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Friday, October 31, 2008

Report: Iran holding secret tests to advance nuclear program

Last update - 16:47 31/10/2008       
IAEA member: Iran holding secret tests to advance nuclear program
By The Associated Press
Iran has recently tested ways of recovering highly enriched uranium from waste reactor fuel in a covert bid to expand its nuclear program, according to an intelligence assessment provided by an unnamed member of the United Nation's 145-nation member nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Association.
The intelligence also says a report will soon be submitted to the Iranian leadership for a decision on whether to go ahead with the project.
The alleged tests loosely replicate Saddam Hussein's attempts to build the bomb nearly two decades ago. But experts question the conclusion by those providing the intelligence that Tehran, too, is trying to reprocess the fuel to make a nuclear weapon.
They note that the spent fuel at issue as the source of the enriched uranium is not enough to yield the approximately 30 kilograms of
weapons-grade material needed for a bomb.
Still, they say that the alleged experiment appears plausible - if not as a fast track to weapons capability then as a step that could move it further along that path.
With Iran's nuclear program already under international scrutiny, any new
efforts by Tehran to increase its nuclear expertise and its store of enriched uranium would set off alarm bells - particularly if that stock was highly enriched. The higher the enrichment the easier it is to reach the 90 percent level used in the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
The 3-page intelligence report, drawn from Iranian sources within the country, says the source material would be highly enriched - some at above 90 percent, the rest at 20 percent.
In contrast, Iran's enrichment program under constant IAEA monitoring has
churned out material that is less than 5 percent enriched, in line with the fuel needs of modern reactors.
Procedures were evaluated for recycling fuel by dissolving fuel rods for
irradiated waste and then reprocessing the material into uranium metal, says the intelligence assessment. Uranium metal is used for nuclear warheads.
Sufficient data was collected for planning production lines for recovering the fuel, says the assessment, which gave Tehran's Jaber ibn Hayan Laboratories, run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as the location for the experiment.
Top officials of AEOI are in the final stages of writing a report for the
Iranian leadership for assessment on whether to go forward with reprocessing, according to the intelligence.
The laboratories and the Tehran Nuclear Research Center, the site of the
reactor, have figured in suspect experiments, including clandestine plutonium separation attempts uncovered by the IAEA.
If the information is accurate then Iran is trying to get their nose in the tent of reprocessing material potentially suitable for a warhead, said David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security tracks suspect secret proliferators.
On the surface it may have nothing to do with making a bomb, but in the end that's what it could be about.
IAEA spokespeople were unavailable Thursday but an official of the
Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog said the agency would not comment. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to be quoted by name.
Both Albright and a senior Vienna-based diplomat agreed that the alleged
experiment roughly jibed with Saddam's efforts to chemically process research reactor fuel to recover enriched uranium - in the case of Baghdad, enough and at a sufficiently high level of enrichment to make a bomb.
Close to success, the Iraqis saw their plans fail with the destruction of the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center during the first Gulf War of 1990-1991.
This is the 'Iraqi scenario,' said the diplomat, referring to the alleged Iranian experiment. He - like the source of the intelligence - demandedanonymity because their information was restricted.
But both he and Albright noted that the purported source for the fuel - Tehran's TNRC research reactor - was unlikely to have enough material for
reprocessing into the core of a warhead.
The five-megawatt reactor initially ran on weapons-grade uranium fuel enriched to 93 percent that was provided by the U.S. in the late 1960s to the then pro-Washington regime. But measured in terms of potential proliferation, the amount was small - only 7 kilograms (15 pounds).
Then, in the late 1980s, Argentina helped reconfigure the reactor core and provided about 115 kilograms (250 pounds)of uranium. In contrast to modern reactors that run on low-enriched fuel, that material was highly enriched to about 20 percent.
Albright said that even optimal reprocessing would probably yield less than about half of the 30 kilograms (65 pounds) of weapons-grade uranium needed for a bomb. That restriction makes it unlikely that Iran was looking to the TNRC reactor for that immediate purpose.
Instead, an Iranian reprocessing plans could be part of Tehran's attempts to push the nuclear envelope.
U.S.-led efforts for tough UN sanctions for Iran's refusal to suspend
enrichment have been consistently blocked by Russia and China. Tehran also has support of developing countries traditionally suspicious of Washington.
Defying weak sanctions, the Islamic Republic has moved further through
enrichment toward developing weapons capability - now anywhere from six months to several years away, depending on the source.
Iran may be banking on further international inaction if it announces it will reprocess, perhaps arguing that it will need it as a source for new fuel for the research reactor. If allowed to do so, it will have moved another step ahead on the path to being able to develop warhead material.
"It's the idea that Iran wants to slowly develop nuclear weapons capability under the tent and it does it slowly so that people will accept it," said Albright. "It's [a matter of] keeping your head down, moving slowly and deliberately and winning at each step.

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EU condemns settler 'acts of brutality' against Palestinians

Last update - 19:56 31/10/2008       
EU condemns settler 'acts of brutality' against Palestinians
By Haaretz Service
The European Union on Friday issued a harsh condemnation of settler violence against Palestinians after a recent upsurge in clashes in the West Bank.
"The European Union once again condemns in the strongest possible terms the acts of violence and brutality committed against Palestinian civilians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank," the EU presidency said.
The censure came after a series of violent clashes between settlers, Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces during the current olive harvest.
The EU statement continued: "The European Union would point out that it is up to the Israeli government, which has itself condemned these acts, to take the necessary measures to stop them immediately, in accordance with its international obligations," it said.
Earlier Friday, right-wing activists rebuilt structures razed overnight by security forces at the Federman Farm outpost in the West bank.
Israeli security forces had overnight evacuated the illegal outpost, near the town of Kiryat Arba in the West Bank. This was the second evacuation of the settlement in less than a week.
Four policemen were lightly injured during the clashes that erupted during the avacuation. Reuters television footage also showed settlers throwing stones at Palestinian photographers on the scene.
Half a dozen settlers masking their faces with scarves hurled rocks at several Palestinian photographers at the scene, striking Hazem Bader, of the French AFP news agency in the head. Fellow journalists escorted him away as blood dripped from the wound.
Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that officers had been injured but said he could comment on the alleged assault of the journalist once an official complaint was filed.
Settlers blame police for clashes
The settlers blame the officers for inciting violence over the course of the evacuation. Three settlers were detained for questioning following the clashes.
Israel Defense Forces troops, Border Police and Israel Police had evacuated the Federman Farm outpost on Saturday evening.
The outpost had been home to the family of Noam Federman, a former leader in the outlawed Kach movement, and his family for about two years. Sinai Tor, a musician well-known in settler circles, had also taken up residence there.
The local settler community had struck a "price tag" policy, which called for damaging IDF and Palestinian property in response to the weekend evacuation.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz called for an incitement investigation against right -wing activists, after rioting by settlers in the West Bank that included desecrating headstones at a Muslim cemetery between Hebron and Kiryat Arba and damaging more than 80 Palestinian vehicles.
During the rioting, settlers hurled abuse at security forces personnel and called for a "revenge attack" in response to the evacuation of Federman Farm.
Federman himself was arrested on Saturday night on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and obstructing police from carrying out their duty.
He was released from police custody on Monday, when the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court slammed the police for having insufficient evidence.
Police said he forcibly resisted arrest, kicking and hitting police officers, though an accusation that he broke a police officer's leg proved false.
Federman's lawyer, Ariel Atari, said he plans to file a complaint with the police investigation department against the police officers involved in the incident.
During the rioting of the initial evacuation last week, a number of settlers were arrested for attacking a police officer, and two women were arrested after they attempted to torch a police car.
Settlers also smashed windows and punctured the tires of more than 80 Palestinian vehicles and caused damage worth an estimated hundreds of thousands of shekels to the security fence surrounding Kiryat Arba. Two police cars were also damaged during the altercations.

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Livni: Syria must cut Iran, terror ties before we give it what it wants

Last update - 17:54 31/10/2008       
Livni: Syria must cut Iran, terror ties before we give it what it wants
By Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents
Following reports that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends to resume indirect peace talks with Syria, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni on Friday asserted that Damascus must sever its ties with Iran and Hezbollah before Israel accedes to its demands.
"Before the Syrians get from us what they want, they must show through their actions that they intend to stop arming Hezbollah, and must cut ties with Iran and terrorism," Army Radio quoted her as saying.
Livni, who will seek to bring the ruling Kadima party victory in upcoming general elections, also said Friday that the government "must determine if we are talking about continuing just the talks - or determining facts on the ground before elections, something that is not appropriate or acceptable."
"The government needs at this time to focus on the management of the country and find solutions to the problems facing us right now, nothing more than this," Livni added.
The official who reported that Olmert intends to continue talks added that talks between the Prime Minister's Bureau and the bureau of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be held next week to try to coordinate an agreed-on date for what would be the fifth round of indirect talks with the Syrians.
In response to the report, Likud MK Yuval Steinitz slammed Olmert as having delivered a "simultaneous blow to the principles of democracy and the crucial interests of the State of Israel," by carrying out such negotiations with Syria.
Meanwhile, Livni has called for an increase of international pressure on Syria.
Olmert's intention to resume talks has raised fury among right-wing lawmakers, especially as the government elections.
Olmert met Tuesday with Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, who had held a two-hour meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad a few days earlier in Damascus. Assad expressed a desire to continue talks with Israel, and was "very serious," the Danish minister told Olmert.
Moeller also said Assad had told him he was willing to conduct direct negotiations with Israel while President George W. Bush is still in office, if Assad were to receive a satisfactory response from Israel to the "six-point document" he gave the Turkish prime minister in September.
According to an Israeli government source, Israel is aware of the content of the document. Haaretz has learned that the document contains three points dealing with the marking of the border of the Golan Heights and three points dealing with security issues in the framework of a peace treaty between the two countries.
Olmert reportedly told Moeller that his intentions toward the Syrians were also serious and noted that he had said as much in an interview he gave recently to Yediot Ahronoth. Olmert also reportedly told Moeller that Israel would answer the Syrians' questions at the coming meeting. The Prime Minister's Bureau declined to comment on the matter.
If a date is set for another round of talks, it will be handled by the same team as the previous rounds, including Yoram Turbovicz and and Shalom Turjeman. Turbovicz retired in August from his position as Olmert's bureau chief and recently received approval from the attorney general to head the negotiating team on a voluntary basis. The arrangement for Turbovicz was several months in the making, one of the reasons talks with the Syrians were frozen.
The six-point document was first made public at a summit in Damascus at the beginning of September, attended by the president of France, the Turkish premier and the emir of Qatar, where Assad announced that he had given the document to Ankara, and that it included Syria's demands regarding an agreement with Israel. Assad is believed to view Israeli agreement to the document, which Israel received via Turkey, as a condition for a move to direct talks.
Despite Olmert's desire to talk to the Syrians, he may find it difficult to do so because of the major tensions between Damascus and Washington following the U.S. air attack on Syrian territory on Sunday, which killed eight people. Syria took a number of steps against American institutions in Damascus, and the U.S. State Department announced that the American Embassy in Damascus would be closed until further notice.
Syria announced Thursday it would withdraw its Border Guard forces from the border with Iraq as a "punitive measure" against the United States for the bombing. A huge anti-American demonstration was also organized in Damascus to protest the attack. ABC News reported on Friday that the Bush Administration nixed a proposal by incoming head of the U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus to visit Syria shortly after he takes over the post as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East.
The last round of Turkish-mediated indirect talks between Israel and Syria ended the same day Olmert announced he was leaving office in the wake of the investigations against him. The fifth round, planned for the beginning of September, was postponed because of the political situation in Israel and Turbovicz's departure.
Olmert kept a low political profile after the Kadima primary to allow the party's new chairwoman, Livni, to conduct coalition talks without interruption. However, sources told Haaretz that following Livni's failure to form a government and the call for early elections, with Olmert now having at least three months left in office, Israel initiated the move to renew talks with the Syrians.
Renewing talks with Syria does not exceed Olmert's authority as head of a transition government; however, he could find himself the subject of criticism by Livni. Livni told the Turkish defense minister Thursday that the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah was very serious, adding, "International pressure must be brought to bear on Syria to stop this phenomenon."
Olmert did not discuss the diplomatic talks in his speech at the opening of the Knesset's winter session Monday, but he did note that "the interests of the country do not go into deep-freeze. Olmert also said that "the feeling of a preelection freeze is misleading - there are decisions to be made and a country to run. The decisions will be made and the country will be run."
Meanwhile, a Syrian commentator living in the West, Camille Alexandre Otrakji, said he believed the proposal raised by President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to negotiate based on the Arab peace initiative could be dangerous. In a blog on a public affairs Web site focusing on Syria, Otrakji wrote that the initiative could "...probably be another cycle of chaos, violence, war threats followed by a sequence of flipping peace tracks." Otrakji does not represent the official Syrian position, but his comments are apparently close to that position.

