Friday, February 22, 2008

Two Weeks of Incisive Commentary by Arlene Kushner

by Arlene Kushner

Before returning to current news items, I would like to refer back to one of the themes of yesterday's posting, regarding the inability of some Israelis (some Jews) to defend the Israeli narrative.

Every so often I receive communications from people in the US who are staunch supporters of Israel that are essentially laments -- expressions of frustration, perhaps, or confusion. How can I speak out, I am asked, when the prime minister doesn't? How can I tell people that a two-state solution is a disaster when Olmert is pursuing it vigorously? Bottom line:

How can I contradict the government of Israel?

My response has been that it is important to support the people of Israel, not the government. But I think yesterday's discussion examines another, and very important, dimension of that same issue. Olmert and Livni may have lost the ability to tell Israel's narrative. They may have forgotten how to defend Israel because they are committed instead to a two-state solution, which leads them to believe that they must actually defend our enemy's goals.

But their position represents a pathology. And if your thinking is not pathological, if you clearly understand Israel's narrative, then it is your responsibility to tell it, and to defend without hesitation Israel's rights, even if this contradicts the goals of Oslo and what Olmert and Livni are about.

Very simply: Olmert and Livni may believe they are doing what is right. But they have lost their way, and what they promote is a danger to Israel. You want to tell a different story. ~~~~~~~~~~ Orient House, a building operated by the prominent Palestinian Husseini family, has in the past been utilized by the PLO to conduct business in Jerusalem. An Orient House website, somewhat dated, refers to the establishment as "the Palestinian national gathering place for Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem. As the PLO Headquarters in the occupied city, the Orient House aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state... "

It was closed down in 2001 at the time of the Intifada because of political activities in Jerusalem forbidden by the Oslo agreement. This past Monday, Maan, a Palestinian news agency, reported that the PLO has now again employed 30 - 40 people to work in Orient House. A Palestinian leader, Hatem Abdul Khadar, of Fatah, was quoted as saying that he and others were meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building. This is precisely what is forbidden -- using it as an unofficial embassy. ~~~~~~~~~~ According to the latest news from the Post, however, Israel has renewed the order to keep Orient House closed tight. In fact, a Jerusalem police spokesman says that the site is checked regularly and there's nothing going on there.

The Palestinians, claiming that Olmert had promised to open Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, are bemoaning that "This is not a good sign for the peace process." They have asked the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem to intervene, but were told there would be no quick resolution. ~~~~~~~~~~ Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former senior adviser on Palestinian affairs at the Defense Ministry, has offered comments on this situation, explaining, according to the Post, that the closure had led to a dramatic reduction in anti-Israeli activity and an increase in security in eastern Jerusalem.

"Since its closure, the Palestinians have been mourning the loss of Orient House, and say they have lost the center of their revolutionary zeal in Jerusalem. I don't know if such a promise [by Olmert to the Palestinians] was made, but if it was, it was made secretly, because nothing has been made public about such a commitment."

During the Oslo process, Orient House acted as "an organizing factor" for riots and demonstrations. "We allowed the PLO to operate in Jerusalem during the 1990s, but not the Palestinian Authority. However, Orient House was quickly infiltrated by PA elements who turned it into a kind of 'extraterritorial embassy.'

"It... became an institution. Police were afraid to enter or search it, and Orient House enjoyed an informal diplomatic immunity status.

"The shutting down of Orient House was the end result of a long effort by right-wing Knesset Members, led by [then-Public Security Minister] Uzi Landau, who said that Orient's use as a PA base was a violation of Oslo... "After a major suicide bombing, Landau effectively forced the police to close it down." Harari explained that the police at first did not wish to raid the center due to fears of a violent backlash. But it never materialized. [Note: police fear of acting against illegal Palestinian behavior because there might be violence.]

After the raid, the center's records were confiscated; they vindicated the demands of the Knesset members who had wanted it closed down. "I can say that closing down Orient House was one of main acts that caused a reduction in open anti-Israeli activity in Jerusalem," Harari said. ~~~~~~~~~~

And an enlightening side observation: According to the Post, "[Hatem] Abdel Khader said the Palestinians had given the necessary assurances to the Israelis, adding that the office was to be used for cultural, economic and social projects."

But this is the same Abdul Khadar who told Maan, a Palestinian news agency, that he was meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building. ~~~~~~~~~~

US Special Envoy Gen. James Johns is floating the idea of bringing in NATO troops for Judea and Samaria for an interim period between when Israel would pull out and the PA would be able to secure the area. It's just an idea at this point and Israel has not signed off on it. If our government does agree -- G-d forbid -- it's even more lost than I think it is. Allow me to enumerate all the things wrong with this: First, the PA isn't supposed to get territory until it is ready to administer it. If other troops are necessary, they should be given nothing. What is clear here is that the US, which truly has lost its way completely, is so damn eager to put an agreement in place that they would turn it over to an incompetent PA and then attempt to bolster it from outside. What craziness.

Foreign troops would interfere with our ability to secure intelligence or do operations to take out terrorists or stop planned operations, as necessary. It is not even clear that we'd be able to do hot pursuit of those who have committed terrorist acts and are seeking refuge. Does anyone -- including Johns or Rice -- remotely believe that NATO forces would do what we've been doing, with night operations, intensive intelligence work, and all the rest? Clearly, if territory were to be turned over to an incompetent PA, this means a situation in which the terrorists would not have been eliminated, arrested or disarmed. Actually, some of them would still be in the PA security forces. What would result is a free ride for terrorists, with international forces standing between them and our troops, and the terrorists actually able to strengthen themselves.

Johns, it should be noted, served as a commander in NATO. Just a few days ago, the American ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, hinted at the same thing. ~~~~~~~~~~

The precedent is there with UNIFIL in Lebanon (about which more below), which has allowed Hezbollah to rearm while protesting that we are "violating" the truce if we do flyovers to monitor what is happening.

