Saturday, March 28, 2009

Military clash with Iran

Tehran aims to create Gaza missile base that can cover whole of central Israel
Alex Fishman

Iran is in fact forcing a direct military confrontation upon Israel. We are not only talking about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s exaggerated verbal passion or the Iranian nuclear project.

Thus far, Iran conducted a war of attrition against Israel via its emissaries: Hizbullah, Hamas, and other Palestinian groups. At this time, the war is reaching new peaks; it will be impossible to continue ignoring them while only engaging with the emissaries. Based on foreign reports, the Air Force bombed about two months ago, in Sudan, a shipment of medium-range rockets with a range of 70 kilometers (roughly 40 miles,) apparently the Fajar 3 model.

This is not a small missile. In fact, it is a missile that the Iranians are manufacturing especially for the Gaza Strip, so that it can be dismantled to several pieces and smuggled in through the Gaza tunnels. This is also the way they produced the special Grad rockets for Gaza: Disassembled models, made in Iran, and designated for smuggling.

Making our life intolerable

The picture is becoming clearer: The Iranians are aiming to establish a rocket base south of Israel that would cover the entire Gush Dan area in central Israel from the south. This is not paranoia.

The “tight grip theory,” namely, clasping the State of Israel from both the north and south, turns Iran into a concrete enemy, rather than a theoretical one.

It would be impossible to keep blaming Hizbullah and Hamas all the time, sort of like looking for the money you lost under the streetlight because it is more convenient that way.

The Iranians are not only investing in the unconventional realm, but also in the conventional field, in order to eliminate the State of Israel or at least in order to make life here intolerable.

The Ha'aretz blood libel

Melani Phillips
Sunday, 22nd March 2009 (first posted)
The Spector

On his eponymous BBC TV show this morning, I listened open-mouthed as Andrew Marr invited Tory foreign affairs spokesman William Hague to express his views about the pretty appalling looking reports coming out of Israel where members of the Israeli Defence Force who were involved in the Gaza operation have talked about effectively being told to shoot at civilians.
Hague replied: Well those are absolutely appalling stories. There is no question about that. We don't yet know the truth of them. I think it's very important to say that. This is evidence that now has to be looked at, of course, by Israel's military investigations unit; and it is a good thing that Israel does have provision for that, for investigating these things and for bringing to book any who were responsible for behaving in such a way. But we will expect… I think across the world, we will expect Israel to deal decisively with anybody who committed such crimes. It will be very important for Israel to do that if it is to keep any moral authority in these situations in the future. So we're all appalled by that and we hope that it will be dealt with.

Of course Hague was careful to say the truth of this evidence was not yet known. But there is no evidence. So far, there is simply nothing to prove or disprove from these reports of the soldiers’ discussion carried in Ha’aretz last week, here and here—just innuendo, rumour and hearsay, demonstrably (read the second account) wrenched out of context and refracted through the patent prejudice of the soldiers’ instructor Danny Zamir, an ultra-leftist who had previously been jailed for refusing to guard settlers at a religious ceremony and who said of the soldiers who spoke at the meeting in question that they reflected an atmosphere inside the army of ‘contempt for, and forcefulness against, the Palestinians.’

So what are these pretty appalling looking reports and absolutely appalling stories?

There are precisely two charges of gratuitous killing of Palestinian civilians under allegedly explicit orders to do so. One is what even Ha’aretz made clear was an accidental killing, when two women misunderstood the evacuation route the Israeli soldiers had given them and walked into a sniper’s gunsights as a result. Moreover, the soldier who said this has subsequently admitted he didn’t see this incident–he wasn’t even in Gaza at the time–and had merely reported rumour and hearsay.

The second charge is based on a supposedly real incident in which, when an elderly woman came close to an IDF unit, an officer ordered that they shoot her because she was approaching the line and might have been a suicide bomber. The soldier relating this story did not say whether or not the woman in this story actually was shot. Indeed, since he says ‘from the description of what happened’ it would appear this was merely hearsay once again. And his interpretation was disputed by another soldier who said:

She wasn't supposed to be there, because there were announcements and there were bombings. Logic says she shouldn't be there. The way you describe it, as murder in cold blood, that isn't right.

So two non-atrocity atrocities, then. What else?

Soldiers mouthing off—in conversations of near-impenetrable incoherence—that instructions to kill everyone who remained in buildings designated as terrorist targets after the IDF had warned everyone inside to get out amounted to instructions to murder in cold blood. There cannot be an army in the world which would not issue precisely such instructions in such circumstances, where Hamas had boasted it had booby-trapped the entire area.

Gloating graffiti left in the houses of presumed terrorists.

Tasteless T-shirts emblazoned with motifs crowing about killing, condemned immediately by the IDF.

Rabbis distributing to soldiers psalms and religious opinions about the conflict.

That’s it. Not one single verifiable actual incident of intentional killing of civilians. No evidence whatever of any such rogue incidents -- let alone any order by the IDF to tear up its actual rules of engagement which forbade the deliberate targeting of civilians. Talk by one soldier about the IAF having killed a lot of people before the soldiers went in contradicted by another who said:

They dropped leaflets over Gaza and would sometimes fire a missile from a helicopter into the corner of some house, just to shake up the house a bit so everyone inside would flee. These things worked. The families came out, and really people [i.e., soldiers] did enter houses that were pretty empty, at least of innocent civilians. [my emphasis]

Funny sort of unethical military behaviour, that goes to some lengths to empty houses of civilians before storming them. Indeed, the soldiers’ discussion contains more such material totally contradicting the impression of gross violations of ethics. Such as this:

‘I am a platoon sergeant in an operations company of the Paratroops Brigade. We were in a house and discovered a family inside that wasn't supposed to be there. We assembled them all in the basement, posted two guards at all times and made sure they didn't make any trouble. Gradually, the emotional distance between us broke down—we had cigarettes with them, we drank coffee with them, we talked about the meaning of life and the fighting in Gaza. After very many conversations the owner of the house, a man of 70-plus, was saying it's good we are in Gaza and it's good that the IDF is doing what it is doing.\

The next day we sent the owner of the house and his son, a man of 40 or 50, for questioning. The day after that, we received an answer: We found out that both are political activists in Hamas. That was a little annoying—that they tell you how fine it is that you're here and good for you and blah-blah-blah, and then you find out that they were lying to your face the whole time.

What annoyed me was that in the end, after we understood that the members of this family weren't exactly our good friends and they pretty much deserved to be forcibly ejected from there, my platoon commander suggested that when we left the house, we should clean up all the stuff, pick up and collect all the garbage in bags, sweep and wash the floor, fold up the blankets we used, make a pile of the mattresses and put them back on the beds.

... ‘There was one day when a Katyusha, a Grad, landed in Be'er Sheva and a mother and her baby were moderately to seriously injured. They were neighbors of one of my soldiers. We heard the whole story on the radio, and he didn't take it lightly—that his neighbors were seriously hurt. So the guy was a bit antsy, and you can understand him.. To tell a person like that, 'Come on, let's wash the floor of the house of a political activist in Hamas, who has just fired a Katyusha at your neighbors that has amputated one of their legs’—this isn't easy to do, especially if you don't agree with it at all. When my platoon commander said, 'Okay, tell everyone to fold up blankets and pile up mattresses,’ it wasn't easy for me to take. There was lot of shouting. In the end I was convinced and realized it really was the right thing to do. Today I appreciate and even admire him, the platoon commander, for what happened there. In the end I don't think that any army, the Syrian army, the Afghani army, would wash the floor of its enemy’s houses, and it certainly wouldn't fold blankets and put them back in the closets.’

This is what instructor Danny Zamir described as ‘contempt for, and forcefulness against, the Palestinians.’

No mention of any of that in the world’s media, is there? Do you think Andrew Marr or William Hague read those bits? Do me the proverbial. All they’ve picked up and run with is the lazy and malicious boilerplate carefully spun by Ha’aretz: rumour and hearsay about two incidents related by two soldiers (one of whom wasn’t even in Gaza)—one an accidental killing, the other maybe not a killing at all—plus some wild mouthing-off by soldiers, some unpleasant graffiti, ditto T-shirts, plus some leaflets by unidentified rabbis making statements that carry no weight with the IDF or reflect Israeli policy whatsoever.

On that basis, however, it’s proof positive for the likes of Andrew Marr, William Hague, the New York Times, Guardian, Independent, BBC and Uncle Tom Israel basher and all, that yes!! Israel is now shown (unless specifically disproved—and how do you disprove something for which no evidence is offered whatever?) to have been committing atrocities after all in Gaza; and so has now forfeit what remains of its moral authority, which was already hanging by a thread as a result of all the previous blood libels, and almost certainly its right to exist at all.

This is not just bigotry. It is medieval witch-hunt territory. And it’s global


March 23, 2009
by Alex Safian, PhD

Charges of IDF "Wanton Killing" Crumble
The brigade commander of the unit linked to alleged “wanton killings” in Gaza launched his own investigation after hearing of the charges, speaking with actual eyewitnesses, all of whom said that the alleged killings did not took place. The original charges, based only on hearsay and rumors, have therefore been refuted and should be retracted.