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Lebanon: 12 IAF warplanes violate airspace

 Last update - 19:25 31/10/2008    
Lebanon says 12 IAF warplanes violate its airspace
By The Associated Press
Lebanon said 12 Israel Air Force warplanes violated its airspace on Friday by flying reconnaissance missions over the country's North and South.
The Lebanese army said in a statement carried by Lebanon's official news agency that six IAF jets flew over the border village of Alma al-Shaab and other southern towns and villages for about 30 minutes Friday.
The statement said six other IAF warplanes flew over the Mediterranean off the coastal city of Batroun and over other northern towns for about an hour.
There was no immediate statement from the Israel Defense Forces, which usually does not comment on flights over Lebanon.
The IAF overflights are often aimed at intelligence gathering. The army used information gleaned from aerial photography in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, in which Israel fought the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah.
In August, a senior IAF officer told Haaretz that if Hezbollah installs advanced anti-aircraft batteries in Lebanon, the Israel Air Force will have to alter its overflights of Lebanon significantly.
However, he added that the IAF has successfully coped with similar threats elsewhere, and could do so in Lebanon as well.

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Report: Obama accused Israel of Genocide

This has at least the appearance of versimilitude, unlike some of the other dirt going 'round. If it is true, it is very bad of course. If not, file it with McCain's "black baby" and the other silly season stories.

Obama at Khalidi bash: Israelis commit genocide, have no God-given  right to occupy Palestine
 Israel Insider

 Award-winning blogger Doug Ross reports that a reliable source has  provided an eyewitness account of what he saw on the videotape of the  Rashid Khalidi farewell bash that the LA Times is suppressing.

 The paper used the tape as the basis for its watered-down story about  the event and has been suppressing ever since, despite massive appeals including an official request by the McCain campaign - to release indisputably newsworthy evidence that could inform voters about where  Barack Hussein Obama really stands.

 The eyewitness source, who Ross calls a person who has provided useful, accurate and unique data from LA before writes:

"Saw a clip from the tape. Reason we can't release it is because  statements Obama said to rile audience up during toast. e congratulates Khalidi for his work saying "Israel has no God-given  right to occupy Palestine plus there's been genocide against the  Palestinian people by Israelis."

It would be really controversial if it got out. That's why they will  not even let a transcript get out.

 The eyewitness' use of the word "we" suggests that he is a Times  staffer.

 In a separate development, a European financier, cited by the Atlas  Shrugs blog, has offered a $150,000 reward for provision of the tape.

 After four days of hemming and hawing, and trying out other excuses for the suppression, the LA Times editor Russ Stanton came up with  the following reason:"The Los Angeles Times did not publish the  videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who  did so on the condition that we not release it."

 Ross retorts: "How frickin' stupid do they think we are?Someone  gave the Times a videotape so it wouldn't be released? And they can't  publish a transcript?"

 Now we may know why not. At the very least, the leak of the quotes  may compel the paper to release a transcript, or the Obama campaign  to confirm or deny their veracity.

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Israeli police demolish illegal Qirat Arba building; arrest 3 settlers for rioting

Two police officers lightly injured, three women detained in clashes between settlers, security forces attempting to demolish two illegal structures in Jewish community of Kiryat Arba. In response, rightists vandalize Palestinian property
Efrat Weiss
Published:  10.31.08, 07:04 / Israel News
Late night drama in Federman farm: Two police officers were lightly injured Thursday night and three women were arrested as security forces arrived at a farm belonging to extreme right-wing activist Noam Federman in the Jewish community of Kiryat Arba in a bid to demolish two illegal structures.
According to the settlers, the security forces used violence against them and injured five of them, including a teenage girl who was wounded in the head.
The settlers said the forces managed to destroy the building they sought to demolish and left the place after a short while.

The Judea and Samaria District Police reported that the security forces entered the Federman farm on Thursday night in order to demolish two structures erected in the area.

When the forces tried to leave the place, the police said, a number of settlers hurled stones at them. Two policemen were injured but did not require medical care. Three women settlers involved in the clashes were taken in for questioning.
As for the claims that the forces used violence, the police said that "those who say violence was used against them should file a complaint with the Police Investigation Unit."
Extreme right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir told Ynet the Border Guard and police forces arrived at the farm and destroyed a building. According to Ben-Gvir, the forces did not use truncheons, but "used their hands" and acted with violence against the settlers.
He said that residents of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, most of them youths, were waiting for the security forces in the area in order to prevent them from demolishing the structures, but that the forces eventually managed to destroy one building. He added that those who remained in the area were rebuilding the demolished structure.
Kiryat Arba fence damaged
Right-wing activists who were in the area said that several rightists responded to the demolition by going to Palestinian neighborhoods in Hebron and damaging Palestinian property, fields and the Kiryat Arba fence. They claimed that Palestinians hurled stones at them.
On Saturday night, massive police, Border Guard and IDF forces destroyed the Federman farm and detained four people. Noam Federman was arrested for assaulting a policeman and breaking his hand, and two young girls were taken into custody after reportedly attempting to set fire to a police car. Another person was detained for questioning.
Federman's wife, Elisheva, recounted the events in a conversation with Ynet. "It was a regular Saturday evening. We were cleaning after Shabbat. Our nine children went to sleep. I finished working on a paper for school, Noam was on the computer, when we suddenly heard dogs barking.
"We received a phone call that massive forces were headed towards us. Noam went out to see what was happening, and then Yasamniks ((Israel Police special patrol unit) jumped on him. I haven't seen him since.
The morning after the evacuation, Kiryat Arba resident, called for revenge against the IDF. "We hope they (soldiers) are defeated by their enemies, we hope that they all become (kidnapped soldier) Gilad Shalit, that they are all killed and that they are all slaughtered, because that's what they deserve," he told Army Radio.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert referred to the settlers' threats at the start of the cabinet meeting that day, saying that "those who make such remarks belong in jail."
Ben-Yishai was arrested Thursday on suspicion of incitement and released to his home under court restrictions after being questioned. In a statement he released earlier this week, he claimed he was not referring to all IDF soldiers, but only to those involved in the evacuation.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Benny Morris still atoning for past sins

Book Review: Benny Morris, 1948: The first Arab-Israeli War

Morris, Benny
1948: A History of the First Arab Israeli War
Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2008, 524 pages

Benny Morris is one of Israel's foremost historians. What he writes must be read, and is often considered authoritative. His writing is generally lucid and well organized, and is therefore a joy to read. It is certainly convincing. He tells a good story. Anyone interested in the history and historiography of Israel is going to have to read this book, because Morris wrote it, and because it does have a lot of useful information about the Israel war of Independence.

Regrettably, Morris tells a somewhat different good story, and tells it convincingly, every time he writes a book. Having propagated a number of indefensible myths about Israel's 1948 War of Independence in his earliest works, he can now make a career of debunking the myths that he helped to create, and he is, in part, doing so.

The war, it will be remembered, was conducted in two major phases: the civil war under the British and the war with the Arab states after May 15, 1948. As Morris now states clearly, and somewhat or completely contrary to earlier pronouncements:

* Israel had no transfer policy. The leadership of the Yishuv did not contemplate expelling the Arabs of Palestine, and Plan D of the Haganah was not a plan to expel the Arabs.

*Israel did not win the war against the invading Arab countries because of decisive military superiority or numbers.There was no Jewish Juggernaut. Morris's previous method was to cite the supposed 25,000 or 30,000 or 35,000 Haganah (the numbers keep changing) recruits that existed on paper on May 15, 1948 and to compare these with the approximately 22,000 invaders. Now he remembers to tell his readers what should have been obvious. Half of the supposedly vast numbers of Haganah troops were home guards and headquarters and logistic staff. The Arab armies also had such personnel back in their home countries. Haganah had about 16,500 men in 9 combat "brigades." The Arabs, in addition, as Morris notes, had support and air force personnel at home, and thousands of irregulars as well as the ALA ("Arab Liberation Army") of Kaukji in the field. In this book, Morris also "remembered" the 1947 CIA report that predicted that the Jewish Yishuv would lose a war against the Arabs of Palestine. It directly contradicts his earlier "authoritative" pronouncement that most authorities agreed that the Israelis would win. Perhaps in his next book, Morris will also "discover" that a large number of the Haganah "troops" were middle aged men like those sent to guard the old city, who could not fire a gun, or Gadna troops (aged 14-16) like those who helped save Notre Dame de France from the Jordan Legion and its British officers. He might also reveal that many of the Haganah "troops" had little or no training, and some were just off the boat and couldn't speak Hebrew. He tells us about some of these troops and about many failures that were due to shortages of manpower, poor equipment or no equipment and lack of training and strategic vision. Morris tries to "balance" the impact of the facts by noting that though the Arabs had tanks and airplanes, they were lousy tanks and airplanes anyhow, in poor repair. Of course, some bad aircraft and tanks are better than none at all. Overall, his treatment of the military balance is much more factual than it was in his previous presentations, or in those of fiction writers like Ilan Pappe.

