SPIEGEL has learned from sources close to the tribunal and verified by examining internal documents, that the Hariri case is about to take a sensational turn. Intensive investigations in Lebanon are all pointing to a new conclusion: that it was not the Syrians, but instead special forces of the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah ("Party of God") that planned and executed the diabolical attack. Tribunal chief prosecutor Bellemare and his judges apparently want to hold back this information, of which they been aware for about a month. What are they afraid of?
According to the detailed information provided by the SPIEGEL source, the fact that the case may have been "cracked" is the result of a mixture of serendipity à la Sherlock Holmes and the state-of-the-art technology used by cyber detectives. In months of painstaking work, a secretly operating special unit of the Lebanese security forces, headed by intelligence expert Captain Wissam Eid, filtered out the numbers of mobile phones that could be pinpointed to the area surrounding Hariri on the days leading up to the attack and on the date of the murder itself. The investigators referred to these mobile phones as the "first circle of hell."Captain Eid's team eventually identified eight mobile phones, all of which had been purchased on the same day in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. They were activated six weeks before the assassination, and they were used exclusively for communication among their users and -- with the exception of one case -- were no longer used after the attack. They were apparently tools of the hit team that carried out the terrorist attack.But there was also a "second circle of hell," a network of about 20 mobile phones that were identified as being in proximity to the first eight phones noticeably often. According to the Lebanese security forces, all of the numbers involved apparently belong to the "operational arm" of Hezbollah, which maintains a militia in Lebanon that is more powerful than the regular Lebanese army. While part of the Party of God acts like a normal political organization, participating in democratic elections and appointing cabinet ministers, the other part uses less savory tactics, such as abductions near the Israeli border and terrorist attacks, such those committed against Jewish facilities in South America in 2002 and 2004.The whereabouts of the two Beirut groups of mobile phone users coincided again and again, and they were sometimes located near the site of the attack. The romantic attachment of one of the terrorists led the cyber-detectives directly to one of the main suspects. He committed the unbelievable indiscretion of calling his girlfriend from one of the "hot" phones. It only happened once, but it was enough to identify the man. He is believed to be Abd al-Majid Ghamlush, from the town of Rumin, a Hezbollah member who had completed training course in Iran. Ghamlush was also identified as the buyer of the mobile phones. He has since disappeared, and perhaps is no longer alive.
Revelations Will Likely Harm HezbollahGhamlush's recklessness led investigators to the man they now suspect was the mastermind of the terrorist attack: Hajj Salim, 45. A southern Lebanese from Nabatiyah, Salim is considered to be the commander of the "military" wing of Hezbollah and lives in South Beirut, a Shiite stronghold. Salim's secret "Special Operational Unit" reports directly to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, 48.Imad Mughniyah, one of the world's most wanted terrorists, ran the unit until Feb. 12, 2008, when he was killed in an attack in Damascus, presumably by Israeli intelligence. Since then, Salim has largely assumed the duties of his notorious predecessor, with Mughniyah's brother-in-law, Mustafa Badr al-Din, serving as his deputy. The two men report only to their superior, and to General Kassim Sulaimani, their contact in Tehran. The Iranians, the principal financiers of the military Lebanese "Party of God," have repressed the Syrians' influence.
The deeper the investigators in Beirut penetrated into the case, the clearer the picture became, according to the SPIEGEL source. They have apparently discovered which Hezbollah member obtained the small Mitsubishi truck used in the attack. They have also been able to trace the origins of the explosives, more than 1,000 kilograms of TNT, C4 and hexogen.The Lebanese chief investigator and true hero of the story didn't live to witness many of the recent successes in the investigation. Captain Eid, 31, was killed in a terrorist attack in the Beirut suburb of Hasmiyah on Jan. 25, 2008. The attack, in which three other people were also killed, was apparently intended to slow down the investigation. And, once again, there was evidence of involvement by the Hezbollah commando unit, just as there has been in each of more than a dozen attacks against prominent Lebanese in the last four years.This leaves the question of motive unanswered. Many had an interest in Hariri's death. Why should Hezbollah -- or its backers in Iran -- be responsible?Hariri's growing popularity could have been a thorn in the side of Lebanese Shiite leader Nasrallah. In 2005, the billionaire began to outstrip the revolutionary leader in terms of popularity. Besides, he stood for everything the fanatical and spartan Hezbollah leader hated: close ties to the West and a prominent position among moderate Arab heads of state, an opulent lifestyle, and membership in the competing Sunni faith. Hariri was, in a sense, the alternative to Nasrallah.Whether Lebanon has developed in the direction the Hezbollah leader apparently imagined seems doubtful. Immediately after the spectacular terrorist attack on Valentine's Day in 2005, a wave of sympathy for the murdered politician swept across the country. The so-called "cedar revolution" brought a pro-Western government to power, and the son of the murdered man emerged as the most important party leader and strongest figure operating in the background. Saad al-Hariri, 39, could have become prime minister of Lebanon long ago -- if he were willing to accept the risks and felt sufficiently qualified to hold office. After the Hariri murder, the Syrian occupation force left the country in response to international and domestic Lebanese pressure.But not everything has gone wrong from Hezbollah's standpoint. In July 2006, Nasrallah, by kidnapping Israeli soldiers, provoked Israel to launch a war against Lebanon. Hezbollah defied the superior military power, solidifying its image as a resistance movement in large parts of the Arab world. If there were democratic opinion polls in the Middle East, Nasrallah would probably be voted the most popular leader. The highly anticipated June 7 elections will demonstrate whether the Lebanese will allow Nasrallah to radicalize them again. Once again, he is entering into the election campaign in a dual role. He is both the secretary-general of the "Party of God," represented in the parliament since 1992, and the head of Hezbollah's militia, part of a state within a state that makes its own laws.Hezbollah currently holds 14 of 128 seats in parliament, a number that is expected to rise. Some even believe that dramatic gains are possible for Hezbollah, although landslide-like changes in the Lebanese parliamentary system are relatively unlikely. A system of religious proportionality ensures, with list alliances arranged in advance, that about two-thirds of the seats in parliament are assigned before an election. In the cedar state, a Sunni must always be prime minister, while the Shiites are entitled to the office of speaker of parliament and the Christians the relatively unimportant office of the president.Hezbollah has not managed to upset this system, adopted decades ago, even though it objectively puts its clientele at a disadvantage. As a result of differences in birthrates, there are now far more Shiites than Sunnis or Christians in Lebanon. Some say that Nasrallah isn't even interested in securing power through elections, and that the "Party of God" would be satisfied with a modest share of the government. By not taking on too much government responsibility, Hezbollah would not be forced to dissolve its militias and make significant changes to its ideology of resistance.The revelations about the alleged orchestrators of the Hariri murder will likely harm Hezbollah. Large segments of the population are weary of internal conflicts and are anxious for reconciliation. The leader of the movement, which, despite its formal recognition of the democratic rules of the game, remains on the US's list of terrorist organizations, probably anticipates forthcoming problems with the UN tribunal. In a speech in Beirut, Nasrallah spoke of the tribunal's "conspiratorial intentions."The revelations are likely to be just as unwelcome in Tehran, which sees itself confronted, once again, with the charge of exporting terrorism. Damascus's view of the situation could be more mixed. Although the Syrian government is not being declared free of the suspicion of involvement, at least President Assad is no longer in the line of fire. Hardly anything suggests anymore that he was personally aware of the murder plot or even ordered the killing.One can only speculate over the reasons why the Hariri tribunal is holding back its new information about the assassination. Perhaps the investigators in the Netherlands fear that it could stir up the situation in Lebanon. On Friday evening, the press office in Leidschendam responded tersely to a written inquiry from SPIEGEL, noting that it could not comment on "operational details."....
Saturday, May 23, 2009
According to a story in Der Spiegel, New Evidence in the UN investigation shows Hezbollah murdered Lebanese Sunni poltician Rafiq Hariri, since cell phones used by the assassination team members all were purchased by a special unit of the Hezbollah, run at the time by the Imad Moughnieh. This underlines the fact that it is a farce to claim that elections held when there is an armed group participating in them can be "democratic." In addition to Hariri, several politicians and journalists opposed to the Hezbollah have met with "accidents." It is interesting that the UN team investigating the Hariri assassination is sitting on the information and not releasing it according to Der Spiegel.
Here is the main part of the Der Spiegel story:
The peace plan evidently exists, and Ben Caspit in Ma'ariv weekend magazine had a much less complimentary approach to this plan. It is more or less swine flu diplomacy. The idea seems to be that Netanyahu is convinced Palestinians will meet the conditions when pigs fly.
Netanyahu's Peace Plan
Posted: 23 May 2009 04:42 AM PDT
By Barry Rubin
In his successful meeting with President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a superb, workable peace plan backed by a wide Israeli consensus.
Those obsessed with whether Netanyahu would say the "two-state solution" mantra missed it.
In fact, though Netanyahu didn't accept that framework precisely because he and his Labor party coalition partner are for peace.
If Netanyahu said "two-state solution" it would buy him moments of cheap praise. But then, experience shows, their attention would turn to just one theme only: getting Israel to make unilateral concessions and take dangerous risks.
In the conception of Netanyahu and Barak, the right kind of two-state solution is the only solution to the conflict. But how to ensure it does end the conflict rather than just make it bloodier and on worse terms for Israel?
Netanyahu made this clear in his joint press conference with Obama:
"Everybody in Israel, as in the United States, wants peace. The common threat we face are terrorist regimes and organizations that seek to undermine the peace and endanger both our peoples."
The real question is how to get peace without strengthening radical forces; how to get a solution that doesn't make things worse for Israelis and Palestinians? Netanyahu continued:
"We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the state of Israel."
Israel wants peace—it has more incentive for that than anyone. When Netanyahu says Israel wants the Palestinians to govern themselves, he isn't talking about limited autonomy but in the context of a functioning peace agreement, which means a state. What are the "handful of powers?" Obviously, Hamas but it's also a clear reference to influence and interference by Iran and Syria.
Why should Israel agree to any Palestinian state functioning as a base for destroying it?
He continues: "For this there has to be a clear goal…an end to conflict." A definitive end of conflict agreement that the new framework ensures is key to any solution: two states not Round Two of the conflict. The Palestinian Authority has rejected such a commitment for very obvious reasons: it hasn't been ready to accept permanent peace even if it gets a state.
Both sides, Netanyahu continued, must make compromises: "We're ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share, as well." To reach peace requires the Palestinian side to meet its commitments—which it has done far more rarely than Israel—and make concessions. This may seem obvious but is usually forgotten in Western policy and media coverage. President Obama did make this point about Palestinian obligations as well, more specifically than many observers seem to realize.
Read this carefully. To reach a peace agreement::
"The Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if...Israel's security conditions are met, and there's recognition of Israel's...permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace."
Here is Netanyahu's view of the two-state solution. If the Palestinians meet Israeli conditions—including the reasonable demand that Palestinian refugees be resettled in Palestine, not Israel--there can be a two-state outcome. Here, Netanyahu deliberately used Obama's phrase in the end to make clear how he is defining his goal.
This is critical: a two-state solution is not a gift given at the start of negotiations but a reward for the proper compromises ensuring peace succeeds.
Netanyahu points out another deep-seated Israeli concern: A bad "solution" can make things far worse. Israel doesn't want to end up with a Palestine that functions merely as "another Gaza."
Why should anyone be confident this won't happen? Wishful thinking or faith that being in power makes people moderate—an argument proven incorrect about Yasir Arafat and his colleagues almost twenty years ago?
"If, however," says Netanyahu, "the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, if they…fight terror, if they educate their children for peace and to a better future, then I think we can come at a substantive solution that allows the two people to live side by side in security and peace and I add prosperity, because I'm a great believer in this."
He's right. What's the point of a two-state solution which could easily:
--Make Palestine a radical state tied to Iran and Syria.
--Leave the Gaza Strip in Hamas's hands which means, in effect, a three-state solution. Short of a U.S.-led multinational invasion force—rather unlikely—there's no way Gaza can be included in a peace agreement with Israel. Talking about a two-state solution while the Palestinian Authority doesn't even control Gaza is unconnected to reality.
--Creates a Palestine in which all schools, mosques, and media teach Palestinians that all Israel is theirs and they must conquer it, a Palestine full of incitement to violence inspiring hundreds to become terrorists, thousands to help them, and hundreds of thousands to support them. In some respects, this describes the Palestinian Authority today, despite its real efforts to limit cross-border attacks.
--Sets off a new cross-border war, with Palestine's government and security forces either looking the other way or actively assisting terrorists.
--Creates a Palestine that invites in Iranian, Syrian, or other armies, or obtains missiles from them targeted at Israeli cities.
--Extends the conflict another generation by using the state as base for a "second stage" to finish off Israel.
Israel has good reason, based on the 1990s' peace process experience, to believe its own risks and concessions won't be reciprocated and that U.S. and European promises of support in that event won't be kept.
And so Netanyahu and his country says: Peace? Certainly! But only if it's real, lasting, and stable, making things better rather than worse: a real two-state, not big-mistake, solution
Friday, May 22, 2009
Headline: Obama won't unveil Mideast peace plan in Cairo - That squashes a lot of speculation like a bug, no? Either he never intended to unveil a plan, or it became clear that nobody at all would go along with the plan he intended to unveil. Here's the story:
This is a man with a guilty conscience and a need to win an election Israel prepping for Nasrallah kill, says Hezbollah. It goes without saying that Israel is always looking for an opportune moment to cause an accident to happen to certain folks, if the cost is not too high. Imad Moughnieh was on the Israeli list for a long time. The problems are means, opportunity, and the ever-present threat of massive retaliation such as the barbaric attack on the Jewish Center in Argentina. From the Israeli point of view, and the point of view of a great many Lebanese, Nasrallah is a guy that needs killing. Unfortunately, he may be even more dangerous dead than he is alive.
Of course, Hezbollah has an urgent need to garner favor and votes in the upcoming election. Here's the LA Times arrticle about it:
Of course, the drills have no relation to Hezbollah.
One state or one state, take your pick at the York University debate on "paths to peace." This is a wide and fair choice, really. You can have a secular Palestinian democracy like Syria or an Islamic Republic like Iran. Yes, "peace" can be achieved by destroying your enemy. It would not be the first time that peace was achieved through genocide.
Good thing Jeff Halper is invited. No hate-Israel gathering could be complete without Jeff Halper, who has done a monumental job of discrediting the cause of peace and Palestinian rights and turning it into an insane mockery. Halper is a veteran of the hatemongering fake "peace" movement.
The worst aspect of these activities is that the bad, fake peace makers inevitably drive out the good ones and make it impossible for them to work by delegitimizing the cause of peace. If the Palestinians do not want self-determination, it is their business, but they needn't try to foist this idea on the Jews.
It is really sad that York university has succumbed to this sort of cheap racism and Stalinist debating style. The terror groupies already tried to hold an "Israel Apartheid Week" at York University. You'll be glad to know that one of their speakers was scheduled to be "Sahabphan Jesuthasan. York Student, President, Tamil Students Association." The problem of the Tamil Tigers terrorists, one of the most notorious suicide terror groups, was since settled in a most satisfactory manner, by eliminating the group and killing their head, proving that it is possible to win an assymmetric war. Terrorists are not invincible. Nobody counted the civilian casualties. Sri Lanka declared a national holiday. If you will, it is no legend. Yes, peace can be achieved by wiping out your enemy. However, those who wish for that kind of "peace" should take into account that it is probably their side that will get wiped out.
