Saturday, February 23, 2008

Senator John McCain's brother on The Jews & Israel

There is a lot of worry popping up in the media just now -- 'Can Israel Survive?' Don't worry about it. It relates to something that Palestinians, the Arabs, and perhaps most Americans don't realize -- the Jews are never going quietly again. Never. And if the world doesn't come to understand that, then millions of Arabs are going to die. It's as simple as that. Throughout the history of the world, the most abused, kicked-around race of people have been the Jews. Not just during the holocaust of World War II, but for thousands of years. They have truly been 'The Chosen People' in a terrible and tragic sense.

The Bible story of Egypt 's enslavement of the Jews is not just a story, it is history, if festooned with theological legend and heroic epics. In 70 A.D. the Romans, which had for a long time tolerated the Jews -- even admired them as 'superior' to other vassals -- tired of their truculent demands for independence and decided on an early 'Solution' to the Jewish problem. Jerusalem was sacked and reduced to near rubble, Jewish resistance was pursued and crushed by the implacable Roman War Machine -- see ' Masada '. And thus began The Diaspora, the dispersal of Jews throughout the rest of the world.

Their homeland destroyed, their culture crushed, they looked desperately for the few niches in a hostile world where they could be safe. That safety was fragile, and often subject to the whims of moody hosts. The words 'pogrom', 'ghetto', and 'anti-Semitism' come from this treatment of the first mono-theistic people. Throughout Europe , changing times meant sometimes tolerance, sometimes even warmth for the Jews, but eventually it meant hostility, then malevolence. There is not a country in Europe or Western Asia that at one time or another has not decided to lash out against the children of Moses, sometimes by whim, sometimes by manipulation.

Winston Churchill calls Edward I one of England 's very greatest kings. It was under his rule in the late 1200's that Wales andCornwall were hammered into the British crown, and Scotland and Ireland were invaded and occupied. He was also the first European monarch to set up a really effective administrative bureaucracy, surveyed and censused his kingdom, established laws and political divisions. But he also embraced the Jews.

Actually Edward didn't embrace Jews so much as he embraced their money. For the English Jews had acquired wealth -- understandable, because this people that could not own land or office, could not join most of the trades and professions, soon found out that money was a very good thing to accumulate. Much harder to take away than land or a store, was a hidden sock of gold and silver coins. Ever resourceful, Edward found a way -- he borrowed money from the Jews to finance imperial ambitions in Europe, especially France . The loans were almost certainly not made gladly, but how do you refuse your King? Especially when he is 'Edward the Hammer'. Then, rather than pay back the debt, Edward simply expelled the Jews. Edward was especially inventive -- he did this twice. After a time, he invited the Jews back to their English homeland, borrowed more money, then expelled them again.

Most people do not know that Spain was one of the early entrants into The Renaissance. People from all over the world came toSpain in the late medieval period. All were welcome -- Arabs, Jews, other Europeans. The University of Salamanca was one of the great centres of learning in the world -- scholars of all nations, all fields came to Salamanca to share their knowledge and their ideas. But in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella, having driven the last of Moors from the Spanish Shield, were persuaded by the righteous fundamentalists of the time to announce 'The Act of Purification'. A series of steps were taken in which all Jews and Arabs and other non-Christians were expelled from the country, or would face the tools and the torches of The Inquisition. From this 'cleansing' come the Sephardic Jews -- as opposed to the Ashkenazis of Eastern Europe . In Eastern Europe ,
the sporadic violence and brutality against Jews are common knowledge. 'Fiddler' without the music and the folksy humour. At times of fury, no accommodation by the Jew was good enough, no profile low enough, no village poor enough or distant enough.

From these come the near-steady flow of Jews to the United States . And despite the disdain of the Jews by most 'American' Americans, they came to grab the American Dream with both hands, and contributed everything from new ideas of enterprise in retail and entertainment to becoming some of our finest physicians and lawyers. The modern United States , in spite of itself, IS The United States in part because of its Jewish blood.

Then the Nazi Holocaust -- the corralling, sorting, orderly eradication of millions of the people of Moses. Not something that other realms in other times didn't try to do, by the way, the Germans were just more organized and had better murder technology.

I stood in the centre of Dachau for an entire day, about 15 years ago, trying to comprehend how this could have happened. I had gone there on a side trip from Munich , vaguely curious about this Dachau . I soon became engulfed in the enormity of what had occurred there nestled in this middle and working class neighbourhood.

How could human beings do this to other human beings, hear their cries, their pleas, their terror, their pain, and continue without apparently even wincing? I no longer wonder. At some times, some places, ANY sect of the human race is capable of horrors against their fellow man, whether a member of the Waffen SS, a Serbian sniper, a Turkish policeman in 1920's Armenia, a Mississippi Klansman. Because even in the United States not all was a Rose Garden. For a long time Jews had quotas in our universities and graduate schools. Only so many Jews could be in a medical or law school at one time. Jews were disparaged widely. I remember as a kid Jewish jokes
told without a wince - 'Why do Jews have such big noses?'

Well, now the Jews have a homeland again. A place that is theirs. And that's the point. It doesn't matter how many times the United States and European powers try to rein in Israel, if it comes down to survival of its nation, its people, they will fight like no lioness has ever fought to save her cubs. They will fight with a ferocity, a determination, and a skill, that will astound us.

And many will die, mostly their attackers, I believe. If there were a macabre historical betting parlour, my money would be on the Israelis to be standing at the end. As we killed the kamikazes and the Wehrmacht soldaten of World War II, so will the Israelis kill their suicidal attackers, until there are not enough to torment them.

The irony goes unnoticed -- while we are hammering away to punish those who brought the horrors of last September here, we restrain the Israelis from the same retaliation. Not the same thing, of course -- We are We, They are They. While we mourn and seethe at September 11th, we don't notice that Israel has a September 11th sometimes every day.

We may not notice, but it doesn't make any difference. And it doesn't make any difference whether you are pro-Israeli or you think Israel is the bully of the Middle East . If it comes to where a new holocaust looms -- with or without the concurrence of the United States and Europe -- Israel will lash out without pause or restraint at those who would try to annihilate their country.

The Jews will not go quietly again.

Joe McCain

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dear President Bush,

The present situation in Gaza - described as 'a humanitarian crisis' is self-made by the terrorist government of Hamas - not by Israel.. Despite your assurances that there is no interference in Israel's affairs the actions of your administration proves otherwise. Secretary of State Rice has no understanding of the real situation; otherwise she would not be pressuring Israel to take suicidal steps to appease the Arabs.

Anyone who studies the history of the region and hears the words of Muslim leaders knows that any concessions by Israel will lead to another Holocaust! The Arabs could long ago have had a state but they want the whole or nothing at all.

When will you realize that the 'Palestine/Israel conflict' is a misnomer and that it is the 'Arab/Israel/West war' with the destruction of Israel to be only the beginning of the end!! The regional conflict is part of the world war being waged by radical Islam and it is not a separate issue. It is the eleventh hour and reality must be acknowledged before it is too late. Ms. Rice is leading the West to a catastrophic end and that will be your legacy - if we survive!!


