Saturday, September 15, 2007

Stumbling Toward Catastrophe

Michael Freund

Is anyone out there awake? I'm beginning to suspect that the recent end-of-summer heat wave has lulled many of us into a peaceful snooze, so much so that we have become virtually oblivious to some rather important and far-reaching developments.
By any standards, the headlines of the past few weeks should have sparked a furious public outcry, accompanied by stormy demonstrations, irate parliamentary debates and massive protests and letter-writing campaigns. But there has been none of that, nary a peep, as the prime minister of the State of Israel secretly negotiates away much of the country and its strategic assets.

What has happened to our sense of outrage? In the wake of his meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last week, reports surfaced that Ehud Olmert had discussed wide-ranging concessions such as dividing Jerusalem, uprooting dozens of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and forgoing Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount. The media even published what was said to be a copy of a two-page document outlining Olmert's willingness to cross the few remaining "red lines" Israel still has in what is clearly a transparent attempt to salvage his increasingly shaky political career. With corruption investigations swirling around him and the final Winograd report on last summer's Lebanon war due out relatively soon, Olmert seems to have concluded that the only way to rescue himself from political oblivion is at the country's expense.

Think about this for a second. We have a prime minister about as popular as acute inflammatory acne going behind the nation's back, making fateful decisions that will endanger the future of the state and agreeing to establish a Palestinian terrorist entity alongside our country's shrunken borders. And he's doing this not because it is in the nation's interest, but for his own narrow political gain. And yet, it has been greeted by little more than a yawn. Instead, we sit back quietly, go on with our lives and do nothing as our government accelerates its head-long rush toward disaster.

Even the ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli towns and villages seem to evoke barely more than passing public interest. On Monday, Islamic Jihad fired over half a dozen Kassams into southern Israel, mockingly describing them as "a gift for the opening of the school year." One of those "gifts" slammed into the courtyard of a day care center for toddlers in Sderot, nearly causing a disaster. This kind of incident should have shocked us to the very core of our being, but the fact is Palestinian rocket attacks have become so common, thanks to the government's lack of response, that they hardly register on our collective conscience any more. And while we are on the subject of remaining silent, how about the hush that has come over us as we watch the Muslim Wakf rip apart the Temple Mount and bulldoze our nation's priceless religious and cultural heritage? Israel may be sovereign on the Mount, but it is clear from our television screens who runs the show.

In defiance of the law, the Wakf has been openly and brazenly digging a trench three foot deep from north to south along the Mount, in the process destroying precious artifacts that may date back to the First Temple period. Our holiest site is being vandalized in broad daylight, while our government and police look on, refusing to step in and halt the destruction.

Were an Israeli newspaper to publish a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam, it would invariably elicit a greater outcry than that which has greeted the wanton physical devastation being carried out by Muslims on the Temple Mount. It is as if the people of Israel have gone off to a slumber party, tucking themselves snugly into sleeping bags and wiling away the hours as though we have not a care in the world. But the truth is that everything this nation holds dear is coming under attack. Our freedom, our future, our land and our legacy are all being pummeled and no one seems ready to stand up and do anything about it. If you aren't walking around outraged, then you must not be paying attention.

So put down the sports pages, put aside those DVDs and start following the news. We must take to the streets and rouse ourselves from this slumber. Our apathy and indifference are what enable this failed government to continue to stumble toward catastrophe. Today it is Sderot under fire. But don't be surprised when Kfar Saba, Netanya and even Tel Aviv come under attack. The alarm clock is ringing, if only we will hear. Now, more than ever, is the time to get up and put the nightmare of terror, weakness and retreat behind us, once and for all.

Fatah did this:2 injured in West Bank shooting attack

Palestinians open fire at car traveling between settlements, flee scene, leaving man and woman mildly injured. Fatah's military wing claims responsibility for attack An Israeli man and woman driving in the West Bank were mildly injured when Palestinians fired gunshots at their vehicle.

The two managed to arrive at a nearby town where they were treated by emergency services and evacuated to Kfar Saba's Meir Hospital.

The al-Quds Brigades, Fatah's military wing, Llater claimed responsibility for the attack.

Military sources reported that the shooter or shooters escaped after firing at the car driving on the road between the settlements of Karnei Shomron and Kedumim. The shooter's vehicle was identified as a white Subaru, and soldiers have begun scanning the area for the runaway car.

Comment: This is the media driven, government defined moderate Plestinian-wrong! They are just like Hamas-learn the facts-hold the media, olmert, livni, Bush et al accountable-our future depends upon your action.

Ending a year of apathy

What event best characterized the past year, a veteran political observer with a great deal of public and diplomatic experience was asked this week. The man thought for a while and replied: "The August 6 meeting of Olmert and Abu Mazen in Jericho." "The meeting in Jericho, of all things?" was the stunned reaction. "Who even remembers it? Why is it important?" "That's exactly it," he replied. "In the days preceding the meeting, they wrote that the core issues - Jerusalem, refugees, borders - would be discussed. The next day, the whole meeting was reported on the inside pages, much less prominently than the Heftsiba affair. Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated because he was about to return a few neighborhoods in Hebron. Today the public doesn't get excited, and doesn't hold its breath before and after every meeting. There is a comprehensive lack of confidence. If I had to give this year a name, I would call it the 'Year of Apathy.' "In what other country would you have the finance minister resign because of a serious indictment and the markets go up? The political arena is becoming irrelevant to our lives. After all, if 20 years ago the justice minister and the Supreme Court president had exchanged words the way Friedman and Beinisch did [recently], the country would have gone crazy. Today it remains a media discussion." On the eve of Rosh Hashana 5767, just a moment after the war, the country seethed with an atmosphere of disgust, anger and frustration; today, a year later, this has changed. Now we laugh. This year we saw a finance minister, a defense minister, a chief of staff, a police commissioner and a president leave their jobs under distressing circumstances (each in his individual circumstances - of course there is no comparison between Moshe Katsav and Amir Peretz, or between Abraham Hirchson, on the one hand, and Dan Halutz and Moshe Karadi, on the other). Yet people react as if nothing happened. Nada. It seems like nobody but Accountant General Yaron Zelekha really cares about anything. Was there a war? - Who remembers? Is there a peace process? - Who's interested? As the new year dawns, it looks as though only a security incident of strategic, non-conventional dimensions can shake this nation out of its unhealthy complacency, the semi-coma into which it has fallen. Olmert is surviving Twelve months ago, few people believed that Ehud Olmert would end the year in the prime minister's seat. The holiday interviews he gave on the eve of Rosh Hashana 5767 were held a few days after the establishment of the Winograd Committee. Olmert was prepared for a difficult year, but even he did not expect such a harsh report from the committee he brought to life. And even he did not know back then that Zelekha and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss were secretly investigating his role in the Bank Leumi and the Investment Center affairs. And Olmert also did not imagine that his levels of support, which but a month earlier had soared to 80 percent, would drop within two to three months to 10 percent, more or less. He absorbed blows that left their mark on his eyes, on his overall appearance. And in spite of everything, he is still here. In a way we have become accustomed to him. There is no point in once again discussing how and why he has survived. We're tired of it. Olmert is here, at least for the coming months. He is basically a reasonable prime minister. He is certainly not among our worst. The state is running properly, the government is functioning - from an objective standpoint, the situation is not bad, except for the feeling of disgust and the apathy. Olmert has certainly learned something this year, or at least we hope so. Last Thursday, Olmert appeared before thousands of Kadima members at Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'uma Convention Center. A few hours earlier, news of the aerial incident in the skies over Syria had been reported for the first time. Olmert chose to begin his speech with the statement, "You don't know how difficult it is to be prime minister." His listeners did not really understand him, they thought he was once again referring to the polls, to his lack of popularity. Only a handful of people sitting in the auditorium's first row knew what he was talking about: about the loneliness at the top, about butterflies in your stomach at important historic moments, about the fear of a failure that could result in a catastrophe. The last thing Olmert needs is another security catastrophe. It is difficult to assess whether the present period signals the beginning of the process of Olmert's image being rehabilitated. These days are full of potential in quite a few arenas: security, diplomatic and political. If he fails, the sole responsibility for failure will lie with the prime minister. If Olmert succeeds, he will have to fight over the credit with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Wars for credit continue for years: Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres quarreled up to Rabin's last day about which one of them had pushed more vigorously for Operation Entebbe. Olmert concludes 5767 with an echoing, mysterious and rumor-laden silence that will in time turn into facts. The slow-to-evaporate mystery on the Syrian front is mingling with the escalation on the Southern front, after a Qassam rocket hit the Zikim army base. Meanwhile, Olmert's silence is paying off and is considered a sign of maturity and seriousness in a prime minister who liked to chatter incessantly. But the low point in public opinion to which Olmert has plummeted in recent months is both prolonged and profound. Other prime ministers, like Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak, whose approval ratings dropped to such an abyss never recovered and suffered the humiliation of being voted out of office in early elections. The former was pushed out after about three years, the latter did not even last a year and a half. Olmert can derive satisfaction from the fact that he has broken Barak's negative record, which seemed near impossible only a year ago. Now he still has to focus on an attempt to catch up with Netanyahu's three-year term and make it to the beginning of 2009. He could succeed in this, given a certain security-related scenario (war with Syria or a confrontation with Iran) or a specific diplomatic scenario (achieving a serious and spectacular agreement with the Palestinians). Both scenarios would make it difficult for the Labor Party to leave the government and also render the final Winograd report irrelevant. It is entirely possible that Olmert will still be prime minister a year from now, and Ehud Barak will still be defense minister. If the first, security-related scenario should come true, perhaps Netanyahu will become foreign minister. On the other hand, if the diplomatic scenario is realized, and Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen sign a comprehensive agreement of principles, Avigdor Lieberman, who already now is fidgeting uncomfortably in his seat, will not be able to remain in the government. The pressure will shift to Shas. A close triumvirate The Second Lebanon War has spawned a revival of the two most unpopular leaders of the previous decade: Netanyahu and Barak have returned to center stage. The former is back as the leader of the opposition and a leading candidate for the premiership, the latter as defense minister, at the right time and in the right job, with potential for promotion. Both have completed the process of taking over their parties, suppressed the islands of internal opposition with a strong hand, and strengthened their party's standing ahead of the next elections. In Labor, Ami Ayalon no longer threatens Barak, and Amir Peretz is making do with plaintive interviews. In the Likud, Silvan Shalom has accepted his fate and returned to the ranks. Of the three party leaders, it is only Olmert who still faces internal threats: Livni, who failed the test of leadership during the past year, is waiting for a second chance, as are Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit, Avi Dichter and Roni Bar-On, and it is said that even Dalia Itzik, who is making a favorable showing in the polls, it beginning to rev up the engines ahead of a possible move of her own, the devil knows where. Netanyahu was at one and the same time the closest and the furthest away from the premiership this year; the closest in the polls, the farthest in terms of the political-parliamentary reality. As the year comes to an end, he understands that if he is to capture the premiership, it will have to be through elections and not by means of clumsy wheeling and dealing during this Knesset term. Netanyahu won every possible title in 5767: Channel 2's Man of the Year, a leading candidate for prime minister, chair of the largest party in the polls and an outstanding finance minister. And he was reelected to head the Likud by a decisive majority, even if the process of his selection was accompanied by a bitter taste, the taste of Moshe Feiglin. Only one title has been denied him, for now: the title he covets most. Olmert's coalition has proved that in stark contrast to public opinion, it has a will to live and a life cycle of its own. In the summer of 2008, the Knesset will pass its midterm, and the theoretical chances of its being dispersed early will increase. The triumvirate of Olmert-Barak-Netanyahu will shape the face of 5768; the relations among these three are fascinating, complex and multifaceted. They are dependent on one another, enmeshed with one another. Every move by one of them, especially Olmert and Barak, will automatically affect the other two. Netanyahu is playing a more passive game, and his fate is in the hands of the two Ehuds. As long as the premiership looks like a ripe fruit only waiting to fall into Bibi's lap, there is no chance that Ehud & Ehud will grant him this pleasure.

