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Monday, July 14, 2008

Media Watch International: some background

Here are some notes on Media Watch International, a pro-Israel advocacy group that has been mentioned in media reports about Prime Minister Olmert's finances.

Israel police on July 9 questioned Sharon Tzur, executive director of the New York-based group. Investigators reportedly asked Tzur about her connection to Morris Talansky, who had told police that Tzur was present on at least one occasion when Olmert received an envelope containing thousands of dollars. Media articles have described Tzur as an Olmert confidante and former Likud activist, and as "the mastermind behind"

In May, the newspaper Haaretz reported that in 2005 Tzur and Media Watch International paid a $2,200 bill for Olmert and his wife, Aliza, at the Peninsula hotel in New York City. According to the newspaper, Tzur said Olmert, who was then a cabinet minister, took part in eight meetings on behalf of her organization.

According to the group's website, "Tzur founded Media Watch International to counter the growing media bias in coverage of the Middle East. She oversaw the runaway success of, until it reached over 50,000 activists and became an independent organization."

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted Tzur in 2001 as explaining that Aish HaTorah helped create Media Watch International: "In December [2000], the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, an Orthodox group focused on outreach to secular Jews, provided close to $150,000 in seed money to create Media Watch International for a dual purpose: to absorb HonestReporting and continue with its activism and media watchdog work, and to educate the media with position papers, Tzur said." HonestReporting began as a project of Jewish university students in London after the Second Intifada broke out in late September 2000.

On its U.S. tax return, Media Watch International states that its primary purpose is to "monitor, review and evaluate the accuracy, quality and fairness of media coverage regarding the Middle East."

In 2006, the most recent period for which its tax return is available, Media Watch International reported it received tax-exempt gifts of $496,468 and spent $522,566. The outlays included $111,430 in salary and pension benefits for Tzur, who is listed as the organization's president. Its assets at the end of 2006 were $29,100 in cash, according to the tax return.

According to the tax return, the group's corporate name is "Media Caravan Inc. D/B/A Media Watch International."

The Media Watch International website states that its flagship program is Caravan for Democracy, which "fosters pro-Israel sentiment about Israel and the Middle East on colleges throughout the United States."

Media Watch International's website lists four other key people in addition to Tzur:

* Laura B. Newmark, manager of programs

* Lenny Ben-David, consultant and writer. A former deputy chief of mission at the Israel embassy in Washington, Ben-David is an independent consultant and publishes a blog at

* Ronn Torossian, communications and marketing consultant. Owner of a New York public-relations business with a Los Angeles office, Torossian publishes a blog at

* "Our ghost writer," described as a New York native who lives in Israel.

How does Media Watch International compare to other pro-Israel organizations engaged in public affairs and media monitoring? Here are some highlights from tax returns for 2006:

The Israel Project, Washington, D.C.
Purpose: "The purpose of the Israel Project is to help protect the existence of Israel and the Jewish people and to combat anti-Semitism by educating the public in the US and in other countries about Israel and situation in the Middle East, and by educating opinion leaders and the media to the same effect."
Total revenue: $6,088,157
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$200,000 - Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Net assets: $2,808,608

Zionist Organization of America, New York City
Purpose: "Public affairs -- to create public awareness in communities around the country about the happenings affecting the Jewish people. Zionist education -- to educate the public concerning the values of Zionism."
Total revenue:
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$279,346 - Morton Klein, president
$170,144 - Meir Jolovitz, executive director
$48,000 - Sheldon Fliegelman, executive director
Net assets: $11,315,771

Middle East Media and Research Institute, Inc. (MEMRI) Washington, D.C.
Purpose: "to serve as a clearinghouse for information regarding news and other cultural media in and on the subject of the Middle East"
Total revenue: $4,078,038
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$87,268 - Steven Stalinsky, executive director
$62,314 - Yigal Carmon, president (20 hours per week)
Net assets: $1,551,622

Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Inc., Boston, Mass. (CAMERA)
Purpose: "To provide the educational services necessary to give members and the general public the ability to evaluate Middle Eastern reporting"
Total revenue: $2,559,469
Officers' salaries and benefits:
$174,368 - Andrea Levin, president
$115,707 - Alex Safian, associate director
Net assets: $4,169,269, Inc., New York City (Middle East Media Watch, Skokie, Ill.)
Purpose: "To monitor and promote objective reporting by the media of events emanating from the Middle East in connection with the Israeli-Arab conflict."
Total revenue: $1,146,018
Officers' salaries and benefits:
Net assets: $230,626
NOTE:, Inc., reported a total U.S. payroll of only $20,880. It listed as key officers [Rabbi] Ephraim Shore, Beitar, Israel, president; Joe Hyams, Beit Shemesh, international director; [Rabbi] Shraga Simmons, Kiryat Sefer, Israel, secretary; and Michael Weinstein, Jerusalem, treasurer. Its largest expense item was a $414,476 payment to HonestReporting Israel.

--Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Yair Lapid asks what's wrong with Israel

As Israel's 60th birthday draws near, a chorus of complaints about the country's failures, large and small, is being heard throughout the land. Columnist Yair Lapid cataloged some leading criticisms and took issue with them in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli's largest-circulation daily newspaper. A translation of Lapid's column appeared April 26 on Ynetnews, Yedioth's English-language website.

Is Israel really that bad?

Yair Lapid has a few questions for Israelis who think that things are so bad around here

by Yair Lapid

Published: 04.26.08, 15:14,7340,L-3536046,00.html

If the state of education is so bad here, academia is in a freefall, and the brain-drain is in full force, how do you explain the fact that our high-tech sector is so successful, that the number of scientific publications is the highest in the world per capita (just like the number of patents,) and that we invented the disk-on-key and cell phone text messages?

If we don’t care about anything anymore and have no interest in what’s happening in the country, how do you explain the fact that Rabin Square gets filled up by protestors five times a year, that the evening newscasts are the most watched TV shows, and that most arguments around here are about politics?

If the public lost its faith in the IDF, our mutual responsibility is fading, and the number of draft-dodgers is skyrocketing, how do you explain the fact that all of us are so preoccupied with the fate of our captives, and that the round of recruitment that enlisted to the IDF immediately after the Second Lebanon War broke an all-time record after 70.8% of new recruits asked to join combat units?

If government corruption is everywhere and the law is a joke, how do you explain the fact that the son of a former prime minister is in jail, the former Labor minister was recently convicted over a bribe, and that our prime minister is constantly under investigation?

If our press has became silly like in America, yellow like in England, and irresponsible like in Italy, how do you explain the fact that newspapers last week cast aside all our supermodels to make room for publishing a chapter from David Grossman’s new book?

If the economy is collapsing, the concern for the poor is constantly declining, and the Treasury has been taken over by a gang of neo-conservatives who do whatever they feel like, how do you explain the fact that the number of poor Israelis has declined for the second year in a row, that the Wisconsin Plan appears to be a success story, and that not even one person has died of hunger in the history of our country?

If every ultra-Orthodox family has 10 children and more people are becoming religious, how do you explain the fact that the ultra-Orthodox have remained 8% of the population, exactly as they were when Israel was established?

Life expectancy high, unemployment low

If the Russian immigrants are failing to integrate, prefer to live in their own ghettos, read Russian newspapers, watch Russian television, and shop at their own shops, how do you explain the fact that all of them learned Hebrew, that their children are joining the IDF en masse, that about 80% of them own their apartment (a higher percentage than the general population), and that they show no intention of returning to Moscow?