I do think, however, that this is all moot, because I don't believe any European countries will want to get in the middle of this. Hamas has made it clear that they would shoot at any international forces placed in Gaza (where a similar suggestion has been made), as they would consider it an occupation. International forces in Judea and Samaria might be similarly vulnerable. And there certainly would be no guarantee, after NATO troops were in place, that the PA would ever be ready to assume responsibility. What we're looking at here is an assignment with -- as it's put -- no exit strategy. ~~~~~~~~~~

Reports are that Israel would like to predicate its exit strategy from Gaza, in event of a ground operation, on being replaced by international forces. But I think the same international reluctance to be involved would apply here, and more so because of Hamas threats. Some sources say that the IDF will go in if it's deemed necessary, even if there are no international forces in place.

It's time to wake up, I think, to the fact that when we go back in, we will not be exiting any time soon (and preferably never). ~~~~~~~~~~

Olmert made a statement earlier this week that was a serious misrepresentation (lie) and requires response. Said he: "Despite the [continuing] Kassam fire, [the "disengagement"] was a very good move since there are no longer 30,000 soldiers protecting 1,200 citizens."

First of all, it was 8,000 citizens, not 1,200. But more significantly, the soldiers were not there just to protect them. They were there to protect Israel, by securing areas from which Kassams might be fired, going after tunnels through which weapons might be smuggled, and stopping terrorist operations. Anyone who is ready to be honest about the situation will admit that the pullout was a security disaster. But it's clear Olmert isn't ready.

We haven't even received the approbation of the international community for this pullout, as promised by Sharon; we've met instead with condemnation because of how we're "treating" Gaza. ~~~~~~~~~~

As to UNIFIL: Spain may be thinking of pulling its troops out of that operation, and there is concern that this will influence others to follow suit. Matters are, shall we say, greatly unsettled in Lebanon right now with the prospect of escalating Hezbollah violence. A weakening of the UNIFIL force would further destabilize Lebanon and allow Hezbollah to move down into the south of the country unimpeded. ~~~~~~~~~~

We have deployed a battery of US-made Patriot air defense missiles in the vicinity of Haifa, as a precaution against an attack by Hezbollah. At the same time it has been announced that the Iron Dome system against short range rockets such as Kassams is in an advanced stage of development.

Regrettably, it has also been announced that the government is going to fortify only 3,600 homes in Sderot instead of the 8,000 originally announced. Homes within a range of 4.5 kilometers from the Gaza border are being targeted, as the Iron Dome system will not have enough time to respond to rockets launched from a distance of less than 4 kilometers. The plans call for building safe rooms over the course of the next two years. ~~~~~~~~~~

Abbas came to town a couple of days ago, to meet with Olmert, after which Olmert declared, "We didn't talk about Jerusalem!" while Saeb Erekat said they did.

Progress in negotiations is reportedly slow or non-existent, with Fayyad declaring that an agreement cannot be reached in 2008. All sorts of plans are in the works now for (shudder) "speeding things up," with more frequent meetings. ~~~~~~~~~~

Abbas, however, has vetoed the suggestion of Yasser Abed Rabbo that the PA follow Kosovo's example and unilaterally declare independence.

However slowly, said Abbas, negotiations are still going on and that's the path to take at present. If matters stalemate entirely, it would be time to consider other alternatives.

A pragmatic Saeb Erekat opined that what the Palestinians need is "real independence" and not just a declaration. "We are not Kosovo. We are under Israeli occupation and for independence we need to acquire independence." In other words, it wouldn't play here. Nor would the US be supportive. What their strategy will be (other than more violence) when negotiations stalemate remains to be seen. ~~~~~~~~~~

A bit of humor: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, in an attempt, I assume, to motivate us to move more quickly, has now said, "We hope that Israel responds positively to the strenuous efforts we are making, so that we do not despair and think about taking back our offer."

Strenuous efforts? Despair?

The offer: If we pull back to the pre-67 lines, which means giving the Palestinians the Kotel and the Temple Mount, allow a Palestinian state to be established with Jerusalem as its capital, and then permit four million "refugees" to "return" to Israel, the members of the Arab League will "normalize" relations with us. What this means with regard to full diplomatic relations has not be specified. ~~~~~~~~~~

Not so funny this week was a statement made by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who said that Israel absolutely must reach a cease fire with Hamas to halt the "cycle" of Kassam attacks and responses. Israel responded to the implied moral equivalency with anger.

What angered me the most, however, was Kouchner's statement that he knew Israel was concerned that Hamas would use a ceasefire to build its strength, but Israel had "to take a chance..., to take a risk." Really now. How nice of him to decide this for us. ~~~~~~~~~~

When Olmert returned from his recent trip to Germany, there were reports coming from Der Spiegel that he was going to declare Goldwasser and Regev officially dead. The decision of the government has been not to do so, however, because there is no solid evidence of this (although there has been no sign that they are alive, either).

For some days there were hints that a deal was close for bringing Shalit home, but that now seems not the case. Apparently there was agreement on 240 prisoners to be released, but now there is contention about an additional 120. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008

February 20, 2008: Words and Weakness

Back to the second, and final, day of the Jerusalem Conference. And today I want to look at some very different aspects of the difficulties we face, beginning with what is called the new anti-Semitism and the specter of Durban II.

For those who do not remember, Durban I, held in 2001, was an international conference under UN auspices that was supposed to combat racism, but which morphed into an incredible anti-Semitic nightmare, setting the tone for much that followed such as boycotts against Israel.

Part of what happened in Durban is that NGOs, many ostensibly concerned with human rights but in reality virulently anti-Semitic, co-opted the conference with a vengeance.

Rabbi Abe Cooper, of the Wiesenthal Center, who was at Durban, described a scene in which all the NGOs had gathered to approve a document. One woman raised her hand and said, "Paragraph 11, clause 3, deals with anti-Semitism (it was a very obvious statement that should have been automatically accepted, such as one disapproving attacks on synagogues). "I don't understand this," she continued. What does anti-Semitism have to do with racism?" And the representative of NGOs agreed and deleted the clause.