UK Lawmakers Call for Changes in MidEast Policies

Mr. Gapes, in your committee report, you call on the government to bring direct talks with Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood – an about face from not only British policy but from that of most Western allies. Why is that? Mike Gapes is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the British parliament. In the United Kingdom, members of parliament have taken an approach to foreign policy – particularly that of Britain in the Middle East – that some are characterizing as more pro-active than the one we normally see. In the House of Commons, the Foreign Affairs Committee has issued a report calling for sharp course corrections regarding the nation's Mideast policies. Committee chairman, member of parliament Mike Gapes is my guest. Mr. Gapes, in your committee report, you call on the government to bring direct talks with Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood – an about face from not only British policy but from that of most Western allies. Why is that? GAPES: Can I first of all correct you? We said we believe there should be engagement with moderate elements within Hamas in order to try to move towards the possibility of a comprehensive two-state agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We don't believe it's possible to have an agreement there that doesn't involve Gaza, and since June we have been in the situation where the Palestinian territories are divided. You have the secular Fatah controlling the West Bank and the Islamist Hamas controlling Gaza. We also believe the only way you [will] get movement towards the implementation, which we support, of the three Quartet principles of recognition of Israel – non-violence, and abiding by previous agreements – is to engage with people, to move them. It may not work, but frankly the current approach and the boycott of the national unity government that was established just a few months ago has not worked either. And also, if we are going to help with the humanitarian problems with regard to Gaza, clearly there has to be engagement with Hamas there. On the question of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, we believe they are an important political player within the society. There are people who are called independent members of Parliament in Egypt but everybody knows that many of them are Islamists linked to the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood in Egypt, as long as it maintains a position of being non-violent and supporting the democratic process and involvement in the political process, we believe they need to be engaged with. We don't believe that democracy in Egypt will be supported by the international community if we close our eyes to the realities there. And as regards the situation in Lebanon, then that is very complicated. We believe that Hizbullah is a malignant organizationsupported by Syria and Iran, but we also think there are members of parliament in Lebanon, including members who have been in the government in Lebanon, who come from Hizbullah. We think it is wrong to take a position, which in effect rejects any engagement with the elected parliamentarians in that society. TML: You speak of moderate elements within these different groups. How do you go about identifying these so-called moderates? GAPES: That's always difficult. Our experience in Northern Ireland is sometimes you find individuals who are prepared to engage, to take part in the process. It may take many years, but ultimately you have to try to find ways to move organizations by engaging with people to get them into the political process. The alternative to that is the process of total non-contact isolation, and boycott is counter-productive and drives people towards more extreme politics and that would be an absolute disaster. TML: Is there any indication that these three groups are interested in being engaged by the UK or other Western powers? GAPES: Well we have already had contact and we know that our…For example, the British journalist, Alan Johnston was taken hostage in Gaza a few months ago and was held for a very long time and actually, British diplomats did engage with Hamas at the quite early stages and that was one of the factors, I think, which led ultimately to his release. The Hamas people there were actually praised by our foreign secretary for assisting in the release. He had been taken by a particular clan within Gaza. So there are examples. There are also examples of people having some engagement with elected parliamentarians in different countries. I don't believe you can group these three organizations together. We are not arguing that. We are not saying there should be a simplistic view on these matters. The virtue of politics is dialogue and involvement and I have to say there are people in the United States, frankly, who live in an unreal world when they take a view that Britain has diplomatic relations with Iran, or [that] Britain has dialogue with Iranians. It’s very difficult. We don't agree with the government of Iran on many issues. There are issues we are extremely concerned about and we are strongly involved in the U.N. process and the process in the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the nuclear program in Iran. But nevertheless, we should have dialogue. We should have engagement. TML: Mahmoud 'Abbas has said he won't talk with Hamas until control of the Gaza Strip is returned to his government. Are you concerned that engaging Haniyya and Hamas at this time could prove counter-productive?
Mike Gapes
GAPES: Well, clearly, there is an internal power struggle within the Palestinian Authority. But our own assessment is we cannot see how you will get a comprehensive two-state solution that doesn't take account of Gaza. Although it's quite clear there was this coup by Hamas in Gaza, we also have to recognize that the previous government was a national unity government which Hamas was part of, with Fatah. And Hamas won the election in 2006. It got 70 percent of the seats. So, therefore, we are in a very difficult position. Although Mahmoud 'Abbas is the elected president, there was also an elected Palestinian Authority parliament in which Hamas had a majority. TML: Your foreign office argues that there must be some ground rules, that, before speaking with these groups they must renounce violence. Is that unrealistic to ask? GAPES: Well, we are not arguing and I think it's important to make this distinction, that we sign up to a position that the British government speaks [with them], and the Quartet, or that the Israelis have a direct relationship in negotiations with Hamas. We are taking about engagement with modern elements in order to get them to move towards the acceptance of the Quartet principles. And I agree – there need to be ground rules. But the question is, how best do you get organizations to move from their current position towards the position where you wish them to be? If you just simply say, “We don't talk to you, we don't have any contact, we don’t have any dialogue, we don't have any engagement short of negotiations,” then that is an unrealistic, absurd position, because frankly, the way we got – in Northern Ireland – the IRA, Sinn Fein, its political wing, to move to where they are today is by some engagement with individuals within that organization. TML: The policy of boycotting Hamas has been observed with a surprising degree of uniformity by Western nations. Are you concerned that your efforts to push your own government into a position counter to virtually all of your allies will isolate the UK? GAPES: No, I think that is a caricature of the reality. In fact, in theQuartet policy, there are a lot of people in the European Union who are taking a similar approach. There are in fact, quite a few Israelis who have been critical of the fact that the policy of isolation has not worked. Now, within the EU, for example, there are senior figures in a number of other governments, in a number of other parties who also feel in a similar way. I think it would be better and more realistic to say that there is a position from the American administration and from the Israeli government that has a particular view. In the European Union, there are different views and the Quartet also includes Russia, and Russia has engaged with Hamas. TML: Palestinian elections are on the horizon. If Hamas is kept out of the election process – through legislation or otherwise – will it be a valid election? GAPES: I would think it would be very doubtful it would be a valid election if people don't have a clear choice in the elections and, frankly, I don't think that any election which then leads to somebody being elected on the basis of a substantial body of opinion not being expressed, would encourage that body of opinion to move into a democratic process. In fact, it's more likely to strengthen the extremists. TML: Therefore, should Britain refuse to recognize the results if Hamas is excluded? GAPES: No, I think we are a long way away from that. I don't think there is necessarily an argument about excluding people from standing in the elections and I think the British government should be stressing and pushing for restoration of dialogue between Fatah and Hamas, the reestablishment of a national unity government, and, if there are new Palestinian elections, that those elections take place both in the Gaza and the West Bank. Any election that takes place in only part of the Palestinian territories will clearly not provide a representative Palestinian government. TML: So what is the best framework for peace in the Middle East? GAPES: Well, ultimately, there has to be a conference and there has to be a negotiation with all the Arab countries to recognize Israel's right to exist, so that there are comprehensive agreements between the Arabs and Israelis and not just between the Palestinians and Israelis. But we're a long way away from that and I'm personally very skeptical about the plan that President Bush has for the conference in the autumn, whether that will succeed, frankly because of the internal political problems in Israel, but also because of these very, very deep, internal Palestinian divisions that we talked about. And until we find a way to rebuild the unity in the Palestinian territories and at the same time shift the extremists to a more moderate position, and therefore to the Quartet principles, then I think we will not have a successful conclusion to any negotiations. TML: Many thanks, committee chairman and member of parliament Mike Gapes. GAPES: Thank you.

Copyright © 2007 The Media Line. All Rights Reserved.

Comment: So much for staying the course-so much for sticking together-so ends our coalition against terror

Friday, September 14, 2007

The driverless state

Sarah Honig

Israel has pulled off something far more imagination-defying - a driverless state. Not many realize how many of the hi-tech innovations they take for granted in their daily lives - including the bulk of new-fangled cellphone gizmos - originated in the much-maligned Jewish state. Fewer yet realize the enormous strides little Israel has made in quite another challenging sphere.
The next revolutionary technological breakthrough, futurists predict, will be the driverless (or autonomous) vehicle - an ultra-intricate variant of the aircraft autopilot concept. Besides constituting an immense lifestyle upheaval, it would demand an incredibly complex artificial-intelligence solution to a whole slew of likely problems.
Yet while scientists worldwide rack their overworked brains to develop piecemeal mechanisms, Israel has pulled off something far more imagination-defying - a driverless state.
This first in the annals of mankind is already operational, off and running, while the clueless clientele appears unaware of any change. Much as they grumble and gripe, the masses don't grasp they're the trailblazing driverless state's unwitting passengers. The transition from "disastrous driver" to "no driver" was so imperceptible that no one can quite determine when it occurred, much less discern any difference in the end results.
In two years, two traumatic milestones were passed - disengagement and the Second Lebanon War - and nobody can tell if any driver held the national wheel on these occasions. One thing is certain: What was previously bad only got worse. Touted improvements just never materialized.
Hence, it doesn't really matter much if an actual driver existed through either of these rocky rides. They didn't bring us anyplace closer to the much-hyped desirable destination. We supposedly disengaged from Gaza, yet remain responsible for and dedicated to our sworn enemies' well-being. We dither about ceasing to supply them with medicine, food, water and electricity. By switching off power, we'd impede Kassam-rocket manufacture. But for now the Kassams keep coming - at significantly greater rates than pre-disengagement.
THE PALESTINIAN Authority not only didn't assume control of Gaza (as we were assured it would), it was ignominiously kicked out to make way for the Hamastan Iranian outpost. Meanwhile 9,000 of Israel's most devoted idealists are forgotten outcasts in cardboard prefabs, unemployed and hopeless. The crew supposedly in charge promised "a solution for every settler," but perhaps everything was already then on autopilot, so no one's to blame.
That would explain why, despite last summer's war bravado, Hizbullah was paradoxically reinforced, Katyushas still threaten Israel's northern third, and there's no sign from the abducted reservists.
A lot ventured but nothing gained.
The Winograd Committee merely annoys presumed driver Ehud Olmert. He profusely praises himself because everything seems to be in working order, though nothing really works. The proof: He's still in the driver's seat but, regardless, the state-motor idles by itself. The stock market blithely fluctuates and the shekel holds its inexplicable own. Oslo dream-merchants spread cheer via intimations of "new understandings" with Mahmoud Abbas's team of friendly Fatah foes. They promise the souped-up diplomatic dynamics courtesy of Condoleezza and international community cohorts. The farther things plummet toward rock bottom, the better off we seem to be.
THAT'S ROUGHLY what Olmert tells us when he delivers speeches full of honeyed blandishments signifying nothing. At the same time his chosen co-pilot, Ehud Barak, keeps mystifyingly mum about the journey's itinerary and objectives. An aura of inscrutability enhances the impression of a true strategic genius at work.
Though automated systems can replace human direction for many tasks over increasing time spans, their reliability isn't infinite. Nonetheless that meshes perfectly with the inherent Olmerite ethos. All that matters is the next headline, the upcoming prime-time newscast, and the fawning commentary by a court scribbler or crony talking head. The long term doesn't bother Olmert & Co. Their overriding concern is short-haul political survival. For that, the auto-drive will suffice and the fare payers seem to submit.
Olmert needs to propel Israel's scratched, dented and knocked-about vehicle of state down another tiny stretch of potholed highway. He can't be bothered to gaze far or train autopilot sensors on more distant obstacles. Even mapping out a route to a target location is superfluous. Olmert has no inkling where he's heading and taking the rest of us. He just needs to get through a few measly meters at a time.
In politics this mindset is called expediency; anything will do to win temporary benefit. That's why Olmert and his dependent coterie freed duly convicted Jordanian killers to please King Abdullah (who never so much as apologized for Jordanian aggression and the innocent lives it extinguished). Next Olmert released 255 convicted Fatah terrorists (with hundreds more in the pipeline) to grease Abbas's palms, knowing full well Abbas can't deliver any goods.
To further fortify Abbas's fictitious force, Olmert countenances the entry of Nayef Hawatmeh, chief of the Damascus-based DFLP (the Marxist counterpart to Islamic Hamas) and butcher of the children of Avivim and Ma'alot. By the standards of Olmert's autopilot ambition, justice is immaterial - only self-serving advantage counts.
This is the reason 178 of Fatah's most wanted mass murderers are off the hook. They'll subsequently shield those supposedly not off the hook. Not only does every terror kingpin know he won't serve out his term even if apprehended, those still at large can now relish their recently-secured immunity. The lot of them, Olmert rationalizes (having learned nothing from Osloite delusions), will unflinchingly defend Jews from Hamas predations.
The bottom line is that Israel's deterrent is gone. Israel's lifesaving war against terror is dangerously decelerated merely to enable the driverless car to mark a tad additional time on the road.
So what else is new on the eve of another year? Been there, heard that, but since we're not going anywhere, it doesn't really matter.
Eat, drink and be merry - for tomorrow we crash.