Expert: Saudi Arabian Bankers Fueling Global Islamic Jihad

( Rachel Ehrenfeld, Director of the American Center for Democracy, said at the Jerusalem Conference Tuesday that Saudi Arabian bankers are the main financiers of global terrorism.“Sharia financing” corrupt banking practices legal under Islamic law, are a fairly new phenomenon, Ehrenfeld said.

”Saudis are using money in order to corrupt the West, to fund terrorism, and eventually to take over the West,” said Ehrenfeld. “For years, Saudi Arabia has been a main supporter of terrorism, both physically and financially, and their illegal activity is now causing many innocent investors to commit serious crimes without even the knowledge that they are doing so.”According to Ehrenfeld, Saudi Arabian bankers have roughly $1 trillion ready to be invested through means of what she terms “financial Jihad.” The financial practices she refers to as “Sharia financing” are run according to Islamic law, governed solely by the Koran and making no distinction between public and private practices. “Legitimate financing goals are literally indistinguishable from immoral and illegal practices, causing unsuspecting companies and individuals to unknowingly fund terrorism.”

“Sharia financing means complete and total submission to Islamic bankers,” Ehrenfeld explained. “Investors give over all rights to choose what their money supports. They are virtually forced to divest from any company or concept that is not in agreement with Muslim ideology or belief, including any company that is even inconsequentially involved with Israel. Additionally, Saudi Arabian bankers have the right to list and delist companies as they please, without legitimate cause or legal course of action.

“Not surprisingly, these illegal banking practices do not have security, which comes at a very large price to investors, who are at great risk both of losing their money, endangering their shareholders, and being prosecuted by American banking laws, which strictly forbid the financial support of terrorism. Besides the money that is used to support Islamic agenda, twenty percent of funds, labeled ‘mandated charity’ go directly to foreign companies in support of terrorism.”

Ehrenfeld warns: “They are expanding fast, and are now in more than 80 countries, and more than 300 financial institutions around the world. This is really spreading like wildfire.”

The Divider

Jacob Laksin

A critical plank of Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign has been his appeal for national unity. In speeches crafted to bridge partisan divides, he has assailed the “drama and division and distraction” of Washington politics and urged Americans to rise above their differences. Whatever one makes of this approach, and substantively it leaves a great deal to be desired, there is little doubting its success thus far. Whether in southern states like South Carolina, with their large black electorates, or majority-white states like Iowa and Wisconsin, Obama’s message has found popular purchase. So it is not a little ironic that the cross-racial bonhomie engendered by the Obama campaign is threatened by the woman closest to the senator: his wife Michelle Obama. That was most apparent in Wisconsin this week, where the tension between Obama’s soothing, post-racial politics and his wife’s more astringent views flared out in the open. As Sen. Obama traversed the state to make his final pitch to the voters, Michelle Obama spent the week chiding them for their past folly. Speaking in Milwaukee, she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”

It was a jarring statement. Did the candidate’s wife really mean to suggest that the country had been hopeless until her husband emerged as the Democratic frontrunner? Indeed she did, and just a few hours later, she reiterated the point in nearly identical terms. “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country -- not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.” There was no mistaking her message: Until it found the wisdom to rally around her husband, America had been a source of constant disappointment for Mrs. Obama.

When her remarks justifiably aroused outrage, the unenviable task of explaining them away fell to the senator himself. On the one hand, Obama said, his wife’s words had been taken “out of context.” But at the same time, Sen. Obama continued, “she’s pretty cynical about the political process, and with good reason, and she’s not alone.” And sure enough, it was this cynicism that landed her in trouble in the first place.

Yet it’s hard to see what Michelle Obama has to be cynical about. Though it is true that she was born on the South Side of Chicago, there is no shortage of Americans who start from humble beginnings. The difference is that, unlike many, Michelle Obama is also a child of privilege. In a recent interview with Newsweek, Obama reveals that she got into Princeton University not on the strength of her grades, which she admits were unexceptional, but thanks to her brother Craig, a star athlete and gifted student who preceded her to the school. As a “legacy” candidate and a beneficiary of affirmative action, Michelle Obama was granted an opportunity that others more accomplished were denied. Nor, according to friends quoted in the article, did Obama object when she was later accepted to Harvard as part of the school’s outreach to minority students. “She recognized that she had been privileged by affirmative action and she was very comfortable with that,” her friend recalls.

Comfortable, perhaps, but certainly not content. A more humble personality might have appreciated the unearned advantages she had been afforded. Michelle Obama seems instead to have developed an abiding sense of racial resentment. This resentment finds its most bitter expression in her 1985 Princeton senior thesis, conveniently blocked from public viewing by the school until after next year’s presidential election, titled “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community.” In it, the young Michelle LaVaughn Robinson paints a grim portrait of her future prospects, warning against “further integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full participant.” Regardless of the opportunities that had been offered her, Obama continued to see herself as a victim of a racist white society, trapped in the divide that her husband’s campaign now seeks to breech.

It would be unfair to assume that Michelle Obama’s writings as an angry and alienated undergrad are a reliable guide to her current views about race and her country more generally. After all, contrary to the grim prognosis in her Princeton thesis, Obama went on to succeed in the white “social structure” she had deemed so forbidding. She has held jobs at top corporate law-firms in Chicago, earned six-figure salaries, and seen her husband, himself of African descent, all but clinch the nomination of the Democratic Party. If that is not enough to make her a full participant in American society, nothing is.

But all evidence indicates that her views remain unchanged. In a February 2007 appearance with her husband on 60 Minutes, for instance, she said that “as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station.” Not the least of the problems with the charge was its conspiratorial suggestion that blacks were being targeted on account of their race. And in one tragic sense they were, though not, as Obama’s statement seemed to imply, by whites: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1976 and 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by blacks. Empirically baseless, Michelle Obama’s warning nonetheless revealed how deeply she had absorbed the narrative of black victimization in America.

It does not follow that the mixed messages of the Obama campaign -- his hopeful and forward-looking, hers sullen and intransigent -- will slow its current momentum. The rapturous crowds who flock by the thousands to the senator’s campaign stops seem unlikely to stand for any criticism of their candidate. (Sometimes literally: fainting has reportedly become a common occurrence at Obama rallies.) Before them, neither Obama nor any member of his campaign can do wrong. General election voters, on the other hand, may look less sympathetically on the prospect of a First Lady who would carry her unrequited grievances to the White House.

“We are the change we seek,” Barack Obama is fond of saying on the campaign trail. To the extent that the phrase has any meaning, it is that the United States is fundamentally a noble country, with an active and engaged citizenry seeking do right. Sen. Obama has certainly persuaded his supporters to believe that. Now if only he could convince his own wife.
Jacob Laksin is a senior editor for FrontPage Magazine. He is a 2007 Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow. His e-mail is

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Standing Strong"

Arlene Kushner

Before returning to current news items, I would like to refer back to one of the themes of yesterday's posting, regarding the inability of some Israelis (some Jews) to defend the Israeli narrative. Every so often I receive communications from people in the US who are staunch supporters of Israel that are essentially laments -- expressions of frustration, perhaps, or confusion. How can I speak out, I am asked, when the prime minister doesn't? How can I tell people that a two-state solution is a disaster when Olmert is pursuing it vigorously? Bottom line: How can I contradict the government of Israel?

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

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

Very simply: Olmert and Livni may believe they are doing what is right. But they have lost their way, and what they promote is a danger to Israel. You want to tell a different story.


