Friday, January 30, 2009

Conference of President's report

Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 30, 2009
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In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Arms Ship Detained in Cyprus - Menelaos Hadjicostis (AP)
A Cypriot-flagged container ship that was searched by U.S. forces in the Red Sea last week with a suspected Iranian arms shipment bound for Hamas in Gaza arrived in Cyprus on Thursday and was being searched.

Leaders of Turkey and Israel Clash at Davos - Katrin Bennhold (New York Times)
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey walked off the stage after an angry exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a panel discussion on Gaza at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.
Erdogan apparently became incensed after the moderator, columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post, curtailed his response to remarks by Mr. Peres on the recent Israeli military campaign.
Mr. Peres pointed at the departing Mr. Erdogan and said Turkey would have reacted the same way had rockets been falling on Istanbul.

Hamas Accused of Torture Death of Gaza Critic (Reuters)
Bassam Atallah, a Palestinian in Gaza City, on Thursday accused Islamist Hamas militants of torturing and killing his brother Osama for publicly criticizing them.
He said masked gunmen from Hamas internal security arrived at the family home on Tuesday and arrested Osama. Bassam said the family was told Osama would be released in a matter of hours.
They subsequently received a telephone call from the hospital that Osama was in critical condition. He later died of his wounds.
See also Dozens of Palestinians Believed Dead in Reprisal Attacks - Rory McCarthy (Guardian-UK)

American Jews Support Israeli Operation in Gaza - Eric Fingerhut (JTA)
An Anti-Defamation League poll of the American Jewish community released Thursday found that 79% believed Israel's response to the "current crisis in Gaza" was appropriate, with just 17% believing it was excessive.
81% said Hamas was "responsible for the recent escalation in violence," compared to just 14% who blamed Israel.
Overall, 94% expressed sympathy for Israel over Hamas; only 1% for Hamas.
See also Survey of Jewish American Attitudes on the Gaza Crisis (Anti-Defamation League)

Saudi Killed in Gaza Fighting - Thomas Hegghammer (Jihadica)
The latest issue of the slick jihadi magazine Sada al-Jihad contains the martyrdom biography of a Saudi fighter named Abu Muhammad al-Marri who was recently killed in Gaza.
The novelty is not that foreign jihadists want to fight in Palestine - they always wanted to - but rather that al-Marri made it through and was allowed to fight by the Palestinians.
There are three ways to interpret this report: 1) as a fluke - al-Marri had a Palestinian wife so he may not have been seen as an outsider; 2) as reflecting a decision by Hamas to allow in a Saudi or two to embarrass the Saudis, or 3) as reflecting a strategic decision by Hamas to accommodate more foreign volunteers. Only time will show which one it is.

Iran and Syria Trying to Replace PLO - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday accused Iran and Syria of encouraging Hamas and other radical groups to establish a new leadership that would challenge the PLO's claim to be the "sole and legitimate" representative of the Palestinians. The PA is an organ of the PLO.
The PA fears that the potential new leadership, which would be headed by Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, would be recognized by several Islamic governments that are unhappy with Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas War Crimes in Gaza (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Evidence of Hamas' war crimes, its exaggeration of civilian casualties and damage to property, its abuse of humanitarian aid and its intimidation of Gaza's residents are finally coming to light.
Civilian casualty figures from Hamas sources include as "children" teenage Hamas fighters and as "women" female terrorists. Most of the casualties were young men in their 20s.
Hamas deliberately used the local population as human shields, a war crime.
Hamas' rocket attacks constituted a double war crime. Not only were they aimed at Israel's civilian population, they were cynically carried out from locations immediately adjacent to homes, schools, hospitals, relief agency warehouses, mosques, public buildings - as well as from the office building that housed foreign media studios.

European Reactions to Israel's Gaza Operation - Tamas Berzi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
At the time of the start of the Israeli airstrikes, the European presidency was held by France. On Dec. 27, the Presidency of the Council of the EU condemned both the Israeli air raids and the Palestinian rocket strikes on Israel from Gaza and called for an immediate end to these activities. The statement also condemned the disproportionate use of force.
On Jan. 1, 2009, the Czech Republic took over the role of the Presidency of the EU. On Jan. 3, the presidency described the Israeli ground operations in Gaza as an act of self-defense.
Israel should try to make the most of the current situation, since the upcoming Swedish presidency, which starts on July 1, 2009, will most likely be a more difficult time for Israel.

Some Tough Questions for Palestinians - Moshe Elad (Ynet News)
There is no doubt that America wishes to bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians. For 60 years, every "aggressive" round of talks started with making demands of the Israeli side and asking us to accommodate the Palestinians while gambling away our security.
Perhaps the time has come for Obama to start the latest "round" with the Palestinians.
Even Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian moderate camp, promises dwellers of Lebanese and Jordanian refugee camps that they will swiftly return to their homes.
On the day where the Palestinians prove that they are no longer dreaming about a return to Haifa, Jaffa, the coastal plain's villages, and the Galilee they will find that the people of Israel are willing to support genuine territorial compromise.
Col. (res.) Moshe Elad served as the head of security coordination with the PA in the Oslo Accord period.

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Fair Use News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

* White House: All Options on Table to Deal with Iran - Ross Colvin
President Barack Obama's administration signaled on Thursday that the U.S. reserved all its options, ranging from diplomacy to military action, to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. "We must use all elements of our national power to protect our interests as it relates to Iran. That includes, as the president talked about in the campaign, diplomacy where possible," Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said. "We have many issues to work through - an illicit nuclear program, the sponsorship of terrorism, and the threatening of peace in Israel are just a few of the issues that this president believes the Iranian leadership must address," Gibbs said. Asked whether Obama's view was that the military option remained on the table, he said, "The president hasn't changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options." (Reuters)
* Account of Israeli Attack on Gaza School Doesn't Hold Up to Scrutiny - Patrick Martin
Most people remember the headlines: "Israeli Strike Kills Dozens at UN School." On Jan. 6, mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces reportedly killed 43 civilians at the UNRWA school where they had taken refuge in Jabalya in Gaza. But the story was not quite accurate. Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. Those who died in the incident were all outside, on the street. Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate. There was no Israeli shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
* Spanish Judge Probes Israel's 2002 Attack on Hamas Terrorist Leader - Daniel Woolls
A Spanish judge on Thursday began an investigation into seven current or former Israeli officials over a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed Hamas terrorist leader Salah Shehadeh - wanted for masterminding suicide bombings - and 14 other people. The judge is acting under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain of crimes against humanity, even if they were alleged to have been committed in another country. The suit was brought by a group of Palestinians. (AP)
See also EU-Funded Palestinian NGO Leading the "Spanish Inquisition" - Gerald M. Steinberg
The Spanish case was initiated by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). With a large budget provided by the European Commission, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and other European governments, PCHR is among the leaders of the anti-Israel demonization strategy. The strategy was developed in the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban Conference, the goal being to use boycotts and legal processes to brand Israel an "apartheid" state, while legitimizing terrorism. During the recent Gaza operation, PCHR issued over 50 statements, most of which included allegations of "war crimes." Israel's Foreign Ministry has pressed European governments to amend their legal codes to prevent NGOs from bringing such cases to court. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Averting Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction
The idea of universal jurisdiction was conceived to stop officials who have engaged in war crimes, like genocide, and who have escaped the law. It should be directed at countries like Iran, where those who incite for mass murder are considered heroes, and not against the U.S., the UK and Israel, who are leading the war on terrorism and have functioning legal systems that prosecute those who really violate the laws of war. View video of a conference on the Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction held in London on November 26, 2008. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

* U.S. Envoy Calls for PA Presence at Gaza Border Crossings - Herb Keinon
Visiting U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell went to Ramallah Thursday and met with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, after which he said that the Gaza border crossings should be opened with a PA presence. "To be successful in preventing the illicit traffic of arms into Gaza, there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods, and that should be with the participation of the Palestinian Authority," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
* Gazans Describe Being Used as Human Shields by Hamas - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Members of a Gaza family whose farm was turned into a "fortress" by Hamas fighters have reported that they were helpless to stop Hamas from using them as human shields. The official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, reported Tuesday: "The hill on which the Abd Rabbo family lives overlooks the Israeli town Sderot, a fact that turned it into an ideal military position for the Palestinian fighters, from which they have launched hundreds of rockets into southern Israel during the last few years. Several of the Abd Rabbo family members described how the fighters dug tunnels under their houses, stored arms in the fields and launched rockets from the yard of their farm during the nights....One family member, Hadi (age 22), said: 'You can't say anything to the resistance [fighters], or they will accuse you of collaborating [with Israel] and shoot you in the legs.'" (Palestinian Media Watch)
* Frequently Asked Questions about the IDF Operation Against Hamas Terror in Gaza
Q: Will Israel cooperate with investigations of war crimes?
A: No official body or organization has presented any evidence of war crimes allegedly committed by Israel. All accusations have been based on rumor, half-truths, anonymous reports from unconfirmed sources, and manipulations of the truth. On the other hand, proven war crimes have been committed by Hamas.
Q: Was there illegal use of phosphorus?
A: During the operation in Gaza there was no illegal use of phosphorus, as confirmed by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jacob Kellenberger.
Q: Did Israel shoot at schools?
A: When IDF forces were shot at, they returned fire towards the source of the shooting. Defensive actions of this type are explicitly allowed under the Geneva Convention. The IDF did not fire directly at UNRWA schools; clearly had a school been targeted directly, it would have been completely destroyed. In the case of the school in Jabalya, both AP and the New York Times confirmed Israel's version that mortar fire came from a position located very close to the building.
Q: What about the civilian casualties?
A: Civilians who tried to flee the fighting were threatened by Hamas gunmen, while many were killed in the crossfire initiated by Hamas. Some civilians were hurt in booby-trapped houses and by bombs placed by Hamas throughout Gaza. These are the real reasons why many civilians were killed.
Extreme caution should be exercised concerning the numbers of civilian casualties reported. Throughout the past year, Hamas has dismissed doctors and nurses identified with Fatah and replaced them with its own supporters. Gaza's hospitals are now staffed only with Hamas supporters and Hamas officials are the primary sources of information. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

