Friday, July 31, 2009

Obama only dumps on israel

Washington Post Notices the Obvious That Most Jews Strive to Ignore
Jonathan Tobin - 07.30.2009 - 3:19 PM
Jennifer is right about the significance of today’s Washington Post editorial, which points out that “one of the more striking results of the Obama administration’s first six months is that only one country has worse relations with the United States than it did in January: Israel.”

But isn’t it curious that the Post would, today of all days, choose to note what a great many American Jews have been working overtime trying to ignore: the hostility of the Obama administration toward the State of Israel. In the Hebrew calendar, today is the ninth of Av, or Tisha b’Av, the date on which Jews commemorate some of the worst disasters in their history. The First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this date. The expulsion of Jews from Spain was made official on Tisha b’Av, and subsequent persecutors of Jews, including the Nazis, also delighted in inaugurating new horrors on this day.

Many American Jews and other partisan Democrats have adopted a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to the president’s signals, which indicate that he views the Jewish state as an obstacle to his ambition of improving relations with the Arab and Islamic world. Indeed, as the Post explains, Obama hoped that making public his disagreements with Israel would buy him credibility with Arab governments.

While not enthralled with the Israelis’ electing a right-of-center government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu a few months after Americans chose Mr. Obama, the Post observes something Jewish Democrats have been in denial about: Obama’s one-sided pressure has only increased the appetite of Palestinian and Arab leaders for more Israeli concessions and made them less likely to reciprocate. This is a familiar pattern. So long as the Arabs can rely on Americans to pressure Israel, they feel no need to make concessions themselves or take any proactive steps (such as halting terrorism and stopping anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement in their official media) to advance the cause of peace.

As Mahmoud Abbas, the supposedly moderate head of the Palestinian Authority, recently told the Washington Post, he has no intention of dealing with Israel. Instead, he will sit back and wait for Obama to keep applying the screws to America’s only democratic ally in the region.

By putting all the public pressure on Israel and none on the Palestinians, Obama has ensured that there will be no progress toward a two-state solution — a solution the Israelis desire more fervently than the Palestinians. Polls show that Israelis understand that the president is not to be trusted. His equivocal stance on the existential threat Israel faces from Iran further undermines their faith in Washington’s goodwill and reliability. As for the Palestinians, who are ruled by a feckless Fatah in the West Bank and an Islamist Hamas in Gaza, Obama’s distancing himself from Israel has only decreased their willingness to accept an independent state, which Israel has been offering them for a decade. Why should they give up their dreams of destroying Israel and accept half a loaf when Obama’s attitude toward Israel makes them think they can do better by standing pat?

Obama’s poorly conceived diplomatic endeavors are not a harbinger of a new Holocaust, and the rift between the two countries should not be exaggerated. Indeed, while the destroyed temples are mourned today, it should be remembered that contemporary Jewry has much to celebrate. But the threats to Israel’s existence presented by a nuclear Iran and the rise of a new anti-Semitic wave around the world, whose primary characteristic is hostility toward the right of Jews to live in peace in their historic homeland, are disturbing trends that should not be ignored. If even the Washington Post can realize that this administration has singled out Israel for ill treatment, it does not behoove American Jewry to ignore it. That is especially true on a day when the calendar compels us to remember past disasters.

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Israel is hot

JUF condemns Farrakhan's latest anti-Semitic slurs
On Sunday Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan told about 2,000 people that the late singer Michael Jackson was a victim of “Zionist leaders,” the U.S. government and the media.

In a response picked up by wire services and local newspapers, JUF Senior Vice President Jay Tcath condemned the bigotry behind such venom and expressed surprise that despite Farrakhan's enduring anti-Semitism, "he is able to enjoy a certain respectability that is undeserved and unprecedented in modern American society."

"At this point, the essential issue isn't one man's bigotry, but rather why so many others who profess such opposition to all other forms of bigotry are willing to indulge Farrakhan's," Tcath said in a statement. "As much as Farrakhan has been a thorn in our side for many years now, the fact of the matter is that Black-Jewish relations have not been held hostage to this peripheral issue. Much important good work continues nationally and on the local level, especially here in Farrakhan's own back yard. The balancing act we must maintain is to give Farrakhan no quarter, but also not allow him to monopolize and therefore jeopardize the larger arena of Black-Jewish relations."

Federation reduces allocations; hopeful for increase after January 2010 review
In an effort to maintain the breadth and scope of commitments to the community in the face of a difficult economy, the Federation approved a six-month allocation for agencies. Each agency was asked to review and trim its budget. But the door remains open to restore and even to increase those allocations when the budget is again reviewed in January 2010, said Skip Schrayer, chairman of the Overall Planning and Allocations Committee.

As in past years, the largest allocations – $18,592,138 – will flow to local agencies engaged in social and human services and Jewish education. In addition, the J-HELP: A Boost in Tough Times initiative will receive $1,274,000 in additional funds to enhance existing programs and create more opportunities to sustain the community in the tough economic climate. Meanwhiole, Jewish educational and community-building programs will be supported by $19,177,294, while JUF overseas partners, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee will receive $29,372,516.

Holocaust Museum shooter indicted
A grand jury indicted the white supremacist charged with killing a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

James Von Brunn, 89, faces hate crimes charges in addition to charges related to first degree murder, for a total of seven counts in the indictment handed down Wednesday by a Washington, D.C. grand jury. Some of the charges may incur the death penalty. The indictment also accuses von Brunn of seeking to intimidate Jewish people at the museum.

FBI Assistant Director Joseph Persichini said he believed the indictment will "send a message" to those who would try to turn hatred into violence.

Von Brunn is accused of killing museum guard Stephen Johns on June 10. Von Brunn is recovering in the hospital from wounds sustained when guards returned fire.

Rocket-battered Israeli border town enjoying rare calm
Six months after Israel ended its offensive against Hamas terrorists, the people of the rocket-scarred border town of Sderot are enjoying their calmest stretch in recent memory.

The rocket attacks that made life unbearable have all but stopped. Playgrounds are filled with children on summer vacation, stores are bustling and the town's public swimming pool is open for the first time in five years.

"Life before the war — it wasn't life," agreed the town's deputy mayor, Rafik Agaronov. "Now, thank God, there is quiet. Hopefully it will stay like this forever. If our children are calm, we are calm."

Rocket fire has dropped dramatically since the Gaza offensive ended in January, with some 220 rockets fired on southern Israel, according to the army. The last rocket attack on Sderot was May 19.

That compares to 7,865 rockets and mortars fired on southern Israel since Israel withdrew from Gaza in September 2005, according to the military. At least 4,000 of those hit Sderot, making life miserable and increasingly dangerous. Eight people were killed and hundreds were wounded. The economy was paralyzed and nearly everyone was traumatized by the frequent wail of sirens and explosions.

The most recent attacks include a rocket that hit south of Kibbutz Nahal Oz on July 16. And on July 19 armed Palestinians launched RPGs and mortar shells at an IDF force patrolling the border fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The soldiers returned fire.

Opinion: Debating George W. Bush as Middle East envoy
Author and analyst Gregory Levey argues in Newsweek that former President George W. Bush would be the perfect Middle East envoy for the Obama administration: "As an envoy, Bush could assuage most of [Israelis'] worries. Many Israelis, especially led by their current right-wing government, would readily trust that policies advanced by Bush had their best interests at heart, and he would not abandon them." Recognizing the fantasy nature of this proposal, Levey notes that Bush-like policies toward Israel might be enough.

In response, New York Jewish Week's James Besser lists several reasons against Bush as a Middle East envoy: "But why would the Palestinians trust the man who promised over and over again to create a Palestinian state – by the end of the the year, by the end of this term, blah blah blah – but who seemed to have little interest in actually doing anything to make it happen?" asks Besser.

Meanwhile, the editorial board of The Washington Post notes that "one of the more striking results of the Obama administration's first six months is that only one country has worse relations with the United States than it did in January: Israel."

Hollywood gets hot for Israel
Several high-profile Hollywood figures came to Israel this month to teach at the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles film and TV master class program sponsored by the Los Angeles Jewish Federation in conjunction with the Tel Aviv Cinemateque and Tel Aviv University, reports the JTA's Dina Kraft.

Amid seminars on nurturing ideas to the big screen and insider views of how executives choose shows in the current economic malaise, there was a palpable buzz about the talent to be found in the Israeli television industry.

Israel is making a name for itself as a country that produces good entertainment. The first Israeli drama series adapted for American television, HBO's "In Treatment,” was nominated for an Emmy this month. Several other Israeli-based shows have been sold to networks like NBC, CBS, Showtime and Fox. And Israel’s film industry has scored a number of recent successes, including the Golden Globe winner “Waltz with Bashir.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Congress Gives Obama Deadline For Dealing With Iran

Congress Gives Obama Deadline For Dealing With Iran

By Nathan Guttman

Published July 29, 2009, issue of August 07, 2009.

Washington — With prospects for diplomatic engagement between the United States and Iran dimming, congressional leaders have set September as the deadline after which harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic will be rolled out.

Jewish groups have made tough sanctions against Iran a top priority and have been urging Congress to take on legislation targeting Iran’s soft spots — its dependence on imported gasoline and on international investment.

Related Articles

§Iran Emerges as Wedge Issue for Jewish Voters

§Iran Turmoil Emboldens Opponents of Obama Outreach

§Obama Condemns Iran's Actions as 'Unjust'

The main piece of legislation awaiting approval is the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which would impose sanctions on international oil companies selling refined gasoline and diesel to Iran. Despite its extensive oil production, Iran imports 40% of its refined petroleum products, and blocking these sales would, some experts say, bring the country’s economy to its knees.

At a July 22 Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Howard Berman, made it clear that he intends to push the legislation forward by the fall, unless diplomatic engagement with Iran bears fruit.

“If engagement doesn’t work, then I am prepared to mark up the bill in committee early this fall,” the California Democrat said.

Berman had introduced the legislation in April but immediately put it on hold, in order to allow the Obama administration time to reach out to Tehran with its offer of diplomatic engagement. More than half of the members in both houses of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

“It is now late July,” Berman said at the hearing, “close enough to the administration’s time-limit, and to my own, that Iran should be able to hear the clock ticking.”

