Head of Egyptian Intelligence General Omar Suleiman has warned Hamas that the failure to include kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in a prisoner exchange with Israel will lead to a wide-spread IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, according to a report in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar.
"Israel will use a heavy hand against Hamas in the Gaza Strip if an agreement is not reached that secures the release of the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit" Suleiman told the second-in-command of the militant group's political bureau Moussa Abu Marzook, according to Al-Akhbar.
Senior Palestinian officials reportedly told Al-Akhbar that even though Hamas is ready to include Shalit in a future deal, they are not willing to accept the list of prisoners Israel has offered to release in exchange for the soldier, held by the militant group since he was kidnapped and wounded by Gaza militants in a cross border raid in June 2006.
Israel has asked Egypt to incorporate a deal to free Shalit into Hamas truce talks being mediated by Cairo. The cease-fire talks will resume next week, Haaretz has learned.
A Hamas official said that the group does not oppose including Shalit in the truce deal but would agree to such a move on its own terms, Israel Radio reported on Friday.
If Egypt agrees, it would mark its return to trying to negotiate Shalit's release, after a year's hiatus.
General Suleiman is slated to meet a delegation of Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, while the deputy head of Hamas' Damascus-based political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzook, will travel to Cairo.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak will be in Egypt on Sunday, for an international economic conference in Sharm al-Sheikh. Though Barak has no meeting scheduled with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he may take the opportunity to discuss the truce with senior Egyptian officials.
Cairo reduced its involvement in the indirect negotiations with Hamas to a minimum after the militant Islamic group took over the Gaza Strip last June, and the talks subsequently stalemated.
Palestinian sources said Hamas was likely to speed up the talks on Shalit immediately after obtaining a truce, but would not link the two issues, as Israel is demanding.
Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently told both Egyptian officials and American President George Bush that Israel would wait a few more days, but if the truce talks failed to yield an agreement by then, it would step up its military operations in Gaza.
Despite these threats, however, Israel seems to prefer a truce to military escalation. If the Egyptians conclude a cease-fire deal, and especially if it includes significant progress toward Shalit's release, Israel would agree to a several-month truce, officials said.
Egypt's state-owned press opened fire Saturday on U.S. President George W. Bush as he arrived for talks with regional leaders at the conclusion of a five-day Mideast tour.
The newspapers, whose management are all appointed by the government, criticized Bush's speech Thursday in front of the Israeli Knesset for being overly supportive of the Israelis and not mentioning the Palestinians' plight.
"The Torah-inspired speech of Bush raised question marks over the credibility of the U.S. role in the Middle East," wrote Mursi Atallah, the publisher of Al-Ahram, the flagship daily of the state-owned press. "Bush aims to do nothing but appeasing Israel."
Bush's tour, which included stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia, represents another effort to push Mideast peace talks forward as his time in office winds down.
In his speech marking the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding, Bush reiterated the U.S.'s close ties to its regional ally, and dismissed the notion that the Jewish state should have to negotiate with its armed adversaries.
A front page editorial in Al-Gomhouria, another Egyptian state-owned daily, described Bush as a failed president who delivers nothing but a lousy speech.
Akhbar Al-Youm also on Saturday published a picture of Bush hugging Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and captioned it "lovers".
The paper also ran a front page cartoon showing an Egyptian peasant consoling President Hosni Mubarak for having to meet with this burdensome guy who will be leaving soon, in reference to Bush.
Egypt was the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel and has long been seen as a key mediator in the Mideast dispute that Bush has said he wants to solve by the time he leaves office next January.
Bush delivered a rosy forecast for the Middle East in 2068 during his speech.
He limited his mention of Palestinians to just one sentence. "The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved, a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror," he said.
Bush is seen in the Arab world as tilting too far toward Israel. On Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal commented on Bush speech by saying "it's understandable that U.S.-Israel relations are special but it is, however, important also to affirm the legitimate and political rights of the Palestinian people."
White House denies accusation Bush ignoring Palestinian plight
The White House denied that Bush was ignoring the plight of the Palestinians, insisting he would address their concerns in his meeting on Saturday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Bush flies to Egypt on Saturday for talks with Palestinian leaders who will be looking for signs they will not be neglected after he lavished praise on Israel as a guest during the country's 60th anniversary celebrations.
Heading for the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for the final stop of his Middle East tour, Bush faces growing skepticism over his chances of securing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before he leaves office in January.
Bush's visit to Israel to celebrate its 60th anniversary raised fresh doubts in the Arab world over his ability to act as an even-handed broker between U.S. ally Israel and the Palestinians.
He hailed Israel as a "homeland for the chosen people" and pledged that Israelis could forever count on American support against enemies like Hamas and Iran.
Palestinians were dismayed that Bush, in his speech to Israel's parliament on Thursday, made only the one reference to their aspirations for a state of their own and did not use the occasion to press Israelis to make compromises.
"What he will make clear is that the Palestinian people deserve a state," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
Bush's trip to Egypt will follow a one-day visit to Riyadh, where he met King Abdullah and won an announcement of a modest Saudi increase in oil output in response to his repeated appeals for help in easing record world oil prices.
Bush meets Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as Abbas on Saturday and will see Jordan's King Abdullah, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Iraqi officials on Sunday at an international economic forum.
Bush's Middle East tour, his second this year, follows a U.S.-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November where Israeli and Palestinian leaders pledged to try to reach a peace agreement by the end of Bush's term.
Bush has voiced optimism that a deal still can be reached as he tries to carve out a foreign policy legacy beyond the unpopular war in Iraq. People on both sides of the conflict are increasingly skeptical.
Despite that, Israelis gave Bush a hero's welcome this week, many seeing him as the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.
Critics said Bush showed insensitivity by heaping anniversary praise on Israel on the day Palestinians annually mark what they call the "Nakba", or "catastrophe," as the Palestinians refer to the events surrounding Israel's independence in 1948.
"He should have told the Israelis no one can be free at the expense of others," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. "He missed this opportunity and we are disappointed."
As Bush visited Riyadh on Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal criticized his outspoken support of Israel, telling reporters: "What is required is equality in dealings ... and not selectiveness in dealings."
"They've got to answer for the fact that Iran is the greatest strategic beneficiary of our invasion of Iraq. It made Iran stronger, George Bush's policies," he said.
"They're going to have to explain why Hamas now controls Gaza, Hamas that was strengthened because the United States insisted that we should have democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority," he added.
Can't argue with those points. But McCain made his own point, and a very correct one as well:
"It was remarkable to see Barack Obama's hysterical diatribe in response to a speech in which his name wasn't even mentioned," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.
And the people who wrote the article made an important point as well:
The episode allowed Obama to talk directly to Bush and elevate himself on the national stage as he tried to wrap up the Democratic presidential nomination. Even party rival Hillary Clinton has rushed to Obama's defense on the issue.
It is beyond me why people can't see through Obama's ploy on the Bush speech, but they can't. Bush is still president. He can talk about policy, his policies, without reference to Democrats. Chill out, guys.
Former commander of the Israel Air Force Major General Eliezer Shkedy said that Thousands of rockets are likely to pound Israel in a future war. But that is what happened in the LAST war. Generals are usually preparing for the last war. He also said that IAF has gotten better at hitting bad guys as opposed to civilians. That may depend on who is counting, however. Shkedi also noted that the IDF shot down Hezbollah drones in the Second Lebanon War. What he didn't discuss, is that Israel totally eliminated the long range rockets of the Hezbollah and almost totally eliminated medium range rockets. This was done in the first days of the war. That's why there there were 4,000 Katyusha rockets and not 4,000 Katyusha rockets plus maybe a thousand Zilzal rockets hitting Tel Aviv and several thousand assorted other goodies like the memorable Khaibar rockets, capable of hitting Hedera and Afula and similar palces.
Here's a bit more of the story:
The Israel Air Force's outgoing commander-in-chief has said that during a future war the home front is likely to be bombarded with thousands of missiles and rockets in the possession of Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria.
Major General Eliezer Shkedi made the comments in an interview with Israel Radio which was aired Saturday. He also said that the strengthening of Syria and Hezbollah is very worrying.
Hezbollah guerillas fired some 4,000 Katyusha rockets at northern Israel throughout the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Shkedi told Israel Radio that during the war, Hezbollah attempted to launch armed drones which the IAF succeeded in downing. The threat of this form of attack still exists, he said, and while its answer is complicated the air force has improved its capability of discovering and identifying unmanned aerial vehicles.
The outgoing commander also noted that there is no complete solution to rocket fire, while adding that great efforts are being made in order to find a way to deal with the problem.
For over seven years, southern Israel has been pounded with rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, one such attack on a shopping mall in Ashkelon wounded around 90 people, four of whom seriously.
Shkedi also stated that Hamas routinely fires at IAF aircraft flying over Gaza and that his forces face a growing risk. The air force routinely carry out missile strikes against militants in Gaza.
So far, there was only a single incident earlier this year in which an IAF helicopter gunship was struck and damaged by Hamas fire.
However, Shkedi said that it is a "risk that is increasing all the time and they [Hamas] are firing at us all the time."
Shkedi and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Israel Radio in separate interviews that Hamas is rapidly arming itself. Dichter says Hamas in Gaza has almost obtained the military capacity of a state.
The outgoing air force chief futher stated that the IAF has significantly improved its methods of targeting Gaza militants in that the number of civilians harmed in such strikes has greatly decreased. For every 24 terrorists killed from the air, he said, only one civilian is killed, as opposed to the ratio four years ago which was of one to one.
The incoming Israel Air Force Chief Major General Ido Nehushtan on Tuesday said that Sixty years after its establishment, the State of Israel is facing threats unlike any before, speaking during his inauguration ceremony at Ramat David Air Force base in the Jezreel Valley.
"Nakba" means catastrophe. It is an Arab propaganda term. There is no way the Secretary General of the UN should be calling the creation of a member state of the UN a "catastrophe. The catastrophe was brought on by Arab defiance of a UN resolution and their attempt to destroy a member state of the UN. They hardly deserve sympathy for that.
World body's spokeswoman says Ki-moon phoned Abbas to stress his support for Palestinians on day marking 'catastrophe' of Israel's inception; Israel demands retraction
Yitzhak Benhorin Published: 05.16.08, 09:41 / Israel News
WASHINGTON - Israel is demanding that the UN strike the word 'Nakba' from its lexicon, this after the world body's spokeswoman uttered it, apparently by mistake, in a press briefing she held Thursday night.
'Nakba', or 'catastrophe', refers to the refugee flight of Palestinian Arabs that followed Israel's inception in 1948.
The spokeswoman told reporters that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stress his support for the Palestinian people on Nakba Day".
An Israeli reporter present at the briefing asked the spokeswoman whether Ki-moon also congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the Jewish State's 60th anniversary. She said the UN chief spoke with Olmert a week ago.
Ki-moon himself was also surprised by the controversy created by his gesture, as he was not aware that the use of the term was unacceptable to Israel and is a part of the Palestinian propaganda against it.
Ki-moon supportive of Israel
Israel is demanding that the UN issue a statement to rectify the blunder and remove the word 'Nakba' from its lexicon.
The UN said the word had not been used by any of the world body's institutions or officials before, and it is estimated that it was purposely 'planted' by someone into the spokeswoman's text.
Ki-Moon has been supportive of Israel since taking office in 2006, but has recently been pressed by the Arab world to adopt a more balanced approach.
Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday afternoon in her speech at the president's conference in Jerusalem that "with the establishment of a Palestinian state, we wish to see the end of the conflict. The Palestinians will be able to celebrate their independence if on that same day they also strike the word 'Nakba' from their lexicon."
The persecution of Christians in Gaza seems to have attracted virtually no attention. Recently, the Pope asked Israel to guard the safety of Christians in our area. The only way to guard Christians in Gaza seems to be to get the Christians out of Gaza, or to get the Hamas out of Gaza. Anyhow, we have enough problems guarding the safety of Jews.
Unknown assailants on Friday detonated a bomb outside a Christian school in Gaza City, causing no injuries.
Damage from the pre-dawn explosion is visible at the entrance to the Zahwa Rosary School. The school is run by nuns but caters mainly to Muslim students.
Friday's bombing appears to be the latest in a string of attacks on Christian institutions in the overwhelmingly Muslim territory.
In the most serious attack, a local Christian activist was murdered in October. His killers have not been found.
About 3,200 Christians live in Gaza among 1.4 million Muslims. While relations between Christians and Muslims have traditionally been good, Christians have grown uneasy since the Islamic group Hamas routed forces of the secular Fatah movement and seized control of Gaza in June.
2:55 P.M. (Local) THE PRESIDENT: President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world's great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha'atzmaut Sameach. (Applause.)
It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. (Laughter.) Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer -- to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. (Laughter.) My only regret is that one of Israel's greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon. (Applause.)
We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel's independence, founded on the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate." What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David -- a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.
Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel's independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel's closest ally and best friend in the world.
The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: "Come let us declare in Zion the word of God." The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.
Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust -- what Elie Wiesel called "the kingdom of the night." Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. (Applause.) When news of Israel's freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: "For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words."
The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.
My country's admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.
I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: "Masada shall never fall again." Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.
This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It's also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles -- shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.
We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation. (Applause.)
We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world. (Applause.)
We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms -- whether by those who openly question Israel's right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.
We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli's leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction. (Applause.)
We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve. (Applause.)
The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.
This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.
And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the "elimination" of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant "Death to Israel, Death to America!" That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that "the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties." And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.
There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history. (Applause.)
Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you. (Applause.)
America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)
Ultimately, to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope. These values are the self-evident right of all people, of all religions, in all the world because they are a gift from the Almighty God. Securing these rights is also the surest way to secure peace. Leaders who are accountable to their people will not pursue endless confrontation and bloodshed. Young people with a place in their society and a voice in their future are less likely to search for meaning in radicalism. Societies where citizens can express their conscience and worship their God will not export violence, they will be partners in peace.
The fundamental insight, that freedom yields peace, is the great lesson of the 20th century. Now our task is to apply it to the 21st. Nowhere is this work more urgent than here in the Middle East. We must stand with the reformers working to break the old patterns of tyranny and despair. We must give voice to millions of ordinary people who dream of a better life in a free society. We must confront the moral relativism that views all forms of government as equally acceptable and thereby consigns whole societies to slavery. Above all, we must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future.
That future will be a dramatic departure from the Middle East of today. So as we mark 60 years from Israel's founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now. This vision is not going to arrive easily or overnight; it will encounter violent resistance. But if we and future Presidents and future Knessets maintain our resolve and have faith in our ideals, here is the Middle East that we can see:
Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved -- a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today's oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause.
Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn't mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.
This is a bold vision, and some will say it can never be achieved. But think about what we have witnessed in our own time. When Europe was destroying itself through total war and genocide, it was difficult to envision a continent that six decades later would be free and at peace. When Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions into American battleships, it seemed impossible that six decades later Japan would be a democracy, a lynchpin of security in Asia, and one of America's closest friends. And when waves of refugees arrived here in the desert with nothing, surrounded by hostile armies, it was almost unimaginable that Israel would grow into one of the freest and most successful nations on the earth.
Yet each one of these transformations took place. And a future of transformation is possible in the Middle East, so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values.
Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel's independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar -- the key to the Zion Gate -- and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, "Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day." Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: "I accept this key in the name of my people."
Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless. (Applause.)
Fair Witness Questions Statement Issued By UCC National Leadership
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East questions a statement issued by Revs. John Thomas and Cally Rogers-Witte (General Minister and Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries, of the United Church of Christ, respectively) on Israel's 60th anniversary. The statement echos a trend of over-connecting the Holocaust to the reality of the modern Jewish state. Jews, like any other people, have the right to nationhood and began that process decades before the Nazis came to power. Moreover, sympathetic references to the Holocaust ring hollow when they are followed by an attempt to blame Israel for the current bleak plight of the Palestinians.
"The events of 1948 indeed turned into a tragedy for the Palestinians," according to Rev. Steve Monhollen, Donald & Lillian Nunnelly Professor of Pastoral Leadership & Director of Field Education at the Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. "I would hope that a statement of support for a peace process would acknowledge the multiple forces that caused this tragedy. The refusal of Arab nations to accept the U.N. partition plan and the war they waged upon the nascent Jewish state are key and often overlooked sources for the Palestinian refugee crisis. In addition, Jordan's and Egypt's failure to create a Palestinian state on territory they held between 1948 and 1967 compounded the tragedy. Other Middle East countries, such as Iran through Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, are strongly influencing the current stalemate between Israel and Palestinians. Presenting a fair balance of this history is key to helping mainline Christians understand this relationship."
Revs. Thomas' and Rogers-Witte's statement recites a litany of UCC General Synod statements on the Israel/Palestine conflict. But the most recent resolution, which the 2007 General Synod sent to the Executive Council for implementation, acknowledged that the UCC had "yet to fully address other forces contributing to the ongoing violence, oppression and suffering in the region," admits they "may have overlooked many aspects of an extraordinarily complicated situation . . ." and directed the Executive Council to "establish a Task Force to engage in ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict. . ."
"The 2007 UCC General Synod spoke to the need for balance with regard to the denomination's witness on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Revs. Thomas' and Witte's statement does not seem to honor the spirit of the resolution," says Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Fair Witness National Director.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin on Thursday lauded Israeli innovations in technology and environmental efforts, saying Israel "takes our climate challenges very seriously."
Brin, visiting as a delegate to President Shimon Peres' Presidential Conference, told Haaretz that these challenges have "great geopolitcal ramifications on this country, in addition to environmental ones."
He noted that Israel's leading efforts in the field of sustainable energy, saying: "Obviously in Israel they need to innovate with water and things like that. I was really intrigued to see drip irrigation. I just realized that came out of Israel."
Brin gave particular attention to Israel's work in environmentally friendly transportation.
A prototype of the world's first fully electric car was demonstrated for the first time on Sunday in Tel Aviv, by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi.
Developers hope the car will revolutionize transportation in the country and serve as a pilot for the rest of the world. If all goes as planned, Israel will be the first country to have electric cars on its highways in large numbers in the next few years.
Brin also spoke about new projects ongoing at Google, including the "huge range of efforts" being made on mobile technology and the patience needed in the field.
"I think it takes a while to devlop the technology, to devlop, to educate advertisers about it," he said. "We have to bootstrap everything. our search based targeted ads took a number of yearsand people are expecting overnight that you work a miracle. It is a combination of technology, advertising networks, abd user expectations. All those things have to come together and that takes time," he said.
During his visit, Brin toured Jewish sites, including the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Last Wednesday, Remembrance Day, I had the honor of speaking on behalf of the UJC at a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem for Israel's 22,437 fallen. I would like to share those words with you:
It is a sad reality in our region that the wars do not stop for one moment. Sometimes they are at a higher intensity, sometimes at a lower one, but soldiers fall all the time, and the pain and grief are deep.
Since last Remembrance Day another 132 families have joined the "bereaved family" of the State of Israel. Among the soldiers who fell over the past year were three non-Jewish soldiers: First Sgt. Sayef Bisan from the Druse village of Jatt, Sgt. Menhash Albaniat, from the Beduin settlement of Kuseife, and a third soldier, whose name we do not know and whose picture we have never seen. All that appeared in the newspaper was a silhouette.
The Beduin tracker fell in a terrorist ambush next to the fence dividing Gaza and Israel, alongside his Jewish comrades; he had volunteered for service in the IDF.
We do not differentiate between the blood of fallen soldiers, whether Jews or non-Jews, but it struck me that although it is known who this soldier is and where he came from, for the Israeli public, he is an Unknown Soldier. His family requested that neither his name, nor his picture, nor even where he lived be published. All we know is that he left behind two wives and seven children, and that on the day he fell he was supposed to become engaged for the third time. No doubt, his family feared that they may be harmed in some way.
BEDUIN TRACKERS go ahead of patrols. They are the first out there, and they are the first to be injured or killed. They are aware of the danger; but nonetheless, they serve - voluntarily. No one can replace them. No one can identify the tracks and signs over the hundreds of kilometers of dirt roads along Israel's borders the way they do. It takes trained and experienced eyes, and this is what the Beduin trackers have been doing better than anyone else, generation after generation.
We frequently speak of the "covenant" between us, the Jews, and them, the Druse and Beduin. It is a pledge between those who are destined to live together in this country and give up their lives for it.
But these people hear very little from us about the covenant of life, the covenant between people who are supposed to build their lives alongside one another.
The Beduin tracker who fell on the Israel-Gaza border lived in an unrecognized village. Tomorrow, bulldozers could come to demolish his house, leaving his two wives and seven children homeless.
On this day, we must think of him, of his friends and also of ourselves, and we must promise to cultivate solidarity and mutual commitment - ours and theirs - not just in order to die for our country, but to live for it, together.
Thank you my brother, Beduin tracker.
The writer is senior vice president and director-general of UJC Israel and a former IDF spokesman.
The incendiary hate language emanating from Ahmadinejad's Iran - in which Israel is referred to as "filthy bacteria" and a "cancerous tumor" and Jews are characterized as "a bunch of bloodthirsty barbarians" - is only the head wind of the gathering storm confronting Israel on its 60th anniversary.
