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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hamas TV: We're not terrorists and we'll blow up anyone who says different

 Last update - 18:02 05/07/2008       
Hamas TV: U.S. bill to outlaw us aims at silencing free voices
Hamas' Gaza-based Al-Aqsa TV on Saturday denounced a resolution presented to the United States Congress seeking to have it outlawed as a terrorist organization.
The resolution, presented on June 26, was "politically motivated and aims at silencing every free voice uncovering U.S. and Zionist acts," said Fathi Hamad, a lawmaker who heads the satellite channel operated by the Hamas Palestinian militant movement.
The draft condemned Al-Aqsa for incitement to violence against Americans as well as sponsoring recruitment and fundraising for terrorism against the U.S.
Hamad said the channel "was mainly a resistance broadcaster that presented programs showing the Palestinian cause."
The resolution mentioned a puppet show aired by Al-Aqsa in March that depicted an Arab child stabbing the president of the U.S. to death and turning the White House into a mosque.
The bill calls on the president to list Al-Aqsa as a "specially designated global terrorist." It also mentioned instances of incitement of violence by the Lebanese Al-Manar, Iranian Al-Alam, Iraqi Al-Zawra and Iraqi Al-Rafidayn channels.
If approved, the resolution would call on the president to designate as global terrorists satellite providers that carried stations with the terror group status.
The text of the bill noted that that an Egyptian state-run provider, NileSat, carries Al-Aqsa.
Hamad said Al-Aqsa would take "alternative steps to secure the continuation of its broadcasts."
Washington and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist organization and refuse to deal with it unless it recognizes Israel and renounces violence.
Hamas seized control of Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah movement.
Al-Aqsa led the Hamas media campaign during the bloody fighting.

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So much for engagement: Iran refuses to stop nuclear enrichment

It is clear that Iran is not going to change its position regarding nuclear enrichment, and that there seems to be little or nothing that anyone can do to make them change their minds, at least while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is president. This raises the urgency of considering the wisdom or non-wisdom of the repeated leaks about planned Israeli or American attacks on Iran. Those making the threats should understand that if they are repeated too often and not carried out, it will only contribute to an Iranian propaganda victory.
Ami Isseroff
Iran nuclear position 'unchanged'
Iran insists that is nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
Iran has said its position on its nuclear programme remains unchanged.
The announcement comes a day after it delivered a formal response to an EU offer of incentives in exchange for halting uranium enrichment.
A government spokesman said the country was prepared to negotiate with major world powers, but would not give up its uranium enrichment programme.
The content of both the EU proposal and the Iranian response have not yet been made public.
"Iran will not go back on its rights on the nuclear issue," said spokesman Gholamhossein Elham, in the first official comments since Iran submitted its response to the EU.
"Iran insists on negotiations while respecting its rights and avoiding any loss of international rights," he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, left, receives a package of incentives from EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Tehran on 14 June 2008
The EU deal offers assistance in developing nuclear power stations.
The incentives package from China, the EU, France, Russia, the UK and US was offered to Iran by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in June.
Mr Solana also asked Iran to accept a six-week freeze on further developments on its controversial programme, in return for a similar freeze on new UN sanctions.
Separately, the EU also imposed new sanctions on Iran in June.
The incentives package builds on a previous offer of 2006 and says that if Iran suspends uranium enrichment, then talks can start about a long-term agreement.
On offer is recognition of Iran's right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and the treatment of Iran in "the same manner" as other states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran would get help with developing nuclear power stations and be guaranteed fuel for them.
It would also be offered trade concessions, including the possible lifting of US sanctions preventing it from buying new civilian aircraft and parts.
Tehran has consistently denied Western claims that it is seeking to build a nuclear weapon, saying its programme is peaceful.
It has repeatedly rejected demands to halt enriching uranium, which can be used as fuel for power plants or material for weapons if refined to a greater degree.

