Muslim Brotherhood: Obama aims to keep Arab world divided
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Saturday, May 9, 2009
This is indicative of the sort of reception Barack Obama's speech is bound to get in the Arab and Muslim world. With such enthusiasm and support for the United States, it is small wonder that Mr. Obama is pursuing his policy of rapprochement with the Arab world and Islam.
Last update - 19:32 09/05/2009
Muslim Brotherhood: Obama aims to keep Arab world divided
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood dismissed on Saturday U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to deliver a speech to the Muslim world from Egypt as part of a plan to keep Arab and Muslim states divided.
Deputy leader Mohamed Habib said overtures by the United States to countries like Syria and Iran, and recent visits by U.S. officials to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, indicated the speech would be used to further the superpower's pro-Israeli agenda.
"The U.S. administration is trying to use each of these countries individually to serve the American agenda and American interests, in addition to securing, promoting, protecting and guaranteeing the superiority of the Zionist entity (Israel)," Habib told Reuters.
The Brotherhood is Egypt's largest and most powerful opposition group, and seeks an Islamic state through democratic means. It disavowed violence decades ago and is officially banned, but operates relatively openly.
Obama will deliver a speech to the Muslim world in Egypt on June 4 in which he will seek to repair ties that were severely damaged under his predecessor George W. Bush.
"The statements are rosy, but politics is not built on statements as much as it's based on practices on the ground. Let's wait and see," Habib said.
The Brotherhood controls roughly a fifth of seats in Egypt's lower house of parliament. The group played a seminal role in the development of Islamist ideology and political groups around the Muslim world.
What is conspicuous in the record of the UN in Lebanon, is the total failure to implement all the resolutions calling for disarmament of Hezbollah, as well as taking seriously the fabricated claims of Lebanese ownership of Sheba farms. It is really extraordinary chutzpah for the Hezbollah to accuse the UN of pro-Israel bias.
Last update - 16:04 09/05/2009
Hezbollah: UN envoy biased in favor of Israel
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press
The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has condemned recent comments by a senior UN envoy in which he criticized the organization for providing support to Palestinian fighters in Gaza from Egypt.
Saturday's statement by Hezbollah accused Terje Roed-Larsen of supporting Israel and said his position provided cover for Israeli criminal practices.
Roed-Larsen is the UN chief's envoy dealing with implementation of a 2004 Security Council resolution that includes demands for Hezbollah's disarmament.
Roed-Larsen on Thursday criticized Hezbollah's admission that it supported fighters in Gaza from Egypt and said there is growing concern Hezbollah has engaged in militant activities beyond Lebanese territory.
Larsen told the UN Security Council on Thursday that Ban is calling on Hezbollah to cease any militant activities outside of Lebanon and complete its transformation into a solely Lebanese political party.
A United Nations update report released Thursday said that Hezbollah militants had planned to carry out "hostile operations" in Egypt while maintaining a significant force and weapon arsenals at their strongholds in Lebanon.
The report, which dealt with the 2004 UN resolution for an arms embargo on all militia groups outside the Beirut government, said there had been alarming reports of large number of arms reaching those groups while Hezbollah leaders continued to "assert that they have acquired more sophisticated military technology."
The report written by Roed-Larsen, said information indicated that in recent weeks, "there has been a growing concern that Hezbollah has engaged in clandestine and illegal militant activities beyond Lebanese territory."
He said Egypt's general prosecutor on April 8 arrested 49 people based on information from the country's State Security investigation alleging that they were assigned by Hezbollah "to plan and carry out hostile operations on Egyptian soil."
Roed-Larsen said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had acknowledged the detention of a Hezbollah operative and Egyptian authorities had confirmed the existence of a Hezbollah cell on their territory.
"The government of Egypt has shared with the UN secretary general a number of details concerning the plans, resources and actions of the cell as well and the material and devices confiscated," Roed- Larsen said in the report to the UN Security Council, which met to discuss it.
It cited "alarming reports" that the Iran-backed Hezbollah had received sophisticated military technology in a breach of the UN arms embargo on militias operating in Lebanon in violation of Lebanese sovereignty.
The United States has accused Iran and Syria of providing military assistance to Hezbollah in its fight against Israel.
The UN Security Council has been urging the Lebanese government to disarm paramilitary groups and restore its sovereignty over the territory.
Those with selective vision will of course cite only the earlier New York Times report, which made it seem as if Hamas had accepted a two state solution, whereas they had in fact only said that they will accept a Palestinian state (and ask for more afterwards).
Last update - 21:59 09/05/2009
Hamas: We won't accept two-state solution
The Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas will not accept a two-state solution as a means to end the conflict with Israel, the movement's Damascus-based politburo chief Khaled Meshal said Saturday.
Meshal said that Hamas rejects the two-state solution but could still be part of a national unity government if a Palestinian state is established based on 1967 borders.
Meshal told the New York Times last week that Hamas has agreed with the rival Fatah movement to a state based on 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and a right of return for Palestinians. He said such a deal could be the basis for a long-lasting ceasefire. Some analysts saw the remarks as an indirect recognition of Israel.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, will continue its dialogue with Fatah in Cairo on May 16. The goal is the formation of a national government.
The two-state solution, which is supported by the United States and the European Union, has not been accepted by Israel's new government under the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Meanwhile Saturday, Meshal warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against asking his prime minister to form a new government.
Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement have held negotiations for months in efforts to form a unity government. But an Abbas aide has signaled that the Egypt-brokered talks had failed, and that the Palestinian president would soon ask his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to form a new government without Hamas.
Fayyad had stepped down in March to clear the way for the latest round of unity talks.
Meshal said reconciliation talks were ongoing and warned that such unilateral steps by Abbas would lack legitimacy. He spoke during a meeting of Damascus-based Palestinian groups Saturday.
Well, I guess this is one way to put it...
Last update - 10:38 09/05/2009
Pope: Catholic Church and Jewish people united by 'inseparable bond'
By News Agencies
Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that his visit to the Middle East was a reminder of the inseparable bond between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, a relationship that has been strained at times under his leadership.
The pope spoke from Mount Nebo, the hill overlooking the Jordan Valley from where the Bible says Moses saw the Promised Land.
The pope arrived at the site on the second day of a weeklong visit to the Middle East that will also take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"May our encounter today inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of sacred scripture and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace to which the word of God calls us," said Benedict.
The pope sparked outrage among many Jews earlier this year when he revoked the excommunication of an ultraconservative bishop who denies the Holocaust.
Benedict had lifted his excommunication along with three other ultraconservative prelates in a bid to end a church schism. But amid the uproar, the church has not allowed the bishop to resume his duties.
The pope's forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism and acknowledgment of Vatican mistakes have softened Jewish anger over the bishop. But another sore point has been World War II Pope Pius XII, whom Benedict has called a great churchman. Jews and others say he failed to do all he could to stop the extermination of European Jews.
The pope's visit to Mount Nebo was the first of many that Benedict will make to holy places during his first visit to the Middle East.
"The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the holy places also reminds us of the inseparable bond between the church and the Jewish people," said Benedict. "From the beginning, the church in these lands has commemorated in her liturgy the great figures of the patriarchs and prophets, as a sign of her profound appreciation of the unity of the two testaments."
Benedict is scheduled to meet with Muslim leaders later Saturday at Amman's largest mosque - his second visit to a Muslim place of worship since becoming pope in 2005.
Pope Benedict XVI began his delicate trip to the Middle East on Friday by expressing "deep respect" for Islam and calling for a three-way dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews to help peace.
He said that peace efforts were often blocked by partisan interests and that the Church could "help reasonable positions bloom" and that it wanted to engage Jews and Muslims in a dialogue for peace.
"A trilateral dialogue must move forward. It is very important for peace and also to allow each person to live his or her faith well," he said.
The pope arrived in Jordan on Friday, where he began his first Middle East visit as a self-proclaimed pilgrim of peace but could face criticism from Muslims still upset over past comments he made about the Prophet Mohammed.
Friday, May 8, 2009
The Lebanese are either rolling up a network, or arresting anti-Hezbollah people and charging them with spying for Israel.
Lebanon arrests 5 suspected of spying for Israel
BEIRUT (AP) — Authorities arrested five people in southern Lebanon on Friday for allegedly spying for Israel as part of the two countries' long-running espionage battle, security officials said.
At least seven others accused of spying have been arrested in recent weeks in what appears to be part of a stepped-up campaign against those suspected of gathering information on Hezbollah militants for Israel. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group fought a 34-day war with the Jewish state in 2006 that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 in Israel.
Lebanese security agents arrested three family members — a man, his wife and his brother — at their homes in Ghaziyeh near the southern port city of Sidon during a raid early Friday, the officials said. Two computers and CD-ROMs were seized.
Two brothers were also arrested in a separate raid Friday in the town of Bint Jbeil near the border with Israel, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The arrests in both towns were based on information from a retired Lebanese general charged with spying for Israel last month along with his wife and his nephew, who is a government security agent, the officials said.
Israeli officials refused to comment on the arrests. "It is not our practice to comment on these sorts of allegations when they arise, not in this case, not in any case," government spokesman Mark Regev said.
Lebanon considers itself at war with Israel and bans its citizens from having any contact with the Jewish state.
I've posted on the blog stories about the crazed slanders regarding Israel that are circulated in the Middle East and in countries like the UK (that play, remember?) often focussing on how Israelis allegedly teach their children to kill Arabs, hate Muslims, etc.
So a little reality. My nine-year-old son comes home today from school and remarks that it is Jerusalem Day. So, ask I, what did you learn? He begins as follows: "Jerusalem is holy to three religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity...."
More - Who Hates Who?
foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's European tour is not exactly a great diplomatic success. His remarks about the peace industry were not wise perhaps, and he apparently antagonized the Germans by implying that they are cowards. Nonetheless, Lieberman's gaffes should not provide a green light for the arrogance and wholesale Israel bashing of others.
Jurgen Trittin of the Green Party evidently has the illusion that he is supposed to be actually in charge of Israeli foreign policy. He told Berliner Zeitung:
Herr Trittin may have great expectations, but Israel is not a state of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland or even a member of the European Common Market, and Herr Trittin is owed nothing by Israel respecting "expectations." Among independent states, even the most barbarous of imperialist tyrants preserve the amenities and courtesies of diplomacy.
Continued here: Germany expects
Either US diplomacy is wondrously subtle and devious, or there is simply an anarchical situation in which different parts of the government do entirely different things and work at cross purposes. Those who are assuming the worst about US intentions in the Middle East should take this into account as well
Last update - 18:37 08/05/2009
U.S. renews sanctions against Syria
By News Agencies
The Obama administration has renewed sanctions on Syria, a senior U.S. official said on Friday, despite Washington dispatching two top officials to Damascus this week to try to improve ties.
While the United States has made clear it wants better relations with Syria, a nation it has long accused of supporting terrorism, the renewal of sanctions shows Washington is not yet ready for a dramatic improvement in relations.
The announcement came a day after Jeffrey Feltman, the State Department's top Middle East envoy, held talks with Syrian officials in Damascus.
Feltman was accompanied to Damascus by White House official Daniel
Shapiro. Their trip was part of U.S. President Barack Obama administration's outreach to nations shunned by former President George Bush.
Meanwhile, a U.S. diplomat told Lebanese officials Friday that his country will not pursue relations with Syria at the expense of its ties to Lebanon.
"There is no deal with Damascus at Lebanon's expense and no compromise on the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (for the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri)," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Hale said after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman at Baabda palace.
The Lebanese daily an-Nahar said Hale is expected to inform Lebanese officials about the results of Feltman's meetings in Damascus. He will also reiterate US support for Lebanon.
Syria, which has been a power broker in Lebanon for 30 years, pulled its troops from its small neighboring country in 2005, but still has influential allies in the opposition. Those allies are in a tight race with the majority in Lebanon's upcoming Parliamentary elections, scheduled for June.
This article in The Guardian by Rabbi Jonathan Romain discusses a point that is always there and never discussed: the influence of Christian theology and culture on policy toward Israel. Perhaps it is not quite as he says, but one can't help wondering if the Church insistence on internationalization of Jerusalem, for example, is not related to the curse of Eusebius, according to which Jews are forbidden from rebuilding that city because they rejected Christ. It is certainly strange that the subject of internationalization was never raised when Jerusalem was under Muslim sovereignty. It is a pity that the issue has been raised by a Jew and a rabbi, rather than by a Christian. Comments on the article in the Guardian were not kind.
*The name has been changed since the 1960s in the Roman Catholic rite, but the meaning is the same, and the name persists in some other Catholic and Protestant churches.
This is worth keeping in mind when you read about the burden that Israel places on US taxpayers. There are obviously other things happening now and happening all the time, that we will learn about only in ten years, if ever. An interesting survey by David Elazar.
Israel receives, in addition to political and moral support, $3 billion annually in foreign aid from the United States. Besides having a strong, democratic ally, what does the USA receive in return? The following bibliography is an attempt to put into perspective how Israel aids the USA and its citizens.
* Understanding the U.S.-Israel Alliance: An Israeli Response to the Walt-Mearsheimer Claim by Dore Gold General George F. Keegan, a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence chief, disclosed in 1986 that he could not have obtained the same intelligence that he received from Israel if he had "five CIAs." During his interview, at which time the Cold War was still raging, he added: "The ability of the U.S. Air Force in particular, and the Army in general, to defend whatever position it has in NATO owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it does to any single source of intelligence. Sept 2007"
* Two-way independence: In many ways, Israel is the giver and the U.S. is the receiver By Yoram Ettinger "...Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier...saved the U.S. billions of dollars...F-16-responsible for 600 improvements...upgraded Hawkeye spy plane and the MD-500 chopper...bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor...innovative Israeli technologies effect on civilian and agricultural industries... 05 Dec 2005
* MIGs to Nevada "Area 51 was used to train Navy and Air Force fighter pilots to fight USSR MiGs. Israel captured many MiGs in 1967, and they gave us a bunch of them. led directly to the F-4 'Phantom' turning around it's losses in Vietnam to a 14 to 1 kill ratio. They found the MiG's weaknesses and exploited them.