Coming up in 2009 will be Durban II. It's important now to examine the environment we're dealing with and to know how to handle what lies ahead. ~~~~~~~~~~ Dr. Gerald Steinberg, who founded and directs NGO-monitor, out of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, spoke about the way in which many NGOs, under the guise of protecting human rights, have established positions designed to prevent us from defending ourselves. They level broad and sustained attacks on us, and they rely on big funds for the demonization of Israel. Many of you may be familiar with this approach -- the speed with which "human rights" groups run to attack Israel for killing children in Gaza, for example, even before facts are known.

Steinberg's group does several things. It monitors and exposes the bias of these groups. It communicates with donors who often have no clue what their funds were actually used for and withhold further donations once they learn. What is significant is that large amounts of EU money go to such groups; for the first time a report is about to be released that tracks precisely where the EU money goes. And it communicates with NGOs, eliciting information about their intended Durban II participation.

He is optimistic that progress is being made and that we've moved beyond where we were in 2001. ~~~~~~~~~~ Prof. Robert S. Wistrich -- Director, Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, Hebrew University -- explained that anti-Semitism that was peripheral years ago has become mainstream today, in part because leftist students of a generation ago now hold positions of power.

But he addressed another problem as well -- one that I will come back to: There is a Jewish/Israeli contribution because of anti-and post-Zionist arguments that are exported to the rest of the world. In certain quarters there is a lack of conviction as to why Israel exists and what it represents. ~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Bayefsky, of the Hudson Institute, who founded Eye on the UN, spoke about the disinformation campaign, utilizing a UN platform, that followed Durban.

In an immoral inversion, Israel has been fashioned as the racist element in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN criticizes Israel twice as often as it criticizes Sudan. And it was someone associated with the UN who declared that there must be a "distinction between mindless terror and acts that are part of a liberation movement," concluding that Israel cannot expect a cessation of violence.

Bayefsky offered this very useful term: "humanitarian racists." Simply, it refers to groups that are ostensibly humanitarian, but hold only white people responsible for their actions. Colored peoples are only victims. (Starting to sound familiar?) But the refusal to hold colored peoples responsible for actions is racist at its core, for it relegates them to a lower moral level. ~~~~~~~~~~

Charles Jacobs, who founded and directs The David Project in Boston, observed -- right in line with Bayefsky's term -- that what motivates human rights groups is the identity of the oppressor and not of the oppressed. People who are victims of non-Westerners are abandoned. Jacobs, who has done work on this issue, pointed out that in Mauritania and Sudan there are slaves owned by Arabs, but the world pays little attention. Just as the human rights groups are enraged about perceived Israeli mistreatment of people in Gaza, but pay scant attention to the human rights suffering in Sderot. Jacobs suggest we ally with others and go on the offensive.

Jacobs also offered this insight: There is a Muslim idea that the act of Jews ruling over themselves puts the world out of joint because Israelis (as Jews) are Dhimmi. (Dhimmi is a concept in Islamic law that relegates to certain non-Muslim groups, notably Christians and Jews, second class, subservient status.)

The goal of The David Project, I will add, is to populate campuses in American with students who are articulate and informed with regard to Israel. ~~~~~~~~~~

The final participant on this panel was Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. I recently attended a very informative lecture by Dr. Gerstenfeld on anti-Semitism, its nature today and how to combat it, and would like to save his comments for another posting. ~~~~~~~~~~

And so I will turn now to the subject of hasbara (alternately defined as information or propaganda). Journalist Caroline Glick, who chaired the forum discussing this subject, defined it thus: information dispensed in the public arena in order to advance the national interest.

What is necessary for hasbara, she says, is the national desire to advance in the public arena, a goal that is logical or rational, and an appropriate style.

I ask that you follow the ensuing discussion closely, as it is exceedingly important:

Glick maintains that Israel's hasbara has collapsed because we are saying that the solution to the situation we find ourselves in is two-states (i.e., the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside us). This puts the onus on us, and we have no way to explain ourselves.

What we have actually said is that we want to advance the interests of our enemy. This leads to a covering up of truth because the truth works against the declared two-state goal.

Caroline Glick is absolutely correct. Think about the bind in which we've put ourselves. ~~~~~~~~~~

Others participating in this forum carried this theme further. Isi Liebler, who chairs the JCPA Diaspora-Israel relations committee, asked what went wrong. His assessment was that the change -- which led to doubts about the justice of our cause -- came most significantly with Oslo. Israel had declared herself ready to accept Arafat as a "peace partner" and so the obsession became one of promoting him as such.

This led to a refusal to defend ourselves. PM Yitzhak Rabin, at the start of the Oslo, told AIPAC to stop defending us. I've heard in other contexts stories about how Shimon Peres, as Foreign Minister, gave orders that nothing negative was to be said about Arafat.

We began defending "peace" instead of promoting the Israeli narrative. What other nation, it was asked, minimizes the sins of its enemies?

It has gone so far that Olmert has essentially adopted the Palestinian narrative. And if you look back to what I wrote, with despair, about Livni yesterday, you see that she fits the same mold -- so eager to pursue "peace" that she has lost the ability to stand up for who we are. ~~~~~~~~~~

Elyakim HaEtzni, lawyer and former MK, didn't accept that things fell apart with Oslo. For this doesn't explain how we got to Oslo.

His conclusion is that this is pathological, that we (as a nation) are sick. And this is something that I have suggested many a time. HaEtzni, citing other thinkers, offered a couple of reasons as to how we got this way. The first is that we were beaten down in galut (diaspora) and have internalized the hatred of our oppressors. I concur. We need more than 60 years on the land again to get past this, after 2000 years of being subservient to others around the globe. There is an eagerness to please that is a result of needing to please when we were powerless.

Another suggestion HaEtzni offered comes out of our religion, which leads us as Jews to be self-critical. The Temple was destroyed -- our tradition didn't ask what did others do to us, it asks what we did to bring this upon ourselves.