In recent weeks, Congress has been sending a message to the Obama administration, making it clear that it will not wait past September to take up tough sanctions. In addition to the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, hearings are planned for the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which would pave the way for divestment of American funds from companies doing business with Iran.

Members of both chambers of Congress have also introduced measures targeting other sectors of Iran’s economy.

The Obama administration has indicated privately and publicly that it set the fall as a deadline for assessment of the effort to reach out to Iran.

September is also a critical juncture in Washington’s efforts to coordinate policy toward Iran with its allies. Two significant international gatherings are scheduled for September: the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at a July 28 press conference in Jerusalem, said the United States would like to receive a response from Iran before these meetings take place. “It is not an open-ended offer,” Gates said.

The organized Jewish community is gearing up for a showdown on Iran in September. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is putting together two high-profile events focused on the need to stop Iran’s nuclear program. The first will take place in Washington September 10 when Jewish leaders from across the country are expected to arrive for an intensive lobbying drive, and the second will be a mass rally outside U.N. headquarters in New York during the visit of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has put the Iran sanctions bills at the top of its legislative priorities list and has been calling on members of Congress to join the sanctions bills as co-sponsors and to push them through the legislative process. Similar messages were conveyed to lawmakers recently by Christian supporters of Israel and by Jewish leaders who met with Democratic senators on July 22.

Yet at least one leading Jewish lawmaker has said he doubts the potential effectiveness of sanctions. Rep. Gary Ackerman, who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, told his colleagues during the July 22 committee hearing that he fears “it may already be too late for sanctions.” Ackerman, a New York Democrat, argued that the Iranian regime is not vulnerable to economic pressure. “This is reality: Iran is marching swiftly towards either a bomb or a latent nuclear capability,” he said.

His position does not reflect the prevailing view among his fellow lawmakers or among Middle East experts. They say that Tehran has shown in the past that it is susceptible to outside pressure, and that the Iranian regime could change course on the nuclear program if it believed it was in danger.

Members of Congress, however, are also bracing for the possibility that come September they will receive a request from the White House to put off sanctions legislation once again, if talks with allies produce an agreement on international sanctions. “I don’t think they will get a free ride from Congress,” said a senior Democratic congressional staff member. “They will have to put on the table something very specific that our allies are willing to give.”

my new website

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peace Plan

Israel's Peace Plan Marks a New Era in the Country's History

By Barry Rubin*

July 20, 2009

This could be the most important article I write this year. Israel has entered a new era of thinking and policy in which old categories of left or right, hawk or dove are irrelevant under a national unity government bringing together the two main ruling parties.

How did this new paradigm arise?

Between 1948 and 1992, the Israeli consensus was that the PLO and most Arab states want to destroy Israel. When—or if--the day comes that they’re ready to negotiate seriously we’ll see what happens.

Then came the Oslo agreement and a huge shift. The governing view was that maybe the Palestinians and Arab states learned the cost of their intransigence enough to make peace possible. The left thought a deal could bring real peace; the right thought it was a trick leading to another stage of conflict on terms less favorable to Israel. But both expected a deal to materialize.

The year 2000, the Camp David failure, the Syrian and Palestinian rejection of generous offers, and Second Intifada destroyed illusions in Israel.

Since then, Israel has groped for a new paradigm. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered unilateralism; Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni constantly offered more in exchange for nothing. But the more they did so, the more international abuse Israel received.

Now a new approach has finally emerged capable of reversing this situation. It goes like this: Israel wants peace but doesn’t hesitate to express not only what it wants and needs but also what’s required to create a stable and better situation. To ensure that violence and instability really ceases requires:

--Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Without this step, the aftermath of any “peace” agreement would be additional decades of Arab effort to destroy Israel in all but—temporarily—name.

--Absolute clarity that a peace agreement ends the conflict and all claims on Israel. Otherwise, the Palestinian leadership and much of the Arab world would regard any “peace” agreement as a license for a new stage of battle using Palestine as a base for renewed attacks and demands.

--Strong security arrangements and serious international guarantees for them. Have no doubt; these will be tested by cross-border attacks from Palestine.

--An unmilitarized Palestinian state (a better description than “demilitarized”), with the large security forces they already have: enough for internal security and legitimate defense but not aggression.

--Palestinian refugees resettled in Palestine. The demand for a “Right of Return” is just a rationale for wiping Israel off the map through internal subversion and civil war.

If Israel gets what it requires—and what successful peace requires—it will accept a two-state solution, a Palestinian Arab Muslim state (the Palestinian Authority’s own definition) alongside a Jewish state, living in peace.

Part of the new thinking is to understand that precise borders and east Jerusalem’s status, while important, are secondary to these basic issues. If those principles are resolved, all else can follow.

This new posture is not one of desperately asserting Israel’s yearning for peace but rather saying: We’re serious, we’re ready, we’re not suckers but we’re not unreasonable either. We want peace on real terms, not just more unilateral concessions and higher risk without reward. Not experimenting with our survival to please others. Not some illusory celebration of a two-state solution for a week and then watching it produce another century of violence.

Is it really such a brilliant idea to rush into giving a state without serious conditions to a Palestinian regime which has failed to govern competently what it already has, daily broadcasts incitement to murder Israelis, is profoundly corrupt, has already lost half its patrimony to a rival whose goal is a new genocide but whose own most fervent wish is to merge with that rival, and whose program is merely for the world to pressure Israel into handing it everything?

The best outcome would be if this program was met by Palestinian cooperation. If they are suffering so under alleged occupation, if so desperate for their own state, there’s nothing in this offer they can’t accept.

If, however, they prefer rejectionism, exposing their claims as false, that, too, is acceptable. The truth would be known: the Palestinians and much of the Arab world can’t make peace with Israel because they don’t want peace with Israel. And that is because they don’t want Israel to exist. Period.

Around this program, Jews outside Israel should rally, putting aside old conflicts about who’s more passionate about peace, who more concerned about security. The same applies to other countries and those well-intended who want to see a strategic situation more in accord with both their interests and humanitarian considerations.

In this context, there is no more puerile and misleading notion than that Israel’s government has put forth a program encompassing a two-state solution because of U.S. demands or pressures. This is a plan that organically grew out of the country’s situation, experience, and a broad national consensus.

A second notion Israel’s new paradigm rejects is the argument that either Israel is so strong that it can give without receiving or so weak that it must do so. The country simply does not desperately need a deeply flawed "solution" to be grabbed either out of misplaced "generosity" or "fear."

Another mistaken conception is that the status quo is intolerable and that any change would be for the better. More risks, concessions, and the establishment of an unstable and hostile Palestinian state--the most likely outcome at present--would make things worse.

Equally wrong is the notion that time is against Israel, a strong and vibrant society surrounded by weak, disorganized neighbors. Israel’s strategic situation has dramatically improved over the decades. It is a strong, confident society visibly meeting the challenge of the modern economic and technical environment.

Finally, and of the greatest importance, is the fact that Israel’s new policy is truly based on a consensus. It merges both the conservative approach--proper suspicions and demands for security and reciprocity—and the liberal approach--a proper readiness to compromise and desire for true peace--into one package.

Both elements are now blended in the thinking of the overwhelming majority of Israelis. A new national consensus has emerged which will be strong, and durable. If the world pays attention to it, there might actually be some real hope for peace.

Israel never better


An Israeli Speaks

Written by an Israeli named Dan Sporn 17/7/09
Jul 20, 2009 - 9:48:14 AM

Our condition, in Israel , has never been better than it is now! Only the television and the media make people think that the end of the world is near.. Only 65 years ago, Jews were brought to death like sheep to slaughter. NO country, NO army. Only 60 years ago, seven Arab countries declared war on little Israel , the Jewish State, just a few hours after it was established.

We were 650,000 Jews against the rest of the Arab world. No IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) or Air Force. We were only a small group of stubborn people with nowhere to go.

Remember: Lebanon , Syria , Iraq , Jordan , Egypt , Libya , and Saudi Arabia , they all attacked at once. The state that the United Nations "gave" us was 65% desert. We started it from zero.

Only 41 years ago, we fought three of the strongest countries in the Middle East , and we crushed them in the Six Day War.

Over the years we fought different coalitions of Arab countries with modern armies and with huge amounts of Russian-Soviet ammunition, and we still won.

Today we have a beautiful country, a powerful Army, a strong Air Force, an adequate Navy and a thriving high tech industry. Intel, Microsoft, and IBM have all developed their businesses here. Our doctors have won important prizes in the medical development field.

We turned the desert into a prosperous land.

We sell oranges, flowers, and vegetables around the world.

We launched our own satellite! Three satellites at once! We are in good company; together with the USA (280 million residents), Russia (220 million residents), China (1.3 billion residents) and Europe ( France , England and Germany 35 million residents), we are one of the only countries in the world that have launched something into space!

Israel today is among the few powerful countries that have nuclear technology & capabilities. (We will never admit it, but everyone knows.)

To think that only 65 years ago we were disgraced and hopeless.

We crawled out from the burning crematoriums of Europe . We won in all our wars. With a little bit of nothing we built an empire.

Who are Khaled Mashal (leader of Hamas) or Hassan Nasrallah
(leader of Hezbollah) trying to frighten us? They are amusing us.

As we celebrate Independence Day, let's not forget what this day is all about; we overcame everything.

We overcame the Greeks, We overcame the Romans, We overcame the Spanish Inquisition, We overcame the Russian pogroms, We overcame Hitler, we overcame Germany and overcame the Holocaust, We overcame the armies of seven countries.

Relax friends, we will overcome our current enemies.

Never mind where you look in human history. Think about the Jewish nation, our condition has never been better than now. So let's lift our heads up and remember that God is always on our side.

Never mind which country or culture tries to harm us or erase us from the world. We will still exist and persevere. Egypt ? Anyone knows where the Egyptian empire disappeared to? The Greeks? Alexander the great of Macedonia ? The Romans? Is anyone speaking Latin today? The Third Reich? Did anyone hear news from them lately?