Back to the town square

Israelis should regain control of political arena, fight corruption together In the past year, the sense of disgust with politics became further entrenched among the public. At the beginning of the New Year, the growing presence of this feeling regarding the institutions of Israeli democracy leaves us facing a growing threat to the very existence of these institutions.

This feeling, the “curse of disgust”, leads more and more educated young people, wealthy people, and capable Israelis to turn their backs on activity for the sake of the public. After all, who wishes to take part in something described as a muddy swamp?

The curse of disgust with politics feeds on its twin sister – the shallow and exaggerated rhetoric that offers us spins, loud headlines, and cheap entertainment in the hopes of satisfying us. At the same time, we use the same rhetoric in order to slam “them”- the corrupt people operating within the murky swamp of politics and performing complex public service activity. They are the ones that bear the disgust we wish to disconnect from.

Many good people are indeed disconnecting. Those people (most of us, we should say,) gladly accept various “purists” who clear our conscience by seemingly, though falsely, doing the work for all of us; on the one hand, they contribute to the rhetoric of mud-slinging around them and are active participants in enhancing the sense of disgust. However, above all, they free us from the obligation to get involved, from the duty of judgment, and from the duty to face up to matters that are complex rather than simple.

However, in the face of all of these people, and perhaps even from within them, a blessing may emerge. The blessing which we should be wishing upon ourselves and our democracy is the blessing of enlistment, activism, regaining our senses and the ability to accept and cope with the multifaceted complexity of the public arena and politics that give rise to the decisions that affect this public arena.

Let’s not forget that this joint arena, the “town square,” belongs to all of us. This is where elected politicians grow and operate in, along with the bureaucrats, officials, and appointed public officials. The town square that is shared by all of us unites us with “them” – this is the arena where the disease of corruption whose murky roots affect all of us grew. The responsibility to remove this disease lies with us, not just with various “anti-corruption forces.”

The public arena, that is the town square, should give rise to responsible voices that doubt the rhetoric of shallowness and exaggerated passion.

This blessing will grow out of a perception that views the town square as real estate that belongs to all of us. This will revitalize the responsibility for a common agenda, constructive criticism, and leveraging the rules of ethics in a way that dwarfs the culture of TV rating. Regaining the perception that the public sphere belongs to me, you, and all of us will promote modesty at the expense of arrogance and question marks at the expense of exclamation marks.

Let us be wise enough to turn the next 10 days, to climax on Yom Kippur, into a collective, public self-examination. Let us accept the burden of thinking about that which is common to us all, and not just the private. Let us see the curse of disgust with politics and false rhetoric of rating replaced with the blessing of responsibility. Let us find the strength to do all this!

Dr Arye Carmon is the President of the Israel Democracy Institute

Why Abbas is desperate for a "deal'

Fatah Faces Succession Battle [ANALYSIS] Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas’ recent decision not to run for office again when his current term ends in a year and a half has sparked a succession crisis within the ruling party. The decision has left Fatah with the dilemma of finding a suitable successor, who will not only be a moderate, but also reform the party ahead of the forthcoming elections.

Encouraged by his popularity among the people, ‘Abbas selected Marwan Barghouthi, currently serving five life terms in an Israeli prison for murder and terrorist activities, as the Fatah candidate in the coming presidential elections. Barghouthi, considered by most Palestinians as a popular grassroots leader, is widely regarded as the figure most able to rebuild Fatah, reform the security forces and remove Hamas from power in Gaza. Doubting whether his nomination would change the extreme ideological stand that he showed during the period of increased violence, which began in 2000, Israel and the United States has refused ‘Abbas’ demand for Barghouthi’s release. Barghouthi, however, is not the favorite choice of most Fatah officials, who prefer candidates from members of the party’s old guard – the officials identified with the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) – and not from the younger, homegrown leaders. The old guard, accused of corruption and misuse of power, is in dispute with the younger generation which is fighting to reach influential positions within the party.

To head off a brewing succession battle, ‘Abbas has suggested ceding power to Maher Guhniam, also known as Abu Maher, the head of Fatah’s mobilization office. Abu Maher, 70, who served in Lebanon as Arafat’s deputy for military affairs, decided to stay in Tunisia along with other PLO officials in protest against the signing of the Oslo peace accord with Israel in 1993. According to Palestinian sources, the Amman meeting held two weeks ago between ‘Abbas and Abu Maher for this purpose, ended in failure. Maher refused the offer to run for the presidential post. He also refused to back the decision to expand the Fatah central committee by adding new members, such as Nabil ‘Amru, and ‘Azam Al-Ahmad. This refusal angered ‘Abbas and caused him to leave the meeting, the source confirmed. The U.S. administration prefers the moderate Prime Minister Salam Faya’d to run for the post of president and to lead the P.A. to a peace deal with Israel. For the U.S, the 54-year-old Faya’d, who successfully concluded a 10-year mission to clean up the Palestinian administrative house, is the one to replace former Washington darling, Muhammad Dahlan, who failed to prevent the Fatah collapse in Gaza last June. Faya’d heads the emergency cabinet that ‘Abbas appointed after sacking the Hamas-led government following the group’s defeat of Fatah loyalists in Gaza.

"Undoubtedly, Faya’d is the best choice," said the political analyst, Abdul Hafiz Muharib. "The Americans know him and trust him a lot." During the 2006 elections, Faya’d refused an offer to join Fatah and instead formed a new political party called The Third Way and won two seats in the parliament. Despite the U.S preference, Fatah will never accept Faya’d for president, Muharib added. “Politically, this means the end of the party. I don’t think they will agree on someone from outside Fatah.” Meanwhile, interference from Farouq Qadoumi, the hard-line head of the PLO’s political department and an opponent of the Oslo peace deal, has also escalated the ongoing partisan power struggle within the ruling party. Qadoumi, a founder of Fatah, views himself as ‘Abbas’ legitimate successor. Recently, ‘Abbas banned him from heading P.A. delegations to official Arab meetings, especially the Arab League’s meeting in Cairo last month, which was attended by Prime Minister Salam Faya’d. This action has inflamed the sharp dispute between ‘Abbas and Qadoumi, who has become a stinging critic of the P.A. chairman’s policies, especially the decisions to abandon armed struggle and dismantle militant factions. Regardless of who will succeed ‘Abbas, Fatah officials have admitted that after the Gaza defeat, the party has much to accomplish to regain the trust of the people and win in the coming elections. Moreover, if ‘Abbas fails to name a successor within the coming few months, the partisan power struggle will further weaken Fatah’s position in the West Bank, political analysts warned.

Copyright © 2007 The Media Line. All Rights Reserved.

US military aid to Israel is an investment that pays dividends

By Ted Belman

The Israel Lobby is getting a lot of attention these days and anti-semites complain that israel is the largest recipient of US aid in the world, like Israel was a costly liability The Israel Lobby is getting a lot of attention these days and anti-semites complain that israel is the largest recipient of US aid in the world, like Israel was a costly liability. They argue for cancelling the aid. I thought I would put it in perspective.

In 2006 Israel received $2.3 billion in military aid, the largest portion of it was spent in the US. It also received $240 million in economic aid. this latter aid is being phased out.

A deal has recently been signed to increase this to $3 billion a year. As much as this is, it is a very small percentage of the total US military budget, in fact 0.6% of it.

Military budget of the United States
From Wikipedia,
The United States military budget is that portion of the United States discretionary federal budget that is allocated for the funding of the Department of Defense. This military budget finances employee salaries and training costs, the maintenance of equipment and facilities, support of new or ongoing operations, and development and procurement of new equipment. The budget includes funding for all branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

For 2007, the budget was raised to a total of US$532.8 Billion.[1] This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance and production (which is in the Department of Energy budget), Veterans Affairs or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which are largely funded through extra-budgetary supplements, e.g. $120 Billion in 2007).[2]

Now the Iraq war has cost about $500 billion so far and is increasing at the rate of $6 billion a month. (Please don’t attack me for these numbers. There are many ways to calculate costs which may double this.)

Now what’s $3 billion in comparison? Especially when you consider what America gets in return. Ten years ago this was described as follows
The U.S. supports Israel’s dominance so it can serve as “a surrogate for American interests in this vital strategic region.” “Israel has helped defeat radical nationalist movements” and has been a “testing ground for U.S. made weaponry.” Moreover, the intelligence agencies of both countries have “collaborated,” and “Israel has funneled U.S. arms to third countries that the U.S. [could] not send arms to directly,…Iike South Africa, like the Contras, Guatemala under the military junta, [and] Iran.” Zunes cited an Israeli analyst who said: “‘It’s like Israel has just become another federal agency when it’s convenient to use and you want something done quietly.”‘ Although the strategic relationship between the United States and the Gulf Arab states in the region has been strengthening in recent years, these states “do not have the political stability, the technological sophistication, [or] the number of higher-trained armed forces personnel” as does Israel.

Matti Peled, former Israeli major general and Knesset member, told Zunes that he and most Israeli generals believe this aid is “little more than an American subsidy to U.S. arms manufacturers,” considering that the majority of military aid to Israel is used to buy weapons from the U.S. Moreover, arms to Israel create more demand for weaponry in Arab states. According to Zunes, “the Israelis announced back in 1991 that they supported the idea of a freeze in Middle East arms transfers, yet it was the United States that rejected it.”

