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Iran Building Secret Nuclear Reactor

Kuwaiti Daily Reveals: Iran Building Secret Nuclear Reactor

On July 29, 2008, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa reported that, according to "highly reliable sources," Iranian authorities had begun construction of a secret nuclear reactor in the Al-Zarqan region close to the city of Ahwaz in southwest Iran, on the Iran-Iraq border.

The paper said that according to sources, Iran was working to distance its nuclear installations from international oversight. The English version of the report, published in the Kuwaiti Arab Times, said, "Disclosing [that] Tehran directed international A-bomb inspectors to other places, sources warned [that] the project poses a very serious threat to international security."

Also according to the sources, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) did not know about this site at all, since it was not included in negotiations with Iran in Geneva held in early July.

According to the report, the sources said that during 2000-2003, Iran expropriated the lands and homes of thousands of Arab citizens from the Al-Zarqan region, destroying homes of thousands of Arab citizens from the Al-Zarqan region.

Destroyed homes, fields, orchards, and wells, and built a three-meter-high wall around the project site, which allegedly measures hundreds of kilometers.

The report also said that "the construction of the reactor began with the laying of a pipeline for fresh water from the [nearby] KarounRiver to the site, and the expansion of the Al-Zarqan power station."

Also, the sources said that "the construction works seem to be routine and do not arouse attention, but the tight security around the region is what arouses suspicions regarding the nature of the work." They added that the site is guarded by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) personnel, reflecting its importance and sensitivity.

Following is a summary of the Al-Siyassa report, [1] and from its English [2] version in the Kuwaiti English-language daily Arab Times, which was also published July 29, 2008.

IRGC Commander's Letter to Construction Company: Maintain Complete Secrecy

In its report, Al-Siyassa included a letter dated April 7, 2008 from the office of the assistant of IRGC commander in Al-Ahwaz city Brig. Hassan Jalaliyan, marked "highly confidential," to Mohammed Kayafir, manager of the Mehab Qudus Company for Construction and Supervision, which is building the reactor. The following is a translation of the letter:

"From the IRGC Commander in the city of Al-Ahwas to the director in charge at the Mehab Qudus company for Construction and Supervision Mr. Mohammed Kayafir

"Re: The nuclear reactor at Al-Zarqan


"I thank you for the good services of the Mehab Qudus company, and at the same time I must remind you of the following items:

"1. All construction materials must be transported from the warehouses to the construction site in top secrecy.

"2. As part of the doctrine of caution, we reiterate yet again that during the transport of all required materials, you must ensure that this [transport] does not arouse the suspicions of any citizen in the region through which you are moving.

"3. In general, it is absolutely forbidden to hire any Arabic speakers or any citizen from Khozestan in the framework of the 'Al-Zarqan Nuclear Reactor' construction project. You must ensure that all manpower, including the driver, the accountant, the warehouse manager, the laborer, the technician, or the guard, comes from the northern provinces.

"In conclusion, we say yet again that all the construction work in this project must be carried out under absolute secrecy.

"From the aide to IRGC commander in the city of Al-Ahwaz, Hassan Jalaliyan."

Below is an image of the document, as it appeared in the Al-Siyassa report:

An Ideal Place to Build a Nuclear Reactor - The Local Residents Can Serve as a Human Shield

Al-Siyassa also reported that the "National Society for Arabstan State took satellite pictures of the location, which looked perfect for the construction of a secret nuclear reactor..." It added, "The site is more suitable for building a nuclear reactor than Bushehr, which is close to American bases." It noted that a nuclear power plant under construction at Darkhovin is in an open area on the main road between Ahwaz and Abadan - while the "Al-Zarqan nuclear reactor is in the middle of very highly populated areas, making it a very difficult target due to a possibility that the Iranian authorities will use civilians as human shields."

On January 31, 2008, the Iran Daily wrote that Iranian Atomic Energy Organization deputy head Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh had said that the nuclear power plant at Darkhovin, in southwestern Iran, would become operational in 2016. [3]

Below is the satellite photo published by Al-Siyassa:

[1] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), July 29, 2008,الأولى&nid=23454.

[2] Arab Times (Kuwait), July 29, 2008, (the text has been lightly edited for clarity).

[3] Iran Daily (Iran), January 31, 2008,

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US Vice Admiral: Iranian missiles could overwhelm Israeli defenses

Iranian missiles could overwhelm Israeli defenses. Perhaps the linking of Israel to US radar is meant to counter the threat.

Iran's Ballistic Missiles

By Vice Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, U.S. Navy

.... Perhaps most worrisome of the threats in the region is Iran's increasing ability to quickly launch ballistic missiles in an attempt to overwhelm Israel's organic defensive systems. This is, in my opinion, by far the most likely employment of ballistic missiles in the world today, and it demands our immediate attention in the event of a need for a U.S. or NATO response. This unpredictable adversary could be provoked by an isolated, and perhaps seemingly unimportant, event. Deploying land-based defensive assets is a necessary option, but it is costly and time-consuming. Meanwhile, sea-based missile defense has proved its capability, flexibility, and responsiveness in this arena. While U.S. Navy missile-defense capability need not be on-station all the time, it needs to be present in the theater conducting other missions, ready to respond quickly as needed. It would be wise for several of our very capable European partners to consider achieving this capability as well for their own defense against this threat.

Interdicting illegal or terrorist activity in this complex environment not only requires the presence of forces; it is utterly dependent on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)—a comprehensive understanding of the vessels, people, and cargo that occupy the maritime commons and the ability to detect what is going wrong.9 Substantial progress in this area is aligned around several key elements, including:

  • Unclassified data and information sharing, which is widespread and growing
  • Development of regional, cross-regional, and interagency partnerships
  • Building MDA capability and capacity among our partners
  • Agility and economy in development of linked software tools
  • Fusion of data and information across security domains
  • Forceful integration of intelligence and operations in the headquarters


Regarding the last item, wherever we integrate operations and intelligence we get an enormous payoff in improved effectiveness. We should acknowledge that locating theater maritime intelligence efforts away from the center of gravity of maritime operations does not work. Rather, these disciplines should be fully integrated at the maritime component commander's headquarters, while at the same time we continue to strengthen our reach back to national centers in the continental United States.

While our capable and highly valued maritime partners are present in the Mediterranean on a daily basis, there is a broad disparity among them regarding the threshold for action before or during a crisis. However, farther south lies an area with great promise for coalition maritime action.

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Huge blast rocks Hamas training base killing one and wounding at least five

According to Israel Radio, at least one person was killed.
Last update - 06:21 30/07/2008    
 Huge blast rocks Hamas training base wounding at least five 
 By The Associated Press

A huge blast late Tuesday rocked a training base run by Hamas in southern Gaza, and at least five people were hurt, witnesses and a health official said.
Ambulances raced to the scene of the blast late Tuesday, on the site of an evacuated Jewish settlement next to the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. The explosion could be heard all over the city.
It was not immediately known what caused the blast. Neither Hamas nor the
Israeli military had an immediate comment.
Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry said two of the five wounded were in critical condition. He said all five were Hamas militants.
Witnesses said the blast destroyed the base, and a fire was burning there an hour afterward. They said a second, smaller blast was heard about 15 minutes after the first one. Hamas militants kept reporters away from the scene.
Israel and Hamas have been observing a truce that stopped Gaza rocket fire and Israeli reprisal raids. But in recent days there has been tension between Gaza's Hamas rulers and their rivals from Fatah, which is led by moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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Barak: U.S. to link Israel up to system to detect Iranian missile strike

 Last update - 07:51 30/07/2008       
Barak: U.S. to link Israel up to system to detect Iranian missile strike
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
The United States will soon link Israel up to two advanced missile detection systems as a precaution against any future attack by a nuclear-armed Iran, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday.
The allies are also in advanced talks on upgrading Israel's Arrow II ballistic shield, though they disagree over whether it should incorporate an American interceptor missile, Barak said after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Washington has been leading efforts to curb Iran's atomic ambitions through sanctions, mindful of Israel's threats to resort to military strikes if it deems diplomacy a dead end.
Barak told reporters that the Israeli and U.S. governments "see eye to eye on the need to keep all options on the table ... though we may not agree on each and every detail."
"It's important the Americans understand our position, and I think that they understand it a lot better after this visit," said Barak, who was one of the more vocal Israeli critics of a U.S. intelligence report last year that concluded Iran had shelved a military nuclear program in 2003.
Barak declined to give details on whether Israel, which is believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, would be prepared to take on Iran alone. Iran denies seeking atomic weapons and has vowed to retaliate for any attack.
The dispute has fed speculation in the global financial markets about a possible confrontation between Iran and Israel or the United States. That helped push oil prices to record highs earlier this month.
Signaling willingness to focus on defensive measures, Barak said he had secured the Pentagon's agreement to post a powerful radar, known as the forward-based X-band, in Israel "before the new (U.S.) administration arrives" in January.
Built by Raytheon Co, the system has been described by U.S. officials as capable of tracking an object the size of a baseball from about 2,900 miles (4,700 km) away. It would let the Arrow engage an Iranian Shehab-3 ballistic missile about halfway through what would be its 11-minute flight to Israel.
The X-Band radar system is the same as the one the United States plans to base in the Czech Republic as part of a missile defense system to protect allies in Europe.
The United States also discussed possibly providing Israel with access to missile launch data.
A senior U.S. defense official confirmed the United States was looking to deploy the X-band system to Israel.
"We're stationing our system there so it may benefit them," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing high-level talks.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said: "Like the Israelis, we see the Iranians racing to build a ballistic missile capability and so we are working to help the Israelis fortify their defenses as quickly as possible."
Barak said the United States will also increase Israel's access to its Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites, which spot missile launches. Israeli officials say past access to the DSP has been on a per-request, rather than constant, basis.
"In a few months, Israel will be stronger and more prepared in the realm of protection against long-distance threats," he said.
Israel announced last year that Arrow, a project funded largely by the United States, would be upgraded. The envisaged Arrow-III would be capable of shooting down missiles at greater atmospheric heights - a safeguard against nuclear fallout.
Israeli and U.S. officials this month voiced differing assessments on when Iran might acquire advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems from Russia. The S-300s would complicate any preemptive air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites.
Gates said in a July 9 briefing that the systems would not be in Iranian hands "any time soon" while Israeli defense officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, predicted first delivery of the systems as early as September.
Pentagon press secretary Morrell said Gates was referring to a complete, deployable system reaching Iran - which does not preclude the possibility of ancillary equipment arriving sooner.
Morrell said last week the Pentagon did not expect Iran to have the system this year.
Iran announced in December that it would buy an unspecified number of S-300s. Russia denied that there was any such deal.
Gates said Tuesday that the Bush administration was prepared to consider upgrading Israel's missile defense capabilities.
Gates told Barak that the U.S. would explore a number of options including ballistic missile early warning launch data, a forward based X-Band radar system, other missile defense assets, and counter measures to short-range rocket and mortar attacks.
Barak is considering purchasing or borrowing several Phalanx automated cannons from the United States. The cannons intercept incoming mortar shells and short-range rockets, and would be used to defend Sderot and other Negev towns from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
The defense minister was expected to ask Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to appraise the Phalanx's performance.
That assessment will be used to help the government decide whether to bring the anti-missile system to Israel.
The new development came after a series of articles in Haaretz, in which Dr. Natan Farber - an expert in ballistic missiles from the Technion - expressed his support for the project.
However, several Defense Ministry officials said the Phalanx system is not effective enough, and argue that Israel should focus on developing the Iron Dome defense system, which will not be ready before 2011.
Barak: Israel not ruling out military strike on Iran
Barak said Tuesday he has told top U.S. officials that Israel will not rule out a military strike against Iran.
Barak told reporters that he has stressed to U.S. leaders that there is still time to pursue tough diplomacy with Iran.
At the same time he has told the Americans that Iran poses a major threat to the whole world, and that for Israel no option would be removed from the table.
In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Barak said that "Iran's armaments program is threatening the stability of the entire world."
Barak added that Israel "insists on keeping and intensifying the economic and financial sanctions" imposed on Iran by the international community. "The policy which maintains that all options are on the table [in dealing with Iran] must be continued," he said.
The United States also has not ruled out a military strike to stop Iran's presumed drive for nuclear weapons, but an Israeli strike is considered more likely in the short term.
Barak would not say what advice he has been getting from the Americans.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the United States is still trying to coerce Iran to give up nuclear technology that the United States fears could be used to build a nuclear bomb.
She repeated a warning that the U.S. will seek additional sanctions unless Iran moves quickly to resume meaningful negotiations.
"Iran can't have it both ways," Rice told reporters at the State Department. She called Iran's vague reply so far to a renewed offer of perks to Tehran pretty disappointing but not a surprise.
Rice took a political gamble in sending a top deputy to a meeting with Iran over its nuclear program 10 days ago, but the meetings apparently yielded no progress.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Middle East Humor: Fadlallah claims Shi'a do not have different aims from Sunni in Lebanon