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Choice of new UN human rights chief worries Israel

 Last update - 04:10 05/07/2008       
Israel lobbies UN as Ban mulls appointment of new human rights chief
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press
Officials in Jerusalem are anxiously anticipating the United Nations' upcoming appointment of a new human rights commissioner to replace Louise Arbour, the Canadian jurist and former Supreme Court judge who stepped down earlier this week.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon interviews prospective candidates, Israeli officials are attempting to exert their influence in the hopes the world body taps a figure whom Jerusalem perceives as non-hostile.
Two candidates in particular are worrisome from Israel's standpoint - Luis Alfonso de Alba, a Mexican diplomat who has expressed anti-Israel views in years past; and the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, who aroused Jerusalem's ire after paying an official visit to Iran earlier this year.
Despite past differences of opinion on a host of issues, Israeli officials have conducted an open, continuous dialogue with Arbour during the last three years of her tenure. The high point of the relationship came two years ago, when Arbour visited Sderot and declared Palestinian firing of Qassam rockets as a war crime. During her stay, Arbour witnessed first hand a Qassam directly strike a factory in the city.
East Timor's president said last week he would not take a new job as the UN human rights commissioner, citing possible political instability in his fledgling democracy.
Jose Ramos-Horta told political leaders last week he had already accepted the job, but explained in the capital, Dili, that he had changed his mind.
Ban said last week that he had spoken to several candidates to replace Arbour.

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More rumors about Israel attacking Iran

 Pentagon: Israel increasingly likely to attack Iran
By Haaretz Correspndent and Agencies , By Amos Harel
The U.S. Defense Department thinks it is increasingly likely that Israel will attack Iran's nuclear facilities by the end of this year.
An ABC News report quoted unidentified senior Pentagon sources yesterday saying that Washington was concerned Iran would strike both the United States and Israel in retaliation. One official said such an Israeli attack would have far reaching security and economic consequences, and the U.S. would be accused of cooperating with the Israeli strike.
The ABC News report was just the most recent in a series of media revelations on the possibility that Israel would use force to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
Previous reports included Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz's comments on the matter, reported in the New York Times and never denied by Israel, on a large military exercise the Israeli Air Force conducted last month in preparation for such an attack on Iran.
There was even a day filled with rumors and false reports of an actual Israeli attack that drove down world markets and pushed up oil prices.
In the middle of all this, Iran revealed it had sentenced to death one of its citizens accused of being an Israeli spy for collecting information on Iran's nuclear plans.
The increasing media interest all over the globe in a possible Israeli attack can be explained by the convergence of a number of issues coming to a head in a short period. According to reports from the Israeli defense establishment, Iran will cross the "technological threshold" - the point when it will be able to independently produce nuclear weapons - in a year and a half to two years.
In addition, the U.S. election campaign will soon enter its final phase, and even if the next administration - whoever its leader may be - is no less supportive of Israel than the present Bush administration, it is clear that its first year will be dedicated more to learning the complex international issues than to actually dealing with them.
In the background, the effects are still being felt of the American intelligence community's report from last December stating that Iran had suspended its military nuclear weapons program. President George W. Bush, in his recent talks with Israel, expressed serious doubts about the conclusions.
But the common opinion among Israeli politicians and the defense establishment is that Bush will find it difficult to initiate an American attack on Iran in light of the wide-scale opposition in the public and the Congress, as well as in parts of the U.S. defense establishment.
This leaves the possibility of an attack on Iran solely in Israel's hands. As far as is known, no decisions have yet been made, but the direction is much clearer than in previous years. It is worth remembering Ehud Olmert's comments to Bush at the end of their meeting in the White House a month ago. He said that every day that passes brings us closer to the solution to the Iranian nuclear problem.
What Bush and Olmert tell each in in private no one else knows, but it certainly sounds like a hint to their discussion of a "green light" on the military option.
The Air Force exercise, the second in half a year, should also be viewed as an attempt to improve the IDF's preparedness for such an attack. Israel is broadcasting that all its options are still open, and is also informing the U.S. that it is serious. Such firmness might also help advance U.S. willingness to support such an attack, as Israel would need quite a bit of assistance from the Americans if it decides to attack: from coordination of flight paths - due to the U.S. presence in Iraq - along with intelligence, and also bombs that could penetrate the Iranian facilities deep underground.
Last week the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, visited Israel and met with the heads of the Israeli defense establishment.
ABC News quoted the U.S. defense official as saying that two "red lines" would prompt Israel to strike Iran. The first trigger would be when enough highly enriched uranium is produced at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility to create a nuclear bomb, which U.S. and Israeli assessments predict to occur by the end of this year or by the middle of 2009.
The U.S. State Department criticized the comments on the likelihood Israel would attack Iran over its nuclear program. "I have no information that would substantiate that, and I think it's rather foolish of people who often have no clue what they're talking about to assert things and not even have the courtesy to do so on the basis of their name," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in response to the report.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, "I don't comment for Israel," when asked about the ABC News report.
"We are going to address the concerns that we have with Iran diplomatically, and with international organizations that can bring some pressure to bear on this issue," he said. "That is the focus of the U.S. effort."
The key question relates to the ability of Israel's leadership to make decisions in the present political - and criminal - situation. From what has been allowed to be reported about last year's attack on the Syrian installations, it seems that Olmert was willing to take a large personal risk in response to a goal he viewed as essential.
The General Staff also feels a similar obligation, and it is enough to see how many senior officers, particularly from the Air Force, have photos from the Auschwitz flyover on their walls, alongside other reminders of the Holocaust.
The so-called Begin Doctrine, which states that Israel will prevent with force if necessary, the introduction of nuclear weapons by enemy countries, was used against the Iraqi reactor in 1981, and also against the Syrians.
The international community made peace with the Israeli attacks, twice, since its actions did not cause a war that threatened oil markets.