Self-critique, to a point, is a moral virtue and a strength; it allows us to be responsible for ourselves rather than think like victims. But beyond a certain point it is decidedly unhealthy and counterproductive. There is the example of the Al Dura case (about which I wrote not long ago).

Israeli soldiers were accused by devious plotting Palestinians of having shot the Al Dura boy during a gun battle. Before a serious analysis of the situation was done (which would have shown that, because of the angle of the shooting, etc. etc. we couldn't have done it), IDF officers were apologizing.

Yet another thought offered during this discussion was that our people to a considerable degree have lost touch with our religious traditions and who we are, which makes us unable to defend ourselves or share our narrative. Truth lies here, as well. ~~~~~~~~~~

Last, British journalist Melanie Phillips addressed this issue from a British perspective. There is, she informed us, incredible venom against Israel in Britain today. There is, of course, Muslim influence, as well as a variety of other factors at play. But part of it, she explained, is ignorance. The British truly believe that Israel was created after the Holocaust so that European Jews (who had no previous connection to the land) could be brought, displacing Arabs who had been on the land since antiquity. This, of course, is the Arab narrative.

The British don't receive the Israeli narrative.

She said people's jaws drop when she tells them about our ancient connection to this land, and the fact that no other people ever had a nation here, as well as about the legal foundations of the Mandate for Palestine, giving Jews a promise of a homeland well before the Holocaust. People just don't know. ~~~~~~~~~~

And so, my concluding thought is this:

It's difficult not to be deeply pained and depressed by what is discussed here. But it seems to me that what matters is that we right matters however and wherever we can.

What we see is that there is Gerald Steinberg doing a great job with NGO-monitor, and Anne Bayefsky with Eye on the UN, and Manfred Gerstenfeld, who has a very effective blog on anti-Semitism, and Charles Jacobs doing The David Project, and Melanie Phillips in Britain. And Professor Richard Landes, also a conference participant, who took on the Al Dura case, and on and on. It's an effort we all need to join, each in his or her own way.

This is essentially why I write these posts.

We're not all pathological, and some of us know our narrative and believe in who we are.

I turn to each of you reading this, if you care about Israel staying strong in this world: I suggest that each of you needs to be a messenger -- informing yourselves and telling Israel's narrative wherever you can. Don't imagine that it doesn't matter. It does. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2008

February 19, 2008: Desperate I am referring to the words of Foreign Minister Tzipni Livni.

Today was the first day of the Jerusalem Conference -- an all-day affair with many speakers examining issues such as retaining a united Jerusalem and ensuring Israeli security. I'll share here what several people said, starting with Livni.

Livni was attempting to explain why the government was negotiating now. If I had read her words somewhere, I might have been uneasy about repeating them, suspecting that she had been misquoted. But I heard her with my own ears.

"We have to write down the principle of two states," she told us. Israel as a homeland for Jews, and Palestine as a homeland for Palestinians. If we don't write this now and establish the principle, we might not have another chance. For we are facing people who want us gone.

Got it? She is so afraid of forces that would destroy us, that she's willing to accept what may be less than we are entitled to, just for the opportunity to get it in writing that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. And she believes that if we are to do it, it must be "today," because another chance might not come. ~~~~~~~~~~

There are so many things wrong with this approach it's difficult to know where to start. It is, first of all, appeasement, which never works: giving to the Palestinians so we won't be destroyed. Second it conveys a message of incredible weakness, and this is absolutely the last way who should go into negotiations. Why should the Palestinians even think of conceding anything when she makes it clear how hungry she is just for that piece of paper? "Write it down."

Worst of all is her shameful lack of Israeli pride and sense of entitlement. Why should our right to exist depend on a piece of paper arranged with the Palestinians? We are a sovereign state, with an ancient tradition on the land and a host of international legal precedents behind us. We are also a powerful nation, fully capable of defending ourselves.

We have diplomatic and commercial relationships with a growing number of nations, and we make huge contributions to the world via our hi-tech development and medical science. ~~~~~~~~~~

And there's still more, as a later speaker, Dr. Dore Gold, now head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed out the following issues:

First, there is the fact that the negotiation plan calls for setting the parameters for the agreement now but not enacting them until certain stipulations on the other side have been met.

Warns Dr. Gold, just as I have warned here many times, once that paper is signed there may well be pressure from the international community to "take it off the shelf" before those stipulations have been met. You don't sign a piece of paper giving certain things away until the conditions are right. We have in this regard the precedent of the Road Map, which called for dismantling of terrorism by the PA before we moved to discussing a state. But this has been shoved aside as too cumbersome and now we're talking about a state even though stage one was not realized.

Dr. Gold further points out that "You have to assume that the other side will violate the agreement." We have the precedent of years of Palestinian violations. ~~~~~~~~~~

I would add to this the fact that insisting that we won't have another chance puts unreasonable and undue pressure on us to negotiate. It's an act of desperation. ~~~~~~~~~~

Moving past what Livni said, I want to turn to discussion by a panel on the subject of "Regional and Global Strategic Threats to Israel." Distinguished participants touched upon issues that are exceedingly somber, providing perspectives that are important.

Dr. Rafi Yisraeli, Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University, reminded us of what an error it is to speak of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is, rather, the Israeli-Arab conflict, or, perhaps more accurately the Jewish-Islamic conflict as non-Arab Muslim states such as Iran and Pakistan are involved. ~~~~~~~~~~

The conflict, says Dr. Yisraeli, is not a quantitative one, involving interests or assets, which allows for give and take until a resolution is reached. It is a qualitative conflict, which is about religion and values and is not amenable to compromise. It's take it or leave it.

There was a time when there was a Christian geographic continuity in eastern Europe. But the Iranians have been involved in conflicts in Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, so that this is no longer the case. And here, since Oslo, we have been in a process of retreat. ~~~~~~~~~~

Maj. Gen. (res) Yaakov Amidror concurred, pointing out that you cannot deal with a values conflict the way an interest conflict is responded to. Such a conflict is resolved historically over a long haul and we had best be prepared for this. ~~~~~~~~~~

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), former chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reminded us that the so-called "moderate" Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have not encouraged the Palestinians to settle the conflict with us. For we represent western values that are challenged by Islamic values. Egypt, for example, discouraged Arafat from accepting Barak's offer in 2000.