But the significance doesn't alwas seem to register in Morris's summaries and conclusions: the Israelis were a bunch of amateurs who had trained underground with almost no arms, facing several organized state armies that had been trained, for better or worse, by Britain. Having a few officers who were World War II veterans is not a substitute for having an army trained as a unit by professionals, an army that could operate in the open and conduct maneuvers together. Having actual airplanes and tanks, however poorly serviced, rather than aircraft and tanks that exist only on paper in Czechoslovakia was a huge advantage. Having a few Spitfires was infinitely preferable to having 4 defective Czech Avia S-199 (Messerschmidt imitation) aircraft that, aside from being located in an airfield in Czechoslovakia when most needed, had a perverse tendency to shoot themselves down (the machine guns would shoot out the propellers) and were un-airworthy because they had the wrong engines (the Heinkel bomber engines were much too heavy). Morris tells us about the arrival of these aircraft, but he doesn't mention their wonderful aerodynamic qualities.

More: Book Review: Benny Morris, 1948: The first Arab-Israeli War

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Archaeologists report finding oldest Hebrew text

Of course, the text may be Canaanite and not Hebrew - same language. And it may be someone's laundry list and it doesn't mention King David or prove that he existed. Still, it is another tiny piece in the puzzle.
Archaeologists report finding oldest Hebrew text

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Archaeologists in Israel said on Thursday they had unearthed the oldest Hebrew text ever found, while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath.

Experts have not yet been able to decipher fully the five lines of text written in black ink on a shard of pottery dug up at a five-acre (two-hectare) archaeological site called Elah Fortress, or Khirbet Qeiyafa.

The Bible says David, later to become the famed Jewish king, killed Goliath, a Philistine warrior, in a battle in the Valley of Elah, now the site of wineries and an Israeli satellite station.

Archaeologists at Hebrew University said carbon dating of artifacts found at the fortress site, about 20 km (12 miles) southwest of Jerusalem, indicate the Hebrew inscription was written some 3,000 years ago, predating the Dead Sea Scrolls by 1,000 years.
They have been able to make out some of its words, including "judge," "slave" and "king."

Yosef Garfinkel, the lead archaeologist at the site, said the findings could shed significant light on the period of King David's rule over the Israelites.

"The chronology and geography of Khirbet Qeiyafa create a unique meeting point between the mythology, history, historiography and archaeology of King David," Garfinkel said.

(Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Sami Aboudi

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First temple seal discovered

Archeology should be science divoreced from politics. Regrettably, Arab claims that there were no Jews in Jerusalem in ancient times ("Jesus was a Palestinian...") and other claims about the First Temple Period, give political significance to archeological findings. The latest announcement illustrates why Arabs are upset about Israeli archeological digs near the Temple Mount.
October 30, 2008

A Rare Hebrew Seal from the First Temple Period was Discovered
in Archaeological Excavations in the Western Wall Plaza,
West of the Temple Mount

An image of a warrior shooting an arrow is depicted on the seal, which belonged to a Hebrew person by the name of Hagab. The owner of the seal probably held a military position, possibly that of army commander of the Kingdom of Judah.

The seal, which was discovered in the excavations that are being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, at the behest of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, will be presented to the public today (Thursday) at a joint study day of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out at the behest of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, in the northwestern part of the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, a rare and impressive Hebrew seal was discovered that dates to the latter part of the First Temple period. The seal was found in a building that is currently being uncovered, which dates to the seventh century BCE – to the time when the kings Manasseh and Josiah reigned.
The seal will be shown today (Thursday, October 30, 2008) during a study day dealing with "Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Surroundings", organized by the Jerusalem Region of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

According to the excavation director, archaeologist Shlomit Wexler-Bdolah of the IAA, "The seal, which apparently belonged to a private individual, is made of black stone, is elliptical in shape and measures 1.2 x 1.4 cm. It is adorned with an engraved decoration of an archer shooting a bow and arrow. The name of the archer is engraved in ancient Hebrew script next to him and reads LHGB (meaning: for Hagab). The name Hagab is mentioned in the Bible in Ezra 2:46, as well as in the Lachish Letters, which also date to the time of the First Temple".

The seal was sent for expert evaluation to Professor Benjamin Sass of the Tel Aviv University and Dr. Tali Ornan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. According to them the image of the archer was influenced by Assyrian wall reliefs in which archers are portrayed shooting bows and arrows – such as those that are known from the Lachish relief. The image of the archer appears in profile: he is standing in a firing position with his right foot in front of his left. His face is portrayed schematically but his body, his dress and especially the muscles of his arms and legs stand out prominently. He is barefoot. His attire includes a headband and a skirt that is wrapped around his hips. A quiver hangs from his back and its straps are drawn tightly across his exposed chest. He is holding a bow and arrow in his hands. His right hand is extended forward holding the bow while his left is pulled back grasping the arrow. The seal is quite unique since this is the first time that a private seal has been discovered that bears a Hebrew name and is decorated in the Assyrian style. The seal attests to the strong Assyrian influence that existed in Jerusalem in the seventh century BCE. It is usually assumed that the owner of private seals were individuals who held government positions. We can suggest that the owner of the seal – Hagab, who chose to portray himself as a Hebrew archer depicted in the Assyrian style – served in a senior military role in Judah.

In the building where Hagab's seal was discovered, archaeologist Wexler-Bdolah has previously found a number of Hebrew seals of individuals that held public positions, as well as ten handles of storage jars for oil and wine that are stamped with royal impressions. According to her, "This building was erected at the foot of the Upper City, at a distance of about one hundred meters from the Western Wall and it looks out over the Temple Mount. The walls of the structure were preserved to an amazing height of approximately five meters. The high quality of its construction and the artifacts that were discovered inside it indicate that the building and especially its inhabitants had a very important status in Jerusalem at the end of the First Temple period."

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Plumber agrees, Obama will finish off Israel

The headline states:
 Mr. T. Plumber AKA Sam Wurzelbacher didn't exactly say that. He agreed to it. What he reportedly said exactly was this:
"I'll go ahead and agree with you on that."
He was responding to what Stan Chapman, a retired Jewish lawyer from Florida (where else?) had asked. Chapman asked if he believed that "a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel." Evidently the "Great Schlep" must've missed Chapman.
Mr. The Plumber also reportedly offered the opinion that Obama would turn the US into a socialist country, and that Obama would end the democracy that the U.S. military had defended during wars.
"I love America. I hope it remains a democracy, not a socialist society. ... If you look at spreading the wealth, that's honestly right out of Karl Marx's mouth," said Mr Plumber.
Actually Karl Marx never said that, and he wouldn't even agree with it.

In the world of elections, the political pundits will be called upon to fix clogged sinks, and the plumbers decide political issues. And the result can be foreseen.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran's Khameinei: We really hate the US

Message for engagement enthusiasts:
Iran's supreme leader said Wednesday that his country's hatred for the United States runs deep and differences between the two nations go beyond a few political issues.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments on state-run television less than a week before the American presidential elections were seen as a signal that a thaw in U.S.-Iran relations was not expected no matter who wins the Nov. 4 race.
Khamenei said the hatred is rooted in 50 years of U.S. intervention in Iran's domestic affairs and hostility toward Tehran.
"The hatred of the Iranian nation is deep-seated. The reason is the various conspiracies by the U.S. government against the Iranian people and government in the past 50 years," Khamenei said.
He was addressing a group of students in Tehran days ahead of the 29th anniversary of the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by militant students.
Iran blames the CIA for helping topple the elected government of Mohammed Mosaddeq in the 1950s and blames the United States for openly supporting the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi against the 1979 Islamic revolution that led to the collapse of the dynasty.
Iranians also condemn Washington for arming and supporting former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
"This dispute [with America] goes further than differences of opinion over a few political issues," the Iranian leader said.
Iranian political analyst Saeed Leilaz said Khamenei's address sent a clear message that he will have to approve any efforts for reconciliation with U.S.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Poll: Likud 25-26 Kadima 22-23

It is a pity that the range shown does not differentiate between results that are due to actual responses and those that are calculated based on previous preferences. Polls in the last few days have oscilated between a 4 seat advantage for Kadima and a 2-3 seat advantage for Likud.
Poll: Likud  25-26  Kadima 22-23
Dr. Aaron Lerner Date 30 October 2008

Telephone poll of a representative sample of adlt Israelis (including
Israeli Arabs)  carrried out by Shvakim Panorama for Israel Radio's Hakol
(It's All Talk) 29 September 2008.

Please note:

29.8% undecided.

The outcome shown below shows a range based on two models: #1 Seats based only on the 70.2% who indicated who they would vote for #2 Seats based on allocating the undecided vote based on their background - including: party they voted for in the last elections, self identification between "right" and "left", positions expressed on various issues that make it possible to identify the ideological position of the respondent and/or socio-demographic profile.

22-23  [29] Kadima headed by Livni
16-17  [19] Labor
25-26  [12] Likud
11-12  [12] Shas
10-11  [11] Yisrael Beteinu
07-08  [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
06-07  [06] Yahadut Hatorah
05-06  [05] Meretz
02-03  [00] Green Party
00-01*[00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
01-02*[07] Retirees Party
09-10  [10] Arab parties
* does not get minimum votes for Knesset representation

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gaza Protest boat calls Israel's bluff

There are three ways of dealing with the Gaza protest boats:
- Let them through
- Stop them
- Threat to stop them and then let them through.
The first two have advantages and disadvantages. The last has only disadvantages. So of course, the government chose the worst alternative.
Ami Isseroff

Protest boat arrives in Gaza, despite Israel's vow to block it
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Corresponden and The Associated Press Last update -
10:51 29/10/2008
A boat carrying international protesters sailed into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to bring attention to Israel's blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory, despite vows by the Israeli government to stop the ship.
The 27 passengers include Mairead McGuire, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland. The protesters - who also include Italians, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans - are scheduled to remain in Gaza for four days.
The 66-foot (20-meter) yacht Dignity, chartered by the U.S.-based Free Gaza group, sailed from the nearby island of Cyprus on Tuesday and arrived in  Gaza in stormy weather Wednesday. They were greeted by Hamas policemen and a small group of Palestinian activists.
"The government of Israel cannot cut off Gaza forever. We will come again and again," McGuire said after disembarking.
Two months ago, members of the organization sailed from Cyprus to Gaza under the slogan "breaking the blockade." The Prime Minister's Office and Foreign Ministry viewed the move as a provocative propaganda stunt, intended to provoke a confrontation with the IDF. A day before the boat was to arrive at  the shores of Gaza, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a consultation and decided to allow the boat to reach land - and thereby block the activists' plans to create an international incident.
Nevertheless, in discussions held over the past few weeks between the PMO, Foreign Ministry and the IDF, it was decided that this time the boat would not be allowed to reach Gaza. "The first time we wanted to prevent a provocation, but if it is to become a routine, then we will have to make it clear we will not allow it," said a senior official in Jerusalem.
Egypt also prevented the sailing of a similar ship a few weeks ago from Alexandria to Gaza.
"The Israel Navy will stop the activists' vessel once it reaches Israel's territorial waters, it was decided. If the ship turns around, then the IDF will not use any force. However, if the activists decide to sail on toward Gaza, the IDF will take control of the ship, by force if necessary, and tow it to Ashdod port. The activists will be arrested for illegal entry and will be deported to Cyprus or to their home countries."
The left-wing activists were scheduled to set sail Tuesday, but they were delayed by bad weather.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hamas Building Underground City in Gaza

Hamas Building Underground City in Gaza
 Amir Rappaport (Maariv-24 Oct 08)
[Translated excerpt thanks to Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs DAILY
ALERT Tuesday,October 28, 2008]

    There are few high-rise building sites in Gaza these days, but the demand for cement is huge. Copying Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas is building enormous underground installations - ammunition bunkers, tunnels, and command posts.