The Gaza War - Strategic and Diplomatic Impact

* What Israel Gained in Gaza - Michael Gerson
In Gaza, Israeli forces, responding to an intolerable provocation, inflicted lopsided casualties on Hamas, which displayed a discrediting combination of cowardice and brutality. Hamas fighters used civilians as shields instead of shielding civilians - and some Palestinians seemed to resent it. Hamas leaders hid in the basements of hospitals while ordering public executions for Palestinian rivals, acting more like members of a criminal gang than a nationalist movement.
"This hasn't solved the problem," retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, told me. "But it has introduced a completely different cost calculation for Hamas." The launching of Hamas rockets against civilians now has a predictable price - the essence of deterrence. According to Daniel Schueftan, a senior research fellow at the University of Haifa, "It is a fairy tale to say there are no answers through coercive force....We have...operational answers that reduce terror to a tolerable level. It is what we do with crime. It is what we do with terrorism." (Washington Post)
* The Strategic Importance of Israel's Gaza Operation - Isaac Ben-Israel
In the Gaza war, the IDF showed that it possesses the means, combat doctrine, and required determination for fighting in a crowded urban area while ensuring minimal casualties among our forces. Most importantly, the asymmetrical rules of the game that Israel appeared to accept in recent years had been broken. Previously, it appeared as though the weak side (Hamas, Hizbullah) could attack Israeli citizens uninterruptedly, while Israel hesitated in utilizing its substantial military power. The recent operation showed that even mosques used by terror groups are no longer off limits for Israeli military power.
The operation's diplomatic achievements include destabilization of Iran's protege in the Mideast. Moreover, most of the Arab world stood by Egypt vis-a-vis Hamas. This recognition of the common interest with Israel against Iran and its emissaries holds immense strategic importance. Furthermore, understandings and agreements on curbing weapons smuggling to Hamas have been signed and secured vis-a-vis the U.S. and most Western European states. (Ynet News)
* No Israeli Apology for Defeating Iran's Islamic Proxy - Amir R. Gissin
It is Israel that would like to see a Palestinian state living peacefully at its side. Hamas wants something else - the destruction of the Israeli state, and the creation of a new extremist Islamic empire throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. Two years ago, Hamas overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza in a military coup, killing 350 and injuring more than 1,000 Palestinians in less than two weeks. This story is forgotten; instead, we keep hearing about Hamas winning the Palestinian election, using this as an excuse for turning 1.5 million Gazans into hostages.
Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, nor their interests. Hamas is a proxy of Iran, who did exactly the same thing three years ago in Lebanon, using its other proxy, Hizbullah, to divert attention from its developing nuclear military program. The writer is consul general of Israel for Toronto. (Toronto Star)
* Tough Choices on Hamas Prompt Arab Disarray - Andrew Tabler and Simon Henderson
Arab support for the Palestinians has been the bedrock of Arab diplomacy for decades, but the recent Israeli military action against Hamas in Gaza has divided those backing PA leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party and those supporting its Hamas rival. On Gaza, Washington should continue to support the Egyptian initiative, which calls for the monitoring of Gaza crossings by the PA and greater Egyptian and international efforts to shut down tunnel smuggling networks. The U.S. should also work to ensure that Arab aid is delivered via the PA, allowing Hamas to gain as little credit as possible during reconstruction. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
* Gaza War Just a Sideshow to Sunni-Persian Conflict - Emanuele Ottolenghi
The Gaza war forced regional players to take sides. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states but Qatar gave Hamas a cold shoulder. Hamas is, after all, a Sunni Arab movement that turned its back on its brothers to embrace the feared and loathed Shi'ite Persian foe. A tacit if grudging alliance is emerging between Israel and pro-Western Sunni rulers. The prospect of an Iran fomenting Islamist revolutions, wars and insurrections around the region under the cover of a nuclear umbrella is infinitely more terrifying than a Jewish state in the Arab heartland. The Arabs need Israel's steel against Iran today. (Ha'aretz)
* Israeli Sanctions on Gaza Meant to Save Peace Process - Martin Kramer
Israel has a compelling strategic reason to keep the sanctions on Gaza in place. (I say sanctions and not blockade, because Israel doesn't control the Egyptian-Gazan border, and so cannot impose a true blockade.) Israel's sanctions are meant to squeeze the "resistance" out of the Hamas regime - and, if possible, to break its monopoly on power in Gaza. Unless these goals are met, at least in part, it's lights-out for any peace process. Sanctions are a perfectly legitimate tool. It was sanctions that ended apartheid in South Africa, kept Saddam from reconstituting his WMD programs, got Qadhafi to give up his WMD, and might stop Iran's nuclear program.
Hamas owes everything not to its feeble "resistance," but to the tendency of the weak of will or mind to throw it lifelines. It's now demanding that the sanctions be lifted, and the usual chorus is echoing the cynical claims of a tyrannical and terrorist regime that shows no mercy toward its opponents, Israeli or Palestinian. Supporters of peace shouldn't acquiesce in another bailout of its worst enemy. It's time to break the cycle, and make it clear beyond doubt that the Hamas bubble has burst. The way to do that is to keep the sanctions in place. (Sandbox)
* Blockade Thwarts Any Postwar Building Boom in Gaza - Alastair Macdonald
"We should have started reconstruction the day the war ended. But we have no supplies," says Gaza builder Anwar al-Sahabani. Peter Lerner, an Israel Defense Ministry official dealing with trade for Gaza, said Israel was helping international aid agencies in their efforts to move in food and other vital supplies. But until Israel was satisfied that cement would not be used by Hamas for fortifications and that steel pipes would be used only for plumbing and not to build rockets to fire at Israeli towns, the embargo on construction material remained. "We are not interested today in rebuilding Hamas, their bunkers. We are not interested in supplying them with pipes that will be used for rockets."
The smuggling tunnels that provide many of the goods in Gaza's stores cannot supply large quantities of building materials. "Let nobody delude themselves that we are going to open the crossings for anything but humanitarian essentials," said Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's infrastructure minister. "We don't intend to open the crossings before [captured IDF soldier] Gilad Shalit comes home." (Reuters)

Hamas Claims Victory in Gaza War

* Hamas Leaders Believe They Won a Victory - Rory McCarthy
In the past, thousands of Hamas supporters would gather for elaborate rallies. This time the mood was different. Rather than risk one poorly attended central demonstration, Hamas held separate rallies in different towns. In Gaza City, a few hundred tired-looking sympathizers walked behind a truck as slogans were reeled off through a loudspeaker. Hamas leaders believe they won a victory against the might of the Israeli military. This deep inner conviction is shaping the movement's decision-making. In a comparison with the 1967 Six-Day War, Ahmed Yusuf, an adviser in Hamas' foreign ministry, said: "Israel defeated four Arab armies in six days. We lasted 22 days."
Over the past two years the movement's hardliners have come to dominate, and more moderate or pragmatic figures have been pushed to the sidelines. The result is that Hamas appears no closer to making any major compromises. (Guardian-UK)
* Hamas: "Gaza Victory Has Paved the Way to Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa"
Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal said on Jan. 21: "The resistance showed fortitude and became an element equal to [the Israeli army], despite the difference in resources. The firing of missiles continued; our people rallied around the resistance and stood fast. Hamas, which [the Israelis] had set out to destroy, gained strength; the resistance has entered every home and has became an ideal among the Arab nation and worldwide." "The residents of the West Bank must rise up and resist until victory, as happened in Gaza."
Senior Hamas official Isma'il Radhwan stated: "The Gaza victory has paved the way to Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, the Negev, and the West Bank." (MEMRI)
* Hamas Dispenses Politics Along with Aid to Gazans - Karin Laub
A Hamas Cabinet minister carried a carton stuffed with checks worth nearly $2 million into a Gaza tent camp pitched on the ruins of the Salam neighborhood in Jebaliya. But before hundreds of homeless residents could collect, they had to listen to a political speech. Social Affairs Minister Ahmed al-Kurd told them Israel's military machine was defeated. Many complain that political maneuvering - both between Hamas and its West Bank PA rivals, and in the international community - is slowing the delivery of aid to Gaza. Israel said UN trucks are given priority at crossings into Gaza. "Over 40,000 tons of aid have entered Gaza since the cease-fire," said Peter Lerner, an Israeli military official. (AP/Washington Post)