The brigade commander’s findings were reported in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, in a story titled IDF Investigation Refutes the Testimonies About Gaza Killings. According to the story (translation by CAMERA):

Two central incidents that came up in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade. The brigade’s commander today will present to Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Gaza division, the findings of his personal investigation about the matter which he undertook in the last few days, and after approval, he will present his findings to the head of the Southern Command, Major General Yoav Gallant.

Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander’s investigation cites the sniper: “I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, ?Why did you shoot at them.’ I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots.”

Officers from the brigade surmise that fighters that stayed in the bottom floor of the Palestinian house thought that he hit them, and from here the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.

The other alleged incident, the killing by a sniper of an elderly woman, also seems not to have taken place:

Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.

It seems the both Ha’aretz and the New York Times, which gave these stories great play despite a clear lack of evidence, should be composing forthright corrections – preferably to be run on the front page.

CAMERA’s first report on this subject, which includes full details of the charges and links to the initial reports in Ha’aretz and the New York Times, follows below.

March 22, 2009

Questions Raised about Charges of “Wanton Killing” in Gaza

Less than a month after Israel concluded operations in Gaza, some of the soldiers who served there met at the pre-military academy they had attended to discuss their experiences in the fighting. As the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has reported, the head of the academy, Danny Zamir, arranged the gathering, and at the outset he condemned the Israeli operation for setting “new limits for the army’s ethical code and that of the State of Israel” and for sowing “massive destruction among civilians.”

Later in the discussion Zamir went further, stating:

I think it would be important for parents to sit here and hear this discussion. I think it would be an instructive discussion, and also very dismaying and depressing. You are describing an army with very low value norms, that's the truth.

Since, as Ha’aretz put it, Zamir “does not hide his political opinions,” it seems likely that his former students at the left-leaning Kibbutz-affiliated school knew what Zamir wanted to hear at the meeting, and that only a self-selected group attended. In any event, some of the attendees certainly did not disappoint Zamir, who had been imprisoned by the IDF in 1990 for refusing to serve in the West Bank. They recounted tales of “murder in cold blood,” including seemingly eyewitness accounts of a sniper shooting a woman and two of her children merely because they made a wrong turn, and another sniper killing an old woman.

Zamir wrote an article about the discussion for the academy’s newsletter, which he then provided to the Israeli newspapers Ha’aretz and Maariv, triggering in Ha’aretz alone multiple stories extremely critical of the Israeli army’s alleged conduct (here, here, here, here and here), as well as numerous stories in the foreign press, such as the New York Times, which put its initial report on page one above the fold (here and here). Both the Ha’aretz and the New York Times reports ignored detailed testimony by soldiers of exemplary conduct by the IDF, such as soldiers leaving an envelope of cash for the Palestinian homeowner whose house they had occupied.

While the Israeli government has promised a full and even a criminal investigation, serious doubts have already been raised about some of the charges.

For example, on Israel’s Channel 2, defense correspondent Roni Daniel reported that the soldier who supposedly witnessed the sniper shoot a mother and two of her children has now admitted to his brigade commander that he didn’t see any such thing:

I didn’t see it myself. There were stories like this. I wasn’t in that house and everything I said was only on the basis of rumors. At the gathering it was a friendly talk, and that's how I related to it.

Daniel raised similar questions about the killing of the old woman by a sniper, and concluded that “The credibility of these two stories is very doubtful.”

Here is Daniel’s report in Hebrew (English subtitles by CAMERA):

In the wake of Daniel’s broadcast, even Ha’aretz reported that the soldier recounting the tale of a mother and children being killed had been called in by his brigade commander, at which time he admitted he was relying solely on “rumors” within his unit:

By the afternoon, the army could report that the investigation into the testimony regarding the shooting of a mother and two children had reached preliminary conclusions. Givati brigade commander Ilan Malkha summoned the squad leader who recounted the story, who admitted he had relied solely on rumors in the company.

Counter Evidence Ignored

Ha’aretz, the New York Times, and most other outlets covering this controversy have ignored detailed statements by other soldiers of the strict rules of engagement that they followed, and of their acts of kindness towards Palestinians. (The Times devoted all of one sentence to a soldier who said that Israeli soldiers put their own lives at risk to avoid harming Palestinians. And the lone sentence was buried towards the end of the article.)

The Israeli newspaper Yediot recounted some of these in reaction to the Ha’aretz stories:

"I don’t believe there were soldiers who were looking to kill (Palestinians) for no reason," said 21-year-old Givati Brigade soldier Assaf Danziger, who was lightly injured three days before the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead.

"What happened there was not enjoyable to anyone; we wanted it to end as soon as possible and tried to avoid contact with innocent civilians," he said.

According to Danziger, soldiers were given specific orders to open fire only at armed terrorists or people who posed a threat. "There were no incidents of vandalism at any of the buildings we occupied. We did only what was justified and acted out of necessity. No one shot at civilians. People walked by us freely," he recounted.

In the same article Yediot also quoted other soldiers:

A Paratroopers Brigade soldier who also participated in the war called the claims "nonsense". Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said "It is true that in war morality can be interpreted in many different ways, and there are always a few idiots who act inappropriately, but most of the soldiers represented Israel honorably and with a high degree of morality.

"For instance, on three separate occasions my company commander checked soldiers' bags for stolen goods. Those who stole the smallest things, like candy, were severely punished," he said.

"We were forbidden from sleeping in Palestinians' beds even when we had no alternate accommodations, and we didn’t touch any of their food even after we hadn't had enough to eat for two days."

"During one incident, we were informed that a female suicide bomber was heading in our direction, but even when women approached us and crossed a certain point we made do with firing in the air, or near the women," the soldier recalled. "Even when we came across deserted stores, we didn’t even think of taking anything. One soldier took a can of food, but he immediately returned it after everyone yelled at him."

Major (res.) Idan Zuaretz of Givati said "in every war there is a small percentage of problematic soldiers, but we must look at it from a broad perspective and not focus on isolated incidents."

Zuaretz, a company commander, also questioned the integrity of the soldiers who made the controversial claims, saying "if this was such a burning issue for them, why have they remained silent until now? On an ethical and moral level, they were obligated to stop what they claimed had occurred and not wait two months to be heard at some esoteric debate."

According to the officer, the IDF went to great lengths and employed the most advanced technology to avoid harming civilian population.

"I've seen a few things in my time, but even I was blown away by the level of professionalism displayed by the army," Zuaretz said. "I personally gave my soldiers an order on the day we withdrew from Gaza to leave all of our goodies in the last house we occupied. Some reservists even left an envelope full of money to one Palestinian family."

Another soldier who had fought in Gaza, Yishai Goldflam, circulated an open letter to the Palestinian family whose home his unit had temporarily occupied during the fighting. His letter, titled “I am the soldier who slept in your home,” was published in Maariv, and then translated and published in Canada’s National Post. Goldflam too spoke of the care he and his fellow soldiers had taken to minimize damage to the home:

I spent many days in your home. You and your family's presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife's perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children's toys and their English-language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and laid them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth.

I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me -- us -- and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places. I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home...

It’s unfortunate that New York Times and Haaretz readers are fed constant doses of the anti-Israel story-of-the-day, while the papers ignore the stories of typical Israeli soldiers like Yishai Goldflam. Times editors (and their counterparts at Haaretz) should explain why Danny Zamir is fit to print, and Yishai Goldflam is not fit to print.

Through such tendentious choices is news made rather than reported.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"It Stinks"

Arlene Kushner

IDF forces, under orders from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, together with police, went into the community of Kochav HaShachar yesterday and destroyed four buildings in the start-up neighborhood of Meoz Esther. They then moved south, and destroyed another house in Ma'aleh Shlomo. Kochav HaShachar ("morning star") is part of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council in Samaria, at the edge of a mountain range overlooking the Jordan Valley. The outposts that were destroyed are surrounded on the east and west by barren hills, and on the north by Bedouin squatter encampments; some 18 miles to the south is Jerusalem.


Government authorities have stated that the outposts were “illegal.” But it must be understood how political this judgment is. There is a broad impression that some communities are legal and some illegal -- white and black. But it's a matter of permits. Some communities have all permits, which renders them obviously "legal," but it's almost always the case that even those that are termed "illegal" have some. A permit to build a road, or to bring in water pipes or electricity. Which means some ministries in the government signed on, somehow. The government can work to make sure the community secures its final permits, or can point its finger and say: Ah ha! You have no right to be here. That is a politically motivated decision.


It must be emphasized that these fledgling communities that we're talking about -- the charges of Peace Now not withstanding -- are not built on privately owned Palestinian land. There have been no communities erected on private Palestinian land for over 30 years.

It must also be emphasized that -- again, left wing claims aside -- there is nothing "illegal" about Jews building in Judea and Samaria. This land is unassigned Mandate land, and our claim to it is strong. The Mandate specifically endorsed settlement by Jews across the land.