    Responding to intelligence reports, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai has reduced the flow of cement from Israel to Gaza and is weighing a total halt.

    Security officials say Hamas is building tunnels beneath the centers of major cities to enable freedom of movement for its forces should the IDF enter.

    In addition, outside the cities, Hamas is constructing tunnels beneath the major entry roads into Gaza, to be filled with explosives and then detonated beneath IDF convoys.

    The underground construction also includes hundreds of Kassam and Katyusha rocket launching positions that are protected from air attack.

via: IMRA

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Zoltan Fuzessy racist website - appeal

This post has been deleted because the new owner claims he is not a Nazi and if we do not delete the post he will send the police after us.

Jawohl, herr Oberst.

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Fair Witness on The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation

It is noteworthy that such gatherings usually gloss over persecution of Christians in Gaza by Hamas, and to a lesser extent in the West Bank.
October 28, 2008
Contact: Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East
(212) 870-2320
Fair Witness Questions The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation
Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation ("HCEF"), with offices in the United States and Bethlehem, has as its stated mission "to maintain the presence and growth of the Arab Christians in the Holy Land, and to develop bonds of solidarity between them and the Christians in the world."
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East was therefore surprised and disturbed by the content and tenor of HCEF's Tenth International Conference, held this past weekend in Washington, D.C., which seemed focused primarily on leveling one-sided accusations against Israel.
Legitimate criticism of bad Israeli policy such as continued settlement building was overshadowed by repeated unreasonable criticism of the Jewish state, while virtually ignoring Palestinian wrongdoing.
There were repeated charges of Israeli racism during the conference, as if Israel were the only country where discrimination against minorities exists -- but not one mention of virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incitement found in Arab and Palestinian media and school books.
Laments over the failed Oslo peace process omitted any mention of Palestinian rejection of the 2000/2001 peace offer and the ensuing six years of suicide bombing, creating the inference that the continuing occupation was all Israel's fault.
The first speaker, who received cheers and a standing ovation, referred to the founding of Israel in 1948 as a transfer of land from Palestinians to Israelis, as opposed to an attempt on the part of the international community to create a workable two-state solution in a land inhabited by two peoples, each with a legitimate claim. Her allegation that "after 1948 all Palestinians were forced to leave" is patently untrue -- twenty percent of Israeli citizens were and remain Arabs. This same speaker lightheartedly dismissed Palestinian terrorism, while complaining bitterly about the military measures Israel employs in response. Questioning whether some of these measures are excessive and cause unnecessary Palestinian suffering would have been legitimate, had the reality of Palestinian terrorism been addressed with equal fervor.
Much of the conference appeared based on misinformation and distorted facts which tended strongly to identify Israel as the sole or primary cause of conflict. "HCEF's stated goals and charities are laudable. However, I invite its leaders to explain the questionable content of this past weekend's conference," says Fr. James Loughran, S.A., who attended the conference.
Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Esq.
National Director
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East
475 Riverside Drive, Ste 1960
New York, NY 10115
(212) 870-2320

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are major threats: Israel's Current Strategic Environment

Jerusalem Issue Brief
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Vol. 8, No. 14     28 October 2008
Israel's Current Strategic Environment
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad
 ·        Hamas could have pretended it wanted a political solution and the whole world would have recognized this. The Quartet posed to Hamas only three conditions: recognize your neighbor, recognize the peace agreements, and avoid terror. But Hamas said, no, Israel has no right to exist. They have a dream - to join the other Islamic forces, to revolutionize the whole Middle East.
·       The Palestinian Authority is doing better at maintaining law and order in its territory in the West Bank. However, it has far from demonstrated any level of performance in dealing with terror.
·      Today there is unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation between Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran. There is no "smuggling" of weapons from Iran through Syria to Lebanon, because it is not done in secret. Weapons of all kinds are being pushed toward Hizbullah, including tens of thousands of rockets.
·        Hizbullah has turned Lebanon into a "banana republic." The president of Lebanon, who is a general and a former commander of the Lebanese army, does not know when his country will be involved in a confrontation with Israel. The one who decides this is Hizbullah leader Hassa n Nasrallah, who has no official standing in the Lebanese government.
·       There are indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel and the price being asked by Syria is known. The price Israel is asking in any peace agreement is security, but the definition of security is now different from a decade ago because there are now longer-range rockets and terror. Syria is sheltering all kinds of terrorist organizations. In any peace agreement, Syria must drop this support for terror.
Israel Seeks Real Peace with the Palestinians
Currently, Israel is living in a relatively good strategic environment. We are not facing imminent war and have not faced a hostile coalition since the 1970s. We seem to have defeated suicide terror, at least temporarily.
We in Israel are determined to have a real peace agreement with the Palestinians. Our goal is to have two states for two peoples living side-by-side in peace and security. This policy is easy to define, but it is very difficult to achieve. The main issue for Israel is the security issue.

The Palestinian Authority is split into two entities. Israel is ready to sign a peace deal with the Palestinians. This is the policy of the State of Israel. But we need to sign an agreement with the entities that represent both Gaza and the West Bank.
We are able to discuss this policy at all only because of the unprecedented success of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. Between 2000 and 2002, Israel did not have great success in preventing Palestinian suicide bombers from targeting Israel's major cities. The only reason that we are living quietly today is our success in identifying the terrorists and enhancing the cooperation between intelligence and the army.
In Gaza, they keep trying to launch suicide terror attacks but they fail most of the time. In addition, we have not succeeded in preventing rocket fire from Gaza. In order to prevent it, you have to convince them that it is not worth their while.
The Palestinian Authority is doing better at maintaining law and order in its territory in the West Bank. However, it has far from demonstrated any level of performance in dealing with terror. This is the key measure of security, since Israel has no guarantee that the moment our forces leave the West Bank, we will not be attacked from Kalkilya - which is two kilometers away from Kfar Saba in Israel.
 Hamastan in Gaza is a very dangerous phenomenon. First of all, Hamas does not believe in peace with Israel. It is sincere enough to declare that the destruction of the State of Israel is a strategic, historical goal of Hamas. Hamas says it wants to take over the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority, but its ultimate goal is to destroy Israel. Hamas considers Israel to be part of the Wakf, as holy Muslim land, and there is no room in it for Jews. As far as I know them, they will not change thi s ideology.
Are There Moderates in Hamas?
 Are there members of Hamas who might be described as more pragmatic? Hamas is a movement with a charter that calls to destroy Israel and never have negotiations or peace. The PLO has at least declared that it wants peace with Israel, that it wants two states for two peoples living side-by-side in peace. Hamas declares openly and publicly and educates its children beginning in kindergarten that Israel is not legitimate, that Israel does not have any right to exist, and that their goal is to get rid of Israel. It is just a matter of time.
 Hamas could have pretended it wanted a political solution and the whole world would have recognized this. The Quartet posed to Hamas only three conditions: recognize your neighbor, recognize the peace agreements, and avoid terror. But Hamas said, no, Israel has no right to exist. They have a dream - to join the other Islamic forces, to revolutionize the whole Middle East. They are not hiding it; you can read it in their books.
 This is not a matter of moderates or extremists. There are more violent military types and terrorists, and there are the political types, those involved in the social welfare infrastructure, the daawa, but for all of them, the moment you belong to Hamas, you adopt a worldview that envisions the extermination of Israel and joining up with the Muslim Brotherhood to change the whole Middle East. Otherwise, you are not Hamas.
So as individuals, Hamas may include many who seem nice, like Ahmed Yousef writing in the New York Times. Hamas includes many educated people: doctors and professors. But it is not a matter of individuals, it is a matter of ideology. In the 1930s in Germany, the Nazis also enlisted professors and doctors. This is the nature of the enemy with whom we are dealing.
Hamas is also seeking to take over the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) because control of the PLO means taking control of the Palestinian national movement. According to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority is due to hold elections in January 2009. Whenever elections are held, Hamas will present its own candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in an effort to take over the PLO.
What Is Israel's Policy?
Hamas - and Hamastan - is Israel's enemy. However, it is now very difficult for Hamas to carry out terror attacks and launch rockets. The price is too high for them. But their goal is to become stronger and more powerful - like Hizbullah - so they are following their own interests. We do not have any illusions about Hamas. We are preparing ourselves for any military options that may be needed, but for the time being there is an agreement to maintain quiet - a tahdiye.
 First of all, the tahdiye gives us quiet. Secondly, it gives us more time to prepare. Thirdly, it helps our relations with Egypt, and without Egypt, I do not believe that it is feasible to have stability in the Middle East. I believe Egypt will always be the leader of the Arab Middle East, based on my intelligence experience and my relationships with the Egyptians. Egypt can prevent the build-up of the power of Hamas. Husni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, and the talented people around him contribute to the fact that we are living in a stable area, and there are many advantages to this peace.
We see this in relation to Hamastan, where the Rafiah international border crossing with Egypt remains closed most of the time, against the wishes of Hamas. Egypt has continued to respect its commitments to keep the crossing closed. Egypt is trying to stabilize the Middle East, and of course we support it, but we are very sensitive to the smuggling of weapons from Sinai to Gaza, the build-up of Hamas' military capabilities, and its relationship with Iran.
We are also very proud of the peace with Jordan. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has a state-of-the-art armed forces and an excellent intelligence service. I cannot imagine a stable and sane Middle East without Jordan. It is not that well-known because they are modest and do not make much noise. But professionally, the strategic importance of Jordan under the late King Hussein and now under his son, King Abdullah, is beyond imagination.
Al-Qaeda has ambitions to penetrate into Gaza. It looks ideal for them. Al-Qaeda has bases in Egypt and in Sinai, and sends agents into Gaza to build an infrastructure based on certain clans. Hamas considers them an enemy and is trying to contain them.
 There is the same phenomenon in Lebanon. An extension of al-Qaeda was defeated in the north by the Lebanese army, and they are also considered as an enemy by Hizbullah.
Threats from the North
In the north we have the phenomenon of Syria under Bashar Assad. On the one hand, Assad supports all kinds of evil forces, like Hizbullah, and today there is unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation between Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran. There is no "smuggling" of weapons from Iran through Syria to Lebanon, because it is not done in secret. Weapons of all kinds are being pushed toward Hizbullah, including tens of thousands of rockets. There is no real border between Syria and Lebanon, so one cannot talk of smuggling. Hizbullahstan, Iran, and Syria represent a single operational entity.
According to some rumors that have been published, Syria tried to establish a military nuclear capability and, according to these rumors, this capability no longer exists. According to these rumors, the North Koreans tried to establish a twin reactor to one in North Korea, but today, Syria for the time being does not have any nuclear capability.
In parallel to this, there are indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel. The price that is being asked by Syria is known, but the price Israel is asking in any peace agreement is security. The definition of security is now different from a decade ago because there are now longer-range rockets and terror. Syria is sheltering all kinds of terrorist organizations. In any peace agreement, Syria has to give up all of these threats against us - and not only against us. The Syrians support Al Qaeda in Iraq. They must drop this support for terror and change their policy. These issues will be a major focus during the coming year.
Iran is the main strategic threat, the dark cloud on the horizon. The threat is to the whole Middle East and we have some common ground with the entire Sunni world, which also considers Iran to be a strategic threat. It does not mean that they like us, but it does mean that they consider this threat to be a most important one, perhaps even more important than Israel.
Iran is proceeding systematically to acquire a military nuclear option. They will not give up the option to have a nuclear bomb. They are determined to achieve this capability and will do so unless they are stopped. Unlike other assessments, we are absolutely confident that they are proceeding. The picture is very clear. They are dealing with the enrichment of uranium. They are dealing with the delivery system - the missiles. The threat from Iran to the whole world is a strategic one and for Israel it may become an existential one, because we have to depend upon their interpretation of when they use such a weapon. But it is not only a threat to Israel. It is a threat to the Sunni world, to the peaceful countries in the Middle East.
The Iranian threat is not only the bomb. What they are trying to achieve is to challenge the entire structure of the Middle East. They are successfully building Hizbullahstan in Lebanon. Hizbullah is now focused on attaining legitimacy in the Lebanese government. They do not want Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to question their legitimacy in the future, and it will not happen again, from Hizbullah's point of view.
Hizbullah has turned Lebanon into a "banana republic." The president of Lebanon, who is a general and a former commander of the Lebanese army, does not know when his country will be involved in a confrontation with Israel. The one who decides this is Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has no official standing in the Lebanese government.
Iran is trying to convince some states in the Middle East that this is the era of the Iranian Empire. It is not only Israel who is threatened. Iran has global ambitions to become a superpower that is recognized by the whole world, like the empire of Cyrus the Great.
This is the main challenge to the entire world and I hope we will be united against it. I am not sure that the diplomatic option will be effective enough to prevent it, and we have to measure success based on results. There are other options, but I am against boasting and declarations. All options are on the table and, at the end of the day, Israel will make its own decision.
*     *     *
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad serves as Director of the Military/Political and Policy Bureau of the Israel Ministry of Defense. He has also served as the Defense Ministry's Coordinator for the Administered Territories, Director of the Research Division for the IDF's Intelligence Branch, and as the IDF Spokesman. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation to the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on September 10, 2008.