Weekend Features

* Letter to Gaza Resident: I Am the Soldier Who Slept in Your Home - Yishai G.
I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home. I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you. Therefore, I am sure you know that Kassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities. Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods. Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered Gaza, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.
I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. (IMRA/Maariv-Hebrew)
* Thirty Years of Tehran Rhetoric Blocking Road to Peace - Karim Sadjadpour
The Iranian government's feeling towards the State of Israel varies from utter contempt to visceral hatred. Why? After all, Iran is not an Arab country, has no direct land disputes with Israel, has no Palestinian refugee problem, has a long history of contentious relations with the Arab world, and is home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel itself. Why should Iran be a more strident enemy of Israel than Arab nations that have lost hundreds of their sons in wars fought against the Jewish state?
One school of thought says that Iran and Israel are natural rivals for primacy in the Middle East. The other school of thought contends that opposition to Israel is a deeply held ideological tenet of Iran's 1979 revolution. Nothing less than the dissolution of the Jewish state would satisfy Tehran's hardline leadership. When I was based in Tehran with the International Crisis Group, I used to believe that Iran would be capable of altering its approach towards Israel in the context of a broader U.S.-Iran accommodation. I no longer believe this to be the case. A study I did on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, based on three decades' worth of his speeches, confirmed his consistent and disciplined opposition to Israel's existence. The writer directs the Iran Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. (The National-UAE)
* Jimmy Carter's Myopia - Michael D. Evans
Former President Jimmy Carter has just released a new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land. The former president writes that former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin agreed to divide Jerusalem. I found that to be astonishing...especially since Mr. Begin had given me a copy of the letter he wrote to Carter on Sept. 17, 1978, in which he wrote, "Dear Mr. President, ...On the basis of this law, the government of Israel decreed in July 1967 that Jerusalem is one city indivisible, the capital of the State of Israel." According to Begin, Carter informed him that the U.S. government did not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Begin told me he responded, "Excuse me sir, but the State of Israel does not recognize your non-recognition."
Carter viewed PLO leader Yasser Arafat as a "little George Washington." He pens, "We pursued the concept of non-violent resistance of Hamas leaders and gave them documentation and video presentations on the successful experiences of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others." Peace in the Holy Land must include Palestinian militant leader, Marwan Barghouti, the serial killer. Carter calls him the "most intriguing player in the Middle East." (Washington Times)


Don't Strengthen Hamas - Mark A. Heller (International Herald Tribune)

* If President Obama's special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, allows Hamas to save itself, Hamas and the world view it shares with Hizbullah and their Iranian sponsors will appear even more to be on the winning side of history.
* There is a growing call to "engage" Hamas, presumably on the assumption that a movement founded on the premise that there is no solution to the Palestinian problem "except by jihad" and committed to "raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine" can somehow be sweet-talked into accommodation. There is not a shred of evidence to support this assumption. So Mitchell's task should be to isolate Hamas in order to "disengage" it from Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere.
* Mitchell needs to keep alive the possibility of a viable negotiating process by preventing the re-empowerment of Hamas. Specifically, he should begin to coordinate an effective, multi-pronged effort with America's NATO and regional allies that will 1) prevent the reopening of the tunnels and interdict the supply chains pouring weapons and cash into Hamas hands; and 2) provide direct access for needy Gazans to the outside world and to alternative humanitarian support and reconstruction funding, to be administered by or channeled through a multilateral consortium and the Palestinian Authority.
* There is no doubt that Hamas will resist any steps to bypass and undercut its authority. The response should be that an American-led consortium will not collaborate in the rehabilitation and entrenchment of Hamas power, and that if Hamas insists on standing in the way, it will bear responsibility for failure to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
* Benita Ferrero-Waldner, External Relations Commissioner of the EU, has made clear that while emergency relief will continue no matter what, Europe should not support the reconstruction of Gaza under Hamas rule. America under Obama needs to show the same understanding of the strategic issue at stake.

The writer is principal research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama and Clinton think they can sweet talk these guys?

# Ahmadinejad: Obama Must Apologize to Iran - Zahra Hosseinian
Responding to President Obama's offer to extend a hand of peace to Iran, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Wednesday, "Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation." He listed a range of "crimes" such as trying to block Tehran's nuclear program, hindering Iran's development, and other actions by several administrations for more than 60 years. (Reuters)
# To Combat Obama, Al-Qaeda Hurls Insults - Joby Warrick
Al-Qaeda has unleashed a stream of verbal tirades against Barack Obama, each more venomous than the last. Obama has been called a "hypocrite," a "killer" of innocents, an "enemy of Muslims." He was even blamed for the Israeli military assault in Gaza, which began and ended before he took office. The torrent of hateful words is part of what terrorism experts now believe is a deliberate propaganda campaign against a president who appears to have gotten under al-Qaeda's skin. With Obama, al-Qaeda faces an entirely new challenge, as polls show he is well liked throughout the Muslim world.

why no UN resolutions vs Hamas missiles?

Tom Neumann Chicago Tribune

Anti-Israel attitudes do not fall into a pattern of normal political hostility of the type directed toward other countries. At their core, objections to Israel are not based on the country's policies but instead rest on Israel's very right to exist.

Hamas is not fighting Israel over a policy difference. Hamas has been quite upfront with its purpose and objectives—the end of the state of Israel and a global war against all Jews everywhere. Understood in this light, Hamas rocket barrages, like its suicide bombers, simply make the affected areas of Israel unlivable, small steps toward the achievement of the group's broader agenda.

Faced with such terror attacks, there is no country in the world that would not have garnered sympathy except Israel. The exceedingly ugly character of the marches and rallies against Israel makes it clear that what we are witnessing is global anti-Semitism.

There is precedent for the Hamas philosophy, the Nazis referred to it as seeking to make the world judenrein.

Anti-Israel protests not only in Europe, but even in American communities like Ft. Lauderdale included chants of "Go back to the ovens" and "The ovens weren't big enough."

The Europeans and their Middle Eastern friends cruelly equated the victims of Nazism with being Nazis themselves. Thus, the Europeans absolve themselves from their own historical guilt.

And the failure of the political elites to condemn such anti-Semitic behavior or even to recognize it fosters, encourages and inadvertently supports the anti-Semites. One British parliamentarian, turning the situation on its head, accused the "the Jews" of exploiting the guilt of non-Jews over the Holocaust to justify Israel's defensive operations against Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

That thugs beat a Jewish girl in Paris while telling her that it was revenge for Israeli attacks on Hamas goes well beyond the traditional bounds of protest. It was clear anti-Semitism reminiscent of similar events in European history.

And the Paris attack was not an isolated event. The Turkish government's recent rhetoric has been so caustic as to make the country's Jewish population fearful for the first time in its more than 500-year history.

In several European countries, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues were vandalized.

The question for supporters and friends of Israel are, why were there no UN resolutions condemning Hamas' unilateral rocketing of Israel?
Another question that should be raised is, of all the conflicts in the world, why is this the only one where the issue of proportionality is raised? Does it mean that if there was more Jewish blood shed the response would have been more acceptable?

The lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel can and should expect neither fairness, honesty or justice from the world community. Israel can only depend on itself because anti-Semitism today remains not only tenacious, it is fashionable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Aipac briefing

Obama Stresses Hopes for Peace, Support for Israel

Top E.U. Official Blames Hamas for Gaza Conflict

New U.N. Ambassador: U.S. Must Be Firm With Iran

Roadside Bomb Kills Israeli Soldier Near Gaza Border

Iran Seeks to Replenish Hamas' Weapon Stocks in Gaza

Natural Gas Find Could Transform Israel's Economy

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Obama Stresses Hopes for Peace, Support for IsraelIn a television interview with Dubai-based Al Arabiya, President Barack Obama on Monday reiterated U.S. support for Israel and expressed his hopes about the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, The Washington Post reported. "Israel is a strong ally of the United States," Obama said. "They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount." The president added that the United States "cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them," stressing the need for patience in the quest for peace. Speaking before AIPAC Policy Conference delegates last June, then-Senator Obama issued a similar call for cautious optimism along the "long road to peace." Click here to watch his Policy Conference speech.
Top EU Official Blames Hamas for Gaza ConflictHamas bears full responsibility for the recent violence in Gaza, a top European Union official said Monday during a visit to the coastal strip, Agence France Presse reported. "At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas," Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said at a press conference in Jabalya, a town in northern Gaza. "I intentionally say this here—Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such." Michel was in the region to announce new EU-sponsored aid and development projects for the Palestinians. The United States has also pledged its commitment to reconstructing Gaza in partnership with the Palestinian Authority.
New U.N. Ambassador: U.S. Must Be Firm With IranAmbassador Susan Rice said Monday that the United States would continue to press Iran to halt its illicit nuclear program, as called for in multiple binding U.N. Security Council resolutions, Reuters reported. "We remain deeply concerned about the threat that Iran's nuclear program poses to the region, indeed to the United States and to the entire international community," Rice, the newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "Dialogue and diplomacy must go hand-in-hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council and its continued refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase." Click here to learn about Iran's quest for a nuclear weapons capability.
Roadside Bomb Kills Israeli Soldier Near Gaza BorderOne Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer was killed and three others were wounded on Tuesday when a roadside bomb detonated under an army vehicle, The Jerusalem Post reported. While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred along the Gaza-Israel border, a Hamas leader said his group had not agreed to a cease-fire with Israel and that "the Zionists are responsible for any aggression." An IDF official warned that Hamas would continue to carry out attacks against Israel until a long-term truce agreement was reached. On a related note, Israeli military sources said Hamas fired a Qassam rocket into the sea on Sunday to test the range of rockets left in its arsenal after Israel's recent operation. Click here to learn about Hamas' terrorist activity in Gaza.
Iran Seeks to Replenish Hamas' Weapon Stocks in GazaAccording to Israeli intelligence assessments, Iran has renewed its efforts to supply advanced weaponry to the terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post reported. The IDF is concerned that Iran will provide Hamas with long-range Fajr missiles, which have a range of 43 miles and can easily reach Tel Aviv if fired from Gaza. The IDF believes that it destroyed about 1,200 Hamas rockets during Operation Cast Lead, but estimates that the terrorist group has about 1,000 left in its arsenal, including long-range Grad-model Katyushas. Israeli intelligence officials also believe that Iran has launched an internal probe to determine why Hamas was unable to kill more Israeli soldiers in Gaza and why the terrorist group could not fire more long-range rockets deep into Israel. Iran is a prime backer of Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction.
Natural Gas Find Could Transform Israel's EconomyIsrael could be one step closer to energy independence after drilling companies announced the discovery of "extremely significant" natural gas reserves at an offshore drilling site in the Mediterranean, about 60 miles off the coast of Haifa, Israel, the Web site Israel 21c reported. One massive pocket of natural gas is estimated to contain more than three trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to feed Israel's energy needs for 15 years. "It can contribute a lot to the Israeli economy," said Shaya Segal of Delek Drilling company. "And give us independence with anything that has to do with natural gas." In Israel, that would mean fueling power plants with natural gas, as opposed to coal or oil fuel sources, which produce more pollution. "It's much more environmentally friendly," Segal said.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

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January 22, 2009
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Gaza Doctor: Hamas Exaggerated Gaza Death Toll - 600 Killed, Mostly Fighters, Not 1,300 - Yossi Bar (Maariv-Hebrew)
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra Thursday quoted a doctor at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City saying that, despite Hamas and UN claims, most of those killed in Gaza were young men who were members of terror groups.
"The number of deaths was between 500-600...most were young men between 17 and 23 who were recruited into the ranks of Hamas, which sent them to be slaughtered," he said.
Journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi confirmed that only 600 people were killed, and not 1,300 as was widely reported, based on hospital visits and discussions with families of the victims.
"It was strange that the non-governmental organizations, including Western ones, repeated the number without checking, but the truth will come to light in the end," said the doctor.
"It's like what happened in Jenin in 2002," he said. "At the beginning they spoke of 500 dead; afterwards it was clear there were only 54 dead, at least 45 of them fighters."

