Saturday, January 09, 2010

Security and Defense: When the Palestinian divide becomes a chasm


Col. Avi Gil returned to the West Bank seven weeks ago and couldn't believe it was the same place he had left just two years before. Since 2007, Gil has served as the IDF's attaché to the US Marines in Washington. In late November, he returned and took up his new post as commander of the Central Command's Efraim Regional Brigade, which is responsible for Palestinian cities like Tulkarm and Kalkilya, as well as Israeli settlements like Kedumim and Karnei Shomron. Before becoming attaché to the Marines, Gil served from 2005 to 2007 as the commander of the elite Duvdevan unit, which conducts undercover, high-profile arrest operations in the West Bank. Duvdevan carried out the operation in Nablus two weeks ago during which its soldiers killed the three Fatah gunmen who had murdered Rabbi Meir Chai in a drive-by shooting near his home in Shavei Shomron just two days earlier.

When Gil left for the US, Duvdevan was carrying out daily arrest operations in the West Bank. Today - under the current political climate - an operation like the one in Nablus two weeks ago is a rarity.

What has changed, as one senior IDF officer explained this week, was not the outbreak of peace, but rather a mutual interest shared by Israel and the PA to stop Hamas from growing in the West Bank. In simpler terms, the officer said, the PA does not want to see Fatah men thrown from the roofs of buildings in Nablus and Ramallah like they were thrown from the roofs of buildings in Gaza City during Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

There is also another difference - both Israel and the Palestinians are graduates of the Oslo Accords. Gil, for example, was a junior platoon commander in the Paratroop Brigade in 1993 when the IDF began joint patrols with the PA. This came to a violent end, however, with the eruption of the second intifada in 2000, when PA security personnel turned their weapons against the IDF.

The lesson has been learned. While the IDF is supporting the PA forces in the West Bank by allowing them to be trained by the US in Jordan and to deploy in most Palestinian cities, it is not interpreting this as peace, but rather as a shared interest. In other words, the understanding in the IDF is that if one day the shared interest fades, things in the West Bank could change as well.

For this reason, there are no joint patrols or transfer of security control over cities to the PA. While the IDF has scaled back its operations, it continues to retain operational freedom to go where it wants, when it wants.

The same cannot be said about the Gaza Strip. Since Operation Cast Lead ended a year ago, the IDF rarely enters the territory, and if so, only a few meters at a time to clear brush and search for roadside bombs.

The end of the second intifada and the IDF's clear and decisive victory over Palestinian terror in the West Bank has had a completely different effect on Fatah than it did on Hamas. For Fatah, the defeat reinforced the position - as voiced recently by PA President Mahmoud Abbas - that terror doesn't pay.

Hamas walked away slightly different. While the IDF defeated Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank, it also - at the same time - helped collapse the PA, which, combined with the unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, was one of the catalysts that contributed to Hamas's victory in parliamentary elections in 2006 and enabled its eventual takeover of Gaza a year later.

This led to another interesting phenomenon which further demonstrates the secular Fatah and religious Hamas divide.

IDF studies of Palestinian prisoners have shown that if you ask a Fatah terrorist why he killed an Israeli, the answer you will likely get is to "advance the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in my lifetime." If you ask the same question to a Hamas terrorist, the answer will likely be, "because this is what my religion dictates and this is how I ensure my place in heaven."

This is also the main difference today between the group's different leaders. Abbas talks about a resolution that can be achieved only though peace while Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas leader in Damascus, said recently in Iran that "peace talks are worthless and the path of the resistance is the only real option."

Mashaal, some here believe, is modeling himself after Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Before the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Nasrallah began talking as if he was a leader of the Arab world. This was apparent in his speeches encouraging resistance in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and, of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mashaal is beginning to do the same - as demonstrated by his speeches, as well as his trip to Iran - but is coming under criticism for it. On a trip to Saudi Arabia earlier this week, he was asked during a press conference about the significance of his earlier trip to Iran. Mashaal replied that Hamas is friends with Iran - its greatest financial supporter - but is ultimately part of the "Arab world," in other words Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The ideological difference between Mashaal and Abbas leads IDF intelligence analysts to predict that the reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas will fail, and that Palestinian elections will also not be held for at least another year.

IF THIS assessment is true, the question that needs to be asked is how can Israel talk about renewing peace talks with Abbas in the West Bank if there is no chance of him taking control of Gaza and implementing any peace deal there as well?

The answer is that there is currently zero likelihood of that happening, and, as a result, Israel is facing two options: Either continue to embrace the two-state solution, or begin to talk about the three-state solution - Israel, West Bank (Fatah) and Gaza (Hamas).

Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin, for example, is extremely skeptical of the possibility that Hamas will want to become part of a diplomatic resolution, and in recent closed-door meetings has gone as far as to say that the Hamas-Fatah divide will likely prevent an Israeli-Palestinian resolution for years to come.

Others in the defense establishment believe that even though Hamas will not be an active part of it, if a deal between Israel and Abbas is signed, it will create an umbrella under which Hamas will eventually be incorporated. This will not mean that Hamas will accept Israel's right to exist, but it will likely make the group more pragmatic.

Hamas's supposed pragmatic side is demonstrated by its repeated calls for an extended hudna - or cease-fire - if Israel were to withdraw to pre-1967 borders. This would not mean peace with Hamas, but rather a pragmatic deal that would allow the terror group to solidify its control and build up its military in Gaza.

The concern in Israel is that this so-called pragmatic side of Hamas will open the door for European countries to directly engage the group, a move that would severely undermine Abbas and Israeli efforts to renew peace talks with the PA.

Instead, for the time being, the likelier scenario for the defense establishment is a new conflict with Hamas. While Hamas has stopped its rocket attacks from Gaza and is even reining in other groups, the defense establishment is concerned with the possibility that it will try to launch a large-scale attack in the West Bank or even overseas, like Hizbullah.

OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant made that opinion clear this week when, in a meeting with local council heads from the South, he said: "While there hasn't been a quiet year like this in the past decade, the horizon is still not completely safe, and we are preparing for evil wherever it might be."

Some Israelis, though, appear to not want to wait for another round with Hamas. According to a poll taken by Ma'agar Mochot this week and commissioned by Independent Media Review and Analysis, headed by Dr. Aaron Lerner, 67 percent of Israelis support launching a military operation to destroy the tunnels Hamas uses along the Philadelphi corridor to smuggle weaponry and explosives into Gaza.

The same 67% believed that Israel also needed to declare a new policy under which it will no longer tolerate the digging of additional smuggling tunnels from Sinai into Gaza.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1262339425656&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

More Evidence That The Iraq Surge Did Not Work – Trouble Ahead?

John L. Work

I remember wondering during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, what are we going to accomplish there? I knew something about Sunni Muslim strongman Saddam Hussein’s brutality from reading a bit of the news and listening to talk radio. Combat operations in Afghanistan had wound down and the Taliban had been pretty well routed – or so we thought. George Bush had stopped worrying about Usama bin Laden. Then came the Iraq Invasion and the quick toppling of Hussein with very few American casualties. There soon followed a completely unanticipated horrific resurgence of sectarian Sunni v. Shiite violence that claimed most of the more than four-thousand American lives lost after the apparent easy victory. My nephew came home with a Purple Heart from his first of three U.S. Army tours of duty there, courtesy of an improvised explosive device (IED) blast that destroyed his “SAW” gun and blew shrapnel through his mouth.

A subsequent “surge” of thousands of brave, brilliantly trained American troops into Iraq temporarily suppressed the sectarian fighting, but the Iraqis just could not get their political act together.

The Iraq surge did not work, folks, not because our armed forces failed in their part of the mission, but because the Iraqis did not, could not, do politically what they were supposed to do. The rift between Sunni and Shiite goes back in Islamic history for about twelve centuries. The rift is eternal and it is irreparable. Historian and author Hugh Fitzgerald of wrote a marvelous essay on this surge failure, and author Diana West just completed a three part series here.

Tonight I found even more evidence that what we have sacrificed blood and treasure to build in Iraq is not what we were led to believe would result from those sacrifices – a functioning free democracy and an ally in the War on Terror:

From today’s Los Angeles Times’ reporter Liz Sly comes this:

“Reporting from Baghdad – In a development that bodes ill for the prospects of national reconciliation in Iraq, a prominent Sunni party has been barred from participating in March elections because of its leader’s alleged ties to the outlawed Baath Party that ruled the country under Saddam Hussein, officials said Thursday.

The decision could have significant ramifications for a general election that U.S. officials hope will stabilize Iraq enough for American troops to withdraw in large numbers and leave behind a peaceful country.

The Justice and Accountability Committee charged with checking that candidates don’t have ties to Baathists has named Saleh Mutlak, a prominent lawmaker, among those disqualified from the elections, according to the panel’s executive director, Ali Lami.

