Saturday, September 01, 2007

Arabs waiting for Bibi

Palestinians, Arab leaders believe that only Israel’s right-wing camp can bring peace The Israeli Right and part of the center of Israel’s political map are not the only ones waiting for Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians are also waiting for Bibi. This impression comes from conversations with senior Palestinian officials and key figures within Palestinian society.

The Palestinians are convinced that Benjamin Netanyahu can undertake diplomatic moves more easily than Ehud Olmert and his government which, despite possessing a solid and broad coalition base, loses its majority once withdrawals or outpost evacuations are brought up for discussion.

The analysis offered by the Palestinians is very interesting. They say that the Right is better for peace than the Left and bring up many examples to back this up, ranging from the peace treaty with Egypt signed by the government of the late Menachem Begin to the Hebron deal signed by Netanyahu and the Gaza withdrawal carried out by Ariel Sharon, who the Palestinians viewed as a strong rightist.

The Right is good for peace and the Left is good for war – this is the way the Israeli political map is perceived in the eyes of the Palestinian neighbors and Arab leaders. Their analysis is simple. When the Left wishes to pursue peace moves, that is, withdrawals, it is curbed by the Right and religious parties, and at times even the Arab Knesset members’ bloc is not enough to help the Left secure the needed majority.

Yet when the Left wishes to undertake a military move, it always enjoys right-wing support that guarantees a majority for such moves. This was particularly noticeable in all the military moves, wars, and campaigns led by leftist and centrist governments, such as the Grapes of Wrath campaign in 1996 and the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Left is good for talking
On the other hand, say the Palestinians and analysts of Israeli policy in the Arab world, when the Right is in power it is easier to reach agreements because the Right is consistent and honors its pledges. Moreover, it will automatically enjoy the support of the entire leftist bloc the moment it decides on a withdrawal, evacuation, or any other regional peace agreement.

Benjamin Netanyahu is viewed in a more credible light by regional Arab leaders than the way he has been portrayed in the media and wide sectors within the Israeli public and political arena. A senior aide for one of the most important regional leaders told me that many of them expect to meet Netanyahu and hear about his plans and the moves he wishes to undertake if and when he is elected prime minister.

The aide even expressed an interest in the possibility of meeting Netanyahu, even though there has been no announcement of new general elections at this time.

As it turns out, the Arab world views a right-wing ascendancy to power as an opportunity to advance the diplomatic process. This contradicts the common perception that Arab leaders prefer a leftist Israeli government.

The Left is good for talking and the planning of agreements, the Arabs say, but the Right is the address for signing agreements as it is the only element that can secure a Jewish majority.

It appears that the Arabs are well familiar with the secrets of Israeli politics and it is possible that teams on behalf of Netanyahu and the Right are already talking with the Arab and Palestinian side and attempting to initiate moves on the Palestinian, Syrian and even Lebanese front.

The writer is a journalist for Arab news network al-Hurra

Jeopardizing American interests

Here's an irony for you. Two prominent American academics, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have just expanded a lengthy article that they published last year into a brand-new book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, assailing the pro-Israel lobby for skewing American foreign policy making and consequently jeopardizing American national security.
According to their thesis, this lobby is so extraordinarily powerful - "No [other] ethnic lobby has diverted that policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest" - that its dominance was critical in forcing the US into Iraq. Its influence is so overwhelming that the US dare not press Israel to change its reprehensible policies on the Palestinians. Because of its power, and despite Israel's lack of moral standing, the US sustains a partnership with Israel that is prompting terrorism against American and other targets. The lobby's sway is so vast that critics are silenced and hostile politicians constrained.
And with its commitment to Israeli interests over American, this "Israel Lobby" has badly undermined US relations with Iran for the past 15 years, destroying the possibility of constructive dialogue and leaving the US to contemplate going to war against Teheran - an option that simply would not be on the table were it not for the malevolent lobby. After all, the authors reason, "Iran has even offered to put its nuclear program up for negotiation and offered to work out a modus vivendi with Israel. Yet despite these promising opportunities, Israel and the lobby have worked overtime to prevent both the Clinton and Bush administrations from engaging Iran, and they have prevailed at almost every turn."
Perceptive critics have already blasted gaping holes in much of this misconceived argument. Abraham Foxman of the ADL has devoted much of a book of his own - The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control - to demolishing the new volume and the duo's previous writings. He describes the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis as a "classic conspiratorial analysis" and argues that since their scholarship is "riddled with errors" that tend to slant it "in the exact same direction, we are dealing not with a little unfortunate carelessness but with a culpable degree of bias."
While effectively countering the central assertion of pro-Israeli interests managing to persuade American governments to act against their own sense of US interests, Foxman worries that "one of the most unprofessional works of scholarship ever to emanate from supposedly respectable quarters" will be cited by "the anti-Israel forces and the avowed bigots... for a long time to come."
I checked a single quotation to gauge the merit of Foxman's assertion of partiality - in a passage where the authors fault Israel for the failure of the 2000 Camp David attempt at Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. They cite Ehud Barak's foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami telling an interviewer, years later, "If I were a Palestinian, I would have rejected Camp David, as well." What they do not find room for is the continuation of Ben-Ami's comments in the same interview, when he expresses his conviction that the Clinton parameters for peace represented "the point of equilibrium between the negotiating positions of the parties" and overall faults Arafat for having "lost the opportunity of having a deal that is imperfect, inevitably imperfect, will always be imperfect, because this is the way peace processes are done all over, and he sent his nation into the wilderness of war and back in the time machine to the core of the conflict."
The authors find no need, either, to cite senior Arafat aide Nabil Amr's subsequent open letter to Arafat, publicly assailing him for having rejected the opportunity of a deal with the Barak government, nor even the ascription of blame to Arafat for the failure by Clinton, the man who, after all, had hosted the attempt at peacemaking.
Meanwhile David Remnick, in The New Yorker, while accepting the duo's description of "moral violation in Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands" and defending them against charges of anti-Semitism and racism, nonetheless castigates them for what he calls their portrayal of Israel as "a singularly pernicious force in world affairs."
He is particularly resonant in deflating their depiction of Israel's purported unwillingness to solve the Palestinian problem as the root cause of jihadi terror, faulting them for having produced a narrative "that recounts every lurid report of Israeli cruelty as indisputable fact but leaves out the rise of Fatah and Palestinian terrorism before 1967; the Munich Olympics; Black September; myriad cases of suicide bombings; and other spectaculars." For these authors, he snipes, "It doesn't matter that Israel and the Palestinians were in peace negotiations in 1993, the year of the first attack on the World Trade Center, or that during the Camp David negotiations in 2000 bin Laden's pilots were training in Florida."
In short, he scoffs, "Mearsheimer and Walt give you the sense that, if the Israelis and the Palestinians come to terms, bin Laden will return to the family construction business."
The facts are, furthermore, that for all that Walt and Mearsheimer would have their readers believe otherwise, the Arab world has indeed fought a series of wars aimed at destroying Israel; terrorism for Israel is considerably more than, as they put it, "clearly a problem"; a nuclear Iran truly is an existential danger; Arafat chose not to cut a viable deal seven years ago; the US would pressure Israel to give ground if it felt that a genuine Palestinian peace partner was being ignored; Islamic extremists would be targeting the West and targeting Arab countries even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were resolved; Israel doesn't even know what its own policy should be on Syria, much less skew America's; Israel seeks to minimize the civilian casualties when hitting back at enemies north, south and east who strive to maximize our civilian losses - and no amount of cherry-picked, selectively quoted comments from public figures and analysts will change any of those realities.
But the irony about this academic assault is that by placing those who work and speak for Israel and its interests on the defensive, these two scholars - who doubtless consider themselves to be American patriots, speaking out in the vital interest of their country - actually risk undermining America's well-being.
Much as the authors would dispute it, America and Israel do share fundamental values and interests. They do both stand against tyranny and misogyny and religious extremism and the use of terrorism; they do both stand for equality and democracy and problem-solving through dialogue. This cannot be said of any other nation in this region.
And it is in that light, and for the sake of those shared interests, that Israel, and those who care for and yes, lobby for Israel, would dearly want, right now, to be sounding the loudest possible alarms about the dangers posed to these and other US-Israel common values by the current Iranian regime's relentless march toward a nuclear weapons capability. For this is a regime that enforces fundamentalist Islam at home and seeks to export it overseas; that denies basic rights to its own people; that funds and trains and indoctrinates terrorists; that seeks the expansion of its hegemonic Islamist vision in this region and beyond; and for which a nuclear capability would represent a decisive milestone toward achieving its ambitions.
That this extremist quest be thwarted is crucial to Israel's well-being. But it is crucial to America's well-being as well - to America's protection from terror, to its energy needs, to its support for the spread of democracy, to its ideological commitment to a benevolent world.
Though of course it has no monopoly on understanding the dangers, Israel, considerably too close to Iran for comfort, is particularly well-placed to play a central role in assessing how best to address them.
But Israel and those who speak for it are being cowed.
The Israeli government has steadfastly ducked leadership of the battle to bring genocide-inciting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to justice under the terms of the UN's post-World War II "never again" resolution - staying silent out of concern that critics would accuse it of self-interested rabble-rousing.
Israel has refused to publicly spearhead efforts to ratchet up economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Iranians for the same reason; heaven forbid that the Walts and Mearsheimers of this world would misrepresent what constitutes an effort to avoid military conflict through effective economic pressure as a bid by Israel to create the context for military intervention. (Israel's reticence hasn't helped, self-evidently: Walt and Mearsheimer - who assert confidently that the threat of a second strike would deter Iran from pushing the button or giving the bomb to a terrorist group, and thus airily dismiss the prospect of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel or the US as being "out of the question" - have accused Israel of whipping up conflict anyway.)
And when, a few months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in near desperation at the emboldening of Iran and the disinclination of the international community to pressure it into abandoning the nuclear drive, publicly urged the United States to try to find some kind of resolution in Iraq that prevents a further strengthening of the mullahs' regime, he knew that he was departing from his own government's policy, which is to stay mum on both Iraq and Iran - again to avoid the snipers' insistence that Israel is bent on pushing the US into war.
Contrary to this part of the academic duo's thesis, Israel has no interest in conflict with Iran. Quite the reverse. A generation ago, when the Israeli government moved to thwart Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program, the air strike at Osiraq benefited from absolute surprise and from the fact that it needed to hit only a single, unprotected facility. Saddam had neither the raw materials nor the expertise to start over, and no capacity to retaliate. None of these advantages pertain where Iran is concerned, and Israel knows it.
Israel's interest, its shared interest with the US, the free world and, not to forget, the people of Iran, is in the creation of a situation where the ayatollahs either choose to abandon the nuclear weapons drive or are ousted by their own people for failing to do so. The only way to achieve this is through concerted international pressure. Military intervention, whether carried out by Israel or by other players, carries the risk of failure, of terrorist retaliation, of exacerbated Muslim grievance against the US and Israel and the West.
A military strike is indeed, as John McCain has stated, preferable to a nuclear Iran. But there is still a conviction in Israel that both can be avoided.
THE JEWISH state really does know more than most about how loudly the alarm bells should now be ringing, about the dangers of extremist murderous regimes being allowed to flourish. Our nation does have the most bitter direct experience of the consequences.
It took the United States far too long to internalize the scope of the danger last time around. And in 2007, given the advances in man's capacity to kill off his fellow man, it is far easier to carry out genocide than it was for the Nazis.
In the wake of the Holocaust, indeed, the Jews' sovereign state has a moral responsibility to warn all the nations of the earth against the dangers of new genocides. But its voice has been muted, for fear that its legitimate concerns for its own and other nations' security will be misrepresented.
Wouldn't it be ironic, then, if Iran were to succeed in its nuclear weapons quest, in part because clear-sighted politicians and analysts and experts in Israel and among its supporters in the US felt constrained by the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer - the two scholars ostensibly bent on safeguarding their country from our malign influence - from sounding the alarm as clearly as they would have wished. Wouldn't it to be ironic if that fundamentalist Iran were then able to remake this region in its own image, cast a shadow and worse over Israel, and, as it sought to expand Islamist hegemony, belatedly come to be recognized as a direct threat to the most basic American interests and values.
Who, then, would have undermined the American national interest, and whose efforts to influence the national debate would have jeopardized American security?