Orient House, a building owned by the prominent Palestinian Husseini family, has in the past been utilized by the PLO to conduct business in Jerusalem. An Orient House website, somewhat dated, refers to the establishment as "the Palestinian national gathering place for Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem. As the PLO Headquarters in the occupied city, the Orient House aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state..."

It was closed down in 2001 at the time of the Intifada because of political activities in Jerusalem forbidden by the Oslo agreement.

This past Monday, Maan, a Palestinian new agency, reported that the PLO has now again employed 30 - 40 people to work in Orient House. A Palestinian leader, Hatem Abdul Khadar, of Fatah, was quoted as saying that he and others were meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building. This is precisely what is forbidden -- using it as an unofficial embassy.


According to the latest news from the Post, however, Israel has renewed the order to keep Orient House closed tight. In fact, a Jerusalem police spokesman says that the site is checked regularly and there's nothing going on there.

The Palestinians, claiming that Olmert had promised to open Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, are bemoaning that "This is not a good sign for the peace process." They have asked the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem to intervene, but were told there would be no quick resolution.


Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former senior adviser on Palestinian affairs at the Defense Ministry, has offered comments on this situation, explaining, according to the Post, that the closure had led to a dramatic reduction in anti-Israeli activity and an increase in security in eastern Jerusalem.

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

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

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

"The shutting down of Orient House was the end result of a long effort by right-wing Knesset Members, led by [then-Public Security Minister] Uzi Landau, who said that Orient's use as a PA base was a violation of Oslo...

"After a major suicide bombing, Landau effectively forced the police to close it down." Harari explained that the police at first did not wish to raid the center due to fears of a violent backlash. But it never materialized. [Note: police fear of acting against illegal Palestinian behavior because there might be violence.]

After the raid, the center's records were confiscated; they vindicated the demands of the Knesset members who had wanted it closed down.

"I can say that closing down Orient House was one of main acts that caused a reduction in open anti-Israeli activity in Jerusalem," Harari said.

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

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


US Special Envoy Gen. James Johns is floating the idea of bringing in NATO troops for Judea and Samaria for an interim period between when Israel would pull out and the PA would be able to secure the area. It's just an idea at this point and Israel has not signed off on it. If our government does agree -- G-d forbid -- it's even more lost than I think it is.

Allow me to enumerate all the things wrong with this: First, the PA isn't supposed to get territory until it is ready to administer it. If other troops are necessary, they should be given nothing. What is clear here is that the US, which truly has lost its way completely, is so damn eager to put an agreement in place that they would turn it over to an incompetent PA and then attempt to bolster it from outside. What craziness.

Foreign troops would interfere with our ability to secure intelligence or do operations to take out terrorists or stop planned operations, as necessary. It is not even clear that we'd be able to do hot pursuit of those who have committed terrorist acts and are seeking refuge.

Does anyone -- including Johns or Rice -- remotely believe that NATO forces would do what we've been doing, with night operations, intensive intelligence work, and all the rest? Clearly, if territory were to be turned over to an incompetent PA, this means a situation in which the terrorists would not have been eliminated, arrested or disarmed. Actually, some of them would still be in the PA security forces. What would result is a free ride for terrorists, with international forces standing between them and our troops, and the terrorists actually able to strengthen themselves.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


We have deployed a battery of US made Patriot air defense missiles in the vicinity of Haifa, as a precaution against an attack by Hezbollah.

At the same time it has been announced that the Iron Dome system against short range rockets such as Kassams is in an advanced stage of development.

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


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

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


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

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

A pragmatic Saeb Erekat opined that what the Palestinians need is "real independence" and not just a declaration. "We are not Kosovo. We are under Israeli occupation and for independence we need to acquire independence." In other words, it wouldn't play here. Nor would the US be supportive.

What their strategy will be (other than more violence) when negotiations stalemate remains to be seen.


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

Strenuous efforts? Despair?

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


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

What angered me the most however was Kouchner's statement that he knew Israel was concerned that Hamas would use a ceasefire to build its strength, but Israel had "to take a chance..., to take a risk."

Really now. How nice of him to decide this for us.


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

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


see my website

"Words and Weakness"

Arlene Kushner

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

For those who do not remember, Durban I, held in 2001, was an international conference under UN auspices that was supposed to combat racism, but which morphed into an incredible anti-Semitic nightmare, setting the tone for much that followed such as boycotts against Israel. Part of what happened in Durban is that NGOs, many ostensibly concerned with human rights but in reality virulently anti-Semitic, co-opted the conference with a vengeance.

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

Coming up in 2009 will be Durban II. It's important now to examine the environment we're dealing with and to know how to handle what lies ahead.


Gerald Steinberg, who founded and directs NGO-monitor, out of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, spoke about the way in which many NGOs, under the guise of protecting human rights, have established positions designed to prevent us from defending ourselves. They level broad and sustained attacks on us, and they rely on big funds for the demonization of Israel. Many of you may be familiar with this approach -- the speed with which "human rights" groups run to attack Israel for killing children in Gaza, for example, even before facts are known.

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

He is optimistic that progress is being made and that we've moved beyond where we were in 2001.


Prof. Robert S. Wistrich -- Director, Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, Hebrew University -- explained that anti-Semitism that was peripheral years ago has become mainstream today, in part because leftist students of a generation ago now hold positions of power.

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

We began defending "peace" instead of promoting the Israeli narrative.

What other nation, it was asked, minimizes the sins of its enemies?

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


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

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

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

Self-critique, to a point, is a moral virtue and a strength; it allows us to be responsible for ourselves rather than think like victims. But beyond a certain point it is decidedly unhealthy and counterproductive. There is the example of the Al Dura case (about which I wrote not long ago). Israeli soldiers were accused by devious plotting Palestinians of having shot the Al Dura boy during a gun battle. Before a serious analysis of the situation was done (which would have shown that, because of the angle of the shooting, etc. etc. we couldn't have done it), IDF officers were apologizing.

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


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

But the British don't receive the Israeli narrative.

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


And so, my concluding thought is this:

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

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

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

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

see my website

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Olmert: Jerusalem Not Discussed; Abbas: It Was

Hillel Fendel

Is the future division of Jerusalem being negotiated and discussed between Israeli and PA negotiating teams, or isn't it? Despite an accumulation of reports that Jerusalem is already on the table - and that many of the details of its future division between Israel and the PA have already been concluded - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to say that it will be left for last in the talks. Following the meeting last night (Tuesday) between Olmert and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at Olmert's residence in Jerusalem, Olmert's staffers said the two leaders did not mention Jerusalem.

Senior PA leaders, on the other hand, said that Jerusalem was most definitely discussed. They said that it could not be otherwise, as the various issues of the negotiations are inseparable and cannot be discussed independently of each other.
For Shas, the phrase "if negotiations begin" has apparently been replaced by "if negotiations continue."

A "senior PA official in Ramallah" was recently quoted as bragging that "major progress" had been made in the talks regarding Jerusalem: "Today we can say that Israel is agreeable to withdraw from nearly all the Arab neighborhoods and villages in Jerusalem. Israel is willing to re-divide Jerusalem, and this is a positive development."