Hamas Shot from Civilian Neighborhoods - Rod Nordland (Newsweek)
Israel blames Hamas for using housing areas, hospitals, schools and mosques to launch attacks into Israel or against its soldiers, provoking defensive counter-fire that it says is responsible for most of the civilian casualties.
Every one of the residents interviewed in eastern Jabaliya insisted that there had been no provocation from the area, no resistance fighters, and no rocket launchings.
"There aren't any tunnels around here, we are not resistance," said Najah Abd Rabo. Yet not more than 20 feet away from Najah, there was just such a tunnel, which Israeli troops had unearthed. Right in the middle of the road, it had a convincingly camouflaged roof that matched the rest of the road.
Talal Safadi, an official in the leftist Palestinian People's Party, said that Hamas fighters were firing from positions all around Al Quds Hospital in the Tal-al Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City.

Hamas Confirms Executing Fatah Collaborators - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
PA Minister of Social Welfare Mahmoud Habbash accused Hamas on Wednesday of confiscating 63 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid while they were on their way to UNRWA in Gaza.
He also said 19 Palestinians were murdered in cold blood by Hamas during and after Israel's Gaza operation, while more than 60 others were shot in the legs.
See also Hamas Seeks "Collaborators" in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
Ehab al-Ghsain, spokesman of the Hamas Interior Ministry, said Wednesday, "The internal security service was instructed to track collaborators and hit them hard....They arrested dozens of collaborators."

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* Obama's First Call Is to Abbas - Tom Baldwin
President Obama placed the Middle East at the forefront of his first hours in office Wednesday. In a flurry of telephone calls from the Oval Office, he vowed to engage immediately in pursuit of a permanent Arab-Israeli settlement. Obama told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that their conversation was his first with a foreign statesman since taking office. Obama also spoke to President Mubarak of Egypt, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and King Abdullah of Jordan. (Times-UK)
See also Obama Stresses Commitment to Stop Hamas Arms Smuggling - Eric Fingerhut
President Barack Obama told Ehud Olmert and three other Middle East leaders he is determined to stop Hamas from smuggling arms. A White House statement said that Obama "emphasized his determination to work to help consolidate the cease-fire by establishing an effective anti-smuggling regime to prevent Hamas from rearming, and facilitating in partnership with the Palestinian Authority a major reconstruction effort for Palestinians in Gaza." (JTA)
See also Egypt: No Foreign Navies in Egyptian Waters to Combat Smuggling
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday his country will not allow foreign naval forces to operate in its territorial waters to prevent weapons smuggling to Gaza. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
* Palestinians Mend Smuggling Tunnels - Nidal al-Mughrabi
Hundreds of Palestinians came to Gaza's border with Egypt Thursday to repair smuggling tunnels bombed by Israel. Residents along the border said shipments had already been moving through several dozen tunnels. Israel has threatened new military action to prevent Hamas from replenishing the rocket arsenal it used to strike southern Israeli towns. (Reuters)
See also Hamas Arms Smuggling Never Stopped During IDF Operation in Gaza - Anshel Pfeffer and Barak Ravid
Some tunnels running under the border between Egypt and Gaza remained in operation even during the fighting. Contrary to media reports, the Israeli air force apparently did not use powerful bunker-busting bombs to destroy the tunnels. (Ha'aretz)
See also Smugglers Get Tunnels Back in Operation - Volkhard Windfuhr and Bernhard Zand
It's clean-up time in southern Gaza as the operators of the tunnels used to smuggle goods and weapons in from Egypt have come to assess the damage caused by the Israeli bombardment. Mohammed is coming up a 26-meter tunnel shaft. "Everything's okay," he reports. "A lot of sand has gotten in, it'll take us a while to shovel it all out. But I managed to get across to the other side. Our friends in Egypt send their regards." (Der Spiegel-Germany)
* Obama Greeted with Hatred and Quiet Hope in Iran - Bill Neely
In Tehran, thousands chanted "Death to Obama," dragging his portrait through the streets and then setting fire to it alongside a picture of George Bush. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's Special Representative, Hossein Shariatmadari, said: "Obama's is the hand of Satan in a new sleeve." "Obama won't make any big change in American policy towards Iran," he told me. At the same time, watching the inauguration on illegal satellite television receivers were Iranians who yearn for a thaw in relations with the West. (Telegraph-UK)

News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

* Israel to EU: Gaza Crisis Won't End Until Captured Israeli Soldier Is Returned - Roni Sofer
The crisis in Gaza will not be resolved so long as (kidnapped IDF soldier) Gilad Shalit remains in Hamas' hands, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday in Brussels. The EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to declare their intention to contribute units, vessels, and technological means in order to curb weapon transfers from Iran to Hamas. (Ynet News)
* UNRWA Schools in Gaza Infiltrated by Palestinian Terrorists - Jonathan D. Halevi
Recent years have seen the gradual takeover of UNRWA educational and welfare institutions in Gaza by Palestinian terrorist organizations, led by Hamas. Just six months after Hamas' general election victory, it won a clear victory in the UNRWA workers committee elections held on 14 June 2006. Suhil el-Hindi, head of the teachers sector at UNRWA schools, operates openly as Hamas' representative. He controls the curriculum in UNRWA schools, the employment of teachers in those schools, and the summer camps.
Hamas Interior Minister Said Sayyam, responsible for Hamas terror operations, who was targeted in the recent Gaza war, was a teacher at UNRWA schools for 23 years. Following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007, parents of students in UNRWA schools wrote to the head of UNRWA charging that scores of teachers at the schools belonged to the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, and requested an urgent investigation. In another example, Awad el-Kik, the principal of an UNRWA school in Rafiah, was also head of weapons and rocket manufacturing for Islamic Jihad in Gaza until he was targeted on 30 April 2008.
It seems very likely that contributions by Western nations to UNRWA pay the salaries of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who are educating the next generation of Palestinians in jihad against Israel and all non-Muslims. Western nations should demand that terror group activists be removed from UN institutions as a condition of continued funding. Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi is a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. (Ynet-Hebrew)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

* Obama Must Choose Which Palestinians to Support - Steven Erlanger
With the rule of Hamas in Gaza apparently unchallenged and its popularity growing in the West Bank, the new Obama administration faces an immediate policy choice: support a Palestinian unity government, as Egypt and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas want, or continue to isolate Hamas and concentrate on building up the West Bank as a political alternative to radical Islam. The issue is urgent because of the international effort to rebuild Gaza while trying to avoid letting Hamas take credit for the reconstruction, as Hizbullah did in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war. The choice goes to the heart of what Obama can accomplish when the Palestinian side remains violently divided. (New York Times)
* Egypt Dominance as Mideast Mediator in Doubt - Cynthia Johnston
Egypt's failure to achieve a negotiated truce in Gaza leaves a question mark over Cairo's future as a preferred Arab mediator. Egypt has long been treated as an indispensable go-between with Israel and Palestinian factions, but Israel ended its military operation in Gaza unilaterally despite Egyptian efforts for a mediated truce.
That came on the heels of a disappointing round of intra-Palestinian talks that failed to reconcile bickering Palestinian groups last year. In addition, it remains unlikely that Egypt will take strong steps on the smuggling tunnels - in part to avoid alienating Sinai Bedouin whose livelihoods depend on illicit trade with Gaza. (Reuters)
* Welcome to the New Middle East - Martin Regg Cohn
As vital as it is to engage the Palestinians, it is no less crucial to enlist the Israelis in a confidence-building process. I covered the Israeli disengagements from the territories in the mid-1990s. Back then, Hamas was disavowing the Oslo Peace Process as a sellout and sabotaging it with suicide bombers. In my interviews with the top Hamas leadership - Mahmoud Zahar, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and Sheikh Ahmad Yassin - there was never talk of two-state solutions or one-state solutions. Rather, their solution was to send the Jews back where they came from.
If the Israelis have taken a hard line now against Hamas, scores of suicide bombings and thousands of missiles later, it is because Hamas responded to the withdrawal from Gaza with an unprovoked assault. Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist (no mere bargaining tactic). And it remains a vexing interlocutor for other Arab partners - notably the Palestinian Authority, the Saudis and Egyptians. (Toronto Star)


Israel's Role as an Asset for the West - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)

* As the smoke clears from the latest round of fighting in Gaza, the perception in the Arab world is that Israel was victorious and that Hamas and its allies suffered a significant setback. It is precisely the extent of destruction wrought by Israel in Gaza, along with the very minor losses suffered by the Israeli side, which make the Hamas claims of having achieved anything at all - let alone victory - ring hollow.
* This time around, the "resistance" model did not seem to work. The rockets did not succeed in creating a sense of siege in Israel's south, but rather declined in number as the operation proceeded. Ground operations were undertaken in the heart of Gaza - successfully, and with few losses.
* Israel acts as the blunt instrument - physically resisting anti-Western forces and thus denting their charisma. This then creates a space whereby pro-Western Arab states can make the case that opposition to the West and to Israel is a road to nowhere. This is precisely the way that radical Arab nationalism was broken in the 1960s, which made possible the eventual achievement of peace between Egypt and Israel. It is in this way that Israel plays a crucial role as an ally and asset for the West.
* The radical Islamist ideology promoted by Iran is likely ultimately to be broken in a similar way.