While Israel has enormous strengths and has achieved a great many things in the last 30 years, we are facing grave threats in the next two or three years and are not currently doing enough to meet them. MK Steinitz sees four developments with regard to Israeli defense and security:

1) Unquestionably, the specter of Iran developing nuclear capability is paramount, with the possibility of this, indeed, leading to WWIII. The NIE assessment is behind us now and there is solid communication between the Knesset and Congress, which is clear on the threat.

2) There has been very rapid development of new advanced weapons systems in the area -- in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran.

3) If the US withdraws from Iraq before too long, it may be possible for Iran to enter into Iraq. In this case, we might see Iranian troops moving into Syria and might be confronting them one day on the Golan.

4) The Arabs are using missiles and rockets as a means of attacking us indirectly, without full scale ground war. The concern is that their range and their accuracy are increasing. Thus missiles may become a threat to our military headquarters.

There are ways to counter this via the development of missile defense systems and interception systems for medium and short range rockets. Additionally we must develop massive fire power with regard to our own missile capacity.

We must do everything we possibly can. ~~~~~~~~~~

Dr. Meyrav Wurmser, Director, Center for Middle East Policy, Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, provided a significant understanding of the way in which the Iranian threat to us has changed via its involvement with Hamas, which has developed in stages over some 20 years. Iran, which provides money, weapons and training to Hamas, may even have masterminded the Hamas coup in Gaza.

It is a mistake to think of the conflict with Hezbollah and that with Hamas as separate -- they are all part of the same war with Iran.

The accepted wisdom on the nature of the Islamic world -- as divided into Shiite and Sunni camps violently at odds with each other -- no longer applies. We see Haniyeh of Hamas, which is Sunni, speaking of Iran as the defender of the faith.

What Iran now has is a Levant strategy for an Islamic Caliphate. To that end Iran is actually seeking Sunni clients to help in the fight against the West. Hamas, which has global aspirations, fits well into Iran's scheme. So much is this the case, that Iran even allow Hamas to invite Sunni Al Qaeda into Gaza.

The implications are vast. Terrorist organizations are cooperating. Iran is most interested in importing radical Islam (of either kind) in order to further the Islamic Revolution. ~~~~~~~~~~

On a more positive note, several speakers addressed the absolute necessity of keeping Jerusalem united eternally as Israel's capital. It is broadly understood that Jerusalem possess a special sanctity for the Jewish people and is at the heart of what we are all about.

Nir Barkat, a member of the City Council of Jerusalem, is seeking documentation of the fact that Haim Ramon is negotiating a secret third track on Jerusalem, so that action can be taken.

MK Gidon Saar (Likud) spoke about the bill, which has passed its first reading, that will revise Jerusalem Law so that a majority of the Knesset would be required for any concessions on Jerusalem.

He is deeply concerned about the renewal of activity at Orient House (about which I hope I will write more in coming days) and the freezing of construction.

He points out that the argument for division of the city along demographic lines is deceivingly dangerous. The case is made by persons such as Haim Ramon for giving the PA areas that are primarily Arab. This is generally represented as referring to outlying neighborhoods. However, from the time of the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem, when the city was made Judenrein, there are important areas such as Ir David (The City of David, the ancient area that was the original Jerusalem and lies just outside of the Old City) that also have heavily Arab population. ~~~~~~~~~~

I anticipate sharing more tomorrow. Other news will have to wait. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 17, 2008: Charade

You'll find no enormous credence given in these postings to what the Palestinians have to say; frequently their statements are best reviewed with a jaundiced eye. But every now and then what they say makes sense, even if their positions are antithetical to ours.

What do you mean, negotiate on Jerusalem last? PA leaders asked late last week. We're discussing core issues. One of those issues is borders. How can we finalize borders without discussing what part of Jerusalem we'll have? And another issue is settlements. For us, Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Gilo and Ramot are settlements. How can we not also discuss these? And you know what? It's difficult to argue with this. Everything has to be on the table at once (or, preferably, nothing, but that's another story).

The point here is simply that in spite of this argument, Shas continues to pretend that Olmert is straight with them when he says Jerusalem is not being discussed. That, my friends, is the charade. ~~~~~~~~~~

According to YNet, a Gaza ground operation is in the works. It has not yet been put into action as preparations are not complete.

Details are being kept quiet in order to ensure maximum surprise. But this time the goals have been clearly defined.

The short term, tactical goals are:

-- Speedy facilitation of intelligence-gathering capacity (which will make everything else possible).

-- A drastic reduction in firing of Kassams and mortars, achieved quickly.

-- Destruction of military infrastructure, arsenals and weapons manufacturing sites belong to all the terrorists groups.

-- Blocking of smuggling at the Philadelphi Corridor.

-- Avoiding a humanitarian crisis for the Palestinian civilian population. All of this will take time, will be painful, and is very necessary. According to this report, the strategic objectives are:

-- Removing Hamas from power and establishing a stable Palestinian regime with international assistance.

-- Demilitarizing Gaza for a period of time.

-- Achieving effective Israeli security and monitoring for years to come.

It's the first strategic objective, if it is being accurately reported, that I have problems with. First, because we should do this to benefit our security situation and NOT for the sake of Mahmoud Abbas. This would be short-sighted objective that is not in our best interest.

And then, it is still, in my opinion, pie-in-the-sky to imagine there can be a "stable Palestinian regime." It's time to get real. This operation is frequently compared to Operation Defensive Shield of 2002, in which we went into Palestinian areas of Judea and Samaria after horrendous terror attacks. But it has been a great success only because we've retained a presence in these areas for the last six years and do regular operations there. Had we pulled out, there would have been chaos. Remember? Abbas is afraid to leave Ramallah. Who is going to constitute that "stable regime" in Gaza? (There is talk of Europeans doing it but this would be a real disaster, and, I do not believe will ever happen.) ~~~~~~~~~~

On Friday, 14 gunmen blew up the library in a YMCA in Gaza. This is the latest in a series of attacks on Christians. Thousands of books were burnt in the ensuing fire. ~~~~~~~~~~

American citizens who were victims of PA terror, or who lost family to PA terror, and have been awarded monetary payments by US courts, went to Washington last week to meet with officials of the State Department and Justice Department. But apparently they did not come away convinced that what they said would ultimately make a difference.