This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:
Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaacov Amidror, ICA Chairman; Dan Diker, ICA Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112, Email: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215; Tel. 410-664-5222; Fax 410-664-1228. Website: © Copyright.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
The Institute for Contemporary Affairs (ICA) is dedicated
to providing a forum for Israeli policy discussion and debate.



Continued (Permanent Link)

Barak wants to ban violent extremists from West Bank

Israelis have had enough of settler violence. But which of the extremists are to be banned?
Defense Minister Ehud Barak favors barring right-wing extremists who attack soldiers or policemen from entering the West Bank, and in extreme cases, even putting them in administrative detention.
On Tuesday, he plans to discuss the issue of law enforcement in the West Bank with senior army, police and legal officials, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said.
On Sunday, when the army evacuated an illegal outpost near Hebron, extremist settlers cursed soldiers, with one even saying that they deserved to be killed or kidnapped by terrorists. In an interview with Israel Radio yesterday, Barak termed this behavior "very grave."

"We are already working with all our might to restrain and halt these phenomena, with an iron hand if necessary. There [in Hebron], it was words. In other cases, it is deeds - raising a hand against soldiers and policemen," he said.
"This is also a challenge for our penal system," he added. "We need forceful, uncompromising action. We are going to increase the severity of punishments for extremists. We must convince our judges that this is not just bothering a civil servant at the National Insurance Institute, it's an attempt to undermine the state's sovereignty. Such people should be put behind bars. If there is no choice, we will also have to improve our use of the Emergency Regulations," which permit administrative detention or orders barring specific individuals from certain locales.
Barak has long viewed the courts as the weak link in the struggle to enforce the law in the territories. In closed forums, he has said many judges take a lenient approach to settlers who use violence against the security forces or Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the man whose remarks aroused the ire of Barak and many other Israelis on Sunday issued an open letter on Monday insisting that his curses were not aimed at Israel Defense Forces soldiers in general, but only at a few specific individuals.
"I have never generalized about any group, and especially not about IDF soldiers," wrote Shmuel Ben Yishai, a former member of the banned Kach party. "Nevertheless, there is no doubt about what is in my heart toward those responsible for destroying the houses of two families. Them, we will not forget and we will not forgive ... Anyone who was a party to expelling Jews will not be absolved. I pray that God will repay them as they deserve, forcefully and quickly."
Later, Ben Yishai told the Arutz Sheva radio station that he would never generalize about IDF soldiers, "most of whom [are willing to] give their lives for Israel. I spoke only about the evil forces who perpetrated this criminal act against the Federman and Tor families ... There has never been anything like this since the Chmelnitzki riots."
Army sources noted that Sunday's incident near Hebron was a direct continuation of settlers' violence during other outpost demolitions in recent months.
About two months ago, GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni issued orders barring four extremist settlers from the West Bank. That outraged many settlers, and recently, there have been weekly protests outside Shamni's home in Re'ut.

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Sarkozy: Obama Iran policy utterly immature

Sarkozy views Obama stance on Iran as 'utterly immature', but then agian, everyone else's policy is either nonexistent, immature, or senile. Sarkozy himself contributed to the problem in various ways.
From the article:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama's positions on Iran, according to reports that have reached Israel's government.
Obama visited Paris in July, and the Iranian issue was at the heart of his meeting with Sarkozy. At a joint press conference afterward, Obama urged Iran to accept the West's proposal on its nuclear program, saying that Iran was creating a serious situation that endangered both Israel and the West.
According to the reports reaching Israel, Sarkozy told Obama at that meeting that if the new American president elected in November changed his country's policy toward Iran, that would be "very problematic."
Until now, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have tried to maintain a united front on Iran. But according to the senior Israeli source, Sarkozy fears that Obama might "arrogantly" ignore the other members of this front and open a direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions.
Following their July meeting, Sarkozy repeatedly expressed disappointment with Obama's positions on Iran, concluding that they were "not crystallized, and therefore many issues remain open," the Israeli source said. Advisors to the French president who held separate meetings with Obama's advisors came away with similar impressions and expressed similar disappointment.
According to the Israeli source, Sarkozy plans to begin intensive negotiations with the new American administration, regardless of whether it is headed by Obama or Republican Sen. John McCain, even before the new president takes office in January, with the goal of persuading him to continue the current policy on Iran.
But Sarkozy's pessimism does not stem only from Obama's stance; it also stems from the overall behavior of the international community toward Iran's nuclear program, and particularly its inability to agree on a fourth round of Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic. This foot-dragging will make it impossible to effect a change in Iran's nuclear policy, Sarkozy believes.
Continue what current policy? There is none. If Sarkozy wants sanctions, he needs to talk to Russia and China. The current policy is to do virtually nothing.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Does the IDF have a new response policy to Hezbollah?

A problematic aspect of this article, which examines a supposed new response policy of the IDF that was announced by GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizencout, is that Eizencout and the IDF do not make policy. Eizencout, like many military men, set his mouth in motion when his brain was not operating.
In an orderly state, policy is announced by governments, not armies or army officers. If and when there is an actual major clash with the Hezbollah, the Israel government will have to meet and decide what to do.
Eizencout's "policy" policy is not worthy of discussion unless it was announced or decided by the Israeli government. What is worthy of discussion is that neither Defense Minister Barak nor anyone else disowned Eizencout's statement, and it continues to be discussed as if it is policy.
Ami Isseroff
The IDF's New Response Policy vis-à-vis Hizbollah: How Viable is It? INSS Insight No. 76, October 28, 2008
Shalom, Zaki
A lively discussion has developed recently concerning the IDF's new response policy in the event of a renewed confrontation with Hizbollah. An article in Haaretz by Amos Harel; an interview given by GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizencout to Yediot Ahronot; the INSS Insight of early October by Gabriel Siboni; and a forthcoming piece in Strategic Assessment by Giora Eiland are among the recent forums for this debate.

Maj. Gen. Eizencout called the IDF's new response policy vis-à-vis Hizbollah the "Dahiyah doctrine": "What happened to the Dahiyah neighborhood of Beirut in 2006 will happen to each village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force and inflict huge damage and destruction. In our mind, these are not civilian villages but army bases…the next war must be decided quickly, aggressively, and without seeking international approval…Hizbollah understands very well that firing from villages will lead to their destruction." Gen. Eizencout explained that during the Second Lebanon War, the IDF attempted to prevent massive missile fire directed at Israel mainly through an effort to attack the missiles and their launchers in pinpoint fashion. From now on, he clarified, the policy will be different. "This won't be another 'launcher hunt' – that's total nonsense. When the other side has thousands of missiles and rockets, you don't have the option of hunting them. You might see one or two impressive operations, but the home front will get hit."
This is indeed a new policy of exercising force against Hizbollah, different from the policy implemented during the Second Lebanon War. Apparently the goals of the policy and the publicity surrounding it are to amplify Israeli deterrence and dissuade Hizbollah from escalating operations and reigniting the fire in the north. The policy's success depends on the assessment formed among Hizbollah leaders concerning the policy's credibility and Israel's determination to actually exercise it.
In this context, it is important to examine the new policy and its intrinsic risks from Israel's viewpoint. The policy is unequivocal with respect to the nature of an IDF response to a provocative action on the part of Hizbollah. In contrast, it contains a discernable vagueness as to the circumstances under which the policy would be activated. In essence, it does not provide a clear answer to the following questions:
  • Is this a policy of response solely in the event of an overall military confrontation between Israel and Hizbollah, when it is clear that the accepted rules of the game between the sides are in any case changing dramatically, or is it also relevant in the event of a limited conflict?