Indeed, we are witnessing, and have been for some time, a series of mega-events, political earthquakes that have been impacting not only upon Israel and world Jewry but upon the human condition as a whole.
state-sanctioned incitement to genocide in Ahmadinejad's Iran (and I use that term to distinguish it from the many publics and peoples in Iran who are themselves the object of massive state repression) dramatized by the parading of a Shihab-3 missile in the streets of Teheran draped with the emblem "Wipe Israel off the map";
symmetrical terrorist militias confronting Israel, in particular Hamas in the south and Hizbullah in the north. These are not simply - though that would be threatening enough - terrorist in their instrumentality, but genocidal in their purpose as they openly and avowedly seek the destruction of Israel and anti-Jewish in their ideology. Both, by their own acknowledgement, demonize Judaism and Jews, not just Israel and the Israeli, as "the sons of monkeys and pigs" and "defilers of Islam";
the globalization of a totalitarian, radical Islam that threatens not only Jews and Israel but international peace and security, while warning Muslims who seek peace with Israel that they will "burn in the Umma of Islam";
the fragility, even erosion, of the Lebanon-Hizbullah divides, aided and abetted by the Iranian-Syrian pincer movements and further exacerbated in the present Lebanese-Hizbullah warfare;
the phenomenon of radicalized home-grown extremism, fuelled by Internet incitement, threatening the security of Jewish communities in the Diaspora;
exploding energy prices, with oil at $120 a barrel - six times what it was just six years ago - with the windfall billions of petrodollars encouraging and financing rogue states like Iran. Every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil represents millions more in the coffers of Iran;
the ugly canard of double loyalty, where the Jewish and Israeli lobbies are accused of acting in a matter inimical to the American and European national interest, as if it is somehow "un-American" or "un-European" to petition government for redress of grievances, an Orwellian politics of intimidation that chills free speech and public advocacy;
the trahison des clercs - betrayal of the elites - of which the UK is a case study, exemplified in the calls for academic, trade union, journalist, medical and intellectual boycotts of Israeli and Jewish nationals;
the singling out of Israel for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena, as when the UN Human Rights Council,, the repository for human rights standards-setting, adopted 10 resolutions of condemnation against one member state of the international community, Israel, in its first year of operation alone; while the major human rights violators - Iran, Sudan, China - enjoyed exculpatory immunity; and
the emergence of a new, escalating, global, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism.
WITH ISRAEL'S 60th anniversary, these mega-events have not only intensified but congealed into what might be called a "gathering storm," finding expression in the two theses that underpin this article.
First, that this gathering storm appears to be without parallel or precedent since 1938, suggesting thereby that 2008 is reflective and reminiscent of 1938. The second thesis, which reflects my own position and is not inconsistent with the previous notion, is that whatever 2008 may be, it is not 1938.
Simply put, there is a Jewish state today that is an antidote to the vulnerabilities of 1938. There is a Jewish people with untold moral, intellectual, economic and political resources. There are non-Jews prepared to join the Jewish people in common cause, seeing the cause of Israel not simply as a Jewish cause, but - with all its imperfections - as a just cause.
Nor is Israel is isolated or alone. It has important friends and allies: for example, the United States, Canada, Germany and France, to name a few; and it has diplomatic relations with the two emerging superpowers, China and India. There are peace treaties, however imperfect, with Egypt and Jordan.
In a word, if one looks at Israel at 60 in this global configuration, 2008 is, even with an admittedly gathering storm not unlike 1938, nonetheless very different from the Thirties.
It is important, therefore, that Israel not be viewed as an Andy Warhol of the international media, or what passes as virtual reality on the Internet of the day. Israel is not simply a snapshot at age 60, nor a fragment frozen in time; nor is it anchored only in 60 years of Israeli statehood, or 120 years of Zionism.
For Israel, rooted in the Jewish people, as an Abrahamic people, is a prototypical First Nation or aboriginal people, just as the Jewish religion is a prototypical aboriginal religion, the first of the Abrahamic religions.
IN A WORD, the Jewish people is the only people that still inhabits the same land, embraces the same religion, studies the same Torah, hearkens to the same prophets, speaks the same aboriginal language - Hebrew - and bears the same aboriginal name, Israel, as it did 3,500 years ago.
Israel, then, is the aboriginal homeland of the Jewish people across space and time. It is not just a homeland for the Jewish people, a place of refuge, asylum and protection. It is the homeland of the Jewish people, wherever and whenever it may be; and its birth certificate originates in its inception as a First Nation, and not simply, however important, in its United Nations international birth certificate.
The State of Israel, then, as a political and juridical entity, overlaps with the "aboriginal Jewish homeland"; it is, in international legal terms, a successor state to the biblical, or aboriginal, Jewish kingdoms. But that aboriginal homeland is also claimed by another people, the Palestinian/Arab people, who see it as their place and patrimony.
THE EXISTENCE of a parallel claim does not vitiate that of the Jewish people or cause it to resonate any less as memory and memoir of homeland - where homeland represents history, roots, religion, language, culture, literature, law, custom, family, myth and values. Rather, the equities of the claim mandate the logic of Israeli-Palestinian partition - a logic which in moral and juridical terms requires that a just solution be organized around the "principle of least injustice," and that includes mutual recognition of the legitimacy of two states for two peoples.
Nor should the internal divides besetting Israel mask the existential raison d'etre, and moral imperative, of Israel itself. Nazism, and the gathering storm of the Thirties, almost succeeded not only because of its pathology of hate and industry of death, but because of the powerlessness of the stateless Jew and the vulnerability of the powerless without a state. Israel, then, is an antidote to Jewish vulnerability, the raison d'etre in the most profound existential sense for Jewish self-determination.
It is not the case, as it sometimes said, that if there had been no Holocaust, there would not have been a State of Israel, as if a state could somehow even compensate for the murder of six million Jews. It is the other way around: If there had been an Israel, there would not have been a Holocaust, or others horrors of Jewish history.
In the end, we come back to the beginning: that whatever the gathering storm from without may be, whatever the internal grievances, the Kulturkampf of the Jews' despair in 2008 would not only be a betrayal of the Jewish aboriginal past, but a denial of the next 60 years and beyond.
The writer is the member of parliament for Mount Royal and the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. He is a professor of law (on leave) at McGill University and has written extensively on human rights and Middle-East issues.
As Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary there is no denying that the Jewish state has an image problem in Europe.
Opinion polls in the U.S. consistently show that a majority of Americans are sympathetic to Israel. But the situation is the reverse on the other side of the Atlantic. It's particularly bad in Germany. In a British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) survey last month, for example, Germans were among the Europeans with the least favorable views of Israel, second only to Spain. Even the respondents in the United Arab Emirates had a more positive perception of the Jewish state than Germans did.
Associated Press Photo/Baz Ratner Angela Merkel visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, January 2006.
This may be surprising, given that Berlin is considered one of Israel's more reliable allies in Europe. Successive German governments have justified the "special" relationship with Israel by pointing to the countries' "special" history. In light of the Holocaust, Germany seems to have no choice but to support the Jewish state. Former Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer advocated this policy of "historical responsibility" as effortlessly as Christian-Democratic Chancellor Angela Merkel does.
But guilt is an unhealthy basis for a relationship; it easily turns into resentment. This may help explain why so many Germans 30% according to last year's survey by Bertelsmann Foundation are eager to compare Israel to fascist Germany. If it were true that Israelis are modern-day Nazis, there would be less reason to feel guilty about the real Nazis.
Historical obligations also tend to have a statute of limitations. Postwar Germans may reasonably reject any special obligations to Israel as a result of crimes committed before they were born.
This brings us to the fundamental problem with Berlin's Israel policy. It implies that had there been no Holocaust, Israel would have no right to exist or, at least would have no reason to expect Germany's support. Israel's detractors take this argument one step further, claiming it was immoral to establish a Jewish state in the Middle East to atone for European crimes.
In 1922, long before the Holocaust, Winston Churchill debunked the idea that Israel could be justified only as reparation for past atrocities when he said, "The Jews are in Palestine by right and not by sufferance." Europe and Germany should thus be able to support Israel not just because of past wrongs committed against Jews, but because of Jews' inalienable right to a state in their ancestral homeland.
Israel's right to exist doesn't mean Germans must automatically back it. There has to be a special bond between nations to prompt support. Such alliances are usually forged around common interests and values. As the Mideast's most vibrant democracy, Israel should qualify for a truly "special relationship."
But unlike Americans, Germans rarely argue that Israel deserves solidarity as a Western ally. Americans generally see Israel as a fellow democracy under attack. But in Germany and much of Europe, Israel is often seen as a human-rights violator.
What explains this difference in perceptions? The U.S. media are not that much better in presenting a balanced view of the Middle East than their European counterparts. More likely, Americans are simply less disposed to believe the worst of Israel.
A key factor is Americans' appreciation of their Judeo-Christian heritage. While this is a common term in the U.S., it is a novel concept in Europe. Only recently has it found its way into the vocabulary of a few conservative Germans. Ms. Merkel and colleagues from Poland and Italy wanted to add a reference to the Continent's Judeo-Christian heritage to Europe's proposed constitution. The idea was rejected as too divisive.
But the term does not just cover the moral standards shared by Judaism and Christianity. Its meaning goes beyond matters of faith. It describes the fact that next to the Greco-Roman heritage, the Judeo-Christian tradition is the other main pillar of Western civilization. Acknowledging this fact helps Americans view Jews as part of that civilization and the Jewish state as part of the broader Western alliance.
In post-Christian Europe and Germany, this realization is largely missing. Moses's law, the foundation for Western legal codes and moral values, is hardly acknowledged on the Continent. Jews are more often seen as having contributed to Western civilization, rather than being an integral part of it, thanks to the role they played as a nation. Jews often viewed as some kind of guest contributors thus remain strangers in Europe, as does the Jewish state. And one can be inclined to believe bad things about strangers.
Given the similar threats Europe and Israel face from Islamic terror and a nuclear Iran, an alliance between them would seem natural. But as long as Europe's public considers Israel more as part of the problem than as part of the solution, any alliance will suffer. It's time for German and European officials to make the real case for Israel that of solidarity with an embattled ally.
Mr. Schwammenthal is an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.
US, EU money promotes Palestinian ideology of world without Israel By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Authority (PA) infrastructures controlled by Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah continue to promote the ideology that "Palestine" will replace a destroyed Israel. US and EU money facilitates this.
1- The Palestinian Security Services Academy, a military branch of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah government, prominently depicts as the center of its symbol the map of a "Palestine" state that erases all of Israel. This map is common in the Palestinian Authority and symbolizes the hope for the destruction of Israel. Voice of America reports that the academy is funded by "... Arab states and the European Union. The U.S. also has offered some indirect support." See here
2- The second example is of a "Sport and Cultural Club" built by USAID that prominently displays both the words "USAID" and the map of a "Palestine" state that erases all of Israel, encircled by the Palestinian flag.
As long as the US and the EU fund the PA while choosing to ignore or at times actually funding these PA-Fatah hate messages and symbols, the US and the EU are among the impediments to peace.
Here's the whole interview of Shmuel Rosner with President Bush before his trip to Israel, warts and all for the sake of completeness.
Some more important ideas:
See, the interesting thing that's happened during my presidency is twofold: One, there's been clarity for people to see the world the way it really is -- a failed leadership of Hamas in Gaza, for example, or the true aims of these extremist killers -- plus the emergence of thought in Israel that the only way to exist in the long term is for there to be a Palestinian state. And it's a powerful idea. And therefore, I believe in powerful ideas, and I believe with U.S. help that the negotiators can come up with the definition of a state.
The state won't exist until certain obligations are met, but it's the definition itself which becomes a powerful engine for the marginalization of people who murder innocent to achieve their objectives. And that's really what the struggle is about. And it's the same struggle in Iraq and it's the same struggle in Lebanon. And an effective Bush foreign policy is to put the focus of the United States squarely in the middle of the Middle East.
You know, on all these issues, just so you know, there needs -- I'm going to say the word several times -- maybe this is like the word of the day -- clarity. In my time as President, it's easy to excuse people until there's just kind of moments where it's so obvious that the skeptics can't see reality. It's one of the reasons I supported the elections in Gaza, because there had to be a moment for everybody to be able to express themselves, and the expression, by the way, was we're sick and tired of corrupt government. We were tired of Arafat's false promises; we want to live in peace.
But instead, what they got was a government of war. It's not what they campaigned on, but that's what they got. And all of a sudden people now see the truth. And the truth is Hamas is not a passive, political party trying to embetter people's lives; they are trying to destroy Israel. That's the truth. Well, the other truth is, is that Iran is involved in funding Hamas and Hezbollah, and it's that Iranian influence which I'm deeply concerned about, but there needs to be more than just the United States concerned about it.
And some great Bushisms:
I could wax poetically forever.
Or you could wax unpoetically, but the floor better shine. Bush talks good, like a President had oughtta.
It starts with the president talking about his daughter's wedding:
THE PRESIDENT: It was a big deal. I didn't realize how big a deal it was until the moment came, and then I realized how blessed a man I am that my little girl found such a good guy. But it was -- she looked beautiful and stunning, the ranch looked great, the sun set just at the right time.
Q. Then you came back, right, to the rain --
THE PRESIDENT: Came the rain. Yes, then I'm heading over, going to your country. I'm looking forward to my trip to Israel and Saudi and Egypt. You know, I've been given an honor of speaking in the Knesset and I'm looking forward to it. It's -- working on my speech right now. There's no better place to talk about democracy and the history of democracies and the challenge of democracies in dealing with existential threats of terrorists and state-sponsored terrorists than in the Knesset. And I'm not sure how long I'm going to go on for, but I'd like your advice -- long or short? Either way, I'm looking forward, it's going to be a good deal.
And every time -- I'm not going to anticipate -- okay, I am anticipating your questions, but every time I've come to the Middle East it's always the same questions: Can you succeed? And I'll wait for your questions, but my only point is, this is a very complex part of the world.
Anyway, we'll go around the corner here. Fire away. I could wax poetically forever.
Q Mr. President, Prime Minister Olmert is under a corruption probe and is basically almost on the verge of being forced out from office. And his counterpart, Abu Abbas, is also very weak. So really the question is, do you still think that you can achieve peace until the end of 2008?
THE PRESIDENT: I do, yes. Look, I -- first of all, let me say something about Prime Minister Olmert. It's a legal matter inside the system, the system will deal with it. Israel is -- believes in rule of law, and I understand that; believes in fair hearings and giving a person a chance. And having said that, my relations with the Prime Minister have been nothing but excellent. I found him to be an honest guy. He loves his family, he's easy to talk to, he's a strategic thinker. And so we'll see what happens.
But the vision of a state is such a powerful notion and such an important notion for Israel's very existence, that I do believe that we have a chance to get something defined. There is a -- this is not an Olmert plan; this is a plan of a government. Tzipi Livni is handling the negotiations -- I'm not telling you anything you don't know -- Barak is involved. And on the Palestinian side, there's more than one person involved.
See, the interesting thing that's happened during my presidency is twofold: One, there's been clarity for people to see the world the way it really is -- a failed leadership of Hamas in Gaza, for example, or the true aims of these extremist killers -- plus the emergence of thought in Israel that the only way to exist in the long term is for there to be a Palestinian state. And it's a powerful idea. And therefore, I believe in powerful ideas, and I believe with U.S. help that the negotiators can come up with the definition of a state.
The state won't exist until certain obligations are met, but it's the definition itself which becomes a powerful engine for the marginalization of people who murder innocent to achieve their objectives. And that's really what the struggle is about. And it's the same struggle in Iraq and it's the same struggle in Lebanon. And an effective Bush foreign policy is to put the focus of the United States squarely in the middle of the Middle East. That's like our top priority. And it should be. And it should be the top priority -- it is the top priority of this government. I'm talking about subsequent governments. I'm not checking out of here yet, but I'm beginning to --
Q How troubled are you by Iran's expansion of influence in Gaza and Lebanon? And most importantly, are you confident that you can stop Iran's drive to a nuclear capability?
THE PRESIDENT: Iran is an incredibly negative influence. They are sending weapons into Iraq. And we're pushing back hard, and will continue to do so. As you mentioned, they are -- Hezbollah now has -- no longer the great force against Israel, all of a sudden, they've turned against they're own people.
You know, on all these issues, just so you know, there needs -- I'm going to say the word several times -- maybe this is like the word of the day -- clarity. In my time as President, it's easy to excuse people until there's just kind of moments where it's so obvious that the skeptics can't see reality. It's one of the reasons I supported the elections in Gaza, because there had to be a moment for everybody to be able to express themselves, and the expression, by the way, was we're sick and tired of corrupt government. We were tired of Arafat's false promises; we want to live in peace.
But instead, what they got was a government of war. It's not what they campaigned on, but that's what they got. And all of a sudden people now see the truth. And the truth is Hamas is not a passive, political party trying to embetter people's lives; they are trying to destroy Israel. That's the truth. Well, the other truth is, is that Iran is involved in funding Hamas and Hezbollah, and it's that Iranian influence which I'm deeply concerned about, but there needs to be more than just the United States concerned about it.
One of the interesting strategic shifts that has taken place in the Middle East is that no longer is Israel being blamed for the problems of the Middle East in a lot of quarters. All of a sudden it's a shift of strategic thought because of the Iranian influence, so it's a positive development.
Q Anything that can yet be done before you leave office [about the nuclearization of Iran]?
THE PRESIDENT: I think what definitely will be done is a structure on how to deal with this -- to try to resolve this diplomatically; in other words, sanctions, pressures, financial sanctions; a history of pressure that will serve as a framework to make sure other countries are involved. As I told you, all options are on the table.
Q I would like to ask about recent events in Lebanon, Mr. President, and about the fact that we do have in place U.N. resolutions, Security Council resolutions, that were meant to deal with the problem of Hezbollah. Nevertheless, it has not seemed to help. So what kind of framework would you advise for dealing with the problem of Hezbollah in the future?
THE PRESIDENT: I'd advise the world backing Siniora. He's a good guy; he's tough and he's in a really tough situation. I admire him. And we're doing that by support of the Lebanese armed forces. We believe that he needs to have a modern force behind him that's capable of responding. Remember, when he went in the northern part of Lebanon, he went after some camps when they had radicals inside his country that were destabilizing. That was a positive signal. It was a hopeful moment. And it inspired me to then send one of our top military people to Siniora to ask, what do you need? If this is your attitude, if this is your will, then we want to help you.
See, I have found you can't make people have courage. That's -- it's a wellspring inside their soul. But you can support courageous people. And so that's our attitude. And then to remind countries like France and others that, one, the Lebanese democracy is vital for a peaceful Middle East, it's a part of the vision -- and that there are U.N. Security Council resolutions that need to be upheld.
Look, you're looking at a guy who made the case early in my presidency that if you're going to pass a resolution, you better mean it. I don't know how many resolutions that were on Iraq, 16 or 17, you know? And you can't have a world where people are held to account unless there are consequences.
Q Back to the Palestinian question. In your meeting this week in Israel, are you going to demand from Israel certain things, such as settlements removal, or getting to a more concrete agreement in writing about borders?
THE PRESIDENT: I will come not as somebody who demands, but somebody who encourages. I've said from the beginning of my presidency the United States cannot impose peace. It's tempting to say to the United States, go make it happen. That's what happens all the time, you know -- you go in there. And lasting peace happens when people understand that in this case, the definition of a state is the first step toward peace. And it's hard work.
And as I told you, I'm not running for the Nobel Peace Prize; I'm just trying to be a guy to use the influence of the United States to move the process along.
People say to me, aren't you a little slow on the draw? Where have you been, man? Well, they just forget that when I showed up there was an intifada, and there was an Iraq -- then I made the decision on Iraq. We had an event like Lebanon. I mean, there's a certain course of history that sometimes makes it easier, sometimes makes it more difficult to use -- and we've got a lot of influence, I readily concede that -- but to use it in a proper way so that the peace is lasting, so we don't create false hopes, so that there's -- and I think one of the very hopeful things that's happened on this issue is that Palestinians -- some Palestinians -- are beginning to get a sense for there is a better future.
I don't see how -- I just don't see how the Middle East evolves without a Palestinian state that's free and democratic. I don't see how the Middle East can evolve without a democratic Lebanon, or the Middle East -- evolve into a peaceful, kind of normal place without an Iraq that succeeds. And by the way, Iraq is succeeding. And that ought to make a lot of people in Israel comfortable -- more comfortable than what the status quo could have been.
Q Are you convinced that Abbas is a viable partner, specifically --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Mr. President, there's been a lot of talk recently about the possibility of new negotiations between Israel and Syria, and about the assumed reluctance of the United States administration about such talks.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, first of all, I have made some very clear conditions for the United States talking with them. We said, look, you're housing Hamas. You're enabling transit of materials to Hezbollah in Lebanon -- at this moment they were also trying to control and run Lebanon. They've made life miserable for the young democracy in Iraq, and that -- it's easy to get our attention, and that has actually become a constructive force, a positive force, a force for peace, not a force that continually uses these extremist groups to destabilize the neighborhood. That's the position of the United States, separated from Syria by an ocean.
Israeli politicians, responsible to the people and responsive to the people, got to come up with their own vision of security. And I have never told Olmert one thing or another about what to do with his security. That's not what friends do. I expect an explanation, but I'm -- he made a decision that he made -- or no decisions have been made except the idea of trying to get some dialogue moving, which is -- and I know him well, and know that he is as concerned about Israeli security as any other person that's ever been the Prime Minister of Israel. And so I presume the decision is made.
My hope, of course, is that a decision is made with Israel's interests at heart. And my -- one of the things I try to do is think strategically, and the biggest long-term threat to peace in the Middle East is Iran. The Iranian connection with Syria is very troubling for not only the United States, but Israel, as well as other Arab nations. And anything done should be -- keep that strategic vision in mind. And of all the people who understand the existential threat that the Iranians pose, it's the Israelis.
