran that has developed following the third round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Both leaders voiced ideas on increasing the pressure on Iran and enlisting the international community to support the effort.
A senior source said that Olmert had suggested holding an international conference on Iran. The two leaders decided to advance the initiative and will try to enlist other states to back it, including the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China, as well as other European states and Arab countries that are threatened by Iran's nuclear program.
Israel hopes that states from the moderate Sunni bloc in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and others would take part in the conference.
Olmert said a widely supported international gathering would initiate diplomatic pressure on Iran. A government source said such a conference could discuss practical suggestions for dealing with the nuclear issue, while sending a message to Tehran.
The $1 billion that Iran has recently provided Syria has been used to buy surface-to-surface missiles, rockets, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft systems.
Israel has learned that Syria is buying more missiles than tanks, on the assumption that attacking the Israeli home front would deter Israel on the one hand, and help to determine the war on the other.
A government official said this week that Iran was making huge efforts to upgrade the Syrian army. He said the close relations between Iran and Syria could make it difficult for Syria to sever its strategic alliance with Iran.
The London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported in July 2007, during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Damascus, that he promised his counterpart Bashar Assad that Iran would finance Russian and North Korean weapon deals for $1 billion. In exchange, Syria reportedly undertook not to proceed with the peace process with Israel.
Intelligence officials presented different opinions on the Syrian-Iranian alliance at the annual intelligence evaluation presented to the cabinet some two weeks ago.
Mossad head Meir Dagan said Syria would be unlikely to break its ties with Iran, even if talks with Israel resumed and it repaired relations with Washington.
Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin disagreed, and said it was possible Syria could sever these ties in exchange for a reversal of American policy and an Israeli agreement to talk about the Golan Heights.
Israel is concerned over Iran's continuing weapon deliveries to Hezbollah via Syria. Recently, it has become known that Iran sent Hezbollah a number of deliveries, including a large amount of explosives.
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Discovery - fire and water do not mix well. Hamas will not rejoin Fatah, because it won't give up control of Gaza, which was its original aim.
Yemeni bid to reconcile Fatah and Hamas Fails
Arab News - 21 March, 2008
The latest attempt to reconcile Fatah and Hamas ended in failure yesterday, with each party blaming the other.
The announcement came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Syria that Palestinian reconciliation was key to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The initiative, sponsored by Yemen, called for a return to the political status quo that existed before Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, routing forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a week of deadly street battles.
Abbas, who also leads Fatah, claimed Hamas rejected the proposals.
Hamas "did not accept the formula proposed by Yemen and expressed reservations that voided it of substance," said Abbas.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina claimed Hamas refused to engage in dialogue with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which includes several organizations, including Fatah, but not Hamas.
"Hamas rejected the Yemeni initiative for inter-Palestinian reconciliation," said Abu Rudeina.
However, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri insisted in Gaza the Islamists had accepted the initiative, but that the announcement of failure demonstrated that Abbas "shuns any dialogue."
Hamas and PLO delegations were in Sanaa this week for separate talks on the bid to heal the deep rift between them.
Abbas said the PLO delegation was heading home, but would be willing to return to Yemen should Hamas accept the full initiative.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Kurbi said the rival groups would make a renewed attempt to reach a compromise tomorrow.
Hamas No. 2 Mussa Abu Marzuk said in Yemen on Wednesday they would share control of Gaza if Abbas reappoints Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister.
After his forces were routed from Gaza, Abbas dismissed Haniyeh and suspended talks with the Islamists, which he has refused to resume until the movement relinquishes control of the Palestinian enclave.
In Damascus, Lavrov said it was crucial Palestinian unity should be restored. "It is necessary in order to continue negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," Lavrov said at a news conference.
Long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have made little progress since they were revived at a US-sponsored conference in November.
Israel has been negotiating with the Abbas government, but refuses to engage in talks with Hamas. Israel has also imposed a crippling embargo on Gaza and, on Feb. 27, launched a deadly five-day blitz on the narrow enclave.
Lavrov called for a "global solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflict and said talks should be restarted with Israel on the Syrian and Lebanese peace tracks. Source
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Last night there was an impressive online demonstration of support for Israel and the people of Sderot. Over 2 million people logged on to view the solidarity Sderot Solidarity rally at its peak (though the Web site shows a much smaller figure now). The great thing about the Web is that it can involve almost everyone - even you - even if you have only a tiny sliver of time to devote to the cause.
Here's your chance to do something for Israel, for Zionism, for justice and human decency - with very little effort. Join the Face Book Zionism cause at
We are all alarmed by the proliferation of hate groups on the Web (see Zionism on the Web). But the Web also presents an opportunity for honest advocacy and a medium for spreading information and showing solidarity.
Face Book and similar social networking applications provide a similar challenge. Not long ago Israeli President Shimon Peres pointed out the importance of
promoting Israel through Face Book activism. Others have pointed out the potential for mayhem in these applications. (See
Facing up to the 'Facebook' dilemma) Over 35,000 people have joined the group ""Israel is not a country!" A group that lauds terror attacks in Israel has also developed a following.
The important thing is not to whine about the problem, but to do something about it. We have answered Shimon Peres's call by creating the Zionism cause on Facebook.
It is easy to join and help:
1- Join Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/
2- Go to the Zionism cause at
http://apps.facebook.com/causes/causes/73516 and join the cause.
3- Please recruit every one of your friends to the cause by inviting them to join Zionism after you join.
Purpose of the group:
Demonstrate solidarity with Israel and Zionism by our presence.
Promote the legitimacy of Israel and the Jewish right to self-determination.
Combat anti-Zionism and support for terrorists.
Provide a large online presence for supporters of Israel and Zionism.
Develop an online network of supporters who can help in fighting for specific issues.
Reach a mass audience with a message of peace, decency, tolerance and hope to combat the hate groups.
There is a permanent home page for this cause: Zionism
Please Copy, forward and link - This article is not copyright. You can copy the entire article to your Web log or Web site, provided you include all credits and links, including this notice and link to Zionism & Israel.
Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000511.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNNemail@example.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it.
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Continued (Permanent Link)
What Guy Bechor says is obvious, and has been said before. So why isn't anyone doing anything about it?
Power of symbolism
Israel can kill 1,000 terrorists but still lose the Mideastern war of symbols
Guy Bechor Published: 03.20.08, 09:39 / Israel Opinion
But we killed more than 100 terrorists, we wonder, how come many don't view the recent IDF operation in Gaza as a victory? We killed 100 terrorists, the IDF keeps saying, without realizing that our approach is completely different than the prevalent tactics in our region.
For us, the sanctity of life is above everything. What wouldn't we do for one captive? Therefore, based on our criteria, 100 casualties is a terrible disaster. However, the other side doesn't see it that way, as it is a collective society willing to sacrifice its sons for the sake of a political objective: Palestinian nationalism, political Islam, Israel hatred, or any other goal.
Late Egyptian President Sadat was willing, according to his declarations, to sacrifice a million soldiers in order to liberate the Sinai. As we recall, Palestinian leader Arafat declared that a million martyrs are marching on Jerusalem. Can you imagine an Israeli prime minister declaring that we are willing to sacrifice 100,000 IDF soldiers for the sake of the Golan, for example?
While for us the State exists for the sake of the individual, in the society facing us the individual exists for the sake of the collective. Even the mother whose son committed suicide as part of the struggle against the Jews must openly declare that she is overjoyed by his martyrdom.
In order words: Even if we kill 1,000 terrorists, the other side will still be declaring victory, as the objectives that are important to it the political and leadership symbols and the broad political context have not been hurt.
Symbols stronger than word
Indeed, in symbolic terms, Hamas and its Islamic ethos stood its ground in Gaza. It controls the area, sends thousands of Israelis to bomb shelters, provokes unrest in Judea and Samaria, and Israel stopped the battle. For Hamas, this is a great achievement.
Hamas adopted the common Middle Eastern tactics, which we have failed to understand: The tactics of symbols. It declared victory in the war and initiated a march by thousands of people to celebrate and reinforce the event. The symbolism of the march created power, as it enabled millions of viewers across the world to feel that they are marching with Hamas while also feeling a sense of solidarity and closeness. Such rally creates an event of its own. Hamas put on a performance.
An important rule of thumb: Symbols, pictures, and performances will always overcome words and we have words. A performance will always touch the emotions, and in the race between mind and emotions, emotions will always win - and Hamas knows how to do the job well. Where is our own visual performance? Where is our own march? We like to explain and to talk, but we have no symbols.
David Ben-Gurion knew how to do the job well. His very image was a symbol. His rhetoric style, his hair, his pioneer spirit, his emphasis on action, and his enthusiasm all served to convey emotions. Ben-Gurion did headstands and captivated the entire world, which admired a performance that was different and symbolic.
Today we are led by analytical statesmen. We despise emotions, and view them as a weakness, something primitive, without realizing that in our region displaying emotions, putting on a performance, a display, or a march are a great advantage. This is like a performance on television. A person can be analytical and knowledgeable, but if he fails to provide a proper show, viewers will be bored and that person will not be invited again.
Indeed, on occasion I watch Israeli ambassadors or representatives across the world engaging in tiring, boring explanations and my heart breaks.
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The Nakba of 1948, the flight of the Arabs of Palestine and the triumph of Zionism, destroyed many quaint customs.
As we are told, "Zionism is racism" and "Israel is an Apartheid State." Indeed, the proponents of multicultural pluralism should take careful note. The Zionists have been stamping out many Arab Palestinian customs that no doubt contribute to the rainbow of human culture. For example, one of the customs eliminated by Zionist domination of 'Palestine' was slavery.
The practice of enslaving Africans was made illegal in most of the Western world in the 19th century. In the Middle East, however, under the Muslim Ottoman Empire, it persisted. In the area later to be called Palestine, there was an apartheid society of slave owners. When the colonialist imperialist British, supported by the evil Zionists, entered the land and carved up the former Ottoman Turkish Empire, they discouraged and tried to stop slavery. But the real end to slavery did not, apparently, come, until after the 'Nakba,' the catastrophe of Jewish restoration in 1948, which ended so many delightful customs of the Palestinian Arabs.
In Saudi Arabia, this quaint and picturesque custom, which gave so much romance to the world, was only abolished in 1961, under pressure from the American imperialists. No doubt, the conscience of every humanitarian must be appalled by this blatant interference in the society of another people.
The demise of this elegant society is still mourned by those who decry the British mandate for Palestine and the Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel. The British had outlawed slavery only recently, but Jewish opposition to slavery begins in the biblical story of Passover (Pesach), which celebrates the emancipation of the Jewish slaves in ancient Egypt.
The Africans were called "Abed" - which literally means slave. White and black slaves were separated, and there were degrees of inferiority among African slaves as well. The descendants of these slaves are still Bedouin in the Negev and "Palestinians" in Gaza. They still, as a rule, cannot intermarry with their "white" former masters.
Here is a description of African slavery and African Palestinians in the land of Israel:
Although Africans have been in Palestine for centuries, most people know little about this migration. For centuries, under the Ottoman Empire and before, slaves were brought from Africa. Some older people today remember stories told by their parents or grandparents of how they came to be in Palestine. Therefore it is possible to discover something of the later history of slavery. Several people mentioned that they had heard that there was a big slave market in Egypt and one 'white' Bedouin told me that his grandfather had been a slave trader who travelled regularly to Egypt. Most people with any idea of where their ancestors came from mention Sudan or Ethiopia. Sometimes they know the name of the town. Indeed, it is probable that many Africans came from these countries as they are near to Palestine. However, one woman I spoke to pointed out that 'we just say Sudan because we do not know and because the name means 'place of black people. It could just as easily have been Congo!' According to history books, slave traders and owners used to make a distinction between Ethiopians (Habash) and other Africans such as the Zanj from the East African Coast. In their racist way of thinking, they considered the Ethiopians to be superior to the other Africans.