That means that Mutlak’s Iraqi Dialogue Front also will be barred, said Lami, who was detained by the U.S. military for a year on suspicion of ties to Iranian-backed militias.

Mutlak had been cleared for participation in the last election in December 2005, but Lami said that new information had come to light that showed Mutlak “is a Baathist and nominated himself as a Baathist.” He declined to provide further details.

Mutlak, who is regarded as a leading spokesman for disgruntled Sunnis and secularists who wish to participate in the political process, dismissed the allegation as “absolute rubbish.”

“How could I nominate myself as a Baathist when I know that it is illegal? I am wiser than that,” he said.

Mutlak acknowledged that he had sympathies for those who served under the former regime and feel they have been discriminated against since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

“Sympathy is different,” he said. “I sympathize with all the oppressed people in Iraq and the Baathists have been oppressed in a big way.”

Sunni politicians allied with Mutlak planned to meet today to discuss their response. Some of them did not rule out boycotting the election, which could plunge the country back into civil conflict, echoing the boycott by the Sunni minority during the first democratic election in January 2005…”

The Sunni-Shiite fissure existed in the World of Islam a thousand years ago, it was a reality when we invaded Iraq in 2003, it continues today, and it will exist long after our troops have pulled out and come home. It is forever. Moreover, as Fitzgerald has pointed out in many of his writings, we should exploit that schism and encourage it in every way imaginable to our best advantage.

Unfortunately neither the Bush administration then, nor the Obama administration now, has shown any indication that someone in the halls of power grasps what Islam is really about

The Strange New Friend of the Iranian Demonstrators

Hassan Daioleslam
As the Iranian uprising enters its seventh month and spurs the ruling regime's disintegration, the Iranian community in the U.S. is witnessing a peculiar sideshow. Some of the "Iran experts" who had relentlessly preached friendship and coexistence with the Iranian regime, in a bizarre overnight reinvention of themselves, are now riding the green wave and presenting themselves as the advocates of the regime's victims, the Iranian people. Chief among them is Tria Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). For the past twelve years, Trita Parsi has unremittingly lobbied the U.S. Congress to lift pressure off the Iranian regime. A short while ago, he advised the U.S. government to share the Middle East with the ruling mullahs. Now, supported by some influential circles in the U.S. and benefiting from his new PR agency, Parsi strives to present himself as a voice for the Iranian people and the green movement. Amazingly, just a few months ago, Parsi predicted the premature death of the Iranian uprising. In an article titled "The End of the Beginning," he wrote:

Iran's popular uprising, which began after the June 12 election, may be heading for a premature ending. In many ways, the Ahmadinejad government has succeeded in transforming what was a mass movement into dispersed pockets of unrest. Whatever is now left of this mass movement is now leaderless, unorganized -- and under the risk of being hijacked by groups outside Iran in pursuit of their own political agendas.


Parsi's new facade is primarily rooted in self-interested calculations. He is seriously discredited among Iranians, who know him as a lobbyist for the Iranian regime. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who has served informally as a Western-based spokesman for Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossen Moussavi, recently told the Washington Times: "I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic."

Parsi's sudden concern for the Iranian democratic movement is partly designed to cover up his twelve years' lobbying in favor of the Iranian regime. Furthermore, he is faced with an upcoming court appearance in Washington in which his lobbying will be thoroughly scrutinized. A year ago, in an effort to silence me and intimidate his critics, Parsi brought a defamation lawsuit against me. I was among many Iranians and Americans who believed that he lobbied in favor of the Iranian regime.

During the discovery process, some of Parsi's communications were released and proved to be highly compromising to him. According to Washington Times, "Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran's ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif -- and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act -- offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws."

The content of these documents was serious enough that Senator John Kyl officially wrote to the U.S. Attorney General and pressed for an inquiry into Parsi's lobby. The reaction in the Iranian community has been outrage toward Parsi's activities in favor of the Iranian regime.

Parsi and human rights violations in Iran

Parsi's newfound passion for human rights in Iran is in sharp contrast to his deplorable record. He started his political career in 1997, when he founded a lobby organization called "Iranians for International Cooperation," or IIC. In 2002, he founded his current lobby organization, NIAC. From 1997 to 2007, there was not a single statement by Parsi or his organizations condemning the human rights violations in Iran. In fact when human rights activists in 2000 protested the appearance of and a speech by the Iranian ambassador, Parsi lashed out at the protesters for not being civilized!

In an interesting document posted on their website, NIAC listed their entire statements about human rights violations in Iran. It is titled "NIAC Articles on Human Rights in Iran." Not a single statement before May 2007, when Parsi's lobby in favor of the Iranian regime was exposed and he was publicly denounced by the Iranian community. It is therefore logical to conclude that his 2007 sympathy for the human rights in Iran was designed to repair his disgraceful image.

Not only did NIAC and Parsi not condemn the regime's brutality, but they also tried hard to distance themselves from anti-regime actions. In one of NIAC's internal documents obtained through the discovery process, we read:

A second challenge was a misquote by Agence Franc Presse, which accredited NIAC for organizing anti-Tehran demonstrations on the Mall in Washington DC on July 9. On learning about this mistake, NIAC immediately contacted AFP and convinced them to make a correction. AFP retracted the story, but it took them three days to do so, by which the story had been picked up by other news media. Although NIAC's has channels to inform certain parts of the Iranian government on the inaccuracy of the AFP report, the misquote can be used by other elements of the government to create obstacles. Furthermore, the parts of the government that NIAC has access to are steadily losing their influence in Iran.

This cordiality between NIAC and the regime continued under Ahmadinejad. Private communications between Javad Zarif (Ahmadinejad's ambassador) and Parsi suggest policy coordination and a high level of trust between them. Parsi regularly sent Zarif his articles, and Zarfi admired and praised Parsi's viewpoints and writings.

How could someone be so trusted and admired by Ahmadinejad's ambassador and at the same time genuinely defend the human rights of Iranians or defend the interests of the Iranian-Americans?

Repairing political discredit

Parsi's new pretense as a defender of Iranian democratic movement likely is also motivated by cunning political calculations. He and his peers have for many years argued that the Iranian regime is stable and that the U.S. government should adapt to this reality. The U.S. should, according to Parsi, seek coexistence with the mullahs and accept their hegemony in the region. In fact, the "coexistence" theory was entirely based on the solidity of the Iranian regime.

Two years ago, in November 2007, Parsi wrote an advisory report for the U.S. administration and tried to debunk seven common myths or misconceptions about Iran. The first myth was about the regime's stability:

Myth: Iran is ripe for regime change.

Trita Parsi: Not true. Although the ruling clergy in Iran are very unpopular, they are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Then, in 2008, the same report was reedited slightly, cosigned by twenty other "Iran experts," and sent as a "Joint Statement" to the Obama administration. Once again, the "experts" rejected the idea that the regime could be frail and unstable.

The Iranian uprising has swept away these wrong and illusory ideas and has brought a significant blow to the credibility of these self-proclaimed "Iran experts." Therefore, Parsi's sudden "support" for the Iranian uprising is designed to repair this huge credibility deficiency. By getting back his credibility, Parsi and his organization would be able to influence Obama's policy toward Iran.

Currently, the main issue on the table is the upcoming sanctions against Iran. Parsi, NIAC, and similar groups continue their decade-long agenda to lift the pressure off the Iranian regime and minimize the scope and impact of future sanctions. Once again, Parsi tries to wrap his anti-sanction lobby in a human face and argues that the Iranian democratic movement will suffer under this new wave of sanctions.

Parsi's effort to humanize his lobby is part of a calculated strategy that he has meticulously applied for the past several years. In a secret document written in 2002 and sent to a Washington lobbyist, Parsi explained the need to give a human face to their lobby:

Although the mission of the proposed lobby should be to improve relations between the US and Iran and open up opportunities for trade, the initial targets should be less controversial issues such as visas and racial profiling/discrimination ...

Despite its predominantly business oriented constituency, it is essential that the lobby creates a "human face" for its aims and goals. AIPAC successfully painted the opponents of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act as "greedy businessmen who had no scruples when it came to doing business with terrorist regimes." The oil companies failed to characterize their campaign with "human concern for the well-being of innocent Iranians stuck with a dictatorial regime" or "support for the poor mid-Western family father who lost his job due the sanctions." The human element is essential both when it comes to attracting support among Iranian-Americans and when it comes to winning the debate and the votes on the Hill.

For more than a decade, Trita Parsi has worked hard to remove sanctions against the Iranian regime. He has professed continuously that the Iranian regime (regardless of who is in power) is stable, and hence warrants a friendly policy from the West. He developed close relations with Ahmadinejad's ambassador in the U.N. and reported to him the pulse of the U.S.'s political circles. He collaborated and coordinated with companies inside Iran who stand to benefit significantly from the lifting of sanctions. He lied about the number of NIAC members to garner false credibility in Washington towards advancing his cause. And now, he has reinvented himself as a pro-human rights activist who advocates "smart sanctions" against Iran. Should we believe that this sudden transformation is sincere, or is it a cunning but desperate attempt to gain lost credibility?