Hezbollah "spiritual leader" Fadlallah has a great sense of humor:
BEIRUT: Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah rejected the notion Monday that Shiites have any project that differs from that of their Sunni brethren.
Apart from murdering Sunni leaders and attempting to impose an Islamic republic on the Lebanese people, Sayyid Fadlala is right, no? I mean, what are a few assassination and a little war between friends?
Fadlallah got one thing right, though:
"We are looking forward to one Islamic project that embraces big Islamic issues," Fadlallah said in an interview with Kuwaiti Ad-Dar newspaper.
You betcha - they want one Islamic project, run from Tehran.
Ami Isseroff
Daily Star staff
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
BEIRUT: Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah rejected the notion Monday that Shiites have any project that differs from that of their Sunni brethren.
"We are looking forward to one Islamic project that embraces big Islamic issues," Fadlallah said in an interview with Kuwaiti Ad-Dar newspaper.
Fadlallah said a Sunni-Shiite strife, in the full sense of the word, did not occur in Lebanon.
"But there are leaders who want to build their leaderships on a sectarian basis in addition to some Arab countries that encourage and finance such desire," he added.
Fadlallah said the visit to Najaf of Future Movement leader Saad Hariri cannot have a "big influence as it moves through economics and not politics."
The cleric also said he rejected claims that the Shiites were affiliated with Iran.
"The problem is in the Arabs' affiliation with the US," he said. "As for the Shiites, some of them support Iran and some don't."
"And if some Sunni officials are following US policies, we cannot say Sunnis are the allies of the US and Israel," he added.
Meanwhile, the vice president of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, said mobile fighting between one Lebanese region and another "is forbidden."
"What happened in North Lebanon is a diabolic act. It harms our national and religious values as well as the interests of our country and society," Qabalan said in reference to recent clashes in Tripoli.
Qabalan voiced "surprise" that the issue of the resistance is the "controversial material" in the drafting of the ministerial statement of the new national unity government.
"We should preserve the resistance so it constitutes a reserve army for the defense of Lebanon," he said.
Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said on Monday that giving Lebanese emigrants a card allowing them to vote in the upcoming 2009 elections is a "good step."
"But this step remains incomplete if it is not followed by giving the Lebanese citizenship to those who deserve it," Sfeir said before his visitors.
He also highlighted the difficulty in registering newborns abroad. "There are difficulties faced by the state and emigrants, as departments charged with the registration operations neglect those files." - The Daily Star

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State inquiry commission to investigate Israel's water crisis

 Last update - 06:38 29/07/2008       
State inquiry commission to investigate Israel's water crisis
By Zvi Zrahiya and Zafrir Rinat
The Knesset State Control Committee decided Monday to establish a state commission of inquiry into the serious water crisis facing Israel. The committee will look at the failure to implement the recommendations of a series of professional committees and cabinet resolutions aimed at addressing the water situation over the years. The commission will also be asked to draft short- and long-term recommendations to ensure a regular supply of water to the public.
According to the resolution passed Monday, five members of the State Control Committee are to draft a mandate for the commission and submit it by Wednesday. Committee members involved in the draft include committee chairman Zevulun Orlev, who sponsored the move to establish the commission.
"The water crisis is not a decree from heaven but an act of man," Orlev said. "Most of it stems from serious failures by successive Israeli governments, which gave priority to immediate economic considerations oand thereby prevented the necessary investments in establishing desalinization plants, rehabilitation of aquifers and wells, an effective [water] savings plan and recycling wastewater," said Orlev.
"The water crisis has reached a low that represents a concrete and immediate dangers to the ability to supply drinking water, as well as water for agriculture and industry. I hope the state commission of inquiry will act as urgently as the matter requires and present recommendations that can be implemented immediately," Orlev said.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss supported the establishment of the commission of inquiry, and by law his support is required for its creation.
The Minister for National Infrastructures, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, also supported setting up the commission. He called the present crisis the worst ever in Israeli history. "Not only am I not opposed to establishing the state commission of inquiry for the state's failure in supplying the demand for desalinated water, I insist that the commission be established, and [that it] explain to everyone what a small group of officials, no matter how talented they may be, were capable of doing to an entire country. I insist that the comission be established and first investigate the actions of the Infrastructures Ministry over the years, including those of my term as minister," Ben-Eliezer told the committee.
"I want the commission to determine who is at fault and why, since the officials change but the concept remains," he added.
The last national water crisis, which ended in 2002, was supposed to have left Israel better equipped to deal with the next crisis. It led the cabinet to decide for the first time to establish large-scale desalinization plants and raised hopes for promoting water savings activities that could reduce household water use by at least 10 percent.
Today, Israeli desalinization capacity is less than a third of the amount set by the cabinet at the end of the last water crisis, mostly due to a slowdown in preparing tenders and in planning after a few years of relatively high rainfall. The water-saving activites were stopped completely and were resumed, but at an unsatisfactory slow pace, only in the last two years.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Israel fears European ship may sail to Gaza to 'break siege'

 Last update - 12:29 28/07/2008       
Israel fears European ship may sail to Gaza to 'break siege'
By Barak Ravid
Israel is worried by reports that a group of left-wing activists from Europe plans to set sail for Gaza from Cyprus on August 5 under the slogan "breaking the siege."
The activists will reportedly include three members of the European Parliament.
It is still not certain how serious the plans are. However, Israel fears that if the ship does sail, it will create a provocation that would at best cause public relations damage, and could even result in violence.
The ship is being organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the International Solidarity Movement. Many of the latter's members have been barred from entering Israel on security grounds.
The organizers have reportedly raised almost $300,000 to finance the operation and recruited 60 people to sail on the ship. These include activists from several countries as well as journalists.
According to the Free Gaza Movement's Web site, the activists will include a Holocaust survivor, a survivor of the Palestinian Nakba, as Palestinians call Israel's creation in 1948, and other members of the Palestinian diaspora, in addition to the European parliamentarians.
According to the Web site, the plan is for the boat to enter Gaza's territorial waters - and, more specifically, the "special security zone" that the Israel Navy has declared off-limits to all boats. The organizers thereby hope to provoke a clash with the navy that will end with them being forcibly arrested.
An Israeli government source said that Israel still has little information about the plan, and it is not clear whether it will ever come off. A year ago, he noted, Israel received reports of a similar plan, but due to logistical difficulties, that initiative never got off the ground.
In conversations with their Israeli counterparts, Cypriot officials have expressed concern about the boat departing from their shores, but say they can do nothing to prevent it. According to the information that has reached Israel, however, Cyprus is not the only point of departure under consideration; the ship might also sail from Turkey or from Alexandria in Egypt.
Israel is still trying to discover the ship's exact identity and more details about the organizers' intentions. It is also trying to decide how to respond. One option that has been raised in official discussions is to simply allow the ship to reach Gaza, thereby foiling the organizers' apparent desire for a clash.

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What to do about Hamas?

At least, the government notices the problem, though nobody is doing anything:
Barak said Israel can use the cease-fire to improve its own position as well.
"I want to mention that the IDF presented the cabinet with several possible action plans that would cause the dissolution of Hamas, but I have yet to hear any government minister say he wants to do that," the defense minister said. "The lull is a time-out that we will take advantage of to improve our point of departure for action in Gaza."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Vice Premier Haim Ramon sided with Diskin and slammed the cease-fire, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel needs to decide at what point it will respond to Palestinian attacks from Gaza.
Olmert said he is concerned that in five years, Israel will ask itself how it let the situation in the Negev take hold. "We will discuss this in the cabinet shortly," he said. "So far we have done well not to respond to the fire, but we have to seriously consider the lines that cannot be crossed from Israel's perspective."
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 09:29 28/07/2008       
Israel mulls acquiring U.S. anti-rocket system to protect Sderot
By Yossi Melman and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is considering purchasing or borrowing several Phalanx automated cannons from the United States. The cannons intercept incoming mortar shells and short-range rockets, and would be used to defend Sderot and other Negev towns from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Barak, who left Israel last night for a visit to Washington, is expected to ask U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to appraise the Phalanx's performance. That assessment will be used to help the government decide whether to bring the anti-missile system to Israel.
The new development comes after a series of articles in Haaretz, in which Dr. Natan Fabrer ¬ an expert in ballistic missiles from the Technion - expressed his support for the project.
However, several Defense Ministry officials said the Phalanx system is not effective enough, and argue that Israel should focus on developing the Iron Dome defense system, which will not be ready before 2011.
At the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Barak defended the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, telling critical ministers and the Shin Bet security service chief, "Hamas is acting against the Qassam fire even more than I had personally assessed."
The comments came after Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the ministers that Hamas was taking advantage of the cease-fire to train and prepare for an Israeli attack.
"Hamas is taking advantage of the cement brought into Gaza to build bunkers," said Diskin. Although Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told the cabinet last week that Egypt has stepped up its activity against weapons-smuggling, Diskin said the Egyptian activity is nothing out of the ordinary and that Hamas has built up its arms supply since the cease-fire began.
"Since the lull, four tons of explosive material, 50 anti-tank rockets, dozens of rifles, and raw material for the rocket array have gotten to Hamas in Gaza," said Diskin. "There are many organizations in Gaza that want to carry out kidnappings. The deal with Hezbollah has boosted the Palestinian groups' motivation to kidnap soldiers and Israeli civilians."
Barak said Israel can use the cease-fire to improve its own position as well.
"I want to mention that the IDF presented the cabinet with several possible action plans that would cause the dissolution of Hamas, but I have yet to hear any government minister say he wants to do that," the defense minister said. "The lull is a time-out that we will take advantage of to improve our point of departure for action in Gaza."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Vice Premier Haim Ramon sided with Diskin and slammed the cease-fire, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel needs to decide at what point it will respond to Palestinian attacks from Gaza.
Olmert said he is concerned that in five years, Israel will ask itself how it let the situation in the Negev take hold. "We will discuss this in the cabinet shortly," he said. "So far we have done well not to respond to the fire, but we have to seriously consider the lines that cannot be crossed from Israel's perspective."
Livni said Israel must not ignore Palestinian violations of the truce.
"We have to respond with fire to every violation," she said. "And on the subject of the Rafah crossing, we should open it only in connection with [a deal to free captive soldier] Gilad Shalit and strengthening Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]."
Referring to Abbas' Fatah movement and Hamas, respectively, Ramon said, "Instead of strengthening those who are with us, we're strengthening those who are against us."