Continued: African Slavery in Palestine - Gone With the Wind
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This is what a real siege looked like in Palestine: No convoys, no humanitarian aid. Those who tried to break the siege could meet a very bad end.
This letter by Zipporah Porath, from her book, "Letters from Jerusalem 1947-1948", was written from Jerusalem in the Israel War of Independence.
Within the Jerusalem command, though outside the city of Jerusalem, there were several Jewish villages, inside the part of Palestine destined by the UN partition plan to be part of an Arab state. To the north of Jerusalem lay Neve Ya'akov and Atarot (Kalandia). To the south, on the road to Jerusalem, lay Gush Etzion, on the road to Hebron. The head of the Zionist Executive in Palestine, David Ben-Gurion insisted initially that each such outpost must be held at all costs. Gush Etzion; (the Etzion bloc) consisted of four kibbutzim. It was totally isolated from Jerusalem. The situation grew desperate.
On March 27 1948, the Haganah attempted to send a large relief convoy to the Etzion Bloc, throwing in virtually all of its meager supply of armored vehicles, including some that had just arrived in a convoy from Tel Aviv. This came to be known as the Nebi Daniel Convoy. The convoy reached Gush Etzion, but tarried there due to a recalcitrant bull who would not get on the truck. This delay gave Arabs a chance to gather forces for an ambush, at a bend in the road near an abandoned house called Nebi Daniel. Though the British eventually rescued most of the Haganah people under a truce agreement, the Haganah lost all of armor and a great deal of weapons. It also became evident that no more convoys would get through from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless the road to Tel Aviv was cleared of the Arab irregulars and village people who were carrying out ambushes. On the same day, the Haganah also suffered another serious setback in the north, when a convoy to Kibbutz Yehiam was ambushed. (See Yechiam Convoy). The letter below describes the somber mood of those days. The Haganah and the political leadership understood that the situation was desperate. Zipporah wrote:
The Arab plan is not only to strangle our communication lines and destroy our outposts but to lay siege to the city and starve us into submission -- with a little help from the British...
Everyone knows there is no defending the city from a strategic point of view. Our only hope is international intervention in some form -- a UN militia or some other neutral force. I can't believe the entire world would abandon the Holy City without making provisions for safeguarding the sacred places or trying to prevent an outright attack.
Unbelievably, the world abandoned Jerusalem to its fate. The UN was powerless against the will of the British. No convoys of humanitarian aid were forced through the Arab blockade. No resolutions condemning human rights violations were passed. Hospitals ran out of medicine. People were hungry and ill, and some died.
Equally unbelievably, however, West Jerusalem was saved for the Jewish state by its Jewish defenders, without international intervention. Jerusalem paid a terrible price - over a thousand dead, and the Jewish quarter of the old city was lost for 19 years, but the city was saved.
More at Palestine Siege: Jerusalem's Desperate Hours - March 29, 1948
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Last update - 18:23 19/03/2008
McCain in Sderot: Rocket attacks demand response
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
U.S. Senator John McCain said Wednesday he understands Israel's tough response to Palestinian rocket fire.
The Republican presidential hopeful made the remarks during a joint press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak following a tour of the rocket-battered town of Sderot.
"No nation in the world can be attacked incessantly ... without responding," he said.
McCain, on what he described as a fact-finding mission to the Middle East, expressed empathy for residents of Sderot. The town, situated near the border with Gaza, is a frequent target of Palestinian rocket fire. Israel has responded to the attacks with frequent military raids in Gaza.
McCain, accompanied by U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, toured the city and spoke to residents of Sderot. McCain thanked Barak and complimented him on his bravery in defending the state of Israel. The presidential hopeful added that the constant rocket fire on Israeli towns underlines the desperate need for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The fact is that I come from a border state, and if people were rocketing my state, I think that the citizens from my state would advocate a very vigorous response," the Arizona senator told reporters.
McCain also voiced doubts that a peace deal could be reached by the end of the year, saying that "I am not sure whether it will succeed in that period of time," referring to a U.S.-brokered peace process which Washington hopes will lead to a Palestinian statehood accord before George W. Bush leaves the White House in January.
"But I do believe that the administration is making every possible effort to do so," he declared.
When asked about possible negotiations with the Islamist group Hamas, who controls the Gaza Strip, he said that it would be difficult for Israel to negotiate with a group who openly declares its desire to destroy it, but the decision whether or not to attempt negotiations is Israel's.
Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told McCain that Israel can halt rocket fire from Gaza without a major ground offensive in the densely-populated coastal strip.
"It is possible to stop the Qassams without conquering Gaza," Olmert told McCain. "We will stop the Qassam fire by the creation of deterrence in the South which will make [Gaza militants] think twice before they shoot again," the prime minister continued.
McCain agreed with Olmert that the situation in the South is intolerable.
Answering a question by the presidential hopeful about what was going to happen in Gaza, the prime minister said: "I am skeptical about what appears like a temporary calm, and am doubtful about whether it will continue."
"Israel will not be able to continue suffering Qassam fire and the fact that hundreds of thousands of its residents are living under daily missile fire. In the end, we will stop the Qassam fire," the prime minister said.
Olmert also stressed in the meeting that alongside fighting the rocket attacks, Israel is continuing to build the momentum for a peace process with the moderate elements within the Palestinian Authority.
Earlier Wednesday, McCain told Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that he believed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was committed to the peace process and opposed the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip.
At a press conference with Livni, McCain said he had telephoned Abbas, who is based in the West Bank city of Ramallah just a few kilometres away, because he was unable to meet the Palestinian president in person.
McCain said the Western-backed leader wants to move forward in peace talks.
"I again believe that President Abbas wants to get this [peace] process started," McCain said in Jerusalem.