Lets not repeat old mistakes

Lesson Learned: Peace must pay - peace must have a constituency. There were many promises that peace would pay. Shimon Peres spoke about a new Middle East that would flourish with the fruits of peace. A lot of money was pumped into the process and economic development projects and large scale infrastructure development projects were launched. At the same time, in response to a continuation of terrorism, various Israeli governments imposed new systems of closures limiting Palestinian access to Israel and to Israeli markets.

The most effected sector was that of the export of Palestinian labor to Israel. Economic data point to the fact that the losses to the Palestinian economy equaled and even surpassed the total amount of donor funds that were pumped into the process. The result on the ground was a continual shrinking of the Palestinian economy (with the exception of 1999-2000). The common Palestinian citizen became poorer and the Palestinian economy actually suffered significant losses after September 1993. In short the fruits of peace were never delivered to the plates of the average Palestinian citizen.

Lesson Learned: Mediators must be ready and prepared to play bridging roles when required.

For most of the Oslo peace process the Americans were perceived as a kind of mediator. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators more often than not requested that the American serve a convener role and not a mediator role. There was great reluctance to invite the Americans or others to submit bridging proposals. The Palestinians feared that the Americans were too close to the Israeli positions and the Israelis fear too much intervention by any outside parties. As such, both sides forfeited the valuable roles that credible mediators can play.

Peace processes that are as entrenched and complex as the Israeli-Palestinian example require outside intervention by credible neutral parties that are ready to back their proposals with political and economic weight. The peace process would have benefited greatly by the active participation of credible and experienced mediators.

Cooperation between former enemies requires assistance. The Oslo peace process created about 30 joint bodies and coordination committees for cooperation. Over the years of the intifada all of the joint committee ceased to function.

THE JOINT water committee did continue to work throughout most of the past years into the intifada. This body issued at least two statements co-signed by the heads of the committee regarding their decision to keep water out of the bounds of the intifada. The reason for this success is that the committee quickly became a tri-lateral committee with direct US participation.
During these difficult times, the committee did not meet if there was no third party convener. The Americans served as inviters as well as deliverers of messages between the sides. They hosted the meetings, facilitated the discussions and the follow-ups and also provided the funding for most of the projects agreed upon between the sides. Without the American involvement in this committee, there would not have been a joint water committee when it was most needed.

Lesson Learned: Peace processes must be "civilized" - the role of the military must be reduced.

The Oslo peace process, after the first stage of negotiations was controlled primarily by military and security personnel on both sides. As time passed, the role of the military-security forces in controlling the relations between the sides became more and more entrenched and institutionalized. All of the joint committees and bodies had high level participation from the military-security forces.

The "civil affairs" coordination between Israel and the Palestinians was controlled by the office of the Coordinator of Government Affairs in the Territories - a military officer at the rank of g eneral. Even though the coordinator dressed in civilian clothes for meetings with the Palestinians, it was clear that it was still the IDF and the Ministry of Defense on the front line. In the end, the role of the civilian ministries and officials became minimized in favor of the military.
Military personnel are not usually trained in the arts of peace making. They usually lack the sensitivities necessary for transforming relations that were based on conflict and animosity into relations of peaceful neighbors. The heavy handed continued presence of the military also signaled to Israelis and Palestinians alike that the basic dynamics of the relations did not change after signing peace agreements. The military occupation simply changed its clothes, as was stated by many Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

THERE WERE great expectations that the peace process would end the occupation and the mentality of occupation. There should have been a conscious decision to transfer all coordination and cooperation outside of direct military-security matters to civilian ministries. Coordination of agricultural affairs should have been dealt with by the two ministries of agriculture, tourism by the ministries of tourism, etc. without military presence overriding decisions and setting the tone.

Peace processes must be civilized and de-militarized.

Lesson Learned: Personal relationship building is important. It might sound a bit too obvious but it must nonetheless be stated explicitly - peace is built first and foremost of the personal relationships of individuals.

The Oslo process created a mechanism called "joint patrols." Usually, personal relations between the Israeli and Palestinian soldiers did not develop. The Israelis traveled in their own jeeps and the Palestinians in theirs. Not all of the officers in the joint patrols even knew the names of their colleagues from the other side with whom they patrolled everyday. When crises occurred and violence broke out, even before September 2000, in many cases, the joint patrols ceased to function. When these joint patrols were most needed - for the exact circumstances for which they were created, they were unable to function.

There were of course exceptions to the rule. It has been reported that the joint patrol that worked in the Jenin area until September 2000, continued to function throughout all of the prior crises, even when joint patrols in other areas were not functioning. A researcher who looked into the workings of the joint patrols discovered that the commanders of the Jenin joint patrol on both sides had become close personal friends. They had visited each other at home after work and on holidays. Their families knew each other and they liked each other. When crises occurred, they picked up the phone and spoke with each other. They were able to raise their complaints with each other and then they continued to work together, and their work was much more effective.

Lesson Learned: Ongoing contact between leaders is essential. There was never a "hotline" between the office of the Israeli primier and the office of the chairman of the Palestinian Authority. The hotline is not only the technology of a special phone line - it is a concept. When there is an emergency, pick up the hotline and deal with the crisis quickly and directly. Crises brewed, perked and then exploded. They were then allowed to fester until "enough" suffering had occurred or until the international community intervened and pushed the sides to end the crisis.
EVEN DURING the beginning of the events of September-October 2000 there was no direct contact between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat. At the time when direct contact could have been the most potentially powerful means of putting an end to the crisis and the violence, the resistance to that contact due to the total lack of trust and confidence between the leaders meant that the leaders essentially preferred to escalate the conflict through vociferous mutual criticisms rather than overcoming their mutual dislikes of each in favor of the larger interests of their people.
Lessons learned: Peace education must be undertaken seriously and incitement against peace must end.

Throughout the years of the Oslo peace process, peace education was tremendously undervalued while at the same time incitement against peace in the media on both sides and in Palestinian educational text books continued and grew.
Education for peace is an essential part of peace making. Equal attention to reaching agreements should be placed on the development of peace education tools, on teacher training and on insuring that the materials and the trained teachers reach the classroom.

When the Palestinian Authority limited and even prevented the participation of Palestinian students and teachers in peace education program, a giant red light should have flashed brightly for policy makers warning them that the peace process itself is in danger.

Lessons learned: Peace processes must also take place from the bottom-up.
The Oslo peace process was largely framed as a top-down strategy for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The strategy was based on reaching political agreements between the government of Israel and the PLO. The expectation was that political agreements between the leaders would significantly change the realities on the ground and the peoples of both sides would almost automatically support the process.