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Gates: Israel is not ally of the US

War with Iran would be disastrous... BUT the military option must be kept on the table, writes Gates.
Who are US allies?
"Our closest allies - the U.K., Australia, and Canada. Other long standing alliances NATO, Japan and South Korea foremost among them. We will work to expand and strengthen other relationships, including with India," the document states.
Oops - Japan hasn't shown much willing to fight anyone recently. So much for America's unbreakable commitment to Israel.
Ami Isseroff  
 Last update - 09:35 28/07/2008       
Pentagon chief: War with Iran would be 'disastrous'
By Amir Oren, Haaretz Correspondent
A war with Iran would be "disastrous on a number of levels," according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
In an article appearing in the latest issue of Parameters, the U.S. Army War College quarterly, Gates wrote that with the army already bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, "another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need" - despite the fact that Iran "supports terrorism," is "a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia and, in my judgment, is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons."
Nevertheless, he continued, "the military option must be kept on the table, given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat, either directly or through nuclear proliferation."
Gates offered these remarks on Iran as commentary on how to apply an axiom uttered by General Fox Connor in the early 20th century: "Never fight unless you have to." But this is not the first time he has warned against war with Iran; he also did so in a speech at West Point, the U.S. military academy, three months ago. The current article is based on that speech.
Any statement by Gates bears special importance because Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful who generally opposes the current administration's foreign and defense policy, has praised Gates lavishly and even hinted that he might ask him to retain his post under an Obama presidency.
Meanwhile, in another document bearing his signature that is due to be published soon, the 2008 National Defense Strategy, Gates omits Israael from the list of the United States' main allies.
The National Defense Strategy is an official document that reflects the secretary's directives to the armed forces. It replaces the version issued in 2005 by Gates' predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld. Although Gates signed off on the document about a month ago, it has yet to be published officially; however, a copy appears on the Inside Defense Web site.
In this document, too, Gates wrote that Iran's support for terror, efforts to undermine the nascent democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan and pursuit of nuclear weapons constitute a serious challenge to the security of the region ¬ one that U.S. policy must address.
However, he also used the document to discuss America's allies.
"Our closest allies - the U.K., Australia, and Canada. Other long standing alliances NATO, Japan and South Korea foremost among them. We will work to expand and strengthen other relationships, including with India," the document states.
But Israel, which has been listed in other documents as an important U.S. ally, does not appear in this document at all.
The possibility that Gates might retain his post should Obama win the presidency in November emerged from an interview that the Democratic candidate gave to Defense News earlier this month.
"Secretary Gates has brought a level of realism and professionalism and planning to the job that is worthy of praise," the publication quoted Obama as saying. "But whether that means he would continue in that position, or would even want to, I think that's something that will be determined later. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."

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Israel can make peace with... Israel?

Did Oppenheimer really say:
"The government of Israel has an obligation not to miss this chance for peace with Israel, and to present a full peace agreement to the public," Oppenheimer told Army Radio.
A utopian! I can envision Israel making peace with Syria, but I can't imagine Israel making peace with Israel.
Ami Isseroff  
Last update - 08:59 28/07/2008       
Syria envoy to U.S.: Israel has chance for peace with all Arabs
By Haaretz Service
Syria is interested in securing a peace agreement with Israel that would see a normalization of ties and end to the longstanding state of war between the two countries, Damascus' envoy to the U.S. has said.
"The negotiations are a historic opportunity for Israel to make peace, not just with Syria and Lebanon, but with the whole Arab world," Ambassador Imad Moustapha said, according to an interview broadcast on Army Radio on Monday.
Moustapha, an associate of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said that Israel must understand that such a peace can not be achieved unless it withdraws from the disputed Golan Heights, which it conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War.
"Israel must accept Syria's legitimate demand and understand that it will not achieve peace on the northern border as long as it is holding the Golan Heights," Moustapha was quoted as saying. "We offer the big thing ? let's sit together, make peace and finish once and for all this state of war. What could be better than that?"
Moustapha was speaking in an interview with the Pro-Israel Americans for Peace Now, a U.S.-affiliate of the Peace Now Movement.
The ambassador is not privy to the negotiations between Syria and Israel, but sources in Jerusalem said his closeness with Assad lends significance to his declarations.
In response to the statements, Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer called on Israel to complete negotiations with Syria while the current Knesset is still in office.
"The government of Israel has an obligation not to miss this chance for peace with Israel, and to present a full peace agreement to the public," Oppenheimer told Army Radio.

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Israel agrees to move Bil'in Fence

This stretch of the security fence was the subject of violent weekly demonstrations.
Last update - 10:55 28/07/2008    
 Israel agrees to raze part of West Bank separation fence 
 By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent 
After a five-year battle, the defense establishment has finally given in: It agreed to dismantle a 2.4-kilometer stretch of the separation fence north of Qalqilyah. The move will return 2,600 dunams of agricultural land to its Palestinian owners.
The dismantled stretch will be replaced by 4.9 kilometers of fencing closer to the Green Line, at a cost of more than NIS 50 million. The new route largely follows the one proposed years ago by the Council for Peace and Security.
The change apparently stemmed in part from the views of new Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who believes the government, not the IDF, should determine the precise route of the fence.

The fence in this area was built in 2003, and residents of several nearby Palestinian villages promptly petitioned the High Court of Justice against it. They won several legal victories over the years: The court ordered the fence be moved closer to the Green Line around Bil'in, Alfei Menashe and Tzufin.
In the latter ruling, issued in 2006, the court lambasted the state for having concealed the fact that the original route of the fence, east of Tzufin, was dictated not by security considerations, but by the settlement's expansion plans. In the Bil'in ruling in 2007, the court reiterated that the fence's route must be dictated by security, not a settlement's expansion plans.
Despite these precedents, however, the defense establishment initially refused to change the route north of Tzufin. Later, the state agreed to move the fence closer to the Green Line, but not all the way, which would return 1,500 out of 3,000 dunams of land confiscated from local Palestinians. It explained this offer by saying that the original route had passed four kilometers east of the settlements Kochav Yair and Tzur Yigal - far more than needed to keep them out of the range of gunmen on the other side of the fence.
In 2006, the Council for Peace and Security filed an amicus curiae brief in which it argued that a route very near the Green Line would satisfy the demands of security. In June 2007, however, the defense establishment told the court that it viewed this alternative as "inferior in terms of security." IDF representatives also took this line in meetings with then-defense minister Amir Peretz.
But Ashkenazi, who was appointed in February 2007, was outraged when he later discovered that the real reason for the original route was not security needs, but rather plans to set up a new neighborhood north of Tzufin. He told Peretz at the time that he no longer wanted IDF officers defending the fence's route in court. The route is a political issue, he argued, and therefore, it must be determined by the government.
The IDF, he continued, will defend nearby settlements given whatever route the government decides on.
Since then, the IDF has been much less involved in determining the fence's route. Nevertheless, more than a year passed before the defense establishment finished replanning the route north of Tzufin - and only last month did the state finally inform the High Court of this decision.
In its announcement, which the Council for Peace and Security received only a few days ago, the state claimed that the new route - which is almost identical to that originally proposed by the council - "provides a reasonable security solution to the various threats." It attributed its change of heart to the Bil'in ruling, which forbade the route from being based on planned settlement expansions.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Terroists Hacked

The site of the armed terrorist wing of the Hamas,, is really down right now. Too bad, right?
During the Second Lebanon war and thereafter, thousands of Israeli, Zionist and Jewish Web sites that had nothing to do with the war in any way were hacked.
Don't worry, they will be back.
Ami Isseroff
Military Communique
Al- Qassam website stopped from working on the World Wide Web after a fierce campaign by the Zionist lobby
Website of Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades- the military wing of Hamas

Following the opening of Al Qassam Brigades website with the new design, which marked by easily browsing and introducing update news services to the thousands of participants and the great boom that the site has received by the visitors, so the Zionists became angry. As a Zionist official parties have launched a fierce campaign against Al Qassam website, which tried to exhibit the website for the entire world that it is a web-terrorist supporter. The Zionist lobby worked around the clock to put pressure on the company which is hosting the site, instigating and accusing the company of sponsoring and supporting terrorism, as the Zionists internet hackers tried more than once to penetrate the website, but our engineers were able to repel these attacks.

Several prominent Zionist officials in Russia have moved along with rights institutions and two of the largest Zionist organizations upon there in order to stop the website from working. Recently, a Zionist parliamentary delegation includes eleven Knesset members visited Russia and they met with members of Robert Aellatov Knesset (Israel Baituna) and Ze'ev Alkinim( Kadima Party), with the Vice President of the Russian Federal Council Alexandre Rocha, who promised the Zionists to stop hosting Al Qassam website service provided by the Russian company Data Force, he said, "We and Israel are in the same boat either we swim together or we sink together". After all these contacts and pressure, the company of Russian Data Force decided to stop providing services to the website, considering the website as a danger threat on the lives and the security of people in the world.

Al Qassam Brigades information office assure the visitors from the Arab,Islamic world and the supporters of the Palestinian case people and his resistance against the usurper Zionist occupation.

Our engineers are working for re-opening Al Qassam website to the World Wide Web soon and we would say that these attacks and harassments will not deter us from continuing our electronic resistance and delivering the voice and the Palestinian resistance, which defends the Palestinian people, and it is striving to recover the usurped rights, because we are aware that the battle media battle is as important as the battle field with the Zionist occupation.

Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades
Information Office
July 27th,2008

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Tel Aviv - Fun city for tourists - Come & Visit

Tel Aviv is more expensive than New York unless you know how to get along, but the good news is that the climate is generally better - even in summer. And you can find cheaper accommodations in a suburb and get to the center of town by train if you like.
Here are two reports - one from the New York Times, the other from Ha'aretz. They actually don't get to tell you about all the attractions in Tel-Aviv.  Come visit us!
July 20, 2008
Seizing the Day in Tel Aviv
THERE'S room for everyone in Tel Aviv.
I'm riding bikes along the beach with my friend James. James is 12, and moved to Tel Aviv from New York with his Israeli mother two years ago.
"That's the separated beach," James tells me matter-of-factly, pointing at a group of some 30 Orthodox men on the edge of a placid, gorgeous Mediterranean not far from the Hilton. I read a sign that states: "The Separated Beach. Bathing days for women: Sun, Tues, Thurs. Bathing days for men: Mon, Wed, Fri." Then, pointing at a different group of men just 50 yards down the sand, James adds, "And that's the gay beach."
A couple of hours later, eager to see what other strange bedfellows I'll find huddled on the edges of the water, I conduct an informal census: I walk the two miles or so of beach from the Orthodox section all the way down to Jaffa, the old Arab port of Tel Aviv. Just south of the gay section I find a stretch of sand-and-sun worshipers that I instantly dub the Ambiguous Male Friendship beach; just south of that I find the I Hate What I'm Wearing beach. I walk farther, and proceed to find concentrations of, variously, surfers, young families, volleyball players, Ethiopians, hippie drummers and irritable girlfriends.
I'd earlier been told by the illustrator and author Maira Kalman, who was born in Tel Aviv and still has an apartment there, that I'd find "old men in their underpants" on the beach in front of the Dan Hotel ("Old men in their underpants: what can be wrong with that?" she'd said with some excitement). So, in front of the Dan, I search for boudoir chic; I find only one such exhibitor, but many examples of dermal creping.
Down toward the southernmost part of the beach near Jaffa, the population turns increasingly Arab, and I see more and more head wraps on the women. On the beach's edge, I sit on a park bench and fall into conversation with a warm, bearded 54-year-old gentleman who tells me he's an imam and a muezzin. We discuss the auspiciousness of the date — the day before, on Independence Day, Israel had celebrated its 60th anniversary with a semi-terrifying dazzle of air force maneuvers over the water — and the man tells me: "Peace is good for us all. Jews, Christians, Muslims. ..."
Just then a young beachgoer zooms by us on his Vespa, his surfboard ingeniously strapped onto the side of the motorbike, so I add, "... and surfers."
The man exults, "Everyone!"
Tel Aviv is a home at the end of the world. Celebrating its 100th year in 2009, the capital of Mediterranean cool has been getting more and more practice at being a host over the years, and it's starting to show.
First came the brain trust: many say that the Israeli economy's growth of 5 percent a year since 2003 is a result of the million or so highly educated and entrepreneurial Russians who immigrated in the early 1990s and buoyed the country's auspicious high-tech sector. (Ms. Kalman says, "Babies had cellphones in Tel Aviv before the U.S. did.") And then came the builders: current or recent construction in the city has brought a small swirl of brand-name architects and developers like Philippe Starck, I. M. Pei, Donald Trump and Richard Meier (and meanwhile the foodies of Tel Aviv are already buzzing about the projected 2010 arrival of a Nobu restaurant and hotel in the suburb of Herzilya).
All these new people and buildings add to the city's fundamental charms: good flea markets, terrific food and lots of witty and complicated natives. As Ms. Kalman would say, What could be wrong with that?
But if the intermingling of many different kinds of people is what gives Tel Aviv its pulse, it's the clash of old and new that still gives this city its surprising and slightly uneven gait. On trendy Sheinkin Street, a store called SeXso Jeans is cheek-by-jowl with the Kabbalah store; on the edges of Neve Tzedek — the first neighborhood the Jews started when they left Jaffa in 1887, and now the loveliest and most villagelike part of town — a 44-story skyscraper looms like a gangly, unwanted bodyguard.
The modernist feeling you get from walking around what is the largest collection of Bauhaus buildings in the world is unmoored by the realization that you are just a mile or two away from the ancient port of Jaffa, from which Jonah sailed en route to his intimate encounter with a whale. Or consider Agenda, a restaurant devoted to the age-old practice of skewering meat. A sign hanging on its facade — "Agenda: The Shawarma" — sounds like a Tom Clancy book about some very, very dangerous pita.
Tel Aviv is "half Iran, half California; it's a synagogue meets a sushi bar," says the writer and lifelong Tel Aviv resident Etgar Keret, whose mordant and hilarious short stories in books like "The Nimrod Flipout" have often won him the encomium "the voice of young Israel." The son of Holocaust survivors — his father saved his own life by living in a hole in Russia for two years — Mr. Keret is party to his own dichotomy: his brother is an extreme left-wing anarchist who is head of the Israel's movement to legalize marijuana, and his sister is an ultra-Orthodox mother of 11 who formerly lived in a settlement.
"This is a country that on the one hand is so conservative that we don't have public transportation on Saturdays, but on the other hand is so open that we sent a transsexual to the Eurovision Song Contest," says Mr. Keret. "Israel is full of contradiction. In Jerusalem, this contradiction means separation. But it doesn't in Tel Aviv."
For Israelis, the 45 minutes that separate Jerusalem from Tel Aviv are a fitting metaphor for the cultural gulf they see between, on the one hand, the hidebound, pious cradle of world religion and, on the other, the libertine, nightclub-filled Mediterranean idyll. But for us visitors, the proximity of the two cities is a huge boon — it's rare that you can pair a beach vacation with 5,000 years of history. And while the memories I developed during the course of my weeklong, first-ever trip to Tel Aviv are pleasant and strong, the ones I concurrently made during my eight-hour-long, first-ever trip to Jerusalem are permanently scarred into my brain.
You don't have to be devout, or even a believer, to be moved to tears by a visit to Jesus' Stations of the Cross or to the Holocaust Museum of Yad Vashem. At the latter, the Children's Memorial is a single room in which five candles are reflected in 500 mirrors, creating the impression of an infinity of candles; meanwhile a voice slowly intones the individual names and nationalities of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by Nazis. The effect is bone-chilling.
Tel Avivans are quick to point out that their city is less suffused with history than Jerusalem, and that that is what makes their city so hospitable to newcomers and to people who don't fit in elsewhere. Perhaps, like others in the Middle East, Tel Avivans must perforce set their gaze on the present.
"People always say, 'Live every day as if it's your last,' and in Tel Aviv it might actually be true," says Mr. Keret. "The fear of the future makes the present more vibrant. But you cannot ignore that your existence is fragile."
Indeed, when I contacted James's mother, the former fashion editor Ricky Vider, to tell her that I was going to Tel Aviv, she wrote back that I better hurry "before they push the button."
A single mother — Ms. Vider lost her husband, James's father, on 9/11 — she says she moved back to Tel Aviv with her son because "I needed some sunshine and a change"; the move also put her back in close proximity to her mother and sister. For Ms. Vider, this home at the end of the world is one filled with golden-hued restaurants offering wonderful, innovative Mediterranean cuisine (Herbert Samuel, Toto), hip places to meet for a coffee or drink (Brasserie, Coffee Bar) and a city safe enough that she can let James ride his bike for hours unsupervised in certain areas.
Ms. Vider trafficks in the ambivalence so endemic to the region. She says, "James and I are only here temporarily," yet when I ask her to show me her favorite part of town, the unstated theme of our tour quickly reveals itself to be Landmark Buildings I Have Tried to Buy Into.
We start on the leafy, Bauhaus-lined pedestrian walkway in the middle of stately Rothschild Boulevard, and hang a right on becalmed Nachmias. Ms. Vider says of one building: "This beauty was bought by a son of the mayor. I snuck in while they were renovating."
On this same block we also see Ms. Vider's favorite building in the city (No. 25, where episodes of the Israeli version of "In Treatment" were shot), its immediate neighbor ("I call the architect daily") and a building with interiors by Andree Putnam ("I've tried to get in. It cannot be done.").
Perhaps an intense connection to real estate and its attendant comforts is only logical in a region where the threat of uprooting looms. In fact, some of your best experiences in Tel Aviv may very well be real estate based. It was thoroughly heartening, for instance, to come back to the balmy, sun-dappled roof deck of the Cinema Hotel after a day of sightseeing or beachgoing. The Cinema, a handsome Bauhaus building from 1930 and a former cinema that offered the first central air-conditioning in Tel Aviv, provides its guests with a lavish spread of teas and cakes every afternoon; to sip and snack on the walled rooftop terrace is to know a wonderful and high-caloric form of succour.
AN equally relaxing way to spend an afternoon is to poke around the tiny, space-starved boutiques and cafes that have sprouted up in the Greenwich Village-like Neve Tzedek, a tranquil area of about a dozen tiny streets. I tell a woman who is selling jewelry in the ground floor of the building that she lives in that I am impressed that she doesn't work in her pajamas, as I would do in her situation. She tells me: "I have to be dignified. For jewelry, dignity."
On the eve of Independence Day, Ms. Vider takes me to the building in the basement of which James's surfing instructor, Shay, and his girlfriend, Naamah, live. On arriving at the building, Ms. Vider and James and I gaze over a sunken garden filled with impossibly good-looking 20-something surfers and hipsters — Shay and Naamah and their friends.
Ms. Vider says: "There are two parties going on in this building. Upstairs will be dinner and fireworks-watching. And this ..." — she casts her eyes downward, where we see the stirrings of a hootenanny featuring two guitars, improvised singing and the mournful tones of the didgeridoo — "... will be a den of iniquity."
Mr. Keret says: "It's a city where the dominant age group is 20 to 40. Most people don't realize that it's a city that many people just pass through. Very few people are born and die here."
This impermanence can be an intensifier. I think of the hour I spent at a club called Levontine 7. Started by three musicians (including Ilan Volkov, the Israeli-born conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra), the dark and underdecorated two-level club is in Gan Ha Hashmal, Tel Aviv's former unofficial red-light district, which is sprouting those kinds of hyper-groovy stores — one was selling a lamp made out of forks and spoons — that fascinate but baffle. For the recent national basketball finals, Levontine 7 hired two groups of six musicians who each improvised music to go with one team's movements, in the manner of a silent movie.
The night I went to the club I lasted only an hour — it had been quite an exhausting afternoon lording over the baked goods on the Cinema roof deck — but somehow the fact that I wasn't hip or hardy enough to last till the 11:30 p.m. offering of difficult, John Zorn-like noodling only made my one hour that much more potent. I felt like a very happy, twittering bird in some other species' nest.
The other comfort-providing commodity that one attaches oneself to in Tel Aviv is, of course, food. Ms. Kalman had told me about a restaurant directly on the beach called Manta Ray. ("It's where Madonna ate," she'd said. My brain instantly brought forth Madonna's Hebrew name, and I said, "You mean, Esther?")
Like a haut beach shack on stilts, Manta Ray is a fan-shaped pavilion that opens onto the sea. One of the five mezzes that we order is an elegant column of four layers of ingredients that sound all wrong for each other — crabmeat, feta, dates, harissa peppers — but are in fact Il Divo of food. I order a gin and grapefruit juice, and the juice is fresh-squeezed. Happiness trickles through my body as my companion and I watch the sun slowly slip over the edge of the Mediterranean; I contemplate having a T-shirt made that says, "I'm with Esther."
Eager to see what other unlikely ingredients would be served with seafood, I order calamari on subsequent trips to Toto and Herbert Samuel. At Toto, it comes with red and yellow cherry tomatoes, chick peas, slivers of onion and radish, mint and cilantro; at Herbert Samuel, with white beans, mint and tahini. The next time I see a plate of tumescent, foreskin-like calamari shrivelings, I will laugh knowingly in the manner of a French prostitute. Because I can.
In Tel Aviv, you hold onto what you can hold onto. Which, when I go bike riding with James, happens to be my dear life. We zoom over the dips in the wooden boardwalk up in the Old Port area, where the recent addition of restaurants and kid-friendly shops — all in vast hangarlike warehouses — has given the area a South Street Seaport kind of feel and made it popular with the local tzfonim (yuppies, or, literally, "Northerners," since the affluent neighborhoods are in the north of the city and the poorer in the south). The pedestrian traffic is thick, and at one point a mother with a double-wide stroller almost clips me. I whoop with alarm, and James counsels, "Dude, trust me — you're not going to get in an accident."
I ask James if he wants to stay in Tel Aviv or move back to New York, and he says: "I want both. When I think of the surfing, I want to be here. But most of my friends are in New York."
We whiz past a cafe, a sporting goods store, a jazz club. I ask James, "And do you feel like an Israeli, or do you feel like an American?"
"I feel like this is home," he says. "For now."
Continental, Delta and El Al fly direct to Tel Aviv from Newark Liberty and Kennedy airports. A random Web search in July for mid-August flights turned up a $1,502 nonstop on Delta.
Cinema Hotel (2 Zamenhoff Street; 972-3-520-7100; is a short walk from the beach and well situated near the center of town. Bikes are available free. This 82-room hotel, converted from a theater, is decorated with movie posters and equipment from its previous incarnation. Doubles from $163.
Nina Cafe Suites (29 Shabazi Street; 972-52-508-4141;, wonderfully located in the heart of the Neve Tzedek neighborhood, is a newer hotel that is long on charm but short on efficiency. There's no front desk per se — you walk into the cafe and then they lead you back to a desk inside the crammed space full of espresso sippers. The décor is a little Greenwich Village-basement-apartment-circa-1972, but you're a five-minute walk from the Suzanne Dallal theater, 10 minutes from the beach and the Manta Ray restaurant, and 20 from the Jaffa flea market. Doubles from $270.
Herbert Samuel (6 Koifman Street; 972-3-516-6516; is just across from the beach at the southern end of the city near Neve Tzedek. The high-ceilinged space manages to be warm despite its spare, minimalist look. Mostly new Mediterranean cuisine, with lots of fish. Seats by the windows are booked well in advance; if you sit at the bar, you can still look out at the sunset. Dinner for two about 300 shekels (about $90 at 3.35 shekels to the dollar).
Toto (4 Berkovich Street; 972-3-693-5151) is behind the art museum, and offers Mediterranean cuisine with an Italian influence. Dinner for two about 285 shekels.
Manta Ray (972-3-517-4773), is right on the beach behind the Etzel House Museum. Plenty of fresh fish, but it's possible to eat only mezzes. Dinner for two, about 295 shekels.
Abu Hasan (also known as Ali Karavan), at 1 Hadolphin Street, is a hole in the wall that serves the best hummus in Israel, according to Food and Wine magazine and every cabdriver you talk to in Tel Aviv. Some opt for the masabacha — crushed chickpeas and tahini, with spicy sauce on the side; dishes come with pita, raw onions and a zippy lemon-garlic sauce. Abu Hasan opens at 8 a.m. every day except Saturday and stops serving when the food runs out, usually in midafternoon. Lunch for two, about 30 shekels.
The Bauhaus Center (99 Dizengoff Street; 972-3-522-0249; offers tours of Tel Aviv's Bauhaus architecture in English on Friday mornings at 10. The tours last about two hours and cost $15.
The Jaffa flea market is the only remnant of the bazaars that surrounded Jaffa's clock tower in the mid-19th century. This blocks-wide hagglefest is better for tchotchkes and effluvia than for treasures, but it's great fun to browse, and to see women trying clothes on directly over their clothes. Local lore has it that vendors, first thing Sunday morning, like to make a quick and not-to-their-advantage sale to give them good luck for the coming week.
HENRY ALFORD is a contributing editor at Travel & Leisure and Vanity Fair.
By Sara Miller, Max Julius and Aliyana Traison
It's official: Tel Aviv is the coolest city. According to the New York Times, that is. This week the paper of papers ran a lengthy love letter to Israel's center of sea, sun, style and debauchery. But there are some things that the NYT missed, which are vital to the Tel Aviv experience:

1. An all-day breakfast is the greatest meal in the world, which is why the locals love it and so many eateries do it. There is even a chain that offers JUST breakfasts.

2. You can buy everything you need in Carmel market. From expensive souvenirs to cheap T-shirts with every design under the sun. It's your one stop shop.

3. Walking is so pleasant. With a city so small, it is possible to get from anywhere to everywhere in less than an hour. Get a good map and see the sights on foot, or by bike.

4. Cafe culture - with booze option. Tel Aviv (probably!) boasts more street cafes than any other city in the world. If you are tired from all the walking (or cycling), you can rest your sore feet and watch the world go by whilst sipping a latte or glass of chilled white wine.

5. Bar frenzy. Nightlife in Tel Aviv leaves nothing to be desired. There is everything from pseudo-elegant cocktails bars such as Mishmish to grunge mecca Riff Raff and laidback watering-hole Minzar, a former monastery.

6. Seafood on the seafront. The newly revamped port has dozens of great places to eat. For style fiends, you can even round off the night by buying designer shoes at midnight!

7. Music everywhere. Check out the up and coming local talent at Levantine 7, enjoy more established acts at the Barby club or indulge in some jazz at Camelot.

8. Hummus madness. Every hummus joint in town vies for an annual crown, and every place has its devotees. Whichever one you fall into, you won't be disappointed. Try Hummus Abu Dhabi for food and reggae, Mashawa for warm hummus with whole chickpeas or Hummus Abu Hassan for a speedy, stressful and delicious experience, but one from which you will need several hours to recover.

9. Street life. Tel Aviv runs on its nerves, cigarettes, caffeine and the street. The almost year-round warm weather has facilitated an entire street culture, from cafes open 24/7 to mime artists and classical musician buskers. On weekend mornings, Tel Aviv promenade hosts a folk dancing session, where you can watch every section of society dip and swirl together, or even have a stab yourself.

10. One last tip: Never go to the beach before 4pm on Saturdays or during the school vacation. You'll be lying on a patch of sand 3cm squared and the lapping of the waves will be drowned out by the screaming of the kids and the bellowing of the parents. And you'll be roasted alive. Until then, stick to a shady umbrella by the pool.

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Barack Obama's note in the Wailing Wall

What did Barack Obama ask from God in his note in the Wailing wall? 
"Lord - protect my family and me. Forgive my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will,"
A fine and decent wish, especially as it was NOT intended for publication, or was it? Rabbis are furious that someone removed the note and published it. Cynics will say that was the point of the exercise.
BBC reported that this publication sparked the rage of the senior rabbi in charge of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz. He said that the note was a private matter between God and Obama and that its removal was highly inappropriate.
Twice a year, when the cracks in the Wall become full, the prayers and messages are removed and buried - without being read - in strict accordance with Jewish law
Ami Isseroff

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IDF troops in Hebron kill Hamas man said behind Dimona attack

Last update - 10:11 27/07/2008    
 IDF troops in Hebron kill Hamas man said behind Dimona attack  By The Associated Press
The Israel Defense Forces killed a top Hamas militant during an operation in the West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday, Palestinian medical workers and witnesses said.
Soldiers fired a shell at the house of Shihab al-Natsheh, after he refused to surrender and opened fire at troops, local residents said. A Hamas statement said the militant clashed with soldiers for 12 hours before being killed.
An IDF spokeswoman said soldiers clashed with a group of gunmen in the city, killing a militant, but declined to give further details. Natsheh was an explosives engineer wanted over a suicide attack that killed an Israeli woman in the southern city of Dimona in February and had been seeking to arrest him for several months.
Palestinian security officials identified al-Natsheh as a 25-year-old militant from Hamas and said he was wanted by Israel for involvement in suicide bombings.
Hamas' armed wing, the Izz el-Din Brigade, vowed to avenge Natsheh's killing. "Our response will be swift and painful," the group said in a statement.
Palestinians said the IDF blocked all roads leading to Hebron, preventing anybody from leaving or entering the city.
Israel regularly raids the West Bank searching for wanted militants. Israel and Hamas are observing a cease-fire in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. But the agreement does not apply in the West Bank, ruled by moderate President Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier this month, Haaretz reported that the IDF's Central Command and the Shin Bet security service were making a concerted effort to shut down the dawa, Hamas' civilian infrastructure, in the West Bank town of Nablus.
As part of this effort, the IDF closed down a large number of Islamic charities, confiscated their property, searched their computers and seized documents from their offices.
Major operations of this type were carried out in Hebron, Qalqilyah and Ramallah, and a similar operation began in Nablus two weeks ago.

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Chaos in Gaza - explosions, fighting al-Qaeda

On Friday there were either two blasts or one that is described in different ways. One  report mentions a blast blamed on Fateh on Friday evening at the Kalil Cafe, a meeting place for Fateh men.
A different report mentions three explosions, including one at a Christian cafe, also blamed on Fateh, but does not mention this one evidently:
Unexplained explosions kill 5, wound 20 in Gaza


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A powerful explosion ripped through a car on a busy Gaza City beach Friday night, killing a Hamas field commander and three other people, security officials said.

It was the third unexplained blast of the day in this coastal territory after a relatively calm period since Israel and the Islamic militants of Hamas agreed on a cease-fire last month. A total of five people died from the explosions, and 23 suffered injuries.

No one in Gaza blamed Israel for the violence, indicating it was likely Palestinian infighting.

The late night blast killed Amar Musubah, a Hamas military field commander, and another Hamas militant, Eyad Al-Hia, medical officials said. A child and a fourth unknown individual also died.

Earlier, unknown assailants set off two bombs in Gaza City, killing one man.

The first explosion took place just after midnight outside the Al Jazera cafe. The cafe had been hit two other times this year in similar attacks presumably perpetrated by hard-line Muslims who target record shops and other sites they see as signs of Western influence.

The powerful blast wounded three people and killed the man who set off the bomb, Hamas officials said.

Another bomb exploded outside the house of a Hamas lawmaker, Marwan Abu Rass, not long afterward, causing light damage but no casualties, the officials said. An activist in the rival Fatah movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was arrested as a suspect.
Last update - 09:24 27/07/2008 
 Hamas: Mohammed Dahlan's group behind deadly Gaza blast 
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies 

The Hamas government said Saturday that the "revolutionary stream" - as former Gaza Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan's supporters are called - were responsible for the blast on Gaza's beach Friday night that left five Hamas men and a 4-year-old girl dead.
The blast occurred at about 8:30 P.M. at the Khalil cafe, a known meeting place for Hamas men. It was followed by the toughest crackdown against Fatah in recent months.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Hamas security forces clashed with gunmen from the Army of Islam, an al Qaeda-inspired group, in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, part of a security crackdown following a surge in internal violence.

One Hamas commander was seriously wounded in the fighting, which started when the Hamas forces sought to arrest some Army of Islam gunmen, Hamas officials and local residents said. Two Army of Islam gunmen were arrested.
The dead in Friday's explosions were named as Sarin a-Safadi, the 4-year-old; Nihad Masbakh, considered the head of the military wing of Hamas in the Shajaiyeh district of Gaza City; Iyad al-Hayeh, a nephew of one of Hamas' leaders in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayeh (whose son was also seriously injured in the blast); Nidal al-Mbayid and Osama al-Khalu. The identity of the fifth Hamas man is unknown.
More than 20 Palestinians were injured, mostly passers-by.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

UK group assesses Islamism as a major security threat

This article was published in March in the prestigious UK Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) journal.  RUSI is a recognized authority on British defense.
It deals with a variety of defense threats. About domestic Islamism it states:

Islamist terrorism is where people tend to begin. The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post- Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity. That fragmentation is worsened by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate. This is a problem worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in mis- placed deference to 'multi-culturalism' failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within them trying to fight extremism. The country's lack of self-confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy, within and without.