Thus the more the US gives Israel, the more it sells the Arabs. All of this supports the US military industry.

Besides these issues, Israel is like a US aircraft carrier extending US power throughout the ME. Thus America does not have to have a standing army in the ME of 400,000 soldiers because they can always turn to Israel’s Army. Finally it took six months for the US to send troups to fight Iraq in the first Iraq War. Israel can be ready to go with full mobilization in 48 hours. Now what’s that worth?

Israeli-Arabs: Our 5th Column

Baladna – the Association for Arab Youth – is expected to launch a campaign Friday calling on young Arab-Israelis to boycott the national service...

Comment:National service is NOT the IDF-it provides young people the possibility of serving their country via caring for the sick in hospitals, assisting youth groups and other humanitarian activities. Clearly, the young Israeli-Arabs or more properly defined as Arabs with Israeli citizenship who do not want to be identified with it nor serve it BUT rejoice in the freedoms and business practices afforded them, are destined to become our 5th column! Baladna launches campaign calling on Arab-Israeli youngsters to boycott national service program. 'A state that doesn't recognize the national and collective existence of the Arab public cannot claim that it knows what this public's true needs are,' group says
Roee Nahmias

Baladna – the Association for Arab Youth – is expected to launch a campaign Friday calling on young Arab-Israelis to boycott the national service, which it referred to as "an offshoot of the IDF".

The campaign's slogan will be: "National service – your way to the army".

A week-and-a-half ago the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee of Israeli Arabs launched a campaign against the government's intention to enforce mandatory national service on the country's Arab citizens, who are exempt from military service.

The committee decided to form a special taskforce to combat the government's decision which "contradicts the political, nationalistic and civil beliefs of the Arab leadership in Israel".

'Government still has a lot to prove'
Baladna officials said in a statement that "despite what the government claims, the national service is a branch of the occupation army, which has always acted against the Arab-Israeli population and the Palestinian people in general.

"Therefore, any attempt to present the national or civil service as social activity constitutes a deception of the public in general and the Arab public in particular," the officials said.

As part of the campaign, a conference calling on young Arab-Israelis to boycott the program will be held in cooperation with the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee of Israeli Arabs.

In addition, prominent Arab filmmakers, actors and musicians will take part in a special event to promote the campaign.

According to Baladna, "a state that doesn't recognize the national and collective existence of the Arab public cannot claim that it knows what this public's true needs are, and therefore cannot determine how young Arabs can best serve Arab society.

"Since its inception Israeli has been intentionally ignoring the Arab public's needs – so the government still has a lot to prove before it preaches to the Arabs about good citizenship," the group said.

Baladna director Nadim Nashef told Ynet, "We decided to launch the campaign following the government's decision regarding national service. We fear that this decision will lead to an initiative that would obligate all Arab youngsters to serve."

Gaza Events Thwart Hamas-Fatah Cooperation in Lebanon

Defying the rules of nature, the sound of bullets fired last June in Gaza was clearly heard hundreds of miles away in Lebanon. Defying the rules of nature, the sound of bullets fired last June in Gaza was clearly heard hundreds of miles away in Lebanon. In the past two months it has become clear that Hamas' victory in the Gaza Strip has thwarted an initiative to unify the activities of the Palestinian factions operating in Lebanon. On June 15 Hamas concluded a six-day armed operation during which it seized all the Palestinian Authority's institutions in the Gaza Strip. The already existing hostility between Hamas and Fatah had climaxed, damaging also the fragile cooperation between the two movements in Lebanon. At the beginning of 2007 a previously unknown armed group called Fatah Al-Islam began to develop in Nahr Al-Bared, a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. This was a few months before the deadly eruption of violence, which claimed the lives of hundreds in the refugee camp. But even during these early stages the potential for violence was apparent and all the Palestinian factions in Lebanon, including Fatah and Hamas, formed a joint follow-up committee to discuss the unfolding predicament. In February 2007 the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization, 'Abbas Zaki, gave an interview to the Hamas-run magazine Filastin Al-Muslima (FM). Zaki, who is a member of Fatah's Central Committee, told FM he believed all the Palestinian factions in Lebanon would soon be assembled under one umbrella and cited the Nahr Al-Bared committee as a successful precedent. "When this new phenomenon of Fatah Al-Islam appeared in Nahr Al-Bared, all the Palestinian factions met to discuss the issue. What is easier than to meet and find common grounds?" Zaki asked then. Zaki went on to say that in the coming sessions of the committee, an attempt would be made to form a new "national council" and to elect an executive committee for the benefit of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees are living today in Lebanon in terrible conditions. They are not allowed to own property or to become Lebanese citizens. They are barred from practicing dozens of professions, including law, engineering and medicine. They are denied access to the Lebanese healthcare system, and are even denied access to the national phone network. These refugees are waiting for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement which would allow them to return to their homeland. But the problem of the refugees is one of the most complicated issues on the negotiating table and a solution is almost inconceivable. So, while the right of return is high on the list of their priorities, the refugees' every-day lives are of much greater concern to them. The establishment of a joint cross-factional activity vis-à-vis the Lebanese authorities, is therefore very important. On June 14, one day before Hamas completed its takeover in Gaza, Zaki changed his tone. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Zaki still maintained that the Nahr Al-Bared follow-up committee would be able to continue its activity, but only after Hamas deferred to the authority of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas. When it was clear that Hamas was not going to cave in, the consequences in the Lebanese arena were quick to follow. "Since the Gaza coup, all direct contacts with Hamas' representative [Osama Hamdan] have ceased," Zaki told The Media Line in an exclusive interview. "I will not meet with him until Hamas withdraws, the Palestinian Authority's institutions are restored and the perpetrators of the crimes against the Palestinian people are punished," Zaki added. Zaki explained that the joint committee had already begun to supervise various matters concerning the Palestinian refugees in the social, economic and security fields. The committee had even sent joint delegations to the Lebanese prime minister, the army and the ministry of defense. "There must be here a unified Palestinian stand; we must not have political disputes among us. We must concentrate on the needs of our people in the refugee camps, who are living in hard conditions," Zaki said. But despite this enthusiastic call for unity, the Gaza events still echoed in Zaki's words. "We open the door to all the Palestinian factions to cooperate with us, except for Hamas," he concluded. Given recent events, the effectiveness of a joint committee might never be revealed. What is clear, however, is the committee's performance until now. "In retrospect, clearly it was not effective," Dr. Karim Maqdisi of the American University in Beirut told The Media Line. According to Maqdisi, the short-lived committee did not improve on the Palestinian leadership's overall performance over the last few decades. "On the ground they have all done quite a bad job in terms of taking care of their own people in the camps. "There has not been any unified Palestinian leadership in Lebanon that has been able to focus on the special needs of the Palestinians here," Maqdisi said. He added that one could not find a fundamental difference between Hamas and Fatah in Lebanon, as both strive toward the main goal, which is the right of return. "But in the meantime people are miserable in their everyday lives, and all the Palestinian representatives here are failing in alleviating this humanitarian condition," Maqdisi concluded.

Copyright © 2007 The Media Line. All Rights Reserved.

Hamas welcomes any Russian role to solve inter-Palestinian crisis

The Hamas Movement on Thursday welcomed any Russian role to strengthen the inter-Palestinian dialogue in the light of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas's persistence on rejecting any dialogue with Hamas for about three months. "Hamas underlines the importance of the statements made by Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Sultanov during his visit to Cairo, where he called for the immediate resumption of dialogue between Hamas and the PA leadership because this is the only way to overcome the existing crisis", Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, stated in a press release received by the PIC.

Dr. Abu Zuhri opined that the Russian statements "reflect that Russia understands accurately the facts behind the events and highlight the growing European awareness of the importance of taking into account the positions of Hamas faction and not to ignore it. He also considered the Russian statements as indirect condemnation of the PA's positions which decline to open any dialogue with Hamas.

The spokesman confirmed Hamas's welcome to any Russian effort which could contribute to the strengthening of the inter-Palestinian dialogue in face of attempts by international parties aimed to escalate the inter-Palestinian crisis.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Oslo Has Wrought

By Joel Mowbray

The tidy Western view of Palestinian politics coming down to Islamists versus secularists faces yet another reality check Both Hamas and the supposedly secular Fatah are engaging in a new propaganda war, each portraying itself as the defender of the faith, while accusing the other party of defiling Islam, according to a recent report from the Palestinian Media Watch.

While the competing videos represent just a recent snapshot of the bitter struggle between Hamas and Fatah for Palestinian hearts and minds, it is indicative of the increasingly Islamic tenor of the culture that each group is attempting to stake out the Islamic high ground.

Though some are quick to blame Hamas for this state of affairs, it is Fatah, at the original direction of famed secularist Yasser Arafat, who is most responsible for Islamicizing Palestinian society.

After showing the destruction of a Gaza mosque caused by Hamas gunmen, the Fatah video has a close-up of a desecrated Qur’an with a grenade and bullet shells on top, and asks the question, “Whose grenades are these?”

Fatah’s video even goes so far as to say that the Islamic Jihad terrorists killed in the attack were “martyred” by Hamas—terminology typically used to describe a Muslim who is killed by an enemy of Islam.

The video was released around the same time as an Hamas production that portrayed Fatah as rats removing women’s head coverings and literally burning Qur’ans. Rather than using actual footage, though, the Hamas video is entirely animated. The surprisingly professional cartoon features a hero, representing Hamas, that bears striking resemblance to Simba, the title character in Disney’s The Lion King.

After the Fatah rats dance in their money and fire rockets at mosques, the Hamas lion defeats the rats, then stands on a hilltop looking off into the distance, with a Palestinian flag flying nearby.

This latest tussle demonstrates that Hamas has improved impressively upon the tactics long utilized by Fatah.

Upon taking the reins of Palestinian society following the 1993 Oslo Accords, Arafat implemented an aggressive platform of Islamic indoctrination, beefing up Islamic education in the schools and giving new prominence on television and elsewhere to fire-breathing imams, including many who called for Islam to topple the West.

Tapping into the ascending worldwide Islamist political movement, Arafat used his newfound power to create a new generation of terrorists superior to the old-school PLO thugs in one key respect: These post-Oslo brainwashed Palestinian kids were not only not afraid of death, but they actually wanted to die.

But Arafat couldn’t merely indoctrinate the children. Sane parents would never allow their children to blow themselves up, so Arafat carefully cultivated a cult of martyrdom that permeated Palestinian society. Much attention in the West has been paid to the hero worship of successful suicide bombers, but almost as important was the glorification of their parents.

Of particular symbolic significance has been Mariam Farahat, better known as Umm Nidal, or Mother of the Struggle, who bursts with pride that three of her six children died as Islamic terrorists. Though embraced and praised over the years by Fatah, she is now a Hamas member of the Palestinian legislature.

The Islamization spawned by Fatah has now taken on a life of its own.

Anecdotal evidence coming out of Gaza—where Western journalists are no longer stationed—is that the area is in many ways starting to resemble fundamentalist Islamic police states Saudi Arabia and Iran. More and more men reportedly are sporting religious beards, and few women are venturing outside without a veil. Hamas thugs are also out roaming the streets scouring for un-Islamic activities, even recently breaking up weddings of Fatah members and accusing the celebrants of being “Jews,” according to PA-TV reports translated by Palestinian Media Watch.