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Iranians stonewalling on nuke issue in incentive package

Last update - 13:26 05/07/2008    
 Iranian response to int'l incentive package sidesteps nuclear issue  By Reuters and Haaretz Service

Iran has officially responded to the package of incentives to halt its nuclear program, the New York Times reported on Saturday, but officials said it ignores the key issues.
Officials said that the response to the proposal does not address the request of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and the European Union that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in the response that Iran would be willing to engage in comprehensive negotiations with the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the world powers which offered the incentives.

"The time for negotiating from the condescending position of inequality has come to an end," the Iranian minister said, according to the New York Times. Sources involved in the diplomatic effort stressed that he failed to address any of the proposals the incentive package includes.
Also, officials said, Mottaki called the sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council "illegal" and said they were creating "lack of trust," resulting from "the duplicitous behavior of certain big powers."
The governments of the global powers involved declined to comment on the substance of Mottaki's letter.
A White House spokesperson said the U.S. intended to study the response and discuss it with Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China before responding formally.
Western officials expressed mixed feelings about Iran's response. "There is nothing new in it," said one, but others remained hopeful, citing the fact it was not a downright rejection of the incentives.
Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told a weekly news conference that "Iran's stance has not changed [on uranium enrichment] and we are ready to hold talks on the common points of the P5+1 incentives package and Iran's package."

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Israeli involvement in Colombia hostage rescue

Last update - 08:48 04/07/2008    
 Colombia hostage rescue: the Israeli angle  By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent and Agencies 

Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was released after six years in captivity on Wednesday, compared her "impeccable" rescue operation to Israeli commando operations.
Perhaps she did not know it, but Israel indeed contributed to the elaborately-planned, daring rescue mission.
Betancourt, who was kidnapped in 2002 by Marxist rebels in Colombia (FARC), was rescued without a shot being fired. Colombian military agents, who had penetrated FARC's leadership, instructed her guards to transfer her to another rebel group.
Her captors put her on a helicopter that arrived as scheduled, little knowing that their comrades-in-arms were undercover Colombian soldiers. Betancourt and 14 other hostages who had been held in the jungle, including three Americans, were freed.
Since word of the dramatic rescue spread, speculation in the world media has attributed the success to people trained by Israeli intelligence. But an Israeli figure familiar with the military aid to Colombia said there was "no need to exaggerate" Israel's involvement in the operation.
The Israelis involved in the operation feel it is important to accord the credit to Colombia. The Israeli activity, involving dozens of Israeli security experts, was coordinated by Global CST, owned by former General Staff operations chief, Brigadier General (res.) Israel Ziv, and Brigadier (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser.
"It's a Colombian Entebbe operation," Ziv said Thursday when he returned from Bogota. "Both regarding its national and international importance. Betancourt has become a symbol of the struggle against international terror. This is an amazing operation that wouldn't shame any army or special forces anywhere in the world."
Asked about the Israeli involvement in it Ziv said there is "no need to exaggerate."
"We don't want to take credit for something we didn't do," a company source said. "We helped them prepare themselves to fight terror. We helped them to plan operations and strategies and develop intelligence sources. That's quite a bit, but shouldn't be taken too far."
Israelis may not have taken part in the rescue, but they advised and guided, sold equipment and intelligence technology.
The Israeli involvement began a year and a half ago, when Colombia asked Israel for help in its struggle against FARC, which had become a militia specializing in kidnapping civilians and military figures for ransom and drug trading.
Israel has over the years sold Colombia planes, drones, weapons and intelligence systems. At the Defense Ministry's suggestion, Global CST won the $10 million contract to work with Colombia.
Ziv and Kuperwasser did not take part in the fighting, at the Defense Ministry's instructions. They hired experts who had worked for the Mossad, Shin Bet security service and IDF in various capacities.
"Well I have to say that this operation was exclusively carried out by the Colombian Army," Colombian ambassador to Israel Juan Hurtado Cano said in an interview with Infolive TV, Jerusalem.

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Of Hebrew and Translations

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US won't intervene in Israel-Syria talks

 Last update - 20:29 03/07/2008       
U.S. envoy: We won't intervene in Israel-Syria talks
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones said Thursday that Washington would not intervene over Israel's renewed negotiations with Syria, calling it a private Israeli matter.
Speaking at a ceremony in his honor at the home of Deputy Defense Minister Majele Wahabe, Jones said the U.S. has not presented a stance on the indirect peace talks.
He said that the U.S., like many Israeli officials, were wary of establishing contacts with Damascus, but would not opposed the renewed negotiations.
Meanwhile, a Turkish government source on Thursday told Reuters that Syria and Israel have indeed agreed to hold a fourth round of indirect talks in Turkey in late July.
The two countries also agreed to hold fifth and sixth rounds of talks in August. They will decide at the July meeting whether the August talks will be indirect or direct, the source added.
The third round of talks started in Istanbul on Tuesday and ended on Thursday.
"The talks were constructive and the countries started talking on core issues," the source said.
The parties are negotiating over the fate of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel occupied in a 1967 war and which Syrian wants it to return.
Jones: Attack on Iran unlikely in near future
Meanwhile, Jones, whose term is set to expire this summer, also said Thursday he did not foresee an attack against Iran over its contentious nuclear program any time in the near future.
The use of force has always been the last possible resort for Israel and the U.S., Jones said, adding that the two states were cooperating on the matter but to his knowledge, have not yet made plans for an imminent operation.
"I don't think any decisions have been made on any military action by any party, that I'm aware of," Richard Jones told reporters.
"I think a lot of people believe that the use of military force would be the last option and there are plenty of other options that need to be exercised beforehand - and I think we are in the process of exercising those options," he said, adding: We are working very closely with Israel on our diplomatic efforts."
When asked about whether upcoming U.S. elections would affect the chance for an operation Iran, Jones said situational tactics were likely to change, but not the fundamental approach to the matter.
Speculation about a possible strike on Iran has lifted oil prices, which hit a new record high of above $145 a barrel on Thursday. Traders said the market now had $1150 within reach.
The ambassador also condemned the terror attack which occurred in Jerusalem on Wednesday, calling it a "tragedy."
U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday reiterated his administration's support for letting diplomatic pressure on Tehran run its course, but that "all options are on the table."
Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, has defied UN Security Council sanctions designed to curb its access to technologies with bomb-making potential.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Wednesday, said Wednesday that an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be a high-risk move that could destabilize the Middle East.
Reports have surfaced lately claiming that Israel carried out a massive exercise over the Mediterranean as rehearsal for such a strike.
At a Defense Department news conference on Wednesday, Mullen refused to say what Israeli leaders told him during meetings last week about any intentions to strike Iran.
But asked whether he was concerned Israel would strike before the end of the year, he said: "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable."