This is NOT Palestinian land, regardless of what the PR of the Palestinians maintains. Yet much of the world, and our own left wing, has bought this narrative now. Nothing in the Oslo Agreements forbade additional Jewish building in Judea and Samaria. And it is the Oslo Agreements, and only those agreements, that the government of Israel is bound to by virtue of having signed.

Should we -- however foolishly -- decide to cede this land or part thereof to the Palestinians in a final agreement, then and only then would what was ceded become Palestinian land. Not now. And as you may have noticed, the Palestinians have shunned every opportunity for a deal they don't really want. They wish only to diminish us and harrass us, and delegitimize us.

And our defense minister is serving as their tool in this act.


The Binyamin Residents Committee put out a statement in response to the destruction: “This is apparently the gift that Barak wishes to give on the eve of his entry into the [new] government...This is his usual modus operandi: Every time the left attacks him, he gives them a consolation prize in the form of evicting Jews.”

This may be so: Barak has been roundly criticized on the left for joining a right-wing government. Is this his way of showing how "tough" he is against settlers, to mollify that left wing?


To know how much this really stinks, it's important to know what was destroyed:

One of the four structures leveled in Meoz Esther was a Torah study hall/synagogue dedicated in memory of Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kochav HaShachar, murdered in the Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav massacre just over a year ago.

How does a Jewish army destroy a synagogue? A synagogue, yet, dedicated to the memory of a young man who was sitting and studying Jewish texts when he was gunned down.

Another of the buildings destroyed in Meoz Esther was the home of the daughter of Esther (Ettie) G’alyah, and her family. Esther G'alyah had been a resident of Kochav HaShachar and was murdered by terrorists in 2002; the outpost was named in her memory.

Arutz Sheva quotes an observer to the scene, who said: “There was a time when building a new Jewish locale in the Land of Israel was widely considered the proper Zionist response to terrorism, but at least in this case, the opposite appears to be true..."


In the course of 16 months, Meoz Esther has been put up and taken down four times. People in Kochav HaShachar are ready to start again. Where Zionist dedication persists, it has been my observation that sometimes the people win.

Strength to them.


There are articles suggesting that this is a sign of things to come. Maybe. But I don't feel we know this yet. Yes, Barak -- most regrettably -- will still be defense minister in the new government. But Netanyahu and not Olmert will be prime minister, and the majority of the coalition will be to the right.

What happens with this new government still depends, at least in part, on how that majority asserts itself.

It also depends on whether Netanyahu has sold out to the left in order to secure Barak in his government.


There is a great deal more to write about, but Shabbat preparations call. After Shabbat, other topics...


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"The Mess Persists"

Arlene Kushner

The political mess I wrote about yesterday is not resolving itself.

When Netanyahu presents his government to the Knesset next week, it is possible that as many as five members of the Labor faction will abstain from voting for it. They have indicated they would prefer to vote against it, but Labor by-laws would prevent them from running with the party in the next election if they did that (bucking a party decision), and they're not prepared to leave Labor. Eitan Cabel, who is Labor's secretary-general, put it thus: "I want to respect the convention's decision, but I can't vote for this government and I certainly don't want to join it."


And just as there is discontent with the coalition agreement in the ranks of Labor, so, it seems, is there in Likud. Members of the Central Committee of Likud today filed an emergency petition with the party's court, claiming that party by-laws require that the Committee review coalition agreements. They want Committee Chairman Moshe Kahalon to convene the Committee for this purpose. The petitioners maintain that if the Committee does not approve the agreements, they won't be binding and members of the party's Knesset faction can vote against them.

Doesn't exactly promise good things for coalition unity down the road -- if this coalition does get approved by the Knesset. What have Netanyahu and Barak wrought?


HaBayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) has now signed a coalition agreement with Likud. This will make the head of the party, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, Science Minister.

This brings the coalition to 69 mandates.


HaBayit Hayehudi is pushing a law (a variation of what is called the Norway Law) that would permit one member of a party who had become a minister in the government to resign from the Knesset, allowing the next person down on that party's list to become an MK. (I believe if the minister is no longer in the government, his/her position in the Knesset would be re-instated.) This would bring some new people into the Knesset if it is passed.


Even though UTJ negotiations had stalled over the issue of conversions, there is indication of an attempt to reach a compromise that would bring this group into the coalition


And National Union? Two sides to this story persist. I stand by what I had said yesterday, regarding the regrettable way that this party, which boasts good people and solid principles, has handled itself. In fact, I've had further confirmation of this in the last 24 hours, including from someone inside Likud who said the party is not seen as "a team player."

However, the other side is the suspicion that Netanyahu would just as soon not have his government associated with a group that is internationally perceived as very right wing.


Arutz 7 ran a story quoting Ya'akov Katz (Ketzeleh), head of the party, who was certainly sounding conciliatory now:

“Our talks with the Likud were broken off when Netanyahu suddenly started talking with Labor. But Labor’s entry into the coalition does not mean that we are out. We are still waiting for the Likud to contact us and resume the talks, but we can’t force them.

“The issues between us can be reconciled. An agreement between us and the Likud can certainly be signed, enabling us to do what we were elected to do – serve the People of Israel with a strong nationalist government.

"...It appears that now that he [Netanyahu] has won, he has become scared; he would rather have in his government those who fight against the Land of Israel [Labor]."

Ketzeleh says that Barak demanded that National Union not be part of the coalition and Netanyahu rejected this.

We'll see soon enough...

A very strong case can be made that Netanyahu has an obligation to bring in all of the right wing/nationalist parties, as this is what the electorate chose.


In a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday, Head of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin spoke about Iran:

They have crossed the technological threshold necessary for building a nuclear bomb, Yadlin said, and so now they are in no rush to do so. "Their strategy is to obtain the ability" to build a bomb quickly once the decision to do so has been made, he said. "They operate based on a strategy that would make it hard to incriminate them."

"They are enriching fissile material in a low percentage of 4.5, but whoever knows how to enrich [uranium to] 4.5% knows also how to enrich it to 20%, 60% or 93%. With 4,000 centrifuges spinning, to change from 4.5% to 93% takes only a few months to a year."

"They are enriching great quantities. They are doing it under the cover of civilian activities, as if they need the stuff for civilian enterprises."

(They are currently running 4,000 centrifuges, monitored by the IAEC, with the claim that they need this for 30 reactors for power.)


"The Iranian threat is a threat to the global order, not just to Israel, and to convince the world of the need for action, we need to present evidence that will incriminate Iran," Yadlin told the Committee. "The campaign to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear is not yet over."

Unfortunately, the Western world is not paying serious attention to Israel's warnings with regard to what Iran is up to.


CBS News broke the story today that about two months ago our air force hit a convoy of 17 trucks in Sudan carrying weapons to Egypt that were intended for Gaza.

This information came not from Israel, but from sources connected to Pentagon reporter David Martin; it was released by Washington-based correspondent Dan Raviv on his CBS-associated blog.

According to a Sudan Tribune website, Israel intelligence tracked down the convoy northwest of Port Sudan, as it was moving north; it was bombed near Mount al-Sha’anoon.


While there has been no direct Israeli confirmation of this story, PM Olmert, speaking at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, today, referred to it obliquely: "Israel has never had stronger deterrence than it has gained in the last few years. Those who need to know are aware that there is no place that Israel can't reach."

These words are also seen as a veiled threat to Iran. The greatest threat, he said, is the Iranian threat. "Israel is not the main player but it's contributing to the international effort to prevent Iran's nuclear armament."

"The main player who should lead on Iran is the United States."

"The choice is not between total war and total failure; there is a lot to be done between those two choices and the countries that can do these things know how to do them. Israel knows how to position itself on this issue in a way that reflects its uniqueness and capabilities."


What Olmert then addressed was disconcerting in a different way. This man who is obsessed with striking a "peace agreement" with the PA declared, not for the first time, that in the future if we wanted an agreement we would have to offer the Palestinians "more than what Ehud Barak offered at Camp David."

Nary a word about making sure the PA met its obligations first, or what constraints are placed upon us by security issues or what our inherent rights are here. Only what we "must" do concerns him. Concessions, concessions, concessions.

Then he offered the information that he had made a concrete offer that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has not responded to.

Abbas would not accept, because it is not his intention to seal a deal for a "two state solution." He values his life too much to compromise on any of the demands of the PA. But Olmert doesn't suggest that the ball is the other court now.

What occurred to me here is that Shas stayed in the Olmert government with the understanding that Jerusalem was not being negotiated. Ha!


For the record, under no circumstances could Olmert have signed away part of Jerusalem unilaterally. Basic law requires that any change in the boundaries of Jerusalem be brought before the Knesset and to a national referendum. This applies as well to the Golan, but not to Judea and Samaria, to which Israeli civil law has not been extended.

However, the day will probably come when we will be told by the international community and the Palestinians that we must start new negotiations where Olmert left off. That is what is always demanded. But it's not written into law -- not ours and not international law. (Olmert signed nothing, in any case.)

This is when a right wing government and a strong PM become very important.


Hamas official Ali Barakeh says that indirect negotiations with Israel on the release of Shalit, via the offices of Egypt, have begun again. There is no direct Israeli confirmation of this, or of our having sent negotiators to Cairo again -- just a statement from Barak about how we must continue to pursue this issue.