McCain said he shared Israel's concern about the deterioration ofsecurity in the Gaza Strip and the cross-border rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled territory against Israel.
"I believe that [Abbas] does not support the kind of activity that is taking place in Gaza. I know that the United States government is fully committed to trying to stop this ... cross-border violence," McCain said.
A Palestinian official said on Wednesday that McCain told Abbas during their phone conversation that he was committed to a peace settlement after Bush leaves office.
Livni hailed McCain's support for Israel during their early morning meeting.
"I know we share the same understanding on the nature of the threats in the region," she said. I know where you stand on what needs to be done."
McCain was visiting Israel with his Senate allies Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.
The 71-year-old ex-aviator and Vietnam war POW has denied seeking to improve his electoral prospects on this tour, saying he came as a top member of the Senate Armed Services Committee rather than as Bush's potential successor.
The presidential hopeful expressed concern on Tuesday about Iran's support for terror and its development of nuclear weapons.
Before his arrival in Israel on Tuesday, McCain said he supports Israel's claim to Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. He told reporters in Jordan: "I support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."
Later, speaking at a meeting with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, McCain said he was concerned by Iran's negative influence on the region - namely, the fact that it trains, finances and otherwise assists radical groups - and that his concern had merely been heightened by his current tour of the region.
Peres stressed that Iran is not Israel's problem only. "The combination of terror, nuclear capability and irresponsible leadership is a danger to the entire world," he said. "Even the region's Arab states fear Iran, and they need to say so out loud."
McCain was accompanied by Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. Israeli analysts believe that Lieberman, a former Democrat turned independent who was one of McCain's early backers, is a likely choice for secretary of state should McCain be the next president.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Last update - 10:09 19/03/2008
New Meretz chair: We won't join Olmert's government
By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent
After being elected the Meretz party's next chairman, MK Haim Oron on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of the faction joining Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government.
Oron is considered a close associate of the prime minister's, and was widely believed to have sought to join Olmert's coalition in the event of success in the primaries. "This is not up for discussion," the incoming Meretz chairman said Tuesday.
The MK gained some 54 percent of the votes in Tuesday's party primaries, with about 90 percent of the votes counted.
As such, Oron will not need to go to a second round of primaries.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday telephoned Oron to congratulate him on his election, and advised him to consider seriously joining the government.
"Meretz's joining the government can strengthen the government in its efforts to reach a political arrangement [with the Palestinians]," Barak said.
The defense minister also called on Olmert to work toward Meretz's inclusion in his coalition.
Oron seemingly rejected the possibility of this, however, when he said Tuesday that, "the Olmert government, in every area, says one thing and does another. Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he is striving for peace, yet has not evacuated even one outpost."
"In addition, Meretz is a witness to the crisis in negotiations with the Palestinians and therefore sees absolutely no reason for Meretz to join the government," Oron said.
The MK stated that the party's first mission was to become a meaningful factor in Israeli politics, and to bring back groups who had left the party such as young people.
MK Ran Cohen, who ran against Oron, garnered some 27 percent of the primaries vote. MK Zahava Gal-On, another contender, received about 18 percent.
Some 70 percent of Meretz's 15,000 members turned out at 132 polling stations nationwide, in order to choose a replacement for current party chairman MK Yossi Beilin.
"I spoke with Ran and with Zahava and both of them congratulated me on my victory," said Oron.
Oron will be tasked with pulling the party out of its current crisis, and preparing it for the next parliamentary elections.
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It is interesting that this coin shows the image of a face. Jewish tradition prohibits such human images as idolatry.
The article states "The shekel that was found in the excavation weighs 13 grams, bears the head of Melqart." Melqart was a phoenician God. It would be stranged if this coin was used to pay the half shekel temple tax.
Rare silver coin found in excavations in Jerusalem
A silver coin used to pay the half-shekel head tax to the Temple was found in what was the main drainage channel of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period.
(Communicated by the Israel Antiquities Authority)
Silver coin used to pay half-shekel tax to Second Temple (Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)
This coming Thursday, before reading the Scroll of Esther, all devout Jews will contribute a sum of money, "a reminder of the half shekel" which was paid by every household in ancient times for the purpose of maintaining the Temple. Today, this sum is translated into local currency and donated to the needy.
A rare ancient silver coin, of the type used to pay the half-shekel tax in ancient times, was recently discovered in an archaeological excavation that is being conducted in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park near the City of David, in what was the main drainage channel of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.
The excavations, directed by Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation.
Archaeologist Eli Shukron surmises, "Just like today, when coins sometimes fall from our pockets and roll into drainage openings at the side of the street, that's how it was some two thousand years ago a man was on his way to the Temple, and the coin which he intended to use for paying the half-shekel head tax found its way into the drainage channel."
The origin of the commandment to pay the half-shekel head tax to the Temple is in the weekly Biblical reading "Ki Tisa", in the Book of Exodus: "When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his soul to the Lord when you number them
half a shekel
the rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less
And you shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall appoint it for the service of the Tent of Meeting; that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your souls."
At the time of the Temple's construction, every Jew was commanded to make an obligatory donation of a half shekel to the edifice. This modest sum allowed all Jews, of all economic levels, to participate in the building of the Temple. After the construction was completed, they continued to collect the tax from every Jew for the purpose of purchasing the public sacrifices and other needs of the Temple. The collection began every year on the first day of the month of Adar when the "heralding of the shekelim" took place, and it ended on the first day of the month of Nissan, the beginning of the new fiscal year for the Temple, when the purchase of public sacrifices was renewed.
It was most likely a shekel of Tyre that Jesus and Peter used to pay the Temple head tax (a half shekel each): "Go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money. That take, and give unto them for me and thee" (Matthew 17:27). Moreover, Tyrian silver coins probably comprised the infamous payment to Judas Iscariot, when "they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver" (Matthew 26:15).