YORK UNIVERSITY VS. ISRAEL:
Chair, Political Science,
and Executive Director, NGO Monitor
The President of York University in
Far from an attack on academic freedom, such criticism highlights the very absence of the free exchange in a marketplace of ideas which is the indispensible foundation for academic freedom. The extremely complex history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and multiple dimensions of peace efforts contrast starkly with the narrowly constricted ideologies reflected in the list of 44 speakers. This information is readily available using the internet, and had the eleven sponsors -- six from York, four from Queen's university and a government funded research framework -- exercised "due diligence", they would have found that many of the speakers are virulent anti-Israeli activists, and are far removed from academic work to understand complex issues through research and debate. In other words, it is the conference that constitutes a brutal attack on academic freedom, rather than the analysts and critics.
For example, the first speaker on the list is Ali Abunimah, who runs a propaganda internet site known as the "Electronic Intifada", specializing in demonization of Israel through articles such as "Why Israel won't survive".. Abunimah is also affiliated with a political organization (PCHR) based in
While the ideological bios and activist records of all 44 speakers would fill dozens of pages (a task that the sponsors at
An Israeli columnist recently witnessed Halper urging "his Muslim listeners in an American university to reject the Arab Peace Initiative, because it serves the Muslim tyrants. He told his listeners that Israel is actually a force that serves world capitalism, in the framework of the attempt to make enormous populations in the world disappear. The antisemites could not have said it better." To label such activities as promoting peace or remotely connected to university discourse is an insult to intelligent people. Recently, Halper's main benefactor, the European Union, rejected his application for renewed funding, but YorkUniversity – for reasons yet to be explained – is giving him the façade of academic legitimacy.
Amidst the long list of speakers, there are also few genuine academics – whom critics might dismiss as fig leaves for the hard-core propagandists -- but even here, the ideological range runs from strongly critical of Israel (but accepting the legitimacy of Jewish sovereign equality) to extremely critical (one-state promoters, tantamount to "wiping Israel off the map".) Although there are many academics whose research goes beyond one-dimensional Israel bashing, and examines the failures of Arab, Palestinian, and Moslem leaders to contribute to peace making, these dimensions are conspicuously absent from the program. In this Orwellian twist, the use of "academic freedom" is a mask for the crude censorship at
With so many obvious distortions, the defense offered by the President of York University is a farce. Without a free market of ideas, academic freedom, and even the concept of a university, is meaningless. Given a conference which fails to even hint at the complexity of the issues, the result is not censorship, but the transformation of the university into a macabre circus that sells hatred, martyrdom and murder.
In a free society, the circus, like the university, is open to all – as P.T. Barnum observed, "There's a sucker born every minute". But in the
Here is the sort of Zionist that right thinking (or left thinking) progressive people everywhere will love to exhibit as a racist colonialist western Zionist settler from America intruding on the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people -- the kind of Settler who in media canards is supposed to put on his Kippah and say a blessing before killing an Arab.
As a good right - thinking progressive would see it, Ehav Ever lives in the illegal colonialist Zionist settlement of Maaleh Edumim in the illegally occupied West Bank, next to the illegally occupied Arab city of Arab Jerusalem, which is where Suleiman the Arab Muslim built his temple, right? He is a rich and elitist Electrical Engineering graduate who works for an Israeli hi-tech firm, and he came on Aliya from the United States. The typical Christian Peace Teams stereotype of a male Jew settler. This is clearly the sort of racist colonialist Zionist guy Ken Loach and his friends would love to boycott, especially as Ehav Ever is opposed to a two state solution, which he thinks is besides the point. Go for it!
You can see Ehav Ever's Web log here: Hochma Umusar and you can see his video on Real Zionism too. In the video he explains why Israel belongs to Jewish people.
But in case you are too lazy to check it out (your loss), here's a hint about one fact about Ehav Ever that should be totally irrelevant, but that you might want to know. Here's his picture. When you write your articles and Web logs about the racist Zionist colonialist illegal settlers, be sure to include the picture, so everyone understands your point about racism.
"Zionism is racism" - right?
Joint chiefs of staff head Admiral Mike Mullen has concluded, after much deliberation no doubt, that an Iran nuclear bomb would be calamitous. There seems to have been considerable doubt about this point in the Obama administration, with many people taking the view that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a real nice guy who just needs talking to.
The remarks came the day after Iran's president Ahadinejad announced the country had tested a missile that analysts said could hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf, a major source of crude oil for the United States. The solid fuel rocket has a range of 2,500 KM. The test annuncement came a few hours after a panel of US and Russian experts concluded definitely that at present Iran only has missiles with half that range. So much for expert opinions.
Mullen also said, "The downside, potentially, is absolutely disastrous." What's the upside?
According to the Reuters report:
That's very rough. In fact, it is meaningless.
At least everybody seems to be on the same page - An Iranian Nuke would not be a GOOD THING. It would be a VERY BAD THING. The Americans are finally beginning to understand what the Saudis, the Israelis, the Bahrainis, the Kuwaitis and everyone else in the Middle East understands. They understand that the Iranian regime is NOT NICE and does not have peaceful and friendly intentions toward its neighbors. If they get the bomb, a lot of people would be threatened, and even more important for Americans, the price of gasoline would be threatened. Now that's really important.
But Mike Mullen and the US government are still clueless about what it will take to stop the Iranian effort. Mullen said:
Coming together, is not going to do much good unless there is a plan. Sanctions are not going to be effective and thus far China and Russia at least, will not go along with sanctions. It is doubtful that the Swiss, who are major suppliers of gasoline to Iran, would go along either.
Mike Mullen have repeatedly and publicly vetoed any Israeli attack on Iran. This removes the teeth from any deterrent threats. Only the prospect of an attack might thwart Iran and prevent the "calamitous" outcome.
Yes folks, this is the exciting sequel to Barry Rubin on Obama-Netanyahu meeting,
Rubin is absolutely right to point out that there is no evidence of a huge rift between Israel and the United States. Pro-Israel pundits have lined up to insist the meeting was a catastrophe for Israel, and to mourn the supposed break between Israel and the United States. Anti-Israel pundits have lined up behind them to gloat about the break between Israel and the United States. But there is no evidence whatever that any such break took place. Leaders who hold a joint press conference are not doing it because there is a break between them.
Nonetheless the meeting, at least the public part, was not all that it should have been, and some of the aftermath was not too promising either. We do not know what was said in private, but what was said in public was not all that it should be.
What was missing:
Iran - The plan for Iran seems to be to not have a plan. That's unacceptable. Obama said the US would probably reassess the appease-Iran policy at the end of the year, but that will be too late to stop Iran's nuclear program with sanctions. Sanctions take months to organize and years to take effect. The Arab states can't be happy about that either.
Hezbollah - Some of you might remember this organization and their colorful leader Hassan Nasrallah. Less than three years ago, Israel found it necessary to fight a war against them - the Second Lebanon War. They may be about to win an election in Lebanon. They are proteges of Iran. If Obama and Netanyahu have any opinions about how to stop them from taking over Lebanon, they aren't saying.
Syria - All mention of this country seemed to have been absent from the discussion as well.
Palestinian Issues - While Barack Obama was quite specific about what Israel needed to do to meet its obligations, he was vague about the Palestinians. There was no explicit condemnation of the Hamas, a genocidal organization that declares over and over that it is intent on destroying Israel and will never recognize Israel. Realistically, there can be no peace while Hamas rules in Gaza, and if the Fatah-Hamas unity talks ever succeed, that will be the end of any prospect for peace with the Palestinian Authority. There was no mention of "moderate" Palestinian Authority attempts to delegitimize Israel and to distort and remake history, in order to write out the Jewish people in the land of Israel, as though our ancestors were never here, never lived in Jerusalem before 1948, never had a capital in ancient ("Arab East") Jerusalem.
There was no explicit demand by Obama that the Palestinians or Arabs recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. The Arab refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to self determination is at the heart of the conflict. Unless that problem is addressed, we haven't moved beyond 1920.
Netanyahu: What was missing from Benjamin Netanyahu was
1) A statement supporting a two state solution. Netanyahu did everything but endorse a two state solution, and therefore got all of the disadvantages of concessions, with none of the advantages. The foreign press, in which we may have to include Ha'aretz, will go on noting pointedly that the "right-leaning" government of Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to support a two-state solution, making it look as though Israel is the villain holding up the peace process.
2) A clear statement of Israel's red lines - all of them, put on record in the presence of the President of the United States. If Israel is not going to give up East Jerusalem or admit Palestinian refugees, that was the time to say it. Bibi did raise the demand for Arab recognition of a Jewish state.
3) A pro-active peace plan that would put the pressure on the Arab side to deliver concessions, as well as giving Obama a "prize" to take to the Arabs.
After the meeting:
What happened around the meeting and after it was fairly hostile. CIA director Leon Panetta was sent to warn Israel not to attack Iran, sending a loud and clear public "all clear" signal to Iran. Secretary of State Clinton loudly and publicly warned Israel to freeze settlement activity. That is her right. But when all the warnings all the time are directed only to one party, and there is no warning to Palestinians to stop incitement and stop claiming that all of Israel belongs to the Palestinians, no warning to stop firing rockets from Gaza and smuggling arms, it really does look to the world as if the only obstacle to peace is Israel.
There is no break between Israel and the United States, but that is in large part a reflection of the style of Barack Obama. Obama tries mightily to be a friend of everyone and to exhibit unity on all fronts. He went to Europe and got rebuffed on every side, and came back smiling. There is probably never going to be a break between Obama and anyone, if he can help it. The dirty work will be done by underlings. In Obama's upcoming speech to the Muslim world, look for a lot of style and not much substance. That's where Obama's emphasis is, on the premise that a smile costs nothing and takes less muscles than a frown. It's a good policy, and Barack Obama has a magnetic smile.
But if nothing is done about Iran, we may all be buried with a smile on our faces.
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Obviously, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's job was to make a good impression including the flattery of President Barack Obama. He thus thanked him:
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org. His blog, Rubin Reports is at http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/
Here is Barry Rubin's optimistic take on the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, Part I. It is one way of looking at it, and a good part of the story, but it ain't necessarily so. I'll give my views along with Part II. . What was not said, was more important than what was said, and what was said aftwerwards might be even more important.
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So what did President Barack Obama say after the meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and what does it mean?
First, Obama went to great lengths to stress his belief in the special relationship between the two countries, knowing his fealty to it has been (understandably and rightfully) challenged. He consciously escalated it by calling it an "extraordinary relationship" adding "historical ties, emotional ties," "only true democracy of the Middle East," "a source of admiration and inspiration for the American people." He then went on to say Israel's security "is paramount" in his policy.
No signal to Arab regimes or Iran here of eroding support. This is the part they will look at and he knew it. This is not mere boiler plate. By setting the bar so high he is saying that the relationship is central and important, one not to be lightly undermined. That doesn't mean he won't do anything in that direction but it is publicly limiting himself from making any fundamental shift.
Of course, he and his administration can, and will, justify things they do as being for Israel's own good. But again, opening with this statement is important and very purposeful.
A. The Iran Issue
He then focused on "the deepening concern around the potential pursuit of a nuclear weapon by Iran." Some have focused on his following remark that Netanyahu "has been very vocal in his concerns about" this as if Obama was being sarcastic, but he added this "is a concern that is shared by his countrymen and women across the political spectrum." In other words, he is associating America's stance with this view.
A key word, of course, is "potential." Does this mean he doesn't believe Tehran is trying to get nuclear weapons? No, but he is arguing that the outcome is still open, that is his belief he can talk them out of it.
That, of course, is a mistake. Of course, one could interpret it as saying that Iran will be stopped from ever getting such weapons, by force if necessary. I don't think that was his intention but it should be kept in mind.
But Obama added:
"Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would not only be a threat to Israel and a threat to the United States, but would be profoundly destabilizing in the international community as a whole and could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that would be extraordinarily dangerous for all concerned, including for Iran."
That's a pretty strong statement. He then spoke of how the United States will try to talk Iran out of doing this without foreclosing tougher actions in future.
Whatever concerns one has about this- and I have them-this is the best possible statement one could have expected out of this American president. Remember he is not just talking to Netanyahu but to the Iranian regime and the whole region in so defining the U.S. stance.
Obama even added:
"The one thing we're also aware of is the fact that the history, of least, of negotiation with Iran is that there is a lot of talk but not always action and follow-through. And that's why it is important for us, I think, without having set an artificial deadline, to be mindful of the fact that we're not going to have talks forever. We're not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction while Iran proceeds with developing a nuclear -- and deploying a nuclear weapon. That's something, obviously, Israel is concerned about, but it's also an issue of concern for the United States and for the international community as a whole."
Here, he is saying he isn't naïve and won't let Iran fool him. Whether that's true in practice remains to be seen but at least he is aware of this issue.
On another issue, however, he still doesn't get it, asked whether his efforts at talking and compromising might be perceived by America's enemies as weakness he responded:
"Well, it's not clear to me why my outstretched hand would be interpreted as weakness."
Unfortunately, this shows he doesn't understand the Middle East. His basic mantra is: toughness has been tried and hasn't worked so let's try being nice. If Obama is ever going to avoid disaster in the region, much less accomplish anything, he's going to have to get beyond this simple-minded concept.
On Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Obama said it was in everyone's interest "to achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security."
I think the way this was phrased is very important. The great majority of Israelis can agree-even Netanyahu, in my opinion, would do so-that a two-state solution that really worked would be a good outcome.
The problem is that most Israelis don't believe at this point that a two-state solution would work because the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, Hamas, Iran, Syria, Hizballah and other forces either would ensure it never came about in the first place or would be quickly destabilized.
So the way Obama put it-and it was deliberate-is not in contradiction to Israeli views and interests.
Note also how he phrased his discussion of something else:
"Those obligations [of both sides] were outlined in the road map; they were discussed extensively in Annapolis."
Remember that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was criticized for saying that Israel adhered to the road map but not to Annapolis. This position accepts that view. The road map presents the obligations; Annapolis is non-binding, a mere discussion. That phrasing was very deliberate.
And then of course Obama added that everyone should seize this opportunity for progress and mentioned five specific points, a list weighted in Israel's favor: assures Israel's security, stops terrorism and rocket attacks, and economic development for the Palestinians (which is Netanyahu's emphasis) along with having an independent Palestinian state.
Indeed, Obama went even further in accommodating Netanyahu's standpoint. He did not only-despite what I have read in some analyses-talk about Israeli concessions or obligations but also very much about Palestinian ones, his:
"Recognition that the Palestinians are going to have to do a better job providing the kinds of security assurances that Israelis would need to achieve a two-state solution; that the leadership of the Palestinians will have to gain additional legitimacy and credibility with their own people, and delivering services. And that's something that the United States and Israel can be helpful in seeing them accomplish."
This is something extremely important and he even said that he would convey this point to Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the PA, when he visited Washington.
On Israel's side he said settlements have to be stopped-though there are no new settlements or expanding of settlements in territorial terms, a point that often is forgotten. There has to be reconstruction of Gaza along with an end to rocket attacks, which means a loosening of border controls.
This is not so difficult for Israel to accomplish: close down some outposts, remove new settlement efforts, and revise the border controls on Gaza. These are all things Netanyahu is quite prepared to do to maintain good relations with the United States.