* Technology Helps Prevent Mid-Air Mishaps "Mid-air helicopter crashes may become a thing of the past. The Lahav division of Israel Aircraft Industries has developed a system that predicts collisions during tactical missions and formation flights." (Oct 2004)
* Ben Gurion University develops anti-missile laser "used to develop a new airborne missile interception system in the US." (12 Jan 2004)
* Passenger aircraft - anti-missile interception and detection system. Israeli company to complete development of operational system, the Passive Approach Warning System (PAWS), for detecting and disabling missiles fired against passenger aircraft.
* Light concrete-piercing bomb two US companies to jointly produce a revolutionary light-weight bomb capable of penetrating several meters of concrete. The bomb was developed in Israel. (14 Nov 2002)
* Super-chip system is global hit Motorola (NYSE:MOT) recently presented its third generation processors of this type, the PowerQUICC III series,developed in Israel. (12 Nov 2002)
* Instant messaging program ICQ developed in Israel, brought about a breakthrough in US military communications, and made US forces inAfghanistan many times more efficient, (03 Nov 2002)
* Aridic Soils of the United States and Israel This website is the result of a demonstration project funded by the International Arid Lands Consortium to design and create a WWW site for information on soils of arid regions of the U.S. and Israel. It was designed to provide information to assist those who would manage their impact on the soils of arid regions for sustainability.
* Bekaa Valley War June 1982, Israeli ground forces pushed into Lebanon in an effort to putan end to cross-border terror attacks. [Israeli developed] RPVs went in first to get the Syrian SAMs to turn on their radars. Then the F-4s destroyed them with high-speed anti-radiation missiles critical turning point in the deadly duel of fighters and SAMs operation threw military men (in Moscow) into a kind of shock" made the Soviets understand that Western technology was superior to theirs, and in this Czech general's view,the blow to the Bekaa Valley SAMs was part of the cascade of events leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union. (June 2002)
* Litening II-pluspods United States has deployed an Israeli-manufactured airborne targeting pod in the war in Afghanistan installed on the F-16 multi-role fighters laser spot capability that an American rival does not possess. (January 2002)
* ARROW ANTI-MISSILE MISSILE. IT IS A JOINT PROJECT -- WHERE THE UNITED STATES PROVIDES MOST OF THE MONEY, THE ISRAELIS -- MOST OF THE HIGH-TECH EXPERTISE.
ISRAEL IS SHARING RESEARCH LESSONS WITH THE UNITED STATES
See also a December 2002 article in the Christian Science Monitor
US denies Israel access to F-35 computer
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST May. 7, 2009
A refusal by the United States to allow Israel to repair computer systems in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is at the heart of disagreements between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon that have been holding up an official Israeli order for the fifth-generation fighter jet.
The JSF, also known as the F-35, is a stealth fighter jet under development by Lockheed Martin. Last year, Israel received approval from the Pentagon to purchase up to 75 aircraft in a deal that could reach close to $20 billion.
Defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that talks between the Israeli defense delegation in Washington and the Pentagon have picked up
speed in recent weeks but have yet to result in agreement due to the US's refusal to grant Israel access to the plane's internal computer mainframe.
The Americans are concerned that by allowing Israel to independently repair the computers, the Israel Air Force will get its hands on the classified
technology that was used to make the plane.
Israel, on the other hand, has argued that due to its operational requirements it needs to have the ability to repair damaged or broken computer systems in "real time" and cannot wait for a computer system to be sent to the US for repairs in the middle of a war.
The Americans have told Israel it will receive a number of spare computer systems that it could install in place of a damaged system but would still have to send the damaged system to the US for repairs.
"This is the core of the disagreements right now," explained one senior defense official. "We have major operational constraints and need to have
the ability to repair the systems on our own."
Due to the disagreements regarding the computer, as well as American opposition to the integration of Israeli systems into the plane and its overall soaring cost - now reaching $100 million - the Defense Ministry has recently asked Boeing for details on the new and advanced model of the F-15 Eagle, which is claimed to have enhanced stealth capabilities.
There is also an option to upgrade existing F-15s to the Silent Eagle model at a much lower cost.
In March, Boeing unveiled the F-15 Silent Eagle (F-15SE), a new configuration of the F-15 which has undergone improvements and modifications
that, according to media reports, give the plane a stealth capability that is effective in evading radars on enemy aircraft but not against ground-based radar systems.
Improvements in stealth include coatings and treatments to the aircraft, as well as a new design for the conformal fuel tanks that includes the possibility of carrying weapons inside them instead of fuel.
Israel operates several squadrons of F-15s, including one of 25 F-15Is, the
aircraft with the longest-range in the IAF.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
AIPAC has done about the only thing it could do - position itself between the US administration and the Israeli government, in an attempt to have the best possible opportunity to influence US policy favorably.
By Ron Kampeas · May 7, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Days after AIPAC's apparent success navigating the churning waters between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations, the pro-Israel lobby is being criticized by Jewish groups on both sides of the political spectrum.
Pro-Israel groups on the right and left have assailed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee because of elements of its agenda that emerged from its annual policy conference this week.
The Zionist Organization of America registered a protest about AIPAC's backing for Palestinian statehood. Meanwhile, three groups that backed the U.S.-sponsored peace process -- Americans for Peace Now, J Street and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom -- rallied supporters to help roll back Tuesday afternoon's Capitol Hill blitz by 7,000 AIPAC delegates, suggesting the organization had failed to fully endorse Obama's peace moves.
The AIPAC conference suggested a middle road that could reconcile differences between the two young governments over a key issue -- whether to press toward Palestinian statehood.
The AIPAC delegates' wish list included endorsements for two congressional letters that unequivocally support a "viable Palestinian state," albeit with the usual preconditions about an "absolute" end to Palestinian violence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to maintain ambiguity over his views on a Palestinian state, but such an endorsement for the concept by AIPAC is unlikely to have come without some sort of nod from Jerusalem: Netanyahu addressed the conference via satellite and sent some of his top advisers.
The endorsement of a Palestinian state by the pro-Israel lobby now may spare Netanyahu from having to explicitly endorse the concept himself -- and elicit the opprobrium of his coalition's pro-settler flank -- when he meets with President Obama in two weeks.
Good save, Israel-side, but it upset the ZOA -- the most prominent American pro-settler group -- stateside.
In a statement, the ZOA said it "opposes this move by AIPAC because supporting or promoting a Palestinian Arab state under prevailing conditions is seriously mistaken and because AIPAC is thereby supporting a major policy affecting Israel's vital interests despite the fact that the Israeli government has not supported such a policy."
The three groups from the left taking shots across AIPAC's bow have never had a problem differing with Israeli policy. What was unclear was where they substantively disagreed with AIPAC, at least on the Palestinian front.
Americans for Peace Now encouraged activists to call lawmakers and make the following four points: "I am pro-Israel, and I want you to support the Obama administration's peace efforts in the Middle East"; "I am pro-Israel, and I want you to support the president's request for supplemental assistance for the Palestinians"; "I am pro Israel, and I want you to support the president's effort to open the window for responsible engagement with a Palestinian unity government"; and "I am pro-Israel, and I want you to reject efforts to promote new Iran sanctions legislation, or efforts to impose any artificial deadlines for ending diplomacy with Iran."
The e-mail blast also stated that AIPAC's "agenda is often not the same as ours." Action alerts from Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and J Street to their followers did not explicitly target AIPAC but similarly urged backing for Obama's peace principles the very week that AIPAC delegates were making their case in Washington.
Yet the congressional letters backed by AIPAC back the first two principles in the Peace Now alert -- Obama's initiative and supplemental assistance.
On the third issue, JTA has learned that AIPAC has signed off quietly on a policy that would involve the United States engaging with a Palestinian national unity government that included individuals approved by Hamas, as long as those individuals explicitly committed to the three principles Hamas abjures: an end to terrorism, recognition of Israel and an agreement to abide by earlier peace agreements. That more or less aligns with the policies outlined in recent week by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
On the fourth issue, Iran sanctions, it is true that AIPAC strongly backs the tough sanctions legislation opposed by the three left-wing groups.
An official for one of the three groups acknowledged -- and welcomed -- AIPAC's endorsement of the Obama administration's Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives. The official said he now saw the difference as more one of emphasis, arguing that the three groups' endorsement of support for the Palestinian Authority was much more aggressive.
Another pro-Israel official, close to AIPAC, said attacks from the right and the left affirmed the group's place in the mainstream.
It's not the first time AIPAC has taken hits from its right and left, although the coincidence of the attacks is unusual. In 2007, Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and a major AIPAC donor, threatened to cut off the group for backing a letter to the Bush administration urging it to increase funding for the Palestinian Authority. Dovish groups targeted AIPAC the year before for backing the tough restrictions on aid written into the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.
Israel and the peace initiative
The American sponsored peace initiative seems to have little rational thinking behind it and little chance of success. But while the President of the United States may not be right, he is certainly the President of the United States. Israel cannot afford to forget that. Nonetheless, Israel's first responsibility must be to ensure that it has a viable defense.
A great peace initiative is being undertaken by the United States. The general idea seems to bundle a remodeled Arab Peace Initiative for regional peace, Palestinian-Israeli peace based on a two state solution and a solution to the problem of Iranian nuclear weapons development. Lately, a fourth element was apparently added - general nuclear disarmament and arms control, including hints that the U.S. expects Israel to become a signatory of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty. All this will somehow, so the theory goes, make it easier for the United States to secure its withdrawal from Iraq, and prevent a disaster in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Continued here: Israel and the peace initiative
Following his meeting last night (Wednesday), 6.5.09, with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to appoint a ministerial committee on developing the Palestinian economy and improving the Palestinians' quality of life. The committee's members will be: Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Minister Silvan Shalom. Due to the importance that he ascribes to the issue, Prime Minister Netanyahu will chair the committee himself. He will ask Minister Shalom to begin advancing several economic projects soon in Jenin, Jericho and the Qasr al-Yehud baptismal site. The move is consistent with Benjamin Netanyahu's pre-election campaign pledge to advance peace by improving economic conditions for the Palestinians in preparation for a final peace settlement.
Rosen is probably right that there are Anti-Semitic American officials. After all, On the other hand, the Dreyfus affair was about an officer in the French army who was accused of giving secrets to Germany, not about a Jew giving information to Israel.
Rosen likens AIPAC spy case to Dreyfus Affair
May. 6, 2009
Jerusalem Post Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Steve Rosen, the former foreign policy chief for AIPAC who was charged with illegally disclosing classified information, said ulterior motives against "Jews, Israel and AIPAC" were behind the case against him.
In his first interview since the case was closed on May 1, Rosen compared himself to Alfred Dreyfus, who was unjustly tried for treason by France.
"Poor Dreyfus - he had no defense, he had no ability to fight. It was a secret trial. Our judge didn't agree to a secret trial. They tried, they tried to make it a Dreyfus trial, but he said, 'No. I'm not having a secret trial, we're going to have an open trial,'" Rosen described in an interview filmed only hours after the dismissal of the case and aired on Channel 10 Wednesday.
"It's been nearly five years since they came to my door, out of the blue, and turned my life upside-down," he continued. "It's been a horrible experience. It's over, but it will take awhile to rebuild."
Rosen allegedly received classified information concerning Iran and its backing for terrorism.
The case came to light following an FBI raid on AIPAC's offices in August 2004. Seven months later, in March 2005, he was fired by the lobby group, and in August of that year, he was indicted by the United States.
But Rosen maintained that his actions were not illegal.
"I was a person, you see, who worked with government officials every day for 23 years. That week, every week, I would meet with people in the State Department, the National Security Council, the Defense Department, other agencies in the government. They were my friends, they knew very well that I spoke to the embassy of Israel. It wasn't a surprise to them; they also spoke to the embassy," he said.
"But these people we're talking about viewed it as if we were a nest of spies, as if we were doing something against America," Rosen continued.
While he expressed relief that the saga was over, Rosen noted that "we didn't really have a trial, and in some ways it's too bad we didn't, because all the facts would've come out, and what it would've shown is that I did nothing wrong. Those that did something wrong were the people that brought this case; not just that they were incorrect, but that the attitude they had about Jews, Israel, AIPAC was completely false."
Unfortunately, he said, "a lot of that nonsense is still out there. You can go on the Internet and see hundreds of stories. They talk about spies, and they see the Mossad under every desk."
Rosen also expressed his belief that then-president George W. Bush was not at all responsible for the case, but that it was "a faction in the bureaucracy who had this belief."
"They have materials against other people at AIPAC," he continued. "They have material about people at other Jewish organizations. These guys are still there in the bureaucracy. They still believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America. They still believe that there are Jewish spies under every bed. And they may find another opportunity to bring another case against someone, and that's the problem."
Last update - 11:25 07/05/2009
Kibbutzniks block Gaza crossing to prevent transfer of cash
By Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents
Kibbutz Movement activists on Thursday blocked the entrance to the Erez border crossing to prevent the transfer of cash to the Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday instructed defense officials to transfer NIS 50 million to banks in the Hamas-ruled territory to help pay Palestinian Authority salaries.
Yoel Marshak, of the Kibbutz Movement's operations department, said Thursday that the activists would block the entry paths with bulldozers and prevent the transfer.
"We demand equal conditions for the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit," he said, referring to the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a 2006 cross-border raid.
Negotiations to secure his release broke down during the last days of former prime minister Ehud Olmert's tenure.
Netanyahu approved the transfer after meeting on Wednesday with Quartet envoy Tony Blair, despite having waged criticism against Olmert for similar actions.
Blair relayed to Netanyahu the frustration expressed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who complained that Israel is preventing funds from being transferred to the Strip.
Defense officials told Netanyahu that NIS 50 million would cover PA salaries and would be enough to save the Gaza banking system from collapse. The sum is less than what was originally requested by the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu aides said the funds to be transferred are not Israeli funds, but rather the Palestinian Authority's money that will go toward paying the salaries of its employees. "We are talking about a minimal amount that is intended to maintain Gaza's economy," said one source.
Some right-wing groups in Israel have opposed similar cash transfers, asserting that Gaza's Hamas Islamist rulers could benefit.