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Peres, Barak: Abbas too weak to make peace

Does this explain overtures to the Hamas?  
Last update - 08:09 04/07/2008       
Peres: No chance of peace with Palestinians
By Yossi Verter
President Shimon Peres believes there is no chance of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Peres, the one-time proponent of a "new Middle East" made this statement last Saturday at a dinner with the Jordanian and French ambassadors in Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Tel Aviv apartment.
At the end of the meal an argument erupted between the Jordanian envoy, Ali Ayed, and a well-known "dovish" attorney, who said Israel had no chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas' leadership. Barak supported his guest's hawkish stance.
At a certain point, Peres intervened, surprising the participants by joining the attorney's prediction. "It would be very hard to reach an agreement," Peres said, due to the Hamas-Fatah split.
He said Abbas had no support among his people, no power to carry out security agreements and that any agreement Israel and the PA made crumbled a day later due to the PA's weakness. Therefore there is no chance of agreement, he summed.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Statistics and Tragedies - Remembering Sderot terror victims

A million people is a statistic, but one person is a tragedy...
We Remember!  
Afik Zahavi and Mordechai Yosepov killed by a Qassam Rocket Four Years Ago

Exactly four years ago Afik Zahavi, four years-old, and Mordechai Yosepov, 49, were killed by a
Qassam rocket fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip at 8:15 in the morning on June 28, 2004. The rocket struck near a nursery school in Sderot.
Ruth Zahavi, was taking her son Afik to the nursery school, when the rocket landed and exploded. She was critically wounded in the rocket attack, along with ten other people who were lightly hurt.
 At Afik's funeral, his father, Yitzhak, prostrated himself on the small body and wept, "I love you Afik. I will see you everywhere. Look how many people are here accompanying you." The boy's mother remained in intensive care in Beersheba's Soroka Hospital at the time.
Mordechai Yosepov was sitting on a bench near the Lilach nursery school, where his two grandchildren attend, when the same rocket killed him. Yosepov came to Israel in 1993 from Uzebkistan. He was on his way to the Employment Service to find work when the Qassam rocket struck.
Continued: We Remember!  

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Poisoned fruit of the Hezbollah prisoner swap: Hezbollah official: Prisoner swap shows our word is supreme

El Supremo - Hassan Nassrallah, a man of his word.
Last update - 18:48 29/06/2008    
In response to the Israeli cabinet's approval on Sunday to release Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar in exchange for kidnapped soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, Hezbollah said that the Israeli government's approval shows the strength of the Lebanese militant group.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV has quoted a senior official, Executive Council chief Hashem Safieddine, as saying the swap also shows that the militant group's word is supreme.
Bassam Kuntar, the brother of Lebanon's longest held prisoner in Israel, Samir Kuntar, also praised Hezbollah's 2006 capture of the two Israeli soldiers.
Kuntar told Al-Manar TV that the return of Lebanese prisoners from Israel shows that the resistance is ready.

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Israel PMO: Agreement on the Release of Israel's Missing and Captive Soldiers in Lebanon

Main Points of the Framework of the Agreement on the Release of Israel's Missing and Captive Soldiers in Lebanon
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

The Government today (Sunday), 29.6.08, approved the outline for the agreement on releasing the abducted soldiers in Lebanon:

1. The abducted soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev will be returned to Israel, a report on the disappearance of Ron Arad (in continuation of Government decision #978 from 9.11.03) will be delivered to Israel and remains from the Second Lebanon War will also be received.