Q I have more of a general question. Looking back at your seven last years here, do you think there was a point of time that you have -- should have maybe made different decisions from the one you took, pertaining to the Israeli original conflict and other --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that's an interesting question. They always ask me, would you have done things different? I probably would have toned my rhetoric down at times. And I think it's important to speak clearly and then do what you say you're going to do. But in terms of the -- in terms of Israel, I would hope that history would say, from everybody's perspective, including the Israeli perspective, that this is a guy who clearly saw the world the way it is.
And the temptation in this world is to be an isolationist and a protectionist. It's just too hard, you know? It's -- we'd much rather be judged by the latest Gallup poll than making the necessary decisions to keep the peace, to do the hard things now to confront the realities of the world in order to make sure our children grow up in peace.
And I can assure you that al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah don't think about the comforts of life. They are driven. And the fundamental challenge facing this world is, will countries like the United States be prepared to continue to stand and lead?
And so you asked about legacy and all that business -- which I don't worry about, by the way. I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office. But one of them has got to be, he clearly saw the threat and he did something about it.
For the cannabis-growing residents of eastern Lebanon, recent internecine fighting in the country has been a blessing, albeit one covered in hash resin and dollar signs.
To these villagers, gunshots and warfare are good for business, and the last three years have been far too quiet for their taste, leaving the authorities more than enough time and resources to come for their crops.
Peace and quiet frees the Lebanese Army to help local law enforcement combat the drug trade, especially in the summer, when soldiers and police are deployed to cannabis fields to rip and cut the flowering stalks of marijuana set for processing and export to Israel, Europe and beyond.
The army has signaled that it could step up its involvement to bring an end to fighting that broke out last week - the country's worst internal clashes since the end of the civil war in 1990, which has left at least 54 people dead and scores more wounded.
The last time the cannabis farmers of Lebanon had such a bumper crop was during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when the security situation in the country brought anti-drug law enforcement to a halt. With fighting flaring up again in Lebanon, the farmers can expect another marijuana windfall, especially if the army is deployed in force throughout the country's cities to quell the recent bloodshed.
Newspaper reports have stated that even in peacetime security forces are often wary of entering the cannabis growing areas, as many of the farmers and their security guards are heavily armed.
An investigation by the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat has found that over 25,000 acres of cannabis were planted in Lebanon this year, an amount that should yield an impressive amount of hashish for the area's farmers.
A report compiled by the United States Government in 2003 praised Lebanon's efforts to combat cannabis cultivation, as well as the Syrian government's cooperation in fighting the drug trade.
Nonetheless, in spite of the profitability of the drug trade, little improvement has been seen recently in the quality of life of the estimated 180,000 residents of eastern Lebanon.
Just in case you weren't sure about this, Mr. Obama and the J-Street Lobby, here's a timely reminder from this story in Ha'aretz:
... senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told a conference commemorating the Nakba that his radical Islamic movement would "never" recognize Israel, which he said will one day "disappear."
"On this occasion, the occasion of the Nakba, we reiterate that we will never recognize the raping enemy. We will never recognize Israel. We will never recognize Israel," al-Zahar told a cheering audience.
"Our lands are not for sale or for trade, and the right of resistance is holy," he said.
"Israel is going to disappear one day and the Palestinian people will remain to fully liberate all their occupied lands," he told the conference, entitled "Sixty years since the Nakba - the return is imminent."
"The day of liberation and return is coming very soon," al-Zahar said. "We are good readers of reality and the powers of war and destruction are not terrifying us."
Bush arrived in Israel to much fanfare on Wednesday for a 48-hour visit in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary. The visit is his second in four months.
Regarding Bush's visit, Zahar said, "There is no welcome for Bush in the Holy Land. There is no welcome for hypocrite presidents who are defiling our land."
"We will never recognize Israel" - what part of that did you NOT understand?
Shortly after he arrived on Wednesday to participate in celebrations of Israel's 60th anniversary, U.S. President George W. Bush vowed to continue his country's support for Israel.
"The objective of the United States must be to support our strongest ally and friend in the Middle East ... and, at the same time, talk about a hopeful future," Bush said in Jerusalem. He also signalled his aim to make a new push for Israeli-Palestinian peace during his three-day trip.
Bush, speaking at a meeting with President Shimon Peres, said that 60 years of democracy in Israel is cause for optimism for democratic change throughout the Middle East.
"What happened here is possible everywhere," Bush said.
"I suspect if you looked back 60 years ago and tried to guess where Israel would be at that time, it would be hard to be able to project such a prosperous, hopeful land," Bush added. "No question, people would have said, 'We'd be surrounded by hostile forces.'"
But Bush said he doubted that people would have been able to envision a modern Israel.
The U.S. president has expressed some optimism that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement could be struck before his term ends in January 2009, while holding out little hope for a major breakthrough during this trip.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that reaching such a deal within the next eight months might be improbable but it's not impossible.
Peres, a Nobel peace laureate, backed Bush's optimism for a Mideast accord, saying Israelis want to work with Palestinians. "We are not their enemies," he said.
"We would like to see the Palestinians living together," he said. "They have suffered a great deal of their life. The separation is a tragedy for them and for the rest of us."
Peres chastised Hezbollah for aiming to destroy Lebanon and accused Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, of working to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.
Bush and Peres spoke after briefly strolling through the gardens behind the Israeli president's residence. They sat with their aides under an ivy-covered sandstone trellis amid a grove of trees and flowers.
Stepping somewhat on the message of the anniversary festivities, Bush joked that, "Israel really isn't so long in the tooth. As a person who's 61 years old, it doesn't seem that old," he said.
Olmert: Strategic alliance with U.S. one of Israel's pillars of security
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert earlier on Wednesday welcomed Bush upon his arrival in Israel, praising his visit as an extraordinary gesture of friendship.
In opening remarks, the prime minister declared: "Our strategic alliance with the U.S is one of Israel`s pillars of security."
Bush, for his part, addressed the assembled Israeli dignitaries at Ben Gurion international airport, stating: "Our two nations both faced great challenges when they were founded. And our two nations have both relied on the same principles to help us succeed."
"We built strong democracies to protect the freedoms given to us by an almighty God," he said at the red-carpet ceremony.
The U.S. president concluded: "We consider the Holy Land a very special place and we consider the Israeli people our close friends. Shalom."
As an army band played the American and Israeli national anthems, the U.S. president was greeted by Israel's political leadership, including Olmert, Peres and opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu.
Peres, who also spoke at the ceremony, told Bush that, "We are grateful to you for gracing this occasion." He then lauded the U.S. president for his "steady dedication to the promotion of peace and security."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, part of Bush's entourage, accompanied the U.S. leader as he walked across the airport runway, as did Bush's wife Laura.
Bush is to participate in the "Facing Tomorrow" presidential conference held in Jerusalem during his three-day visit, at which he will deliver a speech on Wednesday evening. He will also speak before the Knesset on Thursday, and will visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt later on in this trip.
Despite the festive nature of the visit, Bush was to find his host, Ehud Olmert, in deep trouble as a widening investigation into the prime minister's conduct has raised serious doubt over his political future.
Most probably in reference to the investigation, Olmert gave assurances to a senior U.S. official as Bush arrived in Israel. "Holding on, holding on, don't worry," Olmert told Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, at the airport. The remarks were picked up by broadcasters' microphones.
On the first day of the presidential conference, Olmert said on Tuesday that he and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have reached "understandings and points of agreement" on key issues in U.S-backed peace talks but he gave no details.
During Bush's visit, Olmert is expected to ask him to upgrade substantially the security relationship between Israel and the U.S., according to sources close to the prime minister.
Olmert's people are leaning, said the sources, toward presenting the visiting president with a list of weapon systems that Israel wants to purchase or otherwise gain access to.
On Monday, Bush said that the peace process is not dependent on a single individual, indirectly responding to fears that investigation into Olmert could derail Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Al-Zahar: No welcome for Bush in the Holy Land
In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a leader of the Islamist group opposed to the U.S. peace efforts, said: "There is no welcome for Bush in the Holy Land. There is no welcome for hypocrite presidents who are defiling our land."
Bush, who flew on to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv by helicopter, will not visit the Palestinian territories but planned to meet Abbas in Egypt on Saturday. In Jerusalem, Mrs. Bush toured a government clinic that offers low-cost immunizations and other health care services to families with young children.
Ahead of the visit, three human rights groups sent a letter to Bush urging him to pressure Israel to lift the Gaza blockade. Israel imposed the blockade in an attempt to halt ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza at western Negev towns, but the groups said the move is collective punishment that is harming Palestinian civilians.
The president's final stop will be at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he will meet over two days with a handful of leaders: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Iraqi leaders. Bush also is scheduled to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, but that is in doubt now after clashes between the U.S.-backed government in Beirut and Hezbollah-led opposition.
While the president is in the Middle East this week, Bush administration officials plan to work during UN Security Council meetings to rally other countries to support Lebanon's government and to condemn Iran and Syria, which the White House believes are behind the recent clashes. "Obviously, we are also going to talk to various countries about additional pressure that can be put on Syria and Iran," Hadley said.
According to Israel TV Channel 1, eleven people were wounded. Some were briefly trapped in wreckage. There is no doubt that the self-imposed (or US imposed) Israeli restraint during the visit of president Bush is an invitation for more and better rocket attacks.
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, apparently a Katyusha-type rocket, exploded in a shopping center in the southern city of Ashkelon on Wednesday, police said.
A rescue service spokesman Eli Bean said at least three people, including two babies were among the wounded. Witnesses told various radio stations that the rocket caused considerable damage. Bean said at least two people were trapped under the rubble.
The rocket attack came as U.S. President George W. Bush wrapped up talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The Israeli leader said at the end of the talks that Israel would not tolerate attacks from Gaza militants.
Casualties have mounted recently from the daily rocket attacks by Palestinian militants on Israeli communities outside Gaza. Two people were killed during the last week.
The homemade rockets militants usually fire at Israel do not have enough range to reach Ashkelon. Instead, militants use Grad-type rockets to hit the city of 100,000, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the Gaza-Israel border
For fifteen years, (1993-2008), Charlie Bernhaut of Americans for a Safe Israel has been sending Open Letters to the staff at the New York Times. Charlie loves Jewish cantorial music and Jewish jokes. He is an amiable, sociable man. So, what has driven him to launch such a lonely, one-man crusade?
I doubt he can stop himself. Perhaps the Biblical bush burned for him too, perhaps, like Moses, he could not refuse the missionwhich consists of documenting and protesting the newspaper's contemporary "use of photographs to prejudice their readers against Israel." He was at this long before CAMERA, MEMRI, or HonestReporting saw the same burning bush. The Times has never acknowledged Bernhaut's lettersnor have the Jewish media and organizations who also received copies.
Of course, as the author Laurel Leff, (Buried By the Times. The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper), has documented, the Paper of Record did not cover the Holocaust either, they did not document Jewish suffering or genocide.
The photos Charlie brought me were all taken by Rina Castelnuovo. Google her and you will find sixteen pages devoted to her photos in the Paper of Record, and to her gallery exhibits and prestigious awards. Castelnuovo was born in Tel Aviv but her focus is mainly upon the suffering of Israel's non-Jewish Arab citizens and that of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza. A minority of her photos focus on positive Israeli realities but there is no real balance or complexity to her photojournalism. Of course, the articles that accompany her work are similarly unbalanced. One might conclude that she has been asked to focus only on Palestinian grief and to avoid Israeli grief altogether.
Castelnuovo's photos enjoy prominent placement and sometimes occupy an incredible one-third of a page. Obviously, so do the articles that her photos illustrate. Bernhaut believes that some, if not all of her work, is staged; it therefore pre-dates the kind of faux-tography that characterizes the full-steam-ahead Arab, Palestinian, and Islamist visual and narrative brainwashing of the world's masses that gathered force during the al-Aqsa intifada.
Stay tuned for an interview with Phillipe Karsenty, the hero who has been battling France's media over their use of the quintessential staged, fake event known as the Mohammed Al-Dura"Affaire," in which a small Palestinian boy was "seen" being shot to death in his father's arms by Israeli troops at the Netzarim junction.
It turns out that the Israelis did not shoot him. Actually, the boy was neither shot nor killed. The poster child and father for the al-Aqsa intifada were actors. The harm is done. It cannot be repaired. But, perhaps the families of all those Israelis who were martyred between 2000-2008 can sue France's Channel Two, the Palestinian Authority, Arafat's estate, and the world media for damages.
The propaganda against the Jews and Israel is relentless and effective and has reduced the truth to a lie. After forty years of manipulating the truth, millions, perhaps billions of people view Israel as the "Nazi, apartheid, occupier" of noble, oppressed, and suffering Palestinian people.
They do not understand that the Palestinians have never existed as a group or as a nation-state; that early Zionist pioneers and Israelis improved both the non-Jewish Arab standard of living and life expectancy so much so that more and more family- and clan-identified non-Jewish Egyptians, Syrians, and Jordanians gravitated to Jewish lands; that, in 1948, the Arabs who occupied villages in Gaza and on the West Bank were not forced out by Israelis but rather by their own Arab leaders who wanted to use their homes for battle-purposes and who were absolutely convinced that they would drive the upstart Jews into the sea.
They failed to do so. However, thereafter, the Arab High Command and individual Arab tyrants refused citizenship to all "Palestinian" refugees and also kept the enormous sums donated to alleviate their suffering for themselves and for weapons. The Israelis wanted mutual cooperation and peace with their non-Jewish Arab neighbors. The Arab and eventually the "Palestinian" leadership only wanted to use the "Palestinians" as human fodder in their eternal war against the Jews and against the West.
Read Ephraim Karsh's excellent piece on this very subject in the latest issue of Commentary magazine.
The first Castelnuovo photo that Bernhaut showed me appeared on February 17, 1993. It showed Muslims in full prayer position outside a mosque in Bir Nabala which the Israelis had "sealed." The photo caption, the article , and the headline do not explain that Hamas was using the mosque to store weapons and that the Israelis had raided it for that reason. The fact that the Israeli government is a faithful protector of religious shrines of all religions is never mentionednor is the Arab and Muslim shameful record of burning down, building over, or using the religious shrines of non-Muslim faiths as garbage dumps.
On March 21, 1996, we see sorrowful, patient Palestinian women and children who have cancer "waiting for permission to go to Israel for treatment." Not shown are the scores of Palestinian patients who are routinely treated in Israeli Jewish hospitals. Even Arab and Muslim "militants"/terrorists who are captured in battle are treated in Israeli Jewish hospitals. The Times provides no photos of them.
On September 11, (!) 1998, Castelnuovo provided a photo of the grieving family of a Palestinian woman shot "by accident." It did not balance this photo with that of a grieving Israeli family whose civilian member was shot "on purpose." As Bernhaut phrased it in his letter to Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. in April, 2000: "Of course, Jewish suffering is nonexistent (irrelevant).
Bernhaut's latest letter is dated May 9, 2008 and addresses the two Castelnuovo photos that accompany the May 7, 2008 headline: "After 60 Years, Arabs in Israel are Outsiders and Their Anger is Growing." Pictured is a traditionally dressed 84 year old Arab who is touching the door of Hittin, a former Arab village in the north of Israel. Bernhaut suggests that Castelnuovo must have said: "Go over to the wall and face the door..that's it. Now, raise your hand no, not the right hand, it will hide your face. That's it, the left hand, raised. Now, look longingly at the wall..Perfect. Here's the payment for your services."
Yes, western journalists routinely pay for such theatrical participation. I am not saying that Castelnuovo did so in this particular instance.
Bernhaut brought me one other article, which was dated April 23, 2000 and which concerned the photo which, much earlier, depicted the evacuation of people from the roof of the American Embassy in Vietnam. According to New York Times journalists Fox Butterfield and Kari Haskell, this photo became the "most remembered photo of the fall of Saigon." However, the caption in the New York Times was "wrong." Those boarding the helicopter to flee Saigon were not Americans; they were Vietnamese." Butterfield and Haskell write: "In it's way, the photo is a metaphor for all the misunderstanding that plagued the Vietnam war."
Bernhaut writes that perhaps one day the New York Times will also write: "In it's way, the photographs that the New York Times featured to bias the public against Jews are metaphors for many of the misunderstanding that plagued the tiny, beleaguered Jewish state."
Many factors contribute to Israel's perennially poor public relations, most of them stemming from its own incompetence. They range from spokesmen who are not fluent in the relevant foreign language to the failure to formulate a clear, simple and consistent message for these spokesmen to convey. One aspect of the problem, however, is Israel's persistent failure to refute Palestinian lies.
Two weeks ago, for instance, the New York Times/International Herald Tribune ran a report on the latest poll by Khalil Shikaki's Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR). It stated that Shikaki "was shocked" because the poll "showed greater support for violence than any other he had conducted over the past 15 years... Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the shooting of rockets at Israel."
Shikaki's "explanation for the shift," it continued, "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."
The message could not be clearer: The normally peace-loving Palestinians, who previously opposed rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, have been driven to violence by Israel's brutality. There is only one problem: Shikaki's claim is utterly false.
HIS LATEST POLL found that 64 percent of Palestinians favored rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Far from being unprecedented, however, that figure is almost identical to what it was 18 months ago, according to Shikaki's own data: A PSR poll conducted in late August, 2006 found that 63 percent of Palestinians favored such attacks. And it is lower than the figure in some earlier Shikaki polls: In September 2004, for instance, PSR found that 75 percent of Palestinians supported rocket attacks on Israel.
The other leading Palestinian pollster, the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, has consistently produced similar results: A JMCC poll from July 2006, for instance, found that 60 percent of Palestinians supported rocket attacks on Israel.
In other words, peace-loving Palestinians have not been suddenly radicalized by Israeli brutality; they have supported rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from the moment they acquired this capability.
This is not a trivial issue. First, the main international criticism of Israel's counterterrorism operations in Gaza is that they hurt "innocent civilians." Yet that argument loses much of its force if those "innocent civilians" actually support the rocket attacks, because repeated studies have shown that whether terrorist organizations wither or thrive depends substantially on the support they receive from the local population. Thus a populace that backs terrorist activities is not "innocent," it is an active and essential contributor to the terrorists' success.
This is even truer for the Palestinians, because Hamas is not only a terrorist organization; it is also an elected ruling party. Public opinion is thus an especially crucial component of its power, one it cannot afford to totally disregard. Hence were ordinary Palestinians largely opposed to rather than supportive of rocket attacks, Hamas would be much more likely to restrain both its own military wing and smaller groups like Islamic Jihad.
Israeli operations in Gaza are also routinely slammed as counterproductive - which might be valid if these operations indeed increased support for anti-Israel attacks. But if support for rocket attacks against Israel has remained steadily high for years, regardless of the ups and downs of the fighting, that claim, too, loses much of its force.
THE SHIKAKI POLL, of course, is merely one of many Palestinian lies that have gone unrefuted by Israel. Another excellent example is the partial fuel embargo on Gaza.
Palestinians have had great success in charging that this embargo deprives them of fuel for such humanitarian essentials as pumping water and running hospital generators. Israel routinely counters that it does provide enough fuel for humanitarian needs, but since it never provides evidence to back this assertion, the world has largely dismissed it.
Yet such evidence is readily available: One need look no farther than the New York Times.
On February 26, for instance, the International Herald Tribune ran a Times report on a protest against the Israeli embargo that Hamas organized in northern Gaza. Of the approximately 4,000 demonstrators, it said, "many were schoolchildren who arrived directly from their classrooms ... They had been bused in to join the protest, despite complaints from Gaza about a dire shortage of gasoline because of the Israeli sanctions."
On March 11, the Times reported on another Hamas-organized protest, in Gaza City. Palestinian livestock owners "were paid 100 shekels each (about $28) to attend the protest, as well as transportation costs. Hundreds of animals - sheep, camels and donkeys - came from all over Gaza."
Busing in schoolchildren from all over Gaza guzzles fuel; so does trucking in livestock from all over Gaza. Thus clearly, Hamas has fuel for things it deems important. If it considers anti-Israel demonstrations more important than supplying hospitals and pumping stations, that is hardly Israel's fault; it is Hamas that has chosen to deprive its own people in order to score propaganda points.
Again, this is a nontrivial issue. Virtually nothing could damage Israel's image more than people worldwide imagining Palestinian children with no water to drink, or hospitals unable to perform lifesaving operations, due to an Israeli embargo. And virtually nothing could damage Hamas's image more than having people worldwide realize that it is cynically withholding vital fuel from its own people in order to make Israel look bad.
It would be nice if journalists, world leaders and international human rights organizations consistently noticed such lies on their own, but the reality is that they rarely have the time, energy or interest to do the necessary research. For Israel, however, exposing Palestinian lies is a vital interest. Hence it is Israel's responsibility to invest the resources necessary to document these lies and expose them to international opinion leaders.
That would still be only one small element of the comprehensive public relations strategy that Israel needs. But it would be far better than the current policy of letting such damaging lies go unchallenged.
Evelyn Gordon is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.
The Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef did Barack Obama no favor recently when he said: "We like Mr. Obama and we hope that he will win the election." John McCain jumped on this statement, calling it a "legitimate point of discussion," and tied it to Obama's putative softness on Iran, whose ever-charming president last week called Israel a "stinking corpse" and predicted its "annihilation."
The Hamas episode won't help Obama's attempts to win over Jewish voters, particularly those in such places as - to pull an example from the air - Palm Beach County, Florida, whose Jewish residents tend to appreciate robust American support for Israel, and worry about whether presidential candidates feel the importance of Israel in their kishkes, or guts.