Palestinian officials in the West Bank have said that assertion is unfounded, citing the use of safeguards such as direct deposit to prevent the money from going into unauthorized accounts.
May. 7, 2009
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
St-Sgt. Noam Adin Richter Levy, 20, from Mitzpe Netufa near Jerusalem, a soldier from the Dhihifat battalion, was killed pre-dawn Thursday in IDF raid on the town of Berzit north of Ramallah.
IDF sources said that Levy was killed during a routine operation that included a night-time patrol around the town, which is home to one of the leading Palestinian universities.
Sources said that the IDF was investigating the incident, as well as the possibility that the soldier was killed by friendly fire.
During the patrol through the town a part of the Dhihifat force was separated, and "many questions surrounded what happened next," according to the sources. The IDF said it was also possible that the force encountered resistance while on patrol, and that the soldier was shot by a Palestinian gunman.
The IDF was waiting for autopsy results to determine the cause of death.
Levy was the first soldier to be killed in the West Bank in over a year.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Oldest Surface on Earth Discovered
Earth's surface is mostly fresh in geologic terms.
Weathering - wind and water, freezing and thawing - takes its toll, and longer-term changes caused by volcanic activity and sliding crustal plates, known as tectonic activity, fold today's ground into tomorrow's interior.
The constant makeover of the planet is typically fastest in the mountains, slower in the tectonically inactive deserts.
A new study of ancient "desert pavement" in Israel's Negev Desert finds a vast region that's been sitting there exposed, pretty much as-is, for about 1.8 million years, according to Ari Matmon and colleagues at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
It is the oldest known vast expanse of surface area. In fact it is more than four times older than the confirmed next oldest desert pavement, in Nevada, according to an article at the web site of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The newly dated desert pavement does not represent the oldest material on Earth, however. A lot of individual rocks have been found that are much older.
But Matmon's team dated the entire surface as a "geomorphic feature," he told LiveScience. "Since the initial formation of desert pavement (the material we dated) is ... related to the age of the surface, we dated the surface itself," he said. "We did not choose the outstanding anomalous rocks on the surface."
The results show that in regions that are extremely flat and arid, where tectonic activity is low and rocks are highly resistant to weathering, the surface can be preserved for millions of years, Matmon said. "This is something we were not sure about until now," he said.
The finding is detailed in the current issue of the journal GSA Bulletin.
The dating was done by measuring concentrations of a certain isotope, called 10Be, that is produced only at the surface and which indicates how long something has been exposed.
"The surface we dated most likely represents large areas in the Sahara and Arabia Deserts," Matmon said. "We hope to be able to collect samples from other locations in the Sahara and Arabia Deserts and establish the global extent of these old surfaces.
Following is the release of the Israel President's office regarding the Obama - Peres meeting. It was full of positive genstures, though perhaps these were of dubious significance.
President Shimon Peres Met with President Barack Obama At the White House
President Barack Obama:
"America's commitment to Israel's security is unequivocal, and it will remain that way throughout my administration"
"We cannot close our eyes to the Iranian nuclear threat. We cannot repeat the same mistakes that brought the horrors of the Holocaust to the world."
President Shimon Peres held an official meeting last night with the President of the United States, Barack Obama. President Peres was received warmly by President Obama, who embraced him and said, "It's great to see you again – I always enjoy hearing your words and your wisdom, and I hope we can meet again many times in the future."
It should be noted that the meeting began with the participation of top advisers to the both of the Presidents, including President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, adviser to the President David Axelrod, General James Jones, Dan Shapiro, the head of the Middle East desk of the National Security Council, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor, and President Peres's top advisers. Later on, President Obama requested to continue the meeting with President Peres privately.
President Obama told President Peres that, "The challenges standing before us are also great opportunities that can lead in promising directions. America's commitment to Israel's security is unequivocal, and it will remain that way throughout my administration. This commitment to Israel's security is a top priority of the United States."
President Obama added that, "America is a great friend of Israel," and that, "I am looking forward to my meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; I am sure that we will be able work together cooperatively and pragmatically. I see that the most important thing in his eyes is the security of the citizens of Israel, just as the most important thing in my eyes is the security of the citizens of America.
President Peres responded to President Obama: "We see you as atrue friend of Israel, without reservations, and we wish you good luck. I will repeat what I said to you in our previous meeting in Israel: the best thing for Israel is that you be a great President of the United States, because today Israel's problems are problems that affect the entire world - nuclear terror, and preventing war and discrimination.
Regarding Iran's efforts at nuclear armament, President Peres told President Obama that, "I always support talking and advancing interests through negotiations – this is preferable to war and I hope that it will succeed in keeping Iran from going nuclear. But we cannot close our eyes to the Iranian nuclear threat. We cannot repeat the same mistakes that brought the horrors of the Holocaust to the world. If Europe had taken Hitler seriously from the beginning, millions of human lives would have been saved. Iran is the world's problem, but it is particularly worrying for us because of our history as Jews."
Regarding the Palestinians, President Peres told President Obama that, "I come to you as the President of the State of Israel to emphasize that Israel wants peace, Israel is committed to the peace process. I have spoken in-depth with Prime Minister Netanyahu before coming here, and I bring a clear message: Israel is ready to begin negotiations with the Palestinians immediately. Israel does not want to rule another nation. Conquest goes against the Jewish values that we hold in our hearts." President Peres added that, "The government of Israel respects all previous international commitments, including the Road Map."
President Peres emphasized to President Obama that, "We are seeing a dramatic change in the Middle East – many moderate Arab states in the Middle East see Iran as the biggest threat facing them, and not Israel, and this presents us with an opportunity to act together with all of the Arab world to bring regional peace to all of the Middle East. There is an opportunity to make history here; I believe that Netanyahu also wants to make history, and you two have the opportunity to do that." President Peres elaborated on how it would be possible to set the peace process in motion immediately with the Palestinians and the entire Arab world.
Earlier in the day, President Peres met with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. In their meetings with President Peres, all three reiterated America's commitment to Israel's security, and President Peres outlined how he believes it is possible to set the peace process in motion. He also raised the issue of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, and President Peres thanked Rep. Pelosi for her diplomatic activities and special efforts to advance the release of Gilad Schalit.
Rehov HaNasi 3, Jerusalem 92188 Tel. +972.2.670.7256 Fax. +972.2.670.7295 Email: Spokesperson@president.gov.il
This report has too many anonymous aspects, including the author, to be fully believable, but it should not be ignored.
May 7, 2009
Hamas feels the heat from Syria
By a Special Correspondent
As relations between Syria and leading Western countries continue to coalesce, Damascus is set to take a major step in casting off its tag as a sponsor of terrorism.
News has emerged that Hamas' political leadership, based in Damascus, is to be asked to cease public statements and, over time, leave Syria. A source in the Syrian capital said this week that Damascus is keen to be seen as complying with demands from Washington and European capitals, while reiterating that Hamas and Fatah must work to unite to strengthen the position of the common Palestinian cause.
"Damascus is beginning to view itself as a genuine power-broker in the region," said the source, who also mentioned the possibility of Khartoum, Sudan, being proposed as a new base for the Hamas leader. "It sees moving out Hamas as a legitimate move in that it can push the Arab-Israeli peace process forward by putting pressure on Hamas to mend ties with Fatah by presenting a united front against Israel ahead of any possible negotiations."
The source, who cannot be named for security reasons, said a serious precedent was to be expected. "Hamas has been asked to tone down its public statements from Damascus [something Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal and others had been doing, particularly during and after Israel's recent military offensive on Gaza] and eventually move out."
"But this is not going to happen within the coming weeks; it could take a year or more."
A report in the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper last September stated that Meshaal, chairman of the Hamas political bureau, was to leave Damascus for Khartoum for security reasons. In addition, the Syrian ambassador to the United States reportedly said that once a peace accord was reached between Syria and Israel, the Palestinian factions would have to go. Meshaal sought refuge in Syria after being poisoned in Amman, Jordan, apparently by Israeli Mossad agents in September 1997. Hamas has been under intense pressure to tone down its rhetoric, and now Syria has added its voice.
Furthermore, reports say divisions between Hamas factions based in Damascus and Gaza have taken place and that the "Gaza Hamas faction" failed to persuade its Damascus counterparts to accept the terms of an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire with Israel in January. The Damascus bureau was said to have ordered the continuation of rocket attacks and resistance at the end of the three-week war.
But like Damascus, Hamas seems to softening. In an interview with the New York Times published on May 4, Meshaal said, "I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period."
The article also mentioned how only six rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel from Gaza in the month of April, and Meshaal noted that rockets had stopped firing "for now".
Damascus has come into America's sphere of interest for several reasons. Firstly, the administration of President Barack Obama wants to push forward toward a solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict and, whether its likes it or not, it must engage Syria. Secondly, Washington wants Syria to police its border with Iraq more extensively (the Wall Street Journal recently reported that US officials believed a Tunisian who carried out a suicide attack in Baghdad passed through the Syrian border), and lastly, to relinquish its close ties to Tehran, as Washington attempts to isolate Iran.
In return, Syria wants to develop its stagnant economy by attracting foreign investment and taking advantage of a glut of world-class historical sites in its backyard. With a six-year drought taking its toll, peace with Israel based on the return of the Golan Heights would provide it with an important source of water: peace (and the Golan, naturally) is something the Damascus government wants.
It hopes such attention based on trade relations and improved political ties with Europe and America will help achieve its ongoing domestic goals. With a half dozen international banks having sprung up on the streets of major cities here, in addition to a tempered easing of sanctions since Obama's inauguration in January, early signs show Syria's plan seems to be working.
Trying to serve two masters?
In March, a Rome newspaper quoted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as saying that Syria and the US were 80% in agreement over several issues and that he was "ready to mediate with Iran", but added, "For now, I have only received an invitation to play a role ... We need a plan, rules and specific mechanisms to bring to Tehran."
Progress is steadily moving forward with the announcement that Jeffrey Feltman and Dan Shapiro, two of Obama's top Middle East hands, are expected to visit Damascus for a second time since March in the coming weeks. The Wall Street Journal quoted US State Department officials as saying "the first round of negotiations ... developed common ideas between Damascus and Washington, and now they are hoping to put these strategies into operation."
While Washington's fear of Tehran has been well crafted over the years and will not dissipate anytime soon, since January its tone has changed out of recognition. As a result, Syria's readiness to act as an intermediary between the US and Iran and to draw down on Hamas, a position its unique arrangement lends itself to, could lead to an important step in getting past two issues of major international concern.
Until now, standing with Iran and Hamas has made Syria much sought after. For now it can argue to be working to support the wider Palestinian cause and its own political and economic goals by "repositioning" its relationship with Hamas and ceding to Washington's demands.
Even if the Syrian government is not quite sure where it is going - how much it wants better relations with the West and at what cost to its existing relationships with Hamas and Iran - it seems Assad is finally beginning to show his cards. With the right diplomacy, he can attempt to play both sides, but at some stage it seems likely Syria will have to choose between Hamas and the Western capitals bearing markets, investors and tourists.
For personal security reasons, the writer of this article cannot be named.
(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Last update - 10:55 06/05/2009
Blair: New Mideast peace plan to be unveiled in 5-6 weeks
By The Associated Press
International envoy Tony Blair says the U.S.-led Quartet of Mideast mediators is expected to unveil a new strategy for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in five to six weeks.
Blair told Palestinian reporters Wednesday that the plan is being worked on at the highest levels of the Obama administration.
"We're about to get a new framework," Blair said Tuesday evening, adding that he did not know the details. "The reason I say people should be more hopeful, is that this is a framework that is being worked on at the highest level in the American administration, (and) in the rest of the international community."
The Obama administration has promised to work for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It has portrayed a two-state solution as the only way to solve the Mideast conflict and defined it as a U.S. national interest.
President Barack Obama is holding separate meetings at the White House this month with the Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders to hear their views.
Once those meetings are over, the Quartet is to convene in Washington to
discuss and present the new strategy, Blair said. The Quartet includes the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. "I think that within the next five to six weeks, you will have a very clear picture of what the plan is," Blair said.
May 5, 2009
Dr. Sami Alrabaa is a professor of sociology and an Arab/Muslim culture specialist. Before moving to
- President Obama considers peace process as a priority direction of his policy. How do you estimate the chances of peace process?
President Obama has proclaimed lots of priorities: economic, financial, nuclear, climatic, and peace in the - Could Mahmud Abbas keep the power on the Mahmud Abbas is a weak leader. He has lost a big part of Arafat's power to Hamas. Hamas is "cancer" in the Palestinian body. Hamas, however, could change into a positive player if an "Arafat" takes over. For the time being this is unthinkable. Hamas needs maybe 2-3 decades to let this happen. - Do you see connection between the peace process and the Iranian threat? Can possible agreement between The same applies to - How do you estimate the Saudi initiative? The Saudi regime has always played a hypocritical role in the - The new Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel Avigdor Liberman declared that Avigdor Liberman is not less combative than Menachem Begin
- Could Mahmud Abbas keep the power on the
Mahmud Abbas is a weak leader. He has lost a big part of Arafat's power to Hamas. Hamas is "cancer" in the Palestinian body. Hamas, however, could change into a positive player if an "Arafat" takes over. For the time being this is unthinkable. Hamas needs maybe 2-3 decades to let this happen.
- Do you see connection between the peace process and the Iranian threat? Can possible agreement between
The same applies to
- How do you estimate the Saudi initiative?
The Saudi regime has always played a hypocritical role in the
- The new Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel Avigdor Liberman declared that
Avigdor Liberman is not less combative than Menachem Beginwhen it comes to secure the existence of Israel. He will accept any solution that safeguards this existence side by side with peaceful neighbors.
- Liberman is considered in the West as the extreme nationalist and opponent of peace. What your opinion about this matter?
It is not true that Liberman is an opponent of peace. He is an "extreme nationalist" out of fear for saving
- There are disagreements in Jerusalem concerning the possibility of peace with Syria. Do you see real prospect of peace between and Syria in close future?