If our youths are violent and detached, drink too much alcohol, and only care about going to clubs and stabbing each other, how do you explain the fact that close to 250,000 children are members of youth groups, and that tens of thousands choose to embark on a year of social service or join groups that help the needy?

If our immigration police is facing collapse because of the burden, the Agriculture Ministry brings here masses of Thai workers, every elderly Israeli has a Filipino nurse, and thousands of Palestinians come here to work every day, how do you explain the fact that unemployment in the first quarter of the year dropped to 6.5%, a 15-year low?

If our healthcare system is collapsing, our doctors are leaving, and extra health insurance coverage costs a fortune, how do you explain the fact that our per capita national expenditure dedicated to healthcare is only 7.8% of our GDP, roughly half of what it is in the US, and only two thirds of what it is in Germany and France? And how do you explain the fact that life expectancy here is higher than in all the abovementioned countries?

If President Bush is the best friend Israel ever had, Italy’s Berlusconi declares that he is warmly pro-Zionist, France’s Sarkozy decided to include Holocaust studies at every school in the country, Germany’s Angela Merkel ended the support for the Palestinian Authority and visited the Knesset to tell us how much she loves us, and Tony Blair appointed himself as a peace ambassador, how do you explain the fact that we feel like everyone hates us?

If our personal safety is declining, crime is skyrocketing, and we no longer can leave the house for fear that someone will rob us, how do you explain the fact that in a particularly broad national poll 81% of Israelis said that they are satisfied with their neighborhood and 75% said that “they feel safe when they walk alone on the street at night?”

If girls here have bad taste in clothing, every third girl gets a piercing in her belly button, half of them are tattooed like an Irish sailor, and the sweat wipes off their makeup three minutes after they leave the house, how do you explain the fact that every tourist who arrives here immediately declares that Israeli women are the most beautiful in the world?

If we have turned into a bunch of uncultured barbarians who yell on the street, swear, show contempt to academia and the arts, and only watch television, how do you explain the fact that we are number one in the world when it comes to museums per capita, number two in the world when it comes to reading books, that the percentage of Israelis who go to the theater (41%) is double the percentage of those who go to soccer games, and that one of four Israelis attended a classical music performance this year?

If we suffer so much, a plane ticket on sale is only $240, and Canada is happy to let us in, how do you explain the fact that we’re still here?


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White House statement on bombed Syrian reactor

Here is the text of a statement from the White House press office about the Syrian installation which Israeli aircraft destroyed last year. The White House states, "We have good reason to believe that reactor, which was damaged beyond repair on Sept. 6 of last year, was not intended for peaceful purposes."

The statement doesn't mention Israel.

The White House
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 24, 2008

Statement by the Press Secretary

Today, administration officials have briefed select Congressional
committees on an issue of great international concern. Until Sept. 6,
2007, the Syrian regime was building a covert nuclear reactor in its
eastern desert capable of producing plutonium. We are convinced, based
on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria's covert
nuclear activities. We have good reason to believe that reactor, which
was damaged beyond repair on Sept. 6 of last year, was not intended for
peaceful purposes. Carefully hidden from view, the reactor was not
configured for such purposes. In defiance of its international
obligations, Syria did not inform the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) of the construction of the reactor, and, after it was destroyed,
the regime moved quickly to bury evidence of its existence. This
cover-up only served to reinforce our confidence that this reactor was
not intended for peaceful activities.

We are briefing the IAEA on this intelligence. The Syrian regime must
come clean before the world regarding its illicit nuclear activities.
The Syrian regime supports terrorism, takes action that destabilizes
Lebanon, allows the transit of some foreign fighters into Iraq, and
represses its own people. If Syria wants better relations with the
international community, it should put an end to these activities.

We have long been seriously concerned about North Korea's nuclear
weapons program and its proliferation activities. North Korea's
clandestine nuclear cooperation with Syria is a dangerous manifestation
of those activities. One way we have chosen to deal with this problem is
through the Six Party Framework. Through this process we are working
with our partners to achieve the verifiable denuclearization of the
Korean Peninsula. The United States is also committed to ensuring that
North Korea does not further engage in proliferation activities. We will
work with our partners to establish in the Six Party Framework a
rigorous verification mechanism to ensure that such conduct and other
nuclear activities have ceased.

The construction of this reactor was a dangerous and potentially
destabilizing development for the region and the world. This is
particularly true because it was done covertly and in violation of the
very procedures designed to reassure the world of the peaceful intent of
nuclear activities. This development also serves as a reminder that
often the same regimes that sponsor proliferation also sponsor terrorism
and foster instability, and cooperate with one another in doing so. This
underscores that the international community is right to be very
concerned about the nuclear activities of Iran and the risks those
activities pose to the stability of the Middle East. To confront this
challenge, the international community must take further steps,
beginning with the full implementation of the United Nations Security
Council resolutions dealing with Iranian nuclear activities. The United
States calls upon the international community to redouble our common
efforts to ending these activities and preventing the spread of weapons
of mass destruction in this critical region.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Winograd report: a bigger failure than the Second Lebanon War

This is my take on the Winograd report at ZioNation Web log.
Ami Isseroff

The long awaited Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War (see text of press conference on Winograd findings) has finally arrived. The suspense, if there was any, has ended, not with a bang, but a whimper. The public part of the report noted strategic failures at the military and political levels, but the report is so vaguely worded that everyone can make any claim they wish.

We should put the failure of the
Second Lebanon war in context and understand its significance. Failures of individual operations are nothing new and plague every army. IDF has never been immune from such failures, from the Israel War of Independence and throughout each campaign, successful or otherwise.The political decisions made after every war have always likewise not been uniformly optimal, and the decision to go to war has sometimes been questionable. However, never before has Israel seen such a combination of failures at every level, inflated expectations, incompetent military strategy, failure to protect civilians, low morale, failure of national purpose, decisions that disregarded the value of the lives of soldiers and diplomatic and public relations bungling. The Israel government tried to match the most powerful army in the Middle East against an enemy whose main weapon is his mouth, and the mouth won.

The report itself is a continuation of the failures of the Lebanon war and the political reaction to the report is a further continuation of those failures. The report was obviously tailored to serve political interests and protect those in power, at least in the public version. The politicians are each interpreting the report in terms of their own interests. Hassan Nasrallah of the Hezbollah joined forces with Likud and other Israeli opposition leaders in claiming that the report indicates Olmert is a failure and has lost all credibility. Kadima party members insist that the report exonerates Ehud Olmert.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Israeli Arabs: We want to be Israelis

This poll confirms the results of many others - Israeli Arabs want to remain in Israel. However, increasing numbers of them want to be known as "Palestinians" - they want to have their Israeli citizenship and destroy it at the same time, it seems.  
Ami Isseroff


Israeli Arabs prefer remaining Israeli citizens over PA citizenship 62%:14%
Dr. Aaron Lerner 26 December, 2007

Poll Methodology Representative sample 514 Israeli Arabs Over 18 years old
Phone calls: 3-5 Dec. 2007
+ - 4.5% margin of error. 
KEEVOON Research, Strategy & Communications.

1. "There has been a lot of talk lately about the formation of a new Palestinian State.  It has been suggested by some that Israeli Arabs could continue to live in Israel, but change their citizenship to the new Palestinian State.  Given the choice, and continuing to live where you presently live today, would you prefer to be a citizen of Israel or of a new Palestinian State?"