Obama and I spoke over the weekend about Hamas, about Jimmy Carter, and about the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. He seemed eager to talk about his ties to the Jewish community, and about the influence Jews have had on his life. Among other things, he told me that he learned the art of moral anguish from Jews. We spoke as well about my Atlanticcover story on Israel's future. He mentioned his interest in the opinions of the writer David Grossman, who is featured in the article. "I remember reading The Yellow Wind when it came out, and reading about Grossman now is powerful, painful stuff." And, speaking in a kind of code Jews readily understand, Obama also made sure to mention that he was fond of the writer Leon Uris, the author of Exodus.
Here are excerpts from our conversation:
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I'm curious to hear you talk about the Zionist idea. Do you believe that it has justice on its side?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, when I think about the Zionist idea, I think about how my feelings about Israel were shaped as a young man -- as a child, in fact. I had a camp counselor when I was in sixth grade who was Jewish-American but who had spent time in Israel, and during the course of this two-week camp he shared with me the idea of returning to a homeland and what that meant for people who had suffered from the Holocaust, and he talked about the idea of preserving a culture when a people had been uprooted with the view of eventually returning home. There was something so powerful and compelling for me, maybe because I was a kid who never entirely felt like he was rooted. That was part of my upbringing, to be traveling and always having a sense of values and culture but wanting a place. So that is my first memory of thinking about Israel.
And then that mixed with a great affinity for the idea of social justice that was embodied in the early Zionist movement and the kibbutz, and the notion that not only do you find a place but you also have this opportunity to start over and to repair the breaches of the past. I found this very appealing.
JG: You've talked about the role of Jews in the development of your thinking
BO: I always joke that my intellectual formation was through Jewish scholars and writers, even though I didn't know it at the time. Whether it was theologians or Philip Roth who helped shape my sensibility, or some of the more popular writers like Leon Uris. So when I became more politically conscious, my starting point when I think about the Middle East is this enormous emotional attachment and sympathy for Israel, mindful of its history, mindful of the hardship and pain and suffering that the Jewish people have undergone, but also mindful of the incredible opportunity that is presented when people finally return to a land and are able to try to excavate their best traditions and their best selves. And obviously it's something that has great resonance with the African-American experience.
One of the things that is frustrating about the recent conversations on Israel is the loss of what I think is the natural affinity between the African-American community and the Jewish community, one that was deeply understood by Jewish and black leaders in the early civil-rights movement but has been estranged for a whole host of reasons that you and I don't need to elaborate.
JG: Do you think that justice is still on Israel's side?
BO: I think that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the Jewish people could still experience. I know that that there are those who would argue that in some ways America has become a safe refuge for the Jewish people, but if you've gone through the Holocaust, then that does not offer the same sense of confidence and security as the idea that the Jewish people can take care of themselves no matter what happens. That makes it a fundamentally just idea.
That does not mean that I would agree with every action of the state of Israel, because it's a government and it has politicians, and as a politician myself I am deeply mindful that we are imperfect creatures and don't always act with justice uppermost on our minds. But the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world.
JG: Go to the kishke question, the gut question: the idea that if Jews know that you love them, then you can say whatever you want about Israel, but if we don't know you -- Jim Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski -- then everything is suspect. There seems to be in some quarters, in Florida and other places, a sense that you don't feel Jewish worry the way a senator from New York would feel it.
BO: I find that really interesting. I think the idea of Israel and the reality of Israel is one that I find important to me personally. Because it speaks to my history of being uprooted, it speaks to the African-American story of exodus, it describes the history of overcoming great odds and a courage and a commitment to carving out a democracy and prosperity in the midst of hardscrabble land. One of the things I loved about Israel when I went there is that the land itself is a metaphor for rebirth, for what's been accomplished. What I also love about Israel is the fact that people argue about these issues, and that they're asking themselves moral questions.
Sometimes I'm attacked in the press for maybe being too deliberative. My staff teases me sometimes about anguishing over moral questions. I think I learned that partly from Jewish thought, that your actions have consequences and that they matter and that we have moral imperatives. The point is, if you look at my writings and my history, my commitment to Israel and the Jewish people is more than skin-deep and it's more than political expediency. When it comes to the gut issue, I have such ardent defenders among my Jewish friends in Chicago. I don't think people have noticed how fiercely they defend me, and how central they are to my success, because they've interacted with me long enough to know that I've got it in my gut. During the Wright episode, they didn't flinch for a minute, because they know me and trust me, and they've seen me operate in difficult political situations.
The other irony in this whole process is that in my early political life in Chicago, one of the raps against me in the black community is that I was too close to the Jews. When I ran against Bobby Rush [for Congress], the perception was that I was Hyde Park, I'm University of Chicago, I've got all these Jewish friends. When I started organizing, the two fellow organizers in Chicago were Jews, and I was attacked for associating with them. So I've been in the foxhole with my Jewish friends, so when I find on the national level my commitment being questioned, it's curious.
JG: Why do you think Ahmed Yousef of Hamas said what he said about you?
BO: My position on Hamas is indistinguishable from the position of Hillary Clinton or John McCain. I said they are a terrorist organization and I've repeatedly condemned them. I've repeatedly said, and I mean what I say: since they are a terrorist organization, we should not be dealing with them until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and abide by previous agreements.
JG: Were you flummoxed by it?
BO: I wasn't flummoxed. I think what is going on there is the same reason why there are some suspicions of me in the Jewish community. Look, we don't do nuance well in politics and especially don't do it well on Middle East policy. We look at things as black and white, and not gray. It's conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, "This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he's not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush," and that's something they're hopeful about. I think that's a perfectly legitimate perception as long as they're not confused about my unyielding support for Israel's security.
When I visited Ramallah, among a group of Palestinian students, one of the things that I said to those students was: "Look, I am sympathetic to you and the need for you guys to have a country that can function, but understand this: if you're waiting for America to distance itself from Israel, you are delusional. Because my commitment, our commitment, to Israel's security is non-negotiable." I've said this in front of audiences where, if there were any doubts about my position, that'd be a place where you'd hear it.
When Israel invaded Lebanon two summers ago, I was in South Africa, a place where, obviously, when you get outside the United States, you can hear much more critical commentary about Israel's actions, and I was asked about this in a press conference, and that time, and for the entire summer, I was very adamant about Israel's right to defend itself. I said that there's not a nation-state on Earth that would tolerate having two of its soldiers kidnapped and just let it go. So I welcome the Muslim world's accurate perception that I am interested in opening up dialogue and interested in moving away from the unilateral policies of George Bush, but nobody should mistake that for a softer stance when it comes to terrorism or when it comes to protecting Israel's security or making sure that the alliance is strong and firm. You will not see, under my presidency, any slackening in commitment to Israel's security.
JG: What do you make of Jimmy Carter's suggestion that Israel resembles an apartheid state?
BO: I strongly reject the characterization. Israel is a vibrant democracy, the only one in the Middle East, and there's no doubt that Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn't advance that goal. It's emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it's not what I believe.
JG: If you become President, will you denounce settlements publicly?
BO: What I will say is what I've said previously. Settlements at this juncture are not helpful. Look, my interest is in solving this problem not only for Israel but for the United States.
JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?
BO: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I'm not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that's the safest ground politically.
I want to solve the problem, and so my job in being a friend to Israel is partly to hold up a mirror and tell the truth and say if Israel is building settlements without any regard to the effects that this has on the peace process, then we're going to be stuck in the same status quo that we've been stuck in for decades now, and that won't lift that existential dread that David Grossman described in your article.
The notion that a vibrant, successful society with incredible economic growth and incredible cultural vitality is still plagued by this notion that this could all end at any moment -- you know, I don't know what that feels like, but I can use my imagination to understand it. I would not want to raise my children in those circumstances. I want to make sure that the people of Israel, when they kiss their kids and put them on that bus, feel at least no more existential dread than any parent does whenever their kids leave their sight. So that then becomes the question: is settlement policy conducive to relieving that over the long term, or is it just making the situation worse? That's the question that has to be asked.
April 26, 2008 The National, Abu Dhabi Sultan Al Qassemi
Many of us have heard of the famous advertising empire known as Saatchi and Saatchi, laughed at the jokes of Jerry Seinfeld, tapped our feet to the beats of Paula Abdul and shopped at Max Azria's BCBG stores. So what do all these successful people from various industries have in common?
They are all of Arab origins.
The Jewish presence in what is now the Arab world dates back thousands of years; in fact, the very religion was founded in this region. Arab Muslims, Christians and Jews have been living in peace and harmony for centuries, so what happened? In short, after the violent wave of European anti-Semitism in the mid-20th century there was an exodus of European Jewry into historic Palestine, much of it forced, armed and violent, lead by groups such as the Hagana and the Irgun (who were responsible for the bombing of the King David Hotel).
Unfortunately, many Muslim Arabs from across the region reacted violently to these developments and decided to reciprocate; as a result, Jews who were living amongst them were shunned and assaulted. In Iraq, for example, about 120,000 Jews were compelled to emigrate to Israel, the US and Europe in just less than three years.
The streets of Cairo, the historic neighbourhoods of Syria, the mountainous terrains of Lebanon and the bustling markets of Baghdad were, for the first time in thousands of years, emptied of one of the most successful ethnic minorities living within their communities. Doctors, architects, businessmen, scientists, poets and writers started to pack up and leave, some with good reason and some to avoid the repercussions of the founding of the state of Israel.
It wasn't all bad blood between the Arabs and the Jews; in fact, there were stories of heroism that have gone unreported and unnoticed in the Arab media. In the midst of the horrors of the Nazi occupation of France in the 1940s, the imam of the Paris Mosque saved the lives of scores of Jews by issuing certificates stating their faith to be Muslim. In Tunis, entire Jewish families were saved by a local hero, Khaled Abdelwahhab, who hid them in his farm at great risk to himself and his family; he was honoured posthumously for his bravery. As a result of such actions fewer than one per cent of the Jews of Arabia who numbered in their hundreds of thousands perished compared to more than 50 per cent of the Jews of Europe.
Since then, there has been predominantly negative coverage of Judeo-Arab relations. Europe, after the Second World War, was able to turn the page almost immediately, yet many Arabs still paint all Jews with the same brush used for Israelis.
In 1975, after the death of the Egyptian revolutionary leader Jamal Abdul Nasser, many countries in which he financed and encouraged revolutions were free from his pan-Arab nationalism and scaremongering and decided to take action in order to restore the social unity of their countries. The pre-Saddam Iraqi Revolution Command Council issued advertisements in The New York Times and elsewhere inviting Jews to return to their home countries and guaranteeing their rights. Sadat's Egypt and Hafez Al Assad's Syria also issued such statements.
In recent history it has only been two forward-thinking Middle Eastern kingdoms of Morocco and Bahrain that have broken the mould of suspicion towards their Jewish citizens and integrated them into the social and political spheres. The first with the case of André Azoulay, an adviser to the previous and current kings; and the latter with the recent appointment of Huda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo as the new Bahraini ambassador to America.
Today in New York City alone there are more than 75,000 Jews of Syrian origin, many of them educated in the best schools, speaking or understanding Arabic and still having an affinity for Syria. Is it not possible to imagine that such persons have the right, if they so choose, to be full citizens of Syria?
Is it not time to reassure the Jews of Arab origin that their ancestral homes are mature enough to welcome them back if they decide to invest, visit or even take up citizenship? If football players who spend a few months in the Middle East are given citizenship, shouldn't people who have a natural birth-right, tremendous wealth and valuable education and skills be given the same?
Of course such statements will be met with criticisms and reminders of what the Israelis are doing to our Palestinian brothers and sisters. To that one can say that in the Middle East, no one has been more cruel and violent to Arabs, more exploitive of the Palestinians and more manipulative of their cause than Arabs themselves. Do we forget it was Iraq that invaded Kuwait, Egypt that encouraged bloody revolutions throughout the region and mostly militants from the Arabian Peninsula responsible for atrocious crimes of terrorism in Iraq? We ourselves have been the victims of unfair generalisations by the Western media, but should we learn from past lessons, or should we continue to reciprocate?
Sultan Al Qassemi is a Sharjah-based businessman and graduate of the American University of Paris. He is founder of Barjeel Securities, Dubai.
This article was first published in The National on April 26, 2008. [A.I - the original Web site is not on line at the moment]
It is the second time within less than three years that the Iranian president predicted the eradication of Israel.
The first time was in 2005 when Ahmadinejad hoped that Israel would be eradicated from the Middle East map.
In the first place, Ahmadinejad didn't say in 2005 that he hoped Israel would be eradicated from the Middle East map (or "wiped off"). What he said was that Imam Khomeini said there would be a world without Zionism and America, and Ahmadinejad believes this goal is feasible. This can be checked easily, though there is not really much difference between what he did say, and what he was widely reported as saying.
Secondly, Ahmadinejad has predicted the demise of Israel several times since then:
According to the Iranian media Monday, Iranian President Mahoud Ahmadinejad declared that Israel was destined to 'disappearance and destruction' at a council meeting with Iranian ministers.
"The western powers created the Zionist regime in order to expand their control of the area. This regime massacres Palestinians everyday, but since this regime is against nature, we will soon witness its disappearance and destruction," Ahmadinejad said. (AFP)
"God willing, in the near future we will witness the destruction of the corrupt occupier regime," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying during a speech to foreign guests who attended ceremonies marking the 18th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who is known as the father of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Compare the above with the current story:
"This terrorist and criminal state is backed by foreign powers, but this regime would soon be swept away by the Palestinians," Ahmadinejad said in a press conference in Tehran.
Muhammad al-Harrani, a father of six from Gaza diagnosed with cancer who reportedly died while waiting for a permit to enter Israel, miraculously "came back to life." This was not the result of a miracle, but rather, just part of the tactics used by al-Harrani's family in a bid to secure a permit for him.
Al-Harrani is currently awaiting an entry permit into Israel, so that he can undergo head surgery at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and receive radiation and chemotherapy treatment. At the end of April he was summoned to a questioning session at the Erez Crossing as part of the permit process, but the session was postponed by a week.
On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, al-Harrani's story was published. His family reported to the "Physicians for Human Rights" organization that he died. "The sick man could not withstand the wait for the permit," claimed Ran Yaron, Director of the Occupied Territories Department who blamed the Shin Bet for adopting cruel policies against cancer patients.
However, the next day, the organization discovered that al-Harrani was still alive. Members of group estimated that his brother, who reported the death, "killed" him so he does not report to the questioning session.
"This is a rare case where a family member knowingly provided false information to the organization," Physicians for Human Rights said. "Usually, the organization receives information from the families and from the hospitals, but in this case the information was received from the family and was not confirmed by the hospital."
Meanwhile, the Shin Bet sent the organization an angry response: "We view these harsh accusations on your part with great severity; not even a minimal inquiry into the facts was conducted." The Shin Bet noted that due to the suspicion of his involvement in terror activities, al-Harrani was indeed called in for a security check, and it was indeed postponed by a week.
Some questions arise: If the hospital did not confirm the death, why did PHR make the announcement? And why, if the man was found to be alive the next day, did PHR wait until now to announce the truth?
Of course, the damage to Israel is already done. The "dead" Palestinian made headlines around the world. The resurrected Palestinian Arab won't get 2 column inches on page 5 of the Independent. Dead Palestinians are news. Live ones are not.
NEW DELHI - Tata Advanced Systems, the defense arm of Indian industrial house the Tata Group, has agreed to cooperatively develop and manufacture advanced defense products in India, including missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems and aerospace products with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Itzhak Nissan, IAI president and chief executive, and Tata Group Chairman Ratan N. Tata signed the agreement in Tel Aviv, according to a May 13 statement.
India's UAV needs are met by a variety of UAVs from IAI. The Indian defense forces have a market of more than 200 UAVs. IAI is also involved in India's advanced cruise missile project and air defense projects.
Sources in the Tata Group said the two companies have plans to cooperate in the development of military satellites. The sources said cooperation between the two could reach revenues of $10 billion.
Sources in the Tata Group added that the IAI-Tata tie-up could convert India into a major defense hub in this part of the world.
This business model could be the start of a tran-asian defense giant that will make Israel partly independent of United States military supplies, provide a market for Israeli defense products and cement a business partnership between Israel and India, a country with huge economic potential waiting to take off. I have dreamed of this idea for quite a few years. It is good to see someone had the same idea.
Israel gives India battle tested advanced defense systems and expert knowledge. India gives Israel a huge skilled work force and industrial plant, as well as a large market. A match made in heaven? Let's hope it isn't spoiled by politics or US defense export regulations.
(IsraelNN.com) Anti-Defamation League (ADL) director Abe Foxman said Tuesday afternoon that mainstream media are turning against Israel. One of the guests at the three-day Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, he told Voice of Israel government radio, "Painting Israel as the cause of the nakba [catastrophe] has taken root in the mainstream."
Foxman pointed out that both The New York Times and the Washington Post published front-page articles on Israel's Independence Day that focused on Arab suffering as well as Jewish celebrations instead of describing the miracle of the re-establishment of the Jewish state.
He added that American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when asked why American President George W. Bush is visiting Israel to help celebrate Israel's existence, stated that the American government is dealing with the consequence of the re-establishment of the State of Israel.
(IsraelNN.com) Israel has no cause to celebrate because Arabs "are groaning" under the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad charged Tuesday in a speech to legislators and foreign envoys. He accused Jewish "settlers" of "crimes" and termed the Jewish presence a siege.
Fayyad, who is heavily supported by the Bush administration that helped put him in power, was unusually harsh in his criticism of Israel. He made the remarks in a speech marking the "nakba," Arabic for "catastrophe," the word used by Arabs to term Israel's Independence Day.
By Christopher Hitchens Posted Monday, May 12, 2008, at 12:26 PM ET
It's somehow absurd and trivial to use the word Israel and the expression 60th birthday in the same sentence or the same breath. (What is this, some candle-bedecked ceremony in Miami?) The questions before us are somewhat more antique, and also a little more pressingly and urgently modern, than that. Has Zionism made Jews more safe or less safe? Has it cured the age-old problem of anti-Semitism or not? Is it part of the tikkun olamthe mandate for the healing and repair of the human worldor is it another rent and tear in the fabric?
Jewish people are on all sides of this argument, as always. There are Hasidic rabbis who declare the Jewish state to be a blasphemy, but only because there can be no such state until the arrival of the Messiah (who may yet tarry). There are Jewish leftists who feel shame that a settler state was erected on the ruins of so many Palestinian villages. There are also Jews who collaborate with extreme-conservative Christians in an effort to bring on the day of Armageddon, when all these other questions will necessarily become moot. And, of course, there are Jews who simply continue to live in, or to support from a distance, a nerve-racked and high-tech little state that absorbs a lot of violence and cruelty and that has also shown itself very capable of inflicting the same.
I find that no other question so much reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his aphorism about the necessity of living with flat-out contradiction. Do I sometimes wish that Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann had never persuaded either the Jews or the gentiles to create a quasi-utopian farmer-and-worker state at the eastern end of the Mediterranean? Yes. Do I wish that the Israeli air force could find and destroy all the arsenals of Hezbollah and Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Yes. Do I think it ridiculous that Viennese and Russian and German scholars and doctors should have vibrated to the mad rhythms of ancient so-called prophecies rather than helping to secularize and reform their own societies? Definitely. Do I feel horror and disgust at the thought that a whole new generation of Arab Palestinians is being born into the dispossession and/or occupation already suffered by their grandparents and even great-grandparents? Absolutely, I do.
The questions of principle and the matters of brute realism have a tendency (especially for one who does not think that heaven plays any part in the game) to converge. Without God on your side, what the hell are you doing in the greater Jerusalem area in the first place? Israel may not be the rogue state that so many people say it isincluding so many people who will excuse the crimes of Syria and Iranbut what if it runs the much worse risk of being a failed state? Here I must stop asking questions and simply and honestly answer one. In many visits to the so-called Holy Land, I have never quite been able to imagine that a Jewish state in Palestine will still be in existence a hundred years from now. A state for Jews, possibly. But a Jewish state
Israeli propaganda for a long time obscured this crucial distinction. If all that was wanted was a belt of Jewish territory on the coast and plains, such as that which was occupied by the yishuv in pre-state days, the international community could easily have agreed to place it within the defense perimeter of "the West" or the United Nations or, later, NATO. Aha, say the Zionists, the bad old days are gone when we were so naive as to rely on gentiles to defend us. Very well. But also mark the sequel. Israel is now incredibly dependent upon non-Jews for its own defense and, moreover, rules over millions of other non-Jews who loathe and detest it from the bottom of their hearts. How long do you think the first set of non-Jews will go on defending Israel from the second lot and from their very wealthy and numerous kinsmen? In other words, Zionism has only replaced and repositioned the question of anti-Semitism. For me, the Israeli family is not the alternative to the diaspora. It is part of the diaspora. To speak roughly, there are three groups of 6 million Jews. The first 6 million live in what the Zionist movement used to call Palestine. The second 6 million live in the United States. The third 6 million are distributed mainly among Russia, France, Britain, and Argentina. Only the first group lives daily in range of missiles that can be (and are) launched by people who hate Jews. Well, irony is supposed to be a Jewish specialty.