As an afterthought, the sides added to the Oslo II agreement an annex calling for the institution of people-to-people projects as a means of strengthening peace between the two peoples. The international community embraced the agreements and the idea of people-to-people projects. However, during all of the years of the peace process (until September 2000) an estimated $20-$25 million dollars only was allocated for funding people-to-people projects. In the final assessment, the people-to-people process was not taken seriously, not by the donors and not by the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority which allocated almost no funding at all to this process and paid only lip service to it politically.

Most Israelis and Palestinians never participated in a people-to-people program. Most Israelis and Palestinians never even knew about people-to-people programs and activities. Some successful people-to-people programs did continue into the intifada and have been sustained up to today.

At the time of the outbreak of violence, most of the donors froze their support for these projects taking a "time-out" for assessment and evaluation. Just when these funds were needed more than ever, they became more and more difficult to find.
The people-to-people NGOs have played a most significant role in the past years in keeping contacts between the sides alive and viable. Without them there would be almost no positive contacts at all today between Israelis and Palestinians.
There must be recognition by the governments and representatives of the value of this work and when the sides come back to the negotiating table, they should invest a lot more energy and thought into how to integrate the bottom-up peace making process within their overall strategies.
The writer is the founder and co-director of IPCRI - Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

Friday, August 31, 2007

Worth repeating:Fire the Neocons, Fight the War

On October 11, 2000, George W. Bush said, "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war." In January 2003, President Bush was presented with two post-invasion plans for Iraq. One, authored by the Defense Department, called for a hard and fast invasion, establishment of a provisional government in Baghdad, and an exit from Iraq in very few months, to enable our forces to deal with the neighboring state sponsors of terrorism, Iran and Syria. The other, authored by the State Department and the CIA, was for the extended occupation and nation-building in Iraq.
In between was 9-11, and George Bush's conversion to the neocon "strategy" to fight the war we're in.
In April 2002, I wrote that the president's thinking was dangerously garbled, and that our British allies were very uneasy about it. That September, I wrote that the president needed -- before we took military action against Iraq -- to make very clear that Iraq was only part of the problem and that a war president was obligated to lead us and the free world to defeat the enemy in its entirety. But between October 2000 and January 2003, President Bush became a neocon.
Since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, President Bush has focused our war effort on building a new democracy in Iraq. We have not been either decisive or forceful with Iran or Syria. And last week, the President invoked the memory of Vietnam as the reason we shouldn't abandon Iraq before the job is done. But his definition of the job is incorrect, and so is the lesson he learned from Vietnam.
The debate about Iraq is essential, but it is focused on the wrong issues. The question is not how best to withdraw from Iraq. The issue is how to win the war against the terrorist nations.
Gen. Petraeus is operating the surge magnificently, and it may -- by March or April -- have established a sustainable success against the insurgency. At the same time, the Maliki government is -- as the new National Intelligence Estimate says -- dysfunctional and not able to govern.
The President has said our goal in Iraq is to create a nation that can defend and govern itself and will be an ally in the war on terror. That definition of our endgame puts America on the strategic defensive.
We didn't go to war with Iraq because it wasn't a democracy. If that were our casus belli, we'd be at war with about three-fourths of the nations of the world. We went to war because -- relying on all the intelligence we had -- the President in good faith judged Iraq to be a clear and present danger to the United States.
Our forces swept through Iraq and entered Baghdad in a combat crouch, very aware of the equal -- or bigger -- threats posed by Iraq's neighbors. And there we stopped, as the neocons wanted us to, spending soldiers' lives to build a democracy in Iraq.
Let's be very clear: whether Iraq becomes a democracy is not determinative of our success or defeat in this war. Iraq is only one campaign in the war against the nations that sponsor terrorism. Victory isn't an Iraq that can defend and govern itself. Victory is defined as the end of state sponsorship of Islamic terrorism, which means forcing Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and others out of that business. Nothing more is needed, and nothing less will defeat an existential threat to America. Conservatives -- people such as you and me, and most of our military leaders -- believe that the lesson of Vietnam is not how to manage our withdrawal of Iraq. Wars, as Churchill said about Dunkirk, are not won by evacuations. Those who believe we have a moral obligation to defend defenseless Iraqis have a point. But that point ended when Nouri al-Maliki said that if America abandoned Iraq, he could "find friends elsewhere." The Maliki government is much too closely tied with Iran, and the only visible replacement for Maliki -- Iyad Allawi -- is tied as closely to Saudi Arabia as Maliki is to Iran. Neither of those nations is going to allow Iraq to be an ally in the larger war.
We who lived through the Vietnam era understand that the lesson of Vietnam isn't that we have to win the "hearts and minds" of the peoples of the Middle East. We know it isn't that we cannot pull out of Iraq prematurely. We know that we can be in Iraq for another sixty days or another sixty years and the situation will not improve much while Iraq's neighbors continue to man, fund and arm the insurgency.
The lesson of Vietnam is much different from the one the President apprehends. The lesson is this: if you fail to fight a war in a manner calculated to win it decisively, you will lose it inevitably.
By waiting for the Iraqis to establish democracy and failing to deal with the terrorist nations that surround them, we have enabled our enemies to control the pace and direction of the war. It is time for the President to "Trump" the neocons: tell them they're fired. And get on with the business of fighting a war that will end the threat to America.
Gen. Petraeus is literally working wonders in Iraq. When he reports to Congress in three weeks, he'll likely say that the counter-insurgency is working, but hasn't yet succeeded. And he will say that it needs to continue, as the President has planned, at least through March of 2008. Now is not a time to second-guess Petraeus. But now is the time to tell Maliki and the Iraqis that our effort in Iraq is divorced from theirs.
As I wrote in March 2006, there is a conservative war plan. It's this:
We as conservatives understand that Islamic terrorism cannot threaten us significantly without the support of nations. We are impatient with Mr. Bush's neo-Wilsonianism because it allows the enemy and its apologists to control the pace and direction of the war. We are unwilling to allow the prosecution of this war against the terrorist nations to be delayed for however long it takes for Iraqis to sort themselves out. It is impossible for them to do so while neighboring nations -- Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia -- actively interfere.
Conservatives don't want to be caught in the web of failed nostrums of Vietnam. We won't wait for Islam to be reformed or to win the hearts and minds of the mullahs in Tehran. We don't consider Islam unreformable; but we understand that it is unreformable by non-Muslims. And we understand that the only way to spur Muslims to accomplish that reformation is to break the hold radical Islam has over a growing number of nations.
Fire the neocons, Mr. President, and reject their theories. Turn your thinking back to October 2000. Order Gen. Petraeus to do what is necessary for now in Iraq, and turn our military and intelligence establishments' attention to the nations that surround it.
Stop thinking about how to not lose. Think about how to win.

Mr. Babbin is the editor of Human Events. He served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in President George H.W. Bush's administration. He is the author of "In the Words of our Enemies"(Regnery,2007) and (with Edward Timperlake) of "Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States" (Regnery, 2006) and "Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think" (Regnery, 2004). E-mail him at


Security and defense: Lying in wait

Comment:Hizzbollah is not any different than other terror organizations when it gets right down to it. Terror is the tactic, it is clear in its beliefs, it also does not keep promises to the people-they are inept in many ways. Stop making them out as untouchables!

Not much has changed in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbail since last summer's war against Hizbullah. Dozens of homes still lie in ruins, and roads are engraved with tank track marks, a small reminder of the bloody battles that took place in its narrow alleyways.

To the west lies the village of Ayta a-Shayeb. From the border, just north of Moshav Shtula, one can make out the flattened homes and rubble-filled streets. Promises Hizbullah made following the war that it would rebuild the villages and reimburse those who suffered have clearly not been kept.

Instead, Hizbullah has been investing its money elsewhere. Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this week that the group has significantly increased its supply of long-range missiles and short-range rockets - from an estimated 10,000-15,000 before the Second Lebanon War to some 20,000 today.
Hizbullah may no longer be deployed along the border, but IDF officers stationed in the North claimed this week that its fighters are still deployed in the Shi'ite villages in southern Lebanon - like Bint Jbail and Ayta a-Shayeb - and are gearing up for the day their orders will come to renew attacks. Some "nature reserves" (where Hizbullah stores weapons and trains its gunmen) are still active, despite the presence of some 13,000 UNIFIL and 15,000 Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) troops.

Hizbullah is also building up its missile array just north of the Litani River, where UNIFIL's mandate ends, and even though the short-range rockets were moved farther north, they are still in target range of frontline northern Galilee communities.
Hizbullah is recruiting new fighters to fill the slots of the 600 killed during the war and conducting major training exercises with live anti-tank fire. It is also setting up its own wireless telephone network throughout southern Lebanon, an apparent attempt to block foreign surveillance.

This bleak picture is reinforced by the IDF Northern Command's current assessment that war with Hizbullah could break out any day, any hour, any minute. There are also possible external triggers - such as a premature American withdrawal from Iraq, or a strike on Iran's nuclear sites - that could also bring about a war, not just with Hizbullah, but also possibly with Syria.

Still, there is no dispute that this past year has been the quietest along the Lebanese border in the past three decades.

Some in the IDF believe that Hizbullah has already returned to terrorism, though not yet directly against Israel. The attack in June that killed six Spanish peacekeepers is believed to have been the work of Hizbullah - if not directly by its guerrillas, then at least by a proxy working under its orders. The suspected motivation is to undermine the UN force's feeling of confidence and security and to remind Israel that terror is far from disappearing.

Following the Madrid train bombings in 2004, Spain decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq. In this case, too, Spain is viewed as the "weak link," and the attacks against its UNIFIL contingent could be an attempt to force the government to bring the troops back home, a move that would undermine the peacekeeping force.
AS FOR the Galilee and the Western Negev: In Gaza, Hamas is building up an army and continues to smuggle unprecedented amounts of weapons and explosives in from the Sinai. In the North, Hizbullah has basically rebuilt itself and is continuing to receive large amounts of weapons, including advanced anti-tank missiles and rockets, from Syria.