The annual half-shekel head tax was given in shekel and half shekel coins from the Tyre mint, where they were struck from the year 125 BCE until the outbreak of the Great Revolt in 66 CE. At the time of the uprising, the tax was paid using Jerusalem shekelim, which were specifically minted for this purpose. In the rabbinic sources, the Tosefta (Ketubot 13:20) states "Silver mentioned in the Pentateuch is always Tyrian silver: What is Tyrian silver? It is Jerusalemite." Many have interpreted this to mean that only Tyrian shekels could be used to pay the half-shekel head tax at the Temple.
The shekel that was found in the excavation weighs 13 grams, bears the head of Melqart, the chief deity of the city of Tyre on the obverse (equivalent to the Semitic god Baal) and an eagle upon a ship's prow on the reverse. The coin was minted in the year 22 CE.
Despite the importance of the half-shekel head tax for the economy of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period, only seven other Tyrian shekels and half shekels have previously been found in excavations in Jerusalem.
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Whenever Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of State and the representative of the McCain campaign in a Jewish gathering, was called upon to respond, he was writing a new chapter of the straight-talk book.
The location keeps changing, and the speakers might be different as well, but the goal remains the same: courting the Jewish vote. Today, it was in Washington, at the Washington 15 Conference, an event of the United Jewish Communities aimed at young Jewish leadership. And three campaigns sent their representatives as to convince these young enthusiastic crowed that Obama/Clinton/McCain is the candidate they should be voting for.
For Obama, it was advisor (and former ambassador to Israel) Daniel Kurtzer. For Clinton, it was senior advisor Ann Lewis. McCain dispatched the most senior speaker of the three, former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger. I will write more about this event later, but this first installment will be dedicated solely to the person speaking on behalf of McCain. With his abrupt, grumpy style, he stole the show, and also made some rather interesting comments.
Here is one prediction: that mouth of his might get the candidate in some trouble.
Yes, it can.
Eagleburger was trying to have fun. He was mocking his fellow panelist Kurtzer, sitting to the left of the others ("where he belongs"), and making noises and funny, impatient faces, while Ann Lewis was speaking. But more importantly, he did not mince his words. In a response to a question about the religious right, an important component of the Republican coalition, he said that it was, indeed "a serious problem," and reminded his listeners that he now lives in Charlottesville, surrounded by such people that he needs to fight.
One would think that this is not exactly what McCain needs, while he is trying to win over this reluctant constituency. But Eagleburger calmed these young Jews by promising that McCain will not change his ways to please anyone. And he did not forget to take a swipe on Rush Limbaugh - not for the first time - even while forgetting, or pretending to forget, his name.
Whenever Eagleburger was called upon to respond to a question or a comment, he provided something for the audience to chew on, as if writing a new chapter of the McCain straight-talk book. How can he, a member of the controversial Iraq Study Group, endorse the champion of the surge? Eagleburger has no problem in admitting he was the one making the mistake. He did not believe that the Bush administration could pull it off. He should have known better and either have submitted a dissenting report or quit the group altogether.
And talking about a more senior member of the Iraq Study Group, another McCain supporter James Baker, Eagleburger admits that Baker was not always considered best friend of Israel. But Eagleburger does not have a problem with talking about the dispute between the first Bush administration and the Israeli government over the loan guarantees. Friendly countries do not always agree, he said. And such disputes can "become unpleasant." Bush, he said, was wrong to complain that he was standing alone against the all-powerful pro-Israel lobby.
Eagleburger does not seem to like the "pernicious ideas" of Walt and Mearsheimer. Nevertheless, he believes Israel supporters should cut Bush senior some slack. After all, he was the one fighting Iraq and kicking Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
The former secretary of state believes that those people who might want to "cut and run" from Iraq now are endangering Israel. If you're worried about Israel, he said, "just think" about the consequences of leaving Iraq, essentially making Iran stronger. As I predicted many times in the past, in this election Israel might find itself in the center of an internal American debate over the Middle East. The McCain camp is definitely going to use Israel as a way of convincing people that leaving Iraq prematurely would have grave consequences.
And why else should American Jews vote for McCain he was asked. His answer: For all the reasons all Americans should be voting for him. What you see is what you get. He will not talk to Iran, or to Syria (no matter what others might say), or to Hamas, or to Hezbollah. Countries and organizations calling for the destruction of Israel do not deserve to honor of speaking to an American president.
Oh, and one last thing: McCain also "has no interest" in hearing the opinions of Zbigniew Brezinski.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Another day, another terror attack..
A Palestinian stabbed a Haredi rabbi in the neck in Arab East Jerusalem on Tuesday, but medical workers said his wounds were light and not life-threatening.
A police spokesman confirmed that the attack, near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, was politically motivated.
The Zaka emergency service said the rabbi, 49, was walking with a bodyguard in Jerusalem's walled Old City, where his seminary is located, when he was attacked. The bodyguard gave chase but the attacker escaped, leaving behind a blood-stained knife.
According to police, the unidentified assailant stabbed the man once and fled the scene. Security forces are currently searching the area in hopes of capturing the attacker.
The man was taken to Hadassah Hospital in West Jerusalem for treatment.
The Damascus Gate has been a frequent site of terror stabbings in the past.
The attack Tuesday comes less than two weeks after a Palestinian from east Jerusalem shot and killed eight Israeli students at a Jewish religious school in west Jerusalem. Since then, tensions in the city have been high, and on Sunday, dozens of Jewish extremists tried to attack the Palestinian gunman's home.
Continued (Permanent Link)
The finding of ancient Jewish artifacts in Austria, from the third century, should dispel the vicious myth that Ashkenazi Jews are all descended of Kazakh converts. This idea was originally one of the musings of Arthur Koestler. In the hands of anti-Zionists it has become part of a demented campaign to "prove" that Ashkenazi Jews have no claims on Israel, by using tortuous logic that confutes genetic race with national identity.
Last update - 10:33 17/03/2008
3rd century 'Shema' prayer scroll proves ancient Austrian Jewry
By Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent
Austrian archaeologists last week announced they had found the earliest sign of Jewish habitation in Austria, in the form of a silver pendant they found inside a third-century C.E. grave, which bears the "Shema Yisrael" prayer.