Page Printed from: at January 09, 2010 - 12:20:47 AM EST

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Obama Tragedy in the Terror War – by Jamie Glazov

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army officer, a controversial strategist and world traveler, and the author of 25 books, including the recent bestselling thriller, The War After Armageddon, and the forthcoming Endless War (March, 2010), which examines the history–and future–of conflict between Islam and the West. An opinion columnist for the New York Post and popular media commentator, he became Fox News Network’s first Strategic Analyst in 2009.FP: Ralph Peters, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Peters: Great to reconnect with you, Jamie.

FP: What are your thoughts regarding the recent botched terrorist attack on Christmas Day on Flight 253?

Peters: Well, I have to separate my thoughts and my feelings. First, the feelings: Outrage. Not so much at the bomber, who was just fulfilling his duty to commit jihad against Christians on their most important holiday (with any dead Jews as a bonus), but at the stunning lack of interest or concern on the part of our partying president and his paladins. Hey, why interrupt your holiday just because an Islamist terrorist (well, they don’t exist, right?) tried to kill 300 innocents and almost pulled it off? And, of course, we were all instantly reassured when Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (whose real interest seems to be harassing law-abiding citizens at airports, while preparing to push through citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants) told us that the system worked. I mean, God help us, you and I don’t live in the same universe as our “leaders.”

On the thoughts side: President Obama, sooner or later, has to take responsibility for something. His call for yet another review in the wake of the failed attack had the primary purpose of deflecting blame from the administration. Well, the military maxim applies: A leader is responsible for everything his subordinates do, or fail to do. All his adult life, Obama wanted to be president. Now it’s time for him to actually be a president. That means taking responsibility.

FP: How much confidence, exactly, do you have in this administration providing safety to Americans against our enemies?

Peters: Unfortunately, I have no faith–none–in the administration’s seriousness, when it comes to protecting Americans. A president who insists, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that every next terrorist is just an “isolated extremist” with no connection to Islam isn’t interested in solving the problem.

FP: How about our intelligence system in this case?

Peters: It failed. But, to be fair, many things that seem obvious in retrospect weren’t necessarily obvious in advance. Our intelligence system has two pertinent problems (among many others): It’s dealing with a literally unmanageable volume of data, and (according to my friends still inside the system), the post 9-11 “reforms,” such as creating a Director of National Intelligence and the National Counter Terrorism Center, simply created additional layers of bureaucracy. We’re fighting a lean, mean, fast, ruthless enemy. Our response? Bring more of yesterday’s senior officials out of retirement and hire more lawyers. Maybe we should just sue al Qaeda and see how splendidly our civilian-justice approach to terror works.

FP: Your view of Janet Napolitano? Why is she still heading Homeland Security?

Peters: I’d rather not view Janet Napolitano at all. This woman is so far out of her depth that it can’t be measured with Newtonian metrics. She was a politically correct appointment, period. On the positive side, word is that she’ll be gone in the next few months–Obama’s too vain to fire her right now, while the administration’s under fire over the Christmas terror attempt, but he realizes what a political liability she’s become.

There’s another, unfortunate, side to this. When representing our country, especially on security matters, appearance and physical presence matter. It would be great if that were not so, but facts are facts. Even if Napolitano were a security genius, she doesn’t project a forceful, capable image to our deadly enemies (or to our allies). Again, every one of Obama’s cabinet-level appointments has been about domestic politics, not about their effectiveness on the world stage.

Well, at least he can’t blame Bush for Napolitano.

FP: Your perspective on how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going? What strategies that are in effect are wrong? What strategies would be more effective?

Peters: Strategy? We still don’t have a strategy for Afghanistan-Pakistan. We just have a collection of disjointed techniques we’re desperately trying to apply, hoping something, anything, will work. A troop surge is a tool, not a strategy. And you can’t nation-build where there’s no nation to build. I’m disheartened. American soldiers and Marines are dying and being maimed for fairy-tale counterinsurgency strategies that insist that digging wells for illiterate Afghans will deter al Qaeda’s Arab fanatics from killing Americans. The only wise and effective thing we’re doing is applying UAVs (drones) and our special operations forces to the indispensable task of killing terrorists.

I’ve never been threatened by a dead terrorist. And when a terrorist believes he’s on a mission from his god to kill you, killing him is the only plausible response.

As I’ve written recently, what little analysis of the Afghan problem we do obsesses on our continuing failures. But the real question, which we refuse to ask, is “Why are the Taliban successful?” And, of course, we go on pretending that Islam has nothing to do with anything. Political correctness is killing our troops, defeating us, and facilitating terror around the world.

FP: Potential threats in 2010? Where have we taken our eye off the ball?

Peters: Good Lord, where do you start? The usual suspects will still be with us: Iran, al Qaeda, Chinese subversion of our economy (brought to you by WalMart, among others, thanks), piracy, Hugo Chavez’s apparent determination to precipitate a border war with Colombia, the Kirchner regime’s attempt to hobble democracy in Argentina, Islamist aggression in Nigeria (which is intensifying again), and, above all, Mexico–where the narco-insurgency constitutes the real number-one threat to the welfare of our citizen. It bewilders me that we’re obsessed with “saving” Afghanistan, a worthless piece of dirt in the middle of nowhere, when the crucial struggle is right on (and crossing) our southern border. Mexico is the most important country in the world to us–for better and worse–and we treat it as problem number 47.

Where have we taken our eye off the ball? Please, tell me where the Obama administration has an eye on any foreign-policy or security balls. This ultra-left administration isn’t concerned with security (except to the extent that it impacts on politics), but with a hard-left, destructive and divisive vision of “social justice.” Which means, of course, punish productive citizens to reward the Lumpenproletariat. We’re a greater threat to ourselves, in the long run, than al-Qaeda is to us.

FP: Ralph Peters thank you for joining us. It was an honor to speak with you.

I would like to announce to our readers that Mr. Peters will be speaking at the Freedom Center’s Wednesday Morning Club:Tuesday, January 12, 2009.
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11:30 a.m. Reception
12:00 p.m. Luncheon
1:30 p.m. Book Signing
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To make reservations, please contact Stephanie Knudson at (818) 849-3470 ext. 209 or email at

IDF’s Strongest Retaliation in Gaza Since Cast Lead

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

The IDF Thursday night bombed terrorist targets in Gaza, including near Gaza City, in the strongest retaliation against mortar and rocket attacks on Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead a year ago. At least two terrorists were killed, and three tunnels and a weapons factory were successfully targeted. Hamas officials said four other terrorists are missing. One of the tunnels was in central Gaza and was intended to be used for infiltration into the western Negev in order to execute a terrorist attack against Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers. The tunnel was dug approximately half a mile from the Gaza separation barrier.

Two other tunnels had been used for smuggling weapons under the city of Rafiah, which straddles the Egyptian border. Military intelligence officials have estimated that Hamas has rebuilt its terrorist infrastructure since the end of Cast Lead and that dozens or even of hundreds of tunnels have been built.

The IDF’s swift counter offensive was in response to a massive terrorist attack on the Western Negev, sending people back into the trauma they have suffered for more than nine years. Twenty-four hours before the latest barrage on Israel, Southern Command Major-General Yoav Galant said the Cast Lead offensive was so successful that “we did not experience such a quiet period in the last decade.”

However, he also warned Gaza Belt residents, “We must be wary that the horizon is not yet safe, and we are preparing for the worst if it so happens.”

More than 280 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead until Thursday, when Hamas and allied terrorists fired more than 10 mortar shells and a rocket at Gaza Belt areas. No one was wounded and no damage was reported.

The mortars were fired almost immediately after Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced the anti-Kassam Iron Dome system had successfully passed critical tests and would be operational before next year. Hamas issued a statement that it can overcome the system, which is designed to intercept short range missiles. It claimed that Iron Dome is designed for missiles that are more conventional than the Kassam rocket. One other problem with the system is its cost of $30,000-$40,000 for each unit, compared with the low cost of manufacturing thousands of homemade mortar shells and Kassams.

The terrorist attacks, which included an anti-tank missile, forced Israel to shut down the Kerem Shalom crossing, one of the points of entry for humanitarian goods into Gaza. The same location was the target of terrorists in June 2006, when they attacked an IDF checkpoint, killed two soldiers and kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Negotiations for his return once again have hit snags, while his physical and psychological condition remains unknown. Hamas has refused to honor the Geneva Convention that requires visits by Red Cross officials.

Defending Lebanon or Israel?