One of those who went was Shayna Elliot, who was shot in the chest while waiting for a bus on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem in 2002. She lost a lung and is in constant pain. "It's obscene that they would get in involved in our case," she said. "It's obscene that they could be against the terror victims."

Before the visit, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack gave a statement for reporters: "We are absolutely committed to defending the rights of our citizens. We are also fully committed to pursuing our national interest and defending our national interest. At this point, I don't have anything to offer in terms of a decision one way or another on this particular issue."

What does it say when the "national interest" and the "rights of citizens" are in conflict? The US government has until February 29th to decide whether to get involved. ~~~~~~~~~~

Aides of Mahmoud Abbas are charging in strong terms that Mohammad Dahlan is trying to oust him as head of Fatah. The attack on Dahlan was approved by Abbas, who is feeling threatened by the young guard, headed by Dahlan.

There is much argument as to who was responsible for the failure to defeat Hamas in Gaza: Abbas, as President, or Dahlan, as former head of Fatah security in Gaza.

From my perspective, the in-fighting provides a bit of diversion. There are no good guys here, you see; there is no one to root for. The young guard is absolutely right when they complain that they've been frozen out by the old guard, which has not mended its ways. Abbas and company are knee-deep in issues of corruption and incompetence. You get a bit of the picture when you learn that the last time Fatah held a General Conference to elect new central committee and revolutionary council members was in Tunisia in 1987. (There's talk of holding such a conference now.)

Dahlan? They don't come any lower than this man, and I never miss the opportunity to remind people of this. Corruption is not the only issue. There is also terrorism, and this the young guard is not adverse to. Never mind that Dahlan was directly involved in the Karine-A weapons ship. The other day I wrote about the Cohen family, whose three children collectively lost four limbs in a school bus bombing. It was Dahlan who ordered that school bus to be bombed. ~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of young children who have lost limbs, doctors now feel that Osher Twito's remaining leg is no longer at risk. Osher had been maintained in a coma, but has now been allowed to regain consciousness; he is on very heavy painkillers. While breathing on his own, he has not yet spoken. He has not yet been told that he has lost a leg. ~~~~~~~~~~

Egypt is in the process of building a new wall along the Egypt-Gaza border that will be made of concrete and reinforced to withstand the sort of explosions that brought down the previous wall made of metal and barbed wire. Hamas is threatening to shoot at anyone building the wall unless Rafah is opened. They have already shot over the heads of Egyptian workers.

A Hamas delegation led by Mahmoud Zahar went into Egypt, to El Arish, reportedly at Egyptian request, on Friday, to discuss the Rafah opening. The Egyptians were responding to reports that Hamas was planning to forcibly open the border again at the end of the month. The message to be given to Hamas: Our period of self-restraint is over; our guards have orders to shoot.

This does not mean, however, that a mechanism for allowing crossings of persons and goods will not be negotiated in the end between Egypt and Hamas. ~~~~~~~~~~

Caroline Glick, in her Friday column, writes about the strong possibility that Mughniyeh was killed not for what he had already done but rather for what he was about to do.

Says Glick: "On January 30, French security services raided a Paris apartment and arrested six Arab men. Three of the men - two Lebanese and one Syrian - were traveling on diplomatic passports. According to the Italian Libero newspaper, the six were members of a Hezbollah cell. Documents seized included tourist maps of Paris, London, Madrid, Berlin and Rome marked up with red highlighter to indicate routes, addresses, parking lots and "truck stopping points." The maps pointed to several routes to Vatican back entrances.

Libero 's report explained that the "truck stopping points" aligned with information the French had received the week before from Beirut. There, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had convened a conference of his senior terror leaders where he ordered them to activate Hezbollah cells throughout Europe to kidnap senior European leaders.

"... All of the feared terror attacks against French and European targets have the classic earmarkings of Hezbollah operations chief and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh was the pioneer of embassy bombings and high-profile kidnappings." ~~~~~~~~~~

The Sunday Times (London) had a different take today, but also focused on what he was going to do: It alleges, according to "informed Israeli sources," that the Mossad took out Mughniyeh because he was working with the Syrians to plan an attack against Israel to avenge the IAF strike on a Syrian site in September 2007. ~~~~~~~~~~

The connection Mughniyeh had with Iran, and the degree to which he operated at the behest of the Iranian regime, brings us around to focus on the Iranian nuclear issue. This is not something that we can ever afford to lose sight of. Less than two weeks ago, head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, delivering an assessment to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, declared that Iran would have nuclear weapons within three years and remained Israel's chief strategic threat.

According to Dagan, the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) made it harder to impose sanctions on Iran. It "pulls the rug out from under" diplomatic efforts,"leaving Israel to face the threat alone." ~~~~~~~~~~

Just about a week after Dagan's report, Vice Admiral (USN Retired) Michael McConnell, United States Director of National Intelligence, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, backtracked on the NIE for which he had been responsible: "I think I would change the way that we described [the Iranian] nuclear program."

What he now says is that the weapon program that the NIE judged "with high confidence" was halted in 2003, really constitutes "the least significant portion" of a nuclear weapons program. For uranium enrichment is continuing apace.

The damage that has been done is enormous.

Please, see Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz on this, "What We Meant to Say Was...
" It is critically important.


Meanwhile, last week Sami Alfaraj, president of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies, said that Persian Gulf States believe that Israel will strike Iran rather than permit it to become nuclear. He maintains that states in the region will not become nuclear themselves, but will instead rely on a "nuclear umbrella" - even if it meant appealing to Israel.