Researchers from the Institute of Prehistory and Early History of the University of Vienna said they found the pendant in a child's grave at a Roman burial site in the eastern town of Halbturn. Advertisement
The 2.2-centimeter-long object contained a golden scroll on which the words of the "Shema" are inscribed in Greek.
The child's grave is one of about 300 graves in an ancient cemetery originally discovered in 1986 near Halbturn. Pieces of glass, ceramic shards and metal artifacts were also discovered near the grave site, but experts say there is no proof that the two-year-old boy, or the other people buried at the site, were actually Jewish.
The pendant was identified in 2006 and will go on public display next month in the Burgenland State Museum in Eisenstadt.
The scroll's inscription was incomprehensible at first, according to Prof. Nives Doneus, who discovered it. She says it might have been purchased for the boy by his parents as protection against evil spirits.
"The pendant was unearthed as early as 2000," Doneus told Haaretz last week in telephone conversation, "but because of the backlog we have, it wasn't examined before 2006. I found a hollow silver ornament. I extracted the golden scroll from inside the ornament, but I didn't notice the lettering the first time I examined it."
Only after reexamining the object was Doneus able to observe the Greek lettering. She then gave it to a linguist, who established that the text on the tiny scroll - which can be transliterated as "suma Istrahl adwne elwh adawt n a" - was Jewish in origin. Doneus then passed it on to Prof. Dr. Armin Lange, who heads the university's department of Jewish studies.
The bizarre-looking transcription of the sentence, which appears in Deuteronomy 6:4 ("Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one") owes, according to Lange, to the writer's decision to substitute the word "one" with the first letter of the Greek alphabet, alpha. Lange postulates this was done because of space considerations.
Other mis-transliterations are due to the difference between Hebrew and Greek, which lacks Hebrew's guttural ain and shin, says Lange, who is "completely certain" that the wording on the scroll is the "Shema."
"There are a number of things which set this pendant aside from others like it, which are dated from later periods," he explains. "Usually we see a longer prayer, and it's almost never engraved on a golden scroll."
This scroll, Lange adds, was written by a Jew for a Jew. "If the pendant was meant to protect [a person] from evil spirits, then only someone who knows the prayer and believes in the verse would be content to have such a short version of it," he says.
The grave site, discovered in 1986 in the region of Seewinkel, around 20 kilometers from Carnuntum, was excavated between 1988 and 2002. The findings unearthed there are the earliest proof of Jewish life in what is now Austria, which was then part of the northern territory of the Roman Empire.
The findings corroborate the previous assumption that Jews settled in what later became Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia in the third century B.C.E. The flow of Jewish immigration there increased after the rebellion against the Romans. Many Jews were sold as slaves and were shipped across the empire. Others emigrated of their own accord.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Last update - 11:23 17/03/2008
Top police officer slams police response to E. Jerusalem clash
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
A senior police officer on Monday criticized the police's response to clashes with right wing activists in the East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber on Sunday, saying that police forces were not properly prepared for the confrontation.
On Sunday, right wing activists tried to storm the house of a terrorist who killed 8 yeshiva students in Jerusalem earlier this month. The activists succeeded in circumventing police barriers and entering Jabal Mukaber, where they proceeded to hurl rocks at homes, smashing windows and damaging solar water heaters. A police officer sustained light injuries when hit by a stone during the melee.
Police forces arrested 22 activists and one of them was carrying a knife.
Former Jerusalem district police commander Mickey Levy criticized the police force for failing to prevent the confrontation. He told Army Radio Monday that it is inconceivable that the police was taken by surprise with a demonstration that was advertised well in advance on posters across Jerusalem.
"The district police didn't need to be surprised. There was no need to collect intelligence ? it was right there in the palm of the hand. Appropriate preparation was called for in order to prevent the violent demonstration," Levy said in an interview.
In the aftermath of Sunday's violene, the police beefed up its presence in East Jerusalem Monday morning in anticipation of further clashes.
Police commander Amnon Alkalai, head of the Moriah sub-district, told Army Radio Monday morning that though the police had failed to prevent the entry of right wing extremists into the Arab village, he felt the police had not failed at their task. "We allowed them to demonstrate ? despite the fact that it was an illegal demonstration. I am always displeased when people and property are harmed, no matter who or why. There was serious unruliness and our officers were also hurt," he said.
Some 200 activists participated Sunday in the attempt to avenge the deaths of the eight victims of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva terror attack.
During a demonstration near the Armon Hanatziv promenade, right-wing groups called for the demolition of the house where the Palestinian terrorist's family lives. Hundreds of demonstrators marched towards the police blockage, holding signs and calling for revenge.
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon from the settlement of Elon Hamoreh spoke, demanding that the government carry out the demolition, as was done in the past to terrorist homes. Rightists interrupted his speech, yelling out that "the state won't do anything," and that they must carry out the demolition themselves.
Among the demonstrators were the Hirschfeld family, whose son was killed in the Mercaz Harav attack, Nadia Matar, one of the leaders of the right-wing organization Women in Green, and Baruch Marzel.
Continued (Permanent Link)
The man did not say he advocates a ground operation or that there will be one. He said such an operation is needed, from a professional point of view, if Israel wants to prevent rocket fire:
"Professionally speaking," he said, "if Israel wants to prevent any high-trajectory rocket or mortar fire, it must establish good control on the ground."
But it makes a better headline to say that IDF's entry will stop rocket manufacture. More alarming. Meanwhile, IDF is not going anywhere.
Last update - 13:40 17/03/2008
Next IAF chief: IDF's entry into Gaza will stop rocket manufacture
By Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondents and Reuters
The commander-designate of the Israel Air Force, Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, believes the presence of Israel Defense Forces troops on the ground in the Gaza Strip could prevent the manufacture of the Qassam rockets that are plaguing the Negev as well as the smuggling of weapons into the Strip.