David Schenker

In December, the Lebanese Web site Qifa Nabki featured a satirical "news story" discussing U.S. arms transfers to Lebanon. According to the article, the U.S. gifted "cutting edge" military material to the Lebanese Armed Forces that included camouflage-print bandages and, more menacingly, the USS Tadpole, a decommissioned World War II vessel that "until recently had been used for target practice by U.S. Navy gunners in Norfolk." Humor aside, the article highlights a serious and increasingly prevalent critique of U.S. military assistance. Since the 2005 Cedar Revolution and the balloting that brought to power the only pro-West democratically elected government in the Arab world, Lebanon received nearly $500 million worth of military material from Washington. Yet many in Lebanon are concerned that U.S. weaponry enables the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to defend the state neither from Israel nor from local al-Qaida affiliates.

This line of thinking has some prominent and diverse proponents. In 2008, leader of the Shiite militia Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah complained that U.S. support for Israel prevented the transfer of sophisticated weapons to the LAF; in 2009, Minister of Defense Elias Murr implicitly criticized Washington for not providing fighter jets. "If we had aircraft," during the 2007 fighting against Islamist militants, "we would not have lost one martyr from the army," he said. This past December, from the White House podium, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked for increases in U.S. military assistance to finally enable the LAF to "defend Lebanon from enemy attacks and confront terrorism."

U.S. officials deny Lebanon is being given short shrift, but the perception articulated by Nasrallah and Sulieman is partly correct and stems from a fundamental Lebanese misreading of U.S. policy priorities: While U.S. taxpayer generosity, currently slated at over $100 million this year, will enhance LAF domestic counterterrorism capabilities, it is not meant -- and will never be meant -- to help Lebanon deter or defend against Israeli strikes.

For Washington, Hezbollah -- which controls south Lebanon -- not Israel's violations of Lebanese sovereignty, is the problem. Because Hezbollah receives virtually all of its armaments via Syria, Washington has also been far more concerned about the lack of security on the Lebanese-Syrian frontier than about the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Today, both Israel and Lebanon are violating U.N. Security Council Resolutions. Israel's ubiquitous over-flights violate Lebanese sovereignty, while the Government of Lebanon fails to take sufficient steps to prevent the movement of arms to Hezbollah. More problematically, the new, if deeply divided, pro-West/pro-Iran government seemed to repudiate the core element of UNSCRs 1559 and 1701 when it explicitly legitimized Hezbollah's weapons in its Ministerial Statement. Given these violations, Washington may see Israel's ability to surveil Lebanon as the best way to prevent another war.

U.S. military planners, then, reached a consensus back in 2005 with their Lebanese counterparts to prioritize a domestic counterterrorism mission for the LAF, i.e. fighting al-Qaida affiliates and Syrian-backed militants at home rather than confronting external threats. Even so, the arms transfers made available to the LAF for this more limited mission provide plenty of fodder for detractors of the U.S. assistance program.

Consider the close-combat air support "Armed Caravan," a particular target of Lebanese derision. This Cessna turbo prop plane is capable of deploying hellfire missiles and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets in urban environments. At a cost of $10 million each -- including ISR, missiles and contractor logistical support -- the plane is a bargain, especially considering the $30 million to $40 million price tag for a comparable F-16 package.

Given that the only other fixed wing aircraft in the Lebanese arsenal are four 1950s-era British Hawker Hunters -- flown by only one other country, Zimbabwe -- the easily maintained, cost-effective Cessna would seem a perfect fit for Lebanon. But no. Its low prestige value and, in particular, the comical images conjured up when imagining dogfights between this plane and Israeli fighter jets over Shebaa Farms, have made the Caravan a subject of ridicule in Lebanon and an example of the U.S.'s lack of seriousness. The fact that the overnight shipper Fedex is the leading company in the world using the airplanes, albeit without the Hellfires, hasn't helped.

The Caravan's lack of firepower and cachet has led some Lebanese to suggest that the LAF should get its weapons elsewhere. In December, just prior to President Suleiman's Washington visit, Adnan Hussein, a Hezbollah-sympathetic cabinet member close to Suleiman articulated what others were no doubt thinking: "If we don't get our weapons from the U.S.," he said, "we will get them from another country." There are signs this already has been happening. Earlier this year, Russia gifted 10 MiG-29 aircraft to Lebanon. Iran, too, has offered to provide the LAF with aircraft and missiles. In May 2009, Nasrallah touted unconditional Iranian military support as a campaign promise.

While Hezbollah gets its weapons primarily from Iran and Syria, however, the LAF is unlikely to do so any time soon. With an annual budget of less than $800 million -- 80% of which is devoted to salaries -- the LAF has very little discretionary funding for expensive weapons systems. Even if Lebanon channeled a significant portion of its scarce resources to its southern border, it would unlikely deter Israel. Consider that Syria, which devotes an estimated $6 billion per year to military expenditures, could not prevent Israel from destroying its nuclear facility in 2007 -- or from buzzing the presidential palace with its F-16s in 2006.

Although Hezbollah is trying to direct Beirut away from Washington and toward Iran, the Government of Lebanon, for the time being, appears stuck with the assistance provided by the U.S. and its Arab friends. Of course, the current arrangement could change. Washington began its robust military assistance program with Beirut in the aftermath of the Cedar Revolution. Recently, however, this independence movement, under pressure from Syria and Hezbollah, dropped its support for certain resolutions designed to strengthen state sovereignty throughout Lebanese territory.

Washington has never been under any illusions regarding the political will of Lebanese politicians to employ the LAF in controversial missions, like securing the border with Syria or disarming Hezbollah, or the LAF's ability to take on such missions. The aid program was not designed to accomplish these highly ambitious goals in the near term. Rather, it reflects an attempt to strengthen one of the few truly national institutions in a divided country, with the long-term objective of one day helping the democratically elected government to exercise its sovereignty throughout Lebanon.

If the Government of Lebanon demonstrates a commitment to move toward this goal, the kind of advanced systems that Washington's critics advocate for the LAF may someday be on the table. If progress lapses, however, even the hapless Caravan may be dropped from the American assistance program. In either case, Lebanese visions of U.S.-made F-16s flying over Tyre with the distinctive Lebanese Cedar Flag on the tail -- and not the Israeli star of David -- will remain a dream.

David Schenker is the Aufzien fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Obama and Israel: difficult days ahead

Isi Leibler
January 7, 2010

Don't be fooled by the soothing words recently expressed by our ambassador to the United States, or by the appearance of tranquility that seemingly prevails with respect to US-Israel relations. The settlement freeze may have averted an ugly confrontation with the Obama administration, but the underlying tensions remain and will inevitably resurface.
The positive by-product of the imbroglio is that the Obama administration probably now appreciates that its initial efforts to publicly humiliate and impose harsh demands on Israel while simultaneously cozying up to the Palestinians were counterproductive and effectively undermined prospects for meaningful negotiations. Indeed, far from undermining Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, its diktats encouraged Israelis to rally behind him. The administration must also have been dismayed at the arrogant response of the Palestinians and the Arab world to its entreaties to at least make some symbolic gesture acknowledging the 10-month settlement freeze imposed by the government.

The current hiatus, during which Israel has been placed on the back burner, is due to the fact that President Barack Obama has had his hands full with other crises. Wrangling over health-care reform, dilemmas over how to handle Afghanistan and critiques about his disastrous policy of engaging with tyrants have dramatically eroded his standing even with liberal supporters. This applies especially to the degrading Iranian responses to the administration's groveling efforts to appease them.

INDEED, OBAMA'S recent pronouncements indicate that he may have internalized some of these issues and actually taken a few steps back. His Nobel Prize acceptance speech endorsing the need to combat evil and the obligation to use force, as exemplified in the war against Nazism, was an effort to modify his emerging portrayal in the media as an impotent pacifist.

But regrettably, this does not appear to have improved the almost nonexistent chemistry between Obama and Netanyahu. Although Congress has affirmed its support for the Jewish state, the administration has in no way signaled any deviation from its initial determination to publicly downgrade the special relationship maintained by former administrations.

In fact, new pressures are looming. European hostility is exemplified by the new EU representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, who in her maiden speech bitterly criticized the "Israeli occupation," described the temporary freeze as merely "the first step," referred to east Jerusalem as occupied territory, called for a lifting of the blockade of Gaza and expressed renewed opposition to the security fence. Her speech contained no condemnations of Hamas or calls on the Palestinians to cease their incitement. The Europeans are clearly maneuvering to force Israel to return to 1967 borders and negotiate directly with Hamas.

Global pressure is now also mounting to implement the secret and unauthorized offers extended by former prime minister Ehud Olmert to the Palestinians in the dying days of his tenure, when he desperately sought to end his term with a dramatic breakthrough on the peace process. The deal, which PA President Mahmoud Abbas rejected, included ceding all territory gained in the Six Day War, with a few land swaps to retain the major settlement blocs. Olmert even offered to hand over control of the Temple Mount to an international body controlled by Arabs. The lame-duck prime minister initiated this without reference to his cabinet, the Knesset or any other group - and the Netanyahu government has from the outset been adamant that it considers itself in no way obligated to honor these extraordinary unauthorized initiatives.