At present and under the current circumstances,
The regime of Husni Mubarak of
Talking to Hamas is futile. Even George Mitchell, the
This would be a welcome plan, but who is "Jordan's King Hussein II"??
May. 6, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
A group of Arab leaders is formulating a new peace offer, more detailed than the original Arab Initiative, which will include a proposal for resolving the two thorniest final-status issues in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Jerusalem and the refugee problem, the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Wednesday. According to the report, which relied on Palestinian sources, the new initiative is being led by Jordan's King Hussein II at the behest of US President Barack Obama.
The offer will reportedly call for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the Old City designated an "international zone." The question of the borders will be resolved with land swaps.
Some of the descendants of Palestinian refugees from Israel's War of Independence in 1948 will reportedly be allowed a Right of Return to the Palestinian state, while others will be naturalized in their countries of residence in the Arab world.
According to the report, the idea of a revised Arab peace plan emerged during Abdullah's meeting with Obama in Washington last month. During the meeting, the report said, the US president asked his guest to formulate a new offer that would elucidate some of the issues that remain vague in the original initiative. Upon returning to Amman, Abdullah immediately took off for Riyadh in order to discuss the US request with his Saudi counterpart.
On Sunday, the report said, Abdullah met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and filled him in on the details. On Monday he did the same with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.
Palestinian sources quoted by the report said that the Obama had requested that the plan outline a "timetable for normalization and the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and the Arab world, which will encourage Israel to employ the necessary means in order to create a demilitarized Palestinian state."
The revised initiative, the sources said, "will allow the Israeli flag to billow in all the capitals of the Arab world, while the Palestinian flag is raised in the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, which will be the capital of the Palestinian state."
The UN banner will fly over the holy cites of the Old City of Jerusalem, the sources were quoted as saying.
Abdullah is set to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday and Abbas on Thursday.
The Palestinian sources said that the new initiative concedes that an influx of refugees and their descendants into Israel was broadly perceived as an existential threat to the Jewish state. The refugees "cannot return to the occupied Palestinian territories of 1948," they said, "for, according to the Americans' point of view, this would pose a danger for Israel's future."
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1239710876788&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
US Afghan strikes 'killed dozens'
The Red Cross says air strikes by the US forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday are now thought to have killed dozens of civilians including women and children.
The organisation says the civilians were sheltering from fighting in the province of Farah when their houses were struck.
President Hamid Karzai says he has ordered an investigation.
Civilian casualties are sure to be high on Mr Karzai's agenda in his talks with President Barack Obama in Washington.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Is it all really just "noise?"
May. 6, 2009
hilary leila krieger, jpost correspondent in washington , THE JERUSALEM POST
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama called protecting Israel's security a "top priority" for the US when welcoming the first Israeli leader to visit his White House on Tuesday.
Obama met with President Shimon Peres, after which Peres told reporters that "there is no space between us and the United States."
But in a sign of the differences between the views of the two new governments, in an earlier meeting with Vice President Joseph Biden, Peres said ending natural growth in settlements was a non-starter.
"Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married," Peres said.
In comments before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee earlier in the day, Biden said that settlement expansion must stop, and called on Palestinians and the Arab world to make "meaningful gestures" to advance peace.
Peres also rejected the idea of "linkage" between the Palestinian and Iranian issues, two topics the US administration has frequently mentioned together.
The visit started with a 30-minute meeting among Peres, Israeli Ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor and Obama, along with several top aides, including National Security Council chairman Gen. James Jones. The two presidents then held a 15-minute tête-á-tête.
Before his meeting with Obama, Peres said Israel hadn't demanded that the US set a time limit on its negotiations with Iran.
"Israel doesn't give the US an ultimatum," he said in a briefing with Israeli reporters following his meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
He also said that the US and Israel were "100 percent" on the same page when it came to Iran, in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post.
Though Israel has repeatedly expressed its concern that America's talks with Iran will last too long, allowing Teheran to master nuclear technology, Peres said the issue of a time frame was misleading.
He explained that it was impossible to "set a clock," because events were "fluid and volatile" and would dictate the pace, instead of preset timelines.
But earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly declared that action would need to be taken if three months of diplomacy elapsed with no results.
Peres, who also met with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, described his meeting with Clinton as "excellent" and said there had been absolutely no tensions between the sides during the meeting.
There has been much speculation about how the difference in stated US and Israeli policy - the US emphatically backs a Palestinian state, while the new Israeli government has avoided articulating that position - would play out in the initial meetings Israeli leaders are holding here in Washington. Peres's visit will be followed by that of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on May 18.
But Peres said he had emphasized that Israel accepted the road map peace plan, which calls for the eventual formation of a Palestinian state, and that the new government intended to keep to previous government decisions.
"Repeating it again doesn't make it stronger," he said during the press briefing.
Peace? Not so fast!
May. 5, 2009
Mel Bezalel , THE JERUSALEM POST
The Muslim and Arab media are manipulating the swine flu epidemic to demonize Israel and its leaders, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) charged on Monday.
The ADL, which monitors global anti-Semitism, accused large-circulation daily newspapers such as Al Watan in Qatar and Al-Quds al-Arabi in the UK of "exploiting" the epidemic to provoke anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attitudes.
An Al Watan cartoon cited by the ADL had a caption saying: "The World Health Organization is warning about a world-wide epidemic - the swine flu," and showed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a pig snout.
"One theme of the anti-Israel cartoons related to the swine flu is ironically picturing Israeli leaders with faces of pigs, reflecting the disdain for the pig in Islamic culture," the ADL said in a press release issued Monday.
"Once again, the Arab press is not just content with reporting the news of a serious and potentially deadly global epidemic," said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. "They are exploiting the swine flu epidemic in an effort to rile up anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment in the Arab street. And they are using the most powerful tool in their arsenal - the visual, the cartoon - to incite hatred for the Jewish state and its people."
Last week, the ADL condemned media commentators and anti-immigration groups for blaming the outbreak of swine flu in the US on illegal immigrants. "Such inflammatory and hateful rhetoric against Mexicans in particular and Latinos in general should be condemned as unacceptable and un-American," said Foxman.
This is how to slant a headline. JTA wrote: "Biden, Kerry call for settlement freeze."
What they actually said:
Nowhere did they mention settlement freeze in what was quoted. A "settlement freeze" does not mean not building new settlements. Israel has built no new settlements sicne 1994. It is understood as meaning that no new housing units will be built.
May 5, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. John Kerry pledged to confront Iran and protect Israel, but called on the Jewish state to freeze settlements.
In their addresses Tuesday on the closing day of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference, both said President Obama was committed to removing Iran's nuclear threat.
Biden said Israel, the Palestinians and others in the region needed to take demonstrable steps toward peace.
"Show me!" he shouted.
The vice president spelled out steps that needed to be taken by the various parties.
"Israel," he said, "must work toward a two-state solution, not build settlements, dismantle outposts and allow Palestinians access to freedom of movement."
Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, preceded Biden and emphasized the need for Palestinians to stop terrorism. He said that Israel's Arab neighbors must show a greater willingness to make peace. And he listed the steps that Israel should take.
"Israel, too, must take hard steps toward the path to peace," Kerry said, calling for greater freedom of movement for Palestinians and a settlement freeze.
"Settlements make it difficult for Israel to protect its own citizens. They undercut President [Mahmoud] Abbas and strengthen Hamas by convincing Palestinians that there is no reward for moderation in the region," he said, referring to the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority president and the terrorist group that opposes him. "They empower the enemies of peace."
5 May 2009
Deputy FM Ayalon in Brussels: "Israel is committed to the advancement of a political solution, but the relationship with Europe cannot be held hostage to the political process."
(Communicated by the Deputy Foreign Minister's Bureau)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon appeared today before the plenum of the Political and Security Committee of the European Union, which was attended by 27 ambassadors from members countries of the European Union.
Deputy FM Ayalon reviewed the security and political challenges in the Middle East, emphasizing the Iranian threat and stressing Israel's commitment to a political agreement with the Palestinians based on security, economics and preservation of Israel as a Jewish state.
The Deputy FM rejected the linkage that some entities are trying to create between the upgrading of Israel's relationship with the EU and the advancement of the political process. In this regard, Deputy FM Ayalon stated that, "Our relationship with Europe cannot be held hostage to the political process."
Within the framework of the visit, the Deputy FM met with Marc Otte, the EU special representative for the Middle East peace process. He will also brief the European media.
Iranian president's visit to Latin America postponed indefinitely
5 May 2009
Israel expresses its satisfaction at the postponement until further notice of the visit of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to Latin America.
(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson)
In accordance with the instructions of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman, Israel operated through a number of diplomatic channels in order to express its disappointment with the planned visit. This move was required due to the extremist and anti-Semitic position of the Iranian president and because of the importance Israel attaches to the isolation of Iran, with the goal of causing it to discontinue the development of its nuclear program and to cease its support of international terror.
Memorandums in this spirit were sent to the Southern American countries who intended to host the visit and with whom Israel has a friendly relationship and has enjoyed productive cooperation since the establishment of the state.
This is one of those that speaks for itself.
Last update - 15:25 05/05/2009
Ban: UN report on Gaza war not legally binding
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said a UN committee that submitted a damning report on Israel's conduct in its recent offensive against Hamas had no authority to assign legal responsibility.
The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Tuesday morning that the report accuses the Israel Defense Forces of deliberately firing at UN institutions as well as using disproportional force and causing unnecessary harm to civilians.
Israel later rejected the repot Tuesday as being "tendentious" and "patently biased."
Ban made the comments in a letter he agreed to attach to the report at the request of Foreign Ministry director-general Yossi Gal, who traveled to New York on Monday for meetings with Ban's aides on the matter.
In the letter, the UN chief condemned Hamas cross-border rocket fire on Israeli civilians, attacks that sparked the conflict and, according to the Israeli paper, were ignored by the UN committee in its report.
Ban also commended the Israel Defense Forces on its close coordination with the world body during the 3-week operation, as well as the cooperation given by Israel with the report's authors. He said his representatives were holding meetings with the Israeli government on implementing the report's recommendations.
The UN chief added there would be no further reports by the world body on the subject.
In its official response, the Foreign Ministry said: "Both [in] spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee."
"The committee has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so has misled the world."
The Foreign Ministry noted that immediately upon the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the codename for the operation, Israel carried out independent inquiries into the damage caused to the UN installations.
It said the findings of those inquiries proved "beyond doubt" that the IDF did not intentionally fire at the UN installations.
"Not only have the Hamas terrorists not conducted such inquiries," the ministry added, "they use violence and intimidation against citizens of Gaza as tools to prevent them from presenting the actual truth. In this manner they have deceived the investigators, the UN and public opinion."
Racism is not funny.
France seeks poll bar for comic
By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris
Mr Dieudonne: Fined for accusing Jews of 'memorial pornography' in 2007
French authorities are trying to ban a comedian from fielding candidate lists in European polls because they believe he holds anti-Semitic opinions.
Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala is going on trial later on Tuesday on charges of inciting hatred against Jews.
The 42-year-old stand-up comic plans to present candidates in at least five of France's regions in June's polls.
The controversy comes as Israel's new Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman makes an official visit to France.
Mr Dieudonne, who was born in the Paris suburbs, began his comic career partnering a Jewish comedian, but the duo fell out and Mr Dieudonne moved closer to the far-right movement.
Already fined two years ago for accusing Jewish people of what he called "memorial pornography", the half-Cameroonian comedian is now facing trial on charges of inciting hatred against Jews.
The French authorities are currently trying to see if they can ban him from fielding candidates in the June elections.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's chief-of-staff said on a Jewish radio station that it was odious that someone with such openly anti-Semitic views should be allowed to present himself for elections.
Mr Dieudonne, who has previously invited the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and a French academic who was convicted of Holocaust denial to his shows, reacted to the criticism by calling the president's aide "a good little soldier of the Zionist lobby".
Most of France's main political parties oppose Mr Dieudonne's electoral initiative but some politicians have warned against public debate in case it generates publicity for his views.
It's very good to be with all of you, and I want to thank all of you. I want to thank first the members of Congress who are assembled there, the leaders of , you David, Howard Friedman, Lee Rosenberg and Howard Kohr, all the delegates of AIPAC and the hundreds of students that are in the room, all the friends of Israel. I want to thank all of you for your unwavering support for Israel and for strengthening the great friendship between Israel and the United States.
5 May 2009
The committee examined the events in which nine UN installations were damaged during Operation Cast Lead.
(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will today (Tuesday, 5 May 2009) send to the UN Security Council his response to the summary of the report of the internal inspection committee, which he previously formed. The committee examined the events in which nine UN installations were damaged during Operation Cast Lead.
In his letter, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasizes the close cooperation accorded to the inspection team by the Israeli authorities, and determines that he has no intention of forming another inspection committee. The Secretary General adds that his representatives are discussing the implementation of the report's recommendations with the Israeli authorities. In his letter, Secretary General Ban criticizes the firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli towns, and praises the coordination between the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and the UN during Operation Cast Lead. The Secretary General further emphasizes in his letter that the UN inspection committee is not a judicial body and is not authorized to examine legal issues.
Immediately upon the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, and unrelated to the UN investigation, Israel carried out independent inquiries into the damage caused to the UN installations. The findings of these inquiries were published two weeks ago, and proved beyond doubt that the IDF did not intentionally fire at the UN installations. Not only have the Hamas terrorists not conducted such inquiries, they have use violence and intimidation against citizens of Gaza as tools to prevent them from presenting the actual truth. In this manner they have deceived the investigators, the UN and public opinion.
The State of Israel rejects the criticism in the committee's summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee. The committee has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so has misled the world.
As noted by the Secretary General in his letter, during the course of its work the committee met with the Israeli team, which cooperated fully and with complete transparency. The Israeli team presented various intelligence materials, including videos, aerial photographs, eye-witness reports and other material. None of this information is reflected in the report.