We live under threat. We sense that now is a time of remission, between the frontal attack of 9/11, and its eventual successor, which may deliver an even greater psychological blow. Significant though they were in their different ways, neither the 2004 Madrid train bombings (which affected a national election), nor the London Underground and Bus bombings of July 2005 (which exposed the weakness of the 'multi-cultural' approach towards lslamists) were that successor. Thus, we are in a confused and vulnerable condition. Some believe that we are already at war; but all may agree that generally a peace-time mentality prevails. In all three ways - our social fragmentation, the sense of premonition and the divisions about what our stance should be - there are uneasy similarities with the years just before the First World War.

We are fortunate in not having the specific external state enemies who once posed threats to the British state and against whom we could therefore define ourselves. There has been no straight substitution of the Cold War threat with another threat of different source but similar type. But the range and nature of the threats to the security of British citizens in 2008 are not confined solely to what the lslamists call their 'jihad' against the West.

Those are pretty strong words that outline the dilemmas faced by much of Europe in facing Islamism. Few real remedies are offered, however, except to set up committees in the time honored fashion and to plead for an increase in defense spending. Neither of these remedies is really relevant to the issue of domestic Islamism, is it?  

Ami Isseroff

Risk, Threat and Security: The Case of the United Kingdom

Posted on: Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 03:00 CDT

By Prins, Gwyn Salisbury, Robert

This article expresses the consensus of a private seminar series which met at intervals between May 2006 and January 2008. In addition to the authors those participating included Sir Mark Allen, Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, Chris Donnelly, Field Marshal the Lord Inge, Tom Kremer, Lord Leach, Baroness Park of Monmouth, Douglas Slater, General Sir Rupert Smith, and Professor Hew Strachan.* The security of the United Kingdom is at risk and under threat. The mismatch between the country's military commitments and the funding of its defence moved Lords Bramall, Boyce, Craig, Cuthrie and Inge - five former Chiefs of the Defence Staff - to take the unusual step of raising their concerns publicly in a House of Lords Defence debate on 22 November 2007. A public forum - the Defence Association - has also been established to investigate and articulate the crisis they identify. Security is not only a question for Chiefs of the Defence Staff. It matters to every citizen of the United Kingdom. security is the primary function of the state, for without it there can be no state, and no rule of law. The former Chiefs of the Defence Staff have stepped outside their traditional reticence to speak on behalf of all. Anxiety about defence and security runs far and wide.

This essay addresses the bases of that anxiety: the sources of risk and threat, both overseas and at home. It argues that weaknesses at home, particularly divisions in our attitudes to our defence, contribute to turning risks into threats. It proposes that positive steps to strengthen and update our defence and security efforts involve returning to long established constitutional arrangements of the Queen in Parliament. Thus we may meet the needs of today and tomorrow. Our proposal is not a finely detailed blueprint. It is more fundamental. It describes the operating principles and the dynamics of constitutional machinery with the necessary strength to match present threat and future risk

How to realign our defence effort to changing risks and threats is not merely a technocratic question to be answered internally by the defence and security establishments within government. Repeated assertions by ministers that all is well, that the matter is well in hand and can be safely left to them to manage in-house, no longer carry conviction.


The electorate is uncertain and anxious. People feel uncertainty about military adventures overseas which have cost many lives and have pushed our armed forces to the limits. They are worried about security at home since the successful terrorist attack of 7/7, the similar attack a fortnight later which was only averted by the incompetence of its perpetrators, and the narrowly preempted attacks on planes in 2006. In the summer of 2007, there were also carbomb attempts at Glasgow airport and in the West End of London. The 'war on terror' is with us now in all its ugliness.

Both current military operations and the war on terror together raise a deeper point. Is there any longer a clear distinction between being at war and not being at war? A declaration of war is almost inconceivable today, and yet both our defence and security services are in action against active forces, abroad and at home, at this moment. The electorate sees this paradox. It also worries about the way we were committed to war, especially in Iraq, and about Washington's sway and leadership...

Such uncertainty should be of primary concern because it weakens the bond between government and the governed, which is precisely what terrorists seek to achieve and what other enemies of the United Kingdom will exploit. For this reason, it is not enough for anyone (even Her Majesty's Government) to say, 'Don't worry, we have it in hand'. The uncertainty has to be addressed. The confidence and loyalty of the people are the wellspring from which flows the power with which all threats to defence and security are ultimately met. Our constitutional arrangements and institutional dispositions must both deserve and grow out of that loyalty and confidence. The present uncertainty suggests our arrangements need review and renewal.

Risk and Threat

Latent risks can become patent threats. What marks the change of a risk into a threat is usually the emergence of a factor which has been misjudged. It has been the reduction of traditional threats (aggression from nation states) combined with the increase of possible risk factors (most notably, Islamist terrorism, but there are many others) which has so destabilised world affairs and increased uncertainty. Linked to these changes is a loss in the United Kingdom of confidence in our own identity, values, constitution and institutions. 'This England that was wont to conquer others', wrote Shakespeare, 'hath made a shameful conquest of itself.' This is one of the main factors which have precipitated risks into threats. As long as it persists, it will have the power to do so again.

Islamist terrorism is where people tend to begin. The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post- Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity. That fragmentation is worsened by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate. This is a problem worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in mis- placed deference to 'multi-culturalism' failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within them trying to fight extremism. The country's lack of self-confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy, within and without.

We live under threat. We sense that now is a time of remission, between the frontal attack of 9/11, and its eventual successor, which may deliver an even greater psychological blow. Significant though they were in their different ways, neither the 2004 Madrid train bombings (which affected a national election), nor the London Underground and Bus bombings of July 2005 (which exposed the weakness of the 'multi-cultural' approach towards lslamists) were that successor. Thus, we are in a confused and vulnerable condition. Some believe that we are already at war; but all may agree that generally a peace-time mentality prevails. In all three ways - our social fragmentation, the sense of premonition and the divisions about what our stance should be - there are uneasy similarities with the years just before the First World War.

We are fortunate in not having the specific external state enemies who once posed threats to the British state and against whom we could therefore define ourselves. There has been no straight substitution of the Cold War threat with another threat of different source but similar type. But the range and nature of the threats to the security of British citizens in 2008 are not confined solely to what the lslamists call their 'jihad' against the West.

A shifting complex of risks faces us. An adequate approach to Britain's security in the next few years must address questions that are intricate, delicate and strange to our conventional way of thinking. The familiar categories of 'home' and 'abroad', which have long reassured the British in a deep part of their national identity, are breaking down. We know much less about what threatens us and how it does so than our official policies assert.

Six categories of risk can be identified. Any one of these may ignite the powder trails in and between any of the others. The examples we employ are not exhaustive but illustrative.

Geo-strategic fundamentals do not change, but new sources of power are at play within them

There are unchanging geo-political factors of trade, distance, trade routes and choke-points vital to the United Kingdom's well- being. Yet while British reliance on sea traffic is increasing, our policy-makers seem to suffer from 'sea blindness'. They have not yet noticed or, if they have, have not reacted to the weakening of the Royal Navy. The Navy is set rapidly to shrink in size and in capability because of the failure to maintain construction and establishment during the last decade. (We emphasise this point here not because there are not grave shortcomings throughout the services, but because naval force structure, once lost, is especially difficult to recover.) Likewise, the other fixed geopolitical fact is that Britain is an island adjacent to continental Europe. Our security depends upon continental arrangements not encroaching on our basic freedoms, that do not sap but amplify our strengths and that do not traduce the limits of public consent.

The old surfs the new

Standing astride the old fundamentals are actors who deploy against us both old and very new sources of moral and material power. The jihadists deploy the power of conviction that comes from a sectarian understanding of religion. They also surf the internet and use it to their advantage and our peril. They are not state- bound, but can take over part or all of a state, as has happened in Afghanistan and Somalia, and as could happen in Pakistan. That is why 'home' and 'abroad' are now seamlessly interlinked in such troubling ways. There is new competition for resources


The politics of climate change represent unexpected pressures

Climate change has now been added to the more familiar factors governing the competition for resources, and the security implications that flow from that competition. World food stocks may fall as demand increases for plant-based feedstock for biofuels. China and India have both made it plain that they will not constrain their economic growth to curtail emissions of man-made greenhouse gases. Can the Chinese Communist Party cope with political pressures rising from pervasive domestic pollution of air, land and water? The present failure of the Kyoto Protocol and the probable future failure of any successor built on the same flawed structural assumptions lay the ground for future conflicts of interest. This is a new source of tension between the advanced industrial regions, the demographic superpowers, and the rest; and it represents a simple operation of the Law of Unintended Consequences. The Law is greatly to be respected in developing a viable defence and security establishment. It turns risks into threats.

The problem of Russia is re-emerging

President Putin is showing considerable skill in mixing the old with the new. He has answered, with troubling clarity, the question in Alexandr Blok's poem: as Russia, the Sphynx, gazes at Europe, sometimes with hatred, sometimes with love; which sentiment predominates? A new Russian nationalism is being promoted. Proud in its wealth of oil and gas, this nationalism revels in its isolation and its contempt for the 'soft' West. It is ready to expropriate property, to break contracts, to hint at energy blackmail, and to pursue opponents wherever they are - for instance in the unprecedented 2007 cyber-attack on Estonia, in which state resources were apparently complicit. The opportunity to engage Russia in the world economy efficiently (as opposed to colluding with robber baron capitalism) was squandered by those from the West who gave advice in the 1990s. We are yet to see the full bill for these errors. Meanwhile, both birth rates and life expectancy in Russia continue dramatically to slide, compounding the ferocity of the new nationalism with a tragic urgency.

Multilateral institutions are weakening

Currently, for essentially ideological reasons, the United Kingdom continues to invest much effort and faith in three supranational institutions: the UN, NATO and the EU. The current Prime Minister restated that investment as his central credo in his first Mansion House foreign policy speech in November 2007. Yet all are simultaneously weakening. Originally intended as alliances to support agreed ends, they have lost their way and no longer offer their members the benefits once covenanted. What are the essential features of alliances worthy of that name? Shared essential values; shared culture, and especially military culture; shared interests; and, most basic of all, trust - trust enough to permit the special intelligence relationships enjoyed by the UK for the last sixty years with Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand. We have only to look at destinations for British emigration, and at world-wide phone traffic patterns, to see where our practical preferences are exercised.

What does all this - and particularly the last - mean for the United Kingdom? Coalitions of the willing are the only lasting kind; nations do not have permanent friends, only permanent interests. Foul weather friends are to be preferred to fair weather friends; and the British people know precisely which are which. The English- speaking world manifestly close friends - and, less openly, those with interests common to ours, emerge as our main diplomatic resource. In making our choices, however, we need to know who we are ourselves and what we stand for. How else should we ourselves be reliable allies to others? Once we know these things and admit them, we can restore our divided house to harmony and thence to security.