At the moment, Israel's policy regarding both is "watch and wait."
On neither front is Israel interested in making the first move, but would rather wait for the other side to attack before responding. The scenarios for this possibility vary. A Kassam rocket could hit a Sderot kindergarten after the school year starts next week, or Hamas could succeed in scaling the Gaza security fence and infiltrating Kibbutz Netiv Ha'asara. All Hizbullah would have to do is try kidnapping a soldier again.

Upon taking up his post in February, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi set the summer as the deadline for getting the IDF ready for war with Hizbullah and Syria. As a result, he and OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot decided to leave the commanders of Division 91 (responsible for Lebanon) and Division 36 (responsible for Syria) in the positions they had been scheduled to vacate by the end of September. The reason for doing so was to avoid making any changes during such a sensitive time.

Overall, according to senior officers, the IDF has learned its lesson, and will utilize its advantage in massive firepower and large numbers of tanks and infantry units in any future battle against Hizbullah. At the height of the war last year, some 400 tanks were inside Lebanon. But, as a senior officer explained this week, they were not in large formations, but rather positioned as many small-sized units. As a result, the advantage was lost.

"If you send massive amounts of forces, you might lose some, but some will definitely reach their goal and fulfill the mission," was how one top general explained the change in tactics.

The mentality shift was also felt when Ashkenazi convened the General Staff last week to discuss the procurement plan for the coming year. According to some officers, the emphasis will be more on land-based platforms - such as Merkava tanks and Namer armored personnel carriers - and less on the air force.

ONE SENIOR officer who has internalized this change is Col. Ofek Bouchriss, commander of Brigade 300, which is responsible for maintaining the defenses along the Lebanese border. A religious officer, Bouchriss came up through the ranks of the Golani Brigade and was seriously wounded as commander of its Battalion 51 in an operation in Nablus in 2002's Operation Defensive Shield, service that saw him awarded a Citation of Excellence.

Bouchriss returned to the country shortly before the war, after spending a year at the US Army's War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. When the war broke out and while still waiting for his appointment, he went to the Golani Brigade operations center in the border community of Malkiya. It was there - as he closely followed the operations - that Bouchriss understood where the IDF had gone wrong during the war and what needed to be changed so that it could win a next round.

Under his command, Brigade 300 currently has new rules of engagement along the border. If an armed Hizbullah guerrilla is spotted, the soldiers have the right to immediately open fire. "Hizbullah will not be allowed to return to the border," he has told his subordinates.

In addition, Bouchriss oversees the periodic forays beyond the fence into what might appear like Lebanese territory but is not beyond the Blue Line international border. In some cases, he sends soldiers across the fence in broad daylight for the sole purpose of showing Hizbullah and the LAF that Israel will continue to maintain its sovereignty over all of its territory.

In Malkiya, Bouchriss watched as the IDF went to war undertrained and not fully prepared. The past year of intensive non-stop training is meant to restore lost capabilities.

The other problem, Bouchriss discovered, had to do with the tactical orders given to units. Instead of being simple and clear, they were sometimes vague and misleading. As a typical Golani soldier, Bouchriss sees things in straightforward terms - if the hill needs to be taken, the assigned battalion needs to take it. "My job is to get people to do simple things," he has explained.

Why is Olmert still in power? Here's the answer!

Politics: What a difference a year makes A year ago, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hosted his first pre-Rosh Hashana toast for Kadima activists at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, the event was marred by the heckling of Second Lebanon War reservists and bereaved parents who called him a murderer.
Although some 3,000 people attended the event, tables full of Russian-speakers bused in from Pardess Hanna admitted they had no idea where they were or what Kadima stood for. In what seemed like a mass walkout, a large crowd of immigrants noisily exited the hall during Olmert's speech, because their bus was leaving.
What a difference a year makes. When Olmert hosts this year's pre-Rosh Hashana toast at the Jerusalem International Convention Center's Teddy Hall on Thursday, the crowd will be full of Kadima activists from across the country who have become involved in grassroots efforts that prove the party's vitality, if not its staying power.
At a time when the Labor Party is selling off all of its branches and the Likud is reeling from a leadership race in which it struggled to bring its members to vote, Kadima has become the country's most active political party at the grassroots level. Thirty branches, called Kadima Houses, have opened over the past year and on an average weeknight, they are surprisingly busy with local political activity, volunteer work and cultural events.
WHEN FORMER prime minister Ariel Sharon formed Kadima, he was seen as a leader without a real party behind him. Now Kadima has become a real party that is thriving, despite the unpopularity of its leader. Even though the party was initially formed from the top, it has been built over the past year from the ground up.
MK Avigdor Yitzhaki, Kadima's founding director-general, believed the party did not need branches, so he closed the 90 campaign offices the party had leased during last year's election campaign and left only the empty headquarters in Petah Tikva, with its towering poster of Sharon on the side of the building.
"When I got here, there was nothing and I had to build everything anew," said director-general Yohanan Plesner, who took over for Yitzhaki when the latter was elected to the Knesset. "Yitzhaki wanted a shell party, so he went and fired everyone. There were mayors and activists who had joined us from other parties and were used to working, but there was a vacuum with nothing for them to do."
Plesner, who followed the Boston Red Sox when he was a graduate student at Harvard University, decided he had to run the party like a baseball team to make it a winner. That meant nurturing new fans and giving them a reason to cheer on Kadima.
"A party is not a product you can just advertise to win a share of the market," Plesner said. "It's a community like a sports team that requires traditions and fans who need to feel a sense of belonging. You need an agenda and to appeal to the general public but you also need a base of activists to work from."
To that end, Plessner formed branches, but decided to run them differently from the Likud and Labor. Instead of using them only for politics and as an office for whomever runs the branch, Kadima Houses will be utilized as a platform for activity on behalf of the people of the area and an address for the community to express its concerns.
For instance, Kadima activists in Arad are running a campaign to widen the road that leads into the city; the Haifa Kadima House is fighting against pollution in the Kishon River; and a group of lawyers does pro-bono work on behalf of the community out of the branch in Ramle.
Every house has 15 leaders who decide on their local agenda, one of whom is being trained as a spokesman by the party's communications director, Shmulik Dahan. When Kadima ministers and MKs come, the local leaders present their agenda, and don't just listen to the politicians. The local efforts have already translated into election victories in mayoral races in Givatayim and Mevaseret Zion and a strong push will be made ahead of the November 2008 local authority elections across the country.
The branches are also used for ideological meetings with leaders like Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, as well as people unaffiliated with the party like the former head of IDF Intelligence, Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash). Cultural events like Russian sing-alongs are also held there.
Kadima has also tried to build a community on its Hebrew Internet site, which is updated constantly and has a calendar of events taking place in party branches every day. The Web site hosts debates on issues and allows activists to send questions for ministers to answer.
To maximize the site's effectiveness, before it was launched, Kadima officials researched party Web sites around the world. Russian and English sites will be launched soon with a forum for party activists that mimics the successful Facebook site.
Many Kadima MKs who were skeptical about the party's future after last summer's war have gradually come to realize they now have constituencies of supporters in communities across the country whom they have to serve. For instance, the MKs were lobbied intensely by Kadima activists ahead of the presidential race won by Shimon Peres.
"The MKs saw that they no longer could ignore the party activists," Plesner said. "All summer, there have tons of events and the MKs and ministers have been coming."
Despite all this, Likud and Labor leaders are still working under the assumption that Kadima will self-destruct ahead of the next election and the country will return to having only two potential ruling parties.
And not everyone in Kadima is convinced either. As The Jerusalem Post reported last week, a group of MKs is working on an effort to break off from the party before the Winograd Report is released in order to pressure Olmert to resign.
Yitzhaki, who worked for the Likud for many years before founding Kadima, said that forming so many branches was a waste of money. He said that as long as Kadima doesn't change its leadership, the mandates would not come.
"As the man who built the party from nothing and with my decades of experience building parties, I think that branches are an unnecessary expense and there is no need for them," Yitzhaki said. "Even Labor finally realized this. But someone who has never led a party [like Plesner] isn't going to get that."
Plesner responded that Olmert appointed him specifically because he did not have experience in the Likud and Labor. He said that as long as a clean party structure is in place, Kadima will be able to survive its leadership primary ahead of the next general election.
"Olmert wanted someone untainted by the political wheeling and dealing of other parties, so he appointed me to find a way to run things differently," he said. "After a year, I think we have realized what this new approach looks like in the field. There aren't primaries yet, and they don't have to be bad for the party as long as people follow the rules."
THE CURRENT challenge for Kadima is a membership drive that ends on March 15. The five expected leadership candidates - Olmert, Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit and Dichter - are trying to register as many supporters as possible between now and then. The current membership is some 27,000, and party officials are hoping to double that. A meticulous oversight system is in place to avoid the problems that have plagued the recent Labor and Likud drives and leadership races.
Plesner knows that it will take time for Kadima to prove its staying power. But he said he is used to dealing with impatience after enduring the criticism he faced a year ago when the party emerged tainted from the war, which broke out before he had a chance to form its institutions.
"A year ago, I didn't even know whom to invite to events," Plesner admitted. "But now I know who the top activists are in every city and in every sector, immigrants included. We formed the party under fire from criticism and it took time. We did it against all odds, but we did it."