And look at us, the Biblical nation ! We came out of slavery in Egypt , we are still here, still speaking the same language - here, and now.

Maybe The Arabs don't get it, but we are an eternal nation. As long as we keep our identity and belief in God, we will stay eternal.

So, sorry, we are not worrying, complaining, crying, or fearing.

Business here is fine. It can definitely be much better, but it is still fine. Don't pay attention to the nonsense depicted in the media, they will not tell you about our festivals here in Israel or about the people that continue living, going out, having a life, meeting friends, and praying to God.

Monday, July 27, 2009


. AP – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, right, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem …
. Play Video Iran Video:Protestors Rally In Westwood For Iran CBS 2 / KCAL 9 Los Angeles .
Play Video Iran Video:Protesters call for end to Iranian rights abuses AP .
Play Video Iran Video:Iranians Dream Of Democracy In Their Homeland CBS 5 San Francisco .
By ANNE GEARAN, AP National Security Writer Anne Gearan, Ap National Security Writer – 1 hr 9 mins ago
JERUSALEM – Tensions between Israel and the United States over Iran bubbled up in high-level talks Monday in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak bluntly told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that "no option" should be ruled out.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office subsequently described the talks as occurring "in a highly positive atmosphere."

But before that, the two sides seemed to differ pointedly over a potential military strike to thwart Tehran's progress on the nuclear front.

The visiting Gates urged patience, but Barak declared: "We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table. This is our policy; we mean it. We recommend to others to take the same position, but we cannot dictate it to anyone."

While the United States also reserves the right to use force if need be, the Obama administration is playing down that possibility while it tries to draw Iran into talks about its disputed nuclear program and other topics. Gates said Washington still hopes to have an initial answer in the fall about negotiations.

"The timetable the president laid out still seems to be viable and does not significantly raise the risks to anybody," Gates said.

The statement issued from Netanyahu's office acknowledged that "a large part" of the discussion here had been devoted to Iran.

"Secretary Gates stated that the U.S. and Israel see eye-to-eye regarding the Iranian nuclear threat and explained that the U.S. engagement with Tehran will not be open-ended," it said.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Best way to help Israel?

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Jerusalem -- one city, undivided
by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
July 22, 2009

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LATE LAST WEEK, the Obama administration demanded that the Israeli government pull the plug on a planned housing development near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. The project, a 20-unit apartment complex, is indisputably legal. The property to be developed -- a defunct hotel -- was purchased in 1985, and the developer has obtained all the necessary municipal permits.

Why, then, does the administration want the development killed? Because Sheikh Jarrah is in a largely Arab section of Jerusalem, and the developers of the planned apartments are Jews. Think about that for a moment. Six months after Barack Obama became the first black man to move into the previously all-white residential facility at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, he is fighting to prevent integration in Jerusalem.

It is impossible to imagine the opposite scenario: The administration would never demand that Israel prevent Arabs from moving into a Jewish neighborhood. And the Obama Justice Department would unleash seven kinds of hell on anyone who tried to impose racial, ethnic, or religious redlining in an American city. In the 21st century, segregation is unthinkable -- except, it seems, when it comes to housing Jews in Jerusalem.

It is not easy for Israel's government to refuse any demand from the United States, which is the Jewish state's foremost ally. To their credit, Israeli leaders spoke truth to power, and said no. "Jerusalem residents can purchase apartments anywhere in the city," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. "This has been the policy of all Israeli governments. There is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the west of the city, and there is no ban on Jews building or buying in the city's east. This is the policy of an open city."

Eastern Jerusalem, seen through the barbed wire that used to divide the city

There was a time not so long ago when Jerusalem was anything but an open city. During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion invaded eastern Jerusalem, occupied the Old City, and expelled all its Jews -- many from families that had lived in the city for centuries. "As they left," the acclaimed historian Sir Martin Gilbert later wrote in his 1998 book, Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century, "they could see columns of smoke rising from the quarter behind them. The Hadassah welfare station had been set on fire and . . . the looting and burning of Jewish property was in full swing."

For the next 19 years, eastern Jerusalem was barred to Jews, brutally divided from the western part of the city with barbed-wire and military fortifications. Dozens of Jewish holy places, including synagogues hundreds of years old, were desecrated or destroyed. Gravestones from the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery were uprooted by the Jordanian army and used to pave latrines. Jerusalem's most sacred Jewish shrine, the Western Wall, became a slum. It wasn't until 1967, after Jordan was routed in the Six-Day War, that Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli sovereignty and religious freedom restored to all. Israelis have vowed ever since that Jerusalem would never again be divided.

And not only Israelis. US policy, laid out in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognizes Jerusalem as "a united city administered by Israel" and formally declares that "Jerusalem must remain an undivided city." US presidents, Republican and Democratic alike, have agreed. In former President Clinton's words, "Jerusalem should be an open and undivided city, with assured freedom of access and worship for all."

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said much the same thing. To a 2008 candidate questionnaire that asked about "the likely final status Jerusalem," Obama replied: "The United States cannot dictate the terms of a final status agreement. . . . Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it to be re-divided." In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Council, he repeated the point: "Let me be clear . . . Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

Palestinian irredentists claim that eastern Jerusalem is historically Arab territory and should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In reality, Jews always lived in eastern Jerusalem -- it is the location of the Old City and its famous Jewish Quarter, after all, not to mention Hebrew University, which was founded in 1918. The apartment complex that Obama opposes is going up in what was once Shimon Hatzadik, a Jewish neighborhood established in 1891. Only from 1948 to 1967 -- during the Jordanian occupation -- was the eastern part of Israel's capital "Arab territory." Palestinians have no more claim to sovereignty there than Russia does in formerly occupied eastern Berlin.

The great obstacle to Middle East peace is not that Jews insist on living among Arabs. It is that Arabs insist that Jews not live among them. If Obama doesn't yet grasp that, he has a lot to learn.

Monday, July 20, 2009

playing to Hamas hands

July 7, 2009 6:30 AM
by Khaled Abu Toameh
As Hamas Tightens Its Grip

As the row between the Obama Administration and the Israeli government over the settlements continues, Hamas is gradually turning the Gaza Strip into a Taliban-style Islamic entity that poses a threat not only to Israel , but also to the Americans, Europeans and moderate Arabs and Muslims.

Both Hamas and its rivals in the Palestinian Authority appear to be satisfied with the fact that the Obama Administration has turned the issue of the settlements into the major problem, shifting attention from the incompetence and corruption in the West Bank and the emergence of the new Islamic state in the Gaza Strip.

The high-profile controversy over Israel 's policy of building new homes for Jewish settlements has in fact facilitated Hamas's mission.

Thanks to the Obama Administration's new strategy regarding the Middle East , the entire world now seems to be obsessed with the issue of the settlements as if they were just now being established.

The foreign media is no longer interested in what's happening in the Gaza Strip. Nor are Western governments and international organizations dealing with the Israeli-Arab conflict.

As far as most decision-makers in the US and Europe are concerned, the "natural growth" of the settlements is much more dangerous that the rise of another radical Islamic state in the Middle East .

Hamas feels confident to do whatever it wishes in the Gaza Strip because the Obama Administration and its allies in France, Germany and Britain are too busy arguing with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu whether settlers should be permitted to build new homes or not.

So what if young women in the Gaza Strip are being harassed and arrested by Hamas's "morality police" for laughing in public or leaving their homes without hijabs?

So what if young Palestinian women are banned from swimming unless they are covered from top to bottom? And so what if women are being banned from entering coffee shops and restaurants and other public places unless they are escorted by male relatives?

So what if young men are banned from swimming in the sea topless? And so what if Hamas is now operating a secret police whose job is to separate males from females in public places?

A Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip remarked: "The Americans and Europeans are fighting against Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan while Hamas is building a new fundamentalist entity here. The settlements may be an obstacle to peace, but Hamastan will soon become a major threat to stability in the region."

The Palestinian Authority also appears to be happy about the West's obsessions with the settlements.

The Palestinian leadership's handling of the issue of the settlements is extremely hypocritical: Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salaam Fayad, insist on boycotting peace talks with Israel in protest against the ongoing construction in the settlements. But the two did not stay away from the talks when former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were also building in the settlements.

The construction in the settlements has increased since the signing of the Oslo Accords more than 15 years ago, but that did not stop the Palestinian Authority from pursuing the peace talks with Israel .

Yasser Arafat negotiated with former Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon even while the bulldozers were continuing to build new homes in the settlements.

So what is behind the Palestinian Authority's decision to suspend peace talks with Israel ? Have Abbas and Fayad suddenly discovered that the settlements are expanding? The two are waiting for the Obama Administration to deliver.

Tensions between Obama and Netanyahu have left many Palestinian Authority leaders very happy and hopeful. Their optimism is based on the hope that Obama will force Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, including the eastern part of Jerusalem , and expel all the Jewish settlers from the West Bank .

Some Palestinian officials in Ramallah seriously believe that Israel will eventually succumb to Obama's demands. As such, they explain, why return to the negotiating table with Israel when the Obama Administration has actually endorsed the Palestinian position and is negotiating with the Netanyahu government on behalf of the Palestinian Authority?

Friday, July 17, 2009

daily alert

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July 17, 2009
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Gates: Iran Nuclear Arms Worst Threat to Security (AFP)
Iran's nuclear ambitions are the greatest current threat to global security, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"Iran is the one that concerns me the most because there don't seem to be good options (or a scenario) where one can have any optimism that good options will be found," Gates told the Economic Club of Chicago.
The threat rests not only in Iran's apparent determination to seek a nuclear weapon, but in the "inability of the international community to affect their determination to do that."

Report: Cure for Radiation Sickness Found - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
Medication that can protect humans against nuclear radiation has been developed by Professor Andrei Gudkov - Chief Scientific Officer at Cleveland BioLabs, in cooperation with a researcher and investors from Israel.
The discovery could affect the degree of protection against a nuclear attack by Iran or against "dirty bomb" attacks by terror groups.