This increasing radicalization could have implications beyond Gaza’s borders. Last March, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned that al Qaeda had infiltrated Gaza, and at least one prominent Arab newspaper echoed that claim.

The Egyptian government maintains that the attack on the Red Sea resort of Dahab in April 2006 was perpetrated by operatives who received weapons and explosives training in Gaza. The terrorists who struck Dahab belonged to Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which was later renamed al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

While there is not strong evidence of ongoing coordinated operations between Hamas and al Qaeda, the two groups share similar theologies, worldviews, and burning hatred for the United States. Dore Gold’s latest book, The Fight for Jerusalem, explores this budding alliance. The photo appendix also provides evidence, including a poster distributed by Hamas operatives with the images of both Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Osama bin Laden. Then there’s bin Laden loyalist Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani speaking at a March 2006 Hamas fundraiser in Yemen.

The billions of dollars in U.S. aid lavished on the Palestinians should have built support for the United States, but in fact, the reverse has happened. Why? Because Arafat and his Fatah party enjoyed full U.S. support as they radicalized the Palestinians.

Many argue that while severely flawed, Fatah is the only viable option. But every day Fatah is in power—in the West Bank, at least—Islamic indoctrination of Palestinians continues. This means that every day, the “secular” Fatah is leading Palestinians further and further away from acceptance of living side-by-side with a Jewish state of Israel.

Consider the following excerpt, taken from a textbook used at Fatah-run schools (translation provided by Palestinian Media Watch):

"The Ribat for Allah is one of the actions related to Jihad …The persistence of Palestine’s people on their land in these days, and their persistence against the damage and the aggression they endure – is one of the greatest of the Ribat [defending the border areas of Islam], and they are worthy of a great reward from Allah.…

The reason for this preference is that the momentous battles in Islamic history took place on its land [Al-Shaam – includes Israel] and, its residents are found in a constant struggle with their enemies, and they are found in Ribat until Resurrection. The history testifies that: The battle of Al-Yarmuk decided the struggle with the Byzantines, and the battle of Hattin decided the struggle with the Crusaders, and the battle of Ein Jalut decided the struggle with the Mongols.” [Islamic Education, grade 12, p. 86-87]

Thus the madness continues, as U.S.-backed Fatah leaders frantically attempt to keep pace with the deeply Islamic society they helped create.

King discusses peace with Abbas, Kouchner

AMMAN (Agencies) - Jordan and the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday reiterated calls for placing Mideast final status issues on the agenda of the upcoming US-proposed peace meeting, expected this fall. At a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, His Majesty King Abdullah renewed Amman’s support for the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to put final status issues on the negotiating table.

The King said he will continue his communications with the Arab and foreign countries to rally support to push the peace process forward.

His Majesty and Abbas said the international Mideast gathering, which US President George W. Bush called for in July, offers a good opportunity to find a just solution to the Palestinian issue.

Final status issues, especially the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, should top the meeting’s agenda as a prerequisite to its success.

During the meeting, Abbas briefed the King on his talks Tuesday with King Abdullah Ben Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, where discussions covered the developments in the Palestinian territories and the peace process.

Saudi Arabia also voiced reservations over the meeting, saying it might not attend the gathering if final status issues were not discussed.

At a press conference Wednesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal indicated that his country might not attend the meeting if it is not going to address issues of real substance, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Washington has hoped for Saudi Arabia to attend the gathering, but Arab countries have been concerned the meeting will be symbolic without addressing the toughest issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict - such as the status of Jerusalem, borders and Palestinian refugees.

“The kingdom sees no benefit in any peace meeting or conference if it is not comprehensive and if it doesn’t tackle major issues,” Prince Saud told reporters.

“If the conference doesn’t provide these things, then the kingdom’s participation is doubtful.”

Asked if Saudi Arabia has requested Washington to provide it with an agenda and a participants’ list, Prince Saud said: “We asked about the agenda. We haven’t received a response yet.”

Abbas also briefed King Abdullah yesterday on the outcome of his most recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that took place in occupied Jerusalem on Monday, where the two sides stressed their commitment to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the meeting in Jerusalem, Abbas and Olmert also agreed on the release of a new group of Palestinian prisoners during the holy month of Ramadan. They also agreed to form a joint committee to draft the guidelines of an initial agreement to settle the conflict.

Abbas thanked the King over aid Jordan sent to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to provide the Palestinians with their needs of essential food items and help ease the difficult living conditions they are going through.

In statements to the press following the meeting, Abbas said his meeting with King Abdullah was part of the continued coordination between the two sides and with other Arab countries.

Also on Wednesday, King Abdullah stressed the important role of France and the EU in backing international efforts to restore security, stability and peace in the region.

He made the remarks during a meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. The King called on the EU to provide all kinds of support to the Palestinians to help alleviate their suffering through easing the harsh economic conditions.

The King repeated his call that the international peace meeting address final status issues.

For his part, the French minister, who is currently on a tour to the region, reviewed his country’s efforts to activate the peace process.

Kouchner voiced appreciation for Jordan’s role in supporting efforts seeking to move forward the peace process and enhance stability in the region.

The King and the French top diplomat also discussed several bilateral issues, including the results of recent talks between the King and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Ilah Khatib also met with Kouchner and discussed bilateral ties and means to enhance them. Talks also covered the developments in the region and means to activate the peace process.

Kouchner, who was heading to Egypt after Jordan, is on his first major Middle East tour since he was appointed foreign minister earlier this year and has already visited Israel and the Palestinian territories.

At a press conference later yesterday, he said: “After three days in Palestine and Israel, we have noticed, despite the difficulties, that positive elements are emerging... and we will work with both sides for this to become a reality ahead of the conference due in November.”

Abbas's militias pursue savage practices against Hamas's cadres in W. Bank

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- PA security apparatuses and armed Fatah militias in the West Bank have intensified their arrest campaigns among Hamas's cadres in different parts of the West Bank. At least six of the Movement's supporters were apprehended by the PA security elements in different parts of the West Bank without charges.

Khaled Dwaikat, one of Fatah cadres in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus city, was also arrested by Abbas' armed militias after he attempted to prevent the rounding up of two Hamas's cadres in the said camp.

More than 400 Hamas's followers, including political leaders, municipal mayors, teachers and students among other figures were arrested at the hands of Abbas's armed militias over the past three months.

Families of the Hamas's detainees in the PA jails were fired upon and harshly quelled by the PA security elements and Abbas's armed militias during demonstrations they held demanding the immediate release of their sons.

Correspondent of Al-Aqsa satellite TV channel in Al-Khalil city Ala Al-Titi was summoned by the PA intelligence department, and questined for few hours before the PA security men released him.

Family of Hashim Al-Azmoti, the director of education department in Qabatia city, affirmed that Azmoti had undergone torture sessions in the PA security jails, and that his health was deteriorating due to the PA maltreatment despite his old age.

Azmoti has been detained in the PA jails for one week now.

Hamas-Fatah talks expected in Ramadan

Hamas and Fatah are resuming indirect contacts for the purpose of ending their lingering showdown and restoring national unity following the mid-June events in the Gaza Strip, which saw the dismantling and ousting of Fatah security forces by Hamas’ militiamen in the coastal territory.

The indirect contacts, which could soon evolve into direct talks, are being sponsored in part by the government of Saudi Arabia which until recently refused to renew efforts to convince the two largest Palestinian political-military factions to overcome their differences.

According to reliable sources within Hamas, the latest moves began earlier this week when Ismael Haniya, the prime minister of the Gaza-based government, phoned the Saudi Crown-Prince Sultan Ibn Abdul Aziz to wish him well on the occasion of the advent of the Holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

During the ensuing conversation, the Saudi crown-prince reportedly asked Haniya what he thought Saudi Arabia could do to help Fatah and Hamas overcome their differences.

According to the sources, Haniya told the Saudi leader that Hamas was still committed to the Saudi-brokered Makka Accords of 8 February and was willing to sit down with Fatah in Makka or anywhere to resolve all outstanding problems with Fatah.

Haniya also argued that it was illogical that Palestinian leaders were readily holding meetings with their enemies (Israel) while refusing to sit down with their own brothers.

Furthermore, Haniya told Prince Sultan that Hamas would agree to return the former Fatah security headquarters to the PA if the Fatah leadership agreed to restructure Palestinian security forces on “national” rather than “factional” basis.

Prince Sultan briefed King Abdullah on the conversation with Haniya after which the king reportedly decided to invite Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to visit Jeddah in 48 hours.

Abbas arrived in Jedda on Wednesday and held extensive talks with King Abdullah during which the two leaders agreed that the Makka agreement was the sole base for the restoration of Palestinian unity.

Abbas, however, told the Saudi leadership that Hamas would have to return to the status quo ante in the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal was quoted as saying on Wednesday that his government was not introducing a new initiative to resolve the Fatah-Hamas rift.

However, it was abundantly clear that "all sides" are reasserting the Makka Agreement as the basis for resolving the current predicament between Gaza and Ramallah.

Abbas is likely to hold extensive consultations with Fatah leaders before taking a final decision on restarting reconciliation talks with Hamas.

Fatah leaders and supporters have been adopting a vindictive discourse vis-à-vis Hamas so much that, according to a Palestinian writer based in Ramallah, 90% of statements by Fatah were directed at Hamas, not the Israeli occupation.

Meanwhile, Haniya is due to give a speech Wednesday afternoon in which he is expected to spell out unspecified “gestures” and “confidence-building measures” toward Fatah.

Ahmed Yousuf, advisor to Haniya, has revealed that Haniya will “outline the bases for settling the inter-Palestinian rift in a bid to find a way out of the current deadlock.”

A Palestinian lawmaker from Hebron intimated that Hamas would “swallow its pride” and take the first step toward ending the crisis with Fatah.

“Someone has to make the first step, and it is Hamas,” said the MP who asked that his name not be identified at this stage.

He added “Hamas is going to throw the ball into the Fatah court, and then if Fatah continued to show intransigence, it would bear full responsibility for the continuation of the crisis.”

The legislative council member didn’t say exactly what step Hamas would take, but observers in Gaza as well as inside sources in Hamas indicated that Hamas would probably announce its intention to place erstwhile Fatah security headquarters under the control of a third party, possibly Egypt.

Interestingly, the auspicious diplomatic activities are not being matched with genuine positive developments between the two groups on the ground.

In the West Bank, Fatah security forces continued to raid and hound Hamas targets and supporters, rounding up, mistreating and occasionally torturing Hamas supporters. Similarly, Hamas’ police forces in Gaza have been arresting, though for brief periods, Fatah activists and leaders, accusing them of fomenting trouble on instructions from Ramallah.

This week, Hamas issued a report accusing Fatah militiamen and PA security forces of carrying out a thousand attacks on Hamas’ supporters and institutions, including acts of vandalism and sabotage, murder, shooting, arrests and abduction.

PA security sources defend the crackdown on Hamas, saying that they are only trying to prevent Hamas from building a military structure in the West Bank similar to the “Executive Force” in Gaza.

The “executive force” played a key role in defeating Fatah forces in the strip.

However, Fatah’s claims in this regard seem to have little logic if any given the fact that the West Bank, unlike the Gaza Strip, is fully and tightly under the Israeli occupation.

This means that in order for Hamas to be able to carry out a “coup” against Fatah, it would have to have a combined fire power to defeat both the Israeli army and Fatah, which is utterly illogical.