"Professionally speaking," he said, "if Israel wants to prevent any high-trajectory rocket or mortar fire, it must establish good control on the ground."
At the same time, Israel is examining anew the possibility of purchasing one of two foreign-made anti-rocket defense systems to combat the Qassams, according to defense officials, because the Israeli-made Iron Dome system, currently under development at the Armaments Development Authority Rafael, will not be operational before 2010.
In a lecture at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs delivered two months ago, and made public Sunday, Nehushtan, currently the head of the IDF Planning Directorate, said: "Compare Lebanon and Gaza to the West Bank, where Israel has control over the external perimeter and can control the entrance of weapons inside the area. In Lebanon, well-organized shipments of weapons flow across an open border with Syria. Gaza is open along the Egyptian border. The West Bank is not open and the weapons don't flow in with the same freedom."
According to Nehushtan, who will take command of the IAF on May 14, while "local arms production is a matter of know-how ... if Israeli forces are present on the ground, as they are in the West Bank, then we can stop the development and manufacture of rockets and other weapons in time."
Asked whether the Gaza problem could be solved militarily, he referred to Israel's Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in April 2002. "It took a few years [after the operation ¬ A.H.], but we managed to establish a different kind of control. The motivation of suicide bombers in the West Bank did not recede, but their capabilities did." The decision as to the role of the army, Nehushtan added, is in the hands of the country's political echelon: "In Gaza, as well, the IDF will do what it is instructed to do."
Nehushtan noted that the Gaza Strip represents the first example in the world "of a regime affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood," which began in Egypt.
"Hamas is building up its power and building its military capabilities ... Even if we build better shelters, this is no way to raise children," he noted, referring to the "constant shelling that really makes life impossible" for people living in Sderot and nearby communities.
He acknowledged "the difficulties of an open, modern, sensitive, Western society such as Israel's in operating against terrorists who operate from within civilian territory against civilians on the Israeli side," adding: "It was not like this in World War II ... We have to operate within this environment and under these constraints. At the same time, we still have to provide security for our people.
"Now that civilians are part of the equation," he continued, "anti-terror operations become much more difficult. When we have to operate against forces that operate within a civilian environment, we have to be pinpoint precise and very sensitive to collateral damage. We are much more limited in what we can do."
This was not the first time that Nehushtan, a former combat pilot, has spoken about the need for ground operations to prevent rocket fire. In meetings at the IDF General Command in late July 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Nehushtan and another pilot Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin were among the first senior officers to tell then chief of staff Dan Halutz that his plan to continue the aerial attacks on Hezbollah was not working.
"You must bring this before the government," Nehushtan told Halutz, according to the protocol of the meeting as published in Haaretz over a year ago. "You need to tell them straight that without a major ground operation, we cannot remove the Katyusha threat. If the government does not approve it, we should tell them that they must stop the campaign now."
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is reviewing two potential substitutes for Iron Dome to counter the Qassam rockets. One is Nautilus, a joint Israeli-American invention that uses lasers to blow up rockets and mortar bombs mid-flight. The other is Phalanx, an automated machinegun produced by U.S. firm Raytheon whose heavy bullets shred incoming shells.
Defense Ministry director general Pinchas Buchris flew Sunday to the U.S. state of New Mexico to watch Nautilus now being upgraded under a new name, Skyguard in action. The mission is significant as Israeli experts long wrote off Nautilus's performance as inadequate. A Defence Ministry delegation visited Raytheon earlier this month to inspect the Phalanx.
Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror confirmed that Israel is examining the Phalanx and Nautilus systems, if only to assess their core technologies as potential complements for Iron Dome. "I think the future will be a combination of laser and missile systems," he said.
Dror denied that protectionism had motivated Iron Dome's initial selection, saying its slated performance was deemed to be more reliable than that of Nautilus or Phalanx.
Palestinians fired five Qassam rockets at Israel Sunday, but no one was injured and no damage was caused.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Israel is reconsidering its choice of the Israeli made Iron Dome rocket defense system. Rocket defense is a new technology. Therefore it is certain that any system devised will arouse skepticism and debate, will be inadequate and will probably need to be replaced when countermeasures are devised. However, the same was true of anti-aircraft systems, of radar and of tanks and anti-tank guns and every other system that evolved over time.
Evolving systems are always expensive and faulty, and the people who make the choices get blamed no matter what the choices are, and the secret technology is obsolete five years later, after it is discovered that it was responsible for winning the war.
The major drawbacks of the Israeli Iron Dome system, not explained in this mediocre article, are that it cannot be used for rockets that are closer than 4 km distant, since the warning time is too brief, and that each iron dome projectile costs somewhere between $40,000 and $100,000.00. Palestinians could bankrupt Israel by launching enough of the cheap Qassam rockets. Moreover, as is the case for almost all projects under development, the operational readiness date of the Iron Dome system keeps getting pushed into the future. By the time it is ready, the Hamas may have ICBMs.
The major drawbacks of the American Nautilus system are that it does not cover a wide range and would not work on cloudy days.
Last update - 17:06 16/03/2008
Barak rethinking 'Iron Dome' defense system in face of Gaza rockets
Spurred by a surge in Palestinian rocket salvoes and charges of arms industry protectionism, Israel is rethinking its rejection of deployable foreign defense technologies which can counter the rocket attacks.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has staked his reputation on Iron Dome, a device in the works at Rafael, the Israel Arms Development Authority, that would use missiles to shoot down the short-range rockets favored by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
But Iron Dome will not be operational before 2010, a lag many Israelis consider insupportable given spiraling violence on the border with Gaza, the territory which Israel withdrew from three years ago and which Islamist Hamas seized last year.
There are also ramifications for Israel's peace talks with Hamas' rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Barak would likely insist that any deal ceding the West Bank to Abbas be conditioned on the deployment of a working anti-rocket apparatus.