Remain Israeli citizens 62% Join a future Palestinian State 14%
No opinion or refused to answer 24%

The strongest support for remaining citizens of Israel was exhibited by members of the Druse community, 84% of whom would choose Israel.  Lower income households also showed strong support with 71% of them choosing Israel.  Men were more likely than women to choose to remain Israeli citizens (67% vs. 56%).  The strongest support for becoming citizens of a future Palestinian State was among students with 21% as opposed to the average of 14%.   The largest percentage of undecided citizens was among Christian Arab Israelis with 43% compared to the average of 24%.

2. Among Olmert, Barak or Netanyahu, who is more likely to make peace with the Palestinian Authority and Israel's neighbors?
Barak 18% Olmert 8% Netanyahu 7% None of them 36% no opinion or refused to answer 28%

Barak's greatest support is among the Druse with 29%.  Netanyahu's greatest support is among residents of the Negev (22%) and 45-55 year olds (19%). 47% of Christian Arabs and students didn't know or refused to answer this question.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bringing Israelis back to Israel

The number of Israelis living abroad and their descendants is probably underestimated below. Wouldn't it be better to focus on the conditions that cause so many to leave, in order to give people a bigger incentive to stay?
Last update - 23:33 09/12/2007       
Absorption Ministry seeks to bring back Israelis living abroad
By The Associated Press
Israel is trying to persuade hundreds of thousands of its citizens living overseas to return home in a project to coincide with the state's 60th anniversary next year, the Absorption Ministry announced Sunday.
The project, dubbed "coming home", will try to lure Israelis living abroad to come back with tax breaks, employment and small business loans.
About 650,000 Israelis live abroad, 450,000 of them in North America, the ministry said. The ministry began contacting them last month through direct phone calls, an Internet site and a hot line.
"What surprised us most is the amount of positive feedback we received from countries where the standard of living is very high," said Erez Halfon, director of the Absorption Ministry. "We received 285 calls from Israelis living in Switzerland, and of them, 15 families have committed to coming home."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed support for the project at a cabinet meeting Sunday.
"Every Israeli, even if he lives abroad, is Israeli at heart and knows that his home is here. I call on all Israelis to return home," Olmert said.
"The project aims to bring 10,000 ex-pats back to Israel in the first year and double that number of the next few years. Between 18,000 and 21,000 Israelis emigrate each year," Halfon told reporters.
The estimated cost of the campaign is NIS 140 million a year, an amount the ministry believes will be paid back by the returning Israelis themselves. Within half a year of their being reintroduced into society as consumers, the government will get all their money back, Halfon said.
Halfon said the project aims to remove the social stigma faced by those who leave Israel, so they will have a softer landing upon their return.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Speeches of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas at the Annapolis summit

See also: Joint Israeli-Palestinian Declaration, and its meaning
The full text of Olmert, Abbas' speeches at the Annapolis summit 
By Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service  

The honorable president of the United States, George Bush, my colleague, president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, heads of delegations, and distinguished guests, I came here today from Jerusalem, Mr. President, at your invitation, to extend, on behalf of the people of Israel and the state of Israel, to the Palestinian people and to our neighboring Arab states, to extend a hand in peace, a hand which marks the beginning of historic reconciliation between us and you, the Palestinians, and all of the Arab nations.
I had many good reasons not to come here to this meeting. Memory of failures in the near and distant past weighed heavy upon us. The dreadful terrorism perpetrated by Palestinian terrorist organizations has affected thousands of Israeli citizens, has destroyed families and has tried to disrupt the lives of the citizens of Israel.
I witnessed this when I served as mayor of Jerusalem in days of bombings at cafes, on buses, and in recreational centers in Jerusalem, as well as in other cities in the state of Israel.
The ongoing shooting of Qassam rockets against tens of thousands of residents in the south of Israel, particularly in the city of Sderot, serves as a warning sign, one which we cannot overlook.
The absence of governmental institutions and effective law enforcement mechanisms, the role of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the ongoing activity of murderous organizations throughout all the territories of the Palestinian Authority, the absence of a legal system that meets the basic criteria of democratic government, all of these are factors which deter us from moving forward too hastily.
I am not overlooking any of these obstacles which are liable to emerge along the way. I see them.
But I came here, despite the concerns and the doubts and the hesitations to say to you, President Mahmoud Abbas, and through you to your people, and to the entire Arab world, the time has come.
We no longer and you no longer have the privilege of adhering to dreams which are disconnected from the sufferings of our peoples, the hardships that they experience daily, and the burden of living under ongoing uncertainty, which offers no hope of change or of a better future.
We want peace. We demand an end to terror, an end to incitement and to hatred.
We are prepared to make a painful compromise, rife with risks, in order to realize these aspirations.
I came here today not in order to settle historical accounts between us and you about what caused the confrontations and the hatred, and what for many years has prevented a compromise, a settlement of peace.
I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I acknowledge the fact I know that alongside the constant suffering that many in Israel have experienced, because of our history, because of the wars, the terrorism and the hatred toward us, a suffering that has always been part of our lives in our land, your people, too, have suffered for many years; and there are some who still suffer.
Many Palestinians have been living for decades in camps, disconnected from the environment in which they grew up, wallowing in poverty, in neglect, alienation, bitterness, and a deep, unrelenting sense of humiliation.
I know that this pain and this humiliation are the deepest foundations which fomented the ethos of hatred toward us. We are not indifferent to this suffering. We are not oblivious to the tragedies that you have experienced.
I believe that, in the course of negotiations between us, we will find the right way, as part of an international effort, in which we will participate, to assist these Palestinians in finding a proper framework for their future, in the Palestinian state that will be established in the territories agreed upon between us.
Israel will be part of an international mechanism that will assist in finding a solution to this problem.
The negotiations between us will not take place here in Annapolis but rather in our home and in your home. These negotiations will be bilateral, direct, ongoing, and continuous, in an effort to complete the process in the course of 2008.
The negotiations will address all of the issues which we have thus far avoided dealing with.
We will do this directly, openly and courageously. We will not avoid any subject. We will deal with all the core issues.
I am convinced that the reality that emerged in our region in 1967 will change significantly.
This will be an extremely difficult process for many of us, but it is nevertheless inevitable. I know this. Many of my people know this. We are prepared for it.
In the course of the negotiations, we will use previous agreements as a point of departure. U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the road map, and the letter of President Bush to the prime minister of Israel dated April 14, 2004.
When the negotiations are concluded, I believe that we shall be able to arrive at an agreement that will fulfill the vision expressed by President Bush: two states for two peoples, a peace-seeking Palestinian state, a viable, strong, democratic and terror-free state for the Palestinian people; and the state of Israel, Jewish and democratic, living in security and free from the threat of terrorism, the national home of the Jewish people.
Clearly the implementation of the agreement will be subject to the implementation of all obligations in the road map with all of its phases and according to its complete sequence, as concluded between us from the very beginning.
We will abide by all of our obligations, and so will you.
The agreement with you and its gradual implementation, cautiously and responsibly, is part of a much wider whole which will lead us, I believe and hope, to peace, to a peace agreement with all of the Arab states.
There isn't a single Arab state in the north, in the east or in the south with which we do not seek peace. There isn't a single Muslim state with which we do not want to establish diplomatic relations.
Anyone who wants to make peace with us, we say to them, from the bottom of our hearts (SPEAKING IN ARABIC) welcome.
I am pleased to see here in this hall representatives of Arab countries. Most of them do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The time has come for you as well.
We cannot continue to stand by indefinitely and to watch the -- watch you standing and watching from the sidelines, watching the peace train, as it were, going by. The time has come to end the boycott, the alienation and the obliviousness toward the state of Israel. It does not help you and it hurts us.
I am familiar with the Arab peace initiative, which was born in Riyadh, affirmed in Beirut and recently reaffirmed by you in Riyadh.
I value this initiative, I acknowledge its importance, and I highly appreciate its contribution. I have no doubt that we will continue to refer to it in the course of the negotiations between us and the Palestinian leadership.
The Arab world represented here by many countries is a vital component in creating a new reality in the Middle East. The peace signed between Israel and Egypt, and subsequently between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a solid foundation of stability and hope in our region.
This peace is an example and a model of the relations that we can build with Arab states. My close relations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan are extremely significant for the process of building trust and understanding with the Arab states.
However, these relations, important though they may be, are not enough. We aspire for normalization with those Arab states which eschew as much as we do radical and fanatical fundamentalism and which seek to grant their citizens a more moderate, tolerant and prosperous world.
This is an interest that all of us share.
There is quite a lot that separates us. There are memories, there is a heritage, that do not emanate from the same historical roots. We have different ways of living, different customs. And the spontaneous emotional identification that you feel with our neighboring Arab countries, which have been trapped for a long time in this age-old, bloody conflict between us.
Nevertheless, there is also a great deal that we share. Like us, you know that religious fanaticism and national extremism are a perfect recipe for domestic instability, for violence, for bitterness and, ultimately, for the disintegration of the very foundations of coexistence based on tolerance and mutual acceptance.
We are a small country with a small population, but rich in good will and with a significant ability to create a partnership that will lead to prosperity, to growth, to economic development, and to stability for the entire region.
From here, from Annapolis, we can come forth with a message of a new political horizon, renewed hope, not only for the Palestinians and the Israelis but also, together with you, for the entire region.
Mr. President of the United States, my colleague Mahmoud Abbas, distinguished guests, almost two years ago, under very sad circumstances, the prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, was no longer able to carry the heavy responsibility of leading the state of Israel and this responsibility was passed on to me, first as a result of formal procedures and subsequently on the basis of an election in Israel's democratic system of government.
Prior to my election, I stated that my heart's desire and the desire of my people was to achieve a peace agreement, first and foremost with the Palestinian people. This is what I believed then, and this is what I continue to believe in now, with all my heart.
The past two years have been difficult for all of us.
The hardships have not been alleviated. The terrorist organizations have not been weakened. The enemies of peace have not disappeared. And we are still anxiously awaiting the return of our missing and captive sons who are being held by terrorist organizations.
I long for the day when I can see Gilad, Eldad and Udi back with their families. And I will continue relentlessly in my efforts to achieve their release.
I believe that there is no path other than the path of peace. I believe that there is no just solution other than the solution of two national states for two peoples. I believe that there is no path that does not involve painful compromise for you, the Palestinians, and for us, the Israelis.
I would like to thank you, President of United States George Bush, an ally in the path of peace, for your willingness, for the preparedness of your government, your administration, and for the assistance of the secretary of state, Ms. Rice, to assist us in the historical process of peace and reconciliation between us and our neighbors. I believe that the time has come. We are ready.
I invite you, my friend, Mahmoud Abbas, and your people to join us in this long and tormenting and complex path for which there is no substitute.
Together, we shall start. Together, we shall arrive.
Thank you very much.