“A military coup is carried out by an army against its government, army units would take control of government buildings, main radio and TV stations, and key strategic installations. And none of these elements is present in the West Bank since the entire region is under tight Israeli occupation,” said Palestinian Legislative council member Hatem Qafisha of Hebron.

Qafisha, speaking at a Ramallah symposium Wednesday, lashed out at Fatah claims that Hamas was disregarding “Palestinian legitimacy.”

“I am the legitimacy. I was elected by 51,000 votes. I was elected by the people.”

He further lambasted Fatah for stonewalling and refusing dialogue with Hamas.

“You in the PLO fought each others with tanks in Lebanon. You killed hundreds of each others. But you eventually overcame your differences through dialogue. So, why can’t the same thing be done between Fatah and Hamas?”

Political prayers

In addition to a harsh propaganda waged by the two sides, each against the other, Fatah has been trying to harass Hamas by organizing the Friday congregational prayers in public squares, apparently to sow discontent and foster an atmosphere of instability.

On Friday, 7 September, the Fatah leadership urged Palestinians to show their opposition to Hamas by praying in schoolyards and other open places. However, a relatively small numbers of citizens heeded the call, which suggested that Fatah is more feared than respected even in the West Bank where the movement is in control, mainly due to Israel’s willingness to allow it to operate unhindered.

In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Fatah supporters, many members of dismantled security and police forces, tried to hold public prayers in public squares, but were violently dispersed by Hamas.

Hamas leaders argued that the prayers were “not for the sake of God, but for the sake of Satan,” and thus were unlawful.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shana Tova

Life's blessings to all of you-don and Chana

The Persistence of Islamic Slavery

Muslim slavers in the Sudan primarily enslave non-Muslims, and chiefly Christians. The International Criminal Court recently issued warrants for the arrest of Ahmed Haroun, the minister for humanitarian affairs of Sudan, and Ali Kosheib, a leader of that country’s notorious janjaweed militia. The Sudanese government has refused to hand over the two for prosecution. Charges include murder, rape, torture and “imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty.” Severe deprivation of liberty is a euphemism for slavery. Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly observed not long ago that in Sudan, “slavery, sanctioned by religious zealots, ravaged the southern parts of the country and much of the west as well.”
Muslim slavers in the Sudan primarily enslave non-Muslims, and chiefly Christians. According to the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan (CASMAS), a human rights and abolitionist movement, “The current Khartoum government wants to bring the non-Muslim black South in line with Sharia law, laid down and interpreted by conservative Muslim clergy. The black animist and Christian South has been ravaged for many years of slave raids by Arabs from the north and east and resists Muslim religious rule and the perceived economic, cultural, and religious expansion behind it.”

The BBC reported in March 2007 that slave raids “were a common feature of Sudan’s 21-year north-south war, which ended in 2005….According to a study by the Kenya-based Rift Valley Institute, some 11,000 young boys and girls were seized and taken across the internal border -- many to the states of South Darfur and West Kordofan….Most were forcibly converted to Islam, given Muslim names and told not to speak their mother tongue.” One modern-day Sudanese Christian slave, James Pareng Alier, was kidnapped and enslaved when he was twelve years old. Religion was a major element of his ordeal: “I was forced to learn the Koran and re-baptised “Ahmed.” They told me that Christianity was a bad religion. After a time we were given military training and they told us we would be sent to fight.” Alier has no idea of his family’s whereabouts. But while non-Muslims slaves are often forcibly converted to Islam, their conversion does not lead to their freedom. Mauritanian anti-slavery campaigner Boubacar Messaoud explains: “It’s like having sheep or goats. If a woman is a slave, her descendants are slaves.”

Anti-slavery crusaders like Messaoud have great difficulty working against this attitude because it is rooted in the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example. The Muslim prophet Muhammad owned slaves, and like the Bible, the Qur’an takes the existence of slavery for granted, even as it enjoins the freeing of slaves under certain circumstances, such as the breaking of an oath: “Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom” (5:89). But while the freeing of a slave or two here and there is encouraged, the institution itself is never questioned. The Qur’an even gives a man permission to have sexual relations with his slave girls as well as with his wives: “The believers must (eventually) win through, those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, for (in their case) they are free from blame…” (23:1-6). A Muslim is not to have sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else – except a slave girl: “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you” (4:24).

In the past, as today, most slaves in Islam were non-Muslims who had been captured during jihad warfare. The pioneering scholar of the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic societies, Bat Ye’or, explains the system that developed out of jihad conquest:

The jihad slave system included contingents of both sexes delivered annually in conformity with the treaties of submission by sovereigns who were tributaries of the caliph. When Amr conquered Tripoli (Libya) in 643, he forced the Jewish and Christian Berbers to give their wives and children as slaves to the Arab army as part of their jizya [tax on non-Muslims]. From 652 until its conquest in 1276,
Nubia was forced to send an annual contingent of slaves to Cairo. Treaties concluded with the towns of Transoxiana, Sijistan, Armenia, and Fezzan (Maghreb) under the Umayyads and Abbasids stipulated an annual dispatch of slaves from both sexes. However, the main sources for the supply of slaves remained the regular raids on villages within the dar-al-harb [House of War, i.e., non-Islamic regions] and the military expeditions which swept more deeply into the infidel lands, emptying towns and provinces of their inhabitants. [1]

Historian Speros Vryonis observes that “since the beginning of the Arab razzias [raids] into the land of Rum [the Byzantine Empire], human booty had come to constitute a very important portion of the spoils.” As they steadily conquered more and more of Anatolia, the Turks reduced many of the Greeks and other non-Muslims there to slave status: “They enslaved men, women, and children from all major urban centers and from the countryside where the populations were defenseless.” [2] The Indian historian K. S. Lal states that wherever jihadists conquered a territory, “there developed a system of slavery peculiar to the clime, terrain and populace of the place.” When Muslim armies invaded India, “its people began to be enslaved in droves to be sold in foreign lands or employed in various capacities on menial and not-so-menial jobs within the country.” [3]

Slaves faced pressure to convert to Islam. In an analysis of Islamic political theories, Patricia Crone notes that after a jihad battle was concluded, “male captives might be killed or enslaved…Dispersed in Muslim households, slaves almost always converted, encouraged or pressurized [sic] by their masters, driven by a need to bond with others, or slowly, becoming accustomed to seeing things through Muslim eyes even if they tried to resist.” [4] Thomas Pellow, an Englishman who was enslaved in Morocco for twenty-three years after being captured as a cabin boy on a small English vessel in 1716, was tortured until he accepted Islam. For weeks he was beaten and starved, and finally gave in after his torturer resorted to “burning my flesh off my bones by fire, which the tyrant did, by frequent repetitions, after a most cruel manner.” [5]

Slavery was taken for granted throughout Islamic history, as it was, of course, in the West as well up until relatively recent times. Yet while the European and American slave trade get stern treatment attention from historians (as well as from reparations advocates and guilt-ridden politicians), the Islamic slave trade, which actually lasted longer and brought suffering to a larger number of people, is virtually ignored. (This fact magnifies the irony of Islam being presented to American blacks as the egalitarian alternative to the “white man’s slave religion” of Christianity.) While historians estimate that the transatlantic slave trade, which operated between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, involved around 10.5 million people, the Islamic slave trade in the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean areas began in the seventh century and lasted into the nineteenth, and involved 17 million people. [6]

And when pressure came to end slavery, it moved from Christendom into Islam, not the other way around. There was no Muslim William Wilberforce or William Lloyd Garrison. In fact, when the British government in the nineteenth century adopted the view of Wilberforce and the other abolitionists and began to put pressure on pro-slavery regimes, the Sultan of Morocco was incredulous. “The traffic in slaves,” he noted, “is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam...up to this day.” He said that he was “not aware of its being prohibited by the laws of any sect” and that the very idea that anyone would question its morality was absurd: “No one need ask this question, the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration than the light of day.” [7]

However, it was not the unanimity of human practice, but the words of the Qur’an and Muhammad that were decisive in stifling abolitionist movements within the Islamic world. Slavery was abolished only as a result of Western pressure; the Arab Muslim slave trade in Africa was ended by the force of British arms in the nineteenth century.

Besides being practiced more or less openly today in Sudan and Mauritania, there is evidence that slavery still continues beneath the surface in some majority-Muslim countries as well -- notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962, Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970, and Niger, which didn’t abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and as many as one million people remain in bondage. Slaves are bred, often raped, and generally treated like animals.

A shadow cast by the strength and perdurability of Islamic slavery can be seen in instances where Muslims have managed to import this institution to the United States. A Saudi named Homaidan Al-Turki, for instance, was sentenced in September 2006 to 27 years to life in prison, for keeping a woman as a slave in his home in Colorado. For his part, Al-Turki claimed that he was a victim of anti-Muslim bias. He told the judge: “Your honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and for crimes I did not commit. The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution.” The following month, an Egyptian couple living in Southern California received a fine and prison terms, to be followed by deportation, after pleading guilty to holding a ten-year-old girl as a slave. And in January 2007, an attaché of the Kuwaiti embassy in Washington, Waleed Al Saleh, and his wife were charged with keeping three Christian domestic workers from India in slave-like conditions in al-Saleh’s Virginia home. One of the women remarked: “I believed that I had no choice but to continue working for them even though they beat me and treated me worse than a slave.”

All this indicates that the problem of Islamic slavery is not restricted to recent events in the Sudan; it is much larger and more deeply rooted. The United Nations and human rights organizations have noted the phenomenon, but nevertheless little has been done to move decisively against those who still hold human beings in bondage, or aid or tolerate others doing so. The UN has tried to place peacekeeping forces in Darfur, over the objections of the Sudanese government, but its remonstrations against slavery in Sudan and elsewhere have likewise not resulted in significant government action against the practice. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also noted the problem, but as HRW observes, “the government of Sudan has stonewalled on the issue of slavery, claiming it was a matter of rival tribes engaging in hostage taking, over which it had little control. That is simply untrue, as myriad reports coming out of southern Sudan have made abundantly clear.” For Islamic slavery to disappear, a powerful state would have to move against it decisively, not with mere words, and accept no equivocation of half-measures. In today’s international geopolitical climate, nothing could be less likely.


Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of six books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad.

The Saudi “Peace Initiative” – The Next Strategic Failure-analysis

Our enemy said Israel was defeated by Syria in the proxy war or what is called the Second Lebanon War.Well, this is not true. The Hizbullah organization is a branch of the Syrian Army in every sense. Its headquarters is located north of Damascus; some of its arms arrive from Iran via Damascus and some from the Syrian Army warehouses. All of its intelligence arrives from the general headquarters of the Syrian army and the uninterrupted flow of weaponry, especially rockets, from Syria to the Hizbullah units continued throughout the duration of the fighting.