Islamic Emirate Nightmare - Arnaud de Borchgrave (UPI)
At the request of President Obama, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA expert on South Asia, chaired an interagency policy review on Afghanistan and nuclear Pakistan.
His latest assessment says, "A jihadist victory in Pakistan, meaning the takeover of the nation by a militant Sunni movement led by the Taliban...would create the greatest threat the United States has yet to face in its war on terror...(and) is now a real possibility in the foreseeable future."
It would bolster al-Qaeda's capabilities ten-fold, Riedel concludes. It would also give terrorists a nuclear capability.
Pakistan's "creation of and collusion with extremist groups has left Islamabad vulnerable to an Islamist coup," Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, concludes.
See also Armageddon in Islamabad - Bruce Riedel (National Interest)

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When Will the U.S. Officially Recognize Jerusalem as Part of Israel? - Michael Doyle (McClatchy)
In October 2002, Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem to U.S. citizens. In December 2002, Menachem's mother applied for a U.S. passport and a Consular Report of Birth for her son at the U.S. Embassy, requesting that both documents record her son's place of birth as "Jerusalem, Israel."
Congress in the 2002 foreign aid authorization bill included language stating that "for purposes of the registration of birth...or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary [of State] shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen's legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel."
But President Bush signed a statement declaring the language non-binding. So the family sued.
Last Friday the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia determined that the president has "exclusive and unreviewable constitutional power to keep the United States out of the debate over the status of Jerusalem."

Arab Journalist Views Prospects for Peace - Robert Fulford (National Post-Canada)
Khaled Abu Toameh, who used to work for the PLO newspaper Al-Fajr, was in Toronto last week. For the last eight years he's been the Jerusalem Post's specialist in Arab affairs.
"I am an Arab Muslim and the only place I can write honestly is in a Jewish newspaper," he says.
"The real obstacle to peace is not a Jew building a settlement but the failure of the Palestinians to have a government. Is there a partner on the Palestinian side for peace talks? No."
He thinks Israel should simply wait until the Palestinians stop killing each other and create a credible political entity that can make a deal.

Shards of Stories at Israeli Spy Memorial - Matti Friedman (AP/Washington Post)
The Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center offers a unique, if fragmentary, glimpse into the exploits of the Mossad agents and intelligence operatives who have waged this country's shadow wars.
Here, on a memorial wall, you can encounter names like Shalom Dani, a Holocaust survivor who became the Mossad's master forger, taking part in the Mossad's effort to spirit thousands of Moroccan Jews to Israel.
He was also dispatched to Argentina in 1960 where he counterfeited the documents that allowed a team of agents to smuggle Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Nazi genocide, to his trial in Israel.
The center grants a prize, the "Hero of Silence," to civilians, Israelis and foreigners, who have assisted Israel's intelligence services.
Eight people have received the prize so far; the identities of seven are secret.
The eighth is Shulamit Kishak-Cohen, a colorful Beirut matron who ran a smuggling ring bringing Jews to Israel in the 1950s.

Iraqi-Jewish Musicians' Work Enjoying Posthumous Revival - Rachel Shabi (New Statesman-UK)
During a business trip to London in the early 1990s, Shlomo al-Kuwaiti from Israel was sitting in a hotel lobby when he noticed an important-looking gentleman wearing a galabeya, surrounded by an entourage of bodyguards, and heard that the man was a senior minister from Kuwait.
The Israeli introduced himself to the Arab minister, who asked him directly: "Are you the son of Salah al-Kuwaiti?" When Shlomo said yes, the minister grabbed him in a firm embrace.
This exchange took place because of the legendary Iraqi-Jewish musicians Salah and Daoud al-Kuwaiti, whose music is now enjoying a posthumous revival.
The brothers were born in Kuwait, moved to Iraq in the late 1920s, and swiftly gained fame for their groundbreaking music.
Salah composed thousands of songs that took Arab classical arrangements to a new level, earning the brothers accolades across the Arab world.
The brothers migrated to Israel in 1951.

Israel's Economy Looks Resilient (Economist-UK)
Israel's economy has grown by an average annual rate of 5% in the past five years. Its GDP per head is ahead of Portugal, a shade behind Greece and five times bigger than its neighbor Egypt.
Still, Israel is suffering with the rest of the world. Exports have shrunk by more than a quarter since September. Foreign investment has dived. High-tech is marking time. Nearly 8% of the workforce is jobless, up from 6% nine months ago.
"But the government has not had to step in and save any bank or insurance company or indeed any major company," says Israel's Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

Israeli, African Doctors Combat HIV (UPI)
Israeli and Senegalese doctors will perform male circumcisions in southern and eastern Africa to try to reduce HIV transmission, Operation Abraham, the organization in charge of the medical teams, said.
Scientific studies from three trials conducted in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa in 2007 showed male circumcision was effective in dramatically reducing transmission of the virus that causes AIDS.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

* Israel: Lebanon Blast Shows Flagrant Violations of UN Resolutions by Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah - Matti Friedman
Israel accused Iran and Syria on Thursday of sending weapons to Lebanon's Hizbullah in violation of UN resolutions, after one of the militant group's weapons depots blew up near the Israeli border. The conditions of the 2006 cease-fire that ended the Israel-Hizbullah war prohibit weapons smuggling to Hizbullah and forbid the group from engaging in military activities in south Lebanon. A senior Israeli officer said the warehouse that blew up on Tuesday contained active, short-range rockets smuggled from Syria. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the incident was evidence of "Iranian and Syrian efforts to continue to transfer weapons to Hizbullah in direct and flagrant violation" of the 2006 cease-fire. (AP/Washington Post)
See also Hizbullah Weapons in Southern Lebanon (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
* Signs of Hope Emerge for Palestinians in West Bank - Ethan Bronner
"You don't appreciate the value of law and order until you lose it," said Nablus store owner Rashid al-Sakhel as he surveyed the bustling streets. "For the past eight years, a 10-year-old boy could order a strike and we would all close. Now nobody can threaten us." For the first time since the second Palestinian uprising broke out in late 2000, a sense of personal security and economic potential is spreading across the West Bank as the PA's security forces enter their second year of consolidating order. The International Monetary Fund forecasts a 7% growth rate for 2009. Two weeks ago, the Israeli military shut its nine-year-old checkpoint at the entrance to the city, part of a series of reductions in security measures.
The aim of American and European policy is to stitch Palestinian politics back together by strengthening the PA under Mahmoud Abbas, which favors a two-state solution with Israel, while weakening the Islamists of Hamas, who rule in Gaza. The Israeli government of Prime Minister Netanyahu says it shares the goal of helping Mr. Abbas, which is why it is seeking to improve West Bank economic conditions as a platform for moving to a political discussion.
Asked to explain why the West Bank's fortunes were shifting, a top Israeli general began his narrative with a chart showing 410 Israelis killed by Palestinians in 2002, and 4 in 2008. "We destroyed the terrorist groups through three things - intelligence, the barrier, and freedom of action by our men," he said. "We sent our troops into every marketplace and every house, staying tightly focused on getting the bad guys." (New York Times)
* Israel Tells U.S. Envoy Terms for Syria Talks - Dan Williams
Israel discussed renewed peace negotiations with Syria on Wednesday with Fred Hoff, a top adviser to U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell. The Israelis repeated their long-standing offer to hold direct talks with Syria if it distances itself from Iran and armed Islamist groups arrayed against Israel in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. "These things have to end if, indeed, Syria is seeking peace," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said. Syria insists that any new negotiations include assurances that it will recover the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967. (Reuters)

News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

* IDF Soldiers Record Testimonies of Palestinian Terrorists' Use of Gazans as Human Shields - Cnaan Liphshiz
A group of Israeli reservists who served in Gaza has prepared signed, on-camera testimonies about Palestinian terrorists' use of Gazans as human shields to counter the anonymous accusations of alleged human rights abuses by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. Pinchas Sanderson, 29, recounted: "We came upon an ambulance from a local children's hospital. It was suspicious because there was a very old lady in the ambulance of a children's hospital. Inside we found three RPG rocket launchers." (Ha'aretz)
See also Hear the Real Voices of Israeli Soldiers (SoldiersSpeakOut-StandWithUs)
See also Europeans Funding Group that Accused IDF Soldiers - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
The group Breaking the Silence, which on Wednesday released a report claiming that the IDF used Gazans as human shields, received NIS 226,589 from the British Embassy, ?19,999 from the Dutch Embassy, and ?43,514 from the European Union in 2008. (Jerusalem Post)
* Rocket from Gaza Strikes Israel - Yanir Yagana
After a month-long lull, terrorists in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into Israel on Thursday which landed near Sdot Negev. (Ha'aretz)
* Obama Has Spoken About Us, But Not to Us - Yoel Marcus
President Obama aspires to accelerate the peace process and is behaving as though everything starts and ends with the question of whether Israel will or will not freeze construction in the settlements. Sixteen years have passed since the Oslo Accords, and we have gotten nowhere, except for the fact that the Palestinians turned us into moving targets during the intifadas and suicide attacks. Since there is still no serious partner on the Palestinian side, it is hard to get excited by the optimism of Obama, who expects a quick peace treaty not only with the Palestinians but with Syria as well.
Obama assumed he did a great thing when he spoke in Cairo about the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. What is infuriating is the implied distortion: that we deserve a state because of the Holocaust. His disregard of our historical connection to the Land of Israel, and obscuring the fact that the Palestinians are unable to overcome their passions and to be worthy partners to a peace agreement, is extremely annoying.
We expect that, as a leader who aspires to solve the problems of the world through rapprochement, Obama will come to Israel and declare here courageously, before the entire world, that our connection to this land began long before the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Holocaust; and that 4,000 years ago Jews already stood on the ground where he is standing. (Ha'aretz)