The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.

Monday, January 19, 2009

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January 19, 2009

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IDF: Shots Were Fired from Gaza Doctor's Home - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
The army said Saturday that sniper fire from the home of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, who works at Sheba medical center near Tel Aviv, targeted Israeli soldiers.
It was return fire that led to the deaths of three of the doctor's daughters.


Natural Gas Discovered Off Israeli Coast - Steven Scheer (Reuters)
A U.S.-Israeli exploration group said on Sunday it has discovered more than 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, 90 km from Haifa, with the potential to meet Israel's gas needs for well over a decade.
"If it turns out in a few weeks that the indicators received in recent days are true, then we are talking about the biggest find in Israel's history," said National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer.
Analysts estimated the natural gas was worth about $26 billion and will be sold starting in 2013.


Egypt Says Not Committed to U.S.-Israel Gaza Arms Smuggling Pact (Reuters)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday his country was not committed to the U.S.-Israeli pact to halt arms smuggling into Gaza.
The U.S. and Israel signed an accord on Friday aimed at stopping the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza.


White (Phosphorous) Lies - Gerald M. Steinberg (Jerusalem Post)
Human Rights Watch initiated a campaign alleging that the IDF was using white phosphorus weapons unlawfully in the conflict in Gaza with Hamas.
Two days later, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement: "Using phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is legitimate under international law," adding that there was no evidence that Israel was "using phosphorus in a questionable way, such as burning down buildings or consciously putting civilians at risk."
Phosphorus flares assist search and rescue forces in saving the lives of wounded soldiers and preventing Hamas from snatching the bodies of dead soldiers.


Hizbullah Behind Lebanon Rocket Strikes in North - Yossi Melman, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
Hizbullah is behind the two Katyusha rocket attacks that struck northern Israel in the last two weeks, in both cases using proxy Palestinian militant groups to launch the rockets from southern Lebanon.


Gaza Diary - Mohammed Dawwas (Independent-UK)
The silent majority, I think, have changed their mind about Hamas. They question whether to vote for them again.
But that is for afterwards. Right now we all stand by Hamas because we are together in this problem.
Gaza is destroyed. It's set us back 20 years. When things are more normal, people will see the catastrophe.
See also Can Hamas Still Walk Tall in Gaza's Streets? - Peter Beaumont and Hazem Balousha (Observer-UK)
Ahmed Tafwiq, 27, a civil servant in Gaza, said: "I am totally against the so-called resistance, because it proved a total failure. We used to hear these slogans of how strong our resistance is. I believed the slogans."
"But when the war started, nothing happened. I live in an area close to the border with Israel. I used to see hundreds of Hamas and other factions' gunmen waiting for Israeli troops who might storm Gaza. But, since the first day of the war, none of them appeared. And Hamas still talks about a resistance that did nothing to protect our people."


Zionist Coffee - Michael Coren (National Post-Canada)
Since the beginning of the war against Hamas in Gaza, various Arab, Muslim and socialist blogs have become obsessed with the idea that Starbucks is sponsoring the Israel Defense Force, which explains why one of their stores was smashed and looted during an anti-Israel demonstration last weekend in London.
The Starbucks-Israel connection is a hoax, but the Hamas-supporting thugs exhibited their commitment to the Palestinian cause by stealing fair-trade coffee and travel mugs.
See also Two Starbucks Branches Smashed and Looted as Anti-Israel Protests Turn to Violence - Alastair Jamieson (Telegraph-UK)

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Israelis Announce Cease-Fire in Gaza - Craig Whitlock and Jonathan Finer
Israel announced Saturday that it would cease fighting in Gaza at 2 a.m. on Sunday. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel had succeeded in dealing a harsh blow to Hamas that would make it think twice about resuming firing rockets into Israel. Hamas never lost its capacity to launch strikes on Israel. On Saturday, Palestinians aimed about two dozen rockets into Israel. (Washington Post)
See also Israel Begins Pullout; Gazans Survey Debris - Craig Whitlock and Jonathan Finer
Israeli soldiers flashed the victory sign Sunday as they began withdrawing from Gaza. Shell-shocked Palestinians emerged from shelters and counted their dead. But as a tenuous cease-fire took hold, few people on either side predicted an end to the violence. Although Hamas sustained the heavier losses, by a lopsided margin, Israeli officials acknowledged that Hamas could quickly rebuild and that it still posed a long-term threat to Israel. (Washington Post)
Hamas Announces Cease-Fire in Gaza
Hamas has announced an immediate cease-fire with Israel in Gaza. Hamas' deputy chief in Syria, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said the cease-fire was in the name of all "Palestinian resistance factions." The group said the cease-fire would be temporary unless Israel met its demands. (BBC News)
See also Hamas Declares Victory - Nidal al-Mughrabi
As Palestinians emerged from hiding, agape at the killing of more than 1,300 fellow Gazans and at the widespread destruction of homes and government infrastructure, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas administration, claimed a "popular victory" against Israel. (Reuters)
See also Ahmadinejad Congratulates Hamas on "Victory" (AFP/Ynet News)
See also Hamas Vows to Rearm after Gaza War - Nidal al-Mughrabi
Hamas vowed on Monday to rearm in defiance of any Israeli and international efforts to prevent it from replenishing its arsenal of rockets and other weapons after the Gaza war. "Manufacturing the holy weapons is our mission and we know how to acquire weapons," said Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas' armed wing. (Reuters)
Israel to Boost Gaza Aid But Won't End Blockade Until Kidnapped Soldier Is Freed
Israel said on Sunday it will be prepared to sharply increase the flow of food and medicine to Gaza if the cease-fire holds, but it ruled out fully lifting a blockade until a captured Israeli soldier is freed. "You can't have anything close to full normalization of the crossings as long as Gilad Shalit remains a hostage," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. (Reuters)
Stage Three Gaza Attack Aimed at Psyche - Abraham Rabinovich
Israel's endgame in Gaza is proving as surprising and remorseless as the stunning air attack that opened the war. The unexpected armored plunge towards the heart of Gaza City on Thursday, and air attacks on two of Hamas' top political figures, seem to have had a psychological dimension, undermining Hamas' morale and avoiding any ambiguity about the outcome of the war. With Israeli tanks reaching within 4 km of the center of Gaza City and encountering only sporadic fire, it will be difficult for Hamas to claim heroic resistance.
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashal in Damascus said Israel had lost more men in battle than Hamas had. Hamas has not given a figure for its battle dead but Israel puts it in the hundreds and its own fatalities at ten. It was revealed Friday that Israeli naval commandos had landed at several points along the Gaza coast at night and were fighting militants. (The Australian)
Gazans Have Had Enough - Until Next Time - Nidal al-Mughrabi
For Hamas, the ability to fire rockets up to 40 km into Israel was a progression in tactics from the suicide attacks that were a hallmark of the second intifada (uprising) against Israel that began in 2000. But given the amount of death and destruction Israel has wrought on Hamas and Gaza as a result of the rockets, even those who initially backed the tactic are now questioning it. "I have always been a supporter of rockets and all forms of resistance," said Aziz, a taxi driver. "But maybe Hamas needs to renew martyrdom operations instead," he said, referring to suicide attacks.
Hassan, a father of five, said there was little point in firing rockets if they were not effective. "Rockets - I think this issue needs to be stopped for sometime and restudied," he said. "Once we have a missile that can reach the heart of Tel Aviv and blow up a building, maybe they can resume fire." (Reuters)
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Israel Security Agency: Hamas Will Resume Arms Smuggling Within a Few Months - Barak Ravid
Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin on Sunday told the cabinet that Hamas would soon rebuild the tunnels and resume smuggling arms into Gaza within a few months. He added that despite heavy criticism of Israel, Gaza residents are "fiercely criticizing Hamas for the destruction it has brought to Gaza." (Ha'aretz)
See also Hamas Will Try to "Even the Score" with Terror Attacks - Roni Sofer
"Hamas will try to change the picture Israel painted and even the score by using, among other things, terror attacks," IDF Chief of Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the cabinet Sunday. (Ynet News)
Two Israelis Hurt as Rocket Hits Ashdod House Despite Cease-Fire - Shmulik Hadad
Palestinian gunmen fired at least 15 rockets and three mortar shells into Israel on Sunday. The Israel Air Force attacked and hit the rocket launchers. A man and a woman in Ashdod were wounded by shrapnel. The rocket landed between two houses and caused heavy damage. The schools in most rocket-stricken cities remained closed. (Ynet News)
See also Fight Not Over for Dozens of Israeli Injured - Meital Yasur-Beit Or
As of Sunday, 51 soldiers and 13 civilians were still hospitalized. During the three weeks of the Gaza operation, some 800 soldiers and civilians arrived at hospitals for treatment. (Ynet News)
How Well Did Hamas Fight? - Ehud Ya'ari
Hamas' fighting prowess has hardly inspired awe. Hamas was not fighting in the areas penetrated by the IDF, even though its defensive doctrine - drawn up under Iranian supervision with the assistance of Hizbullah - is based on an attempt to stop the IDF's infantry brigades outside of Gaza City, or at least to detain them.
Hamas abandoned the heart of "Kassamland" - the areas surrounding Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and Atatra - almost without resistance. The offensive array of bunkers and tunnels, booby-trapped buildings prepared for detonation from afar, and all the other tricks adopted by Hamas were captured intact. From the perspective of the people of Gaza, Hamas simply abandoned the arena and fled into the crowded neighborhoods. Once there, Hamas fighters hurriedly shed their uniforms. Many of them simply deserted and returned to their families. (Jerusalem Report)
EU Leaders Commit to Helping Prevent Hamas from Rearming - Amos Harel, Barak Ravid, Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay
Six key European leaders on Sunday pledged to work to prevent Hamas from rearming. At Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt and in Jerusalem, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, offered to provide troops and technological assistance to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons and terrorists into Gaza, in cooperation with Egypt and the U.S. (Ha'aretz)
Don't Count on Egypt to Curb Arms Smuggling - Mordechai Kedar
No agreement to end arms smuggling will be implemented, even if the Egyptian regime wants it to happen. The Bedouins in the Sinai will continue to smuggle regardless of decisions that bind Egypt. Those familiar with Egyptian realities know that policemen at Sinai roadblocks, who earn several dozen dollars a month, will not stop taking bribes from trucks transferring arms to Gaza. In addition, the chances that a presidential decision on curbing smuggling will be implemented administratively are slim. Mubarak may want it, but his decisions are not carried out. This is not about malice; it's merely Egypt. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Beyond Gaza - Editorial
Meeting with the Post's editorial board on Thursday, Barack Obama said that he didn't believe his administration would "have that luxury" of standing back from the deteriorating situation in Gaza. Yet the president-elect appeared to have a healthy appreciation of the limits of what U.S. diplomacy might be able to accomplish. "That doesn't mean we close a deal or we have some big, grand...Camp David-type event early in my administration," he said. "The notion is not that the United States can dictate the terms of an agreement." Obama said his aim would be "to provide a space where trust can be built"; he cited the suggestion of former British prime minister Tony Blair "to build some concrete deliverables that people can see," such as greater security for Israelis and economic benefits for Palestinians. (Washington Post)
Averting Iranian Influence in Post-War Gaza: The Rehabilitation Issue - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
It is of prime importance to prevent Iran from acquiring influence in post-war Gaza through any assistance programs. Following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Iran and Hizbullah grasped the political and economic significance of the rehabilitation project in the Shiite areas of southern Lebanon damaged during the war. Hizbullah directed the rehabilitation work, while totally ignoring the central Lebanese government, and in this manner regained and even reinforced its influence within the Shiite community. The main objective for Israel and the international community should be to deny Iran the attainment of this objective and to transform the Palestinian Authority into the principal factor, along with Egypt, entrusted with the rehabilitation work in Gaza. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also Where Hamas Gets Its Money - Rachel Ehrenfeld
International aid organizations and many countries kept on sending money to Gaza, while its rockets continued to hit Israel. The billions that have come from the EU, UN, U.S., Saudi Arabia and other Arab League countries have done little to advance the development of a viable Palestinian state or of peace in the region. Rather, it has helped to fuel the Palestinian leadership's terrorist agenda, and kept the Palestinian people oppressed and disenfranchised. Yet most international organizations and the world community at large continue to ignore the ongoing human and civil rights violations perpetrated against the Palestinians by their own leadership. (Forbes)
Arabs Splinter Over Gaza - Robert F. Worth
Arab leaders remain cripplingly divided on how to respond to the Gaza crisis. Despite a rush of diplomatic meetings - two simultaneous ones on Friday in Qatar and Kuwait - there was still no agreement on convening the Arab League. Most Arab regimes are terrified of Islamist movements like Hamas, which represent the greatest threat to their legitimacy. Many, including Egypt and Jordan, face challenges at home from their own popular versions of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' ideological parent. Many Arab leaders believe that Iran is aiming to become the dominant power in the Middle East, and is using the Palestinian issue to batter its rivals through Hamas, its client. (New York Times)
The Truth about Hamas' Mission - Andrea Levin
Hamas does not just call for the destruction of Israel in accord with its guiding principles, but has been actively pursuing this goal. It pioneered suicide bombings inside Israel beginning in the 1990s, seeking to terrorize, demoralize, and drive the Jews out. The rockets it rains down from Gaza into Israel in ever-widening arcs also seek to destroy Jewish life in Israel. There is no avenue of compromise, no area of debate.
Understanding Hamas' supremacist and murderous goals, contempt for non-Muslim rights, and programs of indoctrination helps put in perspective the challenges Israel faces in navigating a course consistent with the imperatives of its own moral and democratic system but at the same time one that defends the nation against a merciless adversary. The writer is director and president of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. (Boston Globe)