The defeat of a modern army, armed in a strategic alignment in all of its branches: Infantry, Navy and Air Force, against a few thousand terrorists equipped with assault rifles is an illustration of the process of deterioration that the IDF has undergone since the Yom Kippur War as the aptly named “People’s Army” goes from bad to worse reaching its nadir in the last war. However even the lack of readiness, substandard logistical alignment, low-level senior command echelon and failed inter-branch coordination are negligible when compared to the picture of the reserve units which on the day of reckoning are supposed to provide cover for the standing army - minuscule relative to the enemies’ armies - and therefore constitute a decisive foundation of the IDF military strategy. The sad truth, obvious to anyone with a head on his shoulders, that the reserve units, totally bereft of value as a combat force, are more a useless statistic on the document ostensibly presenting the IDF power than a fact on the ground.
In contrast to the self-deception of the common Israeli, who imagines that Israel is a military power in the Middle East, the Arabs read the map accurately and quickly reached the obvious conclusion that Israel has lost its military deterrence capability, i.e.: A rationale for existence, and that its chances in a conventional war are apparently non-existent.
C. The American disappointment. Going to war in Iraq with bravado and with the support of many allies among the members of the European community and especially the quick ground victory and the capture of Saddam Hussein aroused great expectations. However, the disappointment was proportionate to the expectations. The Europeans with their innate defeatism quickly abandoned their support for Washington. The attempt to impose order on the Iraqi chaos, and even more so to pass on the advantages of democracy to Iraq, very quickly ran aground. The number of fatalities among the American soldiers has passed 3,300 and President Bush and his Republican Party, after losing the majority in Congress are facing defeat in the presidential elections. Thus, the Americans are searching for a face-saving exit strategy from the Iraqi imbroglio. However, the one who really disappointed the Americans was Israel. No one wants pathetic, defeatist allies that are unable to take care of themselves. And that was how Israel was exposed in the eyes of the White House and even more so in the eyes of the State Department.

Although the Pentagon has been following the deterioration of the IDF for years, the rout in Lebanon surpassed all expectations. It was a supreme American interest that Israel strike at Syria. A: Because Damascus is the western branch of Iran, i.e.: A central component of the Axis of Evil. The fact that the Iranian ruler never stopped demanding to wipe Israel off the map and is developing nuclear weapons for that purpose, was supposed to supply Israel with an existential reason to topple the enemy to the north with assistance from Washington. However, not only did Israel close the historic window of opportunity, but while the fire was still burning in the houses in Haifa which collapsed from Syrian firepower, “peace with Syria” was already being discussed, i.e.: Expulsion of Israel from the Golan Heights and transferring it to the worst of Israel’s enemies. B. There is consensus among the experts in the field of development of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that the weapons and the material were transferred to Syria.1 Therefore, Washington (together with Great Britain) provided Israel with all possible support on the matter. However, by means of an exercise in self-deception, Israel erased the connection between Hizbullah and Damascus and did nothing in a matter that could have brought about a sea change in the standing of the American president and his party, and to yield for Israel the fruits of American appreciation in the form of strategic cooperation in the face of the Islamic threat. This would have been manifest at the very least in the removal of the “Road Map” from the political agenda. The Israeli failure left the Americans with no alternative to buying Arab hearts with Israeli currency. That explains Mrs. Rice’s vocal support for the Saudi plan and the White House’s abandonment of its original cold attitude and its voicing support for the plan at present.

The Saudi Initiative – The Document’s Main Points
The Council of the League of Arab Nations, in the 14th session of the summit meeting, ratifies the resolution adopted in June 1996 in the special Arab summit that took place in Cairo, that just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East constitutes a strategic option for the Arab countries. It should be achieved in accordance with international law and requires an identical commitment on the part of the Israeli Government.

This was after the statement of His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah Bin Abd al-Aziz, the Crown Prince of the Saudi Kingdom, in which His Royal Highness delineated his initiative, which called for a total Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since June 1967; for the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338; the resolutions adopted at the Madrid Conference in 1991; the principle of land for peace and Israel’s agreement to the concept of an independent Palestinian State whose capital is East Jerusalem – in exchange for the normalization of relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.
In accordance with the belief of the Arab countries in the assumption that a military solution to the conflict will neither achieve peace nor provide security for the various parties, the Council:

1. Demands that Israel to consider its policy and to declare that a just peace constitutes a strategic option for it.

2. Calls upon Israel:
· To carry out a complete withdrawal from all territories occupied since 1967 to the June 4, 1967 borders. That includes withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights and from the Lebanese territories occupied in southern Lebanon.

· To achieve a just solution of the Palestinian refugee problem. This will be reached in accordance with UN Resolution 194.

“The use of Lebanese civilians as human shields"

We have recently completed a comprehensive study entitled “The use of Lebanese civilians as human shields: the extensive military infrastructure positioned and hidden by Hezbollah in populated areas. From within the Lebanese towns and villages deliberate rocket attacks were directed against civilian targets in Israel .” The study was based on a wide range of materials which have not previously been used.
The issue of the terrorist organizations' use of human shields is important for understanding the dilemma faced by the State of Israel and international community as they confront terrorism, not only in Lebanon but in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories and in other arenas around the world. We are sending you the main points for perusal, and the entire study will shortly be available (in sections) on the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center Website.
Yours sincerely,
Dr. Reuven Erlich
Director of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S)

Hezbollah's use of Lebanese civilians as human shields: the extensive military infrastructure positioned and hidden in populated areas. From within the Lebanese towns and villages deliberate rocket attacks were directed against civilian targets in Israel.

Dr. Reuven Erlich (Col. Ret.) 1

The launch… …and the results
A Syrian-made 220 mm rocket launched at Haifa from the outskirts of Tyre (August 13) A house in the Bat Galim district of Haifa destroyed by a Syrian-made 220 mm rocket containing ball bearings (July 17, 2006)


This study analyzes two central concepts of Hezbollah's warfare, demonstrated during the second Lebanon war (July-August 2006). The first is the broad use of the Lebanese civilian population as a living shield; the second, viewing the Israeli civilian population as the primary target for the enormous rocket arsenal Hezbollah built up over a period of years. Both acts are considered war crimes under international law. They express the basic asymmetry between Israel , committed to moral conduct and international law, and a terrorist organization operating in direct contravention of those laws. That asymmetry is characteristic of the warfare waged against the State of Israel (and the entire international community) by Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations and as such is, by and large, a most recent case study of a situation prevailing in other conflict zones in this twenty first century.
The background to specific issues treated in this study was a war, the second Lebanon war, which caught both sides – and the world – by surprise. Israel was forced to deal with a host of both moral and practical problems that this war dramatically brought to the fore. From the very outset the hostilities were born of a mistaken perception. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah thought he could carry out a cross-border abduction and that Israel would respond as it had in the past: with limited military action followed by negotiations for the soldiers' release and a grudging acceptance of Hezbollah's terms for a prisoner swap. Nasrallah has, indeed, publicly admitted that had he known what Israel 's reaction would be, he would not have embarked on that particular course. For Israel signaled Hezbollah that the ground rules had changed, and that it would react differently from the way it had during the six years that followed its withdrawal from south Lebanon (in May 2000). In the heat of battle and throughout the thirty-three days of fierce combat, media attention was focused on the action, and there was little or no time – or patience – to enter into a thorough examination of facts and basic policies. This now needs to be done not only for the purpose of chronicling history in the most accurate and authoritative manner as possible , but also as a guide to similar activities taking place in other theaters of action parallel and subsequent to events in Lebanon.
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center , which is part of the Center for Special Studies, 2 took upon itself to bring before the public important aspects of the recent war, sifting, verifying, confirming and compiling information that illustrates Hezbollah's policies and modus operandi. The IDF was forced to deal with a terrorist organization, generously supported by two terrorism-sponsoring states ( Iran and Syria ), which constructed a broad military infrastructure within populated areas in south Lebanon . The organization systematically used local inhabitants as human shields, cynically endangering their lives and well being.
From within that infrastructure Hezbollah indiscriminately directed its massive fire at civilian targets in Israel , intending to cause death and destruction and to spread fear in Israel 's heartland and demoralize Israelis. Nearly four thousand rockets were fired into Israel , in gross violation of the international law. The use of human shields and the targeting of civilian populations are war crimes. However, Hezbollah does not see itself as bound by such laws, unlike Israel which did and does its utmost to avoid harming civilians.
Given the prospect of renewed hostilities, not only with Lebanon but in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories, we felt it necessary to provide authentic data previously unavailable to the public. This study is the product of the determination of a small group of people, a devoted team led by military intelligence veteran expert Dr. Reuven Erlich, who were privileged to enjoy the cooperation of every potential source of information in Israel . Every item of information was painstakingly checked and double checked to meet the highest standards of accuracy and veracity that this group has maintained in recent years .
This study is designed to provide all interested persons with reliable information about Hezbollah's conduct. Through its reports, and by using its Website to disseminate information, the Center for Special Studies performs a public service for global audiences, including the Arab and Muslim world. We in the Center for Special Studies are dedicated not only to commemorating the fallen of the Israeli intelligence community and to preserving its heritage but no less to harnessing the accumulated capabilities of our veterans to serve the current needs of truth- seeking audiences. Thus, as we look to the past, we make an effort to disseminate information contributing to the current war on terrorism. I sincerely hope that the reader will find the material of interest and be attentive to the wider context within which this unique study should be considered.
With every good wish,
Efraim Halevy
Center for Special Studies - Chairman
(Former Head of the Israeli Mossad 1998- 2002)

About the study
This study examines Hezbollah's exploitation of Lebanese civilians as human shields. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization which constructed a broad, advanced, comprehensive military infrastructure within densely populated areas of Lebanon . During the last war Hezbollah used that infrastructure to carry out a massive series of previously planned rocket attacks against population centers in Israel . Its objective was to wear down Israel , to cause civilian casualties and property damage, to cripple the economy and rend the fabric of Israeli society.
Iran and Syria , both terrorism-supporting states, regard Hezbollah as a strategic asset and are responsible for its military build-up in Lebanon, which they foster with massive arms shipments (long-range rockets and advanced anti-tank missiles), enormous infusions of money and political support. They intended to use Hezbollah's military might against Israel in due time, when their own strategic considerations dictated, for example in response to an attack on Iran 's nuclear installations.
The construction of a broad military infrastructure, positioned and hidden in populated areas, was intended to minimize Hezbollah's vulnerability. In addition it was designed to provide it with a kind of immunity to IDF attacks by using civilians as human shields, rely on the knowledge that it is IDF commitment to avoid harming civilians whenever possible. Hezbollah would also gain a propaganda advantage if it could represent Israel as attacking innocent civilians, which in fact was exactly what happened during the last war in Lebanon (“the second Lebanon war.”) .
Hezbollah's long-term plan , which was speeded up when the IDF withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, was to a construct orderly, organized military infrastructure within densely populated areas . They were established in the southern neighborhoods of Beirut (especially in Harat Hreik, where the organization's command center is located), in south Lebanon (especially south of the Litani River , the heart of its operational infrastructure) and in the Beqa'a Valley (especially in the region of Baalbek , where its training and logistics facilities are located).
Hezbollah's main deployments are the following:
a. Offensive : Before the outbreak of the second Lebanon war, Hezbollah stockpiled an arsenal of more than 20,000 rockets of various ranges, including long-range rockets capable of reaching both the north and center of Israel . They were primarily concentrated in south Lebanon and for the most part kept in designated storehouses located in civilian structures (private residences and public institutions) in many towns and villages. That enabled Hezbollah to wage a long-term campaign against Israel and to inflict extensive damage on its civilian population. Hezbollah aspired to create a balance of deterrence with Israel and exploit it to carry out attacks and encourage terrorism in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories, and at the same time to continue building up its military power in Lebanon .
b. Defensive : Hezbollah's defensive deployment is based on its military infrastructure south of the Litani River and in the hills around Nabatiya. Its objective was to enable Hezbollah to conduct guerilla attacks against the IDF with advanced anti-tank missiles, engineering forces and well-trained and well-equipped infantry. Its defensive infrastructure is based on a broad deployment within the Shi'ite towns and villages south of the Litani River and the intention to wage determined urban warfare (a concept well-illustrated by operational plans captured by the IDF during the war). To complement its military infrastructure within populated areas, Hezbollah also constructed such an infrastructure in non-populated areas, but its function is secondary in its overall defensive strategy.
c. Logistic : Hezbollah's logistic deployment consists of numerous storehouses of weapons scattered throughout Lebanon , particularly south Lebanon , which enable Hezbollah to engage in protracted warfare against Israel . To that end Hezbollah instituted a broad logistic system in south Lebanon based on hundreds of private residences and public institutions (including mosques ). It also makes extensive use of Lebanon 's road system to transport weapons from Syria to its forces in south Lebanon (as happened during the war), and of Lebanon 's communications and mass media capabilities, among them its own media.
Hezbollah's exploitation of Lebanese residents as human shields for its military infrastructure was well-illustrated during the second Lebanon war. It carried out stubborn urban fighting and launched thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and towns from close proximity to private residences and public institutions . Hezbollah had advance plans to turn many villages into ground-fighting arenas against the IDF, cynically exploiting the local civilian population (such exploitation is considered a war crime and gross violation of international laws governing armed conflict ). At the present time Hezbollah is rehabilitating the military infrastructure damaged during the war with no change in its basic policy of hiding within the civilian population.
The documentary section of this study provides proof , based on a wide range of intelligence sources, of the use of civilians as human shields and the deliberate shelling of Israeli cities and towns. Its main sections include:
a. Aerial photographs of Hezbollah headquarters, bases, offices, weapons and ammunition stores, and intelligence and propaganda installations. The military infrastructure located by the aerial photographs is shown to be positioned and hidden within clearly civilian population centers in south Beirut , south Lebanon and the Beqa'a Valley.
b. Examples of locating the military infrastructure within population centers and of launching rockets close to private residences and public institutions , taken from a wide variety of sources: aerial photographs, land photographs taken by IDF forces, aerial photograph interpretation, seized documents, interrogations of Hezbollah detainees, radar screens of rocket fire from within villages and television footage.
c. Proof that Hezbollah deliberately fired rockets (including fragment-spraying rockets ) at population centers and civilian facilities in Israel . The following sources were used: analysis and reconstruction of the rocket remains found in Israel , public statements made by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, seized Hezbollah documents, and announcements made by Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV and its other communications media.