"I believe in something on the same Iraqi [Osirak reactor] model... We are assuming in the Gulf that Israel will take it out."

Oh irony! ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 02:45 a.m. by Arlene

February 14, 2008: Issues Coming Clear

"Issues Coming Clear"

It's a balagan (a confused situation) and could make you crazy if you try to make sense out of what you read in the press:

-- Olmert has denied that Jerusalem is being discussed in negotiations; Qurei doesn't set the agenda for talks, he insists.

-- Shas, which is eager to remain in the government, has accepted this denial, and is staying "for now." The charade of staying in a government that wants to divide Jerusalem eventually, even if (a big if) perhaps it is not doing so at the moment, is breathtaking.

-- Nir Barkat, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, says that he has evidence from "secret sources" that in secret meetings Israel and the PA have already agreed on dividing Jerusalem. Livni, he says, knows about this secret channel and thus is complicit. In correspondence with Livni, Barkat has written that " " I would like to remind you that if this is true, it constitutes a complete deviation from Kadima's basic principles, a blatant violation of Basic Law: Jerusalem, a breach of the voter's trust and an undermining of the Knesset's sovereignty." ~~~~~~~~~~

And so, I have now gone to my own very knowledgeable "secret source," who is happy to share information with me provided that his name is not used. Some of what he says many of you will already have intuited or understood from various public sources; what he does is provide confirmation. But he also offers details, perspective, and additional information that is likely to be new to most.

There are, says my source, three channels of negotiations:

First there is the Ehud Olmert-Mahmoud Abbas channel. They are establishing basic principles only and not dealing with details. They do not write anything down, they simply talk. And thus they have deniability. There is no question that they have discussed Jerusalem and have agreed in principle that it will be shared. Abbas makes no compromises; in all instances where agreement is reached, it is because Olmert has acceded to a PA demand.

Then there are the day-to-day negotiations of teams headed by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qurei, former PA prime minister. These negotiations involve written notes and so both sides are fearful of committing themselves prematurely. For this reason, there has been no progress on major issues; it is with regard to this level that it is said that talks are frozen. The teams are restricting themselves to discussing "pragmatics." As far as Jerusalem is concerned, they are talking about such matters as building in various neighborhoods and the possibility of re-opening Orient House. But my observation is that as much as this is called "pragmatic" it is ultimately political: To give Fatah a presence in Jerusalem, for example, is to concede that part of Jerusalem will belong to Fatah. ~~~~~~~~~~

Finally, there is the back-channel, which is what Barkat was alluding to (and he has details correct). It is also what Palestinians I've cited in recent days were referring to: on the table and under the table, open and secret meetings, etc.

The person representing Israel in these meetings is Deputy Premier Haim Ramon. He began these meetings in Rome, shortly after Fatah lost Gaza. At that time he met with Salam Fayyad, who was named PA prime minister when Abbas reconstituted his government after the Gaza rout. But the Fatah powers objected to this, because Fayyad was willing to make some compromises and they want NO compromises. What sort of compromises was Fayyad willing to consider? Maybe half a million refugees returned to Israel instead of all four million. Maybe the PA would get all of eastern Jerusalem except for the Kotel, which would remain Israeli. Fayyad was not powerful enough to withstand Fatah objections.

And so now strong man Mohammad Rashid is negotiating with Ramon. ~~~~~~~~~~

Rashid was a trusted confident of Arafat and was deeply involved in financial shenanigans of the PA (as was Qurei, incidentally). And Rashid and Ramon are business partners. What is more, Haim Ramon has a direct connection with South African/Austrian multi-millionaire businessman Martin Schlaff, who is shoulder-deep in issues of corruption in this country. Or, as Gidi Weitz and Uri Blau describe him in Haaretz in a recent major expose on these issues, Schlaff plays "the role of the omnipotent Jewish gvir [patron] who wants to manage the affairs of the Middle Eastern shtetl."

Anyone familiar with the investigations of Ariel Sharon will know the name Schlaff. More recently there are corruption investigations involving Schlaff with Olmert and Lieberman. Schlaff won't set foot in Israel now, for fear of being immediately arrested. For a summary of this, far briefer than the very extensive Haaretz article, see: ~~~~~~~~~~

My source tells me that whatever Ramon and Rashid might come up with in terms of an agreement will not be accepted by the PA because of the intransigence of Fatah with regard to any compromises. Remember that Farouk Kadoumi, who was opposed totally to Oslo, has huge influence on the Central Committee of Fatah.

And from our side, dear Heaven, do we need to clean house! ~~~~~~~~~~

Interesting: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's eldest son, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, has come out with a position that opposes his father's. He says Shas must quit the government immediately because support for Olmert's government endangers Jews.

Rabbis from Sderot have gone to see Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, to try to convince him that it was important that Shas leave the government, and they came away terribly frustrated.

I've asked myself what it might be that would convince Ovadia Yosef that Shas should pull out. And I have no answers. I do not know Rabbi Yosef and certainly cannot see into his head.

And so, it's difficult to be certain if this is relevant now (and yet hard to believe it's not): The Haaretz expose says that Shas faction head Eli Yishai was known to be present at a February 2001 meeting with Rashid, Ramon and Schlaff. And that Aryeh Deri -- who was head of the Shas faction until he was convicted of corruption in 1999 and sentenced to three years in prison -- has Schlaff connections, both business and personal. Just months ago, Schlaff held a reception in Vienna on the occasion of his grandson's brit milah. The contingent from Israel included Aryeh Deri, who presided over the circumcision. (Ramon was also there, incidentally.) ~~~~~~~~~~

A Kassam rocket hit a house in Sderot yesterday. Responsibility has been claimed by Al Aksa Brigades, in retaliation for the assassination of Hezbollah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. Al Aksa, it should be noted, is part of the "moderate" Fatah. ~~~~~~~~~~

I've written recently about theories that Egypt might take over or have more influence in Gaza, and other hints that we might weaken or take out Hamas in Gaza so that Fatah can resume control there.