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

Peace Process

* How to Achieve a Lasting Peace - Stop Focusing on the Settlements - Ehud Olmert
By vast majorities, Congress endorsed President Bush's 2004 letter elaborating Israel's right to defend itself, by itself, against any threat and recognizing new realities on the ground in which the Jewish population centers in the West Bank would be an inseparable part of the state of Israel in any future permanent-status agreement. In November 2007, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Bush administration convened in Annapolis with the unified goal of solving all outstanding issues. Annapolis provided the framework for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians toward bringing an end to the conflict and to all claims. Yet today, the issue of settlement construction commands the agenda between the United States and Israel. This is a mistake that serves neither the process with the Palestinians nor relations between Israel and the Arab world.
Although America has not supported settlement construction, it has, on some occasions, recognized the realities that have developed over 40 years. Sharon reached understandings with the U.S. administration regarding the growth and building of settlements, as part of the Roadmap. These understandings provided a working platform and, in my opinion, a proper balance to allow essential elements of stability and normality for Israelis living in settlements until their future would be determined in a permanent-status agreement. I adopted these understandings and followed them in close coordination with the Bush administration. Let me be clear: Without those understandings, the Annapolis process would not have taken on any form. Therefore, the focus on settlement construction now is not useful.
The focus on settlement construction, while ignoring the previous understandings, unjustly skews the focus from a true political process and from dealing with the real strategic issues confronting the region. Settlement construction should be taken off the public agenda and moved to a discrete dialogue, as in the past. The writer was prime minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009. (Washington Post)
* Obama Should Dial Down the Pressure - Frida Ghitis
Palestinians, watching Obama face down Israel on the settlements issue, have become emboldened, refusing to sit down and talk, instead raising new conditions and bragging about how protracted negotiations have worn Israel down. Israelis, meanwhile, are growing increasingly worried that Obama does not understand their concerns. A huge majority in Israel now believe the American president favors Palestinians. The push from Washington for a new direction in the Mideast has transformed the situation so dramatically that it risks overshooting its mark and making prospects for reconciliation more remote. Palestinians seem determined to let Obama wring concessions from Israel without making any of their own. Arabs still refuse to make concrete moves indicating a willingness to accept Israel's existence in the region.
If Obama wants to make peace more likely between Israelis and Palestinians, he needs to dial down the one-sided pressure. He should show he expects all sides to compromise, and he needs to convince everyone - Arabs and Israelis - that he understands the threats Israel faces and is committed to seeing that a peace deal does not bring more threats to Israel's survival. (Miami Herald)
* Arabs Need to Talk to the Israelis - Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa
Peace is a process, contingent on a good idea but also requiring a great deal of campaigning. This is where we as Arabs have not done enough to communicate directly with the people of Israel. An Israeli might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred, because that is usually the only one he hears. Essentially, we have not done a good enough job demonstrating to Israelis how our initiative can form part of a peace between equals in a troubled land holy to three great faiths. Others have been less reticent, recognizing that our success would threaten their vested interest in keeping Palestinians and Israelis at each other's throats. They want victims to stay victims so they can be manipulated as proxies in a wider game for power. The rest of us - the overwhelming majority - have the opposite interest.
Speaking out matters, but it is not enough. Our governments and all stakeholders also must be ready to carry out practical measures to help ease the day-to-day hardship of Palestinian lives. The two communities in the Holy Land are not fated to be enemies. What can unite them tomorrow is potentially bigger than what divides them today. We should move toward real peace now by consulting and educating our people and by reaching out to the Israeli public. Some Arabs, simplistically equating communication with normalization, may think we are moving too fast toward normalization. But we all know that dialogue must be enhanced for genuine progress. We all, together, need to take the first crucial step to lay the groundwork to effectively achieve peace. The writer is crown prince of Bahrain. (Washington Post)
* Obstacles to Peace - Col. (res.) Moshe Elad
The real obstacle to peace is the intense hatred growing within Palestinian society, the kind of hatred that prevents any possibility that a responsible leadership will emerge. The West frequently mentions its endorsement of a Palestinian state, but who exactly will be leading it? The politically impotent Mahmoud Abbas who is an exile in his own country, or Islamic fundamentalist Khaled Mashaal? The real obstacle to peace is the absence of a serious Palestinian leadership and an authorized partner whose word will be kept and whose signature on agreements will be fully honored. Ever since 1948, the only Palestinian leader who managed to win the majority's support, Yasser Arafat, reverted to terrorism and the armed struggle at the moment of truth.
Another obstacle is the bottomless barrel of aid funds to the Palestinians, whose billions in contributions only amounted to boosting terror groups in our region. In any other place in the world, the funds donated to the Palestinian Authority would have been sufficient to establish industrial infrastructure, provide employment, housing, and a car to each worker. However, in the "territories" these funds have been swallowed up by terror arms and private pockets. Yet the West believes that it promotes peace in our region.
The obstacle to peace also has to do with the West's double-standards: the calm with which it accepts Gilad Shalit's abduction; the exaggerated pampering of the corrupt Fatah; the understanding shown to the demands made by Hamas terrorists, while only being strict and unbiased when facing our besieged democracy. (Ynet News)


* Supreme Leader Khamenei Diminished in Iranians' Eyes - Borzou Daragahi
For two decades, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was considered to be above petty political squabbles. But Khamenei has gotten his hands dirty. His decision to so stridently support Ahmadinejad after a disputed election has dramatically changed his image among his people. "Public respect for him has been significantly damaged," said one analyst. "Opposing him is no longer the same as opposing God." Ahmadinejad "commits crimes, and the leader supports him" was a popular slogan during the riots of June 20.
"For nearly two decades Khamenei has wielded power without accountability," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Those days are over. Formerly sacred red lines have been crossed. For the first time, people have begun openly questioning whether Emperor Khamenei has any clothes on." (Los Angeles Times)
* Targeting Human Rights Abuse in Iran - Emanuele Ottolenghi
The U.S. and Europe should focus on the Iranian regime's latest human rights abuses, signaling to Iranian dissidents that they are not alone. Governments must demonstrate to Iran's repressive leaders that although dialogue may continue, "business as usual" will not. Iran, where national honor and pride are highly valued, will not be indifferent to regular displays of public contempt for its leaders.
Cities can pay tribute to prominent Iranian dissidents by renaming sections of streets in front of Iranian embassies after them. Western governments should severely limit the scope of visits by Iranian dignitaries and deny visas to accompanying business delegations. Governments should close offices used by the Iranian regime to promote its agenda; particular scrutiny should be given to Press TV, the Iranian government's London-based English-language satellite channel. The writer is director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
* Britain Replacing U.S. as Iran's "Great Satan" - Tara Bahrampour
For the past three decades, the U.S. has been Iran's "Great Satan." Schoolchildren learned to chant "Down With U.S.A." Conservative clerics sermonized against America. Anti-American murals depicting images such as a skull-faced Statue of Liberty dotted Tehran. But since Iran's disputed presidential election last month, another Satan has gained ground: Great Britain. Iran's government has expelled two British diplomats, kicked out the longtime British Broadcasting Corp. bureau chief, and arrested British Embassy staff members, accusing them of fomenting the unrest. Last week, an adviser to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Britain "worse than America" for its alleged interference in Iran's post-election affairs.
Iranians consider the British "the masters of political intrigue, and players such as the U.S. are considered to be novices," said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, director of Middle Eastern studies at Syracuse University. Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, noted that "Ahmadinejad's government has always been very Anglophobic in its approach....They're really obsessed with Britain in a way that even previous Iranian governments, even in the Islamic republic, haven't been." "There were a couple of members of Parliament that got up and said [President Bush's 2002] 'axis of evil' speech was written by the British....They said the Americans weren't capable of this, they weren't intelligent enough to think of this." (Washington Post)

Other Issues

* Will Hariri's Coalition Stand Its Ground While Forming a Government in Lebanon? - Zvi Mazel
More than a month after the elections in Lebanon, the process of forming a new government has reached an impasse. The coalition led by Hariri now musters 71 representatives in parliament while the opposition has 57. In order to tackle the country's severe economic problems, Hariri has declared that he wanted "a national unity government" that includes opposition parties, but the Hizbullah-led opposition is demanding a third of the cabinet ministers and a veto on all important government decisions - something Hizbullah had obtained in the previous government. Hizbullah wants to remain free to act as it sees fit concerning the flow of arms smuggled to it from Syria, and to be able to control any decision regarding Israel.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been trying to persuade Syria to pressure Hizbullah to accept a compromise, which is a new phenomenon. The U.S. and France are also doing all they can to bring Syria to pressure Hizbullah into a more conciliatory position. So far Syria, basking in all that international attention, has given no indication that it is ready to act. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated that in the event that Hizbullah were included in the next Lebanese government, Lebanon would be held responsible if Hizbullah were to attack Israel. The writer, a former ambassador to Egypt, is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and editor of (Jerusalem Post)
* The End of Proportionality - Jonathan F. Keiler
Accusations of "disproportion," like those against the IDF, will almost certainly be applied to American forces when domestic and international opposition to U.S. actions can find no other complaint. In NATO's 1999 Kosovo campaign, there were few if any claims of disproportionate use of force, despite the Serbian military's limited power and the infliction of hundreds of civilian casualties. Though American military action in Afghanistan or Iraq has not yet received comparable condemnation, it is only a matter of time before this occurs
The principle of proportionality is so vague and difficult to apply with any consistency, and so widely misunderstood, that the U.S. military should discard it. Instead, American authorities should simply take the position that U.S. doctrine proscribes use of force that is indiscriminate, wasteful, excessive, or not necessary to achieving military objectives. America's armed forces should openly acknowledge that they do not abide by the principle of proportionality because it is so problematic. The writer is a former U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps officer. (U.S. Army War College Journal)
* What Happened to the Suicide Bombers of Jerusalem? - Christopher Hitchens
Whatever happened to the suicide bombers of Jerusalem? It was widely said by people as eminent as Tony Blair's wife that the real cause of such a lurid and awful tactic was despair: the reaction of a people who had no other avenue of expression for their misery and frustration. Well, surely nobody will be so callous as to say that there is less despair among Palestinians today.
Of the various explanations, one would be the success of the wall or "fence" that Israel has built. Another possible reason for the slump in suicide is that those who were orchestrating it came to find that the tactic was becoming subject to diminishing returns. Nasty, vicious, fanatical old men were making the decisions and deciding the days and the hours of death. And the hysterical ululating street celebrations when such a mission was successful did not signify despair at all but a creepy form of religious exaltation in which relatives were encouraged to make a feast out of the death of their own children as well as those of other people. (Slate)