Barkat to Livni
Jerusalem City Councilman and likely future mayoral candidate Nir Barkat wrote last week to Foreign Minister Livni, "If these reports are true, they are a complete departure from the fundamental principles of [your] Kadima party, and a blatant violation of Israel's Basic Law: Jerusalem. They are also a breach of the voters' trust, as well as an undermining of Israel's sovereignty."

Barkat asked, "In your role as negotiations coordinator with the Palestinians, do you confirm that Israel is now prepared to give up parts of Jerusalem to them?"

Livni to Barkat
In response, Livni wrote that it was decided at the Annapolis Summit last November that "all of the core issues, with no exceptions, would be discussed." However, she added that the Annapolis approach also states that "until everything is concluded, nothing is concluded."
Abbas, Qureia with Olmert
Moshe Milner, GPO

The Shas Party has been under tremendous pressure to quit the government and thus prevent or impede these talks from continuing. The party's Council of Torah Sages, headed by former Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, resolved three weeks ago that once government representatives start talking with the PA about splitting Jerusalem, Shas will immediately leave the government coalition.

Shas: We'll Leave if Talks Continue
However, this decision has apparently been changed. Speaking before a Conference of Presidents audience in Jerusalem, Shas Party chairman Minister Eli Yeshai said, "If negotiations on Jerusalem continue, Shas will immediately leave the government." The phrase "if negotiations begin" has apparently been replaced by "if negotiations continue."

Shas spokesman Ro'i Lachmanovitch told Arutz-7 in response, "Minister Yeshai did not say that there are talks, as some reporters imply. He said that if the talks show progress - and that is very different. I say again: Shas will quit if talks begin regarding Jerusalem, or if progress is made in the diplomatic talks."

Shas affairs commentator Yossi Elituv recently wrote an open letter to Shas leaders, stating, "The Prime Minister has decided to take advantage of the time left until the coming elections to formulate an unreal and dangerous diplomatic agreement that has major and far-reaching concessions." Asked about this, Lachmanovitch said, "I have no interest in relating to points made by journalists."

More PA Demands
In any event, the PA is not resting on its laurels. Top PA negotiator Saeb Erekat now says that the PA wants even more than just the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. According to Erekat, the entirely Jewish Jerusalem neighborhoods of Gilo, Har Homa, and Ramot are "settlements in every sense," and must be given over to the PA. In addition, Erekat said that the PA also demands the city of Maaleh Adumim and the Givat Ze'ev local council, east and north of the capital, respectively.

Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking at the Jerusalem Conference this morning, said, "Prime Minister Olmert said they're not talking about Jerusalem and they're leaving it for the end. But I say that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then they mean to split up Jerusalem."

Foreign Minister, Chief Rabbi Square Off at Jerusalem Conference

Ezra HaLevi

The fifth annual Jerusalem Conference kicked off with a discussion on the future of Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni presented the government’s position and was harshly criticized.

The conference was opened by Chairman Robert Rechnitz, who reminded those present that a dove needs both its right and left wing to fly, an allusion to the balanced invitation list to representatives of all sides of the political spectrum - first and foremost Foreign Minister Livni.

The Los Angeles native switched over to perfect Hebrew, speaking of the importance of Jerusalem and the goal of coming together to move the dreams of Israel forward and turn it into a reality.

Chief Rabbi Scolds Foreign Minister for Negotiating J’lem
Even before Livni took the podium, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger, who usually refrains from any sort of political pronunciations, addressed the Foreign Minister directly, asking her to use her role as chief negotiator “with our enemies” to prevent Jerusalem’s division. Recent reports from diplomatic meetings and Arab negotiators have Livni engaging in wrangling over the relinquishing of parts of the capital."Madam Foreign Minister, you come from a family of lovers of Israel that grew up on the importance of the integrity of the land,” Rabbi Metzger said. “Jerusalem is above and beyond this conflict. Our right to Jerusalem is a proven, historic right. When the Muslims pray in the mosques on the Temple Mount, they pray with their backs to the site of the Temple; they pray toward Mecca with their backs to Jerusalem. Talking about Jerusalem harms us. If we unite for the sake of our capital, that its division cannot be discussed, we shall win it.”

“Paratroopers’ Western Wall Tears Guide the Negotiations”
FM Livni took the podium and declared, in her only reference to Jerusalem, that “the tears of the paratroopers at the Western Wall and the prayers uttered on the Temple Mount are what guide me in the negotiations.”

Livni said she rejects distinctions between the political right and left, and sought to prove that there is a united center that seeks to create a Palestinian state for the sake of Israel’s future. “We all want peace and those who want negotiations also love the Land of Israel,” she said. “We have shared goals as well: a Jewish, democratic state that will be safe for its people.”

The Foreign Minister said that maintaining such a state requires the establishment of Palestine and thereby defended negotiating even while under attack, as well as negotiating despite the knowledge that the Arab side cannot implement its commitments. "Stopping the negotiations won’t stop the terror attacks,” she said. “Terror must be answered with force, but simultaneously we must forge a process with the moderate forces. While it is true that they are still unable to implement agreements, I believe that now is the time, before it will become too late. Time is not on our side.

Livni also said she still believes the Disengagement was a good idea. "I voted in favor of the process that evicted 7,000 Jews from their homes,” she told the audience. “And I still believe this should have been done.”

"Foreign Minister Claims to Represent Center, But Mimics Beilin"
Likud Faction Chairman Gideon Sa'ar, who chaired the session on Jerusalem, commented following Livni's speech that although the Foreign Minister sought to present herself as representing some post-political center, "there is not a word that came out of her mouth that [ultra-left Meretz chairman] Yossi Beilin would not himself say."

Diaspora Jewry Has the Right to be Heard on Jerusalem
Jefferey Ballabon, the Director of the Coordinating Council for Jerusalem, spoke about the role of Diaspora Jewry in deciding Jerusalem’s future. Ballabon, whose organization represents dozens of secular and religious Zionist and non-Zionism groups united to keep Jerusalem intact, defended the right of world Jewry to have a say with regard to the future of the holy city.

“The Coordinating Council for Jerusalem was established day after [Vice Premier] Chaim Ramon announced his plan to relinquish parts of Jerusalem,” he explained. “The issue of Jerusalem is something that is being used to divide us, when the power of the city to unify the Jewish people has always been our greatest strength.”

Ballabon described the barrage of attacks, from both left and right, on the Coordinating Council, for taking such a strong stand. “ ‘Your kids don’t go to the army’, ‘You don’t pay taxes,’ ‘What right do you have?’ – These sentiments mark the success of our enemies,” he said.

He went on to warn that Israel’s policies are doing daily damage to its standing in the region: “Israel is seen as being weak - as the destabilizing force in the reason instead of the stabilizing force it is supposed to be. [US President George W. Bush] has tried, on more than one occasion, to find someone in the Israeli government to offer him a different narrative that that of Condoleezza Rice and the State Department, but the State of Israel has declined. It has refused to present an alternative to the establishment of a state of Palestine.”

Ballabon said it was a mistake to think that American Jews don’t already wield a “significant amount of power to affect what is going on” and warned that future US presidents will be less friendly to the Jewish state. “Hillary Clinton, in May of 1998, was the first US politician to call for the establishment of a state of Palestine,” he recalled.