Israel emphasizes that despite the fact that it was cleared of suspicions of war crimes raised during Operation Cast Lead, the report completely ignores the eight years of attacks against Israel that preceded the decision to initiate the operation, and ignores the difficult circumstances on the ground as dictated by Hamas and its methods of armed operation. As a terror organization, Hamas chose to position the battlefield in congested built-up areas, and in so doing, not only deliberately attacked Israeli civilians, as is determined in the report, but also put the lives of Palestinian civilians at risk and cynically and manipulatively used them as human shields.
The IDF took various precautions to prevent damage to installations and vehicles belonging to the UN and other international organizations. These installations were marked on the operational maps according to information provided by the UN and the other international organizations. Officers and soldiers were briefed accordingly prior to and during the mission. Surprisingly, the report lays no responsibility on the Hamas organization, which placed its installations and dispatched its men to confront the IDF in proximity to the UN installations. It is unfortunate that the authors of the report did not pay the appropriate attention to this pattern of warfare and Hamas responsibility for both the strikes against Israel and the harm to Palestinian civilians.
The report relates to a series of measures implemented by the IDF to warn the Palestinian population during the fighting, aimed at preventing civilian casualties.
Israel views the publication of the report's findings as the end of the internal UN inspection process. The UN is responsible for drawing its own conclusions regarding the means it should implement to contend with the complex reality in which a terror organization operates in proximity to UN installations without differentiation and in a manner that endangers UN activities. We expect clear statements and action from the UN in this regard.
The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
Ahmadinejad postpones trip to Brazil
May. 5, 2009
JTA and jpost.com staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday canceled his visit to Brazil, without giving an explanation, according to the Iranian news agency IRNA. The visit, which was to include a delegation of over a hundred officials, was meant to focus on expanding trade between the two countries.
Senior Brazilian official Roberto Jaguaribe told reporters that the visit would be rescheduled for after the June 12 presidential elections in Iran, though there was speculation that the trip was canceled due to recent protests in Latin America.
An AFP report quoted officials as saying that Iranian Ambassador to Brazil Mohsen Shaterzadeh had given Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a letter from Ahmadinejad which requested that he "accept the postponement of the official visit until ... after the presidential election."
On Sunday, thousands of Brazilians Jews and non-Jews demonstrated in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Sunday against the Iranian president's visit to their country, which was scheduled for Wednesday.
In Sao Paulo, some 1,000 people including secular and Orthodox Jews, as well as Evangelical Christians, homosexuals and Gypsies, gathered in a major square to protest. In Rio, another 1,000 demonstrators walked along Ipanema beach carrying signs and shouting messages against terrorism, homophobia and racism.
Ahmadinejad had planned to visit Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador, according to the Iranian Embassy in Brasilia. The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had declared that da Silva would express his discontent with Ahmadinejad's description of Israel as a "cruel and racist" entity.
Monday, May 4, 2009
A speech that offers peace and looks forward to it.
Monday, May 04, 2009
President Shimon Peres's Remarks to the Annual AIPAC Conference
Source: Spokesman for the Israel President:
Rehov HaNasi 3, Jerusalem 92188 Tel. +972.2.670.7256 Fax. +972.2.670.7295 Email: Spokesperson@president.gov.il
This morning, President Shimon Peres delivered the keynote address at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, DC. The text of President Peres's remarks is below.
What an honor and a privilege to address AIPAC in these exciting and challenging times.
I may not be the youngest in the room this morning, but being here with you makes me feel young again
In my life, I have seen so much – more than I expected.
I have witnessed our nation coerced into seven wars and two bloody terrorist campaigns. I have seen Israel and its neighbors bearing the deadly toll of war and belligerency.
Yet throughout this exceptional violence and adversity – we held true to our commitment to the values of democracy and freedom.
I have witnessed the marvel of peace unfold. I saw the Jewish state taking brave and historic decisions that paved the way to reconciliation.
I witnessed the miracle of science re-inventing Israel, Generation after generation. I believe it enables us to live up to the value of Tikkun Olam in providing people with life-saving medical solutions, innovative water technologies, solar energy and scientific agricultural advances, new to the world.
Yes, it's true; we have had a difficult journey in our young life as a state. But our national endeavor of 2,000 years in Diaspora was no different.
Yet, since the re-birth of Israel, one commitment remains firm, profound and unshaken – the alliance between Israel and the United States of America. It has provided us with moral and strategic strength.
For 60 years, America has been and still is more than just an ally – it is an unusual partner and a brave friend. I have heard it said, and I have heard it sung – today, more than ever -
GOD BLESS AMERICA
Ladies and gentlemen of AIPAC,
I came today from Jerusalem, which I know is an important part of your soul. I came here this morning to reiterate what you already know – that brothers we are. And we need you. Want you. And appreciate you.
I want to thank you for your essential role in strengthening the shared values and policy between the United States and Israel. My people are grateful to the thousands of AIPAC supporters – from students and lay-leaders to the leadership and professional teams on Capitol Hill.
For all that you have done and all that you will do, the people of Israel salute you.
Through your hard work, the bond between the greatest democracy in the world and the first democracy in the Middle East continues to strengthen and deepen.
Each and everyone of you helped build this house and can claim a brick in it. Both the United States and Israel can look at our construction with pride. It is a testimony to our joint commitment to a moral, strong and prosperous Jewish state.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A tsunami of hope is rolling across the globe, its center is right here in America. Six months ago you elected a new president of the United States. President Barack Obama assumed his duties in a period of deep crises in the world.
I am convinced he has the capacity to turn the crises into opportunity. May I say to president Obama – you are young enough to offer hope to the world and great enough to bring it to life.
On behalf of the state of Israel, and in my name, I want to wish you success.
יברכך השם וישמרך; God speed Mr. President
In his inaugural address, President Obama elegantly articulated what is needed, when he called for an outstretched hand instead of a clenched fist. In the future, our time may be considered as the age of outstretched hands.
Israel stands with her arms outstretched, and her hands held open to peace with all nations, with all Arab states, with all Arab people.
To those still holding a clenched fist I have just one word to say: ENOUGH!
Enough war. Enough destruction. Enough hatred.
Now is the time for change.
Israel's definition of success is not by the military campaigns we have been forced to wage and win, but by the peace we have achieved together with some of our neighbors.
Israel's strength and capacity to take risks for peace are determined by the strength of the Israel Defense Forces and its uncompromising technological advantage. Ours is an army for defense if necessary … and for peace when possible.
Israel's strength also relies on the allies, partners and friends here with us today – ensuring that our military and technological edge will always remain.
I shall be meeting President Obama tomorrow to deliver a message of a country which is yearning for peace. Later on, the president will meet Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Binyamin Netanyahu was at one time my political opponent. Today, he is my Prime Minister. He knows history and wants to make history. In our tradition, making history is making peace, and I am sure that peace is his priority.
The journey isn't over. In some ways, we are still at genesis. We still seek to build a home, to plant a tree. To celebrate spring
Yet at the same time there's a dark and growing cloud. A reminder that threats to human life are real.
This cloud is the product of militant extremists. It's lightening are made of rockets, the thunder made of bombs.
It has spread over Israel, as well as over the Arab neighborhood. It may be looming over the global community at large.
This year, again, we are encountering the clenched fist in our region. We admittedly hoped that the time of tough talk was over. We made meaningful sacrifices hoping that a real peace is at hand.
Unfortunately, the Middle East finds itself in the shadow of a nuclear threat. We shall refuse to give up. We refuse to surrender.
Let me be clear. The fanatic rulers of Iran are on the wrong side of history. Actually, they are outside of history.
We have respect for the Iranian people and its tradition. Historically, Iran sought to enrich mankind. Today, alas, Iran's rulers enrich uranium.
The aggressiveness of the Iranian government is not limited to Israel. Indeed, they seek regional hegemony and want to control Arab states using terror and coercion.
They develop a nuclear option. They invest huge capital in long-range missiles. Iran is not threatened by anyone. Iran funds and arms Hizbullah and Hamas to spread division and terror, trying to impose a foreign and violent ideology. Their agents target Americans, Europeans and Arabs alike.
Historically, the concern was to separate religion from state. Today, however, the challenge is to disconnect religion from terror.
In the name of God there should be no wars. No dead. No victims. No bloodshed.
It is clear, in our eyes, that peace may require compromises and concessions.
Compromises require two conditions:
First, peace must be real, lasting and mutually respected.
We have to guarantee that our children, ALL children, will be free from war, and breathe the fresh air of peace.
Secondly, peace should enable Israel to protect its people …. to realize the fundamental responsibility of free governments …. to defend its people from harm and to enable them to meet opportunity.
The same is true for future of the Palestinian people. I say it loudly because I believe it strongly. The Palestinian people have the right to govern themselves, to invest their resources and direct their aid to civil high-tech, not military rockets… books, not bombs – so their people can be free of fear and hunger.
I have a simple question. Why wait? Israel is prepared TODAY to bring peace closer. TODAY.
We shall negotiate with any partner ready to negotiate the peace that has eluded us since 1947. Israel, under David Ben Gurion, accepted the United Nations resolution to partition the land between a Jewish State and an Arab State.
Today there is a chance for real peace. History is on our side.
The Saudis gave birth to a peace initiative. The Arab league, which In 1967, adopted the policy of three nays – no to peace with Israel, no to recognition and no to negotiations declared in 2002 a policy of readiness to negotiate with and recognize Israel.
It reflects a U-turn.
Israel wasn't a partner to the wording of this initiative. Therefore it doesn't have to agree to every word. Nevertheless, Israel respects the profound change, and hopes it will be translated into action. I trust that the leadership of President Obama will pave the way to both to a regional agreement and meaningful bilateral negotiations.
In pursuing peace, the present government of Israel shall respect commitments made by the previous one.
My experiences have taught me that peace is not necessarily the result of detailed negotiations or map-design. Peace bursts from the soil like a geyser. It is beautiful to behold and impossible to contain.
If Anwar Sadat had not courageously taken one-hour flight between Cairo and Jerusalem, it is doubtful that peace would be achieved.
Something similar happened with the hand-shake between Mandela and de Klerc, Even a small ping-pong ball facilitated a dialogue between the United States and China. Those events transformed the world and can happen again. It's no photo opportunity, it CREATED opportunity
Dear AIPAC supporters,
A day will come, it's not far away, in which the Jewish people will live on their land, in peace.
After two thousand years of exile, after Shoa, pogroms, transports, struggles, endless suffering, hatred, wars and bloodshed – The Jewish home will become a model country. A beacon of light among nations.
A nation living the prophecy of Isaiah, beating swords into plowshares, where nations will not take up sword against other nations.
So let us all ask ourselves: What must we do today to make a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren?
I was told there are STUDENTS in the room.
Would you please stand up?
I thank you for being here. But more importantly, we celebrate your future.
I invite you to come to my home. To come to Israel. To come to Jerusalem to celebrate your heritage.
If your moms shall object, tell them it is a presidential invitation.
Thank you, you may sit down.
To the parents, to everyone else in the room, let's make this generation the last to know conflict. The first to enjoy redemption. This will make our heritage our destiny.
Well, I have been young and have now grown older as the psalm says. I feel I have the right to remain an optimist.
My generation experienced serious trials and tribulations. We triumphed over them all. You and us gained the license to be optimists.
When I look ahead – I see a world that knows no limits, no boundaries -- a world of progress.
My children surpass their parents. My grand-children surpass my sons and daughter.
I am blessed with two great grand children – Ella and Ari. They are wonderful. When we sit on the carpet and they climb on my shoulders, I suspect that they don't respect the president. Yet, I feel respected, even reassured that our future is in safe in their tiny and strong hands.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To know the future, we have to remember our history.
Calling history is listening to the past.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai he called upon our people – Listen Israel! – Shma Israel.
He asked us to listen so we shall hear the prophetic message and the mountainous music of peace and justice.
But, as you know, we are pragmatic. So our people replied – We shall do and listen. Na'ase Venishma
My friends, there is much to do! The time is now. Let's go to work.
How could a U.S.- Iran rapprochement NOT come at the expense of other US allies?
May. 4, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, seeking to soothe Mideast allies worried about Teheran's reach, said Sunday that efforts to bolster US relations with Iran may still ultimately face what he called "a closed fist."
Gates was flying to Egypt, the first stop on a Mideast tour that continues in Saudi Arabia. He said part of his mission will be to assure Saudis that any US outreach to Iran aims to increase security throughout the region.
Building diplomacy with Iran "will not be at the expense of our long-term relationships with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states that have been our partners and friends for decades," Gates told reporters aboard a military jet headed to Cairo.
"There's probably some concerns in the region that may draw on an exaggerated sense of what's possible," Gates said. "And I just think it's important to reassure our friends and allies in the region that while we're willing to reach out to the Iranians, as the president said, with an open hand, I think everybody in the administration, from the president on down, is pretty realistic and will be pretty tough-minded if we still encounter a closed fist."
Gates will arrive in Cairo on Monday and will be in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Tuesday.
He also noted concerns throughout the Mideast about Iran's influence in Baghdad, and said they could be staved off if more Arab nations opened embassies or otherwise became more involved in Iraq. Gates praised Egypt, for example, for having "taken some serious steps forward to re-engage."
Critics of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accuse him of forging ties with fellow Shi'ites who are allied with Iran. The issue has been a flashpoint for Iraq's Sunnis, who, under Saddam Hussein, fought Iran decades ago.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be a major topic for Gates and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when the two men meet in Cairo early Tuesday. Gates credited Egypt as working as a go-between between the two sides.
Gates said discussions in Riyadh would include US efforts to have Yemeni detainees now being held at the Navy prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, rehabilitated in Saudi facilities. An estimated 100 of the 241 Guantanamo detainees are Yemeni. The US is reluctant to release them to Yemen, where convicted terrorists have escaped from prisons. But the Yemeni government has so far balked at agreeing to send the Yemeni detainees to Saudi Arabia.
"Clearly there will be an interest in pursuing that with them," Gates said.
Gates also welcomed any help Saudi officials could give to Pakistan's fragile government.
"The Saudis in particular have considerable influence in Pakistan," he said. "And so I think that whatever they can do to bring Pakistanis together in a broader sense to deal with the challenge to the government in Islamabad obviously would be welcome."