Another important point on which Obama just doesn't get it because of lack of knowledge about the Middle East regards linkage:
"To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians -- between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat....Imagine how much less mischief a Hezbollah or a Hamas could do if in fact we had moved a Palestinian-Israeli track in a direction that gave the Palestinian people hope. And if Hezbollah and Hamas is weakened, imagine how that impacts Iran's ability to make mischief, and vice versa."
As I have explained elsewhere, such efforts would actually strengthen Iran, Hizballah and Hamas because any compromise agreement-even assuming such a thing were to be possible-would inflame radicalism. Again, failing to understand that, Obama doesn't get the Middle East....Yet, at least.
Overall, though, the meeting was a success. It is important to emphasize that this was not just true on the atmospherics or the surface. Obama's original ideology and the original intentions of his administration have been modified by taking into account Israel's views and interests as well as some touch of reality about the region.
In other respects, it has not been so modified. The needle has moved from "catastrophic" to "very bad" on the region in general, and from "confrontational" to "pretty good" on the bilateral U.S.-Israel front. The rest depends on whether the administration insists on putting the priority on its ideas or on its experiences in future
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org. His blog, Rubin Reports is at http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/
Thursday, May 21, 2009
More from Israel's wonderful peace partner.
Egyptian Religious Endowments Ministry Official: The Pigs Living Today Are Descended from Jews – And Must Be Slaughtered
According to a May 9, 2009 report in the Jordanian Arabic-language news website www.factjo.com, the superintendent of da'wa affairs at the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments, Sheikh Ahmad 'Ali 'Othman, has issued a fatwa stating that all pigs living today are descended from Jews and must therefore be slaughtered.
Following are excerpts:
Sheikh 'Othman: The Jews that Allah Turned into Swine Were the Forefathers of Today's Pigs
According to the website, Sheikh 'Othman states in his fatwa that all pigs are descended from the Jews whom Allah transformed into apes, swine and worshippers of Satan, and must therefore be slaughtered. He bases this on Koran 5:60: "Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, [as judged] by the treatment it received from Allah? Those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped Satan - these are [many times] worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!"
The report states: "'Othman argues that this verse [refers] to the people of Moses, and that [Muslim commentators] Ibn Kathir, Al-Tabari and Al-Qassimi bring proof of this in their books. He [also] points out that there are two schools of thought on this among the Koranic commentators: One opinion states that the Jews whom Allah turned into swine remained that way and died without multiplying, while the other says that they did multiply and that their descendants are still alive today.
"In support [of the latter opinion], the sheikh quotes hadiths in which the Prophet describes one of the signs that will herald the arrival of Judgment Day: The Jews will turn into pigs and will then be swallowed up by the earth."
The report quotes 'Othman as saying: "I personally tend to believe that the pigs living today are descended from those Jews, and that is why Allah forbade us to eat them, saying, 'Forbidden unto you [for food] are carrion and blood and swineflesh [Koran 5:3].' In addition, one of the things that Jesus will do when he returns to earth on Judgment Day is kill all the pigs, and that is proof that they are descended from Jews. All the pigs on earth will be destroyed by Jesus on Judgment Day."
'Othman also says that "he who eats pork is like one who eats the bread of an impure man," and that "the divine religions, [namely] Christianity and Judaism in their undistorted [form], forbid the eating of pork."
According to the report, 'Othman claims that his fatwa is supported by some senior Al-Azhar sheikhs, who are afraid to express their opinion in public. 'Othman is quoted as saying: "I have presented my fatwa to the [Al-Azhar] Academy of Islamic Research, in order to obtain a clear opinion about it, but I have not yet received a [formal] reply. This is because [Al-Azhar] is afraid to issue such a fatwa, which may cause the ulema to be accused of antisemitism."
Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee Head: 'Othman's Statements Are Untrue
The report also presents the response of Sheikh 'Ali Abu Al-Hassan, head of the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee. He calls 'Othman's statements "untrue," saying: "When Allah punishes a group of people because they have incurred his wrath, the punishment applies only to them. When Allah was angry with the people of Moses, he turned them [and only them] into apes and pigs. It was an unusual punishment, meant to serve as a deterrent to others. But [those apes and pigs] died, and did not multiply, as Sheikh Ahmad 'Ali 'Othman claims."
It is doubtful whether China and Russia will fall into line on Iran sanctions or back them. Besides, it turns out that "now" is possibly at the end of the year. Obama only said the U.S. would "probably" reevaluate policy at the end of the year, after all. Assuming he does, it would still be months before sanctions were implemented, and years before they might have any real effect. Iran will have quite a nuclear arsenal by then.
'EU will now back tough Iran sanctions'
May. 22, 2009
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST
US President Barack Obama's engagement policy with Iran has led to a "new spirit" in Europe and a growing consensus for stringent sanctions against Teheran if Obama's policy does not yield results, according to assessments received this week in Jerusalem.
According to these assessments, in recent days, since Obama said after meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he would reassess the policy toward Iran at the end of the year, even the "weakest links" on Iran inside Europe - Sweden, Spain and Germany - have begun falling into line behind the possible need for much stiffer sanctions.
These countries in the past were very skeptical of sanctions, according to the assessments, but with Obama apparently now willing to give the engagement some six months, they are now indicating they would back the measures if the engagement failed.
Following his talks with Netanyahu on Monday, Obama said the engagement with Iran would not be open-ended, and that he would reassess the situation at the end of the year. This is as close as he has yet come to setting a deadline for the engagement.
Although stressing that he did not want to set an "artificial deadline," Obama said, "My expectation would be that if we can begin discussions soon, shortly after the Iranian elections, we should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction and whether the parties involved are making progress and that there's a good faith effort to resolve differences. That doesn't mean every issue would be resolved by that point, but it does mean that we'll probably be able to gauge and do a reassessment by the end of the year of this approach."
According to the assessments reaching Jerusalem, the feeling in Europe was that Obama was genuinely interested in dialogue with the Iranians, and "if that doesn't work, there will be no choice but to hit the Iranian economy very hard."
Among the sanctions being considered are an embargo on refined oil products to Teheran, and not giving landing rights to the Iranian national airline.
One government official said this new approach was most evident in countries in Europe that had been reluctant in the past to impose painful sanctions on Iran, and that there was a sense in Jerusalem that some countries which were cold toward the sanctions in the past were speaking differently now, maintaining that "If Obama's outstretched hand is not grasped, then the Iranians deserve a slap."
Yossi Levy, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman for the Hebrew media, said that while he was not willing to discuss intelligence reports, "there is no doubt that the European community now understands the urgent need to roll up their sleeves and keep Iran from acquiring nuclear military capabilities."
One senior government official who deals extensively with the issue attributed the "new spirit" in Europe to a realization that time was running out on the ability to keep Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities.
In addition, he said, there was an appreciation that Obama's engagement with Iran would only be successful if Teheran understood it had something to lose if the dialogue did not yield results.
In a related development, Defense Minister Ehud Barak will travel to Washington, DC, early next month for talks with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Officials said the talks would focus on the Iranian nuclear threat as well as the Obama administration's emerging Middle East diplomatic plan. Barak is also scheduled to meet with National Security Adviser Gen. (ret.) James Jones.
Officials said that during his meetings, Barak would also discuss disagreements between Israel and the US over the Joint Strike Fighter, a stealth fighter jet under development by Lockheed Martin which the Air Force is in negotiations to purchase. Israel is trying to obtain Pentagon permission to install Israeli systems on the plane.
Yaakov Katz and Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report.•
The systematic attempts to alter accepted historical facts on the part of the "moderate" Palestinian Authority have a long and shameful history. The Imam Ikremah Sabri as well as Yasser Arafat were always willing to state that the Jews never had a temple in Jerusalem and that there is no archeological evidence to support it. Shaykh Taysir Tamimi has reportedly said that no Jews lived in Jerusalem before 1967. All of the Jewish history in Jerusalem, including the Jewish community that existed there until 1948 is wiped out at a stroke. It doesn't matter if there is an arch of Titus in Rome commemorating the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, nor does it matter that the history is described in detail not only in the Bible, but in the books of Josephus Flavius and those of Roman and Greek Historians. The archeological findings don't matter. Christian, and even Muslim traditions do not matter to them.
This bizarre campaign is being conducted by Israel's supposed "peace partner."
NGO: PA lying about Jews' ties to J'lem
May. 21, 2009
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST
The Palestinian Authority has unleashed an "unprecedented barrage of lies" negating Judaism's connection to Jerusalem, as part of a ongoing campaign to undermine the Jewish connection to the capital, an Israeli media watchdog group said on Thursday.
"Jerusalem is presented as a Muslim city, with no regard for historical reality," the Palestinian Media Watch report said. "Mention is made of the importance of Jerusalem for Christians, but Judaism has no place in the city."
The report, which was made public as Israel celebrated the 42nd anniversary of the reunification of the capital, cites top Muslim religious leaders in the city, ministers from the Fatah-run PA government in the West Bank as well as official Palestinian television denying any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
Recently, Palestinian leaders have been defining all of Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, as land which Muslims have a religious obligation to hold on to, and which must be liberated for Islam, the report found.
In addition, the PA is continuing to pursue an "alarmist" campaign of "denunciation and demonization" by presenting as fact the "incendiary libel" that Israel is trying to destroy the Aksa Mosque as part of a "Judaization" of the city, the report said.
The report includes an array of recent, inflammatory Arabic-language quotes by senior Palestinian officials and religious leaders, translated into English.
"This indoctrination, repeated regularly by the PA leadership, is creating a passionate religious-based hatred among Palestinians that will blow up eventually into even more Palestinian violence," said Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch.
Here is timely information from Dov Bear on what he believes to be false rumors about Obama's Middle East peace plan, which was reported in various versions, such as the one in Globes: (quoting Israel army radio) and Haaretz to include dividing Jerusalem and internationalizing the old city. Ha'aretz had a different version.
Though the RW (Right Wing - A.I.) blogs.... have already decided that Obama's secret, evil plan to divide Jeruslaem is a fait accompli, people who actually are in a position to know the facts are beginning to weigh in. Here for example is Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, as reported in the 5/21 Jerusalem Post:
So how did what is apparently a false story of a secret, evil Obama plan originate? The culprit seems to be Galei Tzahal which yesterday announced that Obama was set to demand the division of Jerusalem, and the removal of all West Bank settlements. The Galei Tzahel report provided no sources, and a day later their story seems about as legitimate as Carl Phillip's breathless report of an ongoing Martian invasion in War of the Worlds, the famous Orson Wells radio hoax.
Nonetheless, as Mark Twain warned, lies have a way of getting half-way around the world before the truth puts its boots on. The Galei Tzahel story was picked up by Spira at YWN, who didn't cite or credit it, and instead pretended he had first-hand knowledge of the evil, secret plan. His headline (and remember what Ayalon said about headlines) screamed "Obama Wants to Take Yerushalayim from Am Yisrael" which went far beyond even what Galei Tzahel had claimed. A much more level-headed account of the Galei Tzahel story came from Jameel. He wrote a dry report on the story without much editorializing and without any Spira-style fabulism. And though Jameel did make the error of treating the Globe's report about the Galei Tzahel report as substantiation, he has since updated his post to include Ayalon's cold water warning; nonetheless his readers are acting like Wells' audience and a blind, mad panic is underway in his comments... .
It may be that the Israel Air Force held such a drill, but none of the usual sonic booms were to be heard. That may be because there were no long range sorties.
May. 21, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israel Air Force squadrons took part in a large scale drill simulating war on all fronts over the past four days, Channel 10 reported Thursday.
Fighter jets, cargo planes and missile defense systems of the corps took part in the drill where defense from a simultaneous attack against Israel from the south and the north simultaneously was exercised.
Unlike previous drills, the air force did not train in long-range sorties, such as those that would be carried out during an offensive targeting Iran's nuclear facilities; the drill this past week focused on defending the country.
During the exercise, the scenario included war against Hamas in the South and war against both Hizbullah and Syria in the North.
In early Jnue, the Israeli home front will be exercised in the most far-reaching rehearsal for an emergency rocket attack ever carried out. All Israelis will be instructed to enter secure spaces as sirens will sound out throughout the country.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who received a briefing on the results of the past week's exercise, was positively impressed and said "we have a strong air force and this gives us a sense of security."
Referring to the Iranian test-launch of a long range ballistic missile on Wednesday, Barak said it was "another proof that we must develop means to confront" the Iranian threat.
This promise has been made every year for the past 40 years, but now it becomes a critical issue. It is hard to believe that Jerusalem wil not be divided as the US sponsored peace intiiative supposedly calls for duing just that. Does "Jerusalem" include all the greater Jerusalem area or just the relatively small area that was Jerusalem in 1967?
Last update - 20:09 21/05/2009
Netanyahu: Jerusalem will never be divided again
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Thursday that all of Jerusalem would always remain under Israeli sovereignty, in comments likely to spark consternation among Palestinians who hope to make the city the capital of a future state.
"United Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided," Netanyahu said at a state ceremony to mark Jerusalem Day.
Netanyahu said he had made the same declaration during his recent visit to Washington, where he met with United States President Barack Obama over the peace process and Iran's nuclear program.
Jerusalem Day celebrates the conquest of the city during the 1967 Six Day War, before which Jordan controlled east Jerusalem, while Israel had the western section. Shortly after the war, Israel annexed east Jerusalem.
"Only under Israeli sovereignty will united Jerusalem ensure the freedom of religion and freedom of access for the three religions to the holy places," Netanyahu added.
The ceremony took place at Ammunition Hill in east Jerusalem, site of one of the bloodiest battles in the city in the 1967 war, situated now in a Jewish neighborhood.
Palestinians: Netanyahu's comments invite 'eternal' conflict
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said later Thursday that Netanyahu's position on Jerusalem was a setback to the goal of a two-state solution, which is strongly supported by the Obama administration.
"Mr. Netanyahu, by saying that, he's saying the state of conflict will be eternal," Erekat said.
In his speech, Netanyahu echoed remarks made by President Shimon Peres, who said earlier at the ceremony that, "Israel will never have another capital other than Jerusalem, and Jerusalem will never be the capital of another people."
Peres stressed that Jerusalem was and remained Israel's capital, and spoke of the days before the Six Day war when Jews had limited access to the Old City.
"When Jerusalem was in non-Jewish hands, the Jews weren't allowed to pray at the holy sites; but under Jewish control, it is open to all faiths, and all prayers," he said.
No, that's not a typo and you you didn't misread. Hamas is not anxious to provoke either Israel or Egypt at this point. And Hamas wants to show the world, and particularly Mr. Obama, that they are the "good guys."
Last update - 10:04 21/05/2009
Hamas thwarting terror against Israel to please Egypt
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents
Hamas has prevented recent terror attacks against Israel because it is scared of angering Egypt, according to Israeli and Palestinian Authority security sources.
Hamas has also acted recently to prevent the firing of Qassam rockets and mortars at Israel from the Gaza Strip, which the Islamist organization controls. The occasional rocket is still being fired but those responsible are smaller Palestinian factions that do not obey Hamas orders.
Hamas' actions can also be explained by a wish to maintain the relative calm between it and Israel in the past two months. The organization is still rebuilding military facilities damaged during the three-week Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip in January.
Additionally, a continuation of the calm will also enhance its chances of receiving financial aid from the international community that it has requested to rebuild civilian infrastructure also damaged during the offensive.
Apparently the most decisive reason for recent Hamas efforts, however, is its concern over the deterioration of relations with Egypt. The uncovering at the beginning of the year of a Hezbollah spy network operating on Egyptian soil led to a souring in Egypt-Hamas relations after Cairo accused Hamas of involvement in Hezbollah's activities.