“I Didn’t Hear the Foreign Minister Deny it”
Jerusalem councilman and mayoral candidate Nir Barkat told the conference that he heard nothing encouraging in Livni’s words. He said she said nothing to negate the claims of chief PA negotiator Ahmed Qurei (Abu Allah) that negotiations are underway, or the reports of a secret agreement between Chaim Ramon and Arafat-aide Muhammad Rashid.

Barkat, a Kadima Party member who has spearheaded a campaign against dividing Jerusalem that doubles as an early start for his mayoral election campaign, also lamented the emigration of Jews from the capital.

Dore Gold: Serious Flaws in Livni’s Assumptions

“I think the Foreign Minister came here with the best of intentions - to reach forward to both sides of the political spectrum,” said former UN Ambassador Dore Gold, now with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “But the idea that we will negotiate presently about an agreement to be implemented in the future has serious implications. If you speak in a public forum and you say ‘Time is running out for Israel,’ what does that do to your Palestinian negotiating partner?”

Gold said he is able to speak first-hand from his involvement in such negotiations in the 90s: “I was involved in negotiations with Abu Mazen, Yasser Arafat, Saeb Erakat – the whole crew. The lesson I learned is this: you have to assume the other side will violate the agreement.

“You can’t get out of the Jordan Valley and just hope the Palestinian state will be demilitarized," Gold said. "Because the day after, you will have the Philidelphi Corridor [the Gaza-Egypt border, through which weapons smuggling has been rampant –ed.] multiplied by 40 - all along the Jordanian border. You have to take into account that if you create a ‘shelf agreement’ – to be formulated today and taken down in 2012, when the situation is right - what is going to stop the international community from making us take it down in 2009?”

Gold pointed out that the current negotiations already violated the Road Map, which was accepted under the same false hopes. “There was a thing called the Road Map that required implementation of the initial commitments before any sort of negotiations would begin,” he said. “But negotiations are now taking place. So the shelf agreement will lead to the same, but with us in a much worse position.”

The former UN Ambassador said that one of the most relevant events in recent history with regard to the future of Jerusalem was the 1998 attempt by the newly-empowered Taliban in Afghanistan to destroy ancient Buddhist statues, which had existed there though many Islamic regimes in the past. “We are now seeing an escalation of religious intolerance across the Middle East,” he said. “And only if we retain sovereignty can we protect the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and, yes, the Al-Aksa Mosque. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. This is a message for the Jewish future and a message to all faiths who treasure this city.”

The City of David Rising From the Stones
Archaeologist Prof. Eilat Mazar displayed a presentation outlining new discoveries in the City of David, just below and to the east of Jerusalem’s Old City. Of particular interest are the remnants of King David’s palace and coins with the names of lesser-known Jewish personalities mentioned in the Bible.

“They are not Occupied, But Liberated”
Law Professor Eliav Shochetman said he objects to the focus on Jerusalem. “There are plans to withdraw from other parts of the Land of Israel that being ignored,” he warned.

Prof. Shochetman went on to lament the reference to Judea and Samaria as occupied, even in Israel’s Supreme Court. “These are not occupied territories,” he boomed. “They are liberated territories!”

The law professor accused Foreign Minister Livni of breaking Israel’s law regarding the unity of Jerusalem. “Jerusalem was annexed by the Israeli Knesset, and negotiating it is against the law,” he said. “What, does the Foreign Minister not have to abide by the law?”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Who is running Israel?

Reported U.S.-Israel Agreement to Postpone Jerusalem Talks, Palestinians

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert secured approval from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to postpone negotiations on the future of Jerusalem according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The Palestinians, however, continue to demand that all core issues, including that of the capital's status, remain on the table as agreed at the Annapolis conference. The Haaretz source said the agreement came in a phone call between Olmert and Rice about a week ago. Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, but weather might force a postponement of that meeting. President Bush apparently accepted Olmert's reasoning that the jeopardy to his tenure as prime minister discussing Jerusalem would cause outweighs the bad feelings with the Palestinians the deviation from the Annapolis agreement will undoubtedly generate.


Arlene Kushner

I am referring to the words of Foreign Minister Tzipni Livni.

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

Livni was attempting to explain why the government was negotiating now. If I had read her words somewhere, I might have been uneasy about repeating them, suspecting that she had been misquoted. But I heard her with my own ears. "We have to write down the principle of two states," she told us. Israel as a homeland for Jews, and Palestine as a homeland for Palestinians. If we don't write this now and establish the principle, we might not have another chance. For we are facing people who want us gone.

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


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

But worst of all is her shameful lack of Israeli pride and sense of entitlement. Why should our right to exist depend on a piece of paper arranged with the Palestinians? We are a sovereign state, with an ancient tradition on the land and a host of international legal precedents behind us. We are also a powerful nation, fully capable of defending ourselves. We have diplomatic and commercial relationships with a growing number of nations, and we make huge contributions to the world via our hi-tech development and medical science.


And there's still more, as a later speaker, Dore Gold, now head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed out. First, there is the fact that the negotiation plan calls for setting the parameters for the agreement now but not enacting them until certain stipulations on the other side have been met.

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

While Israel has enormous strengths and has achieved a great many things in the last 30 years, we are facing grave threats in the next two or three years and are not currently doing enough to meet them.

MK Steinitz sees four developments with regard to Israeli defense and security:

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

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

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

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

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

We must do everything we possibly can.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

see my website


"If you have an advisor that is not sympathetic to have a potential problem."

February 20, 2008 (Fort Lee, NJ) -- In a rare television appearance, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder details how presidential advisors play a critical role in influencing presidential policy, and offers his personal opinion that American Jewry should be far more conscious of a candidate's stand on Israel. Speaking on Shalom TV strictly for himself and not as the head of the WJC, Lauder stresses that for presidential candidates, and even presidents, it "matters very much who the advisors are," adding, "people running for, and becoming, president, are human. And they listen to people whispering into their ears.

"I know some of these people; I know what they think," continues Lauder, chairman of the board of Estee Lauder and former US ambassador to Austria. "We always assume that our leaders are all-knowledgeable. They're not. They're very vulnerable. Whoever becomes president--he or she lives in an isolated area, and they only can get information from the people they see. [So,] advisors are critical."

Lauder points out "there's no question that the advisors around President Bush affect him. People only can go on what information they get...and you can turn somebody one way or the other just by editing the information."

And, "if you have an advisor that is not sympathetic to Israel--not sympathetic to some Jewish concerns--you have a potential problem. If you only have one or two close advisors and they're both anti-Israel, [then] it's only a matter of time before the president becomes anti-Israel."

Given the influence of advisors, Ronald Lauder believes that the Jewish community should consider possible appointments by presidential hopefuls when voting in primary and general elections, as well as taking a far more active role in pressing candidates for their opinion on Israel.

For Lauder, the voter, a candidate's stand on Israel is key.

"I don't understand [why] many Jewish people, be it Republican or Democrat, feel that a person's stand on Israel is not the most important aspect," Lauder explains to Shalom TV's Mark S. Golub. "I've been in many places where almost no Jew gets up and says [to the candidate], 'Tell me what you think about Israel.' Usually the question is about the economy."

Lauder does not feel that enough members of the Jewish community question politicians about Israel in a critical way.

"It should not be just 'Do you love Israel; do you like Israel?'" he notes. "That's a lay-up."