That last point, however, brings me to my own closing observation. It is a moral idiot who thinks that anti-Semitism is a threat only to Jews. The history of civilization demonstrates something rather different: Judaeophobia is an unfailing prognosis of barbarism and collapse, and the states and movements that promulgate it are doomed to suicide as well as homicide, as was demonstrated by Catholic Spain as well as Nazi Germany. Today's Iranian "Islamic republic" is a nightmare for its own citizens as well as a pestilential nuisance and menace to its neighbors. And the most depressing and wretched spectacle of the past decade, for all those who care about democracy and secularism, has been the degeneration of Palestinian Arab nationalism into the theocratic and thanatocratic hell of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, where the Web site of Gaza's ruling faction blazons an endorsement of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This obscenity is not to be explained away by glib terms like despair or occupation, as other religious fools like Jimmy Carterwho managed to meet the Hamas gangsters without mentioning their racist manifestowould have you believe. (Is Muslim-on-Muslim massacre in Darfur or Iraq or Pakistan or Lebanon to be justified by conditions in Gaza?) Instead, this crux forces non-Zionists like me to ask whether, in spite of everything, Israel should be defended as if it were a part of the democratic West. This is a question to which Israelis themselves have not yet returned a completely convincing answer, and if they truly desire a 60th, let alone a 70th, birthday celebration, they had better lose no time in coming up with one.
In 5 Myths on Who's Really 'Pro-Israel' , J-Street's Ben-Ami makes a case for a dovish "pro-Israel" stand, citing "myths" about being pro-Israel. Not everything he writes is wrong, but he creates a few myths of his own:
Hamas won the most recent Palestinian national elections in a landslide. Do we seriously think that it can be erased from the political landscape simply by assassinations and sanctions?
Hamas did not win in a landslide, since they did not win the popular vote. Hamas is in power in Gaza by virtue of a coup. No, we do not seriously think Hamas can be erased just by assassinations and sanctions. Like Nazism, elimination of Hamasism requires more decisive action. But it is a myth to think we can "negotiate" "peace" with Hamas, just as it was a myth to think one could negotiate peace with Hitler.
Some more myths about being pro-Israel:
Myth: Just because Jews do something, it is pro-Israel
Ben-Ami tells us that not all Jews choose political candidates because those candidates are pro-Israel:
This urban legend has somehow become a tenet of American Politics 101, which is why politicians work so hard to earn the pro-Israel label in the first place. But it's a self-serving fable, cultivated by a tiny minority of politically conservative American Jews who actually are single-issue voters. Most Jewish voters make their political choices the way other Americans do: based on their views on the full spectrum of domestic and foreign policy issues.
The logic escapes me. What are you trying to tell us? If most American Jews are not pro-Israel, does that legitimize their stands as being "pro-Israel" just because they are Jews? Is J-Street a "Jewish" lobby or an Israel lobby? Those are two different things. If Ben-Ami is pro-Israel, then why is he insisting on telling US politicians that they don't have to worry about the Jewish vote on Israel, since Jews "make their choices the way other Americans do?" The observation is true in part. One job of a group that is "pro-Israel" is precisely to marshall Jewish support for Israel, which is not automatic. Apparently, Ben-Ami disqualified himself and J-Street from that role, as he insisting on telling American politicians that Jews don't support Israel, a stand that he thinks is somehow pro-Israel.
Myth: Negotiating ("Engaging") with terrorists and genocidal despots can bring peace.
Ben-Ami insists on negotiations with Hamas and Iran:
Precisely because Hamas and Iran represent the most worrisome strategic challenges to Israel, responsible friends of Israel who'd like to see it live in security for its next 60 years should be engaging with them to search for alternatives to war
He needs to study the case of Chamberlain and Hitler.
Myth: A pro-Israel group can focus exclusively on pressuring Israel to make concessions.
A group that has no support program for Isaeli policies, and focuses only on persuading the US government to pressure Israel into making concessions cannot be considered a pro-Israel lobby for obvious reasons.
Myth:Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah are good for Israel.
Hardly. Must we cozy up to a corrupt group of people who insist, in Arabic, that their ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel? Abbas may be a negotiating partner or a peace partner and a lesser evil than Hamas, but we should not have illusions about Abbas and Fatah. Our relations with Fatah and Abbas should be correct. We don't need to be punishing Palestinians, but we need to defend ourselves and we don't need to be helping them undermine Israeli positions.
Myth: Undermining Abbas by negotiating with Hamas can advance peace
J-Street wants to negotiate with Hamas while at the same time supporting a peace process. J-Street should remember that Abbas and Fatah are the only peace partners for all their faults. Negotiating with Hamas and legitimizing Hamas will ruin the standing of Fatah and is suicide for the peace process. If you make a deal with Hamas, Abbas goes away and you have no partner.
Myth: The United States had a leading role in peace diplomacy in the Middle East
Ben-Ami tells us:
The best gift that Israel's friends here could give this gallant, embattled democracy on its milestone birthday would be returning the United States to its leading role in active diplomacy to end the conflicts in the Middle East -- and help a secure, thriving Israel find a permanent, accepted home among the community of nations.
The US has no leading role to return to. The Israeli-Egyptian peace was the product of an initiative by Anwar Sadat and Israeli reciprocation. After the Israelis and Egyptians prepared the ground, the Americans were brought in and were somewhat reluctant. The peace with Jordan was a Jordanian and Israeli initiative. The United States was asked to give pro-forma blessing and money, and to get a photo-op. The negotiations with Palestinians that led to the Oslo DOP were an Israeli and Palestinian initiative. America has played a role, but never a leading role. It could never accomplish anything that the sides did not already want. When the Oslo process fell apart and the Palestinians began attacking Israel, America demonstrated that it is worthless as a guarantor of peace because it did not do anything to stop the terror. Worse, it prevented Israel from doing anything. If America wants to have a "leading role" in peace, it has to be ready to demonstrate that it will stand behind the solutions it has brokered. In this respect, America has a "perfect" record and so does the UN - they have always imposed solutions, and then Israel paid the price for the "solutions." This has been true since the partition plan and the internationalization of Jerusalem, right up to and including the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and participation of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. Both of the last were done at the behest of the Americans (Israel wanted to remove only some of the settlements) and resulted in the mess that exists today. Practically speaking, there can be no peace as long as Hamas rules Gaza. Is J-Street going to get the US to root out Hamas?
Myth: All Zionists who oppose J-Street and negotiations with Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah are neocon troglodytes who think John Hagee is wonderful
Ben Ami wrote:
Are Israel and American Jewry really so desperate that we must cozy up to people whose messianic dreams entail having us all killed or converted to Christianity? Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, and his ilk believe that Israel dare not cede any territory in the quest for peace, claiming that the Bible promised all of the holy land to the Jews.
A minor point - Hagee does not, as a matter of fact, believe in conversion of the Jews, so Ben-Ami created another myth right there. Don't confuse him with the facts. Not everyone agrees with Hagee's presence at an AIPAC meeting, which was not appropriate, but Hagee is not Ahmadinejad or Hamas. Are Jewish progressives really so desperate that we must cozy up to Hamas? Or are Zionists so secure that they can reject the hand of friendship from anyone? If mighty America can accept reactionary Saudi Arabia as an ally, how can the tiny Zionist movement reject the friendship of John Hagee and Christian Zionists? Are they really worse than Salafi Muslim fanatics? We do not have to agree with everything Hagee says about Catholics, territories and theology, but we can politely accept his support and work with him on the issues that are important to us. Can we say the same about Hamas or Iran?
Beware of Americans bearing gifts. About "deliverables:"
There is no burning sense in Washington, the official said, that something has to "be delivered" on this visit, but rather that the "deliverable" is the visit itself, Bush's second here since the beginning of the year.
But there is a sense that Israel has to "deliver" concessions to the Palestinians, right? Maybe the US "deliverables" should be policy changes rather than better bombs.
US officials on Monday downplayed Israeli expectations that US President George W. Bush, during his three-day visit here beginning Wednesday, will bring with him "parting gifts" to shore up Israel's qualitative military and strategic advantage before he leaves office.
According to the officials, there are ongoing intense discussions between Israel and the US on a host of both military and diplomatic issues, but that it is improbable Bush would feel the need to "tie up all the lose ends" on this trip, especially since this visit is not a working visit, but primarily a ceremonial one.
The speculation that Bush would give Israel a grocery cart full of state-of-the-art weaponry or technology is coming from those eager to receive the goods, not from those on the giving end, the source said.
The source pointed out that with the exception of a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, Bush's visit will be mostly state affairs, protocol and ceremonial.
"This visit is not chock-full of meetings," the official said. "It is not heavy on substance. It is a couple of speeches and a collective high-five."
There is no burning sense in Washington, the official said, that something has to "be delivered" on this visit, but rather that the "deliverable" is the visit itself, Bush's second here since the beginning of the year.
Despite US denials, Israeli diplomatic officials continued to say they expected Bush to announce the sale to Israel of a package of military hardware that would upgrade Israel's qualitative strategic advantage.
Top Israeli defense delegations have traveled to the US in recent months for talks in the White House and the Pentagon regarding a number of Israeli requests for advanced military platforms.
One request has centered on the F-22 - a stealth bomber currently operational in the US - which came up during recent talks in Washington. Israel has asked to be allowed to acquire the jet - currently under congressional sales ban - in face of Iranian attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon. The F-22 can avoid radar detection and is the today the world's most advanced fighter jet.
In addition to discussing the F-22, the defense officials also spoke with their US counterparts about receiving two new and advanced models of the JDAM smart bomb in order to retain Israel's qualitative edge over Saudi Arabia, which is supposed to receive the standard smart-bomb kit.
Israel is also in talks with the Pentagon over the possibility of connecting to a US worldwide early-warning ballistic missile system. Israel has connected to the radar system in the past - during the First Gulf War in 1991 and ahead of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Meanwhile, in a strong hint to Iran, OC IAF Maj.-Gen. Elazar Shkedy told reporters Monday that "nothing is impossible. The IAF provides outstanding solutions for different issues including challenges that are far away."
"The IAF is outstanding and ready for any missions the state will give it," said Shkedy, who on Tuesday will finish up four years in his position and be replaced by Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan.
Shkedy said he was "deeply disturbed" by the rhetoric in Iran. "I see how they are developing different capabilities with airplanes, cruise missiles and on the ground and I think we need to take what they say very seriously," he said.
Imagine your reaction if you were told by someone that they "recognised Australia's right to exist". I suspect they would be introduced to a range of expletives with which they were not familiar. Now you know how Israelis feel as they celebrate their nation's 60th birthday. That's 59 more than most predicted.
In the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, debate raged as to how to resolve the claims of Arabs and Jews to the British mandated territory of Palestine. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations accepted the recommendation of its Special Committee on Palestine, by 33 votes to 13, to divide the territory into two states, one Arab, one Jewish.
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, made it clear that it was far from what he wanted, but on behalf of the Jewish people he accepted. This was that moment in history where the problem could have been solved. Had the Arab nations agreed, the bitterness and acrimony of the previous 70 years would have ended and tens of thousands of lives would not have been lost during the ensuing 60 years. Instead the Arabs set out to strangle Israel at its birth.
From November 1947 until the British withdrawal on May 14, 1948, savage fighting broke out between the Haganah and Arab irregulars. On May 15, the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, with the help of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Libya, attacked Israel. The Israel Defence Forces, drawn from a Jewish population of 650,000 and equipped with light arms, with no navy or air force, defended itself against an Arab population in excess of 100 million. To the world's surprise, Israel survived. Somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000 Arabs became refugees.
Terrible things happen in war, and the Middle East conflict has been no exception. Arab propagandists who allege that Deir Yassin, in 1948, was a massacre of Arabs by Jews, conveniently ignore endless massacres of Jews by Arabs, including Hebron, Kfar Etzion, Hadassah Hospital and Safed, to name but a few.
Nor do they tell us of the likely fate of 650,000 Jews if the Arabs had won.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who spent the war as a guest of Hitler and visited Auschwitz with Himmler, was so impressed he planned a similar death camp for Palestine. "Our fundamental condition for co-operating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine," he said.
Fast forward to 1967 when the Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, moved tens of thousands of troops into the Sinai, ordered the United Nations forces out and blocked the Straits of Tiran, thus denying Israel access to the Indian Ocean. "We intend to open a general assault against Israel. This will be total war. Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel," he said.
Hafez al-Assad, then Syria's defence minister and later president, made his views clear while massing his troops on the Golan Heights. "I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation." No equivocation there.
The most admirable trait of Arab leaders is their honesty. Every one of note, including the Palestine Liberation Organisation's Yasser Arafat, Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah and the present Hamas leadership, have made it clear they would destroy Israel.
Then there's the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tireless pursuer of nuclear weapons, who made his intentions clear when he announced that "Israel should be wiped off the map", although he claimed he had been quoted out of context.
We Jews have traditionally been slow learners, but we have learnt that when people say they want to kill us, it's best to believe them.
The terrible tragedy of the last 60 years is that no one need have died, and that the infusion of some of the brightest from around the world has created an expanding, thriving, pulsating Israeli economy and culture that could have been shared by the Arab world, instead of them wallowing in the squalor and misery experienced by all but the oil-rich states. As an Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban, once said: "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
Barry Cohen was a federal Labor MP from 1969 until 1990.
Our friend and colleague in Lebanon Elie Fawaz writes in to remind us that The War for Lebanon has not even begun yet in earnest and Hezbollah's "victory" in Beirut is not all it seems:
"So, we know that Hezbollah's well-trained fighters are in control of most of west Beirut. The decision taken by Walid Jumblat and Saad al-Hariri not to fight back in Beirut, but rather hand most of their positions to the army ended any illusion regarding the sanctity of the "resistance" that it would never turn its weapons inward, for now its hands are dripping with the blood of innocent Lebanese. But it's different in the Chouf where Jumblatt's forces bloodied Hezbollah.
"The Chouf is calm now after fighting over the weekend in which forces belonging to Talal Arslan, part of the Hezbollah-led opposition, jumped sides and joined alongside Jumblatt's men. As the Progressive Socialist Party website reports: 'The free people of the Shouf roll back an attack by the Iranian militias causing severe casualties in lives and equipment.'
"Hence, Jumblatt sounded more assertive last night on LBC news because he knows he got the upper-hand in the Chouf battles (Reuters is reporting at least 14 Hezbollah gunmen killed. Meanwhile, the PSP website is claiming 32 Hezbollah fighters killed and 250 wounded.). He was willing to hand his offices over to the army to deflect some of the tension and because he wants to avoid a civil war."
In short, what happened in West Beirut was a given. According to a report from the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar, this coup had been planned well in advance and its mastermind was the recently assassinated Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh. The government may in fact have forced Nasrallah to show his hand at a time of its choosing, not his. Hezbollah's walkover in Beirut came as a surprise to no one; nor did the performance of the army, except perhaps the Bush administration which must now reconsider the amount of money it has spent on equipment and training for the Lebanese Armed Forces.
As for the pro-government fighters in Beirut, contrary to most press accounts, there are no Sunni "militias" in the capital. Rather, it is mostly defensive armament, private citizens with small arms defending their families, homes and property. So it is hardly any surprise that Hezbollah managed to overrun Sunni neighborhoods easily. But that is merely one small part of Lebanon, and while the attention of the foreign press has focused on fighting in one sector of the capital, events throughout the rest of the country suggest that Hezbollah's "rout" is illusory. Tony Badran, drawing on various Lebanese accounts and his own reporting, offers this account:
"After taking over West Beirut, Hezbollah tried to move to the Shouf, where there are two Shiite towns, Kayfoun and Qmatiyye. Hezbollah is trying to link them up to the Dahieh through the Karameh road, which links Dahieh to Choueifat-Aramoun-Doha-Deir Qoubel-Aytat-Kayfoun and Qmatiye, so that it can make encroachments, maintain access routes and not allow the Druze to surround the two Shiite towns.
"That was the plan, but Hezbollah got a severe beating in the Shouf. They were not able to penetrate anything, relying instead for the first time in the current fighting on artillery/mortar fire. To no avail. Yesterday alone we heard that seven Hezbollah fighters who tried to infiltrate got killed.
"Hence, Hezbollah burned its Druze ally, Talal Arslan. Whatever tiny following Arslan had before this, it's safe to say it has been seriously damaged. Witness for instance the fate of Syria's little Druze creation, the pitbull Wi'am Wahhab, who, it is rumored, has taken his followers (which on a good day may actually reach about 100) and left the Shouf altogether.
"Meanwhile in Northern Lebanon, the pro-opposition Alawites are being slammed by Sunnis in the Baal Mohsen area. Similarly, Sunnis in the Akkar area in the north attacked and torched offices of the SSNP, Baath party, Hezbollah and Aoun, killing a good number of SSNPs. As with Arslan, we see a parallel development, former PM Omar Karami, a Sunni who is at the same time trying to support Hezbollah while shoring up his Sunni bona fides. So he lamented the "deep wound" that has occurred between Sunnis and Shia, and told Hezbollah that if this becomes a sectarian fight, then we have two choices: to either stay home, or fight with our sect.
"So far we've had the luxury of not seeing this sad charade play out in the Christian areas. Sleiman Frangieh has been inconspicuously quiet these last few days. Michel Aoun, on the other hand, can't help himself. So, while there are rumors that he might be urging Hezbollah in to East Beirut, others are watching to see if Nasrallah will attempt to do with the tiny Shiite communities in Nab'a, Metn, and Keserwan/Jbeil, what they did with Qmatiyye and Kayfoun.
"And so, the Party of God has achieved the 'great victory' of conquering a few Beiruti streets, terminating the credibility of the army, hastening the prospect of its disintegration, and damaging beyond repair for the foreseeable future, the Shiites' ties to the Lebanese social fabric."
Hezbollah and its allies have won one small battle in a war that has just begun.
Shmuel Rosner raises an issue that has been nibbling away at my mind for a while, but he may be missing the main point. What is important is how a group or person acts, not their announcement that they are "pro-Israel" or other announced principles, and what they do in balance.
If the J Street lobby focuses almost exclusively on peace negotiations and is exclusively critical of Israel and doesn't stand up in defense of Israel at all, it is not "pro-Israel." The same is true of Brit Tzedek and other groups.
For US political candidates the criteria are different. Nobody should expect them to be lobbyists for Israel. Barack Obama's stands against Iran and defense of Israel certainly put him in the pro-Israel camp. We haven't seen similar activities or announcements from the "pro-Israel" J Street lobby. But the question in deciding among political candidates is "who has the best policy for the Middle East?"
What Does It Mean To Be "Pro-Israel"?The election, and the creation of a new dovish Jewish lobby group, brings the question to the fore. By Shmuel Rosner Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2008, at 1:23 PM ET
William Daroff is vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office at United Jewish Communities, an organization representing America's Jewish federations. In other words, he's a lobbyist. Daroff is also one of the country's better-connected Jewish operatives. In recent months, he has been called upon to moderate dozens of panels aimed at Jewish activists and professionals, dealing with the hot topic of the day: the 2008 election and the Jewish community.
This election has reignited an old debate: Which party is better for Israelthe Republicans or the Democrats? Assuming that Jewish voters care about this question, the parties have to make their case if they want Jewish voters to support them.
Jewish representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties are invited to most of the panels Daroff moderates. After a long string of forums, Daroff has noticed that the two parties' line of argument is markedly different.
The Democratic representative will often say: Both parties are good for Israel; it's a bipartisan issue; let's move on to discuss health care or the mortgage crisis.
The Republican will respond: Not so fast. Democrats are trying to avoid the issue because they recognize their weakness and know that Republican support for the Jewish state is much stronger than theirs.
It's a cyclical debate with no end and little meaning until you define what it means to be pro-Israel. Historically, Israel has relied on support from both sides of the aisle, and it would clearly be better off if that situation continues. But at the root of the Republican claim is a niggling kernel of truth: Democratic voters do not side with Israel at the same rate and with the same enthusiasm as Republican voters do. At least if you accept the definitions most pollsters use to define a pro-Israel position.
Take, for example, a recent Gallup poll about Americans' most- and least-favored nations. Israel, fairly popular with Americans, is "viewed more favorably by Republicans than by Democrats," the survey reports. Eighty-four percent of Republicans rank it favorably, compared with only 64 percent of Democrats. This is hardly a new phenomenon: Back in 2006, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that Republicans favored alignment with Israel over neutrality in the Israeli-Arab conflict 64 percent to 29 percent. By contrast, only 39 percent of Democrats supported alignment with Israel, while 54 percent favored neutrality.
But is favoring "neutrality" less pro-Israel than favoring alignment with Israel? Does sympathizing with the terrible fate of the Palestinians make someone less supportive of Israel?
This question isn't of concern to only the political parties. A new organization, J Street, presents a similar challenge to those trying to define the meaning of being a pro-Israel American. J Street is a dovish new Jewish-American lobby groupself-tagged "pro-Israel"that will push the United States to become more involved in its declared "No. 1 priority," achieving piece between Israel and the Palestinians.
Many of the people active in this group don't just believe that the U.S. government should be more active, but also that "active" means pressuring the Israeli government toward compromises. "Like a scout forcefully helping an old lady across the street?" I asked one of its leaders. "Perhaps," he replied. "Before she's hit by a truck." In the eyes of J Street members, this desire to save Israel from itself is what makes the project "pro-Israel." If pressuring the Israeli government was not traditionally considered a "pro-Israel" position, they argue, it is mainly because those traditional definitions were skewed.
"For too long, the only voices politicians and policy makers have heard on American policy toward Israel and the Middle East have been from the far right," complains the group's Web site. In recent years, said Alan Solomonta leading supporter of the group and a Jewish supporter of Barack Obama's"neocons, right-of-center Jewish leaders, and Christian evangelicals" were the people tasked with delineating the "pro-Israel" position. Obama himself expressed a similar sentiment a couple of weeks ago: "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel, and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel."
The situation was tilted in one directionso the new group is trying to tip it the other way.