Olmert follow-up

Bechor reports, based on "leaks from the Palestinian side," that Israel has, in the past few days, presented Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas at least one draft of an "agreement of principles." · The agreement calls for a state named Palestine to be established alongside Israel, and have a territory of 6,250 square kilometers: the equivalent of all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
· "Palestine" will be demilitarized.
· Most of the Jewish communities built in Judea and Samaria over the past 40 years are to demolished and their inhabitants expelled, according to the plan. The remaining communities are to be concentrated in small salients
Most of the Jewish communities built in Judea and Samaria over the past 40 years are to demolished and their inhabitants expelled.
for which the Arab state will be compensated with additional territory elsewhere in present-day Israel.
· A passage of some sort will connect Gaza and Judea and Samaria. It will be under Jewish sovereignty and Palestinian administration.
· Israel agrees to redivide Jerusalem. Arab neighborhoods will be under Arab sovereignty and Jewish ones under Jewish sovereignty. Mention is made of "religious areas," but further details are not known as of yet. Each side will recognize the other's spiritual needs.
· The "refugee" question is not mentioned at all, and Bechor reports that this is the main sticking point. Abbas is insisting that Arabs descended from those who fled Israel in 1948 be allowed to return to Israel, at least in principle.

Bechor says that Abbas and his men have gone over the draft and are not pleased; they know how to negotiate, he notes. In a recent interview with PA TV, Abbas said that "declarations of principles are a waste of time" and "useless." What the PA wants, he said, is a clear timetable for establishing Palestine, as well as an Israeli pullback, demolition of Jewish communities and "return of refugees" (i.e., the flooding of Israel with Arab citizens).

The Arabs are hoping Israel will become more pliable in November, when an international diplomatic conference, sponsored by the US, is to be held in an attempt to hammer out an accord.

An official close to Mahmoud Abbas, Mustafa Bargouti, said that the idea of a conference is "an Israeli trap" and that nothing will come of it.

Olmert Offers Judea, Samaria, Divides J'lem in Draft Accord

Israel has agreed, in writing, to hand over 6,250 square kilometers of land – the equivalent of its entire biblical and strategic heartland - to an Arab terror state. So reports Dr. Guy Bechor, a leading expert on Arab affairs, who also supplies some of the details of the negotiations And here is the rest of it.

UN-The Same Old Song

UN summit: Boycott Israel United Nations conference at EU parliament compares Israel to apartheid South Africa
Yaakov Lappin

A UN conference, held at the European Parliament in Brussels, heard an array of speakers call for a boycott against Israel and strategize on ways to achieve its international isolation, during the first day of an event billed by organizers as a gathering to promote "Middle East peace".

The 'International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace' has been organized by the UN's Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and attracted political figures and pro-Palestinian members of non governmental organizations (NGOs).

According to the Bnei Brith organization, which sent delegates to attend the conference from its European Affairs Office, British Member of Parliament Clare Short said during her speech that Israel was not interested in a two-state solution, and blasted the EU for "allowing" Israel to build "an apartheid wall".

"The boycott worked for South Africa, it is time to do it again," Short was quoted as saying.

The security fence was also attacked by the European Parliament's vice president, Edward McMillan-Scott, who maintained that it would not bring peace to Israel. McMillan-Scott added that the European Parliament was committed to "a two state solution with safe borders," according to the Bnei Brith report of the conference.

Addressing the conference on behalf of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Leila Shahid, Palestinian Representative to the EU, read out a statement in which Abbas expressed satisfaction that the conference was hosted by the European Parliament, and lamented the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Pierre Galand, European coordinator of the Committees and Associations for Palestine, claimed that the conference was taking place despite pressures to cancel it, and blamed the Fatah-Hamas conflict on "Israeli policy".

'Members guided by clear agenda'
"This is a conference of Israel-haters," Adam Mouchtar, Director of Bnei Brith's European Union Affairs Office, told Ynetnews. Mouchtar attended the conference's first day, and said its members were clearly guided by a single agenda: "To prove that Israel is a racist apartheid state, and therefore Israel should be boycotted internationally, as South Africa was."

"We've had this in Durban in 2001. These are the same organizations that took over the Durban conference and coined the term 'Zionism is racism'," Mouchtar said.

He added that the most positive speech came from an Israeli-Arab Knesset Member, Nadia Hilou, who praised the recent boost in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"I feel that it's a farce," Mouchtar said, adding: "It's a biased conference. It nearly totally excludes any reasonable Israeli speakers." According to Mouchtar, one of the few Jewish attendees was a "self hater" invited to "legitimize the claim that the conference was not biased".

Mouchtar called on the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to take action to prevent such activities in the future, adding that the actions of UN sub-committees were "delegitimizing the good work the UN is doing in other fields".

'Campaign to demonize Israel'
But Wolfgang Grieger, Secretary of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, told Ynetnews that the conference had "received a message from Ban Ki-moon".

"It opened this morning with some 400 participants attending, representatives of 140 civil society organizations, members of the European and national parliaments, 53 government observers, as well as 16 intergovernmental organizations, including UN agencies. The Committee is very pleased with this big turnout," he said.

A spokesman for NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog, told Ynetnews: "As NGO Monitor's continued research has shown, non governmental organizations funded and supported by the EU and other international governments, are at the forefront of the political campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel.

"This conference highlights once again, the moral bankruptcy of so many of these groups and individuals who compare the Israel-Palestinian conflict to apartheid South Africa, and single out Israel for boycotts and sanctions," he said.

Wake up, diplomats

Foreign Ministry must not allow ‘peace industry’ to dictate preparations for US-brokered peace conference The international peace conference declared by President Bush could serve as a turning point in the Middle East, but may also become another Madrid Conference 2 – virtual and pathetic. This “conference” was the product of the superfluous activities of the “peace industry” and “back-channel” go-getters, whose contribution to international peace is minimal.

The excessive work of this “peace industry,” coupled with Israel’s hesitant diplomacy, may lead to false expectations that have no chance of materializing, especially when the Saudi peace initiative is worded in definitive and categorical terms that contradict the principle of compromise – one of the peace conference’s foundation stones.

Israeli diplomacy must quickly begin working in pre-Madrid mode: Set clear goals, help draft the invitations to the conference, instill the Israeli vision for peace in foreign ministries and public opinion around the world.

It must work toward formulating a code of behavior for the conference’s participants in order to prevent every small disagreement or dispute from erupting into a major crisis.

The Madrid Conference in 1991, which was made possible only through intensive diplomatic activity, set the multilateral track in motion and completely changed the face of the region.

In the absence of determined, full-fledged diplomatic initiative on the part of the Foreign Ministry, the arena may be subjected to illusion and impositions and thus to unavoidable failure.

Therefore, Israeli diplomacy must act so that the preparations for the international peace conference in Washington will be meticulous and pave the way for all parties involved to soften their stances.

The Foreign Ministry must make certain that the participants will adhere to the most stringent conditions, including the denouncement of terror, preserving human rights and moving towards democracy. Only this will ensure the success of the peace conference.

Participants should be called upon to articulate the future of the Middle East as to the kind of peace regime that will prevail, the relations between the nations, the significance of the term normalization and their adherence to this state of affairs.

Israeli diplomacy should be the catalyst of the international community in setting these tests and make sure that the participants are adopting the principles of mutual recognition, compromise and confidence building. Otherwise, the formula “territory for peace” may easily become “territory for non-peace”.

If Israeli diplomacy wakes up to act as a major initiator it will be able to engage the region into positive activities while taking advantage of the Saudi initiative on the one hand and the concern over a nuclear Iran on the other.

Such developments may also prompt Hamas to abandon its violent ways and perhaps even recognize Israel.

The ultimate test of the country’s diplomats is to prevent a futile peace conference that will become a meeting place of erroneous American foreign policy and unimaginative and non-resourceful Israeli diplomacy: Yet another interim station on the road to nowhere.

If Israeli diplomacy will stand idly by and leave the arena to unauthorized activity and meddling that spreads illusionary solutions – this is a sure recipe for the conference’s failure.

The writer is a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry

Archaeologists: Muslim dig damaged Temple wall

A month-old Islamic dig on Jerusalem's Temple Mount to replace faulty electrical cables has damaged an ancient wall that is likely a remnant of the Second Temple... The work, which is being carried out with the approval of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the state-run Antiquities Authority, has been repeatedly condemned by independent Israeli archaeologists, who are calling for its immediate halt.

"The Israeli Government is lending a hand to the destruction of one of the most important archaeological sites in the world," said Bar-Ilan University archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkai at a Jerusalem press conference.

Barkai said the dig, which involves tractors and other heavy construction equipment, has created a 400-meter-long and 1.5-meter-deep trench on the site, destroying layers of ancient remains.

Among the antiquities that have been damaged are a 7-meter-wide wall that apparently dates back to Second-Temple times and was likely part of the Temple courts, according to Israeli archaeologists from the nonpartisan Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount.

"This is the first time in the history of archaeological excavation in Israel that we have remains that could have been part of the courts of the Temple itself," Barkai said.

He added that it was unfathomable that Israel's top archaeological body was turning a blind eye to archaeological destruction at Judaism's holiest site. "All civilized people should stand up and protest this barbaric act," he said.

The committee, which plans to appeal to the High Court of Justice next week to stop the dig, noted that the work was also being carried out at night, when proper archaeological inspection was impossible.

Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Dalit Menzin declined comment. Islamic officials have said the trench was necessary to replace decades-old electrical cables, and have denied any antiquities have been damaged.

The Israeli archaeologists said the Antiquities Authority has refused to discuss the issue with them, while both Olmert and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter have turned down requests for a meeting.