With a leadership record spanning the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish National Fund, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Ronald Lauder also comments on attacks in the Jewish press that are directed against American and world Jewry establishments and executives.

"It's too often that we take shots at each other," Lauder laments. "People are always looking for news, of what they can do to sell a few more papers. And all it does is diminish our power. People who write articles, sometimes attacking me--all that does is give our enemies a better chance to weaken us. I see today in the Muslim world [that] they are strongly united. They don't take shots at each other.

"One of the things we have never learned, since the destruction of the Temple, is that we are so much stronger working together than being apart."

Shalom TV is a mainstream Jewish cable network carried coast-to-coast on Comcast, as well as on Time Warner Cable in New York and New Jersey, and on Blue Ridge Communications. The Video On Demand service features public affairs programming (including news and event coverage), movies, cultural shows, Jewish learning, and children's programs. For additional information, visit

Some news I thought you find interesting

23:25 Lebanon: A prosecutor filed an indictment against 56 people suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization, including al Qaeda. The accused are from various countries, including Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia. (Guysen.International.News)04 Elections in Pakistan: the Pakistani People's Party (PPP) the party of the assassinated former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, is leading over the party of President Pervez Mousharrah, in the vote count. (Guysen.International.News)
22:43 The French president Nicolas Sarkozy recognized Kosovo as a ''free and independent state'' in a letter he sent to President Fatmir Sejdiu Kosovo. (Guysen.International.News)
22:15 Youssouf Fofana and twenty members of the ''gang of barbarians'' were returned to stand trial before the Assize Court of Paris for minors, for having kidnapped and tortured Ilan Halimi to death. (Guysen.International.News)
22:07 Albania: Tirana has recognized Kosovo as an independent state, through its Prime Minister, Sali Berisha. (Guysen.International.News)
21:51 It was not three, as previously announced, but seven kassam rockets that landed near the towns of Aloumim and Nahal Oz. There were no injuries. (Guysen.International.News)
21:42 Iraq: three people were killed and fifteen wounded in an attack near Baghdad airport. (Guysen.International.News)
21:14 The Palestinian diplomat, Saeb Erekat, contradicted the words of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said that the issue of Jerusalem would be addressed last in the talks. ''The most important thing right now is to find a solution on these issues,'' Erekat said. He added that no agreement had been reached on the postponement of negotiations. (Guysen.International.News)
20:48 At least eleven people are in shock after a kassam rocket landed in the town of Sderot. Since the beginning of the day, nine kassam rockets and five mortar shells have hit Israel. One person was slightly injured and another fifteen in shock. (Guysen.International.News)
20:41 United States: the American administration has evidence that North Korea helped Syria build an underground nuclear power station. (Guysen.International.News)
20:35 A woman who was seeking shelter was slightly injured by the kassam rocket that landed in Sderot, on Sinai street. Another person was in shock. (Guysen.International.News)
19:52 The Popular Resistance Committees, a Palestinian terrorist organization, has called for terrorist attacks against Danish embassies around the world in protest against the publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in newspapers. (Guysen.International.News)
19:43 Turkey: Ankara has just recognized the independence of Kosovo. (Guysen.International.News)
19:26 United States: the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has officially recognized the independence of Kosovo. ''Today, the United States officially recognizes the independence of Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. We congratulate the people on this historic event,'' she wrote in the announcement published on this occasion. (Guysen.International.News)
19:19 The Director General of the Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramovitch, criticized comments made by the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, who had described the situation in southern Israel as an ''escalation of violence with the Palestinians ''. Mr. Abramovich was felt that such remarks ''may give the impression to the terrorists that the international community will put pressure on Israel rather than deal with the roots of violence. Accordingly, they are not conducive to the peace process ''. (Guysen.International.News)
18:35 France: the Union of Deportees to Auschwitz opposes the idea of President Nicolas Sarkozy to entrust the memory of each one of the 11,000 Jewish children deported from France during the Holocaust to the current generation of French children. Members of the organization said in a press release that "they knew too well the difficulty of speaking of the unspeakable even to our own children or to be heard even by adults, to want a younger generation to be confronted so early to the absolute unbearable history that destroyed so many children in our families.'' (Guysen.International.News)
18:09 Great Britain: Foreign Minister, David Miliband, announced that London recognized the independence of Kosovo. (Guysen.International.News)
17:57 The European Union has decided to give 9 million euros of financial support to Syria to help Iraqi refugees within its territory. (Guysen.International.News)
17:08 17:08 On Monday NATO reaffirmed its commitments to peacekeeping in Kosovo, explaining that the 16,000 troops deployed there would continue to protect the Serb minority. The Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said the forces of the Atlantic Alliance would urge the Albanian and Serb populations to show "moderation and maximum restraint''. For his part, the Romanian President, Traian Basescu, has described the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo as ''illegal''. (Guysen.International.News)
16:07 Ramiro Cibrian Uzal, the head of the EU delegation in Israel, strongly criticized Israeli leaders on Monday, who according to him, ''are doing nothing to promote the transfer of security control of Palestinian cities in Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians ''. He claimed that the Palestinian security forces trained recently in Jordan and are ready to assume their duties. (Guysen.International.News)
15:27 Osama al-Mazini, a senior Hamas official in charge of the Gilad Shalit case said on Monday that there was ''nothing new'' in this case and that the talks were dragging. ''Nothing has changed since 11 months ago and we are awaiting Israel's response on the list of prisoners to be released,'' he said, adding that ''the massacres perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip could seriously compromise those talks.'' (Guysen.International.News)
14:55 Two kassam rockets fired by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have just hit a kibbutz in the western Negev. Four people are in a state of shock. There was also damage to several windows. (Guysen.International.News)
13:36 Kosovo: Germany has recognized independence of the province in southern Serbia. Spain has not. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the status of Kosovo is unique and ''cannot be compared to any other''. The Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said that the proclamation of independence of Kosovo ''does not respect international law''. (Guysen.International.News)
12:45 An Israeli Arab Palestinians carrying illegal immigrants, tried to run over a border guard. The incident occurred at the entrance to Umm el-Fahem, and ended without injuries after a chase. The driver and his two Palestinian passengers were arrested. (Guysen.International.News)
12:09 The Israeli Aviation Industries (IAI) has signed a cooperation contract with the Indian Tata empire. They decided to set up a joint company based in India, responsible for development, manufacturing and technical support of military products. India has in recent years become one of the largest, if not the largest, market for Israeli security exports. (Guysen.International.News)
11:45 Azmi Bishara, a former Israeli Arab MK on the run, called Israel "the last country in the world where there is still apartheid". The former leader of the Balad party, accused of spying on behalf of Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, made these comments from a conference in Canada. (Guysen.International.News)
11:29 Bird flu continues to plague Indonesia: 105 people have died from the disease. The Indonesian Ministry of Health reported a new case detected on a 3 year old child in Jakarta, who died at the hospital, on Saturday. Another boy died on the same day, also affected by the virulent H5N1 virus. (Guysen.International.News)
11:10 The Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat called on terrorist factions to lay down their arms to avoid a large-scale Israeli offensive in Gaza. Interviewed by the Al Jazeera television station, he believes that ''there are indications that Israel will launch a large-scale operation in Gaza''. (Guysen.International.News)
10:02 Berlin: the Israeli film ''Restless'' by Amos Kollek won the Prize of the Association of German Cinemas, and the feature film "Lemon Tree", by Eran Riklis, won the Public Prize in the Panorama section. Finally ''Shahida-Brides of Allah'' by Nathalie Assouline was awarded the prize of the International Critique of the Forum section. (Guysen.International.News)
09:33 Israel and Hamas have agreed on the identity of the 230 of the 350 prisoners to be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. According to Army Radio Galei Zahal, this progress was made following the adoption by the ad hoc ministerial committee of the relaxation of the criteria for release of terrorists ''with blood on their hands''. Initially, Israel and Hamas had agreed on the release of 44 prisoners only. The final list must be approved by the government, a measure that has not yet been achieved by Ehud Olmert. (Guysen.International.News)
09:22 Recent immigrants are equally, if not more motivated, than young native Israelis, to enlist in combat units. The head of human resources of the IDF, General Eleazar Stern, presented this data to a school of new immigrants in Tel Aviv. The prison director was keen to point out that 89% of its students were performing their military service, a rate far above the national average. (Guysen.International.News)
08:27 A resumption of activities of some departments of the Orient House, the PLO headquarters in east Jerusalem. These departments, that were closed, are not operating from the premises themselves of the Orient House, but their members meet in east Jerusalem with foreign personalities and diplomats. The advisor to the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, confirmed that the Palestinian security services and intelligence are also working in a restricted manner in the east of the capital. (Guysen.International.News)
08:09 Hezbollah is not rushing to respond to the death of its chief of operations Imad Moughnieh. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper A Rai, the Lebanese Shi'ite militia intends to attack an Israeli personality on the same level as Moughnieh, regarded as the ''chief of staff'' of Hezbollah. Moughnieh had even prepared a bank of Israeli targets, after the Second Lebanon War, when Israel announced its intention to eliminate Hassan Nasrallah. (Guysen.International.News)
07:47 A bomb placed in the headrest of the vehicle of Imad Moughnieh, remotely operated, caused his death, according to the Sunday Times. Hezbollah believes that the charge was detonated by satellite and is pointing an accusatory finger at Israel. (Guysen.International.News)
07:36 Miky Golwasser, mother of Ehud kidnapped in Lebanon, denies that her son was declared ''dead'' without the submission of formal proofs of his death. After reports in the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Mrs. Goldwasser said that no member of government has asked the family's approval to declare the two soldiers abducted by Hezbollah as ''dead''. She is less upset with the government than the fact that UN Resolution 1701 explicitly demanding the release of the soldiers, has not been applied. (Guysen.International.News)
06:42 Burma: the latest adventures of John Rambo do not appeal to the military junta leaders. The police have recently banned DVD sellers from promoting the latest episode of this American saga. The fourth part of the adventures of John Rambo takes place on the border between Thailand and Burma. (Guysen.International.News)
05:59 182,000 tourists visited Israel in January, representing an increase of over 57% compared with January 2007 - a record for the tourism sector of Israel. The previous record, with the arrival of 170,000 tourists in January, was established in 2000. (Guysen.International.News)