Weekend Features

* "Mainstream" U.S. Islamist Convention Features Hate Speech, Defense of Hizbullah - Steven Emerson
The national convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) this month attracted thousands of people and featured anti-Semitic, homophobic rhetoric and defense of the terrorist group Hizbullah. While many panels featured criticism of U.S. policy, one stood out for its hate-filled rhetoric. During a "meet the authors" session, Imam Warith Deen Umar, former head of the New York state prison chaplain program, portrayed the Holocaust as punishment of Jews for being "serially disobedient to Allah." Umar previously hailed the 9/11 hijackers as martyrs who were secretly admired by Muslims, and he has called for violent jihad. He is the author of Judaiology, a book describing "the inordinacy of Jewish power."
During his ISNA appearance, Umar said: "The first man that Obama picked when we were so happy that he was the President, he picked an Israeli - Rahm Emanuel - his number one man. His number two man - [David] Axelrod - another Israeli person. Why do this small number of people have control of the world?" (Investigative Project on Terrorism)
* Unique Camp for Terror Victims' Relatives - Ilana Curiel
"It is very difficult for a family that has lost someone to have fun," explains Rabbi Seth Mandell, the president of the Koby Mandell Foundation, about the camp currently in session for dozens of children from families affected by terrorism. Camp Koby and Yosef was established by Seth and Sherri Mandell, whose son Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran were murdered by terrorists in May 2001 while hiking near Tekoa. Some 500 children from across the country are attending the camp this summer. Their families are not asked to pay for the camp, which is funded entirely by donations. "Some children experience a real breakthrough during the camp session," said Seth. "After therapy with the counselors, they sometimes say something they have never told anyone."
A camper named Yochai, whose father was murdered in a shooting attack, says the camp "gives strength." "It helps, and it's fun. If you need something, you talk. There are good people here. If I'm having a hard time, the counselors always help. They are good friends. Everyone comes from the same background, and we are the same kind of people," says Yochai. (Ynet News)


Obama's Opening Gambit - Michael Doran (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)

* American presidents have been trying to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict since the days of Truman. Sooner or later, every one of them has learned a harsh lesson about the limits of American influence. There is no reason to believe that President Obama's experience will be any different. In fact, his opening gambit in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking suggests that his own lesson may already be upon him.
* The President has called for a halt to Israeli settlements, and his advisors have repeatedly explained that this policy includes an end to so-called "natural growth," meaning construction and population expansion within the boundaries of existing settlements. Obama's ban on natural growth nullified an understanding that President Bush had reached with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The Israelis agreed not to appropriate any new Palestinian territory; in return, the Bush administration gave the nod to natural growth within existing settlement blocs.
* Out of a mix of motives, Obama reversed this policy and chose to take an early, categorical, and public stance in order to launch a shot across the bow of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the 1990s, Netanyahu's recalcitrance had been a thorn in the side of the Clinton administration. The former Clintonites advising Obama no doubt relished the idea of immediately knocking Netanyahu back on his heels so as to begin negotiations from a position of strength.
* Shortly after Obama's address from Cairo, Netanyahu delivered a speech of his own, presenting himself to the Israeli public as the representative of a mainstream consensus on national security. Approximately two-thirds of all Israelis support the position that their prime minister staked out. On the specific issue of settlements, Netanyahu reaffirmed the basic lines of the Bush-Sharon agreement: natural growth, yes; settlement expansion, no. "We have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements," he said. "But there is a need to have people live normal lives and let mothers and fathers raise their children like everyone in the world." He now turned to his critics in Washington with a warning of his own: "Do you really want to fight with three-quarters of the Israeli public over the building of kindergartens?"
* Israeli pundits have noted the conspicuous absence of a pro-Obama coalition on the Israeli political scene - this, despite the fact that the Israeli Left detests the settlements as much as or more than Obama himself. Many Israelis simply do not understand how the country's security dilemmas fit into Obama's larger scheme. With respect to the issue of gravest concern, Iran's nuclear ambitions, Obama's strategy remains worryingly opaque.
* With respect to the Palestinian question, many Israelis are skeptical about the power of any American president to overcome the Hamas-Fatah split, and to create conditions on the Palestinian side that will achieve a two-state solution capable of guaranteeing Israeli security. Many Israelis fear that the administration aims to buy goodwill from the Muslim world by distancing itself from Israel, and they wonder whether settlements are not simply the first of many concessions that will be demanded.
* Many Western diplomats tell themselves that peace is nearly at hand, but the parties on the ground - Arab and Jewish alike - are highly skeptical. And for good reason. The power of Hamas, Hizbullah, and Syria, supported by Iran, looms in the background. It is highly unlikely that, in the next four years, a major breakthrough will take place. The central strategic challenge for the U.S. in the Middle East is diminishing the power of the Iranian-led alliance. The peace process is not as effective a tool for addressing this challenge as the administration believes, because the disarray of Fatah and the power of Hamas will not allow significant, forward movement. Everyone in the region knows this.

The writer has served as Senior Adviser to the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the State Department, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy, and as Senior Director of the Near East and North Africa at the National Security Council.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Recruiting for jihad openly in Windy City suburb?

Recruiting for jihad openly in Windy City suburb?
By Steven Emerson | Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international movement seeking to re-establish an international Islamic state - or Caliphate - and to indoctrinate Muslims into supporting jihad, wants to step up its recruitment efforts in the United States. On July 19, the group, whose alumni include 9/ 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and suicide bombers, will hold a conference titled "The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam" in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in Oak Lawn, Ill, a Chicago suburb.
For decades, Hizb ut-Tahrir America (HTA) has operated covertly, holding these Khalifa (Caliphate) conferences in the United States under the name of front organizations. But that has begun to change. Last fall, the group issued a leaflet in its own name urging Muslims to boycott the U.S. elections. The group just released this video promoting the July 19 conference. According to the conference website, the program includes a question-and-answer session and two panels; one entitled "Capitalism is Doomed to Fail," the other "The Suffering Under Capitalism."
The conference initially was scheduled for the Aqsa School in Bridgeview, Ill. But the school withdrew, claiming Hizb ut-Tahrir officials "misrepresented themselves." An official said the group approached the school in late April claiming it wanted to hold a bazaar-type event in July that would involve selling traditional food and clothing. School officials said that when they learned the real purpose, they cancelled and refunded the group's deposit.
While solid numbers are difficult to come by, there is little question that Hizb ut-Tahrir's worldwide membership has grown substantially since the September 11 attacks, says Madeleine Gruen, a senior analyst with the NEFA Foundation. In 2003, estimates of HT membership ranged from 10,000 to 100,000 people worldwide. Today, by contrast, the group (currently active in more than 40 countries) has approximately 100,000 members in Indonesia alone and "many thousands" more around the world, Gruen told IPT News.
In the United States, Hizb ut-Tahrir's following is estimated at no more than a few hundred. The decision to hold this month's conference under its own name is a sign that the group is preparing to raise its profile. Once that is achieved, Gruen adds, its cadres are supposed to establish "an Islamic government and military" in order to take Hizb ut-Tahrir's message to the world.
HT seeks to fuse an ideology combining orthodox Islam, Marxist-Leninist economics, anti-Semitism and opposition to Western democracy into a political program to bring back the Caliphate. Despite its public rhetoric about nonviolence, Hizb ut-Tahrir has "precisely the same ideology and objectives" as al Qaeda, Gruen told IPT News. And HT has a much larger membership base to recruit from, she added.
While it refrains from carrying out terrorist actions itself, Hizb ut-Tahrir glorifies jihadism and excoriates the terrorist organization Hamas as being too soft on Israel. In a leaflet posted on its website July 1, HT said that if the Caliphate were in existence, all of "Palestine" would be rid of "the usurpation of the Jewish occupiers" and brought "to the fold of the Islamic state."
HT was founded in 1952 in Bayt al-Maqdis, a Jordanian-occupied suburb of Jerusalem, by Sheikh Yaqiuddin Al-Nabhani, a man whose philosophy had been shaped by the Muslim Brotherhood. After he concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood was too moderate, Al-Nabhani formed Hizb ut-Tahrir. After its involvement in failed coup attempts in Egypt and Jordan, HT was banned throughout the Middle East. It moved to Western Europe, and after the fall of Soviet Communism the group spread into Central Asia.
HT is obsessed with the purported evils of the United States, President Obama and the capitalist system. A look at its website found articles with titles like "Bailouts and bonus culture shows [sic] the corruption of democracy;" "Obama Offers Sugar-Coated Poison for the Region!" (a recap of the President's recent visit to the Middle East); and "G20 Leaders attempt to salvage the last vestiges of Capitalism." A common theme is that Muslims in Pakistan should not join with the U.S. military in fighting against the Taliban. "Fighting Muslims is a great evil, which only benefits America," reads one typical entry on the HT website.
A posting entitled "Obama's words will not hide America's ugly face of Colonialism" said of the President's speech to Muslims in Egypt last month:
"Although this appears a seemingly positive gesture towards the Muslim world, the actions of his government appear every bit as ruthless as the Bush administration. [Obama] differs only to the extent that, unlike Bush who spoke with frank hatred, he uses 'soft power' and personal charm to cover his intentions."
Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesmen have emphasized that their organization does not engage in terrorism. They claim the U.S. and Pakistani governments seek to suppress the group because they fear its advocacy of "justice" for Muslims.
Critics say the argument is a sham. "The freedom and justice HT seeks by overthrowing democracy can often only be attained through violence," said Zeyno Baran, senior fellow and director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Eurasian Policy in July 2008 testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
In her testimony, Baran added: "HT is not likely to take up terrorism itself. Terrorist acts are simply not part of its mission. HT exists to serve as an ideological and political training ground for Islamists. And I have called them a 'conveyer belt to terrorism.' "
Terrorists who have been members of Hizb ut-Tahrir include Al Qaeda's Mohammed; Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, who was originally a member in Jordan; Hambali, head of the East Asian-based terror group Jemaa Islamiya, and Asif Muhammad Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, who were recruited by Hamas to carry out suicide bombings at a Tel Aviv seafront bar. Read more about HT's record as a "conveyor belt" for producing terrorists here.
In a June 2001 article in its publication Al-Waie, Hizb-Ut-Tahrir issued a fatwa on suicide attacks which said that "all ways and means which a Muslim uses to kill unbelievers is [sic] permitted as long as the enemy unbeliever is killed." It is acceptable to "blow yourself up amongst their military encampments or blow yourself and them up with a belt of explosives."
HT has been banned in Turkey and Germany for distributing literature that includes incitement to hatred and violence against Jews. In a paper for the Manhattan Institute, Gruen pointed to one leaflet distributed by the group titled: "And Kill Them Whenever You Find Them, and Turn Them Out From Where They Have Turned You Out." It stated that:
"Jews are a people of slander. They are treacherous people who violate oaths and covenants. They lie and change words from the right places. They take the rights of the people unjustly, and kill the Prophets and the innocent."
The leaflet then encouraged martyrdom operations against Jews.
Despite the incendiary message, law enforcement's hands are tied when it comes to a group like Hizb ut-Tahrir, said Bob Blitzer, who formerly headed the FBI's counterterrorism efforts. "Preaching violence is not enough reason to arrest anyone," he said. "Law enforcement is probably aware of this group and is checking them out" to the extent that it can under the law.
The danger is that as a result of exposure to HT's extremism "someone on the edge gets radicalized and takes it to heart and commits a violent act," Blitzer said.
That doesn't mean the government is powerless. Given that Hizb ut-Tahrir conferences typically include sympathizers from numerous countries, federal homeland security officials should expect supporters of the group to try to enter the United States in order to attend the Khalifa Conference, Gruen said. The United States Code bars from the United States any alien who "endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or support a terrorist organization."
But in the past the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (the federal agency chiefly responsible for stopping foreign supporters of extremist groups from entering the United States) has been asleep at the switch when it comes to HT. In 2007, Hizb ut-Tahrir had a booth right next to the Department of Homeland Security at a conference sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America - a Muslim Brotherhood-linked organization that was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal government's successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.
Dan Vara, a former attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Florida, has been at the forefront of many key enforcement matters involving counterterrorism and counterintelligence. He says ICE has ample legal authority to prevent Hizb ut-Tahrir's foreign supporters from entering the United States.
"I would rake them over the coals on these issues" related to HT's support for the Taliban and advocacy of Hamas violence, Vara said in an interview.
For example, Section 1182 of the United States Code allows consular officers or the attorney general to bar from the United States "any alien who endorses or espouses terrorist activity or support of a terrorist organization." That section also provides that "Any alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable ground to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States is inadmissible."
Hizb ut-Tahrir has a right to peacefully assemble and discuss whatever ideology it chooses. U.S. law enforcement, however, has a right to invoke the law and prevent foreign Islamists seeking to attend the conference from entering the United States.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