Nice of them to agree that Israel must give up the Temple Mount. A major Palestinian concession that shows "flexibility." No doubt they will also agree to Islamic sovereignty over Tel-Aviv. The proposal is similar to the Clinton Bridging Proposal of 2000 and the Taba "non-agreement."
Last update - 08:54 21/05/2009
Palestinians to agree to Islamic sovereignty over Temple Mount
By Avi Issacharoff, Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid
Palestinian sources said the Palestinian Authority would only be willing to relinquish Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount as part of a final-status agreement in exchange for Islamic sovereignty over the site.
Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that if Israel opts for peace and has a leader who is willing to make genuine compromises, a peace agreement could be reached within three to six months.
Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Wednesday that he was canceling his planned visit to Washington next week due to the death of his grandson.
Abbas is expected to meet U.S. President Barack Obama next week. Abu Rudeina said Abbas will ask for clarifications on the U.S. stance on negotiations with Israel.
"During the meetings with U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, we made it clear that there must be an Israeli recognition of the principle of two states for two peoples and a freezing of construction in the settlements," Abu Rudeina said.
"We will hear what happened during the meeting between [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Obama on the Palestinian question and what the American plans are for the coming months. Abu Mazen [Abbas] will consult with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to formulate a position ahead of the meeting. In any case, the result of the negotiations between Israel and the PA must be clear: the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, whose capital is East Jerusalem," the senior PA official said.
Palestinian sources said the PA would give up Palestinian sovereignty on the Temple Mount in exchange for Muslim sovereignty, management of the site by the Saudi-based Islamic Conference Organization, whose 57 member states include Iran.
The ICO is signatory to the Arab Peace Initiative. The envisioned agreement would provide the Palestinians with backing from all Muslim states toward a historic compromise with Israel in a peace agreement.
According to the proposal, the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City will be under Israeli sovereignty, while the Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters would be transfered to Palestinian sovereignty. Israel objects to Palestinian sovereignty over the Armenian Quarter.
There is also a dispute building over the Western Wall; the PA plans to demand that Israeli sovereignty applies only to part of the wall.
With regards to the right of return, the Palestinians reiterated their traditional position: Israel must acknowledge responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem.
Abu Rudeina says the Palestinian position on the issue is identical to that of the Arab Peace Initiative: a just and agreed solution to the refugee question, on the basis of UN Resolution 194.
But other Palestinian sources say the PA will probably agree to an arrangement under which refugees will have the right of return to the Palestinian state, with Israel agreeing to absorb up to 100,000 Palestinians within its borders under family reunification.
Regarding borders, Abu Rudeina said that the principle of territorial exchange was agreed, although there are disagreements over the exact areas. He said that in the most recent talks the Palestinians agreed to an exchange involving 1.2 percent of West Bank land, while then prime minister Ehud Olmert demanded 6.5 percent.
"But the issue also depends on quality. If [Israel] receives land in the Jerusalem area or Bethlehem we will not agree to receive desert land in exchange," Abu Rudeina said.
He told Haaretz that the Arab states are willing to agree to peace. "The problem is that now Israel is unwilling. They used to tell us that with Olmert involved in corruption the negotiations can't be completed with him. Now they say Netanyahu will be restricted because of his coalition problems. Every time it's a different story. Perhaps that's why 15 years have passed and we haven't seen peace."
Authorities are reportedly investigating the possibility of foul play. Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Hamas are not happy about Mubarak's policies. "Accidents could happen, to you or your family."
White House confirms Egyptian president has pulled out of scheduled visit to US, Obama in turn will extend duration of his trip to Cairo in early June
Published: 05.20.09, 23:02 / Israel News
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has canceled his planned visit to Washington next week following the death of his 13-year-old grandson, the White House confirmed on Wednesday.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that US President Barack Obama and Mubarak will instead meet next month when the US president visits Egypt. Gibbs offered condolences to the Mubarak family on Obama's behalf and that of the president's family.
Mubarak's grandson, Mohammed Mubarak, died Monday in a Paris hospital after his health suddenly deteriorated, apparently due to food poisoning.
The London-based daily 'Al-Quds Al-Arabi' reported earlier this week that the Egyptian president would likely cancel the trip, saying the Egyptian president was greatly affected by the death of his eldest grandchild.
The paper quoted Egyptian sources as saying Mubarak may send Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in his stead to Washington.
Mubarak and Obama are expected to meet in Cairo on June 4th. The US president plans to deliver a historic speech from the Muslim country in which he will outline his new peace initiative.
They should not be surprised, since it is, essentially the Clinton Bridging proposals, which they rejected in 2000. There is no other basis for a two state solution that is fair to both sides.
PA officials 'surprised by' US ME plan
May. 21, 2009
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST
Palestinian Authority officials said on Wednesday that they had been "surprised" to hear about US President Barack Obama's new peace plan from the Israeli media, noting that Washington had not informed the PA leadership about the initiative.
The officials said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is scheduled to visit Washington later this month, would seek clarifications from Obama about the peace plan published in Yediot Aharonot and Ma'ariv.
One PA official said Abbas and his aides were currently studying the plan, which, he added, included "several positive points." The official stressed, however, that some of the proposals mentioned in the plan were completely unacceptable to the Palestinians.
These proposals, he said, included the talk about resettling Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, swapping lands between the future Palestinian state and Israel, creating a demilitarized state and granting the Old City of Jerusalem the status of an international city.
"The Palestinian position on these issues is very clear," explained another PA official. "We insist on the right of return for all refugees on the basis of United Nations resolution 194, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with all of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as its capital."
The official said the PA had, in the past, rejected the idea of establishing a demilitarized state and swapping land with Israel.
"The only way to achieve real and lasting peace is by forcing Israel to withdraw from all the territories that were occupied in 1967," he said.
Sabri Saydam, an adviser to Abbas, said that the plan published in the Israeli newspapers was apparently aimed at "creating confusion" on the eve of Abbas's visit to Washington. He said this was the first time that the Palestinians were hearing that the Obama administration wanted them to relinquish the right of return for the refugees and create a demilitarized state.
"We will wait until President Obama publishes his plan in a speech from Cairo next month," he said. "Until then, we will relate to all of what's published as media speculation."
PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad called on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to force it to accept the two-state solution.
Fayad did not comment directly on the reports about Obama's peace plan. However, he said the Palestinians were determined to establish their state on all the territories occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem, the future capital of the state.
Fayad, who chaired the first meeting of his new cabinet, said there would be no peace unless Israel halted settlement construction, stopped its efforts to Judaize Jerusalem, and lifted the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.
The catch, apart from the practical problem of where to put new couples and new children, is that everywhere the freeze is applied, it implies that Israel is ready to consider that area a "settlement" that will be returned to the Palestinians. Therefore, a settle freeze will determine the map.
May. 20, 2009
Herb Keinon and Hilary Leila Kreiger , THE JERUSALEM POST
Sharp differences emerged between the US and Israel over the settlement issue on Wednesday - one day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu concluded his first official visit to the White House - with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for an absolute stop to all settlement activity and sources close to the prime minister saying the terms of a settlement freeze still needed to be defined.
The settlement issue was expected to be one of the top ones dealt with in working groups that have been set up between the US and Israel to discuss a wide range of topics. Israeli sources said work in these groups had already started.
Netanyahu, upon landing at Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday afternoon, said four groups would be set up to deal with the following issues: Iran; strategic issues between the US and Israel; the diplomatic process; and bringing other Arab countries into the process.
"We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth - any kind of settlement activity," declared Clinton in some of the Obama administration's clearest comments to date on what it expects from Israel. She was speaking to Al-Jazeera in an interview, of which the State Department released a transcript on Wednesday.
Netanyahu indicated on Tuesday that the settlement issue was still under review and that its details still had to be worked out with the administration.
Senior officials in Netanyahu's office said the exact terms of a freeze would have to be worked out, since there had been a number of unwritten understandings on this matter with the previous administration.
For instance, Israel has been working on the assumption that, with tacit agreement from the US, it may build inside the lines of existing settlements in the large settlement blocs that it believes it will retain under any future diplomatic agreement.
It was telling that during his two-day visit to Washington, which concluded on Tuesday, Netanyahu made no commitments on settlements, despite the primacy the Obama administration has placed on the issue.
According to former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, writing on The Daily Beast Web site, "Netanyahu was completely silent on the settlements freeze in public; in private, I'm told, he said it would be difficult to do."
In a conference call with US Jewish leaders following Netanyahu's meeting with Obama on Monday, a senior White House official said the administration was still waiting for a reply from Israel on settlements.
"This is the focus of the early step they are looking for" from Israel on the Palestinian front, said one Jewish official on the call, adding that the White House had indicated it was looking for a response soon.
"The fact that they were suggesting there was some kind of time frame in the near future suggested that this is a form of pressure on Israel to come back with something," he said, though he also said that "they're not at the point" of imposing consequences should Israel fail to comply with the administration's demands for a freeze.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, said publicly for the first time, upon his return, that he would be willing to begin negotiations with the Syrians, as long as there were no preconditions.
In Washington, he stressed that he was willing to start immediate talks with the Palestinians. Senior government sources said the US had pressed Netanyahu in the meetings to begin such immediate talks.
The prime minister also said upon landing that various strategic agreements that were essential to Israeli security had been reapproved by the Obama administration. He did not provide any details.
On Iran, Netanyahu said the US and Israel agreed that "the goal of joint Israeli-US policy was to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear military capability. Obama also said that the engagement process is not unlimited; I appreciate that and think it is a very important statement. There was also an understanding that Israel reserves the right of self-defense."
Netanyahu said there was agreement with the US on the need to "widen the peace process to other Arab countries, so that not only does Israel have to contribute, and the Palestinians have to contribute, but the Arabs have to give something concrete, already in the beginning of the process."
Israel did not publicly propose a new Middle East diplomatic plan in Washington because of a fear that any such plan would automatically be rejected by the Arab world, senior sources in the Prime Minister's Office said on the way back from Washington.
According to the sources, Netanyahu left Obama with a direction of where he intended to take the diplomatic process. The government's hope now is that Obama will raise these issues - foremost among them the idea that the Arab world needs to start making gestures toward Israel - with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas next week.
The underlying logic behind this is that the Arab world and the Palestinians would entertain these ideas only if they came from the US, and not from Israel.
According to the sources, one of the key topics of discussion between Netanyahu and the senators and congressmen he met on Tuesday dealt with the definition of Palestinian statehood.
The prime minister's position is that he cannot come out in support of a Palestinian state - something the Obama administration has done and is urging him to do - without first defining what a state means, and what aspects of statehood the Palestinians would be denied - such as the ability to muster an army, enter into treaties with other countries and have exclusive control of its borders.
Participants in the conference call said the senior US official had stressed that the two countries were not that far apart when it came to the essence of the issue, as Netanyahu had backed Palestinian autonomy so long as it was demilitarized with other security guarantees.
"They really share the same goals. They may have some differences of opinion about how to achieve them, but this discussion was more about those shared goals," said another official on the call.
Another participant said the White House had talked about obligations that the wider Arab world had to contribute toward regional peace efforts, noting that while Israelis and Palestinians had obligations under the road map - the former's including freezing settlements, removing outposts and improving Palestinian freedom of movement - Arab states had an obligation to press forward with the Arab peace plan.
That document calls for normalization with Israel in exchange for a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, as well as arrangements on the Palestinian refugee issue that are currently unacceptable to Israel.
The US official noted that the Arab states' obligations weren't spelled out in the road map, where Israeli and Palestinian obligations were detailed. This was the closest he came in the conference call to implying that the current framework for peace negotiations should be revised.
"They're trying to hint that the road map was incomplete or lacking a component," the Jewish participant said, suggesting it shed some insight on what the administration might be working on as it develops its own Middle East peace plan.
Media speculation on the topic was rife after Netanyahu mentioned in a briefing with Israeli journalists on Monday that Obama had mentioned he would unveil such a plan in the near future.
Despite reports that its details would be unveiled when Obama made his long-anticipated speech to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, the US has repeatedly characterized that address as focused on outreach to Muslim world, and officials said that in any case the speech was currently only in draft stage.
Though it could likely include reiterations of Obama's call on Monday for Arab states to take steps on the road to normalization with Israel - as well as for Israel to freeze settlement activity - officials have suggested it would be the wrong venue and too short a time frame for a major initiative to be unveiled. Another option for putting out such a proposal could be at the Quartet meeting scheduled for later next month.
Participants termed the exchange friendly and professional, and said the White House also characterized the conversations between Obama and Netanyahu as constructive and beneficial.
"They were explicit that the tone and nature of the discussions was very positive," one Jewish leader said. "There was no bickering. There was none of the Bibi-Bill Clinton behavior that was such a mess."
Similarly, several Jewish leaders - many from the same organizations - who participated in a meeting with Netanyahu at the end of his trip on Wednesday characterized the encounter as warm and positive.
"The mood was very good," said Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Orthodox Union, adding that Netanyahu had described the meeting with Obama as friendly, productive and long - the encounter ended up lasting four hours.
"He told us that the meetings with President Obama went very well. He was very happy, and told us that Obama is exactly on the same page as Israel," said Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America.
Klein noted that in addition to being willing to negotiate with the Palestinians, Netanyahu had also expressed a willingness to talk to Syria as long as there were no preconditions.
The Obama administration has also been reaching out to Syria and supporting efforts for Israelis and Syrians to restart third-party talks that faltered late last year.
E. B. Solomont contributed to this report.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
This really requires no comment.
May. 19, 2009
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israeli human rights groups and other NGOs that are heavily funded by the European Union are promoting Palestinian positions on the capital, a Jerusalem-based research organization said on Tuesday.
Several groups, including B'Tselem and Ir Amim, that are ostensibly devoted to further coexistence, are "pursuing an overtly anti-Israel agenda in a narrative war that seeks to rewrite 3,000 years of Jewish history in Jerusalem," NGO Monitor said.
Both NGOs label Israeli residents of the Old City's Jewish Quarter as "settlers," as part of an overtly "political campaign," despite the presence of Jews in the area dating back to before the establishment of the state in 1948, and the West Bank security barrier is portrayed by B'Tselem as an attempt to annex land, while disregarding Israeli security concerns, the watchdog group said.
The EU paid NIS 1.7 million of Ir Amin's NIS 4m. 2007 budget, NGO Monitor said. The British Embassy contributed an additional NIS 800,000, and the Norwegian government gave NIS 165,000.
Similarly, the EU funded nearly 10 percent of B'Tselem's NIS 7.8m. budget in 2007 with its €120,000 (about NIS 675,000) contribution, again according to NGO Monitor.
"The flow of European government funds, including from the EU, to political organizations such as B'Tselem and Ir Amim for use in the political war against Israel on the issue of Jerusalem is one of the most damaging aspects of European funding directed against Israel," said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor's executive director.
"Similarly, these NGOs should not be abusing their moral claims on human rights and coexistence in order to support efforts to turn back the clock to the dark days of 1948-1967, when no Jews could live or even visit the Old City and the Jewish sacred sites," he said.
B'Tselem on Tuesday denied that it had any political position on Jerusalem "or any other issue," and accused the NGO watchdog group of repeated "sloppy, irresponsible" reporting.
"B'Tselem's only concern is that Israel respect its legal obligations and ensure the basic dignity of everyone living under its control," B'Tselem executive director Jessica Montell said. "Advancing equality and human rights in Jerusalem is a clear Israeli interest, and one that we all can support, regardless of our political views."