This article can also be read at
Shimon Shapira and Yair Minzili
The publication of Hizbullah's subversive plan against Egypt and the exposure of a Shiite group headed by a Hizbullah activist that planned to act against Egyptian targets diverted attention from the challenge that Hizbullah has made against the very foundations of Lebanese authority.
A Pattern of Hizbullah Subversion
The publication of Hizbullah's subversive plan against Egypt and the exposure of a Shiite group headed by a Hizbullah activist, that planned to act against Egyptian targets under the cover of "logistical assistance" to the Palestinians, diverted attention from the challenge that Hizbullah has made against the very foundations of Lebanese authority.
One can safely assume that Hizbullah activity in Egypt was performed with the full knowledge of Iran. The weapons shipment that departed Iran for Gaza was dispatched with Tehran's blessing. Iran was undoubtedly aware that the Egyptian security authorities could uncover Hizbullah's subversive activity, but believed that the Egyptians would prefer to turn a blind eye and allow the passage of the weapons inventory to Gaza. Even if this was not the case, the Iranians posited military assistance to Hamas as a supreme interest of the Islamic Revolution and were prepared to pay the price of a deterioration in relations between the countries. The attacks by Hassan Nasrallah against Egypt, including a summons to the Egyptian army to overthrow the Mubarak regime during Israel's Gaza operation, would not have been made had Nasrallah not understood that in this fashion he was serving the wishes of his masters in Tehran.
Ever since the disclosures, the mass media in the Arab world and in the West has been preoccupied with the dispute that has erupted between Hizbullah and Egypt, and have almost totally ignored the struggle that Hizbullah has initiated to change the face of the Lebanese regime.
While Britain adopted the questionable decision to open a dialogue with the "political wing" of Hizbullah and in practice recognized Hizbullah as a legitimate movement, it would appear that the artificial distinction drawn by the UK between the political and the military wings of Hizbullah has totally collapsed with the discovery of Hizbullah's subversion in Egypt, which merely compounds what was previously discovered in Morocco. In that Sunni Arab kingdom, the king severed ties with Iran in March 2009, accusing it of supporting Shiite Islamic missionary activity.
Hizbullah's Election Platform: Setting the Stage for an Iranian Takeover of Lebanon
On April 3, 2009, Hizbullah published its political platform in advance of elections to the Lebanese parliament scheduled for June 7, 2009. The document calls for the abolition of sectarian politics and for the enactment of a new election law that would alter the equation of sectarian forces in Lebanon. (The English text of the 2009 Hizbullah platform appears at the end of this essay.)
The 2009 election platform joins a series of basic documents of the Hizbullah movement: These include the Open Letter (Risala Maftuha) from 1985, the first Hizbullah election platform for parliament from 1992, the Hizbullah political document ratified at the movement's Third Congress in 1993, Hizbullah's election platform for the 2000 parliamentary elections, and its platform for the municipal elections of 2004.
These two components - the unequivocal call to abolish sectarian politics and the enactment of a new election law - were placed at the very beginning of the platform in order to emphasize Hizbullah's priorities. In the electoral platform of 2000, Hizbullah had called for establishing a national body for the abolishment of political sectarianism, but only in the fourth section of the platform. It is assumed that in this manner Hizbullah seeks to advance its aspiration to destroy the foundations of the sectarian regime in Lebanon agreed upon in the National Pact of 1943 that has been preserved by the Lebanese state ever since, amidst repeated crises. The abolition of the existing political system will advance Hizbullah toward its fundamental goal: the establishment of an Islamic state that provides political expression to the Shiite majority and a complete Iranian takeover of Lebanon.
What is missing in the new Hizbullah platform? There is no reference to its militia and weapons, as well as to the call from inside Lebanon to dismantle Hizbullah's military capability and to integrate it into the Lebanese Armed Forces. Hizbullah ignores this aspect and insists on keeping its independent military wing as a "resistance" force against Israel.
However, it is clear that the preservation of Hizbullah's military strength is intended primarily to allow the movement to translate its military power and demographic weight into a fundamental change of the Lebanese political system. In addition to this purpose, and no less important, Hizbullah's military power serves as the cutting edge of Iran on Israel's northern border, enabling the Islamic Republic to employ the military power that it erected in Lebanon to serve its strategic interests.
In recent years, and in the course of the severe political crises that have struck Lebanon since the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in March 2005, Hizbullah has not concealed its intentions to realize the mission entrusted to it by the Iranian Revolutionary regime. The movement is to seize power in Lebanon and thus create another stable and trustworthy link in the Shiite axis of evil under Iranian leadership. In the Lebanese political realm, Hizbullah has labored to reinforce "the (Shiite) Opposition Camp" by aligning with powerful factions beyond the Shiite community against the Sunni-Shiite coalition headed by Saad al-Hariri. In practice, Hizbullah scored a major success by attracting to its side the Christian Free Patriotic Movement headed by Gen. Michel Aoun, and has strengthened its alliance with extremist Salafist Sunni groups. In a show of force, Hizbullah undertook an unprecedented brutal action when it effectively took over Beirut on May 7, 2008, in response to a government attempt to bring about the dismantling of Hizbullah's independent communications infrastructure within Lebanon.
Hizbullah's call for ending political sectarianism, coupled with the enactment of a new election law, came after this demonstration of power and self-confidence, and constitutes the apogee of its indefatigable efforts to attain power in Lebanon. The formulation of an electoral program in a manner that awards Hizbullah the deceptive image of an authentic Lebanese party operating on the basis of Lebanese interests was calculated to attract maximal representation and perhaps even a majority in parliament. However, its political rivals at home will seek to exploit Hizbullah's recent entanglements in subversion against Egypt in order to expose Hizbullah as a disruptive force operating in the service of Iran and Syria.
Once again, it has been demonstrated that all the scholarly analyses that define Hizbullah as a Lebanese national movement are baseless. What Lebanese national interests are served by subversive activity in Egypt? What Lebanese interests seek the transfer of Iranian arms from Sudan and Sinai to Gaza? What national Lebanese ideology seeks to subvert the delicate sectarian structure upon which the modern Lebanese state is predicated? The responses to these questions may be found in the framework of relations between Revolutionary Iran and its protégé in Lebanon, and between Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his loyal and obedient representative Hassan Nasrallah. The essence of the tie between them is not simply religious, but has far-reaching political implications influencing the range of Hizbullah behavior in the Lebanese arena and beyond, and symbolizes the growing influence of Iran in the Arab world.
The Hizbullah Platform for the June 2009 Parliamentary Elections
Mohammed Ra'ad, the head of Hizbullah's parliamentary bloc, presented Hizbullah's election platform on April 3, 2009:
In the Field of Political Reform1
A. Cancelling Political Sectarianism
Forming the National Committee for Cancelling Political Sectarianism in accordance with the Lebanese national consensus document, so that it will start its work and take the practical measures to implement the recommendations that it will reach.
B. Electoral Law
The sound way to effect reform lies in enacting a modern electoral law based on proportionality. At the same time, the constitutional amendment concerning lowering the voting age to 18 years must be finalized, in addition to finalizing another amendment related to the separation of the parliamentary membership from the cabinet membership.
C. Equitable Development
The principle of equitable development constitutes one of the pillars of political reform. For this purpose it was enunciated in the contractual preamble of the constitution. In order to realize this, we demand the restoration of the Planning Ministry, drawing up five-or 10-year plans that monitor the needs of all areas in various sectors.
D. Administrative Decentralization
In its preamble, the constitution stipulates a revision of the administrative divisions, taking into consideration national unity and the preservation of coexistence. The administrative decentralization means granting expanded administrative powers to smaller units - municipalities, districts, and governorates. The aim is to strengthen development opportunities and facilitate the quick handling of paperwork and administrative duties.
E. The Judiciary
Since the Lebanese constitution has stipulated that the judiciary is an independent authority, side by side with the legislative and executive branches of power, and since the fair and impartial judiciary is a guarantee for the establishment of the state of law and preserving the rights of both the individual and the society - and hence there can be no political reform without it - we are of the opinion that work is necessary to enact and implement laws that help organize the judiciary under a higher independent judicial committee.
Administrative reform constitutes a major challenge in all societies. Trim and efficient administration is the characteristic of modern states where administrative reform aims to reduce the burdens on the citizens, mobilize resources and capabilities, and carry out duties with speed and efficiency. In this regard, work should proceed in accordance with the following principles:
Economic and Financial Reform
Since independence, Lebanon has been suffering from the absence of carefully studied economic and developmental visions that are based on the available resources, national requirements, and regional harmony. For these reasons the process of improving and developing economic performance has been proceeding in a haphazard manner. This led to the deterioration of some productive sectors, the termination of others, and the growth of others in an illogical manner. The Lebanese economy has been steered to promote services and realize profit. This resulted in harming economies that were considered productive and providing employment for skilled people, such as agriculture and industry.
In order to begin a genuine economic reform, we must first draw up a natural role of the state and move from an indifferent state with limited social and economic contributions to a state that is responsible for realizing growth and justice. Therefore, it is necessary to work along the following tracks:
The ultimate aim is to fight poverty and social marginalization, and this requires joint efforts by the public and private sectors in concentrating on economic activities that provide job opportunities and which are directed at the countryside and remote areas.
Education and Learning Sector
The Lebanese University is the most important higher education institution in Lebanon in terms of its size, its specialties, and the number of its students, especially those who come from limited income families. It is supposed to contribute to building the future of the homeland's generations. This requires backing and developing by implementing the law that pertains to it, which protects its financial and administrative independence, ensures its development, and strengthens its scientific research resources. Unresolved issues must be resolved such as the problem of full time teachers and their protection, supporting the Contracting Fund, and reviving the Lebanese University's Students National Union.
As for the public education sector, duty calls for drawing up a comprehensive educational plan, stressing a higher level of educational qualifications, providing the necessary needs for schools, ensuring heating fuel during winter, backing the School Fund Program, revising the map of the distribution of schools in conformity with the requirements of equitable development, in addition to developing educational institutions, stressing the powers of educational inspection, implementing the system of compulsory and free education, enhancing academic, vocational, and technical education, and treating the chronic needs of the teachers and instructors in various stages in a responsible and positive way.
Civil Society Organizations
Within the framework of enhancing the national sense of responsibility, efforts must be exerted to develop party and trade union activities and open the way for civic society organizations to be active and to become a vital supporter and an effective monitor of the performance of the ruling authority's departments. This will lead to enhancing the awareness of society to the need to shoulder its duties in managing public life. In this regard, we emphasize the following:
1. The media
Freedom of expression must be preserved and protected, as stipulated in the preamble of the constitution, considering it an unchanging right that cannot be infringed upon within the framework of the law. Thus, emphasis will be laid on freedom of the media and the revision of certain laws, especially the Publications Law, thus lifting the threats against the media.
Efforts should be exerted to strengthen the role of women and develop their participation in the political, cultural, educational, media and social fields, and to exploit this role in establishing a balance in society in terms of psychology and values.
Taking care of the rising generations and the young, developing their resources and talents, guiding them towards sublime national and humanitarian objectives, and protecting them from corrupt thought and the tools and means of deviation and immorality.
4. Fighting the deviations and the harmful ailments in our society, whether through the media or by other means, emphasizing educational and media guidance, warning against the spread of corruption and dissolute values, and augment the monitoring of scenes and pictures that infringe on public morality and harm the humanitarian image of women.
5. Protecting the privacy of citizens by preventing indiscriminate wiretapping of their telephone conversations, and respecting the laws that pertain to these issues and bringing the violators of these laws, whoever they may be, to account for what they do.
Improving and Developing Social Services
In light of our conviction that the state cannot shirk its caring role nor behave in an indifferent manner or be apathetic towards the needs of the citizens, it is the duty of the state to improve services in the fields of health, education, housing, and social care. Of these duties, we mention the following:
Energy and the Protection of Resources
Squandering water and natural resources is one of the chronic problems in Lebanon. Despite huge precipitation and multiple sources of water, the hardship continues to be great, especially during the dry season. Therefore, work should be done on the following:
As for the electricity sector, what is required is work to complete the electric power lines, modernize the production plants, treat the technical waste, fight transgressions on energy sources, and expand to create new and environment-friendly means of production.
As for the communications sector, we are required to preserve this national resource by developing this sector and improving its services, offering the consumers further services and observing the rule of providing the best service at the least cost.
The environment in Lebanon has been exposed to a large-scale process of destruction and violations, such as forest fires, indiscriminate felling of trees, lawlessness in opening quarries and gravel facilities, polluting the rivers with sewage water, and indiscriminate burial of sold waste. All of this makes us sound the alarm and declare a state of national emergency to do the following:
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1. This translation of the Hizbullah platform appeared on the "Now Lebanon" website, based on the speech by Mohammad Raad broadcast on Hizbullah-affiliated Al-Manar TV on April 6, 2009, http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=89737
* * *
Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is the author of Hizballah: Between Iran and Lebanon, 4th ed. (Tel Aviv: Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, 2006). He is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Yair Minzili is a senior researcher in the fields of economics, political policy, and Islam in the Middle East.
U.S. sanctions will not halt nuclear work: Iran
Mon May 4, 2009 7:31am EDT
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will not suspend its disputed nuclear program even if the United States imposes sanctions targeting companies that ship fuel to the Islamic Republic, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday.
Twenty-five U.S. senators from both parties have proposed giving President Barack Obama new leverage in the dispute over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. The bill gives Obama the authority to sanction companies supplying petrol to Iran.
The United States and its Western allies suspect Iran is aiming to develop nuclear bombs under the cover of a civilian program and want it to halt sensitive uranium enrichment. Iran rejects the allegation and says it will not bow to pressure.
"We can cope with such measures (U.S. sanctions). Sanctions and threats will not stop Iran from continuing its nuclear work," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a weekly news conference.
Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil exporter but lacks refining capacity to meet domestic demand and so relies heavily on international imports to guarantee fuel at the pumps.
Washington has threatened "crippling" sanctions against Iran if it did not end its sensitive nuclear activities.
During his 2008 presidential campaign Obama expressed interest in using Iran's dependence on imports of refined petroleum products as leverage in the nuclear standoff. But U.S. lawmakers say that under current law his powers to do so are limited.