61 things I like about Israel

61 things I like best about Israel - for Israel 's 61st birthday
by Steven Plaut

1. Israel is the only country in the world where people can read the Bible and understand it.

2. Israel is the only country in the world where, if someone calls you a "dirty Jew", it means you need a bath (old Efraim Kishon quip, but still good).

3. Israel is the only country in the world where formal dress means a new clean T-shirt, sandals and jeans.

4. Israel is the only country in the world where one need not check the ingredients on the products in the supermarket to avoid ending up with things containing pork.

5. Israel is a country where the same drivers who cuss you and flip you the bird will immediately pull over and offer you all forms of help if you look like you need it.

6. Israel is the only country in the world with Avihu Medina, Zohar Argov and Daklon (godfathers of "Oriental Music").

7. Israel is the only country in the world with bus drivers and taxi drivers who read Spinoza and Maimonides.

8. Israel is the only country in the world where you dare not gossip about other people on the bus in Mandarin, Russian, Hindi, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Polish or Romanian, lest others on the bus understand what you are saying.

9. Israel is the only country in the world with northern European standards of living and southern European weather. It is the only place on earth with an Israeli spring, the most glorious time of year on the planet.

10. Israel is the only country in the world where no one cares what rules say when an important goal can be achieved by bending them.

11. Israel is the only country in the world where a pisher like me can once in a while get invited to give a talk at the parliament, or can get in to speak to a cabinet minister.

12. Israel is the only country in the world where reservists are bossed around and commanded by officers, male and female, younger than their own children.

13. Israel is the only country in the world with Eli Yatzpan (comedian).

14. Israel is the only country in the world where "small talk" consists of loud, angry debate over politics and religion.

15. Israel is the only country in the world with Jerusalem , even if Israeli leftists would like to turn it over to the barbarians.

16. Israel is the only country in the world where the coffee is already so good that Starbucks went bankrupt trying to break into the local market.

17. Israel is the only country in the world where the mothers learn their mother tongue from their children (old Efraim Kishon quip, but still good).

18. Israel is the only country in the world where the people understand Israeli humor.

19. Israel is the only country in the world where the news is broadcast over the loudspeakers on buses, where people listen to news updates every half hour, or whose people are capable of locating Bosnia and Macedonia on a map of the world.

20. Israel is one of the few places in the world where the sun sets into the Mediterranean Sea .

21. Israel is the only country in the world where, when people say the "modern later era", they are referring to the time of Jesus.

22. Israel is the only country in the world whose soldiers eat three sets of salads a day, none of which contain any lettuce (which is not really a food), and where olives ARE a food and even a main course in a meal, rather than something one tosses into a martini..

23. Israel is the only country in the world where one is unlikely to be able to dig a cellar without hitting ancient archeological artifacts.

24. Israel is the only country in the world where the leading writers in the country take buses.

25. Israel is the only country in the world where the graffiti is in Hebrew.

26. Israel is the only country in the world where the "black folks" walking around all wear yarmulkes.

27. Israel is the only country in the world that has a National Book Week, during which almost everyone attends a book fair and buys books.

28. Israel is the only country in the world where the ultra-Orthodox Jews beat up the police and not the other way around.

29. Israel is the only country in the world where inviting someone "out for a drink" means drinking cola or coffee or tea.

30. Israel is the only country in the world where people who want to go up in an elevator push the down button because they think this makes the elevator come down to get them.

31. Israel is the only country in the world with white almond blossoms in January, purple "Judas Tree" blossoms in March, and crocus flowers in October.

32. Israel is the only country in the world where bank robbers kiss the mezuzah as they leave with their loot.

33. Israel is the only country in the world with "Eretz Yisrael music".

34.. Israel is one of the few countries in the world that truly likes and admires the United States .

35. Israel is the only country in the world that introduces applications of high-tech gadgets and devices, such as printers in banks that print out your statement on demand, years ahead of the United States and decades ahead of Europe .

36. Israel is the only country in the world that has the weather and landscape of California without the earthquakes.

37. Israel is the only country in the world where everyone on a flight gets to know one another before the plane lands. In many cases, they also get to know the pilot and all about his health or marital problems.

38. Israel is the only country in the world where no one has a foreign accent because everyone has a foreign accent.

39. Israel is the only country in the world where people cuss using dirty words in Russian or Arabic because Hebrew has never developed them.

40. Israel is the only country in the world where patients visiting physicians end up giving the doctor advice.

41. Israel is the only country in the world where everyone strikes up conversations while waiting in lines.

42. Israel is the only country in the world where people choose which books to read and which plays to see based on what they plan to discuss with their friends in Friday evening "salon" get-togethers.

43. Israel is the only country in the world where hot water is an event and not a condition ("in" joke; you have to live in Israel to figure it out).

44. Krembos.

45. Israel is the only country in the world where people call an attache case a "James Bond" and the "@" sign is called a "strudel".

46. Kumquats.

47. The obsession with sunflower seeds.

48. The kumzitz on the beach.

49. The people who eat watermelon with salt or with salty cheese. The wagons with horses that still sell watermelons on the streets, screaming "watermelon on the knife", whatever that means.

50. Israel is the only country in the world where kids read Harry Potter in Hebrew.

51. Hyssop (za'atar).

52. Memorial Day in Israel is actually a day for remembering and not for buying pool furniture at the mall.

53. Really, really good bread!

54. Israel is the only country in the world where there is the most mysterious and mystical calm ambience in the streets on Yom Kippur, which cannot be explained unless you have experienced it.

55. In Israel , kids can really sleep in a succah because it will not rain on them.

56. Israel is the only country in the world where making a call to God is a local call (old quip, still good).

57. Where you here Hebrew songs set to bazouki and Ood music.

58. Zohar Argov (yes, I know I already mentioned him, but he deserves a second mention)

59. Sunsets in Jerusalem

60. Where people read English, write Hebrew, and joke in Yiddish

61. A Story:
A few years back, I took the kids to the Haifa beach promenade during Passover, where they had French fries. While sitting there, some Russian Jews who had not been in the country very long came and sat down. They ordered some salads, and asked the Arab waiter to bring it to them with Matzos because they did not want to eat Chometz during Passover. Then they asked the Arab to also bring them beers. The Arab stood and explained to them that it was not only bread that is Chometz but actually beer is also considered chometz and so is also prohibited for consumption by Jews during Passover. The Russians thanked him for explaining that to them. I was reminded about the section in Pirkei Avot where it says one must feel beholden and gratitutude to anyone who teaches one Torah or even a single Hebrew letter. These Russian Jews were beholden to their Arab waiter for teaching them Torah.
Only in Israel !

Friday, July 10, 2009

Israel and miliatry force

The Gaza war was intended to impose substantial costs on Hamas and to deter further attacks on Israel. It achieved both; e.g., attacks from Gaza are down since the war. The same regarding Hizbullah and the 2006 Lebanon war: Look at the northern front and how quiet Hizbullah has been, and how weakened the recent elections showed it to be in Lebanese politics. Oslo didn't work; unilateral withdrawals, both in Lebanon and in Gaza, gave land but didn't bring peace. The status quo is not great for Israel, but it's tolerable. Risk aversion says keep relying on military power.