In contrast, an Ir Amim official said the group was indeed seeking to advance a political agenda, and was not an organization geared to promote coexistence.
"Without a doubt we have differing views on a range of issues, but this is the right of an NGO in a democratic state," said Haim Erlich, an Ir Amim official. "No one has ownership over the Israeli interest."
The nearly 50% EU funding that the organization received in 2007 according to the NGO watchdog group was "within the framework of Israeli law," he said.
This article can also be read at
Here are three takes on Iranian nuclear weapons and US policy:
Everyone has to say something, but it is all Khalam Fahdi - empty talk. Meanwhile, the Iranians launched an IRBM today, just after "experts" claimed it would take years before Iran had one.
'Spain to limit judges to local cases'
May. 20, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Spain's congress on Tuesday reportedly passed a resolution to limit the jurisdiction of investigative judges.
The move follows pressure from foreign governments such as the US, China and Israel, which has strongly criticized Judge Fernando Andreu's ongoing investigation into the 2002 assassination of Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh in Gaza, in which 14 others were also killed.
The resolution confines judges to cases with a clear Spanish connection and excludes them from probing investigations already underway in the country that allegedly committed the crime, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The move effectively reins in Spain's investigative judges from dealing with crimes against humanity allegedly committed around the world.
The investigating judges of Spain's National Court have been employing the so-called principle of universal jurisdiction - which holds that for grave crimes such as genocide, terrorism or torture, suspects can be prosecuted in the country even if the alleged offenses were committed elsewhere - to 13 cases involving events that took place in other countries, from Rwanda to Iraq.
Under the new resolution, however, cases taken up by the judges would now have to involve a Spanish citizen or the accused would have to be on Spanish soil, the WSJ reported. The Spanish government will now introduce legislation, which the major parties in Congress have agreed to back, according to the report. It wasn't clear whether the changes would apply to existing cases or only to future ones.
At the beginning of the month, Judge Andreu of Spain's National Court decided to continue the investigation of Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon and five other former top security officials for their part in the Shehadeh assassination, despite Spanish prosecutors' attempts to dissuade him from doing so on the grounds that Israel was still investigating the attack.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said the Shehadeh case "makes a mockery out of international law."
The system was endangered by budget cuts or political maneuvering - it's not clear which. The US offered its own replacement system which is closer to operational deployment but much more expensive, because it is more versatile. Of course, what is reinstated can always be cut again and vv.
US tells Israel it will fully fund Arrow 3 missile defense system
May. 20, 2009
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
The United States has told Israel that it will provide the full funding for the development and production of the Arrow 3 ballistic, defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The US decision was revealed Wednesday during a session of the Strategic Dialogue that Ministry of Defense Dir.-Gen. Pinchas Buhris held with his US counterparts in Washington DC. The dialogue is held annually but is the first meeting of senior Israeli defense officials with the Obama administration's new staff at the Pentagon.
Israel has been concerned that the US - which has supported the Arrow project since its inception over 20 years ago - would stop the funding due to major cuts made to the US defense budget by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The development costs for the coming year will likely reach some $100 million.
The dialogue was led on the American side by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michelle Flournoy. Buhris was joined on the Israeli side by outgoing ambassador to the US Salai Meridor and IDF Military Attaché to the US Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz.
Israel and the United States are also developing David's Sling - a missile defense system for medium-range missile with a range between 70 and 250 kilometers. The Arrow 3 will be a longer-range version of the Arrow defense system currently in IDF operation. It will be capable of intercepting incoming enemy missiles at higher altitudes and farther away from Israel.
Last month, the IAF held its 17th test of the Arrow 2 interceptor, shooting down a missile mimicking an Iranian Shihab ballistic missile.
Later this year, the IAF will hold an unprecedented and massive exercise with the US Military to jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems, including the Israeli-made Arrow and the American THAAD and Aegis, which will be brought specially to Israel for the exercise. The drill, which will span several days, is called "Juniper Cobra".
Barry Rubin has an excellent point:
How did the Palestinians skilfully work the game so that it is Israel that appears to be refusing peace?
Harry's place has more on the outrageous story of the Scottish (I almost wrote "Sottish") refusal of a 300 pound grant from the Israel Embassy.
It would be very surprising if Israel had a way to pressure Russia into not selling weapons to Syria.
'Russia halts sale of MiG-31s to Syria'
May. 20, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Russia has put a stop on plans to sell MiG-31 fighter jets to Syria, according to the country's Kommersant newspaper. The plans were reportedly halted due to pressure from Israel, according to an unidentified source from the Russian defense industry.
"In a similar way, when Russia signed the deal with Syria for delivery of Iskander-E missile complexes in 2005. The Israelis put pressure on Russia, and the contract was annulated," the source was quoted as saying.
A source at the Russian Defense Ministry, however, was quoted as saying that the deal had been called off due to a shortage of funds on Syria's side.
The report added that Moscow had agreed in 2007 to sell eight of the jets to Damascus for $500 million. Syria, according to the report, still owes Russia $3.6 billion despite 70% of its debt having been written off in 2005.
Last month, defense officials told The Jerusalem Post that Israel had decided to advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to Russia on the condition that it would would not transfer the technology to Iran or Syria and will suspend the sale of anti-aircraft systems to these countries.
Israel has repeatedly sought assurances that Russia would not sell the S300 missile defense system to Israel [they mean Iran - editor.] , a move which would severely impair any Israeli effort to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report
Wednesday May 20, 2009
An Ancient Jar Handle Bearing the Hebrew Name Menachem was Uncovered in Ras el-'Amud
The artifact was discovered during an excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of a girls' school by the Jerusalem municipality. This is the first time that a handle with this name has been found in Jerusalem
Settlement remains dating to different phases of the Middle Canaanite period (2200-1900 BCE) and the last years of the First Temple period (eighth-seventh centuries BCE), including an inscription in ancient Hebrew script that mentions the name "Menachem", were recently exposed in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Ras el-'Amud neighborhood, prior to the construction of a girls' school by the Jerusalem municipality.
Among the remains from the First Temple period is a handle on which the Hebrew name (ל)מנחם , meaning (to) Menachem, is engraved. According to archaeologist Dr. Ron Beeri, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "This important find joins similar names that were found in archaeological excavations in the Ancient East and in Israel in particular. The names Menachem and Yinachem are expressions of condolence – possibly related to the death of family members".
Photograph: Mariana Salzberger, Israel Antiquities Authority
Dr. Beeri adds that such names already appeared earlier in the Canaanite period: the name Yinachem was found written on an Egyptian pottery sherd that dates to the eighteenth dynasty and the name Yinachemu is mentioned in the El-Amarna letters (from the fourteenth century BCE) as the name of an Egyptian governor on the Lebanese coast.
This is the first time that a handle with this name has been found in Jerusalem. The name Menachem is known from the corpus of Hebrew or Phoenician names and seals that bear this name were found in Israel, Assyria, Cyprus and Egypt. The name Menachem Ben Gadi is mentioned in the Bible. He reigned as king of Israel for ten years in Samaria and was one of the last kings of the Kingdom of Israel. According to Kings 2 Menachem Ben Gadi ascended the throne in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah, king of Judah.
Menachem, king of Israel, is also mentioned in the texts of the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III, as "Menachem of Samaria" and as one of the kings from whom he received tribute.
But Iran launched an intermediate range ballistic missile today. Either Iran is wrong, or the experts are wrong. I'm betting on Iran being right. What does this do to expert predictions about when Iran will have nuclear weapons?
May 20, 2009
Iran Says It Tests New Missile
Filed at 5:02 a.m. ET
TEHRAN, May 20 (Reuters) - Iran successfully launched an advanced surface-to-surface missile with a range of around 2,000 km (1,200 miles) on Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.
"The Sejil 2 missile, which has an advanced technology, was launched today ... and it landed exactly on the target," Ahmadinejad said during a visit to the northern Semnan province, where IRNA said the launch took place.
A range of 2,000 km would be almost as far as another Iranian missile, Shahab 3, and would enable it to reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf.
The announcement is likely to arouse further concern in the West about Iran's military ambitions. The United States and its allies suspect the Islamic Republic is seeking to build nuclear bombs. Tehran denies the charge.
Iran said in November it test fired a Sejil missile, describing it as a new generation of surface-to-surface missile. Tehran said it was ready to defend itself against any attacker.
Washington said at the time that the test highlighted the need for a missile defence system it plans to base in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter threats from what it calls "rogue states".
Sane people, if there are any left, will one day look on these events with incredulity. Ha'aretz recorded the snub, but did not record the ugly Palestinian campaign that produced it, as related below in the Scotsman.
By EMILY PYKETT
ORGANISERS of the Edinburgh International Film Festival have been forced to return a donation from the Israeli embassy after director Ken Loach waded into the funding row and called for people to boycott the event on political grounds.
The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) threatened to picket screenings after the EIFF listed the Israeli embassy to the UK as one of its backers.
A donation – believed to be in the region of £300 – was to have been used to pay travel costs to the capital for Tali Shalom Ezer, a graduate of the film and television department at Tel Aviv University, who directed a short feature film, Surrogate.
SPSC, which campaigns in Scotland against Israel's attacks on Gaza, orchestrated a torrent of e-mail protests from people opposed to the move. But festival organisers refused to budge. EIFF managing director Ginnie Atkinson said not accepting support from one particular country "would set a dangerous precedent by politicising a cultural and artistic mission".
The SPSC then enlisted the support of Mr Loach, well known for his support of Palestinian human rights.
Mr Loach released a statement through the SPSC which read: "I'm sure many film-makers will be as horrified as I am to learn the Edinburgh International Film Festival is accepting money from Israel. The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable. With regret, I must urge all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation and stay away."
The following day the EIFF – which has since been in talks with Mr Loach – did a U-turn. It said: "The EIFF are firm believers in free cultural exchange and do not wish to restrict film-makers' abilities to communicate artistically with international audiences on the basis that they come from a troubled regime.
"Although the festival is considered wholly cultural and apolitical, we consider the opinions of the film industry as a whole and, as such, accept that one film-maker's recent statement speaks on behalf of the film community, therefore we will be returning the funding issued by the Israeli embassy."
EIFF spokeswoman Emma McCorkell said yesterday she hoped Shalom Ezer would still attend the festival. Mr Loach did not respond to requests to contact The Scotsman yesterday. However, Ms McCorkell said he was "pleased
Mr Panetta's qualifications for assessing the results of attacking Iran: He did army service and finished as a first lieutenant, he served as White House Chief of Staff and then as director of the Budget Office in the Clinton administration, and he is a professor of "public policy."
If we understand correctly, the US has no practical option for attacking Iran, and doesn't want Israel to attack Iran when the engagement policy fails. Iran could have a nuclear weapon next year according to a panel of US and Russian experts, but the US would not reassess its Iran policy until the end of this year.
There will be "big trouble" if Iran gets the bomb too, so Israel must decide between different sorts of big trouble.
CIA chief: 'Big trouble' if Israel attacks Iran alone
By Haaretz Service
CIA chief Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that Israel attacking Iran singlehandedly would create 'big trouble.'
Panetta said it's clear that Israel is concerned about the possibility of Iran producing nuclear weapons, but added that Israel's security would be better served if the government worked with other international powers to curb the threat.
"The threat posed by Iran has our full attention," Panetta said in an interview with Global Viewpoint, a political quarterly. "Iran is a destabilizing force in the Middle East. Even though the administration is moving toward diplomatic engagement with that country, no one is naive about the challenges."
Panetta continued, "The judgment of the U.S. intelligence community is that Iran, at a minimum, is keeping open the option to develop deliverable nuclear weapons. It is our judgment that Iran halted weaponization in 2003, but it continues to develop uranium enrichment technology and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles."
Assessing Iran's intentions is a top priority, according to Panetta, who said, "The last thing we need in the Middle East is a nuclear arms race."
An Israeli official said on Tuesday that Israel will be forced to take on Iran's contentious nuclear program alone once U.S. President Barack Obama's overture for dialogue with Tehran fails.
The official was quoted by Channel 10 as saying that Obama's insistence on engagement with Iran would force Israel to make a "difficult decision" on the matter by the end of 2009.
Netanyahu and U.S. lawmakers said earlier Tuesday that Israel and the United States had agreed that Iran must not be allowed to continue its developing its nuclear capabilities.
Was this just a lucky strike, or will the rockets come thicker and faster as the peace process engages?
May. 19, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Several hours after Palestinians fired a Kassam rocket into a Sderot residential area for the first time in over two months, the IAF responded by bombing targets in the Gaza Strip.
The army said it attacked two weapons production sites in Gaza City and four smuggling tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border.
Four people were reportedly wounded in the strikes.
The Kassam launched earlier by terrorists in the Strip slammed into a storeroom in the backyard of a home.
A woman was lightly wounded and evacuated to Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital. Several other people were treated for shock, while both the storeroom and the house sustained damage.
The rocket was a 115-millimeter projectile, a police source told the Jerusalem Post.
A police bomb disposal team retrieved the rocket's remains for analysis shortly after the attack.
"These are the types of rockets we have grown accustomed to seeing since 2008," the source added.
The attack came as Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno was touring the town with Noam Schalit, father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. The two visited the home where the rocket landed, and Schalit told residents of the town he identified with their plight.
"We went through a war like this in the North and heard plenty of booms," he said. "Straight after arriving in Sderot, the Color Red warning siren was sounded and we heard the loud boom. Unfortunately we are all-too familiar with this."
Schalit added that he "doesn't envy Sderot residents" and that he wished the town quiet.
When asked about efforts to free his son, he said, "We are waiting patiently and hope to hear good news."
The Sderot residents told Schalit to intensify his fight.
"Your problem is that you're too gentle and polite, you need to shout," one of them said. "I am also a father and I know what it's like when they take a child from you. You shouldn't carry on like that."
Alemanno said he hoped the attack was an isolated incident and that it wouldn't lead to another war and more rocket-fire. He said the fundamentalists were a problem for the entire Western world, not just for Israelis, and vowed that the City of Rome would help Sderot residents repair the damage cause by the Gazan rockets.
He also said the city had decided to grant Gilad Schalit honorary citizenship and that Noam would be invited to the city to accept it on his behalf.
Tuesday's attack also came a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met US President Barack Obama in Washington and the latter said the situation in Sderot was unacceptable, adding that he'd seen the situation there himself.
Earlier Tuesday, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that there was "no chance for an effective peace process so long as Hamas rules the Gaza Strip."
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.
If this rumor has any substance, the plan will have tough sledding in Israel, which is not about to accept any form of "Right" of Return for Palestinian refugees.
May. 20, 2009
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Amid much speculation over US President Barack Obama's upcoming address to the Muslim world, reports published on Wednesday outlined the details of his plan for the Middle East.
The US president's initiative, which was formulated in consultation with Jordanian King Abdullah during the two leaders' recent meetings at the White House, reportedly does not significantly stray from the pan-Arab peace initiative. Rather, it bolsters certain details within the Saudi-proposed plan.
The Obama-Abdullah plan was put together in response to concerns from both Israel and US that the Arab plan was too general and intransigent.
The initiative, which Obama is expected to present in his Cairo speech in three weeks, reportedly sets out conditions for a demilitarized Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The matter of borders will be solved with territorial exchanges between Israel and the Palestinians, and the Old City will be established as an international zone. The plan also allows for a limited Palestinian "right of return."