In the name of God, the compassionate, with great hope, but it is accompanied with great worry that this new opportunity might be lost.
But the meanings of your message are well known and they carry your personal bridge and commitment by your great country and its determination to embrace the Palestinian and Israeli peace and the Arab-Israeli peace to be converted in the arena of negotiations to be the first and foremost arena for making peace.
And that this initiative would culminate your term of office is an outstanding achievement which would add a new shining star in the skies of the world, the world of the future free of violence, oppression and bigotry.
And also we would like to applaud you, Mr. President, for choosing this charming city, Annapolis, as a venue for convening this international conference.
In addition to its beauty and distinctive location, it bears the symbol of freedom; the most sublime value in our life.
"Freedom" is the single word that stands for the future of the Palestinians and captures the meanings of all their generations. It is their sunshine and it is the life that inspires their future. It is the last word voiced by the martyrs and victims, and it is the lyric (ph) of their prisoners.
I must also pay tribute to the role played by Dr. Condoleezza Rice and her aides. For without here relentless resolve and determination and her vision vis-a-vis all aspects of conflict in our region, we would not have been convening here.
Dr. Rice took important strides with us in order to affirm that the path of peace is the only choice and it is irreversible. And that the path to negotiations for peace and to achieve peace is the right path.
It is important for me to indicate here that this distinguished participation and large participation from sister Arab and Islamic countries, the quartet, and the group of great industrial countries, and the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, and many prominent European and Asian countries, as well as non-aligned countries and African states and from South America, in a unique conference in the history of the conflicts would provide impetus and protection, in addition to the fact that it carries the meanings of encouragement to pursue the path of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations and move that forward and the need to reach the solution of two states, based on ending occupation and the establishment of the state of Palestine side by side to the state of Israel, and the resolution of all issues relating to the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, Arab-Israeli conflict in all their aspects, as an indispensable qualitative step, so that comprehensive and normal peace relations would be established in our region.
I am proud that this Arab and Islamic contribution and this broad international that this Arab and Islamic contribution and this broad international participation in the work of this conference is a testimony to the fact that sister and friendly states are standing by us, the people of Palestine, as a leadership, and for our efforts to achieve peace.
It is a support of our approach that calls for a balanced historical settlement that would ensure peace and security for our independent state and for Israel, as well as for all countries in the region.
This Arab and Islamic participation in today's meeting is also an affirmation that the Arab peace initiative was not a step without well-defined targets, but indeed it was a bold strategic plan that aims changing the nature of relations in the region and to usher in a new era there.
But to achieve that does not depend on the Arab and Islamic position by itself, but requires meeting this position by a reciprocal strategic willingness that would basically lead to ending the occupation of all Palestinian occupied territories in 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan and what remains of occupied from Lebanese territories, and to resolve all other issues relating to the conflict, especially the Palestinian refugees question in all its political, humanitarian, individual and common aspects, consistent with Resolution 194, as emphasized by the Arab peace initiative and the participation of sister states that host refugees and carry huge burdens in this regard.
I am not making an overstatement, Mr. President, if I say that our region stands at a crossroad that separates two historical phases, pre-Annapolis phase and post-Annapolis phase.
In other words, this extraordinary huge opportunity provided today by the Arab, Islamic and international position, and the overwhelming support from the public opinion in both the Palestinian and Israeli societies for the need to exploit the occasion of this conference that would launch the negotiating process and not to do away with the potential that it carries, I say that this opportunity might not be repeated. And if it were to be repeated, it might not enjoy the same unanimity and impetus.
Mr. President, what we are facing today is not just the challenge of peace, but we are facing a test of our credibility as a whole: the United States, members of the quartet, and all members of the international community, Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, the Arab and Islamic group, as well.
It is a test that would leave its indelible impact on the future of the region and on the relationship among its peoples and the international powers that are entrusted in the peace, stability of our region on the other hand.
We came with this perspective to Annapolis today. And, therefore, we do recognize the volume of this possibility that we are bearing and the gravity of the burden that we must shoulder.
We do recognize, and I presume that you share me this view, that the absence of hope and overwhelming despair would feed extremism. Therefore, we have a common duty to spread genuine hope in order to achieve full transformation toward complete peace (inaudible) and long term during your term of office, Mr. President, thanks to your support and understanding.
Tomorrow, we have to start comprehensive and deep negotiations on all issues of final status, including Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, water and security and others.
We have to support this negotiating process in concrete and direct steps on the ground that would prove that we are moving in an irreversible path toward negotiated, comprehensive and full peace, and to ensure ending all settlement activities, including natural growth, and reopening closed Jerusalem institutions, removal of settlement outposts, removal of road blocks, and freedom of prisoners, and to facilitate our mission in the authority to enforce law and the rule of law.
Here, I must defend in all sincerity and candor, and without wavering, the right of our people to see a new dawn, without occupation, without settlement, without separation walls, without prisons where thousands of prisoners are detained, without assassinations, without siege, without barriers around villages and (inaudible).
I look forward, Mr. President, to see that our prisoners have been set free and returned to exercise their role in supporting peace and to stand by us in our mission to build our statehood and our homeland.
It is my duty to say that, to have peace, we need the fate of the city of Jerusalem to be a critical component in any peace accord that we might reach.
We need East Jerusalem to be our capital and to establish open relations with western Jerusalem, and to ensure for all the faithful from all religions their right to exercise their rituals and to access holy shrines without any discrimination and on the basis of international and humanitarian goals.
In this regard, I wish to emphasize that we shall pursue our obligations under the road map, in order to combat chaos, violence, terrorism, and to ensure security, order and the rule of law.