Obama does not like the "pro-Likud" approach, but he wants the benefit of being seen as a pro-Israel candidate. All American politicians do (except, perhaps, Patrick Buchanan). "In political life in America today, everyone says they're a friend of Israel," wrote Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to the Clinton administration, in his new book The Much Too Promised Land. And it's true: If you lower the bar enough, everybody is a friend; everybody is "pro-Israel" as long as they don't actively agitate for Israel's demise.
Jimmy Carter, one of the most vocal critics of Israeli policies and of the "Israel lobby" in America, said two weeks ago that all he wants is "to bring peace to Israel. The security of Israel is paramount." Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimerauthors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a book highly critical of Israelalso say that Israel has a moral and legal right to exist. Are they "pro-Israel" because they do not say that they want it to be destroyed?
J Streetwhose leaders are also very critical of Israel's policiesis more specific. It states that "U.S. support for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is an historic and legitimate commitment" and that "maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge" is necessary. Is that the right policy for Israel? That's another debate. But the policy J Street advocates is clearly so different in nature from the traditional positions of "pro-Israel" advocacy groups that having it under the same roof becomes strange. It leaves the wondering citizen with a somewhat redundant definition of the "pro-Israel" camp
And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Defining someone as "pro-Israel"or, for that matter, pro-anything or anti-anythingis a way for people to simplify complicated questions when searching for a political party, a candidate, or an organization they would like to support. The problem is that along the way the term has been used so oftento describe so many conflicting positionsthat it has become practically meaningless, more confusing than clarifying.
So maybe now, for Israel's 60th birthday, there's one last position that the "pro-Israel" camp can agree on: It is time to dump the term. Those Democrats might be right when they tell William Daroff: "We are all pro-Israel." But Republicans are also right when they insist: "We should still talk about the specifics." Without specifics, being "pro-Israel" is almost like being pro-great-weather or pro-tasty-food.
For many years, Benny Morris's work was seen as blaming Israel for the 1948 flight of the Palestinian refugees. Excerpts from his books were quoted selectively by Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim and others to "prove" his point. Morris did not object or take issue with this view until a few years ago. His actual work in fact, was always careful to just avoid pointing the finger of blame unequivocally, and on each page of his various books, you can find conclusions that appear to contradict other conclusions. He also quoted Ben Gurion and others out of context and selectively, as if to prove the point that Israeli leaders were contemplating transfer, and he gave undue weight to the opinions of Joseph Weitz, a transfer advocate, which were not accepted policies.
'I haven't revealed any smoking gun," says Benny Morris, sitting in a Jerusalem café.
That muffled drumbeat on the eve of publication of his latest book - a history of the War of Independence - may be reassuring to Israelis still shaken by the smoking gun he laid on the table with his first book. That tome, on the Palestinian refugees, revealed that many of those who fled in 1948 were deliberately uprooted by Israel.
Morris's new book, called 1948, reshapes half a century's published research on the first Arab-Israeli war, vitalizes it with his own extensive archival forays and weaves a tale so gripping that even an informed reader feels he is learning about the country's early history for the first time. (Disclosure: This writer worked at the desk next to Morris's in the newsroom of The Jerusalem Post when the world was younger.)
Morris's book on the refugees, which brought him international renown when published two decades ago, made him a hero to the political Left, which saw him boldly acknowledging the plight inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. It made him anathema to the political Right, which saw him gratuitously granting comfort and political ammunition to the country's enemies. In subsequent interviews, Morris made it clear that both sides had him wrong: The tragedy which overtook the Palestinians was something that merited an honest historical account, he argued, but not an apology. The Arabs had started the war with the intention of driving out or annihilating the Jews. Furthermore, he says, if a large, demonstrably hostile and fast-growing Arab minority had subsequently remained in place, a Jewish state would not have taken root.
Despite the new book's title, the story it tells begins in 1881 with the onset of modern Jewish settlement in Palestine; the chapters devoted to the pre-1948 years are among Morris's most absorbing. A sense of déjà vu that the book sometimes evokes comes from recognition that the underlying state of play a century ago and 60 years ago is often still the state of play today.
The 1948 war was a conflict between two national movements, but something else underlay the passions, says Morris. "It was also a jihad. 'To wipe out the infidel' - that's what drove the masses in the squares of Cairo and Baghdad to demand war and that's what drove the Arab leadership in making war. I don't know how much they were thinking about the Palestinians."
The Jews were divided into contentious political camps but it was rare for them to employ violence against each other and they proved able to achieve broad unity on major issues in orderly fashion. However, differences within the Palestinian camp - between militants led by the Husseini family and the more moderate faction led by the Nashashibis - were bloody and debilitating to the Palestinian cause, a theme echoed in the current Hamas-Fatah face-off. Lack of common purpose was in abundant evidence. The Nashashibis as well as the Husseinis publicly condemned the influx of Jews but both secretly sold land to them and hundreds of Arabs collaborated with the Zionist intelligence agencies.
MORRIS DIVIDES the war into two segments. The "civil war" between Jewish Palestinians and Arab Palestinians, the latter supported by volunteers from Arab countries, lasted from December 1947 to May 1948. The militias had initial successes in cutting roads to Jewish settlements and imposing a siege on Jerusalem, but when the Hagana went over to the offensive in April it was able to decisively crush them.
The major test came when 20,000 troops from the Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi armies crossed into Palestine following Israel's declaration of independence on May 14. (The Lebanese army did not cross the border but provided some artillery support. Israeli troops did later cross into Lebanon.) On paper, the Hagana outnumbered the invading Arab forces, but half the 30,000-person Jewish army, says Morris, was made up of rear-echelon troops, while the Arab contingents were all combat units. No less important, the Jews had no artillery when the war began and virtually no tanks, while the Arab forces had both.
"At this stage, when the Jews didn't have heavy equipment, motivation was a critical factor. They really did stop tanks with Molotov cocktails at Deganya and elsewhere, and at Kibbutz Nirim 60 members and a few Palmahnikim really did fight off 600 Egyptians."
Although the dispatch of the four armies to the Palestinian arena was seemingly a high point of Arab unity, that soon proved illusory. There was no effective joint command and each army had its own agenda. The clearest was that of Jordan's Arab Legion. King Abdullah intended initially to seize only territories assigned to the Arabs by the UN partition resolution. He changed his plan so as to include Jerusalem - designated by the UN as an international enclave - when the Jews began attacks on the Old City and he feared the loss of the Muslim holy places, says Morris. But he never attacked areas assigned by the partition plan to the Jews.
"The Jordanians came into the war to take the West Bank. The other armies were out to destroy Israel if they could but, if not, then to take as much land as they could and also to prevent the Jordanians from taking too much."
The Egyptians, driving up the coast toward Tel Aviv, sent a column northeast through Hebron to Jerusalem not to support the Jordanians but, says Morris, in an effort to prevent the southern part of what became the West Bank from falling into Jordanian hands. Israeli attacks forced the Egyptians back.
The Jordanians blocked the road to Jerusalem at Latrun not with the intention of cutting off and capturing the Jewish half of Jerusalem as the Israelis believed, but to prevent the passage of Israeli reinforcements that might enable the Jews in Jerusalem to capture the Arab half of the city. Although Jordanian armored cars were stopped, with Molotov cocktails, when the Legion attempted to capture Notre Dame monastery on the seam between the two halves of the city, it had no intention of risking a plunge into the built-up Jewish neighborhoods. One of the first things the Jordanians did, says Morris, was to disarm the Palestinian militias and incorporate the West Bank into Jordan in defiance of the UN resolution and of the Palestinian elite who wanted a Palestinian state.
As the war continued, with intermittent truces, both sides grew in strength. By the end of the year, the Hagana had 110,000 men under arms, while the Arab forces numbered 60,000-80,000. By this time only the Egyptian army was engaged in active combat.
The UN partition resolution had allocated 6,000 square miles to the Jewish state. By war's end, an additional 2,000 square miles had been won in the field.
WHEN THE WAR had started, 630,000 Palestinian Jews had faced twice as many Palestinian Arabs. The latter held a greater part of the country and were assured the intervention of the Arab armies on their side when the British left. How, then, did the Jews prevail?
"They were far better organized for war," says Morris. "There was command and control, logistics, intelligence. Kibbutzim had trenches, barbed-wire fences and perimeter lighting. Much of this was done during the civil war before the real attack came."
Also, he says, the Jews were fighting with their backs to the wall. "They were fighting with their families alongside them and the Holocaust at their back, only three years earlier."
The Arabs were also fighting for hearth and home but knew that if defeated they would find refuge at no great distance.
At the end of May the first fighter planes arrived from Czechoslovakia. There would be 20 serviceable aircraft at war's end. The bulk of the pilots and ground crew were foreign, with probably more than half the pilots Christian. A number of non-Muslims served with the Arab forces, including a few SS veterans.
In the confrontation between the Yishuv and the Palestinians, writes Morris, societal differences were a major factor. "One [society] highly motivated, literate, organized, semi-industrial; the other backward, largely illiterate, disorganized, agricultural." Arab society was also deeply divided along social and religious lines. "For Palestinian men, loyalty lay mainly with family, clan, village and occasionally region. Nationhood remained a vague abstraction."
The basic history of the War of Independence until a few years ago was a book written in the 1950s, The Edge of the Sword by Netanel Lorch, founder of the IDF Historical Division. In the 1990s, official archives began making accessible previously classified material on the war. This was tapped by historians Yoav Gelber and David Tal to publish books in 2000. Official archives were also the principal source for Morris, who does not believe in relying on live testimony from participants or even, if he can help it, memoirs.
"People forget and distort. Collective memory becomes confused with personal memory. And as long as a conflict is ongoing, everybody will tilt [their testimony]. I decided I would do without memoirs unless there was such a big black hole that I had to fill it somehow."
He did not even rely on the memoirs of David Ben-Gurion, the central figure in the story. "He was wholly history-conscious all his life. He doesn't lie but he omits a lot, which of course is lying."
Ben-Gurion, who apparently didn't trust memory either, would compile his diary in real time. One official describes sitting down opposite him and seeing the white-maned head lowered as Ben-Gurion transcribed their ongoing conversation into a notebook. When Ben-Gurion's head rose, the visitor knew the conversation was over. Aware that history would be looking over his shoulder, Ben-Gurion would edit the diary afterward.
"We have the diaries of others who participated in meetings in which expulsion of Arabs was discussed," says Morris. "Ben-Gurion, in describing these same meetings in his diary, would not write 'expulsions.' He would say we discussed renovation of villages or settlement of Jews in villages."
In retrospect, Morris regrets not having interviewed one player who was still alive when he began working on the book - Yitzhak Rabin, who was a senior Palmah commander in 1948. "He was a very honest man."
What Morris does rely on are official documents like operational orders, battle reports, intelligence reports and diplomatic analyses. Cabinet protocols are an important source. In the US, Morris notes, cabinet meetings are not recorded, while in Britain, cabinet minutes are taken but only a terse précis reaches print. This is aimed at giving ministers greater leeway in expressing themselves.
In Israel, a stenographer records the cabinet discussions verbatim and types them up. Ministers are able to amend their words in the printed draft but almost always these changes are limited to matters of style, since the other ministers will see the changes. On extremely sensitive subjects, entire pages are occasionally blanked out. Morris believes that the blanked-out sections from the 1948 protocols include a discussion on the expulsion of Arabs from Lod and Ramle which sat astride the main road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
A major hole for any historian of the Israel-Arab conflict is the absence of access to Arab records from any period. "Their archives are closed," says Morris. "To everybody. We don't even know what's in them."
Although an occasional document might be leaked or sold, Morris says, that is an out-of-context finding, not the product of serious archival research. Because of the presence of British officers in the Arab Legion, some material from Jordan did reach the British public records office, which Morris also researched together with American archives. Indirect access to the Arab side was available through Israeli intelligence reports, POW interrogations and diplomatic reports, including from foreign military and political attaches.
Morris hesitates to use the word "great" when asked to evaluate Ben-Gurion as a leader. "Ben-Gurion devoted all his life to accumulating power - personal power and then for his nation. He was both a gambler and cautious. He was always pushing things but pulled back when he had to."
As prime minister during the war he made critical operational decisions, but he also twice overrode his military advisers and ordered attacks on Latrun which proved costly failures.
One of Ben-Gurion's most important moves was to steer the Zionist movement away from the concept of a Greater Israel to partition. He had been enthusiastic about the recommendation of the British Peel Commission in 1937, whose partition proposal included transfer of Jews and Arabs out of the territory designated for the other group.
"He had resigned himself to the necessity of partitioning Palestine," says Morris. "He may have pushed during the war for expanding the Jewish part, and adding Jerusalem, but he never seriously thought of capturing all the Land of Israel."
Why not? "Maybe because of international circumstances. Maybe because of morality. Maybe he felt that the Palestinians deserved a chunk of Palestine."
1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War By Benny Morris Yale University Press £19.99
'The Palestine problem is still in its infancy. The preface ended with the [end of the] Mandate and Chapter One began [in November 1947]... Do not miss [the 'next installment']!" recommended the British consul general in Jerusalem midway through the 1948 War.
"Chapter One," the first war between Israel and the Arabs, was the culmination of developments and a conflict that had begun in the 1880s, when the first Zionist settlers landed on the shores of the Holy Land, their arrival and burgeoning presence increasingly resented by the local Arab population. Over the following decades, the Arabs continuously inveighed, first with the Ottoman rulers, and then with their British successors, against the Zionist influx and ambitions, and they repeatedly attacked the new settlers, initially in individual acts of banditry and terrorism and then in growingly massive outbreaks, which at first resembled nothing more than European pogroms.
The Zionists saw their enterprise and aspirations as legitimate, indeed, as supremely moral: the Jewish people, oppressed and murdered in Christendom and in the Islamic lands, was bent on saving itself by returning to its ancient land and there reestablishing its self-determination and sovereignty. But the Arab inhabitants, supported by the surrounding, awakening Arab world, decried the influx as an aggressive invasion by colonialist, inﬁdel aliens; it had to be resisted. The culminating assault on the Yishuv in 1947-1949 was a natural result of this posture of antagonism and resistance.
David Ben-Gurion well understood these contradictory perspectives. As he told his colleagues, against the backdrop of the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939: "We must see the situation for what it is. On the security front, we are those attacked and who are on the defensive. But in the political field we are the attackers and the Arabs are those defending themselves. They are living in the country and own the land, the village. We live in the Diaspora and want only to immigrate [to Palestine] and gain possession of [lirkosh] the land from them." Years later, after the establishment of Israel, he expatiated on the Arab perspective in a conversation with the Zionist leader Nahum Goldmann: "I don't understand your optimism... Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: We have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?"
To be sure, while mentioning "God," Ben-Gurion - a child of Eastern European social democracy and nationalism who knew no Arabic (though, as prime minister, he found time to study ancient Greek, to read Plato in the original, and Spanish, to read Don Quixote) - had failed fully to appreciate the depth of the Arabs' abhorrence of the Zionist-Jewish presence in Palestine, an abhorrence anchored in centuries of Islamic Judeophobia with deep religious and historical roots. The Jewish rejection of the Prophet Muhammad is embedded in the Qur'an and is etched in the psyche of those brought up on its suras. As the Muslim Brotherhood put it in 1948: "Jews are the historic enemies of Muslims and carry the greatest hatred for the nation of Muhammad."
Such thinking characterized the Arab world, where the overwhelming majority of the population were, and remain, believers. In 1943, when President Franklin Roosevelt sent out feelers about a negotiated settlement of the Palestine problem, King Ibn Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia responded that he was "prepared to receive anyone of any religion except (repeat except) a Jew." A few weeks earlier, Ibn Sa'ud had explained, in a letter to Roosevelt: "Palestine... has been an Arab country since the dawn of history and... was never inhabited by the Jews for more than a period of time, during which their history in the land was full of murder and cruelty... [There is] religious hostility... between the Muslims and the Jews from the beginning of Islam... which arose from the treacherous conduct of the Jews towards Islam and the Muslims and their prophet." Jews were seen as unclean; indeed, even those who had contact with them were seen as beyond the pale. In late 1947 the Al-Azhar University 'ulema, major authorities in the Islamic world, issued a fatwa that anyone dealing with "the Jews," commercially or economically (such as by "buying their produce"), "is a sinner and criminal... who will be regarded as an apostate to Islam, he will be separated from his spouse. It is prohibited to be in contact with him."
This anti-Semitic mindset was not restricted to Wahhabi chieftains or fundamentalist imams. Samir Rifahi, Jordan's prime minister, in 1947 told visiting newsmen, "The Jews are a people to be feared... Give them another 25 years and they will be all over the Middle East, in our country and Syria and Lebanon, in Iraq and Egypt... They were responsible for starting the two world wars... Yes, I have read and studied, and I know they were behind Hitler at the beginning of his movement."
The 1948 War, to be sure, was a milestone in a contest between two national movements over a piece of territory. But it was also - if only because that is how many if not most Arabs saw it (and see it today) - part of a more general, global struggle between the Islamic East and the West, in which the Land of Israel/Palestine figured, and still figures, as a major battlefront. The Yishuv saw itself, and was universally seen by the Muslim Arab world, as an embodiment and outpost of the European "West." The assault of 1947-1948 was an expression of the Islamic Arabs' rejection of the West and its values as well as a reaction to what it saw as a European colonialist encroachment against sacred Islamic soil. There was no understanding (or tolerance) of Zionism as a national liberation movement of another people. And, aptly, the course of the war reflected the civilizational disparity, in which a Western society, deploying superior organizational and technological skills, overcame a coalition of infinitely larger Islamic Arab societies.
Historians have tended to ignore or dismiss, as so much hot air, the jihadi rhetoric and flourishes that accompanied the two-stage assault on the Yishuv and the constant references in the prevailing Arab discourse to that earlier bout of Islamic battle for the Holy Land, against the Crusaders. This is a mistake. The 1948 War, from the Arabs' perspective, was a war of religion as much as, if not more than, a nationalist war over territory. Put another way, the territory was sacred: its violation by infidels was sufficient grounds for launching a holy war and its conquest or reconquest, a divinely ordained necessity. In the months before the invasion of 15 May 1948, King 'Abdullah, the most moderate of the coalition leaders, repeatedly spoke of "saving" the holy places. As the day of invasion approached, his focus on Jerusalem, according to Alec Kirkbride, grew increasingly obsessive. "In our souls," wrote the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, "Palestine occupies a spiritual holy place which is above abstract nationalist feelings. In it we have the blessed breeze of Jerusalem and the blessings of the Prophets and their disciples."
The evidence is abundant and clear that many, if not most, in the Arab world viewed the war essentially as a holy war. To fight for Palestine was the "inescapable obligation on every Muslim," declared the Muslim Brotherhood in 1938. Indeed, the battle was of such an order of holiness that in 1948 one Islamic jurist ruled that believers should forgo the hajj and spend the money thus saved on the jihad in Palestine. In April 1948, the mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Muhammad Mahawif, issued a fatwa positing jihad in Palestine as the duty of all Muslims. The Jews, he said, intended "to take over... all the lands of Islam." Martyrdom for Palestine conjured up, for Muslim Brothers, "the memories of the Battle of Badr... as well as the early Islamic jihad for spreading Islam and Salah al-Din's [Saladin's] liberation of Palestine" from the Crusaders. Jihad for Palestine was seen in prophetic-apocalyptic terms, as embodied in the following hadith periodically quoted at the time: "The day of resurrection does not come until Muslims fight against Jews, until the Jews hide behind trees and stones and until the trees and stones shout out: 'O Muslim, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'"
The jihadi impulse underscored both popular and governmental responses in the Arab world to the UN partition resolution and was central to the mobilization of the "street" and the governments for the successive onslaughts of November-December 1947 and May-June 1948. The mosques, mullahs, and 'ulema all played a pivotal role in the process. Even Christian Arabs appear to have adopted the jihadi discourse. Matiel Mughannam, the Lebanese-born Christian who headed the AHC-affiliated Arab Women's Organization in Palestine, told an interviewer early in the civil war: "The UN decision has united all Arabs, as they have never been united before, not even against the Crusaders... [A Jewish state] has no chance to survive now that the 'holy war' has been declared. All the Jews will eventually be massacred." The Islamic fervor stoked by the hostilities seems to have encompassed all or almost all Arabs: "No Muslim can contemplate the holy places falling into Jewish hands," reported Kirkbride from Amman. "Even the Prime Minister [Tawﬁq Abul Huda]... who is by far the steadiest and most sensible Arab here, gets excited on the subject."
Nor did this impulse evaporate with the Arab defeat. On the contrary. On 12 December 1948 the 'ulema of Al-Azhar reissued their call for jihad, specifically addressing "the Arab Kings, Presidents of Arab Republics,... and leaders of public opinion." It was, ruled the council, "necessary to liberate Palestine from the Zionist bands... and to return the inhabitants driven from their homes." The Arab armies had "fought victoriously" (sic) "in the conviction that they were fulfilling a sacred religious duty." The 'ulema condemned King 'Abdullah for sowing discord in Arab ranks: "Damnation would be the lot of those who, after warning, did not follow the way of the believers," concluded the 'ulema.
The immediate trigger of the 1948 War was the November 1947 UN partition resolution. The Zionist movement, except for its fringes, accepted the proposal. Most lamented the imperative of giving up the historic heartland of Judaism, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), with East Jerusalem's Old City and Temple Mount at its core; and many were troubled by the inclusion in the prospective Jewish state of a large Arab minority. But the movement, with Ben-Gurion and Weizmann at the helm, said "yes."