Reports of the US president's new initiative ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with Obama in Washington earlier this week. During the premier's visit, Obama emphasized his commitment to a two-state solution. Netanyahu reiterated his goal to live side-by-side with the Palestinians, though he did not specifically mention a two-state solution.
It is unusual that sources outside Israel agree that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within a year. US experts generally claim that Iran will not be nuclear capable before 2013. The nuclear device that is apparently contemplated is a crude gun type uranium bomb that would require perhaps 50 KG of highly enriched uranium. A more sophisticated and lighter implosion device would require more time. Warhead design also has other constraints. Thus, the experts estimate it would take up to five years to produce a warhead. These guesstimates assume that there is no secret work going on in this field right now on warhead design and that UN inspectors see all work that is related to enrichment, but there is no basis for these assumptions. In the past, Iran concealed the existence of centrifuges and of the Arak reactor until they were revealed by opposition groups. Thus, the assumption that Iran would need to dismiss UN inspectors before begining work that would produce a weapon. .
The report states:
In fact, The Shahab 4 missile is believed to have a range of 2,000 KM and a payload of up to 1000 KG. Therefore, the above conclusion would seem to be without foundation. The operational status of the Shahab 4 is not known, but Iran has recently launched a satellite, suggesting that it has an ICBM class rocket engine. .
Last update - 08:49 20/05/2009
U.S., Russian experts: Iran could have nukes in 1 to 3 years
By The Associated Press
Iran could produce a simple nuclear device in one to three years and a nuclear warhead in another five years after that, a group of U.S. and Russian scientists and experts said in a report issued Tuesday.
They said Iran is also making advances in rocket technology and could develop a ballistic missile capable of firing a 1,000-kilogram (2,200-pound) nuclear warhead up to 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) in perhaps six to eight years.
The EastWest Institute, a nonpartisan organization which focuses on global challenges, said it brought six U.S. experts and six Russian experts together for the first time to produce a joint threat assessment on Iran's nuclear and missile potential. It said key conclusions were presented in February to U.S. National Security Advisor, Gen. James Jones, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
The experts' consensus report, issued by the institute, notes that Iran denies having a nuclear weapons program but says the government has not provided satisfactory answers to the questions raised about possible military dimensions of the program. "While Iran is continuing to enrich uranium," it said, "it is not clear whether it has taken the decision to produce nuclear weapons."
By February 2009, the report said Iran had produced 1,010 kilograms (2,222 pounds) of low-enriched uranium which would be enough for one bomb if it were converted to highly enriched uranium.
To produce weapons-grade uranium, Iran would have to get rid of UN nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency who control and monitor the low-enriched uranium and the enrichment process, the report said.
"It would then be in the range of one to three years...before a nuclear explosive device could be produced," the report said. It might take another five years to produce a nuclear warhead that could be delivered by existing and future Iranian ballistic missiles.
While Iran could, perhaps in six or eight years, develop a missile with a nuclear warhead and a 2,000-kilometer (1,200 mile) range - double its longest-range missile at present - the report said it's virtually impossible to predict how long it would take the country to produce a modern intercontinental ballistic missile.
Without additional outside technology, the report said it would be at least 10 to 15 years, adding that there is no evidence Iran has decided to build an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The timetables could be accelerated if Iran were to receive substantial outside help, the report said.
The scientists and experts concluded that there is no imminent threat of Iran firing intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles - and if there was such a threat, the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe would not provide a dependable defense against it.
It does not make sense, therefore, to proceed with deployment of the European missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, they said.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush proposed deploying a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Russia has strongly objected and President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that Moscow will take retaliatory steps if it is deployed.
The report recommends that deployment of the European missile defense system be suspended, and that Russia and the United States cooperate on ballistic missile defense and work closely together to seek, by diplomatic and political means, a resolution of the crisis surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.
Grigory Chernyavsky, one of the Russian participants who chairs the Committee of Scientists for Global Security and Arms Control, said in a statement that it wasn't easy to produce a report both sides could agree on - but the final result provides a solid technical base for decision-making.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
One hopes that this alarming bit of news is not true.
'Israel will have to take on Iran alone once Obama's efforts fail'
By Haaretz Service
Israel will be forced to take on Iran's contentious nuclear program alone once U.S. President Barack Obama's overture for dialogue with Tehran fails, an Israeli official said on Tuesday.
The official was quoted by Channel 10 as saying that Obama's insistence on engagement with Iran would force Israel to make a "difficult decision" on the matter by the end of 2009.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. lawmakers said earlier Tuesday that Israel and the United States had agreed that Iran must not be allowed to continue its contentious nuclear program.
"I was assured by President [Barack] Obama [on Monday] that the U.S. is committed to preventing that from happening," Netanyahu said after a day of talks with several U.S. lawmakers, including prominent Jewish members of Congress.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Minority Leader John Boehner told reporters following their meeting with Netanyahu that they are committed to ensuring Iran is unable to develop a nuclear weapon.
"It is important for all of us to work together to be sure that Iran does not develop a weapon of mass destruction," Pelosi said after emerging from the meeting with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu said a nuclear-armed Iran would post a threat to Arab countries in the region as well as the United States, warning Tehran could provide terrorists with a nuclear device.
"The consequences could be unimaginable," Netanyahu told Pelosi and Boehner.
Obama said Monday after his first official talks with Netanyahu that the U.S. would not have talks forever on stopping Iran's enrichment of uranium.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that Israel's public backing of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not cause Iran to abandon it's nuclear program.
"These... words will not cause Iran to stop its centrifuges. Israel has already said in the past 'two states for two peoples' and this didn't cause the Palestinians to fall into our arms and reach all the tough decisions that are required," said Barak during a tour of the Israel Defense Forces Central Command.
Barak's comments came amid mounting international pressure on Netanyahu to declare support for a Palestinian state, which the prime minister has refrained from doing.
Barak added that Israel was not ruling out any course of action against Iran's nuclear program, and that he advised other countries to do the same.
"Israel is not taking any option off the table and we recommend others not to take options off the table," he said.
The statement was apparently directed toward the United States, which has embarked on a new diplomatic policy toward the Islamic Republic under President Barak Obama.
In comments published Sunday, Obama said he understood Israel's fears over Iran's nuclear ambitions, but added that he wanted to offer the country an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules.
Barak said he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had updated him on his meeting with Obama on Monday.
"I think that we have begun a serious dialogue with the Americans," he said. "It will take time and it will encompass all of the subjects."
The report that US will reassess Iran policy in three months sounds a bit like someone's wishful thinking. If you thought the end of the world was coming real soon, you can relax. You have until the end of the year.
May. 19, 2009
THE JERUSALEM POST
During his meeting with US President Barack Obama on Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a commitment that Israel would not attack Iran at least until the end of the year and would not disturb Washington's plans for dialogue with Teheran over its nuclear program in any way, Channel 2 reported on Tuesday.
Also according to the report, Obama said that in three months - not the previously reported six - he would reassess his attempts at dialogue with the Islamic republic.
The two sides decided to set up intimate US-Israeli strategic teams to coordinate moves vis a vis the Iranian issue, continued the report.
However, quoting a top Jerusalem official, Channel 10 said that Israel was concerned that after realizing that his attempts at dialogue with Iran had failed, Obama would refuse to acknowledge it, and that Israel would then be left alone to deal with the threat posed by Teheran and would need "to make a tough decision."
On the Middle East peace process, a top US source told Channel 2 that the matter of Netanyahu's position on a two-state solution was still being worked on and that the White House expected an Israeli response on the settlement issue within a month, before Obama unveils his new peace initiative.
Netanyahu reportedly told Obama he wasn't making a commitment to freeze settlements, saying it was impractical and politically impossible.
Channel 10 said Obama viewed West Bank settlements as a real obstacle to peace, and expected Israel to stop such construction immediately. According to the report, Washington did not see any way to kick start peace negotiations while settlement expansion continued.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the perennial US demand for an Israeli settlement freeze. She said Tuesday, that she had made clear to visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel must cease its settlement activity in the West Bank.
"The president [Barack Obama] was very clear yesterday in his statement that he wants to see a stop to the settlements," Clinton told reporters, a day after she and Obama met with Netanyahu in Washington.
"I hosted a dinner for Prime Minister Netanyahu later in the day at the State Department and we reiterated that that is the position and policy of the United States government," she said.
The warning was a first sign that the smooth meeting between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu would be followed by pressure to be delivered by more junior officials. But it is a fact that the same sort of warnings were delivered for years by every US Secretary of State. While they stopped or postponed specific projects, they did not stop settlement as a whole.
A New York Times article announcing the delay of local elections in Saudi Arabia for two years gives us some insight as to what is considered "democracy" east of the Jordan river:
It seems there is division of labor - some of the people participate in the elections, while the royal family continues to make the decisions. As for women voting -- that's a long way off.
From Israel Antquities Authority...
A Bone Seal Engraved with the Name Shaul, from the Time of the First Temple, was Found in the IAA Excavations in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, in the City of David
The seal was displayed during a visit there by the Knesset presidium prior to Jerusalem Day
Today (Tuesday) the Knesset presidium, headed by Speaker Reuben Rivlin, visited the City of David in Jerusalem . A Hebrew seal that dates to the time of the First Temple was displayed for the first time during the visit. The seal was found in an excavation that is being conducted in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority, under the direction of Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the IAA, and underwritten by the 'Ir David Foundation'.
The seal, which is made of bone, was found broken and is missing a piece from its upper right side. Two parallel lines divide the surface of the seal into two registers in which Hebrew letters are engraved:
A period followed by a floral image or a tiny fruit appear at the end of the bottom name.
The name of the seal's owner was completely preserved and it is written in the shortened form of the name שאול (Shaul). The name is known from both the Bible (Genesis 36:37; 1 Samuel 9:2; 1 Chronicles 4:24 and 6:9) and from other Hebrew seals.
According to Professor Reich, "This seal joins another Hebrew seal that was previously found and three Hebrew bullae (pieces of clay stamped with seal impressions) that were discovered nearby. These five items have great chronological importance regarding the study of the development of the use of seals. While the numerous bullae that were discovered in the adjacent rock-hewn pool were found together with pottery sherds from the end of the ninth and beginning of the eighth centuries BCE, they do not bear any Semitic letters. On the other hand, the five Hebrew epigraphic artifacts were recovered from the soil that was excavated outside the pool, which contained pottery sherds that date to the last part of the eighth century.
It seems that the development in the design of the seals occurred in Judah during the course of the eighth century BCE. At the same time as they engraved figures on the seal, at some point they also started to engrave them with the names of the seals' owners. This was apparently when they started to identify the owner of the seal by his name rather than by some sort of graphic representation."
It appears that the "office" which administered the correspondence and received the goods that were all sealed with bullae continued to exist and operate within a regular format even after a residential dwelling was constructed inside the same "rock-hewn pool" and the soil and the refuse that contained the many aforementioned bullae were trapped beneath its floor. This "office" continued to generate refuse that included bullae, which were opened and broken, as well as seals that were no longer used and were discarded into the heap of rubbish that continued to accumulate in the vicinity.
For further details, kindly contact: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority spokesperson, 052-5991888, firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel Ministry of Tourism Press Release
19 May 2009
250,000 TOURISTS VISITED
13% LESS THAN APRIL 2008 AND
23% MORE THAN APRIL 2007
Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov: "The increased marketing activities that the Tourism Ministry will launch in the coming weeks are designed to further reduce the decline and bring us back to the achievements recorded in 2008."
The decrease in incoming tourism to
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 222,000 of incoming tourists stayed at least one night in
Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov : "Despite the effects of the global economic crisis and the
More than 735,000 tourists have visited Israel between the months of January to April 2009, 22% less than the same period last year (938,500) but an increase of 13% over the same period in 2007 (653,200).
The Alternative Information Center is funded as a "peace" group by European donors and is linked from "peace" Web sites. Their polemics about Israel are widely quoted in popular travel books, as if they are an objective or moral authority. It seems that they are for anything but peace. In a listing of NGOs for peace that I received, in which each provided information about it itself, Alternative Information Center listed itself as "anti-Zionist." We cannot imagine a group that lists itself as against Palestinian National Rights and declares it is against the right of the Palestinian people to self determination could be listed as a "peace" group. But as Zionism has been given a bad name, perhaps many will want to include such groups as "peace" groups, along with the boycotters and others.
But here is an op-ed from the Alternative Information Center, paid for with good European money no doubt, that blasts the Palestinian Panorama Center because they have joint projects with the Peres Peace Center. Here is the peace message of the Alternative Information Center:
This is the same sort of vicious propaganda as was published in Arabic by PACBI - the Palestinian Boycott group (see A program for wrecking Israeli-Palestinian Dialog ). Palestinians are to cooperate only with Israeli "useful idiots" who will do the bidding of extremist organizations. We can imaginage what would happen if Israeli "peace" groups issued similar guidelines, saying that Israeli NGOs must only cooperate with Palestinian groups that recognize the "god given right" of the Jewish people to sovereignty in "Judea and Samaria." Nobody would tolerate such behavior, would they?
The idea seems to be, as in the West Bank, to put all the robbers and terrorists into the police force, so they are employed. This is approximately what was done in the West Bank. But this may not work out quite as planned....
May. 18, 2009
JPost.com staff and Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST
Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah were discussing a proposal on the formation of a joint security force in the Gaza Strip during reconciliation talks in Cairo on Monday.
Fatah official Nabil Shaath was quoted by the Egyptian news service MENA as saying that an agreement on the joint force had been reached "in principle," but that many details were yet to be worked out.
Shaath reportedly added that once the accord was finalized, Egyptian and Arab forces would be deployed to oversee the implementation of the deal.
If finalized, the agreement between Fatah and Hamas would represent a breakthrough in reconciliation talks between the factions that have been ongoing for months.
Hamas and Fatah have been bitterly divided since the violent ouster of Fatah loyalists by Hamas from the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
Meanwhile, the Egyptians have informed the Palestinians of their intention to reopen the Rafah border crossing permanently after Hamas and Fatah reach an agreement on forming a unity government, a Fatah official, Azzam al-Ahmed, said.
"Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman informed us during a meeting with Hamas and Fatah representatives in Cairo last night that Egypt would begin real measures on the ground after the signing of the agreement to reopen the Rafah border crossing," Ahmed told reporters.
"He also stressed that Egypt would be in charge of renovating the border crossing."
The Rafah terminal has been closed since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip.
The Fatah official quoted Suleiman as saying that Egypt has informed Israel and the US of its intention to reopen the terminal.
Fatah and Hamas delegates said that after the current round of talks in Cairo, they would meet again in the first week of July to pursue their efforts to form a unity government.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The meeting between Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, which was supposed to be a major event of diplomatic pugilism, has ended in a gentleman's draw. Media hype-ists were selling ringside seats to the fight of the decade: "Chicago Killer vs IDF Commando." The Obama - Netanyahu meet was billed as a critical championship bout in which fans would see blood. Netanyahu would ask for immediate action on Iran, Obama would insist on immediate Israeli concessions and backing for a two-state solution.
Instead, what the spectators got to see was at most a velvet gloves sparring match, in which both leaders emphasized points of agreement and studiously avoided confrontation. We don't really know everything that went on in the closed doors meeting, but the impression left by the news conference following what was to be a supposedly historic face-off was somewhat of a Rashomon or projective test, which allowed everyone to come away with the message they wanted to hear or expected to hear. At worst, it was a 15 round sparring contest, in which Obama, who has both the advantage of being President of the United States as well as enormous charisma, won on points. There was no knockout. Publicly, there were no surprises.