The Antiquities Authority's Jerusalem regional archaeologist Jon Seligman was at the site on Thursday, eyewitnesses said.

Seligman has long been accused by members of the committee, which was established seven years ago following massive destruction on the Temple Mount by Islamic officials, of failing to protest the damage done in the late 90s at an underground compound of the Temple Mount known as Solomon's Stables.

Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar said that the Temple Mount had become "one big construction site," and blasted the government for authorizing "rampant barbarism and vandalism" there.

According to decades-old regulations, Israel maintains overall security control at the site, while the Wakf, or Islamic Trust, is charged with day-to-day administration.

Wakf director Azzam Khatib said that the work followed an electrical shortage in Al-Aksa Mosque, and denied that any antiquities were being damaged.
The Islamic infrastructure work comes just months after an Israeli excavation outside the compound ahead of a now-nixed plan to build a new bridge to the Mughrabi Gate led to low-level Arab violence.

Are we beautiful or ugly?

Several months ago we gathered for a family celebration. I was sitting near a successful farmer I haven't met before who grows vegetables for export in the Arava region. The hosts were aware of my own proud farming roots, which is why they decided to sit us together.

Very quickly we were drawn into an all-embracing conversation regarding the belief in the continued existence of the "beautiful Israel", which has been weakening to the point of becoming different and ugly.

I told him something he already knew: That in our generation, which joined the army in 1973, those who didn't go to officer's course went to elite units, and this was taken for granted. Those who forged their military medical profile actually pushed it up, in order to be the best. Now, I told him, in the wake of the cursed war in Lebanon, people are arguing whether they were fighting for the Olmert-Peretz caprices or for the State of Israel. They are no longer willing to fight for Olmert-Peretz and their ilk.

I asked him what can one say to a grandfather, my 90-year old-neighbor, who was one of the first commanders of the Haganah underground and the IDF, and lost his brother in the War of Independence. What can one say to him now, after his grandson died in this war. The grandson already completed his mandatory military service and proceeded to build a magnificent farm with great investment – and now there is no successor.

My partner to the conversation shared his own personal story from the Yom Kippur War. To this day he shudders when he recalls that knock on the door, 34 years ago, that informed him that his brother was killed in the fighting. His world went dark at once, he said, as if he was hit by an ax. He went out alone at night to his vegetable hothouses and was amazed to see that the moon and stars continued to shine. In the stillness of the night he noticed the sound of water continuing to flow through the irrigation system.

He told me that he then understood that the world continues to exist and has life in it. In the last war, he added, his reservist son caught the first flight from the US and came back to fight. And this will continue to be the obvious thing to do, he told me.

"This is what you should be telling that grandfather," he said. "The State of Israel, ever since its establishment, exists because of the five percent that lead it, and this is how it will continue. An outstanding five percent will always continue to lead it, and nothing is in vain – we always had ugly people here too."

The bubble
It was an incisive conversation. Not far from us, the dancing continued, yet we chose to continue our debate regarding the beautiful-ugly Israel. "You have an advantage," I told him. "You live in a bubble, in your private heaven in the Arava, and you can spare yourself the ugly noise of central Israel." He insisted that he isn't detached from current-day Israel, and I told him that I wish he's right.

The next bitter battle will pit fathers who loved the army in the past, and are passing this on to their sons, against those who encourage their sons to evade military service. The beautiful Israel has started to grow ugly, and frontline soldiers who saw friends exploding before their eyes have started to demand answers from their ugly leaders, who they no longer trust.

Some of them chose to channel their political suffering to the enemy's population and direct all their guilty feelings there. It happened to privates who receive orders and also to generals who issue orders.

The compassion shown to residents of southern Lebanon and Gaza, who were indeed caught up in this tragedy, is certainly appropriate – yet showing compassion to residents of Kiryat Shmona and Sderot is even more appropriate. After all, we left both Lebanon and Gaza, we uprooted communities for the worthy political goal of peace – yet we still remained guilty somehow. Despite all the self-criticism, we should recall that we're still being fired on within the Green Line by Gazans, and that Hizbullah abducted soldiers on the Lebanese Green Line.

Looking back at it from a distance of two generations since the State's establishment, it turns out that we were educated, and are continuing to educate our children, to follow ideals that don't quite exist. Partly because we were lied to along the way, and also because we lied ourselves without knowing and realizing it. For us, the current generation of fathers, it's hard to accept that there is no solution for both peoples, who are sitting on the same land, without a natural border. We can neither swallow nor vomit this. This is the modern-day version of Jacob and Esau.

Our society becoming more brutal
In the current generation, we are saluting the dead to a lesser extent, as well as their parents who are left to fend on their own. In this generation we're mostly scared of those who return from the horrors of the front and can testify. We give them citations, which they indeed fully deserve, among other reasons because they agreed to abandon themselves, with the permission of authorities.

Those who seek comfort are trying to revive a dream that never quite existed to begin with, and to realize a dream that is not easy to leave behind.

Ben-Gurion realized this and allowed famed author Yizhar Smilansky (known as S. Yizhar) to express national catharsis when he published his books and was also Ben-Gurion's close associate in the Knesset. That way, we were officially more beautiful and drained our guilty feelings through Yizhar.

Yizhar bravely attacked the part played by the ugly and brutal Israel, and Ben-Gurion was great enough to agree to that, as long as he was not attacked personally. (As if Dayan and Sharon of the 1950s acted independently.)

And so, we hated Menachem Begin, a modest and wonderfully decent man, but not one of us – because he truly aspired for law and order, security, and peace, in that order. He proved it when he first dispatched Air Force planes to bomb the settlement of Elon Moreh and transferred it from private Palestinian land to state-owned land. Then, he dispatched fighter jets to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reaction. Later he evacuated the Sinai, using IDF bulldozers, to the last grain of sand in the peace deal with Egypt.

We couldn't forgive him for being the most genuine adherent to the law in our country, which is so accustomed to winks. We couldn’t digest his Polish pathos and impeccable manners. We, the influential Israelis of yesteryear, preferred to burp in public in true Sabra charm. We saw life only through the covered sights of Left or Right – an endless series of subjective arguments.

And this charm has turned into the new Israeli clone: A society that is becoming more brutal, where elderly faces are being crushed in their own homes, while other faces are being pulverized on the streets.

And now, let's go back to the beginning of the debate – has the other Israel turned blind? Is it beautiful when it comes to weighing its decision, but mostly ugly when it comes to its actions? I wish I was more certain, just like that truly beautiful farmer, who continues to export vegetables, for the glory of the State of Israel.

The writer is a communications consultant and lecturer at the University of Haifa

Exploring a third way to end the war

Wars normally end when they are won or lost Logically this should be the destiny of any war, more so in current times with advanced tactics and sophisticated weaponry that make it hard and extremely costly for wars to last long, or for either belligerent party to prolong fighting beyond certain limits.

With many rules changing, though, the ones applying to war seem to be so too. The war on Iraq, which started in the spring of 2003 and was declared won weeks after, is still raging on, with no end in sight. Contrary to conventional logic, and of course to US President George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” declaration in early May 2003, this war has neither been, nor can it be, really won, and, strangely, it seems difficult to lose as well.

Although the cost of this US war runs currently at a rate of $2 billion a day, according to recent estimates, and the number of US casualties continue to rise, the Bush administration is not giving any indication other than that the war should continue and the foreign forces presence in Iraq should continue as well. For how long can Iraq and the Iraqi people sustain the devastation? How long can the world bear the damage caused, and which continues to spread? And how long can the US maintain an adventure which has been proven wrong from the beginning to the end, and which is only destined to certain failure?

There are two conflicting views on this matter, both within and outside the US. One calls for ending the war because it is not going anywhere and not achieving anything other than death and destruction, in addition of course to producing counterproductive consequences, such as causing severe harm to US - and indeed Western - relations with the entire Muslim and Arab world. It also is enhancing regional radicalization, sectarianism, instability, conflict and even global terrorism, as well as harming the very objectives the warring party claimed were set to achieve. This view is plainly correct.The other view, mainly of the Bush administration’s and its internal and external supporters, is that any abrupt ending of the war, and subsequent withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, would hand the terrorists an easy victory and would, consequently, precipitate massive massacres, similar to those in Vietnam.This view, despite the fact that Vietnam was basically different, sounds technically correct too. Obviously the regime that has been established in Baghdad, regardless of who sits at its head, following the toppling of the previous one would not be able to stand on its own without full reliance on the direct protection of the foreign forces.

All efforts so far to build an adequate security apparatus and state institutions, and to enable any national government to gradually reduce its dependence on foreign troop support have failed.The rising power of the “resistance” attests to this reality. This is much the same as in Afghanistan where a departure of foreign forces would expose “green-zone regimes” to sudden collapse, paving the ground for the instant return of “terrorists”.The situation in Iraq has been steadily transcending the “legal forces versus resistance” equation into a much more complex internal conflict involving: resistance to occupation, civil war, sectarian strife, regional intervention, foreign struggle for influence, terrorism, thuggery, settling of old accounts, crime and profiteering. It will naturally not be easy to clean any society of such evils long after the war causing them had ended. It will take longer in Iraq, but prolonging a failed war will not make things any better, now or in the post-war era.The often forgotten reality is that neither the continuing war nor the presence of foreign forces has been able to prevent the collapse of “installed” regimes such as Maliki’s, or to restore any level of order by stemming out “terror” and raging daily violence. The choice, therefore, is not between an occupation which is building and preserving internal security, and helping progress and democracy, and against ending it and inviting chaos in place; it is rather between existing occupation dangers, on the one hand, and “exaggerated” consequences of its departure, on the other.It will be utterly naive, however, not to expect that the vacuum which would follow any sudden foreign forces withdrawal would not suck in more chaos and more civil conflict. This can hardly be avoided either way: continued occupation is indeed enflaming it, while ending it would truly offer the “terrorists” a taste of victory, and even make the situation temporarily worse, until the Iraqis, with UN and agreed regional help learn to live together, govern themselves and keep their country together.Of course, the current Iraqi administration, whether under Maliki or someone else, would repeatedly warn against foreign forces withdrawal because it can hardly survive on its own. The Bush administration would equally and understandably oppose any calls to end the war because that implies defeat and would, consequently, reflect badly on the entire failed war project, its fabricated pretexts and the responsibilities involved in spilling so much American, Iraqi and other blood, money and resources. Risks of accountability should not be underestimated.But how for long can NATO forces stay in Afghanistan, and how long can a large multinational force stay in Iraq just to protect pseudo-democratic non-self-sustaining regimes? Obviously they cannot stay forever.