Three Palestinians were detained yesterday on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. They were detained near Nablus, at Beit Dajan, by IDF Givat forces, called after Molotov cocktails had been thrown. They were found to be in possession of a pipe bomb, weapons, and maps of the area.


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The Debacle of Demographic Fatalism

YORAM ETTINGER, News First Class, March 23, 2009

Demographic scare campaigns have always been conducted against Zionist leaders. Demographobia – the illogical fear of Arab demography – has become a central element shaping Israel's national security policy, even though it is groundless. Thus, all projections claiming that Jews are doomed to become a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean have been crashed at the rocks of reality. From a minority of 8% and 33% in 1900 and 1947 respectively, Jews have become a solid majority of 67% (without Gaza), benefiting from a demographic tailwind, which could expand the Jewish majority. In March 1898, the world renowned Jewish historian and demographer, Shimon Dubnov, submitted to Theodore Herzl a projection, which was aimed to defeat the idea of reconstructing the Jewish Commonwealth in the Land of Israel. According to Dubnov, "The establishment of a substantial Jewish community in the Land of Israel is a messianic dream…. In 2000, there will be only 500,000 Jews in Palestine." But, in 2000 there were five million Jews west of the Jordan River!

During the 1940s, Professor Roberto Bacchi, the founder of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, flooded David Ben Gurion with projections that Jews would become a minority by 1966. He contended that in 2001 there would be – under the most optimistic scenario – only 2.3 million Jews, constituting a 34% minority between the River and the Mediterranean. But, in 2001 there were five million Jews – a 60% majority!

In 1967, Prime Minister Levy Eshkol was advised by Israel's demographic establishment to roll back to the 1949 lines, lest there be an Arab majority by 1987. But, in 1987 Jews maintained a 60% majority, in spite of an unprecedented rise in the Arab population growth rate, triggered by a remarkable decline in infant mortality, an impressive increase in life expectancy and a substantial reduction in emigration, enabled by the access to the Jewish infrastructures of health and employment.

Prof. Bacchi did not believe that a massive Jewish Aliya (immigration) would take place in the aftermath of the 1948/9 War. One million Jews arrived following the war. During the early 1970s, he projected no substantial Aliya from Eastern Europe and from the USSR, because Western Jews could but would not migrate; while Eastern Jews wanted to - but could not - migrate. Almost 300,000 Jews arrived! During the 1980s, Bacchi's followers in Israel's academia dismissed the possibility for a wave of Aliya from the USSR, even if gates might be opened. One million Jews relocated from the Soviet Union to the Jewish Homeland!

In defiance of fatalistic projections and irrespective of the absence of demographic policy, in 2009 there is a robust 67% Jewish majority west of the Jordan River, excluding Gaza. According to the UN Population Division, the average Muslim fertility rate – in the world, including Judea, Samaria and Gaza - has taken a dive to 2-4 births per woman, as a result of modernization, urbanization and family planning. Arab emigration from Judea and Samaria has escalated, while Jewish fertility has grown steadily. The number of annual Jewish births has increased by 45% from 1995 (80,400) to 2008 (117,000), while the number of annual Arab births during the same period – in pre 1967 Israel – has stabilized at 39,000.

An 80% Jewish majority in Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel is attainable in light of the current demographic trend, bolstered with the implementation of a long overdue demographic policy. Such a policy would highlight Aliya, returning of expatriates, migration from the Greater Tel Aviv area to the periphery (by upgrading Galilee and Negev infrastructures), equalization of working and studying hours, etc.

The upward trending Jewish demography has critical national security implications. It defies demographic fatalism and its policy derivatives. Well-documented Demographic optimism should be accorded due consideration by Israel's leadership and by Israel's friends.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

IDF response regarding Human Rights Watch Report

(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)

At the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, instructed that a number of investigations be conducted at the General Staff level, each lead by an officer of the rank of colonel. The investigations are intended to evaluate different aspects of the fighting during the operation, in addition to the operational investigations being conducted at the different command levels. The IDF spokesperson announced during the Operation Cast Lead that an investigative committee headed by a colonel would investigate allegations with regard to the use of ammunition containing elements of phosphorous.This particular investigation is dealing with the use of ammunition containing elements of phosphorous, including, amongst others, the 155mm smoke shells which were referred to in the Human Rights Watch report. This type of ammunition disperses in the atmosphere and creates an effective smoke screen. It is used by many Western armies.

The investigation is close to conclusion, and based on the findings at this stage, it is already possible to conclude that the IDF's use of smoke shells was in accordance with international law. These shells were used for specific operational needs only and in accord with international humanitarian law. The claim that smoke shells were used indiscriminately, or to threaten the civilian population, is baseless.

It should be noted that contrary to the claims in the report, smoke shells are not an incendiary weapon. The third protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) - which defines particular limitations on incendiary weapons - makes it clear that weapons intended for screening are not classed as incendiary weapons. The State of Israel is not a signatory of the third protocol, however, in any, case, as noted this protocol does not ban the use of smoke shells for the purpose of screening.

This announcement is an intermediate response. At the conclusion of the investigation by the Chief of Staff, the main findings will be presented to the public.

Labor Party Okays Coalition Deal

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Hillel Fendel Labor Party Okays Coalition Deal

The Labor party’s Central Committee voted 58-42 percent Tuesday night to give the go-ahead for the party to join a Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition. Leaders of the losing camp warned that the victory by party chairman Ehud Barak will lead to the death of the party. Barak, who stands to retain his position of Defense Minister in the coalition, overcame fierce opposition by party ideologists and executed another in a series of reversals of previous statements. Immediately after Labor’s drubbing in the February elections for the new Knesset, he said that the public had decided it wants Labor in the opposition.

He now has argued that the public wants Labor to join the coalition ”for the good of the country,” and he negotiated a preliminary coalition agreement with Likud that was concluded on Monday even though the Labor Central Committee had not yet voted.

The new pact gives Likud chairman Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu an absolute majority of 66 Knesset Members, without the inclusion of United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and the two national religious parties, Ichud Leumi (National Union) and Jewish Home. The vote in effect turns the Likud government from nationalist-religious to centrist.

The Labor party' decision also affects the coalition agreement by Likud and Israel Is Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu), headed by MK Lieberman. That deal, which includes a number of cabinet posts for Yisrael Beiteinu, was signed with the understanding that it would change if Labor or Kadima were to join the government.

Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu promised Labor leader Barak five ministerial posts and will bump Likud MK Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, from the Defense Ministry position.

Barak was strongly backed by Histadrut union leader Ofir Eini and five MKs, most of them ministers in the outgoing government. Against these six stood seven Labor MKs, headed by former party leader Amir Peretz.

Nissim Zvili, former Secretary-General of the Labor Party, said, "I have not been involved in a while, but I came to vote today, and I had the feeling that no matter how the vote goes, this was the funeral of the Labor Party."

Pro and Con

Representatives of both camps attempted to gain last-minute supporters in their speeches at the loud and intense party gathering Tuesday afternoon. Barak said, “I don’t need any jobs or positions in the government. I have been Prime Minister, and Defense Minister, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and IDF Chief of Staff… The party is important, but we also have to look out for the good of the nation. A narrow right-wing government is not good for Israel at this time."

"As Yitzchak Rabin used to say, we don’t have a ‘spare’ country, and this is true now as well," Barak told the party members.

MK Eitan Cabel, on the other hand, called on the Central Committee members to "vote against those who wish to destroy our home [the Labor Part."

MK Shelly Yechimovich, an ardent opponent of joining the coalition government, elaborated: “If until now, we were a fifth wheel in the Kadima government, and we dropped from 19 to 13 Knesset seats, this time we will be totally useless in the right-wing Netanyahu-Lieberman government - a government that is not ours and that is not based on our guidelines -- and we will be totally erased in the next elections. If the Labor Party disappears, the country will lose out by not having a party that stands for [what we stand fo… A party has to know how to sit in the Opposition. I could be a minister if I want, but I am very happy to be a Knesset Member.”

Yechimovich said earlier in the day that though she does not claim to have a monopoly on party idealism, “I can assure you that if the supporters of joining the government would not have been offered ministerial portfolios, they would not be so emphatically in favor of joining.”

Cabel also denied charges that he does not care about what is good for the country: “I love the State and am willing to give my life for it. There is not a group that does love and another that does not love the State… Things might have been very different today [i.e., Labor might not have dropped to 13 seats – ed had we quit the Kadima government after the Winograd Report, as I demanded at the time.”

Barkai: Death Either Way

Army Radio media personality Razi Barkai said Labor would have been better advised not to join the coalition: "Either way, the party is in very bad shape. But if it joins the coalition, it will die in a humiliating manner, while if it remains in the opposition, at least its burial will be respectable."

In an unprecedented move, Barak appointed a team to negotiate with the Likud even before the party had authorized him to do so, despite the opposition to the move within Labor. This prompted a letter from the seven "rebel" MKs to the Likud, warning that they do not see themselves obligated to back promises made by an unauthorized team.