Under the bill, a foreign oil company found to be in violation would be prevented from owning retail petrol stations in the United States or delivering crude oil to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Though Iran holds some of the world's biggest crude oil reserves, it imports 40 percent of its gasoline to meet growing domestic demand. Expensive government subsidies help keep gasoline in Iran much cheaper than elsewhere.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Michael Roddy)
This article may exaggerate the benefits offered to new immigrants. For example, "New Anglo olim settling in northern Israel will receive a NIS 100,000 ($25,000) grant and a car for a two-year period." What happens after the two years? It would seem that if $10,000,000 are allocated, the funds might not be sufficient for 250 families. In any case, the offer seems to be a bit extravagant. But anti-Zionists should note that the program is directed at settlement in green line Israel, not in the West Bank.
Aliyah organization aims to encourage Anglo immigration by offering new incentives such as $25,000 grant, car, free coaching, private Hebrew lessons to western Jews settling in northern Israel
Published: 12.15.08, 11:48 / Israel Jewish Scene
New Anglo olim settling in northern Israel will receive a NIS 100,000 ($25,000) grant and a car for a two-year period, as part of Nefesh B'Nefesh's new 'Go North' initiative, aimed at encouraging the immigration of English speaking Jews to Israel's northern communities.
The aliyah organization in cooperation with the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency, and with the support of the Russell Berrie Foundation of New Jersey, USA, will present prospective immigrants with an unprecedented benefits package, and aim to bring some 250-500 Jewish families to Israel in the coming years.
Some $10 million were allocated towards the project.
Nefesh B'Nefesh sources believe most of the families would prefer jeeps or pickup trucks that are more suited for the northern terrain.
The immigrants will be sent to one of seven communities, Maalot-Tarshisha, Karmiel, Afula, Kazrin, Misgav Region, Hispin or Yonatan that have already been prepared with the optimum conditions for the transition.
Olim will also be able to settle anywhere else in the north if they chose to do so.
Each family of immigrants will be paired with an Israeli "buddy family" from the same town, and will be provided a personal coach by Nefesh B'Nefesh.
And if that's not enough, each immigrant child will immediately upon landing in Israel be given intensive private Hebrew lessons – free of charge.
Some important points about Michael Oren's appointment are not being discussed.
This is a guest-post from Alex Stein of falsedichotomies.com
The appointment of Michael Oren as the new Israeli ambassador to the United States marks an interesting development in Israeli diplomatic history. Oren is one of the leading lights at the conservative Shalem Center, from where he has authored numerous best-selling histories, including Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, and Power, Faith, and Fantasy: The United States in the Middle East. A popular historian with real clout, he has suddenly been thrust into life as Israel's number one diplomat.
His views will now be analysed like never before. The announcement of his candidacy was greeted with a furor surrounding an article he had written during the US election. In this piece, he seemed to suggest that it would be better for Israeli interests if McCain won. Indeed, some suggested that a victorious McCain might even have appointed Oren as an advisor.
When it became clear that Oren was the front-runner for the position, his comments at a recent speech at Georgetown University, where he is currently a visiting professor, became widely reported. "The only alternative for Israel to save itself as a Jewish state is by unilaterally withdrawing from the West Bank and evacuating most of the settlements," he said, an unfashionable but sensible assertion of Sharonist principle, albeit without the necessary details.
More here - Israel's Number One Diplomat
Actually, it goes well beyond "Israel," since there is an article about the "Inquisition Myth" that insists the inquisition is a myth. Wikipedia is fairly systematically anti-Israel and in some cases anti-Semitic, depending on who happened to edit the article last. The claim that Wikipedia only quotes sources is not quite true, since some sources are "more equal" than others.
Last update - 08:14 04/05/2009
Wikipedia editors: Coverage of Israel 'problematic'
By Cnaan Liphshiz
Wikipedia's coverage of Israel-related issues is "problematic," leading Israeli internet researchers claimed Sunday at the Wikipedia Academy 2009 Conference dealing with the world's largest encyclopedia. The conference was organized by Wikimedia's volunteer-based Israel chapter and Tel Aviv University's Netvision Institute for Internet Studies. However, the Web site's leading manager said it merely reflected public discourse.
In demonstrating what he defined as problems, Eli Hacohen, the Institute's director, showed how Hamas is not defined as a terrorist organization in the first paragraph describing the organization on the English site of the reader-edited online encyclopedia, which is the world's fourth most popular Web site.
Hacohen also documented his attempts to define Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as a Holocaust-denier. Each time he included his remarks on Wikipedia, users and editors removed the reference - despite Ahmadinejad's frequent and public Holocaust denials.
On a related entry, Hacohen also noted that Wikipedia defines David Irving - a known Holocaust denier - as a historian, although his credentials are recognized by no one but himself. Furthermore, the Wikipedia entry on January's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza describes it as an "intense bombardment" by Israel on a civilian population.
Dror Kamir, a leading Israeli Wikipedia promoter, showed how Lod is not listed as a city in Israel in Wikipedia's Arabic-language version.
Also attending the conference, which discussed Wikipedia's role in academia, was Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia. Gardner told Haaretz that she is "quite comfortable" with the mistakes on the Web site. "I know that more or less the same mistakes can be found in the New York Times," she explained.
Before her address at the conference, she defined Wikipedia as a "just another mainstream news medium." Wikipedia, Gardner said, "will never say anything as Wikipedia. It will only quote relatively well-respected sources, including other media. So it's natural for Wikipedia to reflect public discourse as it fluctuates, and news is the first draft of history."
On her first visit to Israel, Gardner explained that her attitude stemmed from her framework of reference as a journalist in her native Canada, including a stint as director of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Web site.
In the American version, it is the other way 'round. Peace with Arabs is required in order to take action against Iran.
Last update - 10:03 04/05/2009
Livni to AIPAC: Iran threat opens door to peace with Arabs
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent
Opposition leader and Kadima party head Tzipi Livni on Sunday said that Israel must view the threat posed by Iran as an opportunity to further peace with other neighbors in the region.
"Let me be clear: On the issue of Iran, there is no opposition party in Israel," Livni told an audience at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington.
Livni continued: "The threat from Iran has created new possibilities for alliances between Israel and the pragmatic states in the region - countries that realize that Israel is not the source of the problems in the Middle East."
The former foreign minister also told the conference of the pro-Israel lobby that time is not on Israel's side, and that a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is not "an Israeli concession but an Israeli interest."
"If we try to buy time our problems will get worse not better," Livni said, adding that Israel's leaders must make difficult decisions sooner rather than later. "It is the evasion of difficult decisions, not taking them, that is the strategic threat to Israel's future."
Livni told the group that her objective is to ensure the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State, even if it requires relinquishing land.
"We need to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel," Livni said. "This is not a technical matter, it is a matter of our survival. And in the choice between giving up our values, the 'raison d'etre' of Israel, and giving up part of the land, I choose the land."
Livni said that it is her role as opposition leader to "say these things loudly, clearly and respectfully."
"It will not be easy, but being a Jew never was," she said.
"If we care about the future of our people in our homeland we will all find the courage and the wisdom to make the choices we can no longer afford to avoid," she concluded
No, you didn't read that wrong:
May. 4, 2009
hilary leila krieger, washington and jerusalem post staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is refusing to explicitly endorse a two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian conflict, participants at the American-Israel Political Action Committee Policy Conference will this week be urging their elected representatives to press President Barack Obama for precisely that.
The pro-Israel advocacy group's annual conference culminates each year with a mass lobbying effort, in which the thousands of participants from across the United States spread out across Capitol Hill for meetings with their respective members of Congress and encourage them to endorse policies and positions that AIPAC believes will advance the American-Israeli interest.
In this year's lobbying effort, to take place on Tuesday, the AIPAC thousands will be asking their congressmen to sign on to a letter addressed to Obama that explicitly posits the need for a "viable Palestinian state."
It is expected that the overwhelming majority of the congressmen will sign it.
Netanyahu has been aware of the letter's content for some time, according to his senior adviser, Ron Dermer.
Dermer said that despite the letter's language, the important issue was that of underlying policy.
"On the substance, I don't think there's a difference in our position and the position of AIPAC," he said.
It is understood that the letter is being advanced despite its discrepancy with the prime minister's stated positions, because its content reflects both longstanding American policy and longstanding AIPAC positions.
The idea is that the letter would form a bridge between US and Israeli views on the diplomatic process at a time when neither country is looking to provoke arguments despite having different perspectives.
Furthermore, it is being noted here that Netanyahu has made plain that his government will honor previous agreements, which include the road map with its specific framework for a path to Palestinian statehood.
It is not known whether Netanyahu will publicly endorse a two-state solution when he meets here on May 18 with Obama, but it is widely assumed that, privately at least, he will make plain to Obama his government's commitment to previous accords.
Several versions of the letter are included in the kits being given out to participants in this week's AIPAC conference.
One version, bearing a "United States Senate" letterhead, addressed to Obama, and left open for signature, states: "We must also continue to insist on the absolute Palestinian commitment to ending terrorist violence and to building the institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side, in peace with the Jewish state of Israel."
This version also gives explicit support for programs such as the US-supervised training of Palestinian Authority security forces.
"The more capable and responsible Palestinian forces become, the more they demonstrate the ability to govern and to maintain security, the easier it will be for [the Palestinians] to reach an accord with Israel," it states.
"We encourage you to continue programs similar to the promising security assistance and training programs led by Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton, and hope that you will look for other ways to improve Palestinian security and civilian infrastructure."
A second, similar version, also addressed to Obama and signed by staunchly pro-Israel Majority Leader Stony Hoyer and Republican Whip Eric Cantor, sets out a series of "basic principles" that, if adhered to, offer "the best way to achieve future success between Israelis and Palestinians."
Among the principles cited is the requirement for the two parties to directly negotiate the details of any agreement, the imperative for the US government to serve as "both a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to Israel," and the need for Arab states to move toward normal ties with Israel and to support "moderate Palestinians."
The clause that discusses statehood demands "an absolute Palestinian commitment to end violence, terror, and incitement and to build the institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace with the Jewish state of Israel inside secure borders."
It continues: "Once terrorists are no longer in control of Gaza and as responsible Palestinian forces become more capable of demonstrating the ability to govern and to maintain security, an accord with Israel will be easier to attain."
A third version of the letter, addressed to their colleagues, is signed by Senators Christopher Dodd, Arlen Specter, Johnny Isakson and John Thune.
It states that "we must redouble our efforts to eliminate support for terrorist violence and strengthen the Palestinian institutions necessary for the creation of a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side, in peace with Israel."
Netanyahu chose not to attend this week's AIPAC conference in part because a Washington visit now would have included, as its central element, talks at the White House with Obama, and Netanyahu preferred to defer that meeting by another two weeks in order to complete his ongoing foreign policy review.
Instead, the prime minister will address the AIPAC delegates by satellite on Monday. Hoyer and Cantor are set to address the same session.
President Shimon Peres is attending the Washington conference in Netanyahu's stead, and will speak on Monday along with Vice President Joseph Biden. Peres will meet with Obama at the White House on Tuesday.
Netanyahu has long indicated that his concerns about Palestinian statehood are practical, rather than ideological - arising from the fear that a fully sovereign Palestinian state might abuse its sovereignty to forge alliances, import arms and build an offensive military capability to threaten Israel.
Aides to the prime minister have also argued in recent days that it is unreasonable to demand that Israel formally endorse statehood for the Palestinian people when the Palestinian leadership is emphatically opposed to recognizing Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
The Hoyer-Cantor letter opens by acknowledging the "formidable" obstacles to peace, but endorses Obama's position "that every effort should be made to try to realize that peace at the soonest possible time."
This speaks for itself. And yet, nobody seems to worry about human rights in Syria - only in Israel!
May. 3, 2009
, THE JERUSALEM POST
The lack of press freedom in Syria has defined the life of Mohamad Ali al-Abdallah. He has been detained, his brother is serving a five-year sentence in a secret location and his father is finishing a one-year prison term. He recently fled Syria and received refugee status in the United States. Abdallah is an outspoken advocate for human rights through his widely followed blog, "I'm leaving, and I'm not coming back." Abdallah is now exploiting the blogosphere to fight for change from across the world. He talks to the World Association of Newspapers.
How does your work contribute to the establishment or defense of press freedom in Syria?
Freedom of expression is perhaps the most fundamental right, because without freedom of expression we can't demand any other right. However, it goes hand in hand with press freedom, since the press is the most organized and institutionalized voice of the people. Defending journalists and the press is then tantamount to defending our own voice, our own ideas and, most importantly, their expression in the public forum. From attending court hearings to supporting the family of imprisoned journalists, everyone can contribute in their own way, on their own scale.
Of course, my activities as a press freedom supporter were putting me at risk of government retaliation. It eventually hit home when my father was sent to jail after being tried three times in three years, but that has only increased my involvement because I can truly relate to the pain and the fear.
Have blogs and new media in your country been able to bypass government censorship to expose human rights abuses, corruption or taboos? If so, how?
In Syria, blogs, and basically anything on the Internet, are under strict scrutiny by the government, and they will not hesitate to use censorship whenever they can. My brother is in jail for expressing his views on-line and, two months ago, my blog was censored by the government. I guess we are able to bypass the government thanks to our numbers: Anyone can blog and a lot of people have access to the Internet, so censoring everything is impossible. In the face of censorship, quantity is more important than quality.
Are bloggers the new actors in the public sphere, and how are they challenging traditional media practices?
I think bloggers are not here to challenge traditional media but rather to complement viewpoints, offer different sides to a story and, to an extent, act as a check on traditional media's historic monopoly over information and fact. For me, the biggest difference between bloggers and journalists is that there are no rules or censorship in blogging. You don't have to worry about the word count of your article and editors hanging over your shoulder telling you what's good and bad. Most importantly, you publish exactly what you want. No one picks your words except yourself. Anyone on the street can now break the story; it's no longer solely in the hands of a media elite.