CURRENTLY, ABBAS appears intent on doing nothing, relying on the international community to continue beating up Israel and extracting unilateral concessions. He even proclaimed that he would not resume negotiations until the international community affirmed that the Palestinian state would adhere to the 1967 borders. However, should he come to his senses and agree to renew discussions, he has repeatedly insisted that the opening benchmark of future negotiations must be based on the offers extended to him by Olmert, despite having previously rejected them. He also seems confident that in order to boost his standing against Hamas, the Americans would press Israel to make further concessions.

There is said to be an internal debate within the US administration whether or not to publicly announce a plan which would probably be similar to the European plan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already referred to an independent Palestinian state "based on 1967 lines and agreed swaps." That would certainly result in a major confrontation with the Israeli government.

These pressures are likely to impact us simultaneously with new initiatives by our enemies, who will undoubtedly exploit the Goldstone report to further demonize and delegitimize us. The UN and other foes of Israel will soon be launching major campaigns calling on the International Criminal Court to charge Israel with crimes against humanity as well as intensifying efforts to indict individual political and military leaders for war crimes.

WE SHOULD have no illusions. The situation is grave. Tough days lie ahead, and we are probably more isolated today than at any time since the birth of the state. Netanyahu has offered the Palestinians an independent demilitarized state and a settlement freeze - far more than Yitzhak Rabin was willing to concede. Yet he is rebuffed by the Palestinians and accused of being intransigent by the global community, while the Americans, at best, sit on the sidelines. In fact, Obama went so far as to relate to the neighborhood of Gilo in Jewish Jerusalem as an area of contention, complaining that construction in the area "embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous."

We must prepare ourselves.

We should support Netanyahu's efforts to broaden the government. A national unity government would send a powerful message to the Obama administration and the world at large that the government speaks on behalf of a united nation. The prime minister should also convene a global Jewish solidarity meeting to demonstrate that other than peripheral groups, the vast majority of Jews throughout the world continue supporting Israel.

More importantly, we must face the fact that despite Netanyahu's astute diplomacy, the government lacks any strategic long-term policy, and is simply dousing fires as they ignite. We need to urgently formulate a global legal strategy on how to confront the Goldstone report, which our enemies are exploiting to transform us into a pariah state.

In addition, recognizing that prospects of establishing a demilitarized Palestinian state in the near future are very remote, our first priority must be to chart a detailed policy expanding Netanyahu's plans for the economic development of the West Bank and making life more tolerable for Palestinians. This in the long run offers a hope of convincing them that only by rejecting violence and achieving a peace settlement will they and their children be able to lead productive and prosperous lives in their own state.

Volley of Mortar Attacks on Western Negev

Hana Levi Julian

Gaza terrorists fired a series of ten mortar shells at the western Negev on Thursday in an escalation of terrorist violence aimed at southern Israel. At least three of the shells exploded next to a kibbutz located in the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council area. However, the residents were not forewarned, because the Color Red incoming missile alert system failed to activate. Three other shells landed near the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza, through which humanitarian supplies are shipped almost daily into the region. Trucks waiting at the terminal to deliver supplies when the shells struck the area have been turned back, and the Defense Ministry has closed the crossing until further notice. In addition, one mortar shell exploded in the coastal region, according to local sources. No one was injured and no damage was reported in any of the attacks.

The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The group said it fired the barrage in retaliation for an IAF air strike several days ago that killed two of its operatives in the area of Khan Yunis, near the site of destroyed Jewish communities in Gush Katif. The IAF on Tuesday bombed a rocket launching cell that was preparing to launch a missile at southern Israel, following a Kassam rocket attack fired several hours earlier. Two other operatives were wounded in the strike.

IAF Dropped Flyers in Gaza Thursday Morning

According to PA sources, the Israel Air Force dropped two different types of flyers in Gaza Thursday morning, warning local residents not to approach the security barrier and not to enter the smuggling tunnels.

One of the flyers featured a map which showed residents exactly where not to go, and a specific warning that anyone who came within 300 meters of the security barrier would do so at his own peril.

A second flyer called on Gaza residents to report smugglers and provide information on the tunnels being dug in the area, saying the smugglers are endangering the community. An email address and phone was provided for the purpose.

The Home Front Command tested the air raid alert system in the north of the country on Thursday morning, with sirens sounding in several dozen towns in the central and northern Galilee. In addition, Israel Military Industries announced it would conduct tests Thursday in the Ramat Beka area, near Be’er Sheva. Explosions are to be expected in the area throughout the afternoon, ending at approximately 4:00 p.m.

Israel successfully tests anti-rocket system

JERUSALEM — Israel has completed tests on its Iron Dome anti-missile system, designed to provide a response to the thousands of rockets fired at Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah, the defence ministry said.

The system, which can intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells, underwent its final tests in the past 48 hours, a statement said.

"For the first time, Iron Dome faced multiple threats simultaneously. All the threats were intercepted with complete success," the statement said.
The next phase in the development of the system was to integrate it into the army, the statement said.

Israel hopes the system will provide it with a means to dealing with rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and from Lebanon.

Palestinian militants have fired thousands of home-made rockets into southern Israel, prompting Israel's devastating assault on the Islamist Hamas in Gaza on December 27, 2008.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah also fired some 4,000 rockets into northern Israel during a 2006 war with Israel, which now believes Hezbollah has an arsenal of some 40,000 rockets.

"Making Iron Dome operational will transform Israel's political and security situation on the northern and southern fronts," said Pinhas Buchris, the ministry's director general.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

To see Jimmy Carter's true allegiances, just follow the money Read more:

Lloyd Greif

In embracing Hamas last week in direct defiance of the wishes of Congress and the President, ex-President Jimmy Carter raised the question of why he was granting precious prestige and credibility to an organization the U.S. government has designated a "foreign terrorist organization" since 1995.

Read more:
f he was hoping to rekindle a flagging peace process, Carter's trip was doomed to failure; Hamas remains committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. So does this trip merely reflect a tremendous lack of judgment on Carter's part?

Perhaps the answer is more complicated. You see, the Carter Center, the ex-President's not-for-profit research and activist organization, has prospered over the years as a direct result of Arab largesse. Many of these "charitable" interests support Islamic fundamentalism and are vehemently anti-Israel.

The full extent of these connections is unknown because the amount and source of the Carter Center's funding is not public. But from various news reports and press releases, one can begin to sketch a very troubling picture.

For example, Saudi Arabia, the source of 15 of the 19 plane hijackers on 9/11 and whose royal family has funded terrorism outside the kingdom, has channeled tens of millions of dollars into the Carter Center over the years. In 1993 alone, the late King Fahd gifted $7.6 million, while more recently, the king's nephew, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, donated at least $5 million to the Carter Center. The Carter Center has a $36 million annual budget; these amounts are hardly insignificant to its ongoing operations.

Another million-dollar-plus backer is Sultan Qaboos sin Said, monarch of Oman. Considerable financial support comes from the United Arab Emirates as well.

There's more. In 2001, Carter received the $500,000 Zayed International Prize for the Environment and, the following year, praised the efforts of the Abu Dhabi-based Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow Up.

The Zayed Center has repeatedly hosted anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers, supported terrorism and asserted that there is an international conspiracy of Jews and Zionists for world domination, and that a Jewish-American conspiracy perpetrated the atrocities of 9/11.

It would seem that all of this money is not without its influence. Contrast Carter's relentless criticism of Israel, the most modern and democratic country in the Middle East, to his appreciation of such authoritarian countries as the UAE, which he described as an "almost completely open and free society."

Whether the United States can or should interrupt this stream of funding to Carter's operations, it at the very least should not supplement it.

Yet - believe it or not - the United States government itself has been providing millions of dollars to the Carter Center over the years. Representative Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) estimates that the center received $19 million in federal funding since 2001 alone, and has called for passage of a bill that would immediately cut off all federal financing for the center.

Carter is free to travel around the world, stir up trouble, and cheer on terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. But U.S. taxpayers should not help him do this. And Carter should finally come clean and disclose the amounts and sources of all foreign funding for his center.

Just as the American public has a right to know whether a scientist researching the root causes of global warming is being funded by major oil companies, we should know who is supporting Carter's lobbying efforts to bring "peace" to the Middle East.

It is indeed a sad day in American history when a former President lowers himself to becoming a propaganda tool for terrorists bent on harming our country and the democratic principles by which we live - and we cannot even discover who is paying his bills.

Greif is president & CEO of Greif & Co., an investment bank, and a director of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

Read more:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

PR Man Diagnoses OCID: Obsessive Compulsive Israel Disorder

Tzvi ben Gedalyahu and Rachel Sylvetsky
A7 News

The United Nations and media suffer from “Obsessive Compulsive Israel Disorder (OCID),” says the British-born designer of the, website which illustrates the anti-Israel agenda.
"Stop defending Israel and start showing the truth proactively", he tells Israel supporters. Knesset Member Yuli Edelstein published statistics Wednesday that show that 91 percent of Israelis feel that Israel has an extremely negative world image and is seen as an aggressive and unfriendly country.