Shalom Simchon, who stands to continue in his position as Agriculture Minister and who led the negotiations on behalf of Labor, said he felt that the letter-writers had “stabbed him in the back” by writing it.

Welfare Minster Yitzchak Herzog announced Tuesday morning, after long deliberations, that he favors joining the coalition.

Ironically, the agreement with the Likud is so favorable for Labor that it is not certain whether there will be enough MKs to fill the positions Labor has been offered. The agreement stipulates that Labor will have five Cabinet ministers, two deputy ministers, and the rotating head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee – more positions than the six MKs who support the agreement can fill.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Labor Is In"

Arlene Kushner

This is certainly not what those of us who voted right expected, when we saw that the right wing/nationalist parties had garnered 65 mandates. We expected, silly us, a right wing/nationalist government. Especially was this the case when Netanyahu argued that he should be given the first opportunity to form a coalition because the right wing had the majority of the mandates even if Kadima had one more mandate than Likud. But now a new centrist political configuration is a done deal.

How we came to this place is complex, and there are many theories as to what motivated Netanyahu.

What it has seemed from my vantage point is that he was insecure with the prospect of a narrow right wing coalition that might buck him at any moment; he wanted long-term stability. I saw on the right purist positions that left no room for political compromise. National Union expressed doubts about joining the coalition. Just yesterday UTJ expressed reluctance to join because of concessions made to Lieberman with regard to conversion process that they found objectionable.


But there is more. There are those who say that the right is not Netanyahu's natural home anyway, and that it was to be expected that he would gravitate center.

And those who theorize that with the difficult times facing us, Netanyahu understood that we needed as broad a coalition as possible with which to face the world -- so that everyone saw we were of one mind. Think Iran, in particular. There is, potentially, some sense to this. When we hit Iran, as well we may, no one would be able to say this was done because of right-wing crazies; not with a left-wing defense minister.

And those who believe that Netanyahu wanted a left wing party in his government so that it would be more palatable to the world, which was already growing faintly hysterical with charges that we were going to have an "anti-peace" government of radicals. This makes less than no sense to me, as we are not going to please the world anyway, and certainly shouldn't form our governments based on what we think others would like. That is not the way for a self-secure, proud nation to behave.


But Barak? Barak as defense minister again? Oi!

He is saying that he will be a full partner in the government; certainly the two men came to some private understandings. How it plays out will remain to be seen, however. Will Barak advance a position with Netanyahu as his prime minister that is significantly different from the one he advanced when Olmert was in that position?


Today, in an effort to convince the Labor Central Committee that they should vote to enter the coalition, Barak assured those assembled that he would be the opposition inside the government. By this he meant that he would not allow Labor to be swallowed up by Likud positions. But I could not help but wonder what people in Likud thought of this statement.

Netanyahu and Barak both wanted this so badly that their teams negotiated through the night. But the fact is that there are very real ideological differences between the two parties that had to be somehow papered over. It makes me wonder whether this can be stable.

At the end of the day, it may be that the deal Labor was offered just seemed too good to turn down.


The process as it unfolded was this: Netanyahu and Barak met privately and came to some understandings. Barak -- over many objections from within his party -- then appointed a negotiating committee to hammer out a coalition agreement with Likud. They worked through the night to achieve this, as they started far apart.

When they were done, what they had included this:

Labor will have five portfolios -- Defense; Industry, Trade and Labor; Agriculture; Welfare; and Social Services; and one minister without portfolio in charge of minority affairs. It would also get the deputy defense minister, and one Labor member would head each one of the statutory Knesset committees - Education, Absorption and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee - for a third of a tenure and not simultaneously.

With all of this, Barak and not Netanyahu will decide who in Labor receives each post.


It was agreed that the new government would "work toward the formation of a comprehensive regional arrangement for peace and for economic cooperation in the Middle East." It also stipulates that "Israel would be committed to all national and international agreements that were signed by former Israeli governments."

This is not as straightforward as it sounds. It is, rather, slippery language that permits a good deal of latitude. It says nothing about a Palestinian state or a "two-state solution." What does it mean to "work toward" an arrangement for peace and economic cooperation?

I would point out here that "agreements signed by former Israeli governments" refers to several Oslo agreements only, although people may be assuming more is involved. Nothing was signed with regard to the Road Map, and there has been no signing coming out of Annapolis. This coalition agreement does not commit us to continuing Annapolis.

But there is more: The government would work toward achieving peace agreements with all of its neighbors and the defense minister would be a full partner in the peace process and a member of any limited forum for decision-making in the diplomatic, security and economic fields. The government would operate to enforce the law in the illegal outposts as well as in illegal Palestinian constructions.

Peace process? This is not sounding good, and leads to worry about what concessions may be coming down the road. But, again, it is vague. No talk about dividing Jerusalem or pulling people out of Judea and Samaria. Very vague, very deliberately.


And there is still more, within the economic realm:

The government would secure within 30 days of its emergency economic plan for dealing with the financial crisis, solutions for reducing number of laid off workers, solutions for the credit crunch as well as initiatives for stimulating economic growth.

The government would act to restrict the Economic Arrangements Law and would allocate budgets for infrastructural projects and for establishing research and development centers.


Barak brought this to the Labor Central Committee that convened today, and a very divisive and heated debate ensued.

There were 1,071 party members in attendance at the convention; 58 percent voted in favor of joining the coalition, and 42% voted against it - - this was a margin of 173 votes.

Labor's 13 mandates, added to the 53 mandates from Likud, Shas and Yisrael Beitenu combined, brings the coalition to 66 mandates. Netanyahu now has his absolute majority and a government. It remains to be seen whether any of the right wing parties -- National Union, UTJ or HaBayit Hayehudi still join; this seems unlikely.

It should be noted that Labor is a distinct minority, with its 13 mandates, within this government, which is precisely what made many in Labor nervous.

When Lieberman signed his coalition agreement with Likud, there was a clause specifying that there would be changes if either Labor or Kadima joined.


The police who operated in Umm al-Fahm today are to be roundly congratulated!

Said Police Commissioner David Cohen:

"This morning, 2,500 policemen went in to ensure the existence of the democratic process in the State of Israel.

"This was a legitimate protest that was approved by the court and the police, and the police force proved it is strong and capable of allowing such demonstrations to take place anywhere in the State of Israel."

This sounds good, it feels good.

It took 2,500 policemen because violence was anticipated. The violence came from rioting Israeli Arabs who had gathered, and the police, not the Jews who were demonstrating, took the hit. Fifteen police officers were lightly injured today, primarily by rock-throwers.

One was Deputy Police Commissioner Shahar Ayalon. "This is part of the price we in the police have to pay to uphold the Supreme Court's order as we promised," he said.

The police used tear gas and a water cannon to quell the rioters; 12 riot suspects were arrested and will be prosecuted.


The demonstration took all of half an hour this morning, but the rioting continued past that time. The route of the march was within municipal boundaries but did not go into the center of the city and avoided residential areas. Jews who carry private guns had surrendered them willingly to police before the demonstration began; organizers made the point of saying they came "armed only with the flag."

Rightists march in Umm al-Fahm (Photo: George Ginsburg)

Arabs demonstrated at a major intersection of the city, waving flags of the Israeli Islamic Movement and the Palestinian Authority. (Please note this well.)

MK Afou Agbaria (Hadash) who lives in the city, demanded that those who were arrested be released at once. "The racists that came here to provoke should be prosecuted," he said. "The police are using an iron fist against residents of the city for their courageous stance."

An Arab MK who thinks rioting and throwing stones at police represents a courageous stand. The epithet "racist" thrown at Jews who march as proud Israelis. This speaks volumes.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Iran Has Started a Mideast Arms Race

The Wall Street Journal

In the capitals of Western nations, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man regarded as the father of the Pakistani atom bomb, is regarded as a maverick with a criminal past. In addition to his well-documented role in developing a nuclear device for Pakistan, he helped Iran and North Korea with their nuclear programs.
But since his release from house arrest a month ago, Mr. Khan has entertained a string of official visitors from across the Middle East. All come with messages of sympathy; and some governments in that region are looking to him for the knowledge and advice they need to fast track their own illicit nuclear projects.

Make no mistake: The Middle East may be on the verge of a nuclear arms race triggered by the inability of the West to stop Iran's quest for a bomb. Since Tehran's nuclear ambitions hit the headlines five years ago, 25 countries -- 10 of them in the greater Middle East -- have announced plans to build nuclear power plants for the first time.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Oman) set up a nuclear exploratory commission in 2007 to prepare a "strategic report" for submission to the alliance's summit later this year. But Saudi Arabia is not waiting for the report. It opened negotiations with the U.S. in 2008 to obtain "a nuclear capacity," ostensibly for "peaceful purposes."

Egypt also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement, with France, last year. Egyptian leaders make no secret of the fact that the decision to invest in a costly nuclear industry was prompted by fears of Iran. "A nuclear armed Iran with hegemonic ambitions is the greatest threat to Arab nations today," President Hosni Mubarak told the Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.