The government of the Palestinian National Authority works tirelessly and without any wavering under extremely conditions to achieve this noble goal that represents, first and foremost, a Palestinian national interest before it becomes a political requirement that is imposed by signed accords or the road map.
Our people distinguish completely between emphasis on the danger of terrorism and using it as a pretext to maintain the status quo and to pursue the current practices that we suffer from every day.
There must be a chance given to us to build our civilian security and economic institutions.
And the international community must sponsor this opportunity so that our authority and our government would fully fulfill their mandates.
I must emphasize that our determination to end occupation emanates from our vision that we would remove the most important reasons for terrorism in our region and worldwide without underestimating the need to fight terrorism under all circumstances and from any source. Because it is a comprehensive threat that threatens the future of every people and imperils human civilization, its gains and achievements, and brings dire consequences on all of us.
Here, I must applaud the tireless efforts undertaken by Mr. Tony Blair, who continues to work in order to build and enhance building Palestinian institutions and to complete great projects at the economic level in order to improve the living conditions and the terms of peace. And in that endeavor, he continues to submit very constructive ideas.
And I wish to pay tribute to the role of the European Union, Japan and our Arab brothers who made commitments to support these economic projects and building the future Palestinian state institutions.
Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to address the mind and conscience of every citizen in Israel from this rostrum.
I'm speaking on the basis for our recognition that, despite the importance of international and regional support for the success of the peace process, but the most determining factor for the making peace and stability and its sustainability at the end of the day is the public opinion in Palestine, Israel and their legitimate leaders.
I start by saying that, despite our disagreements on critical issues, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert showed desire for peace that I have perceived during our bilateral discussions, and that genuinely contributed to reach this important step for which we are meeting today in order to launch.
Mr. Prime Minister, I wish that we, together, continue and closely work in order to achieve a historical mission that we have waited for too long.
Each one of us must pitch in our weight and experience and sense of resolve in order to overcome the obstacles that we will face and to close the gaps between our positions in a bid to achieve a solution that would end occupation and the long years of suffering of the refugees and ensure good neighbor relations, economic cooperation, humanitarian openness so that all of them would ensure guarantees for peace that are stronger than any documents, commitments or pledges, despite the importance of these all.
I say to the citizens of Israel, in this extraordinary day, you, our neighbors on this small land, neither us nor you are begging for peace from each other. It is a common interest for us and for you.
Peace and freedom is a right to us, in as much as peace and security is a right for you and for us.
Time has come for the cycle of blood, violence and occupation to come to an end. Time has come that both of us should look at the future with confidence and hope, and that this long-suffering land, which was called the land of love and peace, would not be worth of its own name.
Peace is not impossible to achieve if there was will and good faith and every party got its legitimate right.
Those who say that peace-making between us is impossible, actually does not need except to perpetuate this conflict toward the unknown, but it is, we all know, in other words, that continuation of bloodshed for many decades to come. After that, we would not reach the solution proposed today, all of which we know, all its components and elements. Or the ideal of peace would be killed in the hearts and minds.
Indeed, peace is possible but it requires our common efforts so that we could make it and preserve it.
And on this day we stretch our hands to you as equal partners in peace. The whole world is our witness and the world as a whole is supporting us.
Therefore, we should not lose this opportunity which might not be available once again. Let us make a peace with a brave (ph) and protect that peace in the interest of the future of our children and your children.
To our friends across the globe, members of the international quartet, and all participants in this conference, powers and states outside this conference who have been and continue to lend support for us, I say to all of you that our people will never, ever forget your support for it under all circumstances and under our most difficult times.
We look forward that your political presence will continue to be with us after this conference, in order to support Palestinian-Israeli negotiations with a view to reach the desired results.
We all hope that the work of this conference would be supported by the success of the Paris economic conference to be held after a few weeks.
The continuation and success of negotiations would be the real key to change the face of the entire region.
Allah, the Lord, said in the Koran, in the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, all you who believe, enter into peace, all of you, don't follow the steps of Satan.
Satan is your obvious enemy."
The Lord also said, "If they move toward peace, then you should move to peace and have faith in the Lord, because God, the Lord, will listen and support that effort."
And on this occasion, may I record here, as we are here in the United States of America, the words of former United States President John F. Kennedy, who said, quote, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate," end of quotation.
To our Palestinian people, to all Palestinians in Gaza, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and in refugee camps and the diaspora, may I address these words?
I do recognize that each one of you has his or her personal pain, personal tragedy as a result of this conflict and as a result of the years of tragedy and occupation. These are very bitter years.
Don't be depressed, Don't lose confidence and hope, For the whole world today now is stretching its hand toward us in order to help us put an end to our tragedy, to our holocaust that has been running for too long, and to lift the historical injustice that our people suffer.
And we shall be ready as individuals and as a people to overcome pain and the tragedy when we reach a settlement that would ensure our rights, that would make us equal with all other peoples in the whole world: the right to independence and self-determination.
To the Palestinian mothers who are awaiting the return of their children from prisons, to the Palestinian children who are dreaming of a new life, a better future - more prosperous, more safe future, to our brave prisoners - my sisters, brothers, children - wherever you are, have confidence in the future and tomorrow, because future Palestine is coming, because this is the promise of the whole world to you.
Be confident that the dawn is coming.
To my people and relatives in the Gaza Strip, you are at the core of my heart. The hours of darkness will end in the face of your resolve and determination. For your insistence on the unity of our people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one geographical political unit without any divergence, your suffering will end. Right and peace will prevail.
May I close by recalling some words of Abraham Lincoln in one of the darkest moments of American history? Quote, "Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations," end of quotation.
We started with peace and I end on a note of peace and we hope that peace would prevail. Peace be upon all of you