Jonathan Bash now lives in Israel and was also co-founder of a media watchdog website. He says his aim is “to make the Middle East a free place” for everyone, including Christians whose rights have been eroded under the Palestinian Authority

The “" website shows two chilling videos, brought below, one on the worldwide problem of refugees and the other on the international agenda to destroy Israel.

He feels that the fixation of the eyes of the world can be broken by repeated showing of what is happening to recent refugees in Darfur and other places. The Arab world and the United Nations have instead focused on the poor living conditions of Arabs left to languish in “refugee camps” for decades instead of being absorbed into their host country’s population, as is done with other refugees.
“Terrible things are going on in the world,” Bash told Israel National News, discussing his video on refugees. “It is a disaster and the world is not doing anything about it. The issue is not what’s going on in Israel. Over the last few years 300,000 people have been killed in Sudan,” he said and added that Google searches for Darfur are a mere four percent of those for Israel.

The second video presentation is called “The Phased Plan: The 3 step plan to destroy Israel”. It quotes a U.N.-hosted website of the Palestinian Authority observer at the United Nations as advocating an “armed struggle” and a “combatant national authority.” Bash’s notes these terms are “diametrically opposed to the U.N. charter. The charter’s opening paragraph mentions the word ‘peace’ five times”.

The video quotes former PA chairman Yasser Arafat’s 1996 statement,” Within five years, we plan to destroy Israel.” The film then shows the PA’s plan: “Acquire territory, use territory to launch terror, and destroy Israel.”

"Soaring Insanity"

Arlene Kushner

It's difficult to get a handle on what's going on, with regard to our relationships with the PA and with Obama's administration. So much is bewildering: enormous stupidity if not outright insanity.

Last I wrote, I discussed what is likely a Netanyahu "theatrical game," in which he lets certain assumptions be made, by way of innuendo or vagueness, without actually committing to anything. The specific issue at hand was whether he had agreed to accept "'67 lines with adjustments" as the starting point for negotiations. Yesterday, according to a source in a closed door meeting (with the leak most surely sanctioned), Netanyahu overtly denied that he had either agreed to this formulation, or shown flexibility on issues of Jerusalem and refugees.

According to the report, he insisted, "It's simply not true." This was the Palestinian notion of what should take place, he said, but "That is not going to happen."


Yet on Monday other news also broke.

According to Egyptian sources, Obama is going to be putting forth a plan that calls for completion of negotiations and a Palestinian state within two years. In accordance with this, the two sides would exchange mutual letters offering guarantees. When negotiations began, they would focus on establishing borders -- with this to be completed in nine months, i.e., by the end of the current building freeze. (That way there'd be no fighting about building, as we'd be able to build only in the areas that we would know are going to remain in Israeli hands.) Negotiations would then move to issues such as refugees and Jerusalem.

I hasten to point out that this didn't come from the White House or State Department sources. There is a tendency for involved parties to attribute positions or statements to others that comport with what they hope to see. It's a form of manipulation. IS this Obama's plan? Is this something the US is floating indirectly to gauge reactions? Minister Moshe Ya'alon has stated that what Egypt is attributing to the US is "not even close to being accurate." Do he and others in the government know what Obama intends to propose?

However, if one definition of insanity is being out of touch with reality, then this plan, whomever it belongs to, is certainly insane.

To be truly and solidly sane would be to recognize that it's impossible for borders to be established for a Palestinian state (and in the next nine months, yet). For even what we might (G-d forbid) offer in the way of a horrendously generous deal would be less than what Abbas would (or, in line with his political constraints, could) accept. It's simply not going to happen.


There are other objections to this plan as well, and our government has now made clear what they are. Israel's position is one of "all or nothing." There's no deal until there's a full deal.

As one senior Israeli official pointed out, the above formulation would mean we relinquished land, and the communities on this land, without getting anything in return up front. We would have no picture of the sort of state that would be established on the other side of the line we would have agreed to, no parameters regarding demilitarization or anything else.

People in our governments sometimes do foolish things. But no one in our government -- from right to left -- is on board for this.


Additionally, it has been reported that Foreign Minister Lieberman told Quartet Envoy Tony Blair yesterday that:

"It is important to hold an honest, open dialogue with the Palestinians without sowing delusions that are disconnected with reality and that will only lead to violence and frustration. It is not possible to reach a full agreement within two years.

"This is not a realistic goal. We need to begin direct talks without committing to any time frame. In the past, timetables were set and not met and this led to violence."

Not for a second do I think that this statement was made without a nod from the prime minister's office.


Meanwhile, Abbas has met with Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh, and his statements simply confirm my impression that he's not coming to the table.

He says he has no pre-conditions. No, no. It's just that: "We have said and are still saying that at the time when settlement construction is stopped and the international legitimacy is recognized [presumably with regard to the '67 lines as borders], we will be ready to resume the negotiations."


Egyptian delegations will now be headed to Washington and London to discuss advancing the "peace process."

Media reports persist in saying that the Egyptians are carrying "new ideas" that had been proposed in Cairo by Netanyahu. An anonymous Palestinian official cited in the Post said these ideas touch upon all core issues. But unless there is something concrete revealed I give this no credence. Perhaps Netanyahu has made suggestions that we are not privy to. Perhaps he has "suggested" certain things via innuendo. But it's just as likely that this is one more instance of a rumor without basis in fact floated for ulterior purposes.

The Egyptians, when they serve in a mediating role, are not disinterested third parties. They have their own vested interests, and we must not forget this.

What is more, they become inappropriately invested in the negotiating process itself. When the negotiations about Shalit stalled recently, the Egyptians were angry with us. They had worked so hard, they had brought the sides so close. But because we were stubborn and wouldn't release Barghouti, or insisted that certain terrorist be deported, we were chastised by them for "ruining" their efforts. If only we would be more forthcoming, then their good work would not be in vain. Never mind our right to protect our interests.


Defense Minister Ehud Barak got on the phone today, with our "good friend" Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, and asked him to help get talks with the PA going. Precisely what is this urgency about? Couple this with Netanyahu's statement that "there is a change in the atmosphere [and] the time is ripe for kick-starting the peace process." I must be missing something with regard to that changed atmosphere.

This "feels" crazy, and perhaps it is.


Except... is possible that the push by our government to get negotiations going might be an attempt to expose the duplicity of the Palestinians, who are not truly committed to peace, while we are. I remain too cynical about the world to be confident that this would work. For it would require the international community to view the Palestinian Arabs objectively, rather than perpetually cutting them slack.

But it seems our government is trying. And it would sure give a different slant to some of what Netanyahu is doing.

Consider this. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign yesterday put up on the homepage of its website "Behind the Headlines: The Palestinian Refusal to Negotiate," which says:
"The consistent rejection by Palestinians of Israeli peace initiatives and its current refusal to negotiate leaves Israel questioning whether its neighbors are in fact committed to peace." Making a very solid case, it then details all the times Israel has advanced peace initiatives, and all the times the PA has rejected them.

How I would love to think that this is part of a plan that would lead, finally, to our saying, "enough": We're finished with concessions; if the Palestinian Arabs genuinely want peace, they can let us know. As Lieberman actually said something similar the other day, it is perhaps not too far-fetched a hope.


There has been news that Obama is getting fed up with the Iranians and will be pushing sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard; apparently there are consultations already going on with other nations in this regard. That's a much-welcomed announcement -- although it remains to be seen how serious these sanctions will be.

However...Hillary Clinton, in making the announcement about sanctions, also said, "We've avoided using the term 'deadline' ourselves. That's not a term we have used because we want to keep the door to dialogue open."

Is it that they cannot admit that "dialogue with Iran" was a futile notion? After the way that Iran has spit on Obama's outstretched hand, and the hard evidence that the Iranians are grossly deceptive, why would the president imagine that anything positive could be achieved via this "open-door" policy? It simply makes the US look very foolish.

One more failure to embrace reality.


This post is dedicated to the memory of my cat Amber, a dear companion for eight years, whom I lost prematurely yesterday to disease. Love takes many forms in this hard world.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hareidi Participation in Army On the Rise

Hillel Fendel

The number of hareidi-religious men in the army is on the rise: Over 1,000 in the IDF, and nearly another 1,100 in National Service.

So reports the “Freedom of Religion and Conscience” organization in its latest report. The group’s Deputy Director, Haaretz reporter Shachar Ilan, submitted the report to MK Yochanan Plesner (Kadima); Plesner chairs the Knesset supervisory committee on the implementation of the Tal Law that outlines the framework for the enlistment of hareidi men. Ilan says that the number of hareidi men in the army or National Service just two years ago was only 300 to 400, so that the upward trend is significant.