Israel needs a national unity government

Isi Leibler
February 19, 2008

In many respects we are rapidly moving toward a situation which has ominous parallels to the weeks preceding the Six Day War. As then, the enemy is gathering on our borders while the nation lacks faith in its leadership. To make matters worse, our dysfunctional government is poised to make decisions in sham negotiations with a failed Palestinian leadership that may be irrevocable and could have existential implications for our future. The Winograd Commission report has only served to intensify the rage and frustration shared by the majority of Israelis across the political spectrum against a failed prime ministership of Ehud Olmert. Yet alas, the reality is that cynical Knesset members remain glued to their seats and elections in the short term are unlikely. But if we cannot immediately achieve our goal of holding elections, we must not despair or wring our hands proclaiming that we are helpless. Nothing is more certain than the inevitability that people power will prevail.

The imminent danger confronting us is the permanent damage that could be inflicted on the nation before elections take place. It is therefore imperative for Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition, to seize the initiative and launch a campaign proclaiming that the House of Israel is facing the greatest threat to its survival since the Yom Kippur War. He should reiterate the demand for Olmert to step down. But simultaneously he should take a page from his mentor, Menachem Begin, who set aside all political and personal differences and volunteered in 1967 to serve in a cabinet together with his political foes. Netanyahu should call for a government of national unity to provide the people with confidence that the critical decisions that will soon have to be resolved will not be influenced by anything other than the national interest.

By making such an offer, Netanyahu may tempt the coalition parties to rid themselves of Olmert without being obliged to compromise their selfish personal agendas. He would provide an example of a national leader rising above politics in the interests of the nation and could take credit for having suspended the dangerous radical initiatives currently underway.

Unless that happens, we are entitled to be genuinely fearful concerning the irrevocable decisions with existential implications for the nation that this government is now considering. Unilateral concessions to the Palestinians that were neither endorsed by the Cabinet nor the Knesset are in the pipeline. They are being implemented with stealth despite the opposition of the vast majority of Israelis and in some cases, in the absence of adequate analysis of the possible consequences.

In addition, despite Olmert's promise to Shas, Palestinians are telling the world that they are already finalizing a deal over Jerusalem even though the details, including the future of the Temple Mount, have yet to be disclosed. We could well wake up one day to discover that a similar disaster to what we inflicted upon ourselves in Gaza is repeated in Jerusalem. And when the inevitable occurs, and Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are reunited, we may find that western Jerusalem neighborhoods will be subject to missile attacks similar to Sderot.

This is happening along with a rapid deterioration in other spheres of the security situation. The flow of advanced weaponry and the huge infiltration of terrorists through the porous Egyptian Gaza border represent new threats to the IDF. And unless we act soon to neutralize the increasingly lethal missile attacks against our civilians in the south, the entire nation may soon find itself under attack.

THE UNITED NATIONS carries on like Alice in Wonderland with even the Security Council unable to condemn Hamas for launching missiles against Israeli civilians.

It is of course an outright lie to suggest that Hamastan remains an "occupied territory." It is a fully autonomous terrorist regime administered by fanatical criminals publicly committed to our destruction. Nor are most Gaza residents innocent victims. The vast majority supported the election of Hamas and continue to endorse their barbaric objectives.

Yet as the Palestinians literally celebrate killing Israeli women and children, we are being condemned for imposing "collective punishment" and breaking international law by reducing their electricity. Truly distorted logic!

THAT IS WHY it is now imperative for Netanyahu to ring the alarm bells and - as a last ditch effort - offer to participate in a unity government with a new prime minister. If his offer is accepted, Olmert will be replaced, the disastrous ongoing unilateral concessions that may otherwise prove to be irrevocable will be suspended, and transparency in government will be restored.

If the current leaders refuse to respond to such an initiative, they will stand condemned.

With a united voice and utilizing Netanyahu's communication skills, a unity government would be able to inform the world that we have reached the end of our tether. Our message would be simple: Unless the terror attacks on our civilians are halted forthwith, we will take whatever steps are necessary.

We will be at war and all Hamas leaders will immediately be targeted for assassination. If that does not bring an end to the missile attacks, we will have no choice. Despite bloodshed and possible loss of innocent lives, our response will be identical to that of all self respecting nations from time immemorial whose citizens were being wantonly murdered by their neighbors.