The deep guarantee of real strength is our knowledge of who we are. Our loss of cultural self-confidence weakens our ability to develop new means to provide for our security in the face of new risks. Our uncertainty incubates the embryonic threats these risks represent. We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without.


We need to remind ourselves of the first principles which govern priorities in liberal democracies. Defence and security must be restored as the first duty of government. The trust and mutual obligations between government, people and the defence forces must be reasserted. Our common understanding of and allegiance to the United Kingdom must be restored. We have a powerful history and a sound constitution, fit for the state's essential role as the ultimate guarantor of the individual's safety, freedom and security.

In that spirit, now may be an opportune moment to offer a further and complementary proposal for institutional change in the area of defence and security. But before doing so, let us be realistic about the role of such changes. Institutions do not guarantee sound analysis or clear thinking any more than they engender political will. It is a common error to conflate legislating with doing. Individuals do the analysis, the thinking and the determining. Institutions facilitate these. They can only provide the best possible spaces and the clearest lines of communication within and through which people come together to make these things happen. Institutional improvements such as we advocate here are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the improvement of British security.

Aim of the Proposal

The aim is to match three needs: addressing the full range of strategic risks and threats coherently and consistently within government, instead of ad hoc; doing so in a manner which as far as possible escapes the traps of partisan and political-cycle factors, without doing violence to the principles of parliamentary government; and building political consensus so that public opinion can feel confidence in the political process, without the detailed mediation of the press - for these, of course, are matters that often need to be confidential, if not secret. This would represent a virtuous circle.

Twin Committees

We propose twin committees: one a Cabinet Committee (of ministers, with service personnel and officials not just formally in attendance, but actually as full members), and the other a Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament.

A key aspect of the proposal is that, although the Joint Committee would need a very small staff in each House, the two Committees should essentially share a staff within the Cabinet Office.


The Cabinet Committee would draw together all the threads of government relating to defence and security, whether at home or abroad. It would be 'somewhere for anyone to go' in raising concerns. It would draw all parts of government into strategy and planning, as required. Its key function would be strategic: assessing risks and threats, and our capabilities in addressing them, in order to make judgements as to the balance and proportions of policy across the full spectrum of government activity. It would not be concerned directly with operational matters. It would not be concerned directly with the allocation of resources, but would have an influential voice when a clear need for resources was not being met. Its principal task would be to exercise judgement as to the necessary levels of capability and the overall balance of effort and planning, long term.

The Joint Committee would provide a parallel institution within Parliament to monitor Government assessments and strategy, to make available the perspective of politicians from other parties (and none)/and to act, in so far as it saw fit, to build consensus in Parliament for Government policy, or to raise awareness in Parliament of gaps in Government policy. It would not be inquisitorial, in the sense of investigating or scrutinising past actions by Government departments or agencies. It would have the power to report to the Houses as it saw fit, and so recommend matters for debate.

Membership of the Committees

The members of the Cabinet Committee would be ministers, defence staff and officials as ordered by the Prime Minister: the normal arrangement for such a Committee. The departments and agencies to be represented would probably include the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, the Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and the Home Office. Others who were not permanent members might need to attend from time to time - for example, the heads of the security services, Lord Chancellor or Attorney General (for constitutional issues impacting on the freedom of the individual) or ministers from the departments responsible for schools or higher education.

The membership of the Joint Committee would of course be a matter for the two Houses: but we propose two innovations to be established as conventions. First, all members should be appointed with the expectation of serving for at least a full Parliament, and normally for a fixed number of years. secondly, all members should already be Privy Counsellors, or be appointed so on joining the Committee. This would emphasise the seniority of the Joint Committee and allow its deliberations to take place on Privy Council terms. It would also allow it to meet together with the Cabinet Committee if circumstances required.


We believe that these committees could become very important. This being so, for two reasons we suggest that the Prime Minister be not given chairmanship. First, the new committees are organs of analysis and overview, not executive organs. They will report to and thus empower the Prime Minister's executive committees. The best military, political and business experience shows that sound and decisive leadership involves delegation. Leadership can then be quiet, creative and clear. secondly, we seek by re-engagement to stimulate the sinews, nerves and muscles of the whole parliamentary body politic that has grown flaccid from under use. It is imprudent and counter-productive to overburden a Prime Minister with detailed chairing commitments. Therefore, a senior Cabinet minister would chair the Cabinet Committee. This, together with responsibility for the Cabinet Office staff of the committees, should be a substantial, if not the major, part of his or her remit. One of the sinecure posts, ideally Lord President, would clearly be appropriate for this. The Committee would report, as appropriate, direct to the Cabinet or to the Prime Minister's own defence and overseas policy committee. A senior member of the Opposition, possibly but not necessarily with Cabinet experience, should chair the Joint Committee.


This new structure of committees would have an important symbolic function, as well as a practical one. It would demonstrate to the public that the widest view of defence and security was taken within government and within Parliament. It would show that the whole range of risks and threats was being managed.

It would help both ministers and officials comprehend the interrelated nature of today's risks and the emergence of threats. It would help them build the underlying policies in support of operational strategies. It would be a guarantee of the coherence and legitimacy of operations in the eyes of the public.

It would reduce the appearance of short-term political advantage in the deployment of our defence forces and promote acceptance of necessary provision for defence and security. Most importantly, it would preserve and safeguard the authority of Parliament.

Our world has entered into a dangerous phase of uncertainty. In the United Kingdom, frustration with our piecemeal and erratic response to new threats has sapped the strengths we know we have. In reaffirming a political settlement that has served us well, by accepting some considered institutional innovation, we shall be better able to meet what lies ahead, and extend to our allies the support we owe them, helping them in turn to support us.

'The country's lack of self-confidence Is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy, within and without.' A policeman stands at a cordon in a London street after a failed car bomb attack, 29 June 2007.

Our loss of cultural self-confidence', Prins and Salisbury argue, 'weakens our ability to develop new means to provide for our security in the face of new risks.' British Prime Minister Cordon Brown talks with British troops at their base in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, 2 October 2007. REUTERS/Lefteris Pitarakis.

* Sir Mark Allen is a retired member of HM Diplomatic Service; Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham is a former Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff; Chris Donnelly is a Director of the Institute of State & Governance, Oxford and Senior Fellow of the Defence Academy, Field Marshal the Lord Inge is a former Chief of Defence Staff; Tom Kremer is author of The Missing Heart of Europe; Lord Leach is an international banker; Baroness Park of Monmouth is a former member of SIS and diplomat; Douglas Slater is a former Clerk of the House of Lords; General Sir Rupert Smith is a former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and author of The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World; and Professor Hew Strachan is Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College, Oxford.

Gwyn Prins is a Professor at the London School of Economics. Robert Salisbury is the Marquess of Salisbury and a Privy Councillor.

Copyright Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies Feb 2008

(c) 2008 RUSI Journal; Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

Source: RUSI Journal; Royal United Services Institute for Defense Studies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Great endorsement of Zionism and Israel

Somehow, almost everyone seems to have missed this.

Barack Obama's visit to Israel and his AIPAC appearance and other remarks about Israel elicited the usual sort of remarks one expects in an election campaign, though these were delivered with Obama's usual flair.

Obama, however, has given Israel and Zionism two great gifts that were really only his to give. Astute Israeli commentator Sever Plocker pointed out, in a radio commentary, something that seems to have been forgotten or taken for granted. Barack Obama has re-legitimized Israel as a progressive cause. Obama, though his policies are actually less progressive than those of the other Democratic party candidates that he has apparently beaten, is a symbol of the progressive "revolt" in the US. Though Obama's support among progressives and liberals and the "left" is no doubt going to be eroded as he inevitably moves toward the center, his pro-Israel rhetoric is going to remain a powerful antidote to the rhetoric of the "Israel Lobby" and "Apartheid Israel" crowd.

Consider this statement, made while Obama was in Israel:

"Terrorism is not theoretical, it's right here a block away from this hotel, and it must be fought with full force and strength."

Sure, John McCain can say the same thing, but it has a different significance when Barack Obama says it. Obama cannot be painted as a neocon imperialist warmonger, right? McCain can't help it that he is a Republican, he was just born that way.

It's not just about progressives and Israel either. Read more here:

Barack Obama's gifts to Zionism and Israel


Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Seal of King Zedekiah's minister found in J'lem dig

Seal of King Zedekiah's minister found in J'lem dig

Jul. 31, 2008
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST

A seal impression belonging to a minister of the Biblical King Zedekiah which dates back 2,600 years has been uncovered completely intact during an archeological dig in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said on Thursday.

The seal impression, or bulla, with the name Gedalyahu ben Pashur, who served as minister to King Zedekiah (597-586 BCE) according to the Book of Jeremiah, was found just meters away from a separate seal impression of another of Zedekia's ministers, Yehukual ben Shelemyahu, which was uncovered three years ago, said Prof. Eilat Mazar who is leading the dig at the site.

The excavation at the history-rich City of David, which is located just outside the walls of the Old City near Dung Gate, has proven, in recent years, to be a treasure trove for archeologists.

"On the one hand it is so unexpected to find such a fragile bulla in such harsh conditions of excavation, while on the other hand it was logical to find precisely here the bulla of Gedalyahu ben Pashur - only meters away from the place where we found the bulla of Yehukhal ben Shelemyahu - since these two ministers are mentioned side by side in the Bible as having served together in the kingdom of King Zedekiah," Mazar said.

The first bulla was uncovered inside an impressive stone structure, which Mazar believes is the Palace of David, while the second bulla was found at the foot of the external wall of the same structure, under a tower that was built in the days of Nehemiah.

Both of the bullae with the names of the two ministers, measuring 1 cm. in diameter each, were found among the debris of the destruction of the First Temple period.

The letters are in ancient Hebrew and are very clearly preserved, Mazar said.

Both ministers are mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38 1-4) along with two other ministers when they came to King Zedekiah demanding the death of the prophet Jeremiah for preaching to the besieged city to surrender.

Mazar said it was "absolutely fantastic" to have uncovered the seals "complete and in perfect condition" after 2,600 years, affording scholars a clear read of the names that were impressed on them.

"It is not very often that such a discovery happens in which real figures of the past shake off the dust of history and so vividly revive the stories of the Bible," she said.

The archeologist, who rose to international prominence for her excavation that may have uncovered the Biblical palace of King David nearby, has been at the forefront of a series of back-to-back Jerusalem archeological finds, including the remnants of a wall from the Biblical prophet Nehemiah, also in the area.

Other Biblical-era bullae were previously found a quarter century ago at the City of David site. In 1982, the Israeli archeologist Yigal Shiloh discovered a cache of bullae in a nearby site, including one with the name of Gemaryahu ben Shaphan - mentioned in the Bible as a minister and scribe during the reign of King Jehoiakim (608-597 BCE).

The current dig is being conducted on behalf of the Shalem center, a Jerusalem research institute, and the right-wing City of David Foundation, and was carried out under the academic auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Detailed Poll Results: Kadima under Livni leads Likud

Detailed Poll Results: Kadima under Livni leads Likud - July 31, 2008

A new survey shows that the Kadima party under Tzipi Livni would outpoll the Likud 26 to 25, and reduce the Israel Labor party to 14 seats. However, Benjamin Nethanyahu is favored as Prime Minister by 29% of Israelis, versus 22% for Livni. 38% of Israelis claim they felt joy and relief when PM Olmert announced he would not run in Kadima party primaries. 31% were apathetic.