In exchange for the return of the abducted soldiers, the State of Israel will release prisoners and detainees being held in its prison facilities, and will transfer bodies and information, as follows:

A. Prisoner Samir Kuntar and four illegal Lebanese fighters being held by Israel will be released to Lebanon.

B. The bodies of dozens of infiltrators and terrorists, including eight members of Hezbollah, will be delivered to Lebanon.

C. Information on the four missing Iranian diplomats will be delivered to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

D. Following the implementation of the deal, Palestinian prisoners will be released.  The number and identities of the prisoners will be determined at the sole discretion of the State of Israel.

2. Mr. Ofer Dekel, the official responsible for the negotiations on behalf of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, will continue the process of implementing the negotiations according to the principles detailed in this decision.

3. The Government will hold an additional discussion in order to complete and implement the agreement according to the principles detailed in this decision.

4. The Government of Israel reiterates and confirms its obligation to exhaust all that is required in order to obtain credible and solid information that will shed light on the fate of Israel Air Force navigator Capt. Ron Arad.

5. At the same time, the Government of Israel reiterates and confirms its commitment to continue acting for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

6. The Government of Israel will not slacken in its efforts to locate and bring home the missing and those Israeli soldiers whose resting place is unknown.


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Prisoner swap approved

I still hope, because we must always hope, that I am wrong. That the kidnapped soldiers are alive. That there will be no more kidnappings. I know it is not true though. Alive or dead, this deal will encourage kidnappings.
Every Israeli who is hurt or whose loved ones are hurt by future violence cause by this swap should be entitled to sue the government, each official personally, journalists who misled the public and the Goldwasser and Regev families, who should be each and severally held responsible for the damage they have done.
In the same way, the Tannenbaum family should have been sued by the Regev and Goldwasser families.
It's a done deal. We lost. Hezbollah won.
See below,
Ami Isseroff
Despite defense officials' warning that prisoner exchange with Hizbullah will prompt further abductions, 22 ministers vote in favor of deal. Earlier,  Prime Minister Olmert tells ministers captives are 'probably dead'
Roni Sofer YNET Latest Update: 06.29.08, 16:06 / Israel News

Earlier, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urged his ministers to vote in favor of the deal. "At the end of a long process, I have reached the conclusion that as the Israeli prime minister I must recommend that you approve the proposal which will bring this painful affair to an end - even at the painful price it requires us to pay," Olmert said during Sunday's cabinet meeting.

Olmert said during the discussion that as far as Israel knows, the kidnapped soldiers are no longer alive, and are believed to have been killed during the abduction or died of their wounds shortly afterwards.

The prime minister said the kidnapping was likely aimed at bringing about the release of Samir Kuntar, as Hizbullah knew it was unable to meet its commitment in a previous deal to provide information on missing navigator Ron Arad.

Olmert explained that although the report submitted to Israel regarding the status of missing navigator Ron Arad was more detailed than the previous reports, it offered no clear answer as to the missing navigator's fate.

"The goal and assumption leading us all this time has been that we are working to return live men. Today we know for certain that this is not the case. The report must be the focus of today's discussion."

Ehud Goldwasser's father Shlomo told Ynet in response to Olmert's remarks, "We welcome the prime minister's words. It's nice that the prime minister has decided to rectify his error. He has made a brave decision and the right one at that."

The meeting was attended by Mossad Director Meir Dagan and Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin. During the meeting, defense sources told the ministers that approving the deal may prompt additional kidnappings, and asked them not vote in favor of it.

At the start of the meeting, Olmert said the deal would affect Israelis' lives in the coming years.

"Even people with the utmost responsibility, like me, have the right and duty to have doubts, as this decision deals with the repercussions on our lives in the coming years."

The prime minister noted, "I admit that I had a lot of doubts due to the problem's multiple aspects, and due to history and the different considerations.

"We have the utmost collective responsibility and mist look the Regev, Goldwasser, Haran (family killed by Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar), (Ron) Arad and (Gilad) Shalit families in the eye - as well as our conscience."