Last November, France concluded a similar nuclear cooperation accord with the UAE, promising to offer these oil-rich lands "a complete nuclear industry." According to the foreign ministry in Paris, the French are building a military base close to Abu Dhabi ostensibly to protect the nuclear installations against "hostile action," including the possibility of "sensitive material" being stolen by terrorist groups or smuggled to Iran.

The UAE, to be sure, has signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. forswearing the right to enrich uranium or produce plutonium in exchange for American nuclear technology and fuel. The problem is that the UAE's commercial hub, the sheikhdom of Dubai, has been the nerve center of illicit trade with Iran for decades, according to Western and Arab intelligence. Through Dubai, stolen U.S. technology and spent fuel needed for producing raw material for nuclear weapons could be smuggled to Iran.

Qatar, the smallest GCC member by population, is also toying with the idea of creating a nuclear capability. According to the Qatari media, it is shopping around in the U.S., France, Germany and China.

Newly liberated Iraq has not been spared by the new nuclear fever. Recall the history. With help from France, Iraq developed a nuclear capacity in the late 1970s to counterbalance its demographic inferiority vis-à-vis Iran. In 1980, Israel destroyed Osirak, the French-built nuclear center close to Baghdad, but Saddam Hussein restored part of that capacity between 1988 and 1991. What he rebuilt was dismantled by the United Nations' inspectors between 1992 and 2003. But with Saddam dead and buried, some Iraqis are calling for a revival of the nation's nuclear program as a means of deterring "bullying and blackmail from the mullahs in Tehran," as parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq has put it.

"A single tactical nuclear attack on Basra and Baghdad could wipe out a third of our population," a senior Iraqi official told me, on condition of anonymity. Since almost 90% of Iraqis live within 90 miles of the Iranian border, the "fear is felt in every town and village," he says.

Tehran, meanwhile, is playing an active part in proliferation. So far, Syria and Sudan have shown interest in its nuclear technology, setting up joint scientific committees with Iran, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Iranian media reports say Tehran is also setting up joint programs with a number of anti-U.S. regimes in Latin America, notably Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, bringing proliferation to America's backyard.

According to official reports in Tehran, in 2006 and 2007 the Islamic Republic also initialed agreements with China to build 20 nuclear-power stations in Iran. The first of these stations is already under construction at Dar-Khuwayn, in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan close to the Iraqi border.

There is no doubt that the current nuclear race in the Middle East is largely prompted by the fear of a revolutionary Iran using an arsenal as a means of establishing hegemony in the region. Iran's rivals for regional leadership, especially Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are aware of the propaganda appeal of the Islamic Republic's claim of being " the first Muslim superpower" capable of defying the West and rivaling it in scientific and technological fields. In that context, Tehran's development of long-range missiles and the Muslim world's first space satellite are considered political coups.

Mohamed al Quwaihis, a member of Saudi Arabia's appointed parliament, the Shura Council, warns of Iran's growing influence. Addressing the Shura Council earlier this month, he described Iranian interferences in Arab affairs as "overt," and claimed that Iran is "endeavoring to seduce the Gulf States, and recruit some of the citizens of these countries to work for its interests."

The Shura devoted a recent session to "the Iranian threat," insisting that unless Tehran abandoned its nuclear program, Saudi Arabia should lead the Arabs in developing their own "nuclear response." The debate came just days after the foreign ministry in Riyadh issued a report identifying the Islamic Republic's nuclear program as the "principal security threat to Arab nations."

A four-nation Arab summit held in the Saudi capital on March 11 endorsed that analysis, giving the green light for a pan-Arab quest for "a complete nuclear industry." Such a project would draw support from Pakistan, whose nuclear industry was built with Arab money. Mr. Khan and his colleagues have an opportunity to repay that debt by helping Arabs step on a ladder that could lead them to the coveted "threshold" to becoming nuclear powers in a few years' time.

Earlier this month, Mohamed ElBaradei, the retiring head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has become a blunt instrument in preventing a nuclear arms race. Meanwhile, the U.S., France, Russia and China are competing for nuclear contracts without developing safeguards to ensure that projects which start as peaceful undertakings are not used as cover for clandestine military activities.

The Obama administration should take the growing threat of nuclear proliferation seriously. It should try to provide leadership in forging a united response by the major powers to what could become the world's No. 1 security concern within the next few years.

Mr. Taheri's new book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under The Khomeinist Revolution," is published by Encounter Books.

Lands of opportunity

The Economist

DOV MORAN’S desk is littered with the carcasses of dismembered phones. Mr Moran has already had one big breakthrough: inventing the now ubiquitous memory stick. But he dreams of another one: he wants to separate the “brains” of the various gizmos that dominate our lives from the “bodies” to enable people to carry around tiny devices that they will be able to plug into anything from phones to cameras to computers. Mr Moran sold his memory-stick business to SanDisk for $1.6 billion, creating a thriving technology cluster near his office. This time he wants to build an Israeli business that will last, challenging the giants of the camera and phone businesses. Israel is full of would-be Dov Morans. It is home to 4,000 high-tech companies, more than 100 venture-capital funds and a growing health-care industry. Innovations developed in the country include the Pentium chip (Intel), voicemail (Comverse), instant messaging (Mirabilis, Ubique), firewalls (Checkpoint) and the “video pill”, which allows doctors to study your insides without the need for invasive surgery.

Even more than other countries, Israel has America to thank for its entrepreneurial take-off. A brigade of American high-tech companies, including Intel and Microsoft, have established research arms there. And a host of Israelis who once emigrated to America in search of education and opportunity have returned home, bringing American assumptions with them. Many Israeli entrepreneurs yo-yo between Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv; almost 70 Israeli companies are traded on NASDAQ.

The Israeli government helped by providing a ready supply of both human and physical capital. Israel has the world’s highest ratio of PhDs per person, the highest ratio of engineers and scientists and some of the world’s best research universities, notably Technion. The country’s native talent was supplemented by the arrival of 400,000 well-educated Jewish refugees from the former Soviet empire.

However, Israel’s main qualification for entrepreneurialism is its status as an embattled Jewish state in a sea of Arab hostility. The Israeli army not only works hard to keep the country at the cutting edge of technology, it also trains young Israelis (who are conscripted at 18) in the virtues of teamwork and improvisation. It is strikingly common for young Israelis to start businesses with friends that they met in the army. Add to that a high tolerance of risk, born of a long history and an ever-present danger of attack, and you have the makings of an entrepreneurial firecracker.

Danish dynamism

Compared with a lion like Dov Moran, Frederik Gundelach is a mere cub, but he has some of the same sense of purpose about him. Sitting in one of Denmark’s “growth houses” (incubators for entrepreneurs), he places a flask on the table and launches into an elaborate explanation.
Illustration by Nick Dewar
Illustration by Nick Dewar

Mr Gundelach claims that he and his father have discovered a novel way of boiling water that does not require the application of heat. He hopes to sell the flask to outdoor types and soldiers, but that is not the limit of his ambition. The chemical reaction that heats the water can also be used to heat or cool houses, he claims, radically reducing the cost of domestic heating and the threat of global warming.

It is too early to say whether Mr Gundelach’s flask will turn out to be a miracle in a bottle or a pipedream, but the Danish government is doing everything it can to give him the support he needs. Denmark is engaged in a social experiment to test whether it can embrace capitalist globalisation yet continue to preserve its generous welfare state. The Danish economy has traditionally been divided between big multinational companies (such as Carlsberg, a brewing behemoth) and a welter of small family firms. The government now wants to add a third economic force: start-ups with the potential for rapid growth.

The government has done everything a tidy-minded Scandinavian country can to cultivate these start-ups. The World Bank ranks Denmark fifth in the world for ease of doing business. There is a network of growth houses—ready-made offices that provide start-ups with many of the advantages of large companies such as consulting advice, legal services and conference rooms. The government has created a public venture-capital fund, the Vaekstfonden, and is now trying to change attitudes to entrepreneurs and promoting “education for entrepreneurship”.

When Muslim countries boycotted Danish goods in 2005 after a Danish newspaper published some disrespectful cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, wags joked that this hardly mattered because the only things that Denmark produced were beer and bacon. But the government’s embrace of entrepreneurialism is clearly changing the economy. Denmark is already home to about 20% of Europe’s biotech companies. It also has thriving clean-technology, fashion and design industries. As a proportion of GDP, Danish companies attract more venture capital than any other European country.

Sizzling Singapore

At first sight Denmark and Singapore do not have much in common, yet they share not only the same official enthusiasm for entrepreneurialism but also many of the same policies. Singapore’s government has invested heavily in digital media, bio-engineering, clean technology and water purification, creating huge incubators and enticing foreign scientists with fat pay packets, as well as setting up a public venture-capital fund that has in turn brought in lots of private venture capital. More than 5% of Singapore-based companies are backed by venture capital.

The government has done everything in its power to make life easy for entrepreneurs, which has earned it first place in the World Bank league table for ease of doing business. It is also trying hard to encourage a traditionally passive population to become more innovative. Schools teach the virtues of entrepreneurialism. The universities put ever more emphasis on business education and links with industry. The Nanyang Technological University (whose chairman, like that of the National University of Singapore, is an alumnus of Hewlett-Packard) offers a graduate degree in technopreneurship and innovation.