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Why we hate Olmert

Ehud Asheri (see Olmert Hate) writes:
Anyone who has ever tried to put in a good word for Ehud Olmert knows the drill. In the best case, he receives questioning glances, as if his mind had slipped a gear. In the less-best case, he is considered an incorrigible coddler protecting a deceitful prime minister for political reasons. In the worst case he is branded a garden-variety sycophant, bought by the regime for some unknown favor. In all these cases one gets the sense that to support the prime minister, however insubstantially, is to commit an act of moral turpitude.
The polls confirm this perception. Even after the operation in Syria (which was supposed to rehabilitate his military image) and the disclosure of his cancer (which was supposed to provoke empathy), more than 75 percent of Israelis are dissatisfied with Olmert and think he is unfit to be prime minister. Israel has never had a prime minister who is less well-liked and whose rivals march well ahead of him in the popularity parade.
To find the deepest reason for the Olmert hatred, one must search the depths of mass psychology, in the general sense of the crumbling of the state's authority, the lack of vision - all the factors that make up a leadership crisis. Israelis may be content on the personal level, but they are depressed on the national one. They have no direction. Author David Grossman put it well: "The people leading Israel today are unable to connect Israelis to their identity .... [to] give some meaning to the exhausting and despairing struggle for existence."
Olmert is a victim of this dynamic, but he also contributes to it through his personal and political behavior. As a leader, he personifies the Israeli identity crisis - he lacks a clear vision, he is not built for greatness, he conducts small, shady business deals and is beholden to the techniques of survival. It isn't as if there are other great lights at hand, but when we look at him we see ourselves instead of who we could be. That's why we don't like him.
I confess that I believe it too. I don't hate Olmert. I despise him because he is a shopkeeper - a beancounter. He would not call up the reserves in the Lebanon war because he wanted to save money. He is the Jew who, when confronted by a bandit who says "Your money or your life," says "Take my life, I need my money for my old age."
But I know that a lot of people hate Olmert because he threatens their precious settlements. If they had a beancounter and a crook in charge who liked settlements, they would love him. They had no problem with Sharon's "moral turpitude" as long as he was for Greater Israel. They only discovered that it is not nice to take bribes when Sharon announced the disengagement plan.
And I also remember the other Prime Ministers who were hated. Remember when Rabin had an approval rating of about 25%? And there was one other guy who was a shopkeeper, a coward, hesitant and so on. He had no charisma. He stuttered. He made deals.  Remember him? He was Levy Eshkol, whose quiet leadership made possible a military victory that changed the history of the Middle East.
Olmert unfortunately doesn't seem to be a Levy Eshkol, does he? But having a beancounter PM is not the worst possible thing. The worst case scenario is that we will have a beancounter as PM and LIKE him.
Ami Isseroff  

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rabin took responsibility for a failed mission

(Cross-posted from Israel: Like this, as if)

Israel's media are busy reminiscing about Yitzhak Rabin.

Today (Oct. 24) on our Hebrew lunar calendar is 12 Heshvan, the 12th anniversary of the assassinated Prime Minister's death. (On the Gregorian calendar, the assassination took place Nov. 4.)

One Rabin memory which stays with me is hearing the rumble of his deep voice in a television broadcast that echoed from open windows along the silent streets of Tel Aviv on Sabbath Eve, October 14, 1994.

Rabin had gone on the air to announce the failure of a rescue mission. A Sayeret Matcal commando force acting on precise intelligence had raided a house north of Jerusalem in an effort to free Nahshon Wachsman, a young Israeli soldier who was being held hostage by Hamas. The hostage died in the rescue attempt, which also took the life of the Israeli mission commander, Capt. Nir Poraz, 23.

Today in a radio interview one of his aides recalled that Rabin insisted that night on publicly taking responsibility for the failure of the mission. Ehud Barak, who was then the military chief of staff, was ready to go on the air with the announcement, the aide said, but Rabin emphasized, "I was responsible."

Rabin later said that approving this rescue operation was one of the most difficult decisions of his life.

Taking responsibility is a quality for which people remember Rabin. How many other heads of government can you recall going on national television to take responsibility for a mission that failed?

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv, October 24, 2007

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Preparing for the worst: Israel's missile defense

Israel To Develop Top-Tier Missile Interceptor
By BARBARA OPALL-ROME Posted 10/22/07 18:22
TEL AVIV - While Israeli political leaders may still harbor hope of diplomatically dismantling Iran's nuclear program, Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials are forging ahead with plans to develop new top-tier defenses against doomsday-like threats should diplomacy fail.

"Unlike the diplomats and politicians, we don't have the luxury of hope," a senior military planner here said. "Our job is to anticipate the most extreme, worst-case scenarios and make sure we're prepared to handle them."

Defense and industry officials say the prospective top-tier defensive layer - known here as Arrow-3 - requires development of an entirely new interceptor capable of blunting potentially devastating salvo attacks by nuclear-tipped Iranian missiles. Preliminary MoD plans envision the exo-atmospheric Arrow-3 as the nation's future front line of active defense, with the operational Arrow-2 deployed as a second-echelon guard against lesser threats and so-called leakers.

The planned upward extension of Israel's defensive envelope promises more opportunities to intercept incoming missiles, thereby boosting success rates - or so-called kill probabilities - from current levels of more than 80 percent to "somewhere in the very high 90s," said the planner, a general officer in the Israel Defense Forces.

"After careful analysis, we've come to the conclusion that we need an upper layer," said Arieh Herzog, director of the MoD's Israel Missile Defense Organization. "Our requirement is now quite clear: We need to give ourselves more chances to intercept the threats we will face."

Herzog said he is confident that existing Block 3 and new Block 4 upgrades of the Arrow-2 are now capable of defending against current and projected near-term threats. But for the longer term, given the specter of synchronized launches of increasingly high-performance nuclear-tipped missiles, the top tier becomes imperative, he said.

Looking at All Threats

In a preliminary conceptual design study conducted over the past year or so, Herzog's team and experts from the Israel Air Force examined options for defending against future threats. Options included more Arrow-2 upgrades and the U.S.-planned Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system."What we discovered is that THAAD is an excellent system, and I'm sure
whoever uses THAAD will derive great benefit from it. But in our specific case, it cannot fit our requirements," Herzog said.

According to Herzog, Israel's operational force of Arrow-2 and PAC-2 systems now provide the type of high-low mix that the MoD plans to recreate - through Arrow-2 and the proposed Arrow-3 - for future, far more sophisticated threats.

"Right now, with Arrow-2 and existing Patriot systems, we have a good solution against the Scud-family of threats from Iran, Syria and other points in the region," he said.

The Israeli missile defense boss said security classification prevented him from discussing specific reasons that his evaluation team ultimately disqualified the THAAD. He said, however, Israeli professionals are discussing the top-tier report and the new Arrow-3 with counterparts from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

He said MDA support for the prospective interceptor is critical, not only for the considerable funding anticipated from Washington, but because of the need to share data and subsystem technologies over the life of the program.

"We've not yet decided how much year-by-year funding each side must earmark for the program, and we'll probably need to sign new documents about how technical information should be handled," Herzog said. "But I hope by the end of this year, all these details will be sorted out and we'll be able to say we have a real program."

He estimated it would take at least five years and "several hundred million dollars" for the first Arrow-3s to become operational.