Following are results of a Dialog poll of 503 Israeli respondents immediately following PM Ehud Olmert's announcement that he would not run for head of the Kadima party. The poll was conducted by Prof. Camille Fuchs of Tel Aviv University for Ha'aretz newspar and has a margin of error of 4.1%.

[Mewnews Translation of Hebrew ]  

Two scenarios:
[A] Kadima headed by Livni
[B] Kadima headed by Mofaz

If elections were held today, for which party would you vote:

Actual Knesset today in [brackets]
[A] [B]
29 25 [12] Likud
19 26 [29] Kadima
17 14 [19] Labor
11 11 [11] Yisrael Beteinu
11 11 [12] Shas
02 02 [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
07 07 [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
00 00 [07] Retirees Party
05 05 [05] Meretz
07 07 [06] Yahadut Hatorah [United Torah Judaism]
11 11 [10] Arab parties

Whom would you like to see at the head of Kadima?

Livni- 34%

Mofaz - 16%

Dichter - 8%

Shitrit - 4%

None of the above -38%

From among the following candidates, who is most suitable to be Prime Minister:

Netanyahu: 29%
Livni: 22%
Barak: 8%
Mofaz: 8%
None of them: 28%
All in equal measure: 4%

What did you feel when you watched or heard the resignation announcement of the Prime Minister:

Joy and relief: 38%
Apathy: 31%
Other, didn't hear, don't know: 17%
Sorrow and identification: 14%

MidEastWeb Middle East News Service


Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Full text of Olmert resignation speech

"You won't have Olmert to kick around any more."
Mr Olmert has a rather different view of his performance than most of us.
As a citizen of a democratic state I have always believed that when a prime minister is elected in Israel, even those who voted against him at the polls are obligated to desire his success. Instead of gaining that basic trust, however, I found myself subject to a wave of investigations, examinations and criticism immediately after being elected. Practically from my first day in the Prime Minister's Office I was forced to repulse malicious assaults, while I was busy making critical decisions pertinent to Israel's security and existence. Still, during my term Israel's situation continued to improve.
In the security arena, we strengthened the Israel Defense Forces: We continued to build up its might and greatly increased its resources. There is calm in the north and it is not under any immediate threat. Israel's deterrent capability has improved beyond recognition. We also learned our lessons and rectified our mistakes. The self-examination processes are essential mechanisms to a healthy society - I am proud of them. 
In the economic and social spheres we have maintained a stable economy and brought it to significant achievements. We stepped up the struggle against poverty and the level of involvement in distressed areas, particularly in the periphery. The number of poor people continues to decline. We invested one billion shekels in an attempt to improve the education system. We increased old-age allowances, we focused on helping at-risk children and established a system to provide care for very young children, whose needs we had ignored for years.
We achieved a positive record in employment figures: Hundreds of thousands joined the workforce. Unemployment dropped to 6.1 percent, compared to 10.5 percent three years ago. Beyond all these, I continue to believe with all my heart that achieving peace, the cessation of terror, strengthening security, creating a different relationship with our neighbors - these are the most essential goals for Israel's future. The support of the United States, under George W. Bush's leadership, is a great help toward these goals. We are closer than ever to concrete understandings that will likely serve as a basis for agreements in our dialogues with both the Palestinians and the Syrians. On the day the dream of peace comes true we will all stand and wonder: How did we not achieve this sooner? As long as I remain at my post I will not stop trying to continue to bring the negotiations between us and our neighbors to a successful conclusion that embodies hope. In my position as prime minister I bear the highest responsibility for decisions. There are outstanding people in this country. Together with them I have led far-reaching, daring and complex processes. I never tried to boast about these achievements in public for political gain. Most of them are concealed from the majority of the public, but are well-known to the executors and the partners in those decisions.
The entire time I was forced to defend myself from ceaseless attacks by the self-appointed soldiers of justice, who sought to oust me from my position. I am the prime minister, and am naturally a target for political struggle. But every intelligent person knows that things are totally out of proportion. Have I made mistakes in my many years of political activity? Of course! I am sorry and regret them. But is the true picture of things the one that is presented to the public? Not at all! As prime minister I am denied the elementary right of presumed innocence, in the absence of the ability to present it at the height of a forced process, in which I must be silent. I want to make one thing clear: I am proud to be a citizen of a country in which a prime minister can be investigated like any other citizen. It is the duty of the police to investigate. It is the duty of the State Prosecutor's Office to instruct the police, and I have nothing against them for that. The prime minister is not above the law, but neither is he beneath it.
This is not my personal problem. This is a challenge for our ability, as a state, to maintain the stability and balance of the democratic regime. Neither a clerk, nor a junior or senior investigator, nor a lawyer no matter how important and honest - as are the vast majority in the police and the State Prosecutor's Office - has the right or the authority to decide whether the prime minister can serve or continue his duties. Such decisions should be made after a responsible, quiet, orderly process, as in every democratic country. Unfortunately, that orderly process is no longer taking place here.
It is my duty to responsibly conduct a personal accounting for us all, even if it hurts, even if it requires decisions that involve a personal price. This could be a milestone for the future of our democratic lives. Perhaps I, today, with my personal decision, am opening a window to a better reality.
I reiterate what I have already said. I have complete and satisfying answers. I will not conduct this discourse in the media or at a press conference, but rather a balanced and fair struggle, as I have done my whole life. Those preaching to me today will one day have to contend with the truth, as it will come out before them. They know this very well. Now the moment has come for me to make a decision. I am not doing this out of a sense that I cannot fulfill my duties. I believe, with all my being, in my ability to continue fulfilling my mission, as I believe my own honesty and innocence. But the current campaign of abuse, even by honest people who truly care about the state and its image, raises a question that I do not want to and cannot evade. What is more important? My private justice, or the public good? My private justice is very important to me. The infringement of my family's privacy pains me exceedingly. In the choice between the considerations of my status and ability to struggle for my justice, and the considerations of the good of the state, the latter are more important!!!
I have therefore decided not to run in the Kadima party primaries. Nor do I intend to intervene in the internal elections, in keeping with the decision I proposed, and their outcome has my blessing. My decision was not made out of bitterness, nor in an atmosphere of preaching. I have come to say only a little of what has been in my heart for many months. When a new party chairman is elected I will resign my position as prime minister, in order to permit the newly elected chairman to form another government, quickly and efficiently. I believe that there is a broad public foundation for such a government and that it will be established within a short time. I will step aside properly, in a respectable, fair and responsible fashion, just as I have served throughout my term. Then I will prove my innocence. We have a singular, wonderful country, unlike any other in the world. I love it with all my heart and soul, and I am grateful to you, the citizens of Israel, for the right you gave me to act on your behalf.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas Deserter: You will never have peace with Hamas

Don't say you didn't know. Don't say nobody told you. Here it is from the horse's mouth:
"You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death."
 Ami Isseroff
Last update - 08:43 31/07/2008       
Hamas' Christian convert: I've left a society that sanctifies terror
By Avi Issacharoff
A moment before beginning his supper, Masab, son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, glances at the friend who has accompanied him to the restaurant where we met. They whisper a few words and then say grace, thanking God and Jesus for putting food on their plates.
It takes a few seconds to digest this sight: The son of a Hamas MP who is also the most popular figure in that extremist Islamic organization, a young man who assisted his father for years in his political activities, has become a rank-and-file Christian. "I'm now called Joseph," he says at the outset.
Masab knows that he has little hope of returning to visit the Holy Land in this lifetime.
"I know that I'm endangering my life and am even liable to lose my father, but I hope that he'll understand this and that God will give him and my family patience and willingness to open their eyes to Jesus and to Christianity. Maybe one day I'll be able to return to Palestine and to Ramallah with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God."
Nor does he attempt to hide his affection for Israel, or his abhorrence of everything representing the surroundings in which he grew up: the nation, the religion, the organization.
"Send regards to Israel, I miss it. I respect Israel and admire it as a country," he says.
"You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death."
Is that the justification for the suicide attacks?
"More than that. An entire society sanctifies death and the suicide terrorists. In Palestinian culture a suicide terrorist becomes a hero, a martyr. Sheikhs tell their students about the 'heroism of the shaheeds.'"
And yet, in spite of the criticism of the place he left, California can't make the longings disappear.
"I miss Ramallah," he says. "People with an open mind. ... I mainly miss my mother, my brothers and sisters, but I know that it will be very difficult for me to return to Ramallah soon."
The continuation of this article will appear in the Haaretz Weekend Magazaine

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Olmert Quits

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert announced this evening that he will not participate in the Kadima party primaries and will resign when the next head of the party has been elected. [MidEastWeb Middle East News Service ].
Below is an earlier report speculating on the content of the speech.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 20:10 30/07/2008       
Olmert: Prime minister is not above or below law
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert delivered a statement to the public from his official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.
The surprise announcement did not detail what subject Olmert would address. Political sources said they believed Olmert would announce a decision not to run in an upcoming leadership contest in his Kadima party, scheduled for September 17. This decision could in effect mean an end to Olmert's political career.
Olmert began the address by saying that despite having been beset by investigations during his tenure, he has improved the situation in Israel and continues to believe that peace is the most important track for the country.
The prime minister went on to say that as long as he was in power, he would work toward this goal of peace.
"I am proud to be the prime minister of a country that investigates its prime ministers," he said. "The prime minister is not above the law, but he is in no way below it."
The prime minister has been under official criminal investigation in recent months over allegations of corruption in his former capacities as Jerusalem mayor and trade minister.
The two most prominent investigations involve suspicions that Olmert took bribes from American businessman Morris Talansky, and charges he submitted duplicate claims for travel expenses which he allegedly used to fund family trips abroad. He has denied wrongdoing, but said he would resign if indicted.
Olmert's announcement comes a day after Kadima said it had scheduled its leadership vote, an election that could lead to Olmert's ouster. Olmert has not said publicly whether he intends to run.
The prime minister's advisers in recent days have split into two groups: those who expect him to continue in his position and resign only if indicted, and those who have been urging him not to run in the primary elections and conclude his term with an air of respect.

On a different note, other analysts have surmised that during the address on Wednesday the prime minister will discuss developments in Israel's indirect negotiations with Syria, the fourth round of which ended in Turkey on Wednesday.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas lull-a-bye-bye - Hamas summer camp - You've read the book, now see the movie

 Send a kid to camp this summer - kaboom! So why did Israel sign a lull with the Hamas?  
Last update - 10:01 30/07/2008    
 VIDEO / Hamas summer camp teaches Gaza kids to hate, kill
Click for video 
 By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 10 daily feature for July 29, 2008. 
The educational activities provided to children on a Hamas paramilitary camp in Gaza are probably unlike those of any other summer scheme in the world.
The camp is aimed at indoctrinating the children to hate Israel and the United States, as well as to take pride in Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.
While Israel and Hamas maintain a fragile cease-fire in the coastal territory, the camp teaches the children to strive towards being militants and continue the conflict.

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