Under pressure to find stop-gap solutions, Barak is reviewing two potential substitutes for Iron Dome whose import was previously ruled out by Israel, defense officials said.
One is Nautilus, a joint Israeli-American invention that uses lasers to blow up rockets and mortar bombs mid-flight. The other is Phalanx, an automated machinegun produced by U.S. firm Raytheon whose heavy bullets shred incoming shells.
Senior Barak aide Pinchas Buchris flew to the U.S. state of New Mexico on Sunday to watch Nautilus - now being upgraded under a new name, Skyguard - in action. The mission is significant as Israeli experts long wrote off Nautilus's performance as inadequate.
Haaretz has reported that a Defense Ministry delegation also visited Raytheon this month to inspect Phalanx.
Haaretz security analyst Reuven Pedatzur suggested that the ministry's reluctance to consider alternatives to Iron Dome stemmed at least in part from desire for "an export deal with a foreign country" - an allusion to the prospect of profits from developing an Israeli system that could later be sold abroad.
Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror denied that protectionism motivated Iron Dome's selection, saying its slated performance was deemed by a team of government and independent experts to be more reliable than that of Nautilus or Phalanx.
There may be environmental considerations, too. According to Dror, Nautilus is cumbersome and uses chemicals that can be toxic. Phalanx would have to be stationed within towns targeted by Palestinian rocket crews and residents would likely be jarred by the cannons going off within earshot at little notice.
But Dror allowed that "if we can sell this [Iron Dome], we can reduce the costs of its production and use".
Dror confirmed that Israel is looking anew at Phalanx and Nautilus, if only to assess their core technologies as potential complements for Iron Dome. "I think the future will be a combination of laser and missile systems," he said.
No one in Israel denies that improvements will be needed given the limited geography of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Short-range rockets from Gaza are often in the air for less than 10 seconds, an interception "window" that could prove too narrow for even the most advanced counter-measures.
A senior Israeli military source said the army may come under orders to create "buffer zones" in the Gaza frontier in order to compel Palestinian factions to launch from further inland, extending their rockets' flight time.
Continued (Permanent Link)
This is surely not an a scene that one could have imagined, for example, in 1940...
Last update - 16:59 16/03/2008
Merkel arrives in Israel to 'open new chapter' in bilateral ties
By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday kicked off a three-day visit to Israel meant to strengthen ties between the two states and reaffirm her commitment to the Middle East peace pocess.
"I am grateful we can open a new chapter in relations between our two countries," Merkel said at a red carpet ceremony at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport.
The visit will be highlighted by a historic address to the Knesset, where she is expected to underline Germany's deep commitment to defending Israel and its right to exist, a spokesman said.
Merkel touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport, where she was greeted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an honor guard and many of the country's political and religious leaders.
At the welcoming ceremony, Olmert expressed appreciation for Merkel's "extraordinary friendship, your deep understanding of Israel's security needs and the unwavering commitment you and Germany have shown to Israel's security."
He also praised her "inspirational courage in the battle against terrorism and Iran's nuclear ambitions."
Merkel said that during her visit, "we will discuss Germany's historical responsibility as well as future projects to make the world a better place," according to a translation of her remarks. She also expressed commitment to help to resolve the 60-year-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Her speech on Tuesday, the first by a German chancellor to the Knesset, has angered some lawmakers because of the painful memories of the Holocaust.
Israel gained independence in the wake of the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews and some 250,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel.
Merkel arrives at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, whose efforts to make peace by the end of the year have been compromised by resurgent violence and Israeli construction on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state. Peace efforts are expected to figure high on her agenda, though the chancellor will not be meeting with Palestinian leaders during her visit.
German Embassy spokesman Albert Graf said Merkel's visit was exclusively to Israel because it was designed to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation and the inauguration of a new forum of meetings between members of the two countries' Cabinets.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Merkel would soon pay a special visit to the West Bank to discuss German support for the Palestinians.
Germany is a major donor to the Palestinian Authority, headed by moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Merkel was being accompanied by seven members of her Cabinet and a delegation of German businesspeople to underscore the strength of the countries' relations. She is to meet with Olmert, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during her trip. She also is scheduled to visit Israel's national Holocaust memorial.
Germany is one of Israel's staunchest allies in Europe and is heavily involved in efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, a pressing concern for Israel. Merkel has stressed Germany's commitment to the security of the Israel in the face of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated calls to wipe Israel off the map and denial of the Holocaust.
Germany is also a main contributor to the international force deployed in south Lebanon after Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah guerrillas.
Hezbollah is currently holding two Israel Defense Forces soldiers whose seizure in July 2006 led to the 34-day conflict. Germany reportedly is involved in trying to arrange a prisoner swap.
On Tuesday, Merkel is to address the Knesset. The privilege is usually reserved for heads of state, rather than heads of government, but a special dispensation was made in Merkel's case because of her status among global leaders and what was described as her great friendship for Israel.
Merkel will deliver her address in German, provoking threats from one lawmaker to storm out of the session. Deep wounds remain in Israel from the Nazi Holocaust, despite the cordial relations that have developed with Germany over the decades.
A Merkel spokesman said the chancellor understood the sensitivity on this matter, but asked as the German head of government, to speak in her mother tongue.
Merkel is not the first German dignitary to address Knesset in German.
Then-President Johannes Rau broke that barrier in 2000, delivering an emotional appeal for forgiveness for what Germans have done.
Israel, founded in 1948, agreed to diplomatic ties with Germany only in 1965, after a fierce debate.
Today, Germany is a leading Israeli trade partner, exporting $3.5 billion worth of goods in 2007 and importing $1.9 billion. It has paid an estimated $25 billion in reparations to Israeli Holocaust survivors, and provided more than $700 million in goods and services to the Israeli government.
The 60th anniversary celebrations will center around Israel's independence day on May 8, though there will be events through 2009. There is as yet no official list of which leaders will be attending, but Peres' office said U.S. President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are expected to visit.
Continued (Permanent Link)
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