Herzog said the new interceptor would use the same radar, battle management and other supporting systems developed for Arrow-2, helping to keep interoperability up and costs down.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will remain the prime contractor and lead integrator for the prospective Arrow-3 program, Herzog said.

In interviews here, industry sources said IAI has already begun negotiations with Boeing Missile Defense Systems to extend the co-production partnership begun in 2003. Boeing produces nearly 40 percent of Arrow-2 components under a complex, U.S.-funded government-to-government teaming agreement managed by Israel's MoD and the Arrow program office in Huntsville, Ala.

Two-Part Iran Strategy

Israel's two-pronged strategy for countering the Iranian threat was clearly evident last week, with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Moscow pushing harsher sanctions on Tehran and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Washington drumming up support for strategic cooperative initiatives.

In an Oct. 16 Pentagon meeting focused largely on the Iranian threat, Barak and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed to collaborate jointly on multiple layers of anti-rocket and anti-missile defense. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the two sides agreed to establish a committee to evaluate Israel's proposed Arrow-3, as well as new developments aimed at halting "Palestinian rockets coming from Gaza."

Barak also reaffirmed Israel's "understanding" of multibillion-dollar arms packages planned for Arabian Gulf states as part of Washington's Iran-focused Gulf Security Dialogue, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. The Iranian threat also dominated discussions Barak held with U.S. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and key congressional leaders, Israeli sources here said.

Meanwhile, Olmert was attempting to persuade Russian President Vladmir Putin of the need for get-tough sanctions favored by Israel, the United States and many leading European states. In three hours of one-on-one deliberations - which included presentation of the latest Israeli intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program - Olmert managed to offset some of the Russian-Iranian solidarity exhibited during the Russian leader's visit to Tehran earlier last week, an Olmert aide said.

Yet key issues remain open, including pending Russian arms sales to Iran and Syria, the aide said. And while Putin "expressed genuine interest in understanding our security concerns," the aide said Moscow remains opposed "at this time" to sanctions.

Earlier last week, following meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Putin rebuffed U.S., European and Israeli calls for sanctions and insisted he had seen no convincing evidence to counter Tehran's claims that ongoing nuclear efforts are for peaceful, energy-related purposes. In an Oct. 16 news conference in Tehran, he upbraided Bush, French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy and other world leaders for even hinting at use of a military option to solve the dispute.

Israeli officials are taking comfort in Washington's commitment to deny Iran nuclear weapons.

They are also intensifying efforts in China, where they are appealing for support - or, at least non-active objection - to sanctions. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to visit Beijing later this week in attempts to persuade Chinese leaders not to veto resolutions planned for introduction in the U.N. Security Council.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One Million Voices: Middle East peace and its enemies

An op-ed about the peace virus captures much of the tragic reality of the current "peace" negotiations and has a correct prognosis in many ways. However, being a worshipper in a particular temple of received opinion, the author, Gadi Baltiansky, makes assumptions that are not in evidence.

He writes:

If the summit succeeds, the historical turning point shall come – if the principles of a final-status agreement are formulated, and if negotiations are launched on the details of the core issues. Yet it is very possible that the skeptics and cynics are right. The deal won't be reached and the summit will fail. However, even at such case, we could see a historical turning point --- for the worst.

Even were a deal to be reached, there is no way that Mahmoud Abbas would be able to keep his part of the bargain, as he doesn't control the Palestinian "street" and shows no will to do so.

The peace talks and the peace conference are supposed to be his party and the party of the Fatah, but Abbas can't seem to raise support for them even in the West Bank. They would grant greater legitimacy to the government of Mahmoud Abbas as opposed to his Hamas rivals. On October 18, there was to be a major peace event. It was planned before anyone knew of the November summit, perhaps before The United States policy makers Bush thought of the idea, but its timing was fortuitous. It required months of preparation. The One Million Voices group was to hold simultaneous concerts in Jericho, Tel Aviv and numerous other cities as a public demonstration of the will for peace. Attendees would be called on to sign a declaration demanding of both governments that they negotiate sincerely for peace. The declaration takes no position at all regarding the outcome of the negotiations or the nature of the final status agreement to be negotiated. You can read it and sign it at the One Million Voices Web site. Threats by Palestinian terrorist groups and their groupies against the performers and organizers of the event first caused cancellation of the Jericho event (See Drowning out One Million Voices: The enemies of peace
) and now have caused cancellation of all the events. Danny Lubetzky's One Voice Movement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, often a target of right wing Zionist extremists, was behind the event. The event was cancelled, but the campaign to gather grass roots support for peace in Israel and among Palestinians goes on.

A coalition of terror groupies and peace thugs, ranging from Abunimah and his Electronic Intifada to PACBI - Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to Neta Golan and ISM, smeared the One Million Voices campaign as a Zionist plot to perpetuate "apartheid" - meaning a real two state solution. The event organizers decided that there is no point in holding such events if they are not held both in Israel and Palestine. The terror camp will hold their own event, called "Another voice." At least for that one night, their "voice" will not be the boom of rockets and suicide bombers, but its meaning is the same.

There are many lessons to be learned, for those who would learn. The first is that Abu Mazen is not in control of the West Bank. He is titular head of a lawless society and cannot deliver on any promises of peace, not even in this case, where the event in question was so obviously advantageous to him.

A second lesson is that the political will for peace is absent on the Palestinian side. Baltiansky wrote:

The peace-loving Palestinians – and this is the majority on their side, will argue they have no partner on the Israeli side, and the only horizon they will see is the one of the fence, roadblock, and settlement.
The peace-loving Palestinians were called upon to stand up and be counted. The One Million Voices event was a way of mobilizing "people power" for peace on both sides. But the Palestinian people sat down and shut up instead - both the ordinary people and their leaders. From a BBC article about the canellation of the event we learn:

Leading Palestinians who initially supported the event have since distanced themselves from it.

These Palestinian leaders are not stupid. They understood which way the winds are blowing and what is in the interests of their longevity.
"WARNING: The surgeon general of Palestine has determined that supporting peace is hazardous to your health."

As long as Palestinian society is ruled by bandits -- latter day incarnations of Hajj Amin al Husseini and his gangs and various do-it yourself abu-Gilda's (an infamous Palestinian Arab bandit) -- there is no chance for peace, because there is no political organization that can support peace. The only "peace" conditions acceptable to the peace thugs are conditions that would result in destruction of Israel. They have never been interested in anything else. They make it clear that the "occupation" that has to end is the one that began in 1948, and the "aparheid" that has to end is the "aparheid" that prevents millions of Arabs from coming to live in Israel and destroying Jewish self-determination.

As for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, she is apparently clueless about the Middle East. She told reporters:

"Frankly it is time for the establishment of a Palestinian state," Ms Rice told reporters in a news conference which she held with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
If she is serious, then surely she is mad. Mahmoud Abbas cannot control his own back yard in Jericho or Nablus without the help of IDF security. What sort of state could this be? And what sort of peace could it make with Israel, if the Palestinian dark side won't even allow a concert that supports peace negotiations?

As for the Israelis, there will surely be no cause for joy if and when the conference is disastrous failure. Every Israeli must ask themselves if they have done their utmost to ensure the success of these efforts, even if the chances are slim. If it fails, it must not be our fault.