Singapore sees entrepreneurialism as a prerequisite to future growth. It has spent the past few decades climbing up the “value chain” from manufacturing to services and from trade to finance. Its biggest test yet may be to create knowledge industries and produce companies that can commercialise intellectual breakthroughs.

All three countries have both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to embracing entrepreneurship. Israel depends too heavily on America and is being hit hard by the downturn there. Denmark is too egalitarian. A top personal-income-tax rate of 63% drives the most successful entrepreneurs out of the country.

Singaporeans have even deeper cultural problems with entrepreneurship. The best and brightest have little appetite for risk-taking entrepreneurship, and most people suffer from an excessive fear of bankruptcy, according to Monitor. The country’s consumers are anything but venturesome: for all the island’s cultural diversity, they remain obsessed by Western brand names. The country is paying a heavy price for this. A Singapore-based company, Creative Technology, invented a digital music player, the NOMAD, two years before Apple launched the iPod, but Creative’s NOMAD looked like a clunky CD player rather than a miniature fashion accessory. It received $100m from Apple for patent infringement, but that did not make up for the loss of a mass market.

Still, the governments of all three countries remain enthusiastic supporters of the entrepreneurial idea. The Danes and the Singaporeans regard it as their ticket to success in a global economy and the Israelis as a matter of survival. All three are also helping to spread the creed in their regions. Arab countries are beginning to realise that the best way to deal with Israel is to copy its vibrant economy. Denmark serves as a model to European leaders such as France’s Nicolas Sarkozy who want to combine dynamism with social protection. The Chinese regard Singapore as a useful laboratory for reform. In the 1980s China asked Goh Keng Swee, Singapore’s former finance minister, to advise on the development of its special economic zones; today it is keeping a watchful eye on the city-state’s model of state-sponsored entrepreneurship.

The use of mosques for military purposes by Palestinian


1. The following is an article submitted to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center by a researcher from Israel's Bar-Ilan University, titled “Clinging to the Altar” (March 14, 2009). The article looks at military uses made by Palestinian terrorists of Temple Mount mosques throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was written by Dotan Goren, a PhD student at Bar-Ilan University 's Department of Geography and Environment. 2. The article offers an additional historical perspective on the use made by Palestinian terrorist organizations of mosques for military purposes, covered in our March 1, 2009 Information Bulletin titled “ The use of mosques for military and political purposes by Hamas and other terrorist organizations and Islamic groups: according to international laws governing of armed conflict, mosques used for military purposes lose the special protection afforded houses of worship and may become legitimate targets for attack”.

Clinging to the Altar

3. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has recently published a study about the use of mosques for political and military purposes by Hamas and other terrorist organizations. With deep religious roots in the Muslim and Arab world, such use was clearly demonstrated during Operation Cast Lead, carried out by the IDF in the Gaza Strip. The use made by the Arab side of holy places for hostile terrorist activity has a long-standing history in the Jewish-Arab conflict in Eretz Israel [i.e., the Land of Israel ]. I shall briefly discuss two of the most notable cases in point.

4. During the 1936-1939 riots [referred to by the Arabs as the Arab Revolt in Palestine ], Lewis Yelland Andrews, the British district commissioner for the Galilee , was assassinated by a gang of Arab terrorists (September 26, 1937). Following the incident, the British mandate government removed the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, from all his duties (September 30, 1937). The Mufti then confined himself to the Temple Mount compound to avoid being arrested by the British police forces, who did not relish a confrontation inside the holy place. About two weeks later, the Mufti led a series of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem , using them as a diversion to flee from British-ruled Palestine . Intelligence information as well as various press reports published in 1938 indicated that the Temple Mount compound was used as a shelter for Arab gang operatives and as a storehouse for weapons. The Arabs even took advantage of the restoration works carried out by the Muslim Waqf (religious endowment) authorities and the mandate authorities in the Dome of the Rock to conceal arms and ammunition in the Temple Mount compound, as published in the evening edition of Haaretz, July 15, 1938: “In a search conducted by police and army forces in the Old City, a considerable quantity of weapons was found in Umar Mosque, near the Dome of the Rock. The weapons were found inside construction materials prepared for the restoration of the mosque. The weapons found included bombs, bullets, and one rifle.”

5. In July 1938, hundreds of Arab gang operatives started penetrating into the Old City of Jerusalem, pushing back the British police. The takeover was completed in early October, leaving the British with no other choice but to reclaim the area. British army forces launched a crackdown operation in the Old City , using massive force and meeting with little resistance. Many gang operatives fled the city or found shelter in the Temple Mount , where the forces did not enter. As the search for suspects was underway, the Waqf leadership invited the army to sweep the Temple Mount compound in order to prove that there were no weapons there. However, when the forces reached the minaret (the tower from which the muezzin calls the worshippers for prayer), “several crates not long ago containing hand grenades” were found. The Times wrote that the Muslims themselves had violated the place they considered to be holy, and that the government had proof of what had taken place there.

6. Another example of the Arab side using a holy place for military purposes could be seen during Operation Defensive Shield (March-May 2002). In April 2002, a group of 39 wanted Palestinian terrorists armed with rifles and explosive devices took over the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem . The group took priests and civilians hostage and negotiated with the Israeli security forces, sparking a worldwide uproar, particularly among the world's Christians. An agreement was ultimately reached, according to which the civilians were evacuated and 26 medium-ranking wanted terrorists were deported to the Gaza Strip. The standoff ended when Israel agreed to deport 13 high-ranking wanted terrorists when the European Union announced it was willing to accept them.

7. In light of the above, it is evident that the Arab leadership and its followers have knowingly and systematically brought the holy places into the circle of violence and incitement, and should therefore bear the responsibility for any operative repercussions that may result from Israel 's future activities.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Iran Targets the United States


The prevention of a nuclear Iran constitutes a top US national security priority. It sheds light on a special aspect of US-Israel relationship: defiance of mutual threats. Iran pursues nuclear capabilities to advance strategic goals, which are led by the super-goal: hegemony over the Persian Gulf and its natural resources. Those who undermine the super-goal are considered super-enemies, targeted by super-capabilities. Hence, Teheran would use its nuclear power/threat, first and foremost, to force the US and NATO out of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. It would then turn it against Iraq - its arch rival since the seventh century - and against Saudi Arabia, which is considered an apostate regime. All Gulf states are perceived by Iran as a key prize, required in order to control the flow and the price of oil and to bankroll its megalomaniac regional and global aspirations (e.g. leading Islam's drive to dominate the globe).

The Jewish state constitutes a non-Gulf basin target for Iran, not a primary target. Moreover, Israel is expected to retaliate in a traumatic manner, which would paralyze much of Iran's military and civilian infrastructure. Therefore, Iran would not sacrifice its super-goal (forcing the US out of the Gulf and subjugating the Gulf states) on the altar of a secondary-goal (obliterating the Jewish state).

FOR THE US AND ISRAEL, the preferred option against Iran is preemption rather than retaliation. Recent precedents suggest that the two countries benefit from leveraging each other's unique experience, as well as from bold unilateral military action against rogue threats.

In September 2007, the IAF destroyed a Syrian-North Korean nuclear plant, extending the US's strategic arm. It provided the US with vital information on Russian air defense systems, which are also employed by Iran. It bolstered the US posture of deterrence and refuted the claim that US-Israel relations have been shaped by political expediency.

In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor, providing the US with a conventional option in 1991 and 2003, preventing a mega-billion dollar, mega-casualty nuclear war. In 1970, while the US was bogged down in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Israel forced the rollback of a pro-Soviet Syrian invasion of pro-US Jordan. It prevented a pro-Soviet "domino effect" into the Persian Gulf, which would have shattered US economy.

In 2009, Israel shares with the US its battle-tested experience in combating Palestinian and Hizbullah terrorism, which are the role model of anti-US Islamic terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. US GIs benefit from Israel's battle tactics against car bombs, improvised explosive devices and homicide bombing. An Israel-like ally in the Persian Gulf would have spared the need to dispatch US troops to Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE and NATO commander Alexander Haig refers to the Jewish state as the largest cost-effective, combat-experienced US aircraft carrier that does not require US personnel, cannot be sunk and is located in a most critical region for US national security interests.

While the US has been Israel's indispensable ally, Israel's battle experience has been integrated into the US defense industry. For example, the F-16 includes more than 600 Israeli modifications, sparing the US a mega-billion dollar and a multi-year research and development budget. A litany of state-of-the-art US military systems have been upgraded in a similar manner, enhancing US national and homeland security and expanding US employment and exports.

Iran's nuclear threat is a symptom of endemic Middle East violent unpredictability and Muslim hostility toward Western democracies. It calls for an upgraded US-Israel win-win relationship, which requires a strong Israel as a national security producer. A weak Israel, pushed into a nine-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, pressured to concede the mountain ridges of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, relying on foreign troops and guarantees, would become a national security consumer. It would be a burden rather than an asset to the US in a bad neighborhood, which is crucial for vital US interests.