The numbers for 2009 show that of the 1,070 hareidim who did army service, 700 enlisted in non–combat units, another 300 signed up for the combat unit known as Nachal Hareidi, and 50 became teacher-soldiers.

Ilan emphasizes, however, that the 2,100 represents a fraction of the 55,000 young hareidi-religious men aged 18 to 41, who receive a military exemption because they are full time yeshiva students.He told Israel National News that in his opinion the 96% who do not serve are “organized draft evaders.”

“What about the large numbers of secular young men who lie to evade the draft?” Shachar was asked. He admitted that “the number of Israelis who receive exemptions for psychiatric problems is increasing tremendously – up from 2.5 percent of those who do not serve to five percent,” but said that the hareidi public represents an entire sector “that prefers to let other Israelis die for them.” He did not discuss entertainers and other groups that receive exemptions.

When reminded that most soldiers in the IDF are not combat soldiers, and that the proportion of combat-worthy hareidim would be similar, Ilan dismissed that as “pilpul [talmudic dialectics-ed.”

Some 5,500 hareidi young men received draft exemptions this year, and this number is expected to grow to 13,000 within 10 years.

Ilan protested against categorizing his organization as leftist or anti-religious, although he made a point of noting that “80 percent of [the hareidi who perform National Service do so in hareidi welfare organizations, turning their service into a form of government-paid support for these associations".

The Director of Freedom of Religion and Conscience, Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, said he was pleased with the increase in hareidi service: “This proves that yeshiva students can certainly do army service just like everyone else… The main lesson to be learned is that the allocations to yeshivot must be reduced, and should be replaced by professional training and job creation for hareidim.”

"They ARE the Reformation"

Mark Durie

On December 1, 2009, Wafa Sultan and Daniel Pipes debated whether and to what extent a 'moderate' Islam is possible. Although both are opponents of Islamic radicalism, on this question they did not agree. Wafa Sultan argued that Islam is Islam, pure and simple, and there can never be such a thing as 'moderate Islam'. On the other hand, Daniel Pipes argued that the answer to radical Islam must be moderate Islam: Islam can be moderated, and the effort to support Muslim moderates is both necessary and worthwhile.

The two participants in the debate are as contrasting a pair as one could imagine. The ex-Muslim Wafa Sultan is undoubtedly a powerful voice in her native Arabic, and even in English she is impassioned and speaks with a memorable turn of phrase. In contrast, Daniel Pipes is measured and softly spoken, carefully and persistently making his case. He challenged her to explain what practical solutions she could offer to the challenge of radical Islam. She challenged him to show the results produced by his promotion of moderate Islam.

I commend the debate to readers, not because one party won the day, but because the speakers were addressing important questions, which will exercise many minds for years - perhaps generations - to come.

My concern here however is to focus on an important comparison between medieval Christianity and present-day Islam, which was raised by someone in the audience, who asked:

"I will suggest that this [radical Islam] is not that different from Christianity at the time of the crusades, which was a very belligerent religion compared to what it is today. So look at that in terms of the evolution of a religious doctrine, and how long does that take?"

The questioner went on to speculate whether the acceleration of change, which we see in the world around us, could allow a reformation of Islam to happen more rapidly than happened with Christianity.

On countless occasions over the years I have heard this comparison: Christianity has undergone its reformation, so why not Islam? The European reformation took centuries: why wouldn't an Islamic reformation also take time? Isn't it all a matter of time.

This line of thinking arises from a world view which looks at ideologies through the lens of 'progress' or 'evolution', shaped by a kind of Darwinism. The underlying presupposition is that human societies evolve as time passes, progressing and becoming more humane and more advanced.

Clearly not everyone in the West works from this assumption, but many do. As recently as the 1960's, it was even fashionable among Western secularists to believe that religion had had its day altogether. Many announced that God was, at last, 'dead'. The death of God was widely regarded as one of the positive benefits of progress.

The idea of progress is not simply a concept - it has become part of the warp and woof of our everyday language. We speak of ideas, policies and practices as 'backward' or 'regressive', 'progressive' or 'advanced'. Time has become a yardstick to measure the ever-improving character of human social order. It is the embedding of the idea of progress into our everyday language which gives credibility to the question "Can Islam not undergo its own reformation too?"

But do societies really tend to evolve, becoming more and more advanced? Do social institutions inevitably improve with time? Is progress more than just an idea - is it a law which governs the history of religions?

I find it very difficult, looking back over the ethical wreckage of the 20th century, to subscribe to the presupposition of progress. The worst atrocities of the past 100 years were perpetrated by regimes which help up an ideal of social evolution, and which were motivated by a vision of human progress. One recalls, for example of the careers of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot. Such shameful monuments to 'progress' as National Socialism and Communism do not inspire confidence that human societies and ideologies can and must improve with time.

There is another problem with comparing today's Islam with pre-Reformation Christianity, and this has to do with the meaning of 'reformation' itself. It has become accepted by many thinking people today that 'reformation' means some kind of softening, a 'moderating' process. Indeed a manifestation of 'progress'. This far from the truth.

Throughout the whole medieval period the idea of reformation (reformatio) was prestigious, and many reform movements chased after this ideal Reformation meant going back to one's roots, and just about everyone agreed that this was a Good Thing. For medieval Christians, a reformed Christianity meant being more Christ-like, more apostolic, and more Pauline. Wealthy St Francis read Jesus' words about giving away one's possessions to feed the poor, so he followed this teaching, and many flocked to join him. Thus the Franciscans were founded as a reform movement.

St Francis was a radical reformer. He was not inspired by a vision of making Christianity more moderate and progressive. What moved him was a desire to follow the Jesus of Gospels.

Likewise Luther recalled the words of St Paul about freedom in the letter to the Galatians - 'for freedom Christ has set us free' - to exort the German Nobles to claim their own freedom from ecclesiastical authority.

The European Reformation - so often invoked in comparisons with Islam today - was driven by a desire to re-form Christianity a second time, taking it back to its roots. It sought to move ahead by going backwards. Its inner logic had nothing to do with the modern idea of progress or the Darwinian concept of 'evolution'. The Reformation was not a 'progressive' movement in the modern sense, but one which sought to 'regress', renewing the example of Christ and his apostles.

This is why Luther and other reformers encouraged believers to read their Bibles for themselves, in their own native tongue. Luther regarded it as the duty of every Christian to be constantly renewing their own faith from the original sources. LIke St Francis, Luther was a Christian radical.

It is true that some changes brought in by the European Reformation had a moderating effect on Western intellectual life. There developed a greater emphasis on freedom and individual responsibility, for example. The Protestant work ethic was one bi-product of this emphasis. Yet these developments did not take place out of a desire to develop a more moderate form of Christianity, but because they they were regarded as conforming more to the Bible.

Therefore, according to the core meaning of 'reformation' - a return to one's roots - reforming Islam would mean making it more Muhammadan. An Islamic reformation would produce a religion which is closer to the Koran, and above all, closer to the example and teaching of its founder.

The hankering of some Westerners after an Islamic reformation begs the question of what would it mean to be follow Muhammad's example more closely?

As it happens, such a movement has been underway for more than 100 years, and is in full swing today. It is what we know today as Islamic radicalism. The ideal of an Islamic reformation has produced, among many other results, the global jihad movement, the push for sharia revival and reimplementation of the Caliphate. This is what a desire to revive the example and teaching of Muhammad has led to.

There are two two main reasons why renewing the example of Muhammad leads to Islamic radicalism.

One is that Muhammad combined within himself the offices of king, judge, general and religious leader, thus unifying politics, law, the military and religion. To follow his example means creating a theocratic political order, where the laws of the land are controlled by Islamic theology. In contrast Christian tradition has always distinguished the secular from the ecclesiastical, based on the older Hebrew religious distinction between priests and kings. This feature of medieval Christianity - the distinction between religion and politics - was severely criticised by famous Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun. Muslim thinkers had always regarded it as one of the key weaknesses of Christianity.

The second reason why renewing Islam leads to radicalism is that many of the harsher elements of Islamic law - such death for apostates, stoning adulterers, cutting off the hands of thieves, enslaving one's enemies, and killing non-believers – are firmly grounded in Muhammad's example.

Australian Muslim Waleed Aly was entirely correct when he said Islam has already had its Reformation, and the outcome has been Islamic radicalism:

"Still, Western calls for an Islamic Reformation grow predictably and irrepressibly stronger, while those familiar with the Islamic tradition easily observe that radical and terrorist groups such as al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, cannot be cured by Reformation for the very simple fact that they are the Reformation." [People like us: how arrogance is dividing Islam and the West, p.xv].