The larger regional picture, on the other hand, is far more alarming. The sectarian seeds that the war has sown in Iraq are growing all over the region. The “New Middle East” is drifting further towards instability and fragmentation. Urgent security needs and requirements are blocking any genuine attempts towards democratization and openness, and one can hardly blame putting security considerations at the top of any priority list, with terrorism benefiting so much from the chaos, digging deeper and spreading faster.The Iraq factor, linking well with the other, chronic, Arab-Israeli conflict, is threatening the shaky stability of the whole region. A state of ominous polarization between many states in the region and their angered and frustrated Islamist crowds is developing fast, and fast precipitating violent clashes. Pakistan is not the only example here, although the most visible. There is a lot more to require deep attention. There are also regional divisions between the so-called extremists and moderates; another alarming symptom of serious political discord, which becomes all the more serious when running, as apparently it is, along sectarian lines.All these, and more, are the consequences of the war. The war should not, therefore, be defended and it cannot be justified on the grounds of treating its own blunders. The more it lasts the more blunders it will create.There is a dilemma here: keeping the war in the name of fighting terror, or freeing terror by opting for a sudden end to the war. If neither option is wise, there should be a third way: end the war gradually, hand the problem to the UN while offering it all the needed superpower political, legal and military support.* Published in THE JORDAN TIMES on August 29, 2007.

The UK: Hamas Sanctuary

Just weeks after assuming the role of Middle East envoy on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing his first serious test. The Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) in Herzelia, Israel, considered the “public face of Israeli intelligence,” has issued a scathing report (to read the report in pdf format click here) wherein it accused Britain of being a “major source of publishing and distribution of Hamas incitement.”

As Britain’s former leader, Blair ultimately bears the responsibility for allowing the terrorist press to operate freely on his watch.

But the problems go beyond Blair. The IICC report notes that even today Britain “does not stop the distribution of hateful propaganda against Israel and the West and publications glorifying suicide terrorism.” The report moreover notes that “British authorities have yet to take effective action to put an end to the exploitation of their country by Hamas for spreading incitement…” Declassified and distributed to the intelligence community and to the media this week, the report further points out that while the Hamas “media empire“ is “guided from Damascus and assisted by Arab countries,” it also has a “branch operating in Britain and uses it for printing and distribution of Hamas publications.”

Prominent among these publications is the monthly Filastin al-Muslimah. Hamas's major publication since 1981, it is available in paper edition and on the Internet.
The monthly is about what one would expect from a publication whose editorial line is directed by the Hamas leadership in Damascus. Spreading incitement and hatred against Israel and the West in the spirit of Hamas's ideology, it preaches the justice of terrorism and glorifies its perpetrators. From Britain, it is distributed worldwide in both its on-line and hard copy editions. To avoid unwanted attention from British security services, Filastin al-Muslimah stopped publishing its address in Britain on the front page at some point during 2004. However, it is still published with impunity.

Directly associated with the monthly is a London-based publishing house called Filastin al-Muslimah Publications. In the past, the publishing house has printed books commemorating terrorists responsible for planning and initiating suicide attacks. Books on senior figures in the Hamas operative-terrorist wing -- such as Salah Shehada, Yahya Ayyash, and Imad Aqel -- are typical of the kind of works in which the publishing house specializes.

In this context, it should come as no surprise that one of the major founders of the Filastin al-Muslimah publishing house is Ghassan Daw'ar, hailed by Hamas as “the historian of the intifada” (i.e., the campaign of terrorism against Israel) and “the historian of the shahids” (i.e., suicide bombers). In addition to writing books about Yahya Ayyash and Imad Aqel, two of the most prominent architects of Hamas's suicide bombings, Daw'ar also writes articles for Hamas's main website (palestine-info). In 1999, he was arrested in Jordan with other Hamas leaders. According to the Hamas website, the cause of his arrest was his involvement in a committee that objected to the normalization of relations with the “Zionist enemy.” Though it now avoids publishing its address in Britain, the publishing house continues to advocate Hamas’s terrorist cause -- apparently without interference from British authorities.
Not all these publications are aimed at adults. For the junior jihadist, there is the online bi-weekly Al-Fateh. Combining articles and illustrations, it is geared towards children, whom Hamas considers a highly significant target audience. In particular, Al-Fateh is designed to inculcate in children support for radical Islam, violence and terrorism. Al-Fateh is published in London, a fact openly stated on its homepage at Al-Fateh's editor-in-chief and founder is Sami al-Halabi, though according to the report, this is the pen name of Abdallah al-Tantawi, a senior figure in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the mid-1990s (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood).

The IICC report asserts that Hamas's use of Britain as a major source of publishing and distribution of incitement is “hardly coincidental.” On the contrary, “there are several factors at play: first, the policy of the British government, allowing Hamas (and radical Islamic elements in general) a relative freedom of action on British territory, particularly in the sphere of propaganda; second, the existence of a network of Arab/Muslim supporters in Britain; third, the technical ability to produce high quality publications in Britain and distribute them across the globe.”

The fact that these publications have maintained a presence in the UK during the Blair government's decade in office suggests that Blair was ready to tolerate the presence of radical Islam -- even after the deadly Islamic attacks on London on July 7, 2005. Will Blair in his new role ignore Hamas’s murderous rhetoric? If he hopes to have any credibility as a negotiator in the Middle East, it is a question that he will have to answer.

U.S. sponsors Islamic convention

The Justice Department is co-sponsoring a convention held by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) — an unindicted co-conspirator in an ongoing federal terrorist funding case Justice lawyers have objected to the affiliation with ISNA, fearing it will undermine the case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Dallas."There is outrage among lawyers that the Department of Justice is funding a group named as a co-conspirator in a terrorist financing case," said a Justice lawyer who spoke to The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity.According to an e-mail from Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, acting deputy chief of the Voting Rights Division, the sponsorship will involve sending government lawyers to man a booth for the Labor Day weekend event in Illinois."This is an important outreach opportunity, and a chance to reach a community that is at once very much discriminated against, and very wary of the national government and its willingness to protect them,"

Mrs. Lorenzo-Giguere said in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Times."It would be a great step forward to break through those barriers. And Chicago is lovely this time of year," Mrs. Lorenzo-Giguere said.ISNA is one of more than 300 unindicted co-conspirators in a case against the Holy Land Foundation, whose top officers are accused of raising money for Hamas.Justice spokesman Erik Ablin said the agency participates in the annual convention to educate Muslims about their civil rights."The Civil Rights Division will have a table at the ISNA convention over Labor Day weekend to hand out literature and answer questions about the division's work.

The ISNA convention attracts more than 30,000 American Muslims every year, and the division has had tables at the convention in previous years," Mr. Ablin said.The Justice Department declined to say how much the sponsorship will cost."This is just staggering, it's outrageous," the lawyer said. "Lawyers from the Civil Rights Division traveling to Chicago on the federal dime. This will cost thousands of dollars."A second lawyer responded to Mrs. Lorenzo-Giguere's e-mail questioning the participation and said it "seems like an odd time for one part of DOJ to lend credence and visible support to ISNA at the same time DOJ prosecutors will be called on to defend their decision to name ISNA as a conspirator.""Presumably the prosecutors have determined that they might need that testimony admitted; I hope we don't undermine their position," the second lawyer said. "Needless to say, [the Holy Land Foundation trial] is a very significant case."Mohamed Elsanousi, director of communications and community outreach for ISNA, says the annual convention is open to anyone who provides services or information of value to convention participants."For many years, we have welcomed representatives from U.S. government agencies who wish to share information about their services and have the opportunity to reach out to the Muslim American community," Mr. Elsanousi said.The convention features book signings, musical entertainment and seminars on family, community service and political activism.

But the first lawyer also pointed to a morning session on "the threat and reality of U.S.-sponsored torture" as contrary to the department's mission. The Justice Department was responsible for signing off on the legality and constitutionality of interrogation techniques."The extensive news coverage by the U.S. and international media sources makes it all too clear that the grim abuses in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the sending of detainees to secret prisons around the world that are known to torture during interrogations, are not isolated incidents, but rather constitute policy of the U.S. government," the schedule of events said."This session will describe the nature of U.S.-sponsored torture, the effects of torture on its victims, the efforts of the U.S. religious community, and what you can do to help end U.S.-sponsored torture," the schedule said.

Human Rights Watch-is this a typo?

Human Rights Watch has accused Hizbollah of having fired indiscriminately.

They state it was deliberately on Israeli civilian targets during the war last year killing 40 civilians, constituting war crimes. In a just published report, HRW states that the explanations given by the Shiite Militia do not in any way justify its acts and have no legal basis.