The Limits of Restraint - Dan Schueftan (Ynet News)

The war in Gaza is over the fate of regional radicalism and the myth of "resistance." In the second half of the previous century, the military struggle against Israel reached a dead-end. This perception started sinking into the Arab public's consciousness in the Six-Day War. It was institutionalized when the peace treaty removed Egypt from the cycle of active confrontation, when the superpower that armed the Arabs collapsed, and when Iraq's military power was eliminated. Ever since then, radical elements in the region have been seeking a replacement.
When a proper response for suicide attacks was found, in the form of the security fence and Operation Defensive Shield (when the IDF retook control of the West Bank in 2002), the radicals turned to rockets. The Second Lebanon War illustrated that there is no military solution to rocket attacks on the home front, with the exception of permanent Israeli presence within the territory and population that hosts the threat. So the radicals reached the conclusion that they possess the ultimate weapon that would embitter Israel's existence and present it as helpless. The entrenchment of such perception in the Arab world poses a strategic threat to Israel.
The war in Gaza was aimed at preventing the entrenchment of the perception that the rocket resistance in conjunction with Islamic zealotry is the ultimate weapon Israel cannot cope with. The strategic response is political willingness (in addition to military capabilities) to sow disproportional destruction and hurt the assets that are dear to those who fire rockets at Israeli population centers. The main objective is not to hit the last rocket, but rather, to enforce a fundamental change in the cost-benefit equation of the "resistance" by dramatically raising the cost.
The results of the war will not be determined by the nature of the diplomatic agreement that ends it, but rather, by Israel's willingness to pulverize Hamas during the war, and especially to respond to the first rocket launched after the war. Destruction in Gaza contributes to the prevention of war with Lebanon and Syria, assists Egypt and Jordan in fighting radical elements, and signals Israel's limits of restraint to Iran.
The writer is deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Iran aids Hamas restocking of weapons

Iran recruits Somali pirates to replenish Hamas arms stocks

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

January 13, 2009, 12:38 PM (GMT+02:00)

DEBKAfile's military sources reveal a secret war waged by the US,
Israel and Egypt to shut down Iran's serpentine maritime routes through the
Red Sea and Suez for refilling Hamas' depleted arsenal by sea. After Hamas
lost an estimated 60 percent of its weapons stocks to Israeli bombardments,
Iran enlisted Somali pirates to step up the flow of smuggled hardware to
Gaza. Tehran is rearming the Palestinian Islamists at top speed to persuade
them to carry on the war against Israel and not surrender to Egypt's
ceasefire terms.

According to our military sources, the Iranian sealift is conducted
along three routes:

1. The Iranian segment: .

2. The Eritrean route: ...

3. The European route: ...

DEBKAfile's military sources reveal that Iran's seaborne arms
corridor to Hamas depends heavily on three Sinai Bedouin tribes: The
Tarabin, which controls areas adjoining the Israeli and Gazan borders; the
Tiyaha, which rule central Sinai; and the Azazmeh, whose wide spread covers
northern Sinai, the Israeli Negev, Jordan and Syria. They form a human chain
to relay the Iranian shipments, including heavy Grad rockets, into the Gaza

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chicago Muslims condemn vandalsim

The Council Condemns Desecration of Synagogues

Chicago, Illinois – January 12, 2009 – The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (the Council) condemns, without reservation, the attacks against synagogues in and around Chicago over the weekend.

“The desecration of synagogues is vile and unconscionable” said Junaid M. Afeef, Executive Director of the Council. “No matter what the grievance and no matter the perceived injustice of the as yet unknown perpetrators, hate and violence are not the solutions” he added.

A few weeks earlier the Council issued a similar statement after the arson attempt on Temple Sholom on Chicago’s northside. After that attack the Council publicly stated that it stood ready to support Temple Sholom and its members and reached out privately to the leadership of Temple Sholom to offer its support. The Council’s commitment to stand out firmly against anti-Semitism remains as strong as ever.

“Today the Council will be reaching out to the individual synagogues to offer our condolences and support, and we will reach out to our partners in the Jewish community to plan a unified response to this hate” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Chairman of the Council.

The Council is an ardent advocate for peace, tolerance and justice and will stand by the Jewish community against any act of anti-Semitism.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Facts :

Hamas and other militants/terrorists have intentionally fired thousands of missiles and mortars at Israeli civilians and civilian institutions such as playgrounds, hospitals, and schools, over a number of years;

Hamas and other militant/terrorist intentionally place their own civilians in harm’s way by placing military installations and storage facilities in their midst (often inside of hospitals, schools and mosques), by firing missiles mortars from civilian locations; and by using their civilian populations as human shields; and

Hamas and other militants/terrorists create potential humanitarian disasters in Gaza by refusing to distribute supplies delivered through Israel, by attacking crossings through which supplies are delivered, which attacks require the closing of those crossings, and by other acts.