  • What intensity of fire by Hizbollah would activate the new response policy? Would sporadic missile fire justify a change in the game rules, or only massive fire?  

  • Would this policy be activated only in the event of missile fire, or could "normal" artillery fire also invite the new response policy?

  • Will the change be set in motion only in the case of Hizbollah fire causing numerous Israeli casualties; or might massive fire into open areas that does not cause a large number of casualties also change the policy?

  • Will there be any distinction between Hizbollah fire at military targets and fire directed at civilian settlements?

  • Will the response policy be activated only in the event of fire directed at strategic targets and urban centers far from the Lebanese border; or will the principle of "what goes for Tel Aviv also goes for Kiryat Shmona and Margliyot" apply?

  • Will the new response policy be activated following a warning to village inhabitants in Lebanon, allowing them to evacuate the area; or will the response policy be implemented automatically, without enabling a retreat?

  • Finally, how will the plan be applied if it becomes evident that village inhabitants are shunning a mass exodus? Would the IDF activate massive fire that results in hundreds or possibly thousands of civilians killed?

These and other questions have no clear answer. Hizbollah can assume that the new response policy relates solely to scenarios resembling those of July-August 2006, namely: a comprehensive military conflict in which Hizbollah levels massive missile fire at northern border settlements and cities such as Nahariya, Acre, Haifa, Afula, and Hadera.
Even in extreme circumstances such as this, Hizbollah can assume that Israel would seriously hesitate before implementing such a policy of force against Hizbollah and civilian villages as implied by the principles of the new policy. Certain arguments and past examples are likely to lead Hizbollah to the conclusion that Israel would abstain from implementing the new response policy:
Throughout Israel's long history of confronting terror organizations, senior echelons in Israel repeatedly issued threats of a response policy to be activated if and when Israel would be provoked. In practice, in numerous instances Israel avoided carrying out a considerable portion of those threats. This is how Israel acted following the withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and the withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005. Thus it is eminently possible that Israel's fiery declarations will remain tantamount to a shelf dogma only.
Israel's avoidance of hitting infrastructures in Lebanon at the beginning of the Second Lebanon War (though it was clear this was a comprehensive military confrontation with Hizbollah) and its reluctance to interrupt the supply of fuel, electricity, and water to the Gaza Strip (even when there was massive firing of Qassam rockets into Sderot and Ashkelon) are instructive of Israel's internal constraints over the use of force involving any kind of substantial injury to the welfare of the civilian population. Massive village bombings incur the more severe risk of extensive civilian fatalities. It is doubtful whether any government in Israel would be willing to risk the consequences of approving such steps.
Israel's desire to spare a civilian population stems not only from its fears of international public reaction, but also from pressures from international leaders, particularly the American administration, and internal constraints. Very wide circles within Israeli society – politicians, legal experts, intellectuals, and academics – are likely to challenge the IDF on implementing a policy that entails risks of mass fatalities of civilians not actively involved in firing at Israel, but who find themselves in the area from which the firing originates.     
The new response policy is indirectly based on the premise that Israel is capable of striking Hizbollah population centers and infrastructures. Hizbollah also reportedly possesses a system of long range missiles capable of striking almost any point in Israel. Israel cannot assume it would manage to destroy this system at the beginning of a campaign as it did at the beginning of the Second Lebanon War. Thus, Hizbollah can assume that it has the ability to maintain an effective balance of terror against Israel that would deter any Israeli government from implementing its new response policy.
Hizbollah may likely conclude that in the final analysis, Israel will avoid implementing the new policy of response being trumpeted today. If so, Hizbollah is liable to test Israel's credibility and determination through a varied assortment of scenarios. As such, proclamations of a new response policy carry with them no small risk. If there is no unequivocal resolve to realize this policy - which seems highly likely – the result may well be the erosion rather than strengthening of Israel's deterrent capability.
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Pakistani rewarded for honor killing: Gets 3 girls as wives, 20 water buffalo

The advantages of Islamic justice....
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a man who killed his second wife for allegedly having an illicit relationship with another received impunity on the pretext of an honour killing by the 'Jirga', the illegal tribal justice system on October 20, 2008. The Jirga has also ordered the other party who allegedly had the relationship with the deceased wife to hand over three girls together with 20 buffaloes as compensation to the husband. Police arrested the killer but soon released him and have respected the decision of the Jirga.
According to the information received, Mr. Sher Dil Jatoi, 62 years old, killed his second wife in an honour killing for allegedly having an illicit relationship with a person named Mr. Shahoo Jatoi. The honour killing occurred in August this year. Based on this case, Mr. Mir Hassan Jatoi, one of the chiefs of Jatoi tribe, a powerful tribe in the area held a 'Jirga', a court which has been declared as illegal and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, at Lucky Ghulam Shah, Shikarpur district, Sindh province on October 20, 2008 in order to make a decision on the murder case.
Several elites of the Jatoi tribe who have remained in power in both the military and civilian governments took part in the Jirga. The decision said Sher Dil Jatoi was the victim of honour and innocent in killing his second wife. It further said, "as Shahoo Jatoi developed the illicit relationship with the wife of Sher Dil Jatoi, Sher Dil had the right to murder his wife. Shahoo Jatoi was order to compensate Sher Dil by handing over his three minor daughers". Since Shahoo has only one girl, a 10-year-old daughter, the Jirga decided that the brothers Mr. Miro Jatoi and Mr. Khanan Jatoi should give their daughters of ages between 13 and 11 years to Sher Dil. Besides, it also ordered Shahoo's family to deliver 20 buffaloes, costing more than 100,000 rupees (around USD 1,400) each, as a fine for having the relationship.
When this incident took place, the people in the area were resentful and pressured the police to arrest him as he was known as a habitual killer of his wives. Due to the pressure, the police arrested and kept him in the police custody but released him after 15 days as the people's feelings settled down after his arrest. Dr. Ibrahim Jatoi, the chief of the tribe and former minister in the regime of General Zia Ul Haq helped Sher Dil to be released in 2001 when he killed his first wife also on the pretext of an honour killing.

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Tolerant anti-Israel boycott??

In the keynote address to the gathering, Muhammad al-Tayyeb Busala'a, who serves as commissioner general of the Arab League's Central Bureau for the Boycott of Israel, said the trade embargo against the Jewish state aims "to challenge the legitimacy of Israel's existence."

Busala'a went on to describe the boycott as being of "a tolerant nature" because it "targets persons who support the Jewish entity in any way, regardless of their nationalities or religions."
Syria hosts anti-Israel boycott parley
By Michael Freund The Jerusalem Post, October 28, 2008

Representatives of 14 Arab states held a three-day conference at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus last week aimed at reinvigorating the decades-old economic and trade boycott of Israel.

The annual event, which concluded on Thursday, brought together regional Arab League boycott liaison officers from participating Arab countries, including Libya, Syria and Kuwait, as well as representatives of the Palestinians and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Although the Arab League has its headquarters in Cairo, the organization's Office for the Boycott of Israel has been based in the Syrian capital since its establishment in 1951.

In recent years, enforcement has waxed and waned. Some Arab League members, >such as Egypt and Jordan, ceased applying it after signing peace treaties with Israel, while others, such as Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia do not enforce it. Other Arab states, such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, continue to bar entry to goods made in Israel or those containing Israeli-made components.

A recent report issued by the US Congressional Research Service found that, "Overall enforcement of the boycott by member countries appears sporadic.
Some Arab League members have limited trading relations with Israel... However, adherence to the boycott is an individual matter for each Arab League member and enforcement varies by state."

Various speakers at the Damascus conference underlined the importance of the embargo on Israel as a means of pressuring the Jewish state and called on the Arab League's members to intensify its enforcement .

In the keynote address to the gathering, Muhammad al-Tayyeb Busala'a, who serves as commissioner general of the Arab League's Central Bureau for the Boycott of Israel, said the trade embargo against the Jewish state aims "to challenge the legitimacy of Israel's existence."

Busala'a went on to describe the boycott as being of "a tolerant nature" because it "targets persons who support the Jewish entity in any way, regardless of their nationalities or religions."

He added that calls to end the boycott are "illogical" so long as "Israel is pursuing its aggressive policies and committing atrocities."

His remarks were echoed by General Ghiath Badr Abbas, director of the Syrian Bureau for Boycotting Israel, who affirmed the importance of refraining from any type of economic relations with the Jewish state.

Soha al-Sorani, director of the Arab League's Israeli Affairs Department, underlined the role of the boycott in confronting what she termed "the racist Israeli practices."

"The Arab League's secretariat," she added, "attributes great importance to the ongoing conference of the Bureau for Boycotting Israel."

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Polls predict close election in Israel

While Kadima may get the most seats in Israel's elections, polls show that Israel Labor Party will lose many seats to Kadima and that will provide Tzipi, Livni with her lead, rather than seats taken from the right. Shas will lose 1-2 seats. The result will be a balance that favors the right a bit more and may produce a Nethanyahu-Likud government.
History shows that early elections produce surprising and unanticipated results. Yitzhak Rabin's call for early elections in 1976 brought the Likud to power. Shimon Peres's call for early elections in 1995 brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power. Ehud Barak's call for early election in 2000 brought Ariel Sharon to power. Israel's Political System is unstable and full of nasty surprises.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 10:27 27/10/2008    
 Polls show Livni edging past Netanyahu in premiership race
  By The Associated Press 