EU Shows Again Whom It Supports

''The European Parliament has decided to host the conference of civil society for the support of Israeli-Palestinian peace Organized under the auspices of the UN committee for the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people", the European parliamentarians Frederique Ries and Patrick Gaubert have said. They continue, "Created in 1975, this body has until today been the spokesman of unilateral propaganda aimed at removing all legitimacy from the State of Israel, a UN member and of nurturing a feeling of hatred between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, harming the efforts of the UN and of the international community for the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in total contradiction to the values of peace and appeasement that this organization represents. Does not the European Parliament, by hosting and giving patronage and credibility to this event, risk endangering the honest commitments of the EU in the Middle East peace process ?"

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kassam Slams into Sderot; Damage and Shock

A Kassam rocket fired from northern Gaza into Israel smashed into the city of Sderot, causing damage and sending people into shock.

The rocket was fired around 11 AM Thursday.
Another Kassam rocket was fired Wednesday, landing harmlessly near a kibbutz in the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council.

The IDF took action against Kassam rocket launching equipment Wednesday afternoon, knocking out five units. Two Arab teenagers and one child were killed in the process. Israel announced that the deaths were "the result of their being there as a way of aiding the terrorists."

The IDF announced its "regret that terrorist organizations make frequent use of children and youth to execute attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers."

Young Suicide Terrorist Caught
The IDF announced Thursday that it caught a would-be suicide bomber in northern Gaza late Tuesday night. The 15-year-old boy was found to be carrying two explosive devices, which he apparently intended to detonate in a suicide bombing attack against Israeli troops. He was taken for questioning by security forces.

List Grows
Two more fatal casualties of the decades-long Arab war against Israel have been added to the rolls over the past several days. A Galilee-based Israeli-Arab terror group claimed earlier this week that it murdered 68-year-old Upper Nazareth resident Michael Ronkin outside his home just over two weeks ago. Ronkin was stabbed repeatedly, but the investigation and circumstances of his death were originally prohibited for publication. His family had claimed all along that it was a terrorist attack.

The murderous organization, which has taken the name Galilee Liberators Organization, says the murderer was Ahmed Khatib. Khatib was shot to death three weeks ago in the Old City of Jerusalem after stealing a gun from an Israeli security guard and shooting wildly.

It has also been reported that the Second Lebanon War has claimed its 161st victim: Hamoudi (Don) Salum of Haifa. The Israeli-Arab citizen died from wounds he sustained in a Hizbullah Katyusha attack on August 6, 2006. Though he was hit by shrapnel, he attempted to rescue his mother and sister - and was further hurt when a gas canister exploded in his home. Three others were killed in the same attack

Hebron and CNN-a personal letter to CNN

Following screening of the CNN production "Warriors of G-d", including a 2 hour segment dealing with Judaism and Israel, I think it appropriate to post the following two letters, between myself and Mr. Jonathan Klein, President of CNN/USA. The two letter are, I think, self-explanatory. I must note, that following my 'revelation,' I notified a number of people who had, like myself, agreed to participate one way or another, with CNN. Some of them immediately ceased all contact with CNN and refused to take part in the program. Others decided to continue.

Each person can draw their own conclusions.

David Wilder

D ear Mr. Klein,

A couple of months ago I was approached by one of your Israeli correspondents about participating in a program produced by CNN, dealing with politics and religion in Judaism. He introduced me to Mr. Andy Segal, who is producing the program, and we had several lengthy conversations, first by phone, and later in person, here in Hebron, in Israel. Our conversations were quite open and frank – I saw no reason to hide my suspicions about cooperating with CNN – the network's reputation concerning Israel is less than positive. We discussed this at great length, and at one point Andy requested to center the program around Hebron and the Hebron Jewish community.

Following much thought and conversations with colleagues of mine, I decided to refuse Andy's request, but did agree to participate in a more minor role in the program, basing our response to each request on its own merits.

A couple of weeks ago Andy again made contact and we spoke of several possibilities. He was interested in speaking to a family which had experienced terror first-hand, and had chosen to remain in Hebron, despite their loss and the dangers involved. I decided to try to assist and introduced him to Mrs. Tzippy Shlissel, whose father, Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan, was killed by terrorists in Hebron some eight and a half years ago. He met with her three times: first an introductory meeting, followed by an in-depth interview, and followed, earlier today, by a filmed interview and filming of the family, home, etc .

So far so good .

However …
When we first discussed this project I asked Andy who was responsible for writing the script. He told me that he would be working on it, but there would be others involved. To the best of my recollection, my impression was that he was 'in charge' and for the most part, would determine the outlook of the script and would be 'on top' of the entire project.

This afternoon, that illusion shattered when he mentioned to me that in a few months, the chief international CNN correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, would be coming to Israel and would probably also want to speak with Mrs. Shlissel.

Almost in shock, I asked him what her role is in this project. He told me that she is the narrator. I asked if she would have anything to do with writing the script and was told that "I will write the first draft." "Will she have anything to do with writing the final draft?" "Yes."

I then told Andy that had I known she was involved with this project I would not have had anything at all to do with it.

I am personally familiar with Christiane Amanpour. A number of years ago (about 10 years ago) she interviewed me. I had the dubious pleasure to have her yell and scream at me on camera. She obviously wanted me to scream back, so as to show her viewers 'an extremist from Hebron' exploding on camera. I refused to play into her hands and answered all her questions with a relaxed, calm smile on my face. However, I never forgot the interview. I haven't been yelled at, on camera, by too many journalists.

How can CNN produce an 'objective program' about Israel and religious settlers, when one of the prime elements of the program is known to be vehemently 'anti-Israel' and certainly 'anti-settlers,' so to speak? Her reputation is so blatantly prejudiced. For example: -collection_28.html

So when people ask: "Why did the Palestinian people elect a terrorist group?" The answer is because they see them as a lifeline.

Each time I go to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, I am shocked by the reality on the ground. On a recent visit, I passed through a short tunnel from the First World in Israel and emerged into the Third World that is Gaza. The poverty there is among the worst in the world.

Hamas officials told me they did not expect to win the election as overwhelmingly as they did. They say their main priority now is to meet the demands of the people for a better life.

But that may be impossible, because Israel and the United States refuse to deal with Hamas and have already cut funding to the new Palestinian government.
Posted By Christiane Amanpour, CNN Correspondent: 11:03 AM ET

A woman who justifies and backs Hamas is going to deal 'fairly' with Jews in Hebron, or anywhere else in Judea and Samaria? She is going to present us as 'religious nuts and fanatics' who are endangering world peace. She is certainly not going to present anything that could be considered positive concerning us, our lifestyles or our beliefs. She is certainly not going to present a balanced, objective program dealing with religious Jews and Eretz Yisrael.

I basically told Andy that I was out – and wouldn't have anything more to do with the project. I put a rather large degree of trust in Andy – I believed that he had the possibility to present an object, balanced program. However, I cannot have any trust whatsoever in Christiane Amanpour, whose reputation stands before her.

Andy Segal told me that you are responsible for this project, that you initiated it. Without being presumptuous, I think it fair to demand that Christiane Amanpour be removed from this project. I cannot imagine that such a biased person could have anything to do with a project dealing with religion and politics in Israel. The results are a foregone conclusion, even before the cameras start rolling. The question is whether the program you are producing is to be an interesting objective account of religion and politics in Israel, or another CNN-produced Israel (settler)-bashing?

I await your reply and hope, very much, to learn that Ms. Amanpour will no longer have anything to do with this project.


David Wilder
Spokesma n
The Jewish Community of Hebron

February 13, 2007

Mr. David Wilder
The Jewish Community of Hebron
February 12, 2007

Dear Mr. Wilder,

Let me begin by thanking you for your comments. I am sorry that the Jewish Community of Hebron has chosen not to be represented in our documentary. Our mission is to produce a program that goes far beyond what is normally seen in daily news broadcasts so that our viewers can better understand the people who risk their lives -- and their children's - to live on land they believe is their birthright: Jerusalem and the West Bank. Our goal is not to find fault or fix blame -- but to simply understand. To that end, I believe that you are missing a prime opportunity to be heard, not only in the United States, but in 180 countries around the world, and I would ask you to reconsider.

Regardless of your decision, I stand by CNN's reputation as a fair and impartial source of information. On conflicts as heated and long-standing as that between Israel and the Palestinians it is not surprising that "both sides" are at times unhappy with our reporting. We often hear that we are biased towards the other side, and that may be the surest indication of our impartiality.

Christiane Amanpour is one of our most talented and prominent international correspondents, and she is supported by a team of our strongest producers. In fact Andy Segal, our senior producer, is one of the best. As you probably have discovered, Andy comes to the table prepared. He is fair, honorable and ethical - a journalist who takes his work very seriously. He has produced a number of award-winning documentaries. Andy and his team are researching, producing and writing this documentary, and you can be assured that his reporting will shape the final program. As a spokesman for a prominent organization, I am sure you appreciate the need for others input before you represent the positions and views of Hebron's Jewish community. The same is true at CNN - not only will Ms. Amanpour have input, but so will editors and executives, to insure journalist standards and practices are met. In the end a program like this will be fully vetted and sourced.

I can honestly say that if you decide not to contribute to this program - perhaps the fullest exploration of this issue ever seen on western television - you may regret missing the opportunity to let millions of viewers understand your story. I hope you will reconsider your decision, but if not, you can be assured the program will meet the highest standards of journalism.


Jon Klein

Jon Klein
President, CNN U.S.
One Time Warner Center
New York , NY 10019