Those who urge Israel not to make "concessions" or to shun the conference are not friends of Zionism and are not promoting the welfare of Israel. We must understand that the peace thugs -- the Jeff Halpers and Neta Golans, the ISM and the Electronic Intifadah and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel are right from their point of view. Peace is a ZIonist plot, that should be opposed by all right-thinking followers of CODOH and Stormfront and other such organizations obsessed with the Jews. What will be on the table at the November conference is the heart of Zionism. The heart of Zionism is not some real estate in the West Bank. The heart of Zionism is the recognition by the Arab world and in particular, the Palestinians, of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. The two state solution would recognize the rights of both peoples to be "a free people in their own land" - the 2000 year old Jewish wish of Hatiqva. This would put all the peace thugs out of business once and for all, and that is why they are working overtime to stop it. Anyone who opposes the peace conference is thus an enemy of the Jewish people, as well as an enemy of the Palestinians.

Ami Isseroff

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Israel (1 official) 'officially' denies responsibility for death of Intifadah "martyr" Muhammad al-Dura in 2000

Headline: Israel officially denies responsibility for death of al-Dura in 2000

Twelve year old Muhammad al-Dura was killed by someone in Gaza in 2000. Using film shot by France 2, Palestinians dramatized his case, and made it an excuse for dozens of terror attacks in the violence that followed.

What was really odd about the case, was that there was no possible operational necessity for firing in the direction of the unarmed boy or his father, yet the film clearly showed or seemed to show that someone was firing on them repeatedly over a long period.

At the time, the IDF neither confirmed nor denied the report, nor, strangely enough, did the IDF conduct an in depth investigation.

Efforts of independent volunteers have forced France 2 to air the films in court. Seven years after the event, the government has now realized that it ought to have denied the killing.

It did not wait until the films had been aired in public -- a matter of a few days, to announce its conclusions.

Also - it appears that this "official" denial was just a letter by the head of the GPO, and that the Israeli government doesn't know anything about it.

Ami Isseroff

Seven years after death of Gaza boy captured by France 2 cameraman was blamed on Israel, Prime Minister's Office issues first official document stating incident was staged. French reporter defends video, calling it 'authentic'

Ronny Sofer Published:

10.01.07, 22:16 / Israel News

Seven years after the death of the Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza, the Prime Minister's Office speaks out against the "myth of the murder".

An official document from Jerusalem denied - for the first time - that Israel was responsible for the death of al-Dura at the start of the second intifada.

The document argued that the images, which showed al-Dura being shot beside his father and have become a symbol of the second intifada, were staged.

"The creation of the myth of Muhammad al-Dura has caused great damage to the state of Israel. This is an explicit blood libel against the state. And just as blood libels in the old days have led to pogroms, this one has also caused damage and dozens of dead," said Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman.

The arguments were based on investigations that showed that the angles of the IDF troops' fire could not have hit the child or his father, that part of the filmed material, mainly the moment of the boy's alleged death, is missing, and the fact that the cameraman can be heard saying the boy is dead while the boy is still seen moving.

On September 30, 2000, on the second day of the intifada, then 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura was going with his father to buy a car. The two got caught between heavy fire clashes between Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian gunmen.

The incident lasted some 45 minutes, 27 of which were filmed by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, who was working for the France 2 television network.

Charles Enderlin, Jerusalem bureau chief of France 2, who was not present at the incident, broadcasted the report. The report accused the IDF soldiers who were involved in the incident of causing the child's death and the father's injury.

The report has been investigated by various bodies over the years, and four intensive journalistic inquiries examining the incident said there was no evidence that the boy was shot by the soldiers. Some of the inquiries stated that according to calculations of the angle in which the boy and his father were hit, they were most likely shot by the Palestinians.

During the past seven years, Israel has preferred not to confront the most popular television station in France, but following repeated requests by Shurat HaDin, Israel Law Center, the first official document from the Prime Minister's Office, signed by the GPO director, was issued last week.

The document argued that based on investigations that were carried out, the boy's death was staged by the French network's cameraman, Talal Abu Rahma.

France 2 reporter calls allegations 'nonesense'

In a letter to Shurat HaDin, Seaman wrote, "It turns out that the events could not have occurred as they were described by the network's reporter Charles Enderlin, since they contradict the laws of physics… Furthermore, it was not even possible to hit them (the boy and his father) in the place they were hiding according to the report."

Nonetheless, following consultation with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, the GPO director decided that Israel should not take criminal steps against France 2's reporters or revoke the government journalist certificates that were given to them in Jerusalem.

In his letter to Shurat HaDin, Seaman said he was instructed by the attorney general the treat the matter "on the public-media plane and not on the criminal plane".

Shurat HaDin Chairwoman Nitzana Darshan-Leitner said she did not accept the GPO's position. "Shurat HaDin plans to continue to act in order to bring the truth to light," the chairwoman said.

"Among other things, we plan to petition the High Court of Justice and demand the journalist certificates and other GPO certificates are revoked from all France 2 crew members in Israel – reporters, cameramen, produces, etc – as long as the network does not publicly announce that the al-Dura report was staged and was biased.

"In addition, Shurat HaDin is considering filing a damages claim for the accumulated damage the report has caused, and specifically for the line of attacks and riots it has led to. This modern-day blood libel has led to the death of hundreds of Arabs and Jews and has ignited hatred solely for the purpose of ratings and poor journalism. We will demand that those responsible for this crime pay for their deeds."

Charles Enderlin, the France 2 reporter who is still working in Israel, said in response to this report, "This is not the first time that Seaman makes such allegations against me – it is nonsense. It is pure slander. The video that we filmed is authentic and I stand behind it.

"We plan to show the film in court in France, and I am certain it will end the repeated mudslinging," the French reporter said.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Jewish Agency and immigration to Israel

Headline: PM: Jewish Agency still has key role in bringing Jews to Israel
OK - so let them bring Jews. What is it all about? Like everything else that is not about sex, it is about money and power. Groups like Nefesh benefesh and Nativ have succeeded in bringing many more Jews to Israel than the Jewish Agency, whose functionaries have not functioned very well in about forty years.

The Jewish Agency workers protested:

Following the decision, the Agency's workers union held a stormy meeting that resulted in a letter to Olmert accusing him of "breaking the old agreement between the Jewish Agency and the government of Israel over exclusivity in encouraging Aliyah and belittling the Agency's experience and its emissaries whose enormous efforts brought three million people from over the world to Israel."
The problem is that many of these people came to Israel in spite of the Jewish Agency rather than because of it.
Horrible regimes in Arab countries, as well as Nazi and Polish persecution, are among the factors whose "enormous efforts" brought those three million Jews to Israel. Nearly every immigrant has a tale of woe connected with the Jewish agency and its functionaries. Groups that were established to bring immigrants rather than to be the Jewish Agency have done much better in bringing immigrants from places like the North America, where nobody is chasing Jews out. Consequently, the government has made allocations of funds to these groups permanent. The Jewish agency meanwhile, has not been contributing its promised share to Nefesh benefesh, causing budgetary shortfalls.

A few modest suggestions -

1, The available funds should be allocated among the organizations in proportion to the number of immigrants they have brought to Israel, and the number they undertake to bring in the coming years.

2. A small number of jobs in these organizations - on the Israeli side - should be allocated to new immigrants. "Oleh mevi Olim" - an immigrant brings immigrants.

3. A special agency should be set up to bring back some of the estimated 800,000 Israelis living in North America.

4. The government should undertake to examine the reasons why Israelis leave, and to show yearly progress in stopping the "brain drain" of trained Israelis to North America and Europe.

Ami Isseroff

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Continued (Permanent Link)

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