Monday, July 6, 2009

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July 6, 2009


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In-Depth Issues:

Report: U.S. to Block Iran Sanctions at G8 Summit - Shlomo Shamir (Ha'aretz)
The U.S. is opposed to enacting a new set of financial sanctions against Iran that are due to be discussed in the G8 summit next week, diplomatic officials in New York reported Friday.
See also Despite Crisis, U.S. Policy on Iran Is Engagement - David E. Sanger (New York Times)
See also Israel: Iran Unrest Reveals Pointlessness of Talking with Tehran - Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
Israeli officials argue that Iran's fraudulent election and its brutal suppression of the demonstrations reveal the pointlessness of talking with Tehran and the need for stiffer sanctions.
See also U.S., Israel Have Resumed Dialogue on Iran - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
American officials involved in the Iranian issue have told their Israeli counterparts that they are aware of the frustration over Washington's insistence on going ahead with the dialogue with Iran, and that they also do not believe the chances of success are high.
Nevertheless, they said, were the U.S. to start laying the groundwork for stiffer sanctions now, this would signal to the Iranians that Obama is not serious about dialogue with Tehran, which would foil any chances of success that the dialogue might have.
This exchange of messages has a positive side: The two countries have at least resumed serious conversation on the Iranian issue, after a hiatus of almost six months.


Al-Qaeda in Sinai Plotted Attack on Israel-Egypt Gas Lines - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
An al-Qaeda cell based in Sinai is suspected of planning to attack the natural gas lines running between Israel and Egypt, the Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm reported Sunday.
The cell was also planning to strike Israeli ships passing through the Suez Canal.


Israel Approves PA Request for 1,000 Kalashnikov Rifles - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved the transfer of 1,000 automatic weapons to the Palestinian Authority, defense officials said Sunday, on the eve of Barak's meeting in London with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
Meanwhile, defense officials said the PA was having difficulty recruiting new soldiers into the battalions being trained by U.S. Security Coordinator Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton.


Gazan Infiltrated Israel through Sinai to Set Up Terror Network - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
Abd al-Rahman Talaalqa, 25, a Gaza resident who infiltrated Israel from Egypt to set up an infrastructure for terror attacks, was arrested last month and indicted Sunday.
An Israel Police official said he was recruited for terror activity in 2006 and underwent military training in Gaza to carry out an attack on Israeli territory.
He was trained to produce weapons using chemical substances and to prepare car bombs and explosive belts.
Talaalqa said he was asked to carry out attacks including kidnapping a soldier, and was ordered to collect intelligence on IDF bases, police facilities and places where soldiers gather.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

Vice President Biden: Israel Has Right to Deal with Nuclear Iran
Israel has a sovereign right to decide what is in its best interest in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions whether the U.S. agrees or not, Vice President Joe Biden told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "We cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination, that they're existentially threatened," Biden said. Israel has said a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence, noting Iranian President Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. (Reuters-Washington Post)
Leading Clerics Defy Supreme Leader on Disputed Iran Election - Michael Slackman and Nazila Fathi
The most important group of religious leaders in Iran, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the most public sign of a major split in the country's clerical establishment. "This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Mousavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic," said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. "Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei." (New York Times)
See also Iranian Opposition Leader Details Election Fraud - Thomas Erdbrink
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition candidate in last month's disputed election, released documents Saturday detailing a campaign of fraud by supporters of President Ahmadinejad. Mousavi accused Ahmadinejad supporters of handing out cash bonuses and food, increasing wages, and printing millions of extra ballots. (Washington Post)
Syria Invites Obama to Visit Damascus - Sam F. Ghattas
Syria's leader sent a July 4 message full of praise to President Obama on Friday and invited him to visit Syria - the latest signs Damascus is hedging its bets at a time when its longtime ally Iran is in turmoil. Syrian President Bashar Assad sent a telegram to Obama saying, "The values that were adopted by President Obama during his election campaign and after he was elected president are values that the world needs today." In an interview with Britain's Sky News, Assad said, "We would like to welcome him in Syria, definitely....I will ask you to convey the invitation to him."
"All the world around Syria on which it built its policy is falling apart," said Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of the Lebanese As-Safir daily, which tilts toward Syria's Lebanese allies. "Hizbullah lost the election in Lebanon, Hamas is being subjected to unprecedented attrition and Iran is drowned in its internal crises." (AP)
See also Iran, Syria Push Economic Ties
Mohammad Saeidikia, the Iranian housing and urban development minister, met with Syrian Trade Minister Amer Husni Lutfi for two days in Damascus last week to develop bilateral economic ties further. Engineering companies active in Syria have set up 11 different economic projects that have generated more than $1.3 billion in the decade since they were established. Trade between both countries stands at $350 million per year. Saeidikia called for the establishment of free-trade agreements between Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Damascus recently announced the opening of a rail line from Syrian ports on the Mediterranean to Basra on the Persian Gulf. (UPI)
See also U.S.: Obama Visit to Damascus Conditional on Changes in Syrian Behavior
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival that a visit by President Obama to Damascus will not take place anytime soon. Steinberg wondered how Obama would visit Damascus if Syria continues to provide Hizbullah with arms, supports Hamas and allows fighters to cross the border into Iraq. (Naharnet-Lebanon)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

Netanyahu Insists Two States Requires Defensible Borders for Israel and Full Palestinian Demilitarization
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet Sunday: "We have brought a national agreement on the idea of 'two states for two peoples' and the outlines of the agreement are - first of all - that the Palestinians will need to recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People. This says that the problem of the refugees will be resolved outside the State of Israel and that Israel needs - and will receive - defensible borders, and includes the full demilitarization of the Palestinian territory." (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Defensible Borders for a Lasting Peace - Yuval Steinitz, Yaakov Amidror, Meir Rosenne, and Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also Defensible Borders on the Golan Heights - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Israeli Official: Iran Can Be Stopped - Dana Zimmerman
According to Dr. Eran Lerman, the new deputy chief of Israel's National Security Council, "Iran is like a huge, outspread octopus. But what has been going on within the country recently, the serious hit Hizbullah took in the Lebanese elections, as well as the change embodied by U.S. President Barack Obama - who is allowing Muslim figures ostentatiously to have photo ops with him, all this is an indication that Iran's power quest, which nuclear capability is meant to bolster, is not unavoidable or a sure success. It can be fought and slowed."
Lerman also said, "Israel is not on a collision path with the U.S....The American people are still pro-Israel, and the foundations of the connection with Israel are strong. It is true that the U.S. has undergone political changes that affect their perceptions and priorities, but, in its deepest essence, nothing has changed in the relationship with Israel." (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Israel Radio's Iran Expert: "Mousavi Won the Election" - Ruthie Blum Leibowitz
Menashe Amir, Israel Radio's Farsi broadcaster for the past 50 years, says opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi "is certain he won the election - and I can confirm that he did. According to all the information I have received, he garnered twice the amount of votes as Ahmadinejad....The elections are a perfect example of how Ahmadinejad manipulated the system in order to declare himself the winner....Those who determine policy in Iran decided a year ago that Ahmadinejad was going to win the election."
"On the nuclear makes no difference whether the president is Mousavi or Ahmadinejad. In any case, even Mousavi declared openly that, if elected, he would continue Iran's nuclear program, as well as its policy of supplying weapons to Hizbullah and Hamas."
" a merciless fanatic. One of his past jobs was as a final executioner. He would fire the last bullet into the heads of people put to death. His nickname is "the man of a thousand bullets," since he used to boast that he had shot bullets into the heads of 1,000 executed people."
"What is going on in Iran has only just begun. And if the world grasps the enormity of this moment, and does what it can to help the Iranian people in their struggle, it will not be necessary to bomb the nuclear facilities, because the Iranian people will rise and do the job themselves." (Jerusalem Post)
Pentagon Analyst Breaks Silence on Dropped Israel Spy Case - Jeff Stein
Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin found himself charged with giving classified information to suspected agents of Israel. Now, breaking silence for the first time since he became entangled in the Israel-spy-ring-that-wasn't, Franklin says he gave sensitive information to a pro-Israel lobbyist in hopes that it would be passed on to the White House. He also admitted telling an Israeli official "that the Iranians were planning to kill Americans in Iraq." He didn't think the information was classified. Four years later the charges were dropped.
Franklin says he was desperate in early 2003 to get his information about Iranian preparations to kill Americans in Iraq into the hands of a White House policy-maker. The problem was, he didn't know anyone close to White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. So when AIPAC official Steven J. Rosen intimated that he had good White House contacts, Franklin "jumped at the chance" to get his report into the right hands, he said. "This was my initiative. I was not directed by him," Franklin said. (CQ Politics)

A Message to the World - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

The journey of an IDF submarine through the Suez Canal attests to upgraded security ties between Israel and Egypt as well as to the growing trust between the two states. Permission was granted by Egypt during Defense Minister Ehud Barak's meetings in Cairo two weeks ago.
According to foreign media reports, Israeli submarines are capable of firing strategic cruise missiles at targets 1,500 kilometers away (about 950 miles).
The Iranians are aware of these reports, and they may conclude that Israel is capable of hitting their cities and their nuclear program with a preventative strike or a "second strike" in a surprising manner and from unexpected directions. A "second strike" would be a destructive reprisal that Israel may direct at Iran, should Tehran strike first.
The very fact that an Israeli submarine sailed through the Suez Canal conveys the message that, from now on, Israel and Egypt will be cooperating on issues that go beyond the sealing off of the Sinai border.
This message is supposed to resonate not only in Iran, but also in Persian Gulf states and in Washington. Meanwhile, the Obama administration will view the submarine's journey as proof that its effort to prompt regional cooperation in hindering the Iranian threat is starting to bear fruit.
See also Israeli Sub Sails through Suez Canal, Signaling Reach to Iran - Dan Williams
An Israeli submarine sailed the Suez Canal to the Red Sea as part of a naval drill last month, Israeli defense sources said on Friday, describing the maneuver as a show of strategic reach in the face of Iran. An Israeli defense source said the drill "showed that we can far more easily access the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf, than before." (Reuters)

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