For those today whose world view is shaped by the ideal of progress, and look out upon Islam peering through the frame of Western assumptions about 'backwardness', 'progress' and 'evolution', Waleed Aly's insight can be difficult to grasp. Yet it is essential that it be understood and appreciated.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Three Arab employees of Israeli institutions

A teacher instructs his Israeli Arab students
that the Israeli curriculum should "not be considered information"

A researcher of the Tower of David Museum of Jerusalem's History calls
the museum's information "lies"

A guide at the museum prefers to convey "the Arab point of view"
rather than the museum's "deceptions" to Arabic-speaking visitors

Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik Interviews with three Arab employees of official Israeli institutions in Jerusalem, a teacher, a researcher and a guide, were recently broadcast on Palestinian TV. The interviewees revealed that in the course of their work they do not convey to students and visitors the historical information which they are meant to impart - contrary to the guidelines of their Israeli employers, and without their knowledge.

Mustafa Othman, a teacher from the Beit Safafa neighborhood in the western part of Jerusalem, revealed on Palestinian television that he teaches Israeli Arab children that the Israeli state curriculum is "only for the test; you shouldn't consider it as information". The truth, he teaches Israeli Arab youth, is "that [Israel] conquered our land by armed force, robbed it, destroyed the houses, expelled its people from the cities and from the villages."

In another broadcast, two employees of the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, a history scholar and an Arabic-language tour guide, were interviewed. Both defined the Israeli historical narrative regarding the Jewish connection with Jerusalem, which they are meant to convey to tourists, as "false," and testified that they teach different information instead. According to one, the museum invents stories for the purpose of "creating a historical right and a historical dimension, claiming that they [the Jews] were here 3,000 years ago and that they had buildings here, and that they had a presence here." The tourist guide in the museum said that the information signs on the walls of the museum are incorrect, while the history scholar reiterated the central Palestinian historical distortion denying the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem, referring to it as the "alleged Temple".

The following is from the interview with the Arab teacher, Mustafa Othman, describing what he teaches Israeli Arab youth in Israeli schools:

"In the [preferred] Jordanian or Palestinian curriculum, if I may say, the material is studied on the basis of them [Israel] having conquered our land militarily, robbed it, destroyed the houses, expelled its people from the cities and from the villages. When I taught the Israeli curriculum I would tell the [Israeli Arab] students that it was only for the test, 'you shouldn't consider it as information.'"

[Al-Filistiniya (Fatah) TV, Sept. 10, 2009]

The following is a transcript of the television interview with the two employees of the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem:

Abir Zayyad, history scholar, employed by the Tower of David Museum
Rubin Abu Shamsiya, Arabic-language tour guide at the museum

PA TV Host, Houloud Al-Afifi: "[Speaking about the site known as David's Citadel] So we've spoken about its importance, its location, and its connection to the Christian religion, and that it's an Islamic structure, but what, inside this Citadel... is [related to] the alleged Israeli history, which the Israelis claim? What exactly is inside the Citadel?"

History scholar Abir Zayyad: "... In the hall pertaining to the Bronze Age, which they [the museum] call the [period of the] "First Temple" - and this appellation is not correct - in that period they focus on the issue of Palestine - that the Jews, comprising 12 tribes, entered it, and how Palestine was divided in this period between the 12 tribes, and the process of the conquest of the city of Jerusalem by David, and the construction of the alleged First Temple by Solomon."

[Zayyad goes on to say that the archaeological findings indicate that David and Solomon did not live in Jerusalem or in "Palestine", and that there are no structures in Jerusalem that can be attributed to them.]

Host: "What are they [the Israelis] proving by means of their version? And what is inside the Citadel? What are they trying to create in order to prove this matter and to sell it to the world?"

History scholar Zayyad: "It's the creation of a historical right and a historical dimension, claiming they were here 3,000 years ago, and that they had buildings here, and that they had a presence here, and that all of Palestine was under their rule, as though they created the city of Jerusalem and created all of Palestine."

Host (addressing tour guide Rubin Abu Shamsiya): "Mr. Rubin, when you accompany groups of tourists, how do you treat [the subject] - especially when you see the [museum's] history full of lies, the artificial and alleged history - how do you relate to these groups of [Arabic speaking] tourists in presenting the history that is found there?"

Tour guide Abu Shamsiya: "From my tour-guiding experience in the Tower of David Museum, I see many historical deceptions, which are displayed on the [museum] walls... Obviously, if I try to treat it in a more neutral way, from a historical point of view, I try to show the neutral historical point of view by means of information which I have drawn from a number of [other] historical institutions. I do not rely exclusively on that which is written on the museum's walls and texts. It is more important to me to convey the Arab point of view, but by means of greater historical neutrality."

History scholar Zayyad: "There is a documentary film at the Citadel which they present on the history of Jerusalem. This film is full of historical lies and historical deceptions and their dissemination."

[PA TV (Fatah), Nov. 13, 2009]

Fayyad envisions 'state free of settlements'

As Palestinian president travels to Egypt in hopes of restarting peace talks, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tells conference future Palestinian state will be 'free of fences', says 'it's time for transition period to end'

Ali Waked

As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas embarks on his round of talks in Egypt in hopes of finding a basis for the renewal of peace negotiations with Israel, his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Sunday that the future Palestinian state will be "free of fences and of settlements." In a conference held near Ramallah, Fayyad urged the international community to intervene in order to "force Israel to stop ignoring international law and the Palestinians' rights."

He stressed that "we will not agree to the agreements of the past anymore, it is time for the transition period to come to an end."

Egypt has also spoken out against the possibility of a "transition period". Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is slated to meet with Abbas on Monday, said in a November meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres: "Egypt objects to the establishment of a Palestinian state in temporary borders. A just, permanent settlement must be reached and it must be executed in a clear and agreed upon timeframe."

In the meantime, Abbas is meeting with Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Sharm el-Sheik. The Palestinian president is slated to discuss with Suleiman the efforts Cairo is investing in the renewal of the peace process.

He is also expected to discuss with Mubarak the American-Egyptian efforts to resume negotiations based on understandings that a Palestinian state will be established in the 1967 borders.

Recent weeks have seen several reports of the impending renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. On Friday, Reuters reported that, according to Israeli sources, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed in his meeting with Mubarak last week to hold a summit with Abbas in hopes of renewing negotiations.

Earlier, Palestinian sources said, in light of the Mubarak-Netanyahu meeting, that "dramatic developments" could be expected in the coming weeks.

Ynet has learned that the Palestinians will be working to garner Arab support in the coming weeks of a formula for the renewal of negotiations with Israel.

According to estimates, the Palestinians, together with Arab states that support the peace process, will seek support for the renewal of talks, as well as for understandings to be reached in the Arab summit to take place in Cairo in March.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Towns on Strike Against Construction Freeze

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

The struggle against the government-imposed ten-month construction freeze becomes more aggressive this week, as municipalities and regional councils in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) go on strike. Various municipal offices in different localities will take turns striking this week, and their employees will spend the time protesting outside the national government offices in Jerusalem.

Some 200 people took part in a large demonstration there this morning (Sunday) to kick off the protest campaign. Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron Regional Council, said, “All the municipal employees have gathered here outside the Prime Minister’s Office to protest this racist order that forbids only Jews to build in their land. This is an order that contrasts with all elementary civil rights.”

Today Us, Tomorrow You

Tzviki Bar-Chai, head of the Mt. Hevron Regional Council, said, “We are the elected representatives of over 300,000 residents. The State of Israel, without legislation and without even a government decision, has caused great harm to those hundreds of thousands of people by revoking their authorities regarding building. We refuse to let this pass.”

Bar-Chai added a call to mayors of other towns and cities around the country to join the struggle: “Today it is us, tomorrow it could be you.”

'Netanyahu Has Adopted Left-Wing Approach'

The Mayor of Kedumim, Chananel Durani, said on Saturday night, “The construction freeze order is unethical and anti-Zionist, and is liable to undermine and destroy the entire Jewish settlement enterprise. Netanyahu has essentially adopted the left-wing position that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria is an obstacle to peace, and has taken a step towards the establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of the State of Israel.”

“We cannot continue to run our towns and live our lives normally when the sword of destruction is poised at our communities," Durani continued. "We call upon the nationalist public to join the struggle against the freeze until its total revocation.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) called upon the Cabinet ministers to oppose the freeze: “They must tell Netanyahu what they really think – that the freeze is a mistake and it must be revoked immediately.”

Barak, Too

“We must also outspokenly oppose the aggressive policies of the Defense Minister [Ehud Bara," said Durani, "who is using the army and the security forces in an illicit manner against law-abiding citizens.”

MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) spoke at the demonstration and said, “It is absurd that the voting public that brought a Jewish and religious government into power must now stand and protest against the breaking of a clear election promise. Ehud Barak and his Labor Party must not dictate government policy.”

Orlev and Durani thus touched on a sensitive point: The extent of Barak’s significant influence on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – despite the fact that Labor has only 13 Knesset Members, while the Likud heads the government and has 27.

Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria said, “We are determined to bring about the renewal of construction in Yesha.”