Hamas and other militants/terrorists propagandists have the TV cameras ready to transmit every inflammatory image they can find to distort the effects of Israeli actions; and will exaggerate the number of civilians who are unintentionally (if inevitably) killed by Israel’s defensive actions by, for example, including as "children" Hamas fighters who are 16 or 17 years old and by including as "women" female terrorists (i.e., by passing off combatant casualties as civilian casualties).

There is real sufferings of non-combatant Palestinian civilians that are unintentionally, though predictably, caused by Israel’s more than justified reactions to the harms inflicted upon Israel’s civilian population.

We acknowledge and empathize with the sufferings of non-combatant Palestinian civilians and acknowledge the agency of Israel in causing the sufferings even while knowing the propriety and justice of Israel’s defensive actions. All joy in Israel’s success in its defensive efforts will be significantly dampened by the sorrow felt for the suffering it has caused, however justified Israel’s actions were.
But no sane nation can tolerate missiles being shot daily at its population, designed to terrorize and kill.

Rabbis will be quoted by anti semites and radical Muslims

I sometimes feel I am not the same religion as this guy. Israel faces thousands of missiles from Gaza and is fighting for the safety of its population and this rabbi blames Israel. Would he would not defend his family from missiles? How would he stop it? Think Hamas will listen to talk?
Read his words and you can bet white power neo-nazis and muslim radical terrorists will be quoting him.

Someone wrote-"Just a few days after the bombing of Gaza started, my rabbi, Rabbi Brant Rosen here in Evanston, Illinois had the courage to write something on his blog* that may forever change his life, and the lives of those around him. As I read it, I could literally feel the earth shift beneath my feet. He said,
"So no more rationalizations. What Israel has been doing to the people of Gaza is an outrage. It has has brought neither safety nor security to the people of Israel and it has wrought nothing but misery and tragedy upon the people of Gaza."
she wrote-The earth is shifting on this issue when the people to whom we look for guidance about right and wrong, people like Rabbi Brant, finally speak the truth- that killing will not bring peace. Not for the Israelis, not for the Palestinians, not for anyone. Many people from my own congregation, including my own daughter, wrote him to say "Thank you, thank you for finally saying these words out loud."

Unbelievable-Israel should just roll over and let its population be murdered? What kind of militrary experience doe this rabbi have to dictate to israel what it needs to do to defend its population against these murderer? these are nazis-they want to exterminate Jew, they use their own population cynically to cause civilain deaths,even as they TRY AND KILL ISRAELS INDISCRIMINATELY-, while Israel tries to prevent civilian deaths, and this Rabbi reserves his outage for ISRAEL?

NYT Jan 11 Hamas and civilians

Hamas, with training from Iran and Hezbollah, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership’s war room is a bunker beneath Gaza’s largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say

U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site

Published: January 10, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials.

Office of the Iranian President
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours the centrifuges at Iran’s underground complex at Natanz, a target of an expanded American covert program.

Iran’s Primary Nuclear Facilities
Magazine: Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare (January 11, 2009)
Times Topics: Iran's Nuclear Program

David Silverman/Reuters
Last year, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel asked President Bush for bunker-busting bombs and permission to fly over Iraq to attack the plant.
White House officials never conclusively determined whether Israel had decided to go ahead with the strike before the United States protested, or whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel was trying to goad the White House into more decisive action before Mr. Bush left office. But the Bush administration was particularly alarmed by an Israeli request to fly over Iraq to reach Iran’s major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country’s only known uranium enrichment plant is located.

The White House denied that request outright, American officials said, and the Israelis backed off their plans, at least temporarily. But the tense exchanges also prompted the White House to step up intelligence-sharing with Israel and brief Israeli officials on new American efforts to subtly sabotage Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, a major covert program that Mr. Bush is about to hand off to President-elect Barack Obama.

This account of the expanded American covert program and the Bush administration’s efforts to dissuade Israel from an aerial attack on Iran emerged in interviews over the past 15 months with current and former American officials, outside experts, international nuclear inspectors and European and Israeli officials. None would speak on the record because of the great secrecy surrounding the intelligence developed on Iran.

It's Jewis Land

It's our land...By: Benjamin Netanyahu

Apparently, Benjamin Netanyahu gave an interview and was asked about Israel's occupation of Arab lands.

His response was "It's our land". The reporter (CNN or the like) was stunned - read below "It's our land..." It's important information since we don't get fair and accurate reporting from the media and facts tend to get lost in the jumble of daily events.

"Crash Course on the Arab Israeli Conflict."

Here are overlooked facts in the current &n bsp; Middle East situation.

These were compiled by a Christian university professor:

BRIEF FACTS ON THE ISRAELI CONFLICT TODAY.... ( It takes just 1.5 minutes to read!!!! )

It makes sense and it's not slanted. Jew and non-Jew -- it doesn't matter.

1. Nationhood and Jerusalem. Israel became a nation in 1312 BCE, Two thousand years before the rise of Islam.

2. Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

3. Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 BCE, the Jews have had dominion over the land for one thousand years with a continuous presence in the land for the past 3,300 years.

4. The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 CE lasted no more than 22 years.

5. For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to visit.

6. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.

7. King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.

8. Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.

9. Arab and Jewish Refugees: in 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.

10 The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution and pogroms.

11. The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000.The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.

12. Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated into the Arab la nds to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own people's lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey .

13. The Arab-Israeli Conflict: the Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not including the Palestinians. There is only one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all five wars and lost. Israel defended itself each time and won.

14. The PLO's Charter still calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and has supplied them.

15. Under Jordanian rule, Jewish holy sites were desecrated and the Jews were denied access to places of worship. Under Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian sites have been preserved and made accessible to people of all faiths.

16. The UN Record on Israel and the Arabs: of the 175 Security Council resolutions passed before 1990, 97 were directed against Israel.

17. Of the 690 General Assembly resolutions voted on before 1990, 429 were directed against Israel.

18. The UN was silent while 58 Jerusalem Synagogues were destroyed by the Jordanians.

19. The UN was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

20. The UN was silent while the Jordanians enforced an apartheid-like a policy of preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

no apologies


An open letter to the world: Sorry, no apologies

January 5, Jerusalem Post

'Not by might and not by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord of Hosts." Ironically, it was this verse from Zechariah, read on the Shabbat of Hanukka, that was being chanted in synagogues throughout the world several days ago, precisely as Israel 's air force was embarking on a display of might and power that it rarely demonstrates. So, do we believe in the message of our prophets or not?

With our reservists being called up by the thousands and our troops having into Gaza , I recall as well another chant, an echo of the first, and one that was no less sacred to me in my formative years: "Fighting for peace is like f--king for virginity." Both phrases continue to resonate within me, together giving expression to the cherished commandment of the Jewish tradition that we are to seek peace.

How, then, do I reconcile my unabashed support for the current military operation in Gaza with the values that I hold so dear? The answer is a complex one, but in its simplest form I would offer that we really are not fighting for peace; we are fighting to protect ourselves and for our right to some normalcy in our lives. Few, if any, are under the illusion that this military campaign is going to result in peace. Hamas has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel, and no amount of bombs is going to alter that. The problem is, neither is any amount of diplomacy. The Hamas covenant explicitly rejects negotiations as a legitimate form of struggle against the Zionist entity.

Being the stubborn people that we are, however, we have repeatedly refused to accept this reality. Just over six months ago, we and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered "lull" in the use of violence against one another. Our hope was that our avowed enemy would use this period of calm to invest its resources and energies in promoting the social agenda on which it rose to power, and in the meantime reconcile itself - without ever having to say so out loud - to living alongside its hated adversary. Our fear was that Hamas would instead take advantage of the opportunity to act with impunity that it had bargained for to enhance its firepower. Unfortunately, it was our fears that were realized and not our hopes.

DURING THE past half year of relative quiet, a full 538 mortar shells and rockets were launched against Israel, and on December 21, Hamas unilaterally declared an end to the tenuous respite in its holy war against the Jewish state. Until the very last minute, our leaders were scurrying around the region, and calling around the globe, in an anxious effort to grasp at any diplomatic straw that might have prevented the renewal of all-out violence.

Leaders of Arab states were actively supportive of these efforts. So were leaders of the free world, particularly in Europe and the United States .

Nevertheless, Hamas chose to intensify its barrage of missiles rather than talk, its commitment to our destruction apparently even stronger than its will to survive. As the number of rockets exploding in southern towns and settlements surpassed 80 per day last week, and with the wounds inflicted by more than 5,000 such explosions over the past eight years still raw, our military and political leaders, having exhausted all diplomatic options, determined that enough was enough.

CLEARLY THEY were giving expression to the public mood as well. Some 90 percent of the country's citizenry supported the initial strikes against Gaza . But only a few days later, the question has already arisen as to whether or not our response has been disproportionate to the threat we are trying to fend off. A perfectly proportionate response, of course, would have been to fire one missile into Gaza for every missile fired from it. Or, perhaps, proportionality requires calculating the number of missiles per capita raining in on the population of Sderot and its environs, and sending an equivalent number back to terrorize the civilian population of Gaza City . That would give them a taste of their own medicine, wouldn't it?

We are, however, long past the point where dispensing medicine can do any good. Instead, we are interested in radical surgery, in eliminating as much of the cancer of radical Islamic terrorism as possible before it metastasizes throughout the region, and eventually the entire world. If someone, somehow can offer us a noninvasive procedure that will allow us to do that, I am confident with every fiber of my being that we will opt for it, even if the method is considered chancy and unproven.

We have taken risks numerous times in the past and, despite repeated disappointments, we will be prepared to do so again. We really are a peace-loving nation; it is all of our children who have been asked to cross the border, and on the other side of it are real human beings, good people among them who are no less deserving than we of the tranquility Hamas has denied us all. Our tradition, however, demands not only that we seek peace, but also that we choose life. I am deeply sorry about the terrible suffering of the innocent that we are perpetuating within Gaza , but under the circumstances, I offer no apologies.