You also have the ease, on-line, to create different identities to protect yourself and your work. Journalists still use pen names, but it is hard to have 20 different ones; the sky is the limit on-line. Another important point that has definitely contributed to the legitimacy of bloggers is the fact that we are getting arrested, like traditional journalists, and although it is shameful, it means that we are doing something right. Finally, I think an obvious difference or rather evolution is technology and more specifically access. It takes very little, even in developing nations, to get information out to the world, we can post pictures instantly from the streets with our cellphones, and we can text our article while we are being shot at.
Presented by the World Association of Newspapers in honor of World Press Freedom Day, May 3.
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1239710846083&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
Sunday, May 3, 2009
About two thirds of those surveyed approve of military action against Iran, but the precise question is not given. This would make a great difference in the replies of course. If the question was asked, "Do you approve of an air strike against Iran now?" the results would be different from "Would you favor an air strike against Iran if there was evidence they were about to produce a nuclear weapon."
Fifeen percent said they would change their minds if the US opposed the attack, and only 75% were certain they would not. When you do the arithmetic, you can see that less than 50% are certain they would support an attack on Iran even if the US was opposed to it - and it is certain that the US, at present, is opposed.
Last update - 02:07 04/05/2009
Poll: Most Jewish Israelis back attack on Iran
By Aluf Benn
A large majority of Israeli Jews support military action aimed at destroying Iran's nuclear facilities, according to a survey sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.
According to the poll, co-sponsored by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, a large majority of those who support a move by the army said they would maintain their support even if the Obama administration opposed it.
An overwhelming majority also said they believed close relations with the United States were essential for ensuring Israel's security.
The survey, administered by the Maagar Mochot research institute, involved 610 respondents, constituting a representative sample of Israeli Jews over the age of 18.
Asked about military action against Iran, 66 percent said they approved of it, 15 percent said they were opposed and 19 percent said they did not know. Among those who said they approved army action, 15 percent said they would change their minds if the United States opposed it, while 75 percent said they would not. The rest said they did not know or gave other answers.
Focusing on Israeli-U.S. relations in the Obama era, the survey revealed concern over possible erosion of U.S. support for Israel, and over a rapprochement between the United States and Arab countries at the expense of Israel.
Sixty percent of the respondents said they had a "positive" or "very positive' attitude toward President Obama. However, only 38 percent said they thought his attitude to Israel was friendly - in contrast to 73 percent of respondents in a 2007 poll, who defined the attitude of the previous president, George W. Bush, as friendly.
Asked whether reconciliation with the Arab and Muslim world would come at the expense of Israel's interests, 63 percent said they believed it would; 71 percent, however, said the interests of the United States and Israel were "similar" or "complemented each other."
Most Israelis, according to the poll, follow the news in America, mainly through the Israeli media.
It is important to remember that there are people with these opinions in Europe as well, and that Europe is not simply a band of hostile inflamed leftists screaming "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas." Israel has many European friends, especially in Germany, Italy and Holland.
Last update - 02:26 04/05/2009
Leading German politician says Netanyahu government won't harm ties with EU
By Adar Primor
He is one of the leading members of Germany's Christian Democratic Union party, a possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel and minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia, the country's most populous and richest state. In speaking with Jurgen Ruttgers, 57, one gets the impression he is also a committed, almost blind, friend of Israel, at a time when the attitude toward Israel in a number of European capitals has become noticeably cooler.
Ruttgers, who makes sure to come to Israel at least once a year, made an official visit to Jerusalem last week. As the German media focus on the economic crisis and its effect on the heavy industry of the Ruhr region within his state, Ruttgers remains wary of prospects for a quick recovery. He believes the crisis will only deepen this year, curbing growth the world over as well as in Germany, "at a level we haven't yet seen."
Still, he said, the crisis will do little to damage the wide-ranging cooperation between Germany and Israel, nor will the Netanyahu premiership harm Jerusalem's ties with Germany or with Europe at large.
Quite the contrary, he said: "I'm sure that the cooperation and friendship between Germany and Israel will continue and even grow stronger. I'm convinced that the new government in Israel will do everything in its power to advance the peace process."
In some ways, Merkel owes her ascent to power to Ruttgers. It was Ruttger's strong showing in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2005 that pushed former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to move up the general election, in which he was ultimately ousted from politics.
Merkel's election was considered good news in Israel, with which Schroeder had been seen as having relatively cold relations. On page 37 of the Christian Democratic Union's platform is a clause expressing the party's obligation to Israel, a clause Merkel refers to often in her speeches. "She is very close to Israel and an ardent supporter of peace in the Middle East," Ruttgers said.
How does that description fit with European voices calling for freezing a planned upgrade in Israel-Europe relations? And can meetings continue between European foreign ministers and their Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, who opposes the Annapolis process, views the two-state solution as "lacking content" and declares Syria is not "a true partner" for peace?
Ruttgers, who served as Germany's minister of education, science, research and technology under Chancellor Helmut Kohl, considers the point moot. "In my visit here three years ago I worked in the interest of upgrading ties between Israel and the European Union," he said. "Being responsible for science and research, I gave these issues tremendous importance. In the past 10 years we have seen Israeli-European cooperation grow very successful, and I'm convinced it will be possible to continue advancing those relations."
Ruttgers, no great believer in public pronouncements, diplomatically chose to address the Lieberman issue indirectly. "I know that the Israeli government is currently examining its relations with Syria," he said, indicating that he fears the Syrian track could potentially push the Palestinian issue to the wayside. "Relations with the Palestinians obligate a continued search for a solution of two states for two peoples," he said.
Ruttgers is proud that Germany boycotted last month's Durban Review Conference on racism, which some feared would feature a reprise of the anti-Israel rhetoric expressed at the first Durban conference, in 2001, and strikes an uncompromising tone regarding Iran.
"As Germans we cannot under any circumstances accept attacks against the State of Israel or its right to exist, such as were expressed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [at the Durban II summit] in Geneva," said Ruttgers. "His stance needs to undergo a significant change. Peace in the Middle East can only be achieved after such a change, which will include recognition of Israel and a guarantee of its security. Without that, there will be no progress in our relations with Iran."
Minister of Agriculture and Social Welfare Mahmoud Al-Habbash has been named as a probable candidate for Prime Minister in the next Palestinian Authority government, if Salem Fayad refused the post. He is a disgruntled former member of Hamas, who was supposedly dismissed for corruption, or according to the version below, "for crimes against religious intellectuals."
The minister, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, added that removing Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip "should be accomplished as soon as possible."
The comments came during an interview with Israeli journalist Gal Burger. Ma'an telephoned Burger and asked for further details, and he said Al-Habbash did not preach toppling Hamas by military force. However, Burger said other Palestinian officials had already demanded that, but he refused to name those officials.
Al-Habbash's remarks follow the failure by Hamas and Fatah to reach an agreement in Cairo, and in light of talks about the Palestinian president planning to ask an independent figure to form a new government soon.
Al-Habbash called on the Gaza population to peacefully counter Hamas. "Hamas does not have mercy on anybody in Gaza, and they oppress all, including media and political activities," he said.
Commenting on Al-Habbash's comments, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said it was an attempt to damage the national dialogue and strengthen his hold of his post. "Al-Habbash comments imply that he will lose if a national consensus government is formed because some Fatah leaders don't want him in it."
Barhoum added that all attempts to get rid of Hamas would fail, considering that Al-Habbash was trying to escape justice, as he must be tried "for crimes against religious intellectuals."
It would be wiser to say that Israel strives for "two states for two peoples," since the Palestinian version of the two state solution is two states for the Arabs of Palestine. Despite these and similar statements, it is probable that news media will continue to insist that "the ultranationalist right wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a two two state solution."
May. 3, 2009
Bloomberg , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israel agrees that a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians will entail a two-state solution, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said.
"The government of Israel, because of our democratic tradition and because of the continuity principle, is going to abide by all previous commitments the former government took, including the acceptance of the road map to peace which will lead to a two-state solution," Ayalon said, referring to the internationally backed 2002 peace plan.
Ayalon spoke in his office in Jerusalem ahead of a series of meetings Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government will hold abroad with foreign leaders. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman heads to Europe tomorrow and President Shimon Peres is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama on May 5. Netanyahu will visit Washington later this month.
The prime minister has so far stopped short of endorsing Palestinian statehood. Netanyahu, who was skeptical of peace talks held with the Palestinians by his predecessor Ehud Olmert, has said he will focus on improving the Palestinian economy in the West Bank.
Lieberman's four-day trip to Europe will take him to Italy, France, the Czech Republic and Germany.
In March, European Union foreign ministers said that the bloc's ties with Israel might suffer if Netanyahu's government ditches the two-state principle for ending the conflict.
"If Israel is interested in Italy's support in Europe, it must prove its friendship and demonstrate appropriate policies," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in an interview with the daily Yediot Ahronot today.
"We do want to see peace and do understand that long-term peace and stability will entail a two-state solution," the 54- year-old Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the US, said.
Iran is "trying to derail" any progress toward peace, Ayalon said, by supporting Hamas and Hizbullah.
He called for stronger international sanctions against Iran to pressure it to halt its nuclear program, which Israel believes is aimed at building a nuclear weapon.
Iran has defied three sets of United Nations sanctions against its nuclear-enrichment activities, denying Western suspicions that it is seeking a weapons capability. European Union governments are set to back Obama's bid to engage Iran in dialogue, a draft EU statement said on April 27.
The talks "shouldn't be open-ended," Ayalon said. "The time should be measured by months and not years."
Ayalon, who is a member of Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party, believes the foreign minister could play an important role in getting Russia to impose restrictions on Iran as well.
"Without Russia we can't have a full and hermetic structure to stop the Iranians," he said. "I believe that if Russia is on board, China will not stay behind."
This article can also be read at
Presumably, this is what qualifies the candidate to run the Palestinian Authority:
There is a mystery here:
Why would Fayad turn down the offer, unless he has been told it is hazardous to his health?
Former Hamas rep favored to head PA
May. 3, 2009
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considering the possibility of asking a former Hamas representative to head a new PA government in the West Bank, a PA official in Ramallah revealed over the weekend.
The official said that Mahmoud Habbash, who broke away from Hamas several years ago and is currently the minister of Social Welfare in the government of Salaam Fayad, was Abbas's favorite candidate for the premiership.
"President Abbas will first ask Fayad to head the new government," the official said. "But if Fayad turns down the offer, the president will ask Habbash to form the government." Unlike Fayad, Habbash is a leading religious figure and a devout Muslim. His appointment would be seen as an attempt on the part of Abbas to win the sympathy of Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters.
A former resident of the Gaza Strip, Habbash moved to the West Bank more than two years ago after Abbas offered him a job in the Fayad government.
Since then he has become one of the most vocal critics of Hamas. During Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, Habbash held a series of press conferences in Ramallah in which he accused Hamas of killing and torturing Fatah members and stealing humanitarian and medical aid sent to the Gaza Strip by international organizations.
Hamas officials have accused Habbash of financial corruption, saying he had been expelled from the Islamic movement following suspicions that he had been involved in embezzlement.
The London-based pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat daily quoted a source close to Abbas as saying that the appointment of Habbash would be aimed at "snatching the motto of Islam from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Iran."
Hamas has warned Abbas against forming a new government in the West Bank, saying that such a step would deal a fatal blow to efforts to end the power struggle between the two sides and solidify divisions among the Palestinians.
Egyptian-sponsored negotiations between Hamas and Fatah have thus far failed to produce agreement over a Palestinian unity government.
PA officials in Ramallah said over the weekend that it was clear by now that the chances of striking a deal with Hamas are very slim.
The main sticking point remains the political program of the unity government and whether it would recognize Israel's right to exist and previous agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Earlier this year, Fayad submitted his resignation to Abbas, saying he wanted to pave the way for the formation of a Fatah-Hamas government. At the request of Abbas, Fayad has agreed to remain in his post until the end of the talks with Hamas.
Hamas had made it clear that it would not join any government that is headed by Fayad, whom it accuses of collaboration with Israel and the US in launching a massive crackdown on supporters of the Islamic movement in the West Bank.
Hamas sources told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that the PA security forces in the arrested more than 145 Hamas supporters in the West Bank last month.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA president, said that Abbas was seeking to establish a new government that would include, in addition to Fatah members, representatives of other Palestinian factions.
However, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the two "rejectionist," Syrian-based groups said that they would not join any government that is formed in the West Bank.
"We need a new government, whether the talks with Hamas fail or succeed," Abu Rudaineh said. "We hope from the bottom of our hearts that the talks will succeed and lead to the establishment of a unity government that would rebuild the Gaza Strip. The international community is telling us that we don't have a government in Palestine; the government of Salaam Fayad has resigned and they don't recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas government."
The really interesting news is this:
That would be an interesting change in policy.
Last update - 10:24 03/05/2009
'IDF staged drills over Gibraltar, in preparation for Iran strike'
By Haaretz Service
The Israel Air Force recently staged military exercises over between Israel and the British colony of Gibraltar near southern Spain, the French newspaper L'Express reported on Saturday.
The fact that the drills were held 3,800 kilometers away from Israel "confirms that the Israel Defense Forces is making concrete preparations" to attack Iran over its refusal to cooperate with the international community over its contentious nuclear program, according to L'Express.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed last week that Israel would not attack Iran even if the international sanctions against Tehran fail to convince President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give up his country's nuclear program, in an interview with the Austrian daily Kleine Zeitung.
But The London Times reported a few weeks ago that the IDF was indeed making preparations to be able to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran's nuclear facilities, to be carried out within days of being given the go-ahead by Israel's government.
"Israel wants to know that if its forces were given the green light they could strike at Iran in a matter of days, even hours. They are making preparations on every level for this eventuality. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words," one senior Israeli defense official told The Times.
The London Times report appeared to be an Israeli message to Iran conveying its capability and readiness to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
The report included a nation-wide home front drill, scheduled for June, among what it calls Israel's intensive preparations for the possibility of an attack, aiming to prepare Israel's civilians for the possible consequences of an attack on Iran.
"We would not make the threat [against Iran] without the force to back it. There has been a recent move, a number of on-the-ground preparations, that indicate Israel's willingness to act," another official from Israel's intelligence community told the Times.
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