The Palestinian Arabs, along with the rest of the Arab world, said a ﬂat "no" - as they had in 1937, when the Peel Commission had earlier proposed a two-state solution. The Arabs refused to accept the establishment of a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. And, consistently with that "no," the Palestinian Arabs, in November-December 1947, and the Arab states in May 1948, launched hostilities to scupper the resolution's implementation. Many Palestinians may have been unenthusiastic about going to war - but to war they went. They may have been badly led and poorly organized; the war may have been haphazardly unleashed; and many able-bodied males may have avoided service. But Palestinian Arab society went to war, and no Palestinian leader publicly raised his voice in protest or dissent.
The Arab war aim, in both stages of the hostilities, was, at a minimum, to abort the emergence of a Jewish state or to destroy it at inception. The Arab states hoped to accomplish this by conquering all or large parts of the territory allotted to the Jews by the United Nations. And some Arab leaders spoke of driving the Jews into the sea and ridding Palestine "of the Zionist plague." The struggle, as the Arabs saw it, was about the fate of Palestine/the Land of Israel, all of it, not over this or that part of the country. But, in public, official Arab spokesmen often said that the aim of the May 1948 invasion was to "save" Palestine or "save the Palestinians," definitions more agreeable to Western ears.
The picture of Arab aims was always more complex than Zionist historiography subsequently made out. The chief cause of this complexity was that ﬂy-in-the-ointment, King 'Abdullah. Jordan's ruler, a pragmatist, was generally skeptical of the Arabs' ability to defeat, let alone destroy, the Yishuv, and fashioned his war aim accordingly: to seize the Arab-populated West Bank, preferably including East Jerusalem. No doubt, had his army been larger and Zionist resistance weaker, he would have headed for Tel Aviv and Haifa; after all, for years he had tried to persuade the Zionist leaders to agree to Jordanian sovereignty over all of Palestine, with the Jews to receive merely a small, autonomous zone (which he called a "republic") within his expanded kingdom. But, come 1948, he understood the balance of forces: the Jews were simply too powerful and too resolute, and their passion for self-determination was not to be denied.
Ordinary Qassam rockets fired until now did not usually have the range to reach Ashqelon. This is either an "improved" version or a Grad (Katyusha) rocket. Hamas can escalate violence confidently, knowing that Israel will not undertake a major attack before President Bush and other dignitaries visit Israel.
Two Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian militants hit Ashkelon on Monday morning. One of the rockets struck an area that contains many schools and kindergartens at 7 A.M., only a few minutes before the area is usually filled with children.
The second rocket fell in the Ashkelon National Park.
One woman was treated for shock and damage was caused to some homes.
On Sunday, Gaza militants fired three rockets at the western Negev, one of which exploded next to a schoolbus carrying children.
Two of the rockets, fired Sunday afternoon, hit populated areas in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.
There were no injuries in either of the strikes. The first rocket landed near Sapir College, damaging a local construction site.
The second Qassam struck near a local gas station, causing damage to the school bus. There were no casualties reported, but several people were treated for shock.
On Saturday, an Israeli civilian was killed when a mortar shell exploded as he tended his garden in the community of Kfar Aza. Jimmy Kdoshim, 48, was laid to rest in the cemetery near his home.
At least 21 rockets hit the western Negev over the weekend.
The old British Army base, a small sandstone fort, stands abandoned on a hill in Abu Ghosh, an Arab village just southwest of Jerusalem. Said Jabr was 14 when the British pulled out.
"It was on the 14th or 15th of May. I remember exactly that the British commander came to Ali Saleh, the village mukhtar (elder), and said they were going to leave and warned us to be ready," he recalled from his family home in Abu Ghosh. "Thirty-five armed villagers walked into the base to take command. But the British commander went at the same time to the kibbutz and told them the same thing.
"The British left one tank in front of the army base. Then a few tanks driven by the Haganah (the fledgling Jewish army) drove up and surrounded the army base. But we had great relations with the local kibbutzim we believe in friendship and protecting a neighbour's property, no matter who they are and the leaders of the kibbutzim. . . came to the village. They met the mukhtar, drank coffee and reached an agreement that the villagers would leave the base and the Haganah would take over. The British commander was waiting in the remaining tank to see what would happen. He saw the Abu Ghosh villagers leaving the base and shaking hands with the Haganah members, and he said, 'F****** Arabs'. Our impression was that he wanted us to kill each other. Thank God the people from both sides resolved the issue peacefully."
Mr Jabr proudly displays the Hebrew shield he was awarded by the kibbutz. It shows two hands shaking a token of thanks and friendship.
A few years ago I was engaged in an animated multi-way debate with American and other foreign policy analysts who insisted that Iran poses no existential danger to Israel. They reasoned that Iran could not realistically use nuclear weapons against Israel even if they got them, and they pointed out Iran has no border with Israel, and would have no way of invading Israel. Therefore, they could attack under a nuclear umbrella that prevented massive retaliation. So how, they asked could Iran constitute an existential danger to Israel?
They got the first part of their reply in the summer of 2006, when Hezbollah, with the consent of Iran and probably at its bidding, triggered the 2006 Second Lebanon war. Iran, both through Hezbollah and other means, has also been supporting the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups in Gaza and the West Bank. Hezbollah has boasted frequently of its aid to "Palestinian resistance."
But this week Israel was given another dramatic illustration of the escalating Iranian threat, when Hezbollah, which has virtually paralyzed the Lebanese government since December 2006, almost pulled a coup in Beirut similar to the one that Hamas engineered in Gaza. As Hezbollah terrorists overran Beirut, a frightening new prospect opened up for Israel: Lebanon is on its way to being converted into a franchise Islamic republic, a second Iran, right on our northern borders. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said:
"(Egyptian) President Hosni Mubarak recently declared that Egypt already has a border with Iran with the Gaza Strip. For us it's even worse because it's not only the Gaza Strip, but also Lebanon in the north.
Actually, it would be much worse, because Lebanon is a recognized state. If Hezbollah takes over Lebanon, they will have all the resources and rights of a state at its disposal. At the very least, Lebanon would become a training and operations base for terrorism aimed at Israel, both directly over its border with Lebanon, and through infiltration into the West Bank. We can anticipate that large numbers of Iranian Nation Guard Corps troops would be stationed there, training Islamic Jihad and Hamas members in guerrilla warfare, and recruiting Palestinian terrorists from the misery of the refugee camps. Hezbollah would also control the Lebanese army even if it would not necessarily merge with it, and it might turn that army into a potent fighting force. But that is the best case scenario. Hezbollah controlled Lebanon can provide Iran with a Mediterranean naval base and forward airbases. In the worst case scenario, it could be the staging ground for an Iranian invasion of Israel.
A Lebanese Islamic republic is clearly a threat not only to Israel, but to US and French interests in the Levant, and to neighboring Turkey. The most alarming feature of last week's crisis is that nobody did much about it. The United States issued some pro-forma warnings, and France engaged in some feverish and pointless diplomatic activity. The major activities of France and Italy were to prepare for evacuation of their citizens. True to form, they were planning the retreat. Turkey was silent, at least in public. The Arab League scheduled a meeting. Israel did nothing, because Israel, given the presence of UNIFIL in Lebanon, cannot possibly do anything. In any case, any support for the government of Fouad Saniora given by Israel would most certainly doom that government.
Ehud Olmert does not give away much information here. Other than the fact that Jerusalem is not being discussed with the Palestinians yet, there are no commitments. He was careful not to rule out an Israeli strike on Iran, but not to volunteer any information concerning a possible strike.
Ehud Olmert on prospects for peace and his political future. Lally Weymouth Newsweek Web Exclusive Updated: 8:25 PM ET May 8, 2008
On Thursday, after it was revealed that Israeli police were investigating charges that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from an American benefactor when he was mayor of Jerusalem, Olmert pledged not to resign unless he was indicted. But earlier in the week, in an interview with Newsweek's Lally Weymouth, Olmert sounded resigned to the possibility that he might stand down. He also spoke of his hopes for achieving peace with both the Syrians and the Palestinians this year. Excerpts:
Newsweek: What did you and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talk about during her visit here last week? Olmert: We talked about the ongoing discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, about the possibility of having an understanding that will lead to the realization of President Bush's visionthe two-state solution.
Do you and she think [a peace agreement with the Palestinians] is possible? Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly said when he recently left Washington that he was very disappointed. I don't want to comment about statements made by Dr. Abbas. My discussions with Condoleezza Rice are serious and in general optimistic that peace can happen--that the distance between us and the Palestinians is not such that it can't be bridged.
So do you still believe that there can be a declaration of principles or an agreement with the Palestinians [by year's end]? A more detailed and accurate outline of how a solution of the two states should look.
Does that include Jerusalem and the difficult issues (borders, refugees)? Some of the issues will be discussed later by agreement. The future of Jerusalem is one of them. It is probably going to be the last issue.
It will not be resolved by you and Abbas? Maybe yes, but in a later stage.
In Annapolis, didn't you, President Bush and President Abbas talk about concluding a statement of principles or a framework agreement by the end of this year? I don't know if you call it a statement of principles or a declaration of principles. They all amount to the same thing. We want to be able to define the vision of President Bush about the two states in a more accurate, specific and detailed manner.
I heard that you have a very good relationship with Abbas. Is that correct? Yes. Because we meet quite regularly. More or less twice a month. I don't know of any greater frequency of meetings between leaders of nations.
Is it true that the talks have gone fairly far? Yes, I think sofar enough to justify the efforts we are making and the desire to continue. Whether it is sufficient is a little bit premature to say.
What can you say about the talks in detail? Do you think Israel would give up settlements, retreat to the pre-'67 borders? How do you see the final outcome of the negotiations? Well, one can say that the borders, once agreed, will be closer to what they were in '67 than what they are today because we will give up a large part of the territories . . . in the context of full, comprehensive peace and the total end of any hostilities.
Does that mean the Palestinians will give up the right of return? I don't think they have to give it up. They don't have a right of return, and I don't think that this is on the agenda as far as Israel is concerned.
You said [a Palestinian state] would be closer to the pre-'67 borders. Do you think you can achieve such an agreement? I think that the distance between us and them is not unbridgeable. I think that there are three issues which can be resolved: One is the territorial issue; the other is security arrangements; and the third is refugees.
Do you want peace with Syria, and do you think it's obtainable with President Bashar al-Assad? We are very unhappy with the continued intensive involvement of Syria in the affairs of Lebanon and the lack of a democratic process in electing a new president in Lebanon. We are also unhappy with the continued links between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. [But] the relations between us and Syria have to be reexamined, [as well as] the possibility of making peace. It's not something that can be done publicly. I don't mind that President Assad made an announcement that there will be negotiations, but the actual negotiations ought to be discussed quietly. In principle, we are ready for it if they are.
In order to have a full peace with Israel, would Syria have to break with Iran? Is such a break possible? Look, I don't know if this is a possibility or how you can describe it in terms of probabilities. But one thing I know, if I don't check it, I will never find out. I think at the end of the day, this will have to be the choice of Syria.
Have there been direct Israel-Syrian talks, or have they all been conducted via the Turks? I prefer not to go into these details.
Hasn't the United States been apprehensive about Israel-Syria negotiations for some time? The international and local press . . . [has left] the impression that America does not allow Israel to engage in negotiations with Syria. This is not true. I never heard from my friend George W. Bush any warning or any request not to negotiate with the Syrians. I think that if the Syrians will handle the negotiations with us in an appropriate manner, they will be surprised to see how these negotiations can improve their status with America. My personal view is that no one can be of better help to this process than President Bush. Because any new president in America, if confronted with this issue, will have to wait two years at least until he learns enough and finds the appropriate time to devote to this, while Bush knows, Bush is familiar, and Bush understands. Therefore, if one is interested in a [Syrian-Israeli] process that ultimately leads to a public endorsement by the United States of America, then he has to hurry up. I believe, for reasons that I don't want to go into, that for Syria, the road to Washington must cross Jerusalem. I know what I'm talking about.
Officials in the U.S. government are reportedly concerned that Syria's real price for peace is Lebanon. The U.S. is interested in the survival of the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora. I know what our expectations are. I know what the Americans' expectations are. I'm not going to do anything which [is in contradiction] to what my understanding of [what] the fundamental interests of the United States are in this part of the world.
So is this a pure deal about the Golan? I didn't say that. I said that this is an attempt to achieve peace between Israel and Syria. And at the same time, to also make sure that the interests of free, democratic Lebanon are well protected. What the ingredients of peace [are] is something that will have to be discussed. I would not limit it to only one issue. It has to be peace from both sides--no threats or attacks from both sides.
What is your assessment of Assad? Look, Assad is the president of Syria. He enjoys fairly effective control over his country. And I'm looking forward to negotiating with him.
What will you do about the situation in Gaza? Your towns keep getting hit by missiles, and weapons keep getting smuggled in from Egypt. Is it getting to the point where you have no other choice but to take action? I don't like this terminology that you have no choice. You always have a choice. While we were talking, two Qassam rockets landed in open areas near the regional municipality of Eshkol. Then there were a series of seven rockets shot from Gaza to [the Israeli town of] Sderot.
Will there be an Egyptian brokered ceasefire with Hamas? There is no talk about a peace brokered between us and Hamas. The question is whether Egypt will fully understand and support the conditions set forth by Israel for refraining from further military actions. Hamas will have to stop all of the terrorist actionsground, ground-to-air, rockets, mortar shells, suicidal attacksany kind of attacks by all the organizations.. . . Stopping all the violent and hostile actions means ending the smuggling of arms into the Gaza territory.
You mean via Egypt? Through Egypt by the Palestinians. We don't blame Egypt.
Why not? Why can't they stop it? They tried to stop it, and we hope that they will become more effective in stopping it.
What about the investigations you are dealing with? I'm dealing with them, and, unfortunately, as a matter of law, I can't talk about it. It's unpleasant. It's mostly referring to campaign contributions.
Have you thought of saying, 'Okay, I'll just resign' . . . I don't really see that this will bring any better outcome for the country at this point. Not that a person is indispensable or irreplaceable. . . . But given the circumstances right now, I think it will not do good that I step down at this point. I have to think about it. I have to think about the possible ramifications of an early retirement. I was not born to be prime minister, and I'm not going to stay here until the end of my life. I'm too young for that. Right now, I think it will be a mistake [to leave], and I have a job to accomplish, a vision to realize. This is the great vision of peace which I think is possible this time more than ever.
What about Iran? You told me over a year ago that tolerating a nuclear weapon was not possible. Yes, Israel will not tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of people who say openly, explicitly and publicly that they want to wipe Israel off the map. Why should we?
If you're not prepared to live with it, is Israel capable [of striking Iran's nuclear facilities]? I don't want to go into this issue every time I'm asked, 'Do you have plans?' The United States is the leader of the international effort to stop the Iranians from becoming nuclear. The European countries, the Russians, the Chinese, the Japaneseall the most powerful nations of the world are joined together in an effort to stop the nuclearization of Iran. I hope they will be successful.
But didn't Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just say that he has added 6,000 more centrifuges to his program . . . got them up and running? We have to listen to him, but that doesn't mean that we have to believe everything he says.
It's widely believed in the U.S. that after the latest National Intelligence Estimate [on Iran, which concluded with 'high confidence' that Iran had shelved its nuclear weapons program in 2003], the U.S. will not act. We have a different opinion about [the Iranian nuclear program] from the NIE, and we haven't changed our attitude. The Israeli information is available for our friends to examine and to come to other conclusions.
You mean that you think [Iran's nuclear program] is closer to being usable? The main point of the NIE, the estimate, was that there is no evidence that the Iranians restarted their [covert] military program since it was closed in 2003. . . . Based on the information we have, the military program continues and has never been stopped. If this program continues, at some point they will be in possession of a nuclear weapon.
There have been recent revelations in Congress about the North Korean-built Syrian nuclear reactor bombed by Israel last September. The director of the CIA actually said that the Syrian reactor would have had enough plutonium to make two bombs. What do you say? I heard about the briefing that [CIA Director Michael] Hayden gave Congress. But I didn't talk about it before the briefing, and I won't talk about [it] now.
You can't say anything about September 6th? We are not looking backward. We are looking forward. We are looking now to establish a peace process with Syria. URL:
Israelis got a first demonstration Sunday of the electric car that developers hope will revolutionize transportation in the country and serve as a pilot for the rest of the world.
The silver car doing circles in a Tel Aviv parking lot looked like a regular sedan - except it had no exhaust pipe and there was an electric socket where the mouth of the gas tank should have been.
The Silicon Valley start-up Project Better Place hopes the fully electric prototype will be on Israel's streets in large numbers beginning at the end of 2010.
Backers of the project say the car will drastically reduce dependence on oil, cut emissions and put Israel at the forefront of international efforts to develop more environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Israel's government endorsed the project in January, and a Danish energy company also has joined as a partner.
But experts say technical pitfalls, such as a limited battery range, remain before the car will be marketable, and other car manufacturers are gambling on gas-electric hybrids as the green cars of the immediate future.
If the company's plan proceeds on schedule, Israel will be the first country to have electric cars on its highways in large numbers.
On the dashboard of the Renault sedan presented Sunday, the gas gauge was replaced by a screen showing how much battery power remained. In a test drive, the car accelerated quickly - the company says it can go from zero to 60 miles (100 kilometers) per hour in eight seconds - and the engine remained nearly inaudible even at high speed.
The project is a joint venture between automotive giant Renault-Nissan, which is building the car, and Project Better Place, which came up with the business model and is supposed to operate a recharging grid to be built across Israel beginning in 2009.
Several hundred cars are scheduled to hit Israel's streets in a pilot run next year, the company says, with larger numbers to arrive in late 2010.
The initiative is being led by Shai Agassi, an Israeli-American entrepreneur and high-tech wunderkind who raised $200 million (129.38 million) to get the project off the ground. He also got Israel's government to endorse it earlier this year and promise tax incentives to promote the new vehicles when they go on the market.
At the time, experts said there are still plenty of technical pitfalls that need to be surmounted before the car becomes available to the general public.
Critics have pointed at the car battery's limited range - 125 miles (200 kilometers) - as a potentially major deterrent to consumers.
For long drives, motorists will be able to replace the battery at about 150 swap stations expected to be built around the country. The battery swap is expected to take the same amount of time as filling a tank of gas. For shorter journeys, drivers will be able to recharge the batteries at home or at the office.
Drivers will pay a monthly subscription for the batteries, with different plans like those of cellphone users. The company says the rates will come to less than the average monthly expenditure on gasoline.
Following Israel's lead, the Danish energy company DONG Energy AS adopted the Better Place model in March with a plan to have thousands of cars running on electricity generated by wind turbines by 2011.
If the company's plans remain on schedule, Israeli consumers will be able to purchase an electric car by the end of 2010 for around the price of a regular sedan.
Hari has invoked the usual "nobody lets us talk" complaint to defend inaccurracies and fake quotes.
HonestReporting critiqued Johann Hari's op-ed in the Independent, systematically exposing the many distortions, omissions and Hari's reliance on fringe revisionist sources and individuals. We even caught Hari employing a quote that he had previously been warned was false. Despite this, he has responded not by addressing the issues raised but by attacking us:
In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence - and to a large degree, it works....
There was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile "pro-Israel" writers and media monitoring groups - including Honest Reporting and Camera - said I am an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh, while Melanie Phillips even linked the stabbing of two Jewish people in North London to articles like mine. Vast numbers of e-mails came flooding in calling for me to be sacked.
Responding in his own Independent column, Howard Jacobson, a writer highly regarded by the political liberal left in the UK, argues that Hari is mistaken
to invoke the spectre of a campaign, a front mobilised with aforethought to defame anyone who speaks ill of Israel. Indeed, accusing your detractors of carrying out a campaign often amounts to carrying out one in return - for it is a smear in itself to accuse people who disagree with you of acting out of no other motive than malice. He who says I smear him when I don't smears me.
Something else doesn't feel quite right to me about Johann Hari's unearthing of this "campaign", and that is his assertion that "it is an attempt to intimidate and silence - and to a large degree it works". To my ear, that answers intimidation with intimidation, since it impugns the intellectual honour of those of whom he speaks, and coerces us into thinking the worst of them.
Furthermore, it is patently untrue that "intimidation" has worked. Johann himself is demonstrably not intimidated. Nor is it easy to see who else is. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it cannot surely be argued that the Palestinian case is not heard.
Like us, Jacobson also questions Hari's use of revisionist historian Ilan Pappe, "something of a believer in campaigns and conspiracies himself, a man whose work has been questioned at every turn, not least by historians on whose findings he has drawn."
Melanie Phillips, who is also attacked in Hari's op-ed, responds to this statement:
Alan Dershowitz and Melanie Phillips are two of the most prominent figures sent in to attack anyone who disagrees with the Israeli right.
'Sent in', eh? By whom, exactly? By the world-wide Jewish/Zionist/Likudnik conspiracy, of course. Yup, it's those Protocols again. Whoops, what a giveaway. Case proved, I think.
We at HonestReporting are not so naïve to believe that Israel is infallible and immune from legitimate criticism. However, Hari's one-sided reliance upon fringe, revisionist sources and individuals deserves to be exposed along with his use of a falsified quotation to back his case.
Hari's piece was one-sided and journalistically suspect - HonestReporting and our subscribers had every right to respond. Charging us with "McCarthyism" is merely a means to silence those who disagree with his own views.
We will continue to help you, our subscribers, to write considered letters to media outlets using the materials we provide, despite this latest attempt to delegitimize ours and your right to do so.
Rather than shutting down free speech as Hari would have you believe, we encourage you to contribute positively to the debate. Please make your views heard by sending e-mails to The Independent - firstname.lastname@example.org and posting to the comments section of Hari's op-ed.