Despite media hype prior to the Obama - Netanyahu meeting, there were no outward signs of real disagreement, and in fact, the two took care to agree with each other that there is an opportunity to advance peace in the face of the Iranian threat. Israeli commentators were quick to insist however, that the meeting showed a deep split. Benjamin Netanyahu talked about peace but did not mention "two states for two peoples." Barack Obama was quite specific about removal of settlements and progress toward a state, as well as the need for Palestinians to meet their obligations. Both Arabs and Israel are going to share disappointment that Barack Obama was not more specific and foreful about Iran.
May 19, 2009
Obama Meets With Israeli Prime Minister
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
WASHINGTON — After a delicate Oval Office session with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, President Obama said Monday that he wants a positive response from Iran to his diplomatic opening by the end of the year and is keeping open "a range of steps" if it fails to respond.
Mr. Obama said that he would continue to seek agreement with Iran to end a nuclear program that the West fears could produce nuclear weapons. But, he added, "we're not going to have talks forever."
Israel has grown increasingly concerned about Iran's nuclear program, dismissing Tehran's protestations that its work is peaceful. The suggestion of a limit to American patience would thus be welcomed by Israel. It might also ease, or divert, pressures on Israel to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians.
Mr. Obama, emerging from the 90-minute meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, reiterated support for a two-state Middle East solution. The Israeli leader, for his part, said that Palestinians should govern themselves but did not specifically mention a separate state.
In remarks to reporters after their Oval Office session, Mr. Netanyahu added that he was ready to open talks with Palestinians "immediately."
"We're ready to do our share, we hope the Palestinians will do their share as well," Mr. Netanyahu said. If the Palestinians recognized Israel's existence as a Jewish state and met Israeli security conditions, he said, "I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side-by-side."
But Mr. Obama also called bluntly for an end to construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. "We have to make progress on settlements," he said. "Settlements have to be stopped."
The body language between the men, who had met before but not since taking office this year, seemed good. Mr. Netanyahu called Mr. Obama a "friend of Israel." And Mr. Obama said that the Israeli leader was "in a position to achieve the security objectives of Israel but also bring about historic peace, and I'm confident that he's going to seize this moment."
As for Iran, Mr. Obama said that he was keeping open "a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions" for dealing with Iran if it proceeds with its nuclear program.
He said he hoped for progress on his diplomatic opening to Tehran by year's end but added that he saw no reason to set any artificial deadline.
The outcome of the meeting — which started a series of consultations here meant to revive Middle East peace efforts — left somewhat unclear what progress might have been made toward the two-state goal supported by the United States, Europe and others. Because other regional leaders are to follow Mr. Netanyahu here — notably the Palestinian and Egyptian presidents — both sides on Monday may have been moving with caution.
The meeting between a new American president whose views on the region are not fully known and an Israeli prime minister long reputed for his hawkish stances had been highly anticipated. Mr. Netanyahu is wary of Mr. Obama's pursuit of talks with Iran, which Israel sees as posing an existential threat; and Mr. Obama favors a two-state solution on which Mr. Netanyahu has doubts.
Earlier, a State Department spokesman, Ian C. Kelly, had declined to predict the outcome of the meeting, but said, "I wouldn't describe it as loggerheads by any stretch of the imagination."
The Obama administration hopes that fears about Iran's nuclear program will induce regional actors to overcome doubts and support an Israel-Palestinian peace plan, and Mr. Netanyahu also called for a larger role by moderate Arabs.
A regional peace would "allow the U.S. to tackle other problems, like the Iranian issue," Hussein Hassouna, the Arab League ambassador in Washington, told Bloomberg News on Monday. "We support this."
Many in the Middle East and elsewhere are still trying to divine whether the new president might break from a tradition of what some see as almost unquestioning support for Israel by American presidents. A top priority for Mr. Netanyahu was to persuade Mr. Obama to take a tougher stance against Iran.
Israeli commentators took comfort Monday from the president's comment, in a Newsweek interview posted shortly before the White House meeting, that "I've been very clear that I don't take any options off the table with respect to Iran" — a formulation traditionally understood to leave open the possibility of military attack.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday that he expected Mr. Netanyahu to signal a significant shift and endorse the creation of a Palestinian state; but on Monday, Mr. Netanyahu's national security adviser, Uzi Arad, suggested that the Israeli leader might resist pressure to move in that direction.
Israelis have been intently parsing Mr. Obama's language for any sign that he might ultimately be supportive if Israel declared that Iranian nuclear progress left it no choice but to attack. In the Newsweek interview, Mr. Obama was asked how he would talk to Mr. Netanyahu about the possibility of Israeli military action against Iran, and whether he was keeping all options open.
"I don't take options off the table when it comes to U.S. security, period," the president said. "What I have said is that we want to offer Iran an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules."
He added: "Now, will it work? We don't know. And I assure you, I'm not naïve about the difficulties of a process like this. If it doesn't work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community."
The United States and Israel also differ over Israeli settlement activity, particularly after Israeli settlers announced on Monday that the government was accepting bids for construction in a new Jewish community deep in the West Bank.
Palestinians wanted Mr. Obama to argue to Mr. Netanyahu that Israel is obliged under an existing peace plan, backed by the United States, to accept the two-state solution and stop work on settlements, Saeb Erekat, a longtime Palestinian negotiator, told The Associated Press.
Both the United States and the European Union have criticized the settlement activity.
Israeli-PA trade reaches NIS 15b. in 2008
May. 18, 2009
Tovah Lazaroff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Trade between Israel and Palestinians reached NIS 15 billion in 2008, and the traffic is increasing, said Ofir Gendelman, who heads the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in Tel Aviv.
To help promote and regulate that trade, as well as improve economic ties with the Palestinians, Israeli businessmen organized the chamber of commerce, which was registered in October 2008 and formally opened in March 2009.
On Monday, it plans to hold its first gala event in Tel Aviv with President Shimon Peres, Quartet Special Envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom, and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
There will be some 250 businessmen, as well as foreign ambassadors, including a strong representation from Egypt, Gendelman said.
The fact that the event coincides with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's first trip to Washington to meet with US President Barack Obama is purely coincidental, said Gendelman.
Nor is the chamber a vehicle to promote Netanyahu's bottom-up peace plan, in which he wants to improve facts on the ground such as the Palestinian economy before finalizing a peace deal with the Palestinians.
"Economic peace is a part of making peace. Trade is something that facilitates trust and political relations," said Gendelman.
"We do not think that there could be an economic peace without a political arrangement," he said. "But until then the businesses are doing business in spite of the political problems and obstacles," said Gendelman.
Out of the NIS 15b. in trade with the Palestinians in 2008, NIS 2b. was with Gaza and NIS 13b. was with the Palestinians in the West Bank, he said.
Ayalon said that "the ministry welcomes the opening of the chamber," which is the first venture of its kind. He added that it provided a platform by which joint economic ventures could be launched.
As part of the ministry's support for Palestinian economic progress, Ayalon said that he and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held their third meeting with Blair on Sunday. Shalom is scheduled to meet with him on Monday.
"We welcome intensive dialogue with the Quartet. This comes with the implementation of the bottom-up policy. It is not enough to have photo ops and announce some esoteric programs," said Ayalon.
On Sunday, Ayalon, Lieberman and Blair spoke of how the Quartet and Israel want to change the situation on the ground by improving the humanitarian situation for the Palestinians and strengthening the Palestinian economy through investments and job creation, Ayalon said.
They also discussed ways to increase cooperation between Israeli and businessmen, he added.
The story of the documentation of the Holocaust is not over. As people dig, it becomes more and more horrible, not only because more deaths are documented. The investigations reveal that in many places, as in the Jedwabne Pogrom, the local non-Jews, not Germans or Nazis, were the perpetrators - civilians, neighbors and friends. The priest who is doing much of this work, deserves a great deal of credit. Yet on the other hand, it is sad that he is exceptional and that as he says:
The world needs more such "fools."
French priest interviews Hitler's willing executioners in Ukraine
By Cnaan Liphshiz
A horrific page of history unfolded last Monday in Ukraine. It concerned the gruesome and untold story of a spontaneous pogrom by local villagers against hundreds of Jews in a town south of Ternopil in 1941.
Not one, but five independent witnesses recounted the tale, recalling how they rushed to a German army camp, borrowed weapons and gunned down 500 Jews inside the town's Christian cemetery. One of them remembered decapitating bodies in front of the church.
The man heading the research that led to this discovery discussed it in Israel last week; Father Patrick Desbois was in Pope Benedict XVI's entourage.
Desbois is a French Roman Catholic priest. His team has been investigating mass executions in the former Soviet Union during the Holocaust for more than six years. In 2004, he founded Yahad-In Unum, a Paris-based organization devoted to Christian-Jewish understanding.
Oral testimonies from these events in Ukraine and Belarus are but a part of Desbois' research. Using metal detectors, his team uncovers German-made cartridges and bullets as well as victims' jewelry from killing pits. The findings are transferred to an archive in Paris, where the testimonies are translated.
Earlier this year, Desbois helped start the first Holocaust masters program at the Sorbonne, focusing on the extermination in the former Soviet Union.
To Desbois, there are two holocausts: a western one and an eastern one. The western holocaust was more organized, whereas the eastern one, "the one that happened away from Berlin," was chaotic, decentralized and undocumented.
"German officers wanted to appear efficient, so they documented one mass grave and declared the place judenfrei. In reality, the killings went on for years," he says. "The only way of documenting these [other] graves is asking the locals. Time's running out, and we're the only organization on the ground there."
The Ternopil story is not unusual because of its extreme cruelty but because it's so rare for perpetrators to openly admit playing a voluntary role. Most stories Desbois hears are from people who claim that the Germans forced them to take part in executions. "[Securing testimony from five participants in] a pogrom is a historic achievement," Desbois told Haaretz.
He notes how "we couldn't have achieved this a few years ago. We didn't have the skill." He says his team's success reflects the ability to keep a poker face.
"If I react with shock, it's all over," he explains. "Often I don't react at all to what the witnesses say. I just give them an interested expression and ask very technical questions about where they stood, where the victims lay, the time of day. I keep them talking and it pours out."
Desbois' full-time, nine-member team includes a cameraman who films the testimonies, while the others listen to stories of murder and human degradation.
But sometimes the poker face cracks, he says. For instance, when one woman described how her mother would "finish off" wounded Jews with a shovel blow to the head before burying them. "My team started to react, so I kept her talking, asking in a matter-of-fact way how exactly her mother would administer the blows."
Often with local help, the Germans killed nearly 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine after their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Most of that history has gone untold. Unlike in Poland, where Jews were killed in death camps, in the Soviet Union most were mowed down and dumped into open mass graves in woodlands.
"I understand those who ask if Ukrainians and Poles were willing allies in the extermination of Jews," he says. "But I don't ask myself that, since most people I interview were children at the time. I'm only concerned with reconstructing the crime and knowing where the bodies are."
Desbois says one of his most surprising discoveries is institutionalized sexual slavery. In several interviews, he found witnesses who said German soldiers would set up houses in ghettos where they raped Jewish women. The Germans and their accomplices usually executed the women near the end of the war.
This discovery challenged perceptions that ideologically-motivated Germans would not sexually exploit a member of what the Nazis termed an inferior race.
Such accomplishments landed Desbois an honorary doctorate last week from Bar-Ilan University.
He says he arrives at a small town with five researchers and an interpreter. One approaches elderly people, who often lead the team to unmarked mass graves.
He began working in Ukraine in 2002, when he traveled to the village of Rava-Ruska. He went there in the footsteps of his paternal grandfather, who was deported to a prison camp for French soldiers.
Having researched the fate of French prisoners, Desbois discovered that 10,000 Jews had been killed at Rava-Ruska, but the town's mayor said he knew nothing.
So far, Desbois' organization has interviewed nearly 1,000 witnesses. His team has dug up mass graves only in one locale, at the request of the French Jewish community: "We do not uncover graves because of Jewish religious restrictions."
For the witnesses, the return to the killing ground is often the first time back in decades. "There, they recall more details," Desbois says. "Where the Germans stood, where this or that family was gunned down, a woman who couldn't walk and was dragged to the killing pit, or a woman who wouldn't take her clothes off."
Debois says easterners are more eager to talk about the Holocaust than westerners. "People in Ukraine want to talk. They wait on benches to be interviewed and filmed. They take us to grave sites, they welcome us into their homes - homes that used to belong to Jews," he says. "Imagine what would happen if I went around churches in Munich asking people if they helped kill Jews?"
Not another John Paul II
According to Father Patrick Desbois, the disappointment with the pope's speech at Yad Vashem -which officials at the memorial authority described as "lacking compassion" and "too general" - stems from a misunderstanding of the Holy See.
"People were expecting another Pope John Paul II. But Benedict is very different," Desbois says. After teaching mathematics as a French government employee in West Africa and working in Calcutta for three months with Mother Teresa, Desbois joined the priesthood. His secular family was horrified.
When he first began researching the extermination of Jews in the former Soviet Union, he preferred to keep it a secret for a long time. "A priest, a goy, a Catholic who does what I do.... I was afraid people would call me a fool," he says.
The interpretation that the alienation of Arabs is due to the vicissitudes of the Palestinian issue is suspect. The poll shows that 40% of Israeli Arabs are Holocaust deniers. So, are they saying that they used to believe there was a Holocaust, but forgot about it because the Palestinians started the Intifadah? Isn't it rather a failure of the Israeli education system?
Disturbing poll results: Shocking percentage of local Arabs are Shoah deniers, less than half recognize Israel's right to exist as Jewish democratic state; survey shows significant deterioration in Arab attitudes in past six years
Published: 05.17.09, 22:48 / Israel News
Only 41% of local Arabs recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, while 40.5% of Arab Israelis believe the Holocaust never happened, a new poll conducted by Haifa University revealed.
The poll's disturbing findings will be presented Monday in a conference to be held at the University of Haifa and compared to past figures.
Professor Sami Samocha, who conducted the survey, has been monitoring Arab-Jewish relations for 35 years and says the sensitive ties have seen ups and downs that closely related to current affairs.
"The most moderate year was 1995 – the golden era of the Rabin government, the Oslo Accord, and the attitude to the Palestinian people," he said. "Four years later, the great disappointment with the Netanyahu government and the October events worsened the situation."
In 1995, only 7% of Arab-Israelis said the State had no right to exist. Meanwhile, the figure rose to 22% last year. On another front, last year 56% of Arab-Israelis agreed to limit the right of return to Palestinian areas only. In a similar poll conducted in 2003, 72% of respondents supported the same statement.
'Great rift of October 2000'
Meanwhile, 41% of Arab-Israeli respondents took part in some kind of protest activity last year, while only 28% did so six years ago.
"The figures are a derivative of what we've known in recent years," Professor Samocha said, and pointed to the Gaza blockade, the Second Lebanon War, and the aftermath of the October 2000 Riots as exacerbating factors.
"In the past three or four years we are witnessing the results of the great rift of the October 2000 riots," he said. "Should this continue, the negative positions will grow stronger."
Other disturbing findings in the poll: In 2008, about 54% of Israeli Arabs said they would agree to send their children to a Hebrew school, while five years later [must be "earlier" - a.i] the figure stood at 70.5%. Meanwhile, at this time 47% of local Arabs object to having a Jewish neighbor, while in 2003 the figure stood at 27.2%.
Samocha noted that the current figures are reminiscent of the 1976 data.