Here we have yet another take, this one by Efraim Inbar, director of BESA, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. "In Gaza; Risks and Opportunities," Inbar writes the following. Please note the last sentence of this segment.

"It is very understandable that Egypt does not want to again rule over Gaza. Nevertheless, Hamas's success in opening the Egypt-Gaza border places Egypt on the horns of a dilemma.

"Thus far, Egypt enjoyed the bleeding of Israel, a regional rival, by Hamas รข€" with little cost to itself. But Hamas has grown more powerful and its free access to Sinai has become dangerous. Hamas is far from being the darling of the current Egyptian regime since its links to the Muslim brethren threaten the rule of President Mubarak and his heir. The indecisive Egyptian reaction to the breach in the Rafah wall reflected this dilemma.

"On the one hand, Egypt must show solidarity with the Palestinians and sensitivity to their suffering. Therefore, it allowed Gazans to enter its territory. On the other hand, Egypt is a proud sovereign country that wants full control over its borders. It is particularly fearful of the influence of Hamas at home...

"It is not yet clear how the Egyptian dilemma will play out. One distinct possibility is a greater Egyptian role in Gaza to limit the Islamist influence. This is advantageous for Israel, even if some terror may still originate in Gaza. Actually, such a scenario could evolve only after a large-scale Israeli military operation that would extract a heavy price from Gaza, seriously weakening Hamas, particularly its military wing." ~~~~~~~~~~ Israel, while currently at greater risk abroad and in the north, will reap benefits in a variety of ways from the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. There is deterrence value, because -- whoever did kill Imad Mughniyeh -- much of the world is convinced the Mossad is responsible. If he could be hit, anyone can be hit, and terrorist leaders will rest less easy. According to Al Hayat in London, Mughniyeh had been in Syria -- coming in under secret identity -- only hours before his death by car bomb. That this could have been pulled off is most impressive. There are reports that Mughniyeh had met in Damascus only weeks ago with Hamas strongman Khalid Mashaal to discuss Gaza. A blessing that he will no longer be around to provide advice and guidance. What is more, he was the key link between Hezbollah and Iran, overseeing the apparatus for international terror attacks. ~~~~~~~~~~ When writing yesterday about the possibility that the US government might intervene in court findings that required the PA to pay large punitive sums to survivors of Americans who lost their lives in PA-connected terrorist attacks, I suggested that President Bush be contacted and I provided contact information.

I have since heard from members of this list who think that information for contacting the State Department should also be provided. I had not done so sooner because I have the feeling that ultimately Bush is more accessible and Rice is totally a lost cause. But, they are correct; it doesn't hurt to try. And so here I provide some information for State. Use it, if you wish, in addition to, but not instead of contact with the president. Say that you would like Sec. of State Rice to receive the message. Fax: 202-647-2283 (from Doris Wise Montrose) Phone: 202-647-4000 (from Esther Kandel) ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 13, 2008: Totally Lost "Totally lost?"

Before I talk about being totally lost, I'm going to share something that brings a smile, because we desperately need to smile now and then to stay sane and healthy.

This is a Dry Bones cartoon entitled "Reductum Ad Absurdum."

Watson: "Holmes, the UN refers to Gaza as occupied territory. But the only non-Palestinian force now in Gaza is the UN itself.

"Does this mean that Gaza is occupied by the UN?"

Holmes: "What it means, Watson, is that the 'Palestinians' have occupied the UN."

Political cartoonist Yaakov Kirshen gets it just right. See the cartoon and Kirshen's description of the dialogue that inspired it, at:

(Thanks to Cheryl Hoffer for calling my attention to this.) ~~~~~~~~~~ One begins to wonder if the US is also occupied by the 'Palestinians.' Consider:

American victims of terror attacks here in Israel -- or their surviving families -- have sued the Palestinian Authority in US courts and have received judgments against the PA totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, none of which has been paid. These judgments were made possible because of testimony that specifically linked senior PA leaders to attacks.

Lawyers for the PA are trying to avoid payment, and to that end have asked for assistance from the US government. Their argument is that it makes no sense for the US to provide assistance to the PA while US courts are threatening to bankrupt the PA because of ideologically motivated suits. And so, they are seeking US government intervention in the court rulings. (Originally they had claimed sovereign immunity but the courts threw this out as the PA is not a nation.)

The US government has not yet made a decision in a case that forces "the Bush administration to choose between supporting compensation for victims of terrorism and bolstering the Palestinian Authority."

If they decide for the PA, then we will know that the US has completely and totally lost its way. ~~~~~~~~~~

Over a year ago, PA President Abbas asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene but she said then that "the US [government] is not party to these enforcement proceedings." But now there has been a rethinking of the issues and ultimately the Justice Department will decide in this extremely complex case.

Families of Americans killed in Palestinian terror attacks sued the PA under a law passed by Congress in 1990 in response to the terrorist murder of Leon Klinghoffer, who was thrown off the Achille Lauro cruise ship in his wheel chair.

But today, bolstering the PA has become a priority for the US. As we all know, once the PA is stronger, there will be peace in the Middle East. What sort of people have won court cases on this issue? There is, for example, the mother of six whose husband, Aharon Ellis, a US citizen, was killed in 2002 while singing at a bar mitzvah in Hadera.

PA lawyers argue that "The judgment's potential interference with American foreign policy presents a unique and exceptional circumstance justifying relief... "

One of the lawyers who has represented the victims in many of these cases says, "If the State Department tips the scales of justice against the victims in order to support adjudicated terrorists, the war on terrorism will be seen throughout the world as a farce."

Methinks its time for the US to reexamine its foreign policy, if it leads to situations such as this. Actually I think monies that have been allocated for the PA by the US should be set aside in sufficient amounts to pay all those who have won judgments against the PA; that's the only way they'll ever see their money.

~~~~~~~~~~ He was surprised. Or so said Shas Faction head Eli Yishai, when he learned from press reports that Livni and Qurei had met Monday and Tuesday. You see, Olmert had promised to keep him abreast of all negotiations.

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