Israel was successful in parrying several military challenges intent on destroying the Jewish state. Over time the power differential between Israel and its regional foes has grown, enhancing Israel's capacity to deal successfully with security problems. While Israel has become stronger, its enemies, with the exception of Iran, have become weaker. Moreover, the Jewish state is widely recognized as an entrenched reality even by Arab and Muslim states.
The common image of a deeply-torn Israel is inaccurate, as social cohesion is greater than before. An analysis of the political, social and economic dynamics within Israel indicates that time is on Israel's side. This is good news for the ability of Israeli society to withstand inevitable tests of protracted conflict in the future.
Significantly, the ideological debate over the future of the territories acquired in 1967 is over. The Sinai was relinquished in 1979 and Gaza in 2005. Over two thirds of Israelis oppose any territorial concessions in the Golan Heights. Concerning Judea and Samaria, there is a great majority in favor of partition, the traditional Zionist position, and in favor of retaining the settlement blocs, Jerusalem (the Temple Mount), and the Jordan Rift.
The current territorial debate revolves around the percentage of historic homeland that can be relinquished to Arab control. The discussion is not ideological, but couched in a pragmatic assessment of Israel's security needs and domestic political costs. Similarly, the Israeli public no longer opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, once seen as a mortal danger, although skepticism over the ability of Palestinian state-building is widespread.
Furthermore, the expectations of the Left for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians after the Oslo agreements, which elicited ridicule and anger on the Right, were replaced by a sober consensus that peace is not around the corner. Israeli society has reconciled itself to the idea that it will have to live by its sword for the foreseeable future and most of it is ready to pay the price of continuous conflict.
Similarly, the debates over economic policies have long disappeared. Nearly all Israelis agree that capitalism is the best way to create further wealth. Israel's strong, vibrant economy is a result of wise economic policies; stressing market values and adapting to globalization. Currently, all economic indices indicate bright prospects despite continuous security problems. A strong economy reinforces Israel's capacity to withstand the protracted conflict with its neighbors.
The Ashkenazi/Sephardi social rift has also become much less divisive than in the past. The number of "intermarriages" is on the rise, obfuscating ethnic differences. The political system has responded positively to complaints of discrimination by significantly increasing the number of Sephardi politicians at the local and national levels. The past three decades have seen an influx of Sephardi Jews into the middle class and into the ranks of the senior officers of the Israeli military.
The only rift within Israeli society which is still of great social, cultural and political importance is the religious-secular divide. However, this situation does not differ greatly from the afflictions of identity politics faced by other western societies. Moreover, the conflict is not between two clearly defined camps, leaving room for finding a reasonable modus vivendi. A growing number of Israelis identify themselves as traditionalists, situated in the middle of the Orthodox-Secular continuum.
In the international arena, developments have been similarly positive. The American victory in the Cold War and in the 1991 Gulf War bode well for Israel, a valued American ally. The November 1991 Madrid conference, convened by the US, marked greater Arab acceptance of Israel. The Arab League peace initiative (2002) and the Arab states' presence at the Annapolis gathering (2007), indicate the continuation of this trend.
Many important countries decided to improve relations with the Jewish state due to its perception as a good conduit to Washington and its military and technological strength. The year 1992 marked the establishment of ambassadorial relations by important states such as China, India, Turkey and Nigeria. Jerusalem nourished new strategic partnerships with Ankara and Delhi, alliances which add significantly to Israel's national power.
The ups and mostly downs in Israeli-Palestinian relations have hardly had an impact of how states conduct their bilateral relations with Israel. Actually, the failures of the Palestinian national movement and the ascent of Hamas in Palestinian politics have elicited greater understanding for the Israeli predicament. 9/11 was an event that also sensitized much of the world to Israel's dilemmas in fighting Palestinian terrorism.
Palestinian terrorism was successfully contained since the large-scale 2002 offensive in the West Bank. Gaza will in all probability be subject to a similar military treatment to limit its nuisance value. The IDF learned its lesson from the 2006 fiasco in Lebanon and seems better prepared to deal with Hizballah.
In contrast, Israel's foes in the Arab world display weakness and their stagnant societies are beleaguered by problems. The Human Development reports released by the UN underscore their huge deficits entering into the twenty-first century. Their ability to militarily challenge the status quo is limited.
The only serious security challenge is a nuclear Iran. It is unclear how the international community will deal with this issue, but the world seems more attentive to Israel's perspective on this matter. Possibly, Israel might be left alone to deal with the Ayatollas, but the obstruction of the Iranian nuclear program is not beyond the capabilities of Jerusalem.
Finally, the Zeitgeist of this epoch that stresses democracy and free market values favors Israel rather than its Muslim opponents, who continue to grapple with the challenge of modernity.
In conclusion, Israel is a vibrant democracy that prospers and maintains strong social cohesion. Significantly, it built a mighty military machine able to meet all regional threats. In parallel, Israel's international status has improved, while support for Israel in the US, its main ally and the hegemonic power in world affairs, remains high. Israel is a success story. If the country successfully continues to inculcate the Zionist ethos into the next generations, its future looks bright.
Efraim Inbar is Professor of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and the Director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.
BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity of the Littauer Foundation.
Israel will host an Egyptian mediator on Monday to hear a proposal for a truce with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, though Israel would still shun direct negotiations with the group, Israeli officials said.
Following talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo last month, Hamas offered a six-month halt to hostilities in Gaza if Israel were also to lift an embargo on the coastal Palestinian territory.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rebuffed the initiative when it was broached, but Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai signalled possible flexibility on Sunday.
"Omar Suleiman will come, we will listen to him, we will confer, we will see what he is offering, and on that basis we will make decisions," he told Israel Radio.
"As of now, there is nothing on the table for discussion...We have no dialogue with an organization that flies the flag of our destruction," Vilnai said in reference to Hamas's refusal to forswear violence and recognize Israel.
Another Israeli official said Suleiman would come on Monday.
The United States has endorsed Cairo's mediation in hope of curbing violence that threatens to derail peace talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas's Western-backed and secular rival.
A senior Israeli official said this month that Israel would likely agree to an informal ceasefire in Gaza if cross-border rocket attacks and arms smuggling into the territory ended.
On Friday, a mortar bomb fired by Hamas fighters in Gaza across the border killed an Israeli civilian. Hours later, Israel's air force killed five Hamas security men in Gaza.
Egypt would want to parlay any Gaza truce into a similar future deal in the West Bank. Cairo's plan also includes attempts to reconcile Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Abbas's Fatah movement, which runs the Palestinian Authority from its West Bank base.
Hamas seized Gaza from Fatah last June, prompting Israel to step up economic sanctions and Egypt to shut its border with the coastal enclave. That border was temporarily opened on Saturday to allow sick and wounded Palestinians to seek treatment abroad.
Separately, Gaza's only power plant was forced to shut down due to a lack of fuel deliveries from Israel. Israeli officials said the EU-funded shipments would resume on Sunday.
Olmert, whose domestic standing has been sapped by a police investigation into his finances, pledged in a speech on Saturday to press ahead with peace talks with Abbas while responding harshly to attacks from Gaza.
"We will not desist from our actions and the other side knows how painful and harsh can be the blow that it will suffer," he said. "We will not relent until there will be full security for the citizens of Israel's south.
Shimon Peres on the search for peace with the Palestinians, the Iranian threat and American presidents since Truman.
Updated: 3:57 PM ET May 10, 2008
Israeli President Shimon Peres, 85, is the last remaining founding father of the Israeli state still in office. A hawk who helped build Israel's military-industrial complex, in recent years Peres has been a leader in the search for peace with the Palestinians. As part of Israel's 60th-anniversary celebrations, Peres is hosting a conference this week titled "Facing Tomorrow," which will be attended by President George W. Bush and other dignitaries. Last week Peres looked forward as well as back in an interview with NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth in Jerusalem. Excerpts:
Weymouth: Is there a realistic chance of peace with the Palestinians? Peres: I think we have to follow a two-track approach -- one political, the other economic. We have unbelievable economic proposals as to how to make accommodations between us and our neighbors. In the political negotiations, the gaps are not very great, but they are highly emotional. It will be extremely difficult to put them on paper because each party looks to its own audience and will be very careful not to appear as losers.
So do you think you should be focusing on improving the day-to-day lives of the Palestinian people rather than trying to achieve a political agreement? Both. The economic coordination depends upon three [parties -- the Jordanians, the Palestinians and us What I think can be done is to take the whole length of the border between us and the Jordanians and the Palestinians and convert it into a free-trade zone. We can create close to a million jobs, change the standard of living, solve the water problem which is becoming catastrophic for the Jordanians, Palestinians and us, and build a new era.
What should be done about Gaza? I think the ones who will change the situation in Gaza will be the people of Gaza. They are getting tired of Hamas. They say, "What the hell are you doing to us?" They are looking for a ceasefire.
As a young man, you were head of manpower under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Your assignment was to purchase arms for Israel, but the United States had imposed an arms embargo on your country. Sam Bronfman in Canada helped you. How did you meet him? I
went to his office without an appointment.
You just rang the bell? Yes. I was in my 20s and was head of our mission in the United States.
You persuaded Mr. Bronfman to help you? I told him that we wanted to buy surplus guns from the Canadian government. So, being a businessman, he asked me how much they were asking. I said, "Two million dollars." He said, "It's too much. We can cut it." Then he called up the minister of Commerce and Industry, C. D. Howe, in Ottawa and started to yell, "Two million dollars? Haven't you any shame? I want to see you." So Bronfman took his Cadillac and the two of us went to Ottawa. In Howe's office, he started to argue. My God! The poor Howe said, "OK, we shall halve it. Instead of 2 million, 1 million."
Then Bronfman asked me, "Where are you going to get the other million?" I said, "From you." He wanted to kill me. He called up his wife and told her, "Tonight at 8 o'clock we will invite 50 people. Everyone will pay $20,000. We need a million dollars." In the evening we had a million dollars.
A few years later you made a deal with the French Defense Ministry to sell Israel arms. These arms were crucial to Israel's survival in the '67 war.
Yes, the '67 war, the Sinai war and part of the Yom Kippur war. They gave us old arms. There was an embargo on arms sales by the United States, Great Britain and France. While Russia supplied free arms to the Arabs, we didn't have any guns, tanks or planes ... So I went to France and started to work. Finally, they were convinced. All of a sudden France opened up to Israel. It changed the whole situation.
Now you are known for your dedication to the search for peace. But when I first interviewed you in 1981, you were still hawkish.
Half of Israel was under the impression that the Arabs would not make peace with us. As long as they thought they could overpower us, they wouldn't make peace. So practically all of us were hawks. The minute that Israel showed its muscles and proved that you cannot overcome [it was] the first time we saw some chances for peace. And then we went over to the other side. It's not that I changed my character. I found a different situation.
Do you worry for your country on its 60th anniversary when there is such a scandal around your prime minister? The prime minister is innocent until it will be shown otherwise. But, what shall I say? Better a democracy with scandals than an authoritarian system without scandals.
What do you believe should be done about Iran's nuclear program? After all, you were once the creator of the military-industrial complex here, including the Dimona reactor. We never said we were going to wipe anybody off the map, but they have. It's not a problem of nuclear capability but of political intention.
What do you think about that? I think it's terrible. I think today [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is becoming more and more a problem for the world, not only for Israel. Sooner or later, the world will wake up.
You told me once that you've known every U.S. president since Harry Truman. Is that correct? Yes.
So, how does this president impress you? I think Bush did something which is very courageous. And that was to topple down Saddam Hussein. Imagine today that we would have in the Middle East both Ahmadinejad and Saddam Hussein. The problem with the Europeans is, they are right but they are always late. And here to be late is to be wrong.
What about President Clinton? Clinton was a friend. Bush's father was a friend and President Ronald Reagan was a friend
Reagan could conquer your heart in five minutes by his modesty. You couldn't meet Reagan without being equipped with an anti-Russian joke. And you could be sure that he had another one.
The title of your conference this week is "Facing Tomorrow"? Yes. I think the world has changed, the Jewish world has changed and Israel has changed I think that relations with the Jewish people shouldn't be based so much on finance but rather on intelligence and intellect, arts and spirit. Because, after all, it's not the pocket that enriches our minds. It's the mind that enriches our pocket and we are looking too much to the pockets and not enough to the minds.
We want to be citizens of the world and not just followers of our faith. We would like to be as old as the Ten Commandments and as new as nanotechnology.
Almost everywhere I went last week TV, radio, speeches I was asked about the 60th anniversary of the Israeli state. I don't recall being asked about Israel quite so much on its 50th anniversary, which as a general rule is a much bigger deal than the 60th. But these days friends and enemies alike smell weakness at the heart of the Zionist Entity. Assuming President Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic fancies don't come to pass, Israel will surely make it to its 70th birthday. But a lot of folks don't fancy its prospects for its 80th and beyond. See the Atlantic Monthly cover story: "Is Israel Finished?" Also the cover story in Canada's leading news magazine, Maclean's, which dispenses with the question mark: "Why Israel Can't Survive."
Why? By most measures, the Jewish state is a great success story. The modern Middle East is the misbegotten progeny of the British and French colonial map-makers of 1922. All the nation states in that neck of the woods date back a mere 60 or 70 years Iraq to the Thirties, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel to the Forties. The only difference is that Israel has made a go of it. Would I rather there were more countries like Israel, or more like Syria? I don't find that a hard question to answer. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East (Iraq may yet prove a second) and its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than they would living under any of the kleptocrat kings and psychotic dictators who otherwise infest the region. On a tiny strip of land narrower at its narrowest point than many American townships, Israel has built a modern economy with a GDP per capita just shy of $30,000 and within striking distance of the European Union average. If you object that that's because it's uniquely blessed by Uncle Sam, well, for the past 30 years the second largest recipient of U.S. aid has been Egypt: Their GDP per capita is $5,000, and America has nothing to show for its investment other than one-time pilot Mohammed Atta coming at you through the office window.
Jewish success against the odds is nothing new. "Aaron Lazarus the Jew," wrote Anthony Hope in his all but unknown prequel to The Prisoner Of Zenda, "had made a great business of it, and had spent his savings in buying up the better part of the street; but" and for Jews there's always a `but' "since Jews then might hold no property "
Ah, right. Like the Jewish merchants in old Europe who were tolerated as leaseholders but could never be full property owners, the Israelis are regarded as operating a uniquely conditional sovereignty. Jimmy Carter, just returned from his squalid suck-up junket to Hamas, is merely the latest Western sophisticate to pronounce triumphantly that he has secured the usual (off-the-record, highly qualified, never to be translated into Arabic, and instantly denied) commitment from the Jews' enemies acknowledging Israel's "right to exist." Well, whoop-de-doo. Would you enter negotiations on such a basis?
Since Israel marked its half-century, the "right to exist" is now routinely denied not just in Gaza and Ramallah and the region's presidential palaces but on every European and Canadian college campus. During the Lebanese incursion of 2006, Matthew Parris wrote inthe Times of London: "The past 40 years have been a catastrophe, gradual and incremental, for world Jewry. Seldom in history have the name and reputation of a human grouping lost so vast a store of support and sympathy so fast. My opinion - held not passionately but with little personal doubt is that there is no point in arguing about whether the state of Israel should have been established where and when it was" which lets you know how he would argue it if minded to. Richard Cohen in The Washington Post was more straightforward: "Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself." Cohen and Parris, two famously moderate voices in the leading newspapers of two of the least anti-Israeli capital cities in the West, have nevertheless internalized the same logic as Ahmadinejad: Israel should not be where it is. Whether it's a "stain of shame" or just a "mistake" is the merest detail.
Aaron Lazarus and every other "European Jew" of his time would have had a mirthless chuckle over Cohen's designation. The Jews lived in Europe for centuries, but without ever being accepted as "European": To enjoy their belated acceptance as Europeans, they had to move to the Middle East. Reviled on the Continent as sinister rootless cosmopolitans with no conventional national allegiance, they built a conventional nation state, and now they're reviled for that, too. The "oldest hatred" didn't get that way without an ability to adapt.
The Western intellectuals who promote "Israeli Apartheid Week" at this time each year are laying the groundwork for the next stage of Zionist delegitimization. The talk of a "two-state solution" will fade. In the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, Jews are barely a majority. Gaza has one of the highest birth rates on the planet: The median age is 15.8 years. Its population is not just literally exploding, at Israeli checkpoints, but also doing so in the less incendiary but demographically decisive sense.
Arabs will soon be demanding one democratic state Jews and Muslims from Jordan to the sea. And even those who understand that this will mean the death of Israel will find themselves so confounded by the multicultural pieties of their own lands they'll be unable to argue against it. Contemporary Europeans are not exactly known for their moral courage: The reports one hears of schools quietly dropping the Holocaust from their classrooms because it offends their growing numbers of Muslim students suggest that even the pretense of "evenhandedness" in the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" will be long gone a decade hence.
The joke, of course, is that Israel, despite its demographic challenge, still enjoys a birth rate twice that of the European average. All the reasons for Israel's doom apply to Europe with bells on. And, unlike much of the rest of the west, Israel has the advantage of living on the front line of the existential challenge. "I have a premonition that will not leave me," wrote Eric Hoffer, America's great longshoreman philosopher, after the '67 war. "As it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us."
Indeed. So happy 60th birthday. And here's to many more.
By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey Saturday, May 10, 2008; A15
Hamas claims that former president Jimmy Carter's recent meeting with its leader, Khaled Meshal, marks its recognition as a "national liberation movement" -- even though Hamas rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, which Hamas rules as an elected "government," continue to rain down on Israel's civilian population. While Hamas is clearly trying to bolster its legitimacy, the conflict along Israel's southern border has a broader legal dimension -- the question of whether, as a matter of international law, Israel "occupies" Gaza. The answer is pivotal: It governs the legal rights of Israel and Gaza's population and may well set a legal precedent for wars between sovereign states and non-state entities, including terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.
Israel's critics argue that Gaza remains "occupied" territory, even though Israeli forces were unilaterally withdrawn from the area in August 2005. (Hamas won a majority in the Gazan assembly in 2006 and seized control militarily in 2007.) If this is so, Jerusalem is responsible for the health and welfare of Gazans and is arguably limited in any type of military force it uses in response to continuing Hamas attacks. Moreover, even Israel's nonmilitary responses to Hamas-led terrorist activities -- severely limiting the flow of food, fuel and other commodities into Gaza -- would violate its obligations as an occupying power.
Israel, however, is not an occupying power, judging by traditional international legal tests. Although such tests have been articulated in various ways over time, they all boil down to this question: Does a state exercise effective governmental authority -- if only on a de facto basis -- over the territory? As early as 1899, the Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land stated that "[t]erritory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation applies only to the territory where such authority is established, and in a position to assert itself."
The Hague Convention is a founding document of the modern law of armed conflict, and its definition of occupied territory was woven into the 1949 Geneva Conventions. There, the relevant provision provides that "[i]n the case of occupied territory, the application of the present Convention shall cease one year after the general close of military operations," although certain protections for the populations continue "to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory." That is the key -- exercising the functions of government. This proposition was recognized in a seminal Nuremberg prosecution, the Trial of William List and Others.
It is because an occupying power exercises effective control over a territory that international law substantially restricts the measures, military or economic, it can bring to bear upon this territory, well beyond the limits that would be applicable before occupation, whether in wartime or peacetime.
The Israeli military does not control Gaza; nor does Israel exercise any government functions there. Claims that Israel continues to occupy Gaza suggest that a power having once occupied a territory must continue to behave toward the local population as an occupying power until all outstanding issues are resolved. This "principle" can be described only as an ingenious invention; it has no basis in traditional international law.
The adoption of any such rule (designed to limit Israel's freedom of action and give Hamas a legal leg up in its continuing conflict) should be actively opposed by the United States. Its adoption would suggest that no occupying power can withdraw of its own volition without incurring continuing, and perhaps permanent, legal obligations to a territory. This issue is particularly acute regarding territory not otherwise controlled by a functioning state -- failed states or failed areas of states where the "legitimate" government cannot or will not exercise effective control. Such places -- call them badlands -- were once rare. Over the past 15 years, though, there has been an explosion in the number of such areas, notably parts of Afghanistan, Somalia and portions of Pakistan.
Gaza is exceptional only in that its international legal status is indeterminate. Its last true sovereign was the Ottoman Porte. It was part of the British Palestine Mandate and has since been administered by both Egypt and Israel. Today, no state claims sovereign authority, though it is expected that Gaza will become part of a future Palestinian state. For its part, Hamas acknowledges no higher authority and functions as a de facto government in Gaza. It is a classic example of a terrorist-controlled badland.
Unduly handicapping states that intervene in such badlands -- whether to protect their own interests, those of the local population or both -- is unrealistic and irresponsible. Requiring agreement by the "international community" (whatever that may be) as a precondition for extinguishing such a designation is equally unproductive if the goal is saving lives. Consider the example of Darfur.
Even worse is pretending that groups such as Hamas are merely criminal gangs that must be dealt with as a local policing problem -- just one of the potential side effects of imposing an "occupied" status on a territory. This implicates U.S. interests directly, since America's ability to use robust armed force against al-Qaeda and similar non-state actors remains critical to defending our civilian population from attack. Efforts to limit states' rights to use military force against such groups simply benefit the globe's worst rogue elements and endanger the civilian populations among which they operate. Here, as in so many other areas, the traditional international law that imposes the obligations of an occupier only on states that physically occupy a territory makes perfect sense.
The writers are Washington lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. They were members of the U.N. Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights from 2004 to 2007.