Iran would benefit from an ineffective Israel. However, the US would have to deploy to the eastern flank of the Mediterranean real aircraft carriers and tens of thousands of US servicemen, costing scores of billions of dollars annually, denied the benefits of Israel - the largest US aircraft carrier, which does not require a single US sailor.

The writer is chairman of special projects at the Ariel Center for Policy Research.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1237727508360&

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tuesday Vote to Determine Gov't

Hillel Fendel Tuesday Vote to Determine Gov't

The future of the next Israeli government depends on a vote this Tuesday within the Labor Party – once Israel’s largest party, now its 4th-largest. Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, who very much favors joining the coalition government currently in formation, said on Sunday morning that he would not bolt the party if it turns down the initiative. He thus quashed rumors that the party is headed for a split if it decides not to join the government. However, he left open the possibility that other party members might split off themselves if the vote goes in his favor.

Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu came close to forming a nationalist government last week, in keeping with the election results. 65 of the 109 Zionist-party Knesset seats (60%) went to nationalist or religious parties, while only 40% went to Kadima, Labor and Meretz, on the left-center side of the political spectrum.

Kadima - Out; Labor - Unsure

However, Netanyahu has never hidden his desire to form a unity government with Kadima and/or Labor. Kadima turned him down repeatedly, but Labor – fresh off its worst electoral showing in history, with only 13 MKs – is considering Netanyahu’s latest offer. The party is currently split on the issue, and the fateful vote will take place on Tuesday among the Central Committee membership.

“If my opinion is not accepted, I will still remain in the party,” Barak said, but added, “I think you must ask this question of those who have threatened more than once that the party would split.”

Allied with Barak in support of joining the coalition are former party leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Barak’s stalwart ally Shalom Simchon (Ministers of Infrastructures and Agriculture, respectively), and Histadrut Labor Union Chief Ofer Eini.

Leading the Opposition

Among those leading the opposition to joining the government is another ex-party leader, Amir Peretz, as well as MKs Eitan Cabel, Ophir Pines, Shelly Yechimovitch, Avishai Braverman and Education Minister Yuli Tamir. They claim that the party will be neutralized by playing second-fiddle to both the Likud and Kadima, and will not be able to regain national power for a very long while afterwards.

Netanyahu Promises Negotiations with PA

Netanyahu has made an overly generous offer to Labor, including five ministerial portfolios for the party's 13 MKs, including the Defense Ministry for Barak. It also includes full cooperation between Netanyahu and Barak on all security issues, and a promise to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority about the formation of a Palestinian state.

Among the Likud’s “natural” coalition partners, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu and the Jewish Home have welcomed the possible inclusion of Labor, citing the need to have a broad consensus for governing the country during these critical times. However, the National Union is not likely to join the government under such circumstances – despite Netanyahu’s promises to welcome in his government the parties that recommended him to President Shimon Peres as the best candidate to form a government.

“I have no objection to a broad government,” National Union leader MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh) said last week, “nor to additional coalition partners who accept our coalition guidelines" - implying objections to those who do not accept his guidelines. The National Union is against talks for the creation of a Palestinian state or the giving up of territory.

Katz said he did not expect Netanyahu to violate his promises to the National Union: “I hope that he will keep his promise to the voters that he would form a government based on his natural partners. He must be loyal to the voters, to the parties that recommended him to the president, and to his promises not to hurt those parties.”

Still Up in the Air

Observers are unable to predict at this stage whether the proposal to join the Netanyahu government will or will not pass in the Labor Central Committee.

"Small Signs of Strength"

We need a whole lot more, but I'm grateful for what I'm seeing:

It begins with our new Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat, who is standing strong on the issue of demolition of illegal Arab housing in eastern Jerusalem.

The issue at hand right now is housing put up illegally by Arabs in Silwan, which is next to Ir David (the City of David); an archeological park is planned for the land on which these houses sit. This is one of the most strategic sites in the city, on an international level, which must be an open public area," Barkat told The Jerusalem Post. "It is certainly much more important than Central Park in New York."

The city is making efforts to find new housing sites for the residents who will be dislocated. But, says Barkat, "It is inconceivable that we will not follow the rule of law in the city....We are talking about a small group who built homes on a park in an open area, where it is very fair to assume that [in the end] there will not be residential housing."


And it extends at the moment to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, as well.

Seems that for the Palestinian Authority today was "Jerusalem, Capital of Arab Culture for 2009' day." Certainly Palestinian leaders used the event to make the most of the issue of the planned housing demolitions. At one gathering in Bethlehem, Abbas declared that our policy of "racism, oppression, land-grabbing and demolitions" had to stop before there could be further peace negotiations.

The PA had planned a whole series of events in Jerusalem to celebrate the day. However, according to existing agreements signed with Israel, the PA is prohibited from organizing events within Israel. And so, Dichter signed injunctions ordering police to "suppress any attempts by the PA to hold events in Jerusalem and throughout the rest of the country."

Arabs students were prevented from rallying on the Temple Mount with PLO flags; marches in the city were blocked; women distributing paraphernalia for the event were arrested; a conference organized by the PA was shut down; and much more.

I'm sure we'll hear about how this was not a constructive move for peace. But this feels to me like a welcome and unapologetic movement towards taking back what is ours. May the trend grow.


What will be happening at a national level politically in the next couple of weeks is still up in the air. In addition to anger within the Labor party because of Barak's push to join the Likud-led coalition, there is now anger within Likud because Netanyahu promised Barak too much as enticement, leaving too little for the MKs of Likud itself.


The other day, I had cited information about Egyptian feelers to US and European leaders to find out if they might find it acceptable if a Palestinian unity government were formed that simply "respected" past PLO agreements instead of accepting or honoring them. My comment was that the Egyptians apparently did not receive a positive response to this, or the Palestinian factions wouldn't have walked away so fast.

Seems I was premature. The Egyptians are still working on it. Omar Suleiman, Egypt's intelligence chief, went to Washington this past week to try to convince the Obama administration to abandon the conditions set by the US in 2006, after Hamas won PA elections. Suleiman's feeling is that there has to be accommodation of Hamas on this matter because it's so important to have unity, with the Palestinians speaking with one voice.


The perversity -- no, the stupidity -- of this position is considerable, however. What Suleiman is saying is that it doesn't matter what the unity government stands for or commits to, as long as there IS a unity government, and that it should receive world recognition.

(Egypt, of course, has its own motivations for promoting that unity government. Success in promoting this would enhance Egypt's standing in the Arab world, and would reduce pressure for Egypt to open the Rafah crossing or otherwise be responsible for Gaza.)

What the unity government might stand for would be of little consequence, if it were not for a couple of matters that directly impinge on us here:

That government would be the authority overseeing reconstruction of Gaza, which would mean millions flowing to an unrepentant Hamas that would turn the assistance to its own ends. Pressure would grow for us to open the crossings into Gaza.

And the Western world, in its infinite wisdom, would then turn to us and tell us that now that there is one voice for the Palestinians, we must negotiate with them.

This might well happen yet. We may see a (very unstable) unity government formed that has not committed to renouncing violence, or recognizing Israel's right to exist, or to honoring previous PLO agreements, and we'll be told to negotiate "peace" with it. Obama, friend to the Muslims and the ultimate promoter of "outreach," might well embrace this.

Makes a strong Israeli right-wing government capable of saying no all the more important.


What we must hope for, as well, is that Fatah and Hamas will not be able to get their act together on other issues, even if the West caves on this one.

The PA is said to be happy that negotiations on Shalit failed, because the release of hundreds of Hamas terrorists would strengthen Hamas and weaken Fatah. It would increase Hamas popularity in the street. And, according to Khaled Abu Toameh, "The top 10 Hamas prisoners whom Israel has refused to release in return for Gilad Shalit are regarded by the PA as the 'commanders of Hamas's army staff' in the West Bank."

Doesn't sound like Fatah-Hamas unity is around the corner.


Friday was Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and Obama took the opportunity to send a video message to Iran, which carried Persian subtitles.

Referring to Nowruz as both "an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal," he called upon Iran's leaders to consider engagement with the US that is "honest and grounded in mutual respect."

"...The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.

"...let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi, so many years ago: "The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence.'"

The naiveté of such a message is breathtaking.


The response of Iran's leaders today was pretty much what might have been expected.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Iranian government does not see any change in American policy, as the US continues to say the country supports terrorism and is seeking nuclear weapons.

A adviser to Ahmadinejad observed that "minor changes will not end the differences" between Teheran and Washington.

"Obama has talked of change but has taken no practical measures to address America's past mistakes in Iran. If Mr. Obama takes concrete actions and makes fundamental changes in US foreign policy toward other nations including Iran, the Iranian government and people will not turn their back on him."

Iranian Energy Minister Pervez Fatah said his government welcomes Obama's greetings but would continue with its nuclear program, none-the-less.


A terrorist attack on a mall in Haifa was adverted this evening when a car holding several kilograms of explosives was discovered parked (as I understand it) in the lot of the mall.

The discovery was made when one of the smaller of several bombs malfunctioned and exploded prematurely, causing an employee in the mall who heard the explosion to call the police.

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