The writer is a member of the Schechter Institute Executive Committee and executives of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, where he serves as head of the Department for Zionist Activities.

Why the arabs don't support Hamas

Jewish World Review January 8, 2009 / 12 Teves 5769

Arab regimes secretly rooting for Israel?

By Kamran Bokhari and Reva Bhalla of Stratfor | Israel is now in the 13th day of carrying out Operation Cast Lead against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has been the de facto ruler ever since it seized control of the territory in a June 2007 coup. The Israeli campaign, whose primary military aim is to neutralize Hamas' ability to carry out rocket attacks against Israel, has led to the reported deaths of more than 560 Palestinians; the number of wounded is approaching the 3,000 mark.

The reaction from the Arab world has been mixed. On the one hand, a look at the so-called Arab street will reveal an angry scene of chanting protesters, burning flags and embassy attacks in protest of Israel's actions. The principal Arab regimes, however, have either kept quiet or publicly condemned Hamas for the crisis — while privately often expressing their support for Israel's bid to weaken the radical Palestinian group.

Despite the much-hyped Arab nationalist solidarity often cited in the name of Palestine, most Arab regimes actually have little love for the Palestinians. While these countries like keeping the Palestinian issue alive for domestic consumption and as a tool to pressure Israel and the West when the need arises, in actuality, they tend to view Palestinian refugees — and more Palestinian radical groups like Hamas — as a threat to the stability of their regimes.

One such Arab country is Saudi Arabia. Given its financial power and its shared religious underpinnings with Hamas, Riyadh traditionally has backed the radical Palestinian group. The kingdom backed a variety of Islamist political forces during the 1960s and 1970s in a bid to undercut secular Nasserite Arab nationalist forces, which threatened Saudi Arabia's regional status. But 9/11, which stemmed in part from Saudi support for the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, opened Riyadh's eyes to the danger of supporting militant Islamism.

Thus, while Saudi Arabia continued to support many of the same Palestinian groups, it also started whistling a more moderate tune in its domestic and foreign policies. As part of this moderate drive, in 2002 King Abdullah offered Israel a comprehensive peace treaty whereby Arab states would normalize ties with the Jewish state in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal to its 1967 borders. Though Israel rejected the offer, the proposal itself clearly conflicted with Hamas' manifesto, which calls for Israel's destruction. The post-9/11 world also created new problems for one of Hamas' sources of regular funding — wealthy Gulf Arabs — who grew increasingly wary of turning up on the radars of Western security and intelligence agencies as fund transfers from the Gulf came under closer scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Egypt, which regularly mediates Hamas-Israel and Hamas-Fatah matters, thus far has been the most vocal in its opposition to Hamas during the latest Israeli military offensive. Cairo has even gone as far as blaming Hamas for provoking the conflict. Though Egypt's stance has earned it a number of attacks on its embassies in the Arab world and condemnations in major Arab editorial pages, Cairo has a core strategic interest in ensuring that Hamas remains boxed in. The secular government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is already preparing for a shaky leadership transition, which is bound to be exploited by the country's largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

The MB, from which Hamas emerged, maintains links with the Hamas leadership. Egypt's powerful security apparatus has kept the MB in check, but the Egyptian group has steadily built up support among Egypt's lower and middle classes, which have grown disillusioned with the soaring rate of unemployment and lack of economic prospects in Egypt. The sight of Muslim Brotherhood activists leading protests in Egypt in the name of Hamas is thus quite disconcerting for the Mubarak regime. The Egyptians also are fearful that Gaza could become a haven for Salafist jihadist groups that could collaborate with Egypt's own jihadist node the longer Gaza remains in disarray under Hamas rule.

Of the Arab states, Jordan has the most to lose from a group like Hamas. More than three-fourths of the Hashemite monarchy's people claim Palestinian origins. The kingdom itself is a weak, poor state that historically has relied on the United Kingdom, Israel and the United States for its survival. Among all Arab governments, Amman has had the longest and closest relationship with Israel — even before it concluded a formal peace treaty with Israel in 1994. In 1970, Jordan waged war against Fatah when the group posed a threat to the kingdom's security; it also threw out Hamas in 1999 after fears that the group posed a similar threat to the stability of the kingdom. Like Egypt, Jordan also has a vibrant MB, which has closer ties to Hamas than its Egyptian counterpart. As far as Amman is concerned, therefore, the harder Israel hits Hamas, the better.

Finally, Syria is in a more complex position than these other four Arab states. The Alawite-Baathist regime in Syria has long been a pariah in the Arab world because of its support for Shiite Iran and for their mutual militant proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. But ever since the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Syrians have been charting a different course, looking for ways to break free from diplomatic isolation and to reach some sort of understanding with the Israelis.

For the Syrians, support for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and several other radical Palestinian outfits provides tools of leverage to use in negotiating a settlement with Israel. Any deal between the Syrians and the Israelis would thus involve Damascus sacrificing militant proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas in return for key concessions in Lebanon — where Syria's core geopolitical interests lie — and in the disputed Golan Heights. While the Israeli-Syrian peace talks remain in flux, Syria's lukewarm reaction to the Israeli offensive and restraint (thus far) from criticizing the more moderate Arab regimes' lack of response suggests Damascus may be looking to exploit the Gaza offensive to improve its relations in the Arab world and reinvigorate its talks with Israel. And the more da mage Israel does to Hamas now, the easier it will be for Damascus to crack down on Hamas should the need arise.

With Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Syria taking into account their own interests when dealing with the Palestinians, ironically, the most reliable patron Sunni Hamas has had in recent years is Iran, the Sunni Arab world's principal Shiite rival. Several key developments have made Hamas' gradual shift toward Iran possible:

Saudi Arabia's post-9/11 move into the moderate camp — previously dominated by Egypt and Jordan, two states that have diplomatic relations with Israel.
The collapse of Baathist Iraq and the resulting rise of Shiite power in the region.
The 2004 Iranian parliamentary elections that put Iran's ultraconservatives in power and the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose public anti-Israeli views resonated with Hamas at a time when other Arab states had grown more moderate.
The 2006 Palestinian elections, in which Hamas defeated its secular rival, Fatah, by a landslide. When endowed with the responsibility of running an unrecognized government, Hamas floundered between its goals of dominating the Palestinian political landscape and continuing to call for the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamist state. The Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, had hoped that the electoral victory would lead Hamas to moderate its stance, but Iran encouraged Hamas to adhere to its radical agenda. As the West increasingly isolated the Hamas-led government, the group shifted more toward the Iranian position, which more closely meshed with its original mandate.
The 2006 summer military confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel, in which Iranian-backed Hezbollah symbolically defeated the Jewish state. Hezbollah's ability to withstand the Israeli military onslaught gave confidence to Hamas that it could emulate the Lebanese Shiite movement — which, like Hamas, was both a political party and an armed paramilitary organization. Similar to their reaction to the current Gaza offensive, the principal Arab states condemned Hezbollah for provoking Israel and grew terrified at the outpouring of support for the Shiite militant group from their own populations. Hezbollah-Hamas collaboration in training, arms-procurement and funding intensified, and almost certainly has played a decisive role in equipping Hamas with 122mm BM-21 Grad artillery rockets and larger Iranian-made 240mm Fajr-3 rockets — and potentially even a modest anti-armor capability.
The June 2007 Hamas coup against Fatah in the Gaza Strip, which caused a serious strain in relations between Egypt and Hamas. The resulting blockade on Gaza put Egypt in an extremely uncomfortable position, in which it had to crack down on the Gaza border, thus giving the MB an excuse to rally opposition against Cairo. Egypt was already uncomfortable with Hamas' electoral victory, but it could not tolerate the group's emergence as the unchallenged power in Gaza.
Syria's decision to go public with peace talks with Israel. As soon as it became clear that Syria was getting serious about such negotiations, alarm bells went off within groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which now had to deal with the fear that Damascus could sell them out at any time as part of a deal with the Israelis.
Hamas' relations with the Arab states already were souring; its warming relationship with Iran has proved the coup de grace. Mubarak said it best when he recently remarked that the situation in the Gaza Strip "has led to Egypt, in practice, having a border with Iran." In other words, Hamas has allowed Iranian influence to come far too close for the Arab states' comfort.
In many ways, the falling-out between Hamas and the Arab regimes is not surprising. The decline of Nasserism in the late 1960s essentially meant the death of Arab nationalism. Even before then, the Arab states put their respective national interests ahead of any devotion to pan-Arab nationalism that would have translated into support for the Palestinian cause. As Islamism gradually came to replace Arab nationalism as a political force throughout the region, the Arab regimes became even more concerned about stability at home, given the very real threat of a religious challenge to their rule. While these states worked to suppress radical Islamist elements that had taken root in their countries, the Arab governments caught wind of Tehran's attempts to adopt the region's radical Islamist trend to create a geopolitical space for Iran in the Arab Middle East. As a result, the Arab-Persian struggle became one of the key drivers that has turned the Arab states against Hamas.

For each of these Arab states, Hamas represents a force that could stir the social pot at home — either by creating a backlash against the regimes for their ties to Israel and their perceived failure to aid the Palestinians, or by emboldening democratic Islamist movements in the region that could threaten the stability of both republican regimes and monarchies. With somewhat limited options to contain Iranian expansion in the region, the Arab states ironically are looking to Israel to ensure that Hamas remains boxed in. So, while on the surface it may seem that the entire Arab world is convulsing with anger at Israel's offensive against Hamas, a closer look reveals that the view from the Arab palace is quite different from the view on the Arab street.