New polls on Monday showed Tzipi Livni, the moderate leader of Israel's ruling Kadima party, holding her ground against hawkish rival Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after she steered the country toward early elections at the beginning of next year.
The surveys hinted at what is expected to be a tough and possibly dramatic race between political leaders with sharply different world views. As foreign minister, Livni has been Israel's chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians for the past year, and has repeatedly stressed the need to make territorial concessions. Netanyahu takes a hard line against ceding war-won land, and has ruled out partitioning Jerusalem, a key Palestinian demand.
A poll by the Dahaf Research Institute showed Livni's Kadima Party winning 29 of parliament's 120 seats, the same number it has now, and Netanyahu's Likud taking 26 if elections were held today. A TNS Teleseker survey gave Kadima 31 seats to Likud's 29.
The surveys also showed the country's hawkish and center-left blocs fairly evenly split, a deadlock that has paralyzed peacemaking in the past.
The Dahaf poll of 500 people had a margin of error of 4.5 percent. The TNS survey of more than 900 people put the maximum margin of error at two parliamentary seats.
Livni took the helm of the Kadima Party last month in a primary election forced by multiple corruption allegations against the incumbent prime minister, Ehud Olmert. She tried to avoid propelling Israel toward its third national election in six years by keeping the current government intact. But coalition partners, most prominently the 12-seat ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, used the situation to press new demands she refused to accept.
In a meeting with President Shimon Peres on Sunday, Livni said she would not give in to what she called political blackmail.
"I was not prepared to mortgage Israel's economic and political future or the hope for a better future and a different kind of politics," she said after the meeting.
"We'll go to elections ... and I intend to win them," she told Peres, whose duties include presiding over the election and coalition-building process.
Elections are expected to take place early next year, a year and a half ahead of schedule.
The surveys published Monday suggested the public approved Livni's tough stand against the political horse-trading and did not reproach her for failing to marshal a coalition. But the advantage was narrow and could easily evaporate especially if new Israeli-Palestinian violence erupts.
Netanyahu, who has been pressing for new elections for months, has not commented publicly since Livni officially abandoned her coalition-building efforts, though he will have a wide forum when, as opposition leader, he addresses the nationally televised opening of parliament's winter session later Monday. Commenting on the polls, Likud faction head Gideon Sa'ar said the contest between the two leaders would be tough.
"But I believe the majority of the public wants a new course ... that will improve the country's economy and security," he told Israel Radio.
Netanyahu accepts the idea of a weak Palestinian state on limited amounts of territory. During his three-year tenure as prime minister in the 1990s, relations with the Arab world soured. But he did yield to international pressure, giving up control of some West Bank territory he had once insisted on retaining.
Early elections appeared inevitable after the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, which commands 12 parliamentary seats, announced Friday it would not join a Livni-led government. Without Shas' support, Livni would have headed a government with a razor-thin majority, and would have found it difficult to take the bold steps peacemaking requires.
Livni resisted Shas' demands for hundreds of millions of dollars for social welfare programs and a commitment that Israel would not negotiate Jerusalem's future.
The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which Israel captured and annexed in 1967, as the capital of their future state. Livni says Israel must find a settlement for the conflicting claims to the holy city and cannot refuse to address outstanding issues between the two peoples.
Peace talks were relaunched nearly a year ago at a U.S.-hosted summit, where Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas set a December 2008 target for clinching a final accord. But no breakthroughs have been announced and both leaders have acknowledged publicly that there will be no deal by year's end.
The internal political turmoil has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the talks, and Palestinians worried that precious time was running out.
"There's nobody to take decisions. The peace process will be without momentum. ... The upcoming period will be a cloudy, dangerous period of wait-and-see," said Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

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Israelis returning home due to financial crisis

What a pity that it takes a financial crisis for some Israelis to remember where their home is. However, the 15,000 or so expected retruness are only a drop in the ocean of some 300,000 to 800,000 Israelis estimated to be living in the United States and Canada.
"Ve shavu banim legvulot"

Global financial crisis prompts thousands of Israelis living abroad to return to Jewish state. Immigrant Absorption Ministry foresees 15,000 homecomings by end of 2009
Itamar Eichner
Published:  10.27.08, 11:05 / Israel News
The silver lining: The global financial crisis hitting world markets seems to have one favorable effect as far as Israel is concerned, as thousands of Israelis who have been living abroad for the past few years head back to their homeland.
According to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, some 15,000 Israelis are expected to return to the Jewish state by the end of 2009.
 The ministry launched a campaign encouraging Israelis living abroad to do just that in August of 2007, as part of the nation's 60th anniversary celebrations, offering a NIS 100 million (about $24 million) incentives package.

"The last few weeks have been crazy," Tali Naveh, who heads New York's Israel House, which tends to New York-based Israelis who wish to return, told Yedioth Ahronoth. "The phone has been ringing off the hook, and not just here, in all of out 10 centers on North America. People here have their American dream shattered."
Some 2,000 Israelis have returned home between August and mid October alone – a 50% rise from the same time last year.
According to Immigrant Absorption Ministry data, 64% of the returnees come from the US, 24% from Europe and 12% from other counties, such as the Bahamas, Japan, Honk Kong, Finland and the Caribbean's.
The ministry, along with the Israel Tax Authority, intends on launching a second homecoming campaign in November, aimed at convincing Israelis who may still be undecided to return to Israel. The Immigrant Absorption Ministry has even called on Israeli banks which have worldwide branches to market the campaign and assist those returning in transferring their assets to Israel expeditiously.

"Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we are happy to see so many Israelis come home," said Erez Halphon, director-general of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.
Eli Cohen, head of the Jewish Agency's Department of Aliyah and Absorption added that the JA has been negotiating with various Israeli employers, in an attempt to help those returning to secure new jobs.
Danny Adino Ababa and Ofer Petersburg contributed to this report

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Livni, Shas reached deadlock over peace negotiations and financial issues

Tzipi Livni decided to halt coaltion negotiations because Shas party refused to budge on the issue of negotiations with Palestinians evidently.
Kadima chairwoman tells Ynet she is at peace with her decision to call elections and is convinced she will win. According to foreign minister, billions of shekels and a commitment not to discuss Jerusalem's status are things 'which the State cannot be sold for'
Attila Somfalvi
Published:  10.26.08, 07:57 / Israel News
Shortly after deciding to inform President Shimon Peres that she would like to move up the Knesset elections, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni told Ynet that she was at peace with her decision.
Livni, who sounded sure of herself and of her decision, said Saturday night that "I decided not to give in, and this is what the president will hear from me."
The foreign minister made her decision following a long evening of hectic consultations at her home, during which all her options were raised. After hours of discussions with the Knesset factions which were slated to join her coalition, it became clear that a compromise could not be reached in the negotiations.
"I've had enough of extortion," Livni told her associates. "Tomorrow I will declare elections."

The Kadima chairwoman said that throughout the coalition negotiations the factions had demanded billions of shekels, as well as her commitment not to discuss Jerusalem's status in the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
"There are things the State cannot be sold for," she told Ynet.
'I won't accept diplomatic paralysis'
The turning point in the coalition talks was Shas' decision not to join a Livni-led government. The Kadima chairwoman also received "a cold shoulder" from the Pensioners Party.
According to Livni, "There are demands which are unreasonable, even in a situation in which attempts are being made to form a government."
She rejected the claim that she should have continued the negotiations until the last day given to her by law.
"Why play for time?" she asked. "Play for time so that the public wakes up in the morning and hears that another party received billions and that we have entered a diplomatic paralysis? I won't accept that."
The foreign minister is certain she made the right move. "Time only creates more demands," she said. "When everyone thinks that it all depends on their vote only, everyone sends something else into the air."
She added, "My responsibility now is not to give in to a situation in which each person presents impossible demands. These demands came from all directions. I made appropriate offers, I was willing to give to the disadvantaged population, and I'm at peace with this. I'm at peace with the fact that the weak received additional funds, but there are some things that cannot be granted." 

Livni went on to say that she opposed the demands to freeze the diplomatic negotiations or to block them because of a commitment not to discuss Jerusalem.
"They want to halt the diplomatic negotiations," the Kadima chairwoman said. "I won't accept that. I have a responsibility towards this country."
Asked whether she fears losing the elections, Livni replied, "I'm going to win these elections.

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Olmert is back!

Kadima chairwoman's failure to form new government leaves prime minister four months to propel diplomatic, financial feats in form of progress in peace talks with Palestinians and Syria, stabilizing economy amid global crisis
Roni Sofer
Published:  10.26.08, 08:49 / Israel News
The beneficiary: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems to be one of the people who stand to benefit from Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni's decision to call for general elections. 
Livni decided to opt for calling for elections on Saturday, after her attempts to form a new government, and the intense coalition negotiation which accompanied them, appeared to be deadlocked. 
She is expected to notify President Shimon Peres of her decision later Sunday.

Olmert now stands to preside as the prime minister over a transitional government for the remaining 111 days left until the elections, and is most likely to try and use the time to propel political moves, as well as various financial ones, aimed at preventing the global financial crisis from harming Israel's economy. 
Olmert will apparently use the four months he has left in office to push motions pertaining to the peace process with both the Palestinians and the Syrians. One of the options reportedly being discussed is calling a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for later November, to mark a year since the Annapolis Summit. 
A major breakthrough in the negotiations with Syria seems unlikely at this time, as Damascus awaits the results of the US presidential race, and now of the Israeli elections as well, to decided on its next move.

Best laid plans
Olmert may try to bring the revised State Budget to another Knesset vote. If he chooses not to do so, the government would use the guidelines set by the 2008 Budget until such time that a new government is formed and approves the next State Budget.
Plans aside, Olmert's transitional government has limited leeway: Shortly after Olmert announced his resignation, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz issued a brief stating that while Olmert's resignation did not turn the government into a transit one per se, it – and its ministers – should still exercise due caution in any decisions made pending the elections. 
"This unique situation compels the current government and its ministers to exercise due caution in their actions," said the brief. 
Sunday's cabinet meeting stands to be held under the banner of Livni's decision to call for elections. Monday will see Olmert speak at the Knesset's winter session opening. His speech is expected to clarify many of his political intentions for the time remaining until the elections.
The Knesset's winter session is expected to be shorter than usual. According to Basic Law: The Government, the Knesset must wait 21 days until it officially declares that general elections will be held within 90 days. 
The three-week period is made to see whether or not any of the Knesset members can rally enough support from their peers in order to try and from a new government in Livni's place. The current political climate sees slim chances of that happening. 

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MI Chief: Syria has become Hezbollah's de facto arsenal

Last update - 13:20 26/10/2008       
MI Chief: Syria has become Hezbollah's de facto arsenal
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin told the cabinet on Sunday that Syria was continuing to arm Hezbollah, and had in fact become the Lebanese militia's arsenal.
"Assad is continuing to throw open the doors of Syria's warehouses for Hezbollah, and has become 'Hezbollah's arsenal.' Assad trusts Hezbollah more than his own army and Hezbollah operatives act in Syria as if it's their own [country]," said Yadlin.
A key Israeli demand in indirect peace negotiations with Syria is that it cut its ties with Hezbollah, and in particular, cease supplying the group with weapons.
Yadlin did actually say he believed Assad was interested in a peace deal with Israel "on his conditions," but was waiting for the establishment of a new administration in the United States.
Yadlin added that, "The Syrians have removed almost every restraint; in their irresponsible behavior they are giving Hezbollah possession of almost every strategic capability they own."
When asked about a car bombing in Syria in September that left 17 dead, Yadlin said "those who sleep with dogs shouldn't be surprised when they wake up with fleas."
"This was an attack carried out by global Jihad...which is aided by the Syrian regime, which gives [terrorists] immunity and free passage to Iraq and Lebanon."
Yadlin also said that Hezbollah is still seeking to avenge the death of its former deputy chief Imad Mughniyah, who was killed in a bombing in February that shook a residential neighborhood of Damascus. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but Hezbollah says it was orchestrated by Israel.
Yadlin said Hezbollah is only holding off from an attack out of their fear of a harsh Israeli response, and are therefore pursuing indirect means of attacking Israel. One way he says, has been by increasing their activities in the Gaza Strip, from where they could potentially attack the Israeli home front or target Israelis traveling in Sinai. Yadlin added that such meddling in the Gaza Strip is not in the interests of Hamas, which is seeking to preserve a fragile ceasefire with Israel in the Strip.