He added that the government is faced with sensitive issues on a weekly basis, but that there was no doubt that the discussion on the captives had particular value, was extraordinarily sensitive and had deep national and moral ramifications.

Olmert said that the negotiations for the kidnapped soldiers' release were held for two years, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War. according to the prime minister, during this time Hizbullah attempted to use manipulations and take advantage of the Israeli society's special sensitivities.

Cabinet meeting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said before the cabinet meeting that "this is a difficult decision. The question is whether Ron Arad could be brought back today, would we pay the price? We mustn't wait 22 more years. In any event, this is a difficult decision."

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said, "I support this deal wholeheartedly. It's our commitment as a government which sends soldiers. They should have been released by now. The media drama is unnecessary and is the result of politics."

Culture, Sports and Minister Raleb Majadele, who supports the deal, said that "we must stop the families' humiliation campaign, and must carry out a mutual and immediate release."

Rallying in favor of deal
The ministers spoke as dozens of people rallied in the government building area in Jerusalem, calling on the ministers to approve the prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah.

"I hope the ministers will come to their senses and vote in favor of the deal," Miki Goldwasser, Ehud's mother, told Ynet. "We've spoken with the prime minister and we've made our case," she said.

The rally was also attended by several of missing Israeli Air Force navigator Ron Arad's friends, who called on the cabinet not to forget the MIA airman and to continue in their efforts to find out what became of him.

Should the Regev-Goldwasser deal be pushed through, the government would be greenlighting the release of Samir Kuntar, who has long been considered Israel's strongest bargain chip for any information pertaining to Arad's fate.

Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser have been held captive by Hizbullah for 718 day.

Ronen Medzini contributed to this report

First Published: 06.29.08, 11:00

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Who is leading the Hezbollah swap bandwagon?

An excellent  book about the disastrous Second Lebanon war ("Kurei Akavish" - Cobwebs), made several very interesting points among others:
The first was that the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 was based on partially distorted perceptions.
The second was that orchestrated media efforts played a great role in demoralizing the IDF and in pressuring the government to leave Lebanon rather than making an effort to deal with the problem of Hezbollah.
The third was that the Elhanan Tannenbaum swap deal, and others before it, virtually ensured that there would be a new kidnapping attempt, because these deals taught the Hezbollah that Israel is vulnerable to such extortion.
So why are Harel and Issacharoff now leading the media PR campaign to railroad through this decision??
An analysis   of the current Hezbollah deal by Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel de-emphasizes the security concerns and claims that it is a "myth" that hostage trades create a dangerous precedent. They cite irrelevant "precedents."  They don't distinguish between soldiers who fell in battle or went MIA in battle, and those who were captured and killed in a deliberate kidnap attempt.
Another article co-authored by Harel and published as the cabinet is meeting claims:  'Hezbollah deal has passed point of no return'. It has the following improbable statement:
The agreement currently enjoys broad support in the cabinet. However, if Olmert, who still has not made his position clear, expresses reservations about any of the parts of the deal, the vote, which requires a simple majority, may swing against it - particularly among Kadima ministers.
Any proposition that enjoys "broad support" could not possibly be stopped by some reservations of Olmert, who is politically weak. Motherhood enjoys "broad support." The only way to torpedo a proposition supporting motherhood might be to get Olmert to support it. Anything he supports is now suspected as a political ploy.
Harel, Ravid and Stern, the authors of this article, tell us:
"A quick decision needs to be made, yes or no," said a security source close to the negotiations, warning that if the plan fails to gain approval, it might "sentence the families of [Ehud] Goldwasser and [Eldad] Regev to a life of uncertainty."
If the plan does get approval it is is more likely to sentence dozens of other Israelis who will be kidnapped or die in future wars to the certainty of death.
Who wrote the excellent book that disagrees with the above analyses? Was it some lowly amateur like myself? An outsider from the United States perhaps? A right-wing propagandist? No way - "ayn matzav" as we say in slang. The authors of "Kurei Akavish" are the renowned experts Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff of course.
Who is at fault for the media bandwagon and for misleading information?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

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