"This shows us that the trend is not consistent, and that we have ups and downs," he said. "Everything depends on the State of Israel's domestic ad foreign policies."
The answer to the question of whether or not we can live with a nuclear Iran is very simple. Today, nobody is willing to touch Iran when they are about to make a nuclear weapon. After they have this weapon, it is obvious that nobody will be ready to take on Iran no matter what they do. Iran's puppets, the Hezbollah, killed hundreds of US marines in Lebanon in the 1980s. The US did nothing. Iran is today advancing its plan to take over Lebanon through the same Hezbollah, and the US does nothing. When Iran is ready to take over Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, and has nuclear weapons, can anyone believe the US will do anything?
The High Price of Deterring Iran
Who would stop a nuclear Islamic Republic from swallowing the oil-rich Gulf and fomenting unrest in the Mideast?
By EMANUELE OTTOLENGHI
As Iran's presidential elections near, there is renewed optimism that some sort of great bargain could be struck with Tehran. The hope is that a new face may come to represent Iran after the June 12 vote and with the Obama administration prepared to engage the Islamic Republic, an accommodation about its nuclear program may yet be found.
According to this line of thinking, Iran's threats to wipe Israel off the map are not serious. Iran is supposedly not so irrational that it would launch a first nuclear strike against the Jewish state. Surely, the mullahs know what would happen next -- Israel would annihilate Iran. In other words, a nuclear Iran can be contained.
"Deterrence will work with Iran," as General John Abizaid, former Centcom commander and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in 2008. "Despite what their crazy president says, I doubt seriously whether the Iranians are interested in starting a nuclear war."
This may turn out to be a dangerous miscalculation. There is a murderous streak in Iran's public discourse that calls for Israel's destruction and "Death to America." This is also a regime that without hesitation sacrificed thousands of its youth to clear minefields in the war against Iraq during the 1980s. It would be reckless for Jerusalem and Washington to dismiss the rants against the "Great Satan" and "Little Satan" as mere rhetoric. They are the rallying cries of a regime whose raison d'être is to roll back America's influence in the Middle East and usher in Israel's demise.
But let's assume Iran's nuclear quest does not necessarily serve the logic of apocalyptic politics. Let's assume Iran could be deterred from using the doomsday weapon. The question is can we afford and do we even understand the price of such deterrence? Even a rationally acting nuclear Iran may cause unacceptable harm to Western interests.
The atom bomb would enable Tehran to spread the Islamic Revolution without pushing the button. A nuclear weapon is an incredible force multiplier and -- as U.S. President Barack Obama aptly said -- constitutes a game changer. The uneasy peace that a nuclear equilibrium may guarantee tells us next to nothing about the conventional proxy wars nuclear powers tend to fight against one another.
During the Cold War, the price of the balance of terror was the recognition of spheres of influence. If Iran goes nuclear, the Western world will have to negotiate a Middle Eastern Yalta with Tehran -- one that may entail a retreat of U.S. forces from the region and an unpleasant bargain for the Gulf states and Israel. And given the geographic extent of Iran's ambitions, lines will be harder to draw than at Yalta.
Who would stop a nuclear Iran from swallowing its energy-rich neighbors or from fomenting Shia unrest in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere across the region?
Conflicts that we find difficult to resolve today will become impossible to fix, much like conflicts in Africa and Central America had to wait for the collapse of the Soviet Union in order to come to an end. While Iran may refrain from striking Israel directly, its proxies -- Hamas and Hezbollah -- will redouble their attacks and make peace between Israelis and Palestinians impossible. And a Hezbollah backed by a nuclear Iran would be able to cement its dominance in Lebanese politics, much to the detriment of the country's shrinking Christian population.
There are other dangers. "We're on the cusp of an explosion of proliferation," former U.S. National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft recently said in a testimony to the U.S. Senate, "and Iran is now the poster child." Fearing the specter of Iranian-Shiite domination, the mostly Sunni Arab regimes will seek their own nuclear insurance. The Mideast's nuclear arms race may have already begun. The IAEA said earlier this month that it found traces of weapons-grade uranium in Egypt. The Cold War nuclear balance, though, was largely predicated on the principle of mutually assured destruction between only two powers. Can a more complex and unpredictable multipolar M.A.D. work?
Even the Soviet Union and the United States teetered on the brink of nuclear war at least once, during the Cuban missile crisis. Here were two countries that knew each other well, had diplomatic relations, and kept important official and discreet channels of communication open. And yet we came close to nuclear Armageddon.
Iran and many of its prospective nuclear adversaries do not share any of those close channels -- there is no Israeli embassy in Tehran, no Iranian embassy in Washington, no hotline between the Supreme Leader and the Saudi King. The potential for misreading, misunderstanding and miscalculating is immense, especially as Iran will pursue its revolutionary aims of changing the region in its own ideological image under the shadow of the bomb.
Yes, Iran may be deterred from launching a first nuclear strike. But we may not be able to afford the price for this achievement. That is why prevention must remain the non-negotiable policy goal of the free world.
Mr. Ottolenghi is the director of the Transatlantic Institute and the author, most recently, of "Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb" (Profile Books, 2009).
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The big question that is not answered, is whether this sort of trade is still being carried on, and the answer is probably yes.
Turkish girls sold to Arabs
Cyprus Observer, 15 May 2009
'Girls sold to the Arabs' is a tragedy which has been heard about and spoken about by Turkish Cypriots for generations but there aren't many details about the essence of the issue, about why and how it happened. Under which conditions did Turkish Cypriots, who are known as loving parents, sell their children? and most importantly, what did those girls live through?
Two Turkish Cypriot journalists, Neriman Cahit and Eralp Adanir, were curious about this issue and they started researching. During their research on the island, scans through libraries and scientific sources proved to be insufficient, so they went directly to the source of the problem.
Journalist Neriman Cahit and TV producer Eralp Adanir went to Amman with the help of the Emel-Isam Muhareb family and interviewed the Turkish Cypriot women who were given to the Arabs as brides. They found some of these women, who are in their seventies, in Palestine Refugee Camps. They spoke to the children and grandchildren of some.
Neriman Cahit and Eralp Adanir are preparing to publish the result of their interviews and research with all the details and they say: "The amount of information we gathered in Amman in one week could not be obtained in Cyprus in several years. It is an unbelievable tragedy."
In Palestine Refugee Camps, these two journalists interviewed Besire from Pergama and Hatice from Aytotorolu, who were married to Palestinian Arabs at the age of 12-14 and have grandchildren today. They say: "They are most sad about the fact that their families in Cyprus never called them after they got married. They all feel offended by Cyprus and their families. They never forgot the Turkish language and they even taught their husbands and children." It is believed that about 3,000 to 4,000 girls from Cyprus were sold to Palestinian Arabs as brides during the economical problems between 1930 and 1950.
Shoaib is the Bangladeshi who stood up against Muslim extremism in his country, and who tried to travel to Israel in order to further dialogue. He was rewarded with a jail sentence and kafkaesque legal proceedings that include sedition charges. These have been ongoing since 2004. He has been beaten and his office has been ransacked on more than one occasion. Bangladesh reneged on an agreement with the United States to conclude his case speedily.
Dr. Richard L. Benkin
Looking from the outside, one might conclude that the fight for Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury has reached an impasse. And while we seem well passed the time when every month brought new and significant actions by either the Bangladeshi government or Shoaib's defenders, it would be a mistake to conclude that the world has forgotten about the anti-Islamist Muslim. Not a week goes by when I do not receive at least one interrogatory about Shoaib Choudhury and his fight for justice. Sometimes, it is from the media; and even as I have been speaking about saving the Bangladeshi Hindus from government-tolerated discrimination; the events and radio shows always begin with the host asking me for an update on the fate of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.
Calls and emails come in from average citizens wanting to know if he is all right and what they can do to help. We still receive the occasional offer of asylum—something Shoaib consistently turns down because, as he makes clear, he is a Bangladeshi. "Let the radicals leave my country," he says at such times. I still get periodic questions about boycotting Bangladeshi goods; something I have been against to this point, by the way.
Significantly, however, there is continued concern on the part of governments, as well. Recent concern from the government of Australia is instructive. The Australian Foreign Ministry has expressed interest in meeting with me for an update on the status of the Shoaib Choudhury case and to see what might be proper for it to do. In a recent letter to Australian Senator Ursula Stephens, the Foreign Ministry wrote that "The Australian Government will continue to encourage the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that Mr. Choudhury's trial is conducted in an expeditious and transparent fashion in accordance with proper judicial process and that his human rights are respected at all times." Stephens is a high ranking member of the ruling party, who is close to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. She also has been an outspoken advocate for Shoaib Choudhury.
The Foreign Ministry's letter indicates where the next phase of the international struggle for justice in his case is heading. At first, that struggle was focused on gaining Shoaib's release from imprisonment and torture in accordance with legal norms and protection of his human rights. After several government officials admitted that the charges against him were "false…and only maintained to appease the radicals," efforts focused on preventing this miscarriage of justice from entering and thus polluting the Bangladeshi legal system. Ultimately, the former (BNP) government went forward with the case and in doing so, decided their political need to "appease the radicals" was more important than the damage that doing so would bring to the people of Bangladesh. Specifically, the decision has meant that every piece of legislation intended to provide tariff relief for Bangladeshi imports to the United States has been defeated without every seeing the light of day. (The United States imports about 70 percent of Bangladesh's garment exports, and has free trade agreements and other relationships with several garment exporting countries who have been steadily eroding Bangladesh's place in the US market as a result.) Several members of the Bangladeshi government were told that these consequences would follow their continued need to placate radicals, as "the American people do not intend to spend their money to support their enemies." These included the current and former Bangladeshi ambassadors to the United States and former Home Minister Lutfuzzaman Babar, who conveyed the information to former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. Yet, the rulers in Dhaka decided to place their personal political interests above the needs of the Bangladeshi people.
Once the legal proceedings began, internationally famed human rights attorney Irwin Cotler filed an amicus curiae brief that identified almost two dozen ways in which the case against Shoaib Choudhury violated Bangladesh's own laws and international human rights laws. Dr. Cotler has defended such luminaries as Nelson Mandela, Andrei Sakharov, and Saad Ibrahim, as well as Shoaib Choudhury. And since then, the proceedings themselves have been carried out contrary to accepted principles of justice worldwide. For instance, despite the fact that the charges were brought five and a half years ago, the government has not been able to provide even a shred of evidence to support them. At one point, it alleged that Shoaib wrote an article entitled, "Hello Tel Aviv" for the American paper USA Today; a completely fictitious allegation that has never been proven in the least. The trial judge told the prosecution that it would have to produce proof of the article, or he would dismiss the case. That was on August 6, 2008, yet the government never even attempted to provide any evidence, and the judge never raised the issue again. The government's case for the past seven months has consisted of one witness, the officer in charge of Shoaib's 2003 arrest, Abdul Hanif. Moreover, he has simply not shown up to testify for the past several successive court dates. There is a legal principle in civil societies world wide that "justice delayed is justice denied"; and so in any society of laws, the court would have issued a warrant for the witness to testify or dismissed the case. The government of Bangladesh has done neither. These various illegal irregularities on the part of the Bangladeshi government, prompted one US official to suggest to me in April that "because they have no case against Shoaib, the Bangladeshis are making the legal process his punishment."
And indeed, there is no movement toward any resolution of the case by the Bangladeshi court system, causing many people to question the independence of the Bangladeshi judiciary. If it proceeds along the lines of its own law, according to one expert here, it "can vindicate its entire legal system by following its own laws and dropping the case."
Many people have wondered if Bangladesh's Awami League government will break from the policies of its predecessor or continue them, making only cosmetic changes to enhance it own image. On January 12, several members of the US Congress sent a letter to the then newly elected Prime Minister. They represented Republicans, Democrats, committees that determine appropriations and trade legislation, and the US House Bangladeshi Caucus. In the letter, they congratulated Sheikh Hasina on her electoral victory and hoped she would bring "democracy, integrity and prosperity to Bangladesh. As a first step in achieving these worthy goals," they noted, "we urge your government to quickly drop all charges against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury." "Doing so," they noted at the end of their letter, "will take a significant step toward restoring faith in the Bangladeshi government and removing a significant obstacle in Bangladeshi-American relations."
This is unusually direct language between governments, and it establishes that there has been no change in US policy in this matter, at the very least since the US Congress passed a resolution condemning the action in 2007. It also means that Bangladeshi goods will continue to be assessed higher tariffs than those of its competitors as long as it proceeds to persecute this journalist in opposition to its own constitution and international norms of human rights.
The current Bangladeshi government came to power with a promise to end that sort of injustice and corruption that has plagued Bangladesh in the international arena for years. The fact that it has done nothing to demonstrate that it is no different from previous governments is starting to take hold among many in Washington and elsewhere. Some legal experts are starting to see if the continued persecution Shoaib Choudhury can be the basis for a case against Bangladesh at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. Others are investigating to see if it can be used to exclude Bangladesh from participating in UN peacekeeping forces.
Some people who previously were willing to wait decided against that in February when Shoaib was attacked in newspaper office by, among others, operatives of the ruling party. The fact that the government has refused to take action on Shoaib's complaint against his attackers -- who are known to the police -- further confirms the belief that the Awami League government might not be what it advertised itself as prior to the election. There is even some considered opinion that it is doing so at the expense of the Bangladeshi people, at the behest of one of its supporters who has a personal vendetta against Shoaib.
In a meeting at the Bangladeshi Embassy in Washington, Ambassador M. Humayun Kabir addressed Bangladesh's inability to gain favorable trade status in the US by asking me, "How can you hold up aid for 150 million people because of one man?"
"How can I? How can you?" I responded. "You're the ones prosecuting a case you have admitted to be false. You're the ones telling the rest of the world that you place the feelings of the radicals above your own laws. All you have to do is stop it. How can I? How can you do this to your people?"
For the past six months, Shoaib's defenders in and out of several governments, have taken a wait and see approach wondering if Bangladesh will defend its own legal integrity and stop this illicit prosecution or not. Many are beginning to believe that the Awami League government has already given them its answer.
So what else is new?
It is necessary to repeat this over and over, and to remind everyone that Hamas doesn't recognize Israel, because there are those who insist on distorting the truth with circumlocutions, half truths and absolute lies. "Hamas will accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders" - true, but only as prelude to destroying Israel.
US President Obama gave a carefully timed interview to Newsweek ahead of the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The interview ranged over a wide variety of subjects. President Obama had some very important messages on Iran and Israel and Middle East peace, that do not look or sound anything like what has appeared in the media or has been published about this interview. He said that no options are off the table, and repeated that he is not naive. He also said that he can understand why Israel considers Iran to be an existential threat and emphasized that the United States cannot determine Israeli security needs. He did not explain, and was not asked, why American officials have been going around warning Israel not to attack Iran, nor did he say that he himself believes Iran to be an existential threat to Israel. He did say, when asked, that "NO" the United states will not stop Israel from attacking Iran. In fact, he said:
His words were chosen skilfully, even if the delivery seemed off hand. They should not be distorted, as some have already begun to do.
Notably absent from this interview as published on the Web: Any mention of Palestinians, peace intitiatives, settlements and two-state solutions. Literally, those words are not there, and neither is the word "Arab."
Here is the part of the interview that relates to Israel and Iran:
Make of it what you will, in the context of all other buzz, spin and rumors.
This is the Israel News and Commentary Weblog of Zionism-Israel Center. Contact: info(at)Zionism-Israel.com
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