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US arms Lebanon

Since the Lebanese army is already controlled by the Hezbollah, this might not be the best idea.
October 26, 2008

U.S. Resupplies Lebanon Military to Stabilize Ally
BEIRUT, Lebanon — For years, the Lebanese military was ridiculed as the least effective armed group in a country that was full of them. After the army splintered during the 15-year civil war, its arsenal slowly rotted into a museum of obsolete tanks and grounded aircraft.
Now that is starting to change. At the gates of a military base just north of Beirut, groups of soldiers drive new American Humvees and trucks, and some tote gleaming new American rifles and grenade launchers.
The weapons are the leading edge of a new American commitment to resupply the military of this small but pivotal Middle Eastern country, which emerged three years ago from decades of Syrian domination.
The new wave of aid, the first major American military assistance to Lebanon since the 1980s, is meant to build an armed force that could help stabilize Lebanon's fractured state, fight a rising terrorist threat and provide a legitimate alternative to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. That organization, which controls southern Lebanon, has refused to disarm, arguing that it is the only force that can defend the country against Israel.
So far, none of the deliveries of heavier weapons have been large enough to require a formal notification to Congress. Those deals are still in the early stages, administration officials said.
Some officials within the Pentagon and State Department have expressed concern about extensive military aid to a country so recently free of Syrian control and in which Hezbollah, which has close Syrian and Iranian ties, has continued to gain political power. And that has been a main concern for Israel, which has been lobbying for a lower level of support to remove the possibility that American tanks and helicopters might one day be used against it.
History also casts a shadow: the last major effort to assist the Lebanese Army, in the 1980s, ended with American troops being caught up in a civil war.
These doubts, and the contrast with the robust American military aid to Israel, have provoked some anger in Lebanon. A television comedy here this week depicted American envoys handing out socks and toy airplanes to Lebanese generals.
Still, officials at the State Department and the Pentagon say they are convinced that rebuilding Lebanon's military is essential to peace efforts in the region.
Other nations are involved, including the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Belgium, Britain and Canada. There have even been rival offers of assistance from Russia, China and Iran. But so far the United States, which has long been the Lebanese military's main source of outside support for weapons and training, says it will anchor the effort.
"United States policy is that Lebanon be sovereign and independent and the Lebanon government and its institutions govern all of Lebanon's territory and disarm militias," said Christopher C. Straub, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East. "We recognize that is not going to happen overnight, but that is our policy."
The plan to rearm Lebanon was born in 2005, after the popular so-called Cedar Revolution forced Syria to withdraw and seemed to vindicate the Bush administration's efforts to spread democracy throughout the region. In 2006, the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah bolstered the notion that Lebanon needed a stronger military, to provide a national alternative to the Shiite group's militia.
The army was in terrible condition. After a brief injection of American aid during the early 1980s, it split along sectarian and political lines. The Sixth Brigade, composed of Shiites trained by the Americans, went over to the militias and won a mocking new slogan: "We serve and defect."
After the civil war, during the years of Syrian domination, the army's stocks deteriorated to the point that most soldiers fired no more than 30 rounds a year.
"It was like a police force, but undertrained and underequipped," said Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese general. "Even the Special Forces are very young and inexperienced now, whereas Hezbollah has lots of experience."
In fact, the army was deliberately kept weak by the country's Syrian overseers, who did not want a strong alternative force. That was part of what allowed Hezbollah to grow into such a formidable power during the 1980s and 1990s, using advanced weaponry provided by Iran and Syria.
Now, however, American officials say they have faith in the independence and professionalism of the army, which has become thoroughly integrated to include all of Lebanon's many religious and ethnic factions, and has avoided interfering in politics. American-driven audits have shown that almost nothing given to the army has ended up in Hezbollah's hands.
"They have demonstrated year after year after year that when we give them equipment, they take responsibility for it," said Mark T. Kimmitt, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs.
An important moment for the army came in the summer of 2007, when it fought and won a three-month battle with Islamists in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in the northern city of Tripoli. That struggle, in which 168 soldiers and an unknown number of militants were killed, vividly underscored the need to re-equip the army. With no combat helicopters or precision weapons, the army had to resort to dropping bombs by hand from its Vietnam-era Huey helicopters, a hopelessly inaccurate method that resulted in the near-leveling of the camp.
Although the United States rushed them 40 loads of C-17 transport planes full of ammunition and other gear, army commanders bitterly resented the failure to provide them with more sophisticated arms.
"Nahr al-Bared lasted 105 days," said one high-level Lebanese officer involved in procurement issues, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "If we had had attack helicopters, it would have been over in 15 days."
Another stark illustration of Lebanon's new military ambitions, and its gaping needs, is visible right now on the country's northern border with Syria. In recent weeks, after a string of bombings in Tripoli that left 20 people dead — most of them Lebanese soldiers — the military sent 8,000 soldiers to the border to monitor smuggling routes across the northern mountains.
That effort alone was a measure of Lebanon's new independence from Syria. But the border control force was too small, and it lacked necessary equipment, Lebanese military officials say.
"They have no U.A.V.'s, no night-vision equipment, none of the sensors they use in other countries to tell if what you're seeing is a threat or just an animal," the Lebanese procurement officer said, using the abbreviation for unmanned aerial vehicles. "Let's say you have 50 valleys in one area, and you have soldiers posted on hilltops. They can watch during the day, but at night they can do nothing."
Lebanese commanders say they are anxious about the slow pace of American military support so far. Of the $410 million that has been committed since 2006, less than half has been delivered — mostly ammunition, communications equipment, Humvees, trucks, rifles, automatic grenade launchers and other light weapons, and spare parts, according to Lebanese and American military officials.
And it is heavier weapons that are most needed, Lebanese officials say. In particular, they want an air defense system, which would allow them to argue that they could completely replace Hezbollah as a warding force against Israel in the south.
"It's the ABC of any army to have the capacity to defend itself," the Lebanese procurement officer said. "During the 2006 war, Israeli aircraft were shooting from 300 meters up."
Mr. Straub, with the Pentagon, said the focus is still on identifying Lebanon's exact military requirements and then finding the weapons to suit them. That means that although Lebanon has requested attack helicopters, for instance, it is not yet a question of approving a specific deal.
"They have first got to define the requirement," Mr. Straub said. "Everybody wants to rush to the equipment. But we have got to define the requirement."
Yet one State Department official said that conflicts in the administration are holding up any major deal, as some at the Pentagon and State Department are more eager to rebuild the Lebanon Armed Forces while others are reluctant to move too quickly, given Israel's concerns. "There are differing points of view," the State Department official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The Lebanese also want precision antitank missiles and a rebuilt fleet of tanks to replace their aging American and Soviet models. Specifically, they want surplus Vietnam-era M60 tanks that would be rebuilt with American parts and transferred to Lebanon from Jordan.
Even though that shopping list does not include the most advanced weaponry, it has caused serious discomfort for Israel.
"We don't want Lebanon to be run by Hezbollah," said one Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of continuing negotiations with the United States. The fear, the official said, is that the weapons might fall into the wrong hands.
For now, American officials say that they are committed to helping Lebanon get the weapons it needs to defend itself, and the acknowledge that the delays have caused anxiety in Lebanon.
"It is understandable, the frustration the Lebanese are expressing," Mr. Kimmitt of the State Department said.
Robert F. Worth reported from Beirut, and Eric Lipton from Washington.

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Gen Abizaid: Israel cannot harm Iranian nukes.

How considerate of Abizaid to soothe Ahmadinejad's nerves. We wouldn't want him to worry, would we? After all, aides report that he is straining under the load...
Dan Ephron
From the magazine issue dated Sep 29, 2008

It wasn't an official military assessment, but retired Gen. John Abizaid's remarks at a Marine Corps University conference last week appeared to echo the thinking of at least some in the upper echelons of the U.S. military: Israel is incapable of seriously damaging Iran's nuclear program. Abizaid, who oversaw military operations in the Middle East as head of U.S. Central Command until 18 months ago, caused a stir last year by publicly asserting the United States could live with a nuclear-armed Iran through a strategy of cold-war-style deterrence. Last week, when asked to reflect on the possible consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, Abizaid said he doubted whether "the Israelis have the capability to make a lasting impression on the Iranian nuclear program with their military capabilities." An Israel–Iran confrontation, he said, would be "bad for the region, bad for the United States [and would] ultimately move the region into an even more unstable situation."

Israel believes Tehran might be within a year of crossing the uranium-enrichment threshold and has made clear it would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. (Iran says its program is peaceful.) A year ago, Israel sent warplanes to Syria to destroy what it believed to be a budding nuclear facility. But according to several officers and Pentagon analysts who spoke to NEWSWEEK, the U.S. military thinks Israel would face huge challenges in reaching Iran, refueling its warplanes along the way and penetrating hardened nuclear targets. Earlier this month, the United States agreed to sell Israel 1,000 small-diameter bombs known as GBU-39s, capable of piercing several feet of concrete—an arms deal that analysts believe is linked to the Iran issue. But a spokesman for Boeing, which makes the bombs, estimated that they would not be delivered before 2010. And thus far, according to a source familiar with talks between the two countries, the United States has not granted Israel's request for additional equipment. That order from the Israelis, said one Pentagon analyst who monitors the Middle East and did not want to be named discussing sensitive issues, reinforces the notion that its military does not have the means to conduct a large-scale attack.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Ahmadinejad falls ill under strain

Destroying America and Israel is hard work.
Last update - 09:48 26/10/2008       
Aide says Iran's Ahmadinejad falls ill under strain of post
By Associated Press
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fallen ill due to his
heavy workload, a close associate told the Iranian state news agency late Saturday.
Parliament member Mohammad Ismail Kowsari, a close ally of the president, told IRNA that Ahmadinejad is feeling under the weather because of the strain of his position.
"The president will eventually recover and continue his job," said Kowsari, who last September accompanied the president on his trip to the U.N. General Assembly. "Every human being can face exhaustion under such a workload."
The Iranian president reportedly works a 20 hour day and has not appeared in public since Tuesday.
State television on Saturday said he participated in the funeral ceremony for the recently discovered remains of soldiers from the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, but showed no images of him.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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