What makes our position ever more surrealistic is that despite the fact that the US remains our key ally, the State Department is now trying to pressure Israel to make further unilateral concessions and warning us against initiating a major ground action to uproot those launching missiles against our civilians.

Yet, paradoxically, support for Israel from the American public is at an all time high. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should therefore be informed that we can no longer stand by with folded arms when the lives of our civilians are at stake. Our government must request that she endorse our legitimate right to defend ourselves.

If she declines to respond positively we should not be afraid to take off our gloves and appeal directly to the American people. We should urge them to consider how they would expect their government to behave were they to be in a similar situation. If we explain our position clearly and unapologetically, Americans will support us.

The implementation of such proposals may appear to be remote. But the reality is that the House of Israel is today truly in danger. Now is the time for the nation to set aside all differences and display the solidarity which in times of need has always proven to be our greatest asset.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Region: So many problems, so few solutions

Barry Rubin

The Middle East is a region where so many things seem to happen, so little appears to change, and far too much is said about it all.

Partly this is due to the area's turbulence; partly to obsessive hyper-reporting in an era when everyone claims to be a Middle East expert and the most basic exercise of logic is often absent. Yet at the same time, silly ideas and policies often also correspond to real needs. Here's a list of examples: • Israel-Palestinian talks and the "peace process" occupy the attention of world leaders and media when they go, and will go, absolutely nowhere.

• Lebanese politics are deadlocked over the election of a new president because Syria, Hizbullah and Iran demand control over that country's government and will paralyze the balloting until they get it.

• Endless speeches, investigations, proposals and conferences discuss Iran's drive toward nuclear weapons, yet do between little and nothing about it.

• Billions of dollars go to the Palestinian Authority supposedly to help it raise Palestinian living standards and build a stable polity, when this entity makes not the tiniest step toward reform and fighting corruption, much less battling terrorism.

Mechanisms for change do exist. The problem is that, like the above items, they usually don't function.

FOR EXAMPLE, in March there will be elections in Iran. These are conducted along the lines once declared by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro: Within the revolution, everything; outside it nothing. Most reformist candidates are disqualified from competing. Still, there is an element of pluralism since the ruling elite itself is so fractionalized.

An election could shift more power away from the ultra-extremist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, making Iran marginally less dangerous. But it cannot turn Teheran toward a new course in which it would give up its regional ambitions, sponsorship of terrorism or drive toward nuclear weapons. The most important component, international pressure, is far weaker than it should be.

In the Palestinian case, the internal factors for positive change are even more limited.

Fatah has talked about having a party congress in March, which might or might not happen. The existing PA leadership lacks either the power or interest to clamp down on incitement to terrorism or an anti-corruption drive. The wider Fatah leadership actually embraces extremism and looting. Neither seems inclined to share power with a "young guard" leadership which might be more honest but is also, if anything, more radical.

Not much hope can be expected there.

The most important component, international pressure, is far weaker than it should be.

As for Hamas, while factions seem to exist, there are no moderates in sight. Outside observers are determined to credit Hamas with a victory in the Gaza Strip. Yet it is typical of most such radical "triumphs," not gained by themselves but given by those who should be their adversaries.

IN FACT, the Egyptian border is again closed, with the Cairo government more determined (if still not determined enough) to control its own territory. Hamas's policy is merely running Gaza into the ground a bit more slowly.

Still, the most important component, international pressure, is far weaker than it should be.

Regarding Lebanon, a key ingredient of any solution is to frighten the Syrian government by moving ahead on the international tribunal investigating Damascus's involvement in murders there of peaceful politicians and journalists. With little publicity, this effort is advancing slowly, yet is largely overshadowed publicly by outspoken testimonies from too many naïve Westerners about how moderate the Syrian dictatorship claims to be.

In one memorable case, two US members of Congress went to Damascus, publicly bragged of how Syrian President Bashar Assad promised them he would release liberal dissidents, then remained silent as he jailed even more such people. Syria has good reasons to believe that the next US president will reverse course and appease - I mean, engage - the regime.

The most important component, international pressure, is far weaker than it should be.

ONE OF the biggest developments is the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, arguably the most single important international terrorist outside al-Qaida, in Damascus. Amid all the coverage and analysis, it should be remembered that Mughniyeh's personal importance was that he linked together Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and Fatah. He also embodied the nexus between anti-Israel and anti-American terrorism.

Particularly amusing was Syria's explanation for his presence there. According to the state-controlled al-Thawra, February 14, Mughniyeh had snuck into the country unbeknownst to the omnipresent dictatorship. No doubt this also applies to the Iraqi insurgent and Lebanese Fatah al-Islam terrorists who operate there. (The regime is more openly proud of its sponsoring of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah.)

Still, the Syrian government does not seem worried by all these people getting in and out so easily, the article concluding, "There is nothing in that area warranting [special] precautions and vigilance."

In the Middle East, there are all too many things warranting precautions and vigilance - but only of the right type.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at IDC Herzliya and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. His latest book is The Truth About Syria.

Remembering Those Benchmarks?

Fred Barnes
The Weekly Standard | 2/18/2008

A year ago, when neither the war nor political reconciliation was A going well, the Bush administration reluctantly agreed to 18 benchmarks for judging progress in Iraq. And the Democratic Congress eagerly wrote the benchmarks into law, also requiring the administration to report back in July and September on whether the benchmarks were being met.. Despite the surge of additional American troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy, the reports found little progress on the political benchmarks requiring tangible steps toward reconciliation between Shia and Sunnis. Democrats insisted this meant the surge had failed.

They had a point, but not anymore. The surge, by quelling violence and providing security, was supposed to produce "breathing space" in which reconciliation could take place. Now it has, not because President Bush says so, but based on those same benchmarks that Democrats once claimed were measures of failure in Iraq.

Last week, the Iraqi parliament passed three laws that amounted to a political surge to achieve reconciliation. Taken together, the laws are likely to bring minority Sunnis fully into the political process they had earlier boycotted and to produce a new class of political leaders.

Just as important is what the laws reflect in Iraq today. "The whole motivating factor" behind the legislation was "reconciliation, not retribution," says American ambassador Ryan Crocker, who has never sugarcoated the impediments to progress in Iraq. This is "remarkably different" from six months ago, he said.

The Iraqi government had made progress on nine of the 18 benchmarks before last week. But these were the easier ones, like forming a constitutional review committee or establishing security stations in Baghdad with American and Iraqi soldiers. The new laws deal with the harder, more divisive issues.

The most controversial--and the toughest to enact--gives significant power to provincial councils and mandates new provincial elections by October 1. As a result, leaders of the so-called Sunni Awakening who have broken with al Qaeda and insurgents are all but certain to gain power. And Iraq will have a decentralized, federal system of government.

In assessing progress last fall, the administration conceded the Iraqis had "not made significant progress" on achieving the benchmark on provincial powers. Now they have.

Next in importance to reconciliation is an amnesty law under which thousands of jailed Sunnis who haven't been charged with a crime will be released. Months ago, the administration said "the prerequisites for a successful general amnesty are not present." But the surge changed that by reducing violence and creating the conditions for amnesty.

If th