8. In addition to the text, the study includes a CD of selected material documenting Hezbollah's operational activities conducted from within the Lebanese population and the rocket fire aimed at Israeli settlements . It also includes examples of footage photographed by the IDF from the air and on the ground, television network footage, recorded information obtained from three Hezbollah detainees, a selection of public statements made by Hassan Nasrallah and announcements aired by the Hezbollah-controlled media.

The IDF copes with a military infrastructure hidden
within civilian population centers
This study will show that during the second Lebanon war the IDF was forced to fight a terrorist organization which deliberately positioned and hid a vast military infrastructure (including rockets specifically intended to attack Israeli cities and towns) within a civilian environment. That was done by cynically using the Lebanese population within which it is located as a human shield.
The IDF was therefore faced with the problem of inflicting serious damage on Hezbollah's military infrastructure to protect the security of Israel 's citizens, while maintaining its moral and ideological commitment to avoid harming civilians. As a solution, and to minimize insofar as possible the harm done to the civilian population, the IDF used a variety of means to warn the residents of south Beirut and south Lebanon, advising them to leave areas in which Hezbollah operated. 3 The warnings were clearly understood by the local population and most residents left the areas where there was fighting, without a doubt reducing the number of civilians killed .
It should be noted that the IDF's air strikes and ground attacks against Hezbollah targets located in population centers were carried out in accordance with international law , which does not grant immunity to a terrorist organization deliberately hiding behind civilians supporting it, using them as human shields. Attacks against Hezbollah targets and the Lebanese infrastructure serving Hezbollah's military activities were carried out during the war in accordance with the statutes of international law governing the conduct of war, and Israel was within its rights to defend itself, its security and the health and welfare of its citizens. During the war, as a whole, the decision-making process during the war in the IDF which related to the attacks was accompanied by legal counsel from Military Advocate General's Corps .
Hezbollah , on the other hand, engaged in previously planned massive rocket fire directed against civilian targets with the clear intention to destroy, kill and terrorize the Israeli population while violating the statutes of international law governing the conduct of war. The violations committed by Hezbollah during the war (and which it has every intention of committing again) are within the strict definitions of war crimes , and it is up to the international community to use all available legal and political means to deal with Hezbollah and with the states which encourage it.

Sources used
The study is based on information from Military Intelligence and many other sources. Preparing this study revealed a great deal of information, however, as is only natural, most of the material in the hands of the Israeli security establishment is classified.
The study provides a large amount of varied analyses and documentation, the latter coming from a variety of sources:
a. Footage photographed by the Israeli Air Force during the war.
b. Footage and still shots photographed by the IDF Spokesman and IDF ground forces.
c. Television footage of public statements made by Hassan Nasrallah as well as Hezbollah announcements.
d. Testimonies of interrogated Hezbollah detainees.
e. Locating Hezbollah headquarters, bases, offices, weapons and installations in aerial photographs.
f. Hezbollah documents captured by the IDF during the war.
g. The IDF radar location of the sources of Hezbollah rocket fire from south Lebanon .
h. Data from the IDF Operational Division, the Israeli Ministry for Environmental Protection, the Israeli Police Department and the National Insurance Institution for losses and damages in Israel caused by rocket fire.
i. Preliminary investigations of IDF forces relating to the war.
All parts of this study relating to the legal aspects of the use of civilians as human shields and of rocket fire targeting Israel's civilian population were prepared with the help of the International Law Department of the IDF's Military Advocate General's Corps and the Legal Branch of the Foreign Ministry. We would also like to thank Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Danny Grossman for his comments. 4

Table of Contents

The study is divided into four parts:
a. Part One : Introduction. The establishment of Hezbollah's military infrastructure within the civilian population of Lebanon .
b. Part Two : Documentation. Proof of the location of Hezbollah's military. infrastructure and operational activities carried out from within the civilian population
c. Part Three : Population centers in Israel as targets for Hezbollah rocket fire .
d. Part Four : Text and visual appendices on CD .

Part One: Introduction –The establishment of Hezbollah's military infrastructure
within the civilian population of Lebanon
A general description of Hezbollah's military infrastructure and the rationale behind establishing and using it:
a. Acceleration of a military force build-up since the IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000.
b. The objectives of military force according to Hezbollah , Iran and Syria .
c. A general description of Hezbollah's concept of deployment and use of military force.
Using the civilian population as a human shield:
a. The rationale behind positioning and hiding Hezbollah's military infrastructure within densely populated areas.
b. A general description of the deployment and functioning of Hezbollah's military infrastructure in populated areas in south Lebanon .
c. Hezbollah's concept of urban warfare and its application during the second Lebanon war.
d. Hezbollah's awareness of the danger to the civilians resulting from its presence and activity in the villages.
e. The local residents' abandoning of the regions where Hezbollah military infrastructure was located.
f. The large percentage of Hezbollah operatives among those killed during the war relative to the number of civilians killed.
g. Rehabilitating Hezbollah's military infrastructure after the war using the same pattern of positioning and hiding it within the civilian population.

Part Two: Documentation – Proof of the location of the Hezbollah's military infrastructure and operational activities carried out from within the civilian population
Locations of the military infrastructure in the Shi'ite suburbs of south Beirut :
a. General description.
b. Examples of aerial photographs of Hezbollah targets attacked by the Israeli Air Force in south Beirut .
Locatios of the military infrastructure in the villages of south Lebanon and a description of the ground warfare waged there by Hezbollah:
a. Overview
b. Bint Jbeil
c. Aita al-Shaab
d. Ghandouriyeh-Froun
e. Maroun al-Ras
Locations of Hezbollah headquarters, bases, offices, storehouses and weapons in additional settlements in south Lebanon :
a. The city of Tyre .
b. Villages near the Israeli-Lebanese border (Meiss al-Jabal, Al-Baiyada, Al- Khiyam, Kafr Kila).
c. Villages further north (Yater, Soultaniyeh, ‘Abbassiyeh, Khirbet Silm, Qana, Maaroub, Tibnin).
The locations in aerial photographs of Hezbollah headquarters and bases within population centers in the Beqa'a Valley, especially in the city of Baalbek .
Locations of rocket launchings from villages and village outskirts, based on radar tracking and the aerial photograph interpretation.
Some of the documentation is accompanied by a CD nearly an hour long, including:
a. Footage photographed by the IDF and the Israeli TV channels documenting Hezbollah rocket fire and urban warfare (accompanying Appendix 2 i ).
b. Testimony given by detained Hezbollah operatives concerning the organization's activities within population centers (accompanying Appendix 2 ii ).
c. Public statements made by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and announcements broadcast by Hezbollah-controlled media concerning rocket fire targeting Israeli population centers (accompanying Appendix 2 iii ).

Part Three: Population centers in Israel as targets
for deliberate Hezbollah rocket fire
General description of Hezbollah's rocket arsenal:
a. Amounts, types, ranges and manufacturers of Hezbollah's rockets.
b. Rockets as inexact weapons intended to hit settled places rather than pinpoint targets.
c. The use and significance of fragmentation rockets.
d. The rationale behind using rockets: targeting population centers and other civilian installations.
Hezbollah rocket fire targeting population centers during the second Lebanon war:
a. Rocket policy during the various phases of the war.
b. The number and types of rockets fired at Israel .
c. Casualties and property damage inflicted on Israel resulting from Hezbollah rocket fire.
Proof that Hezbollah deliberately attacked Israeli civilians and the country's economic infrastructure:
a. Public statements made by Hassan Nasrallah and announcements in the Hezbollah-controlled media according to which the Israeli population was the main target.
b. Seized documents : Range cards of upgraded Grad rockets ( 122 mm ) containing lists of targets in Israel , most of them civilian settlements.

Part Four: Textual and visual appendices
Appendices :
a. Appendix 1 : Captured documents
1) Appendix 1 (i) : Hezbollah storehouses of explosives in the villages of Kafr Kila and Dibbin in the eastern sector of south Lebanon .
2) Appendix 1 (ii) : Hezbollah battle plan for the town of Deir Mimess in the eastern sector of south Lebanon .
3) Appendix 1 (iii) : Two apartments and two stores rented in the village of Majdal Silm by an operative belonging to the Hezbollah logistics unit.
4) Appendix 1 (iv) : Purchase of services from businesses in south Lebanon by the Hezbollah logistics unit.
5) Appendix 1 (v) : Range cards for upgraded Grad rocket ( 122 mm ) positions containing a list of targets and ranges in Israel , most of them civilian towns and cities.
b. Appendix 2 : Visual appendices
Appendix 2 (i) : Examples of footage photographed by the IDF and by television channels documenting Hezbollah fire and operational activities carried out from within population centers (see attached CD).
Appendix 2 (ii) : Testimonies of three Hezbollah detainees regarding the organization's activity within population centers (see attached CD).
Appendix 2 (iii) : A selection of public statements made by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and announcements appearing in the Hezbollah-controlled media concerning rocket fire targeting population centers in Israel (see attached CD).
c. Appendix 3 : Examples of locating rocket launchers near residential buildings found by interpreting aerial photographs.
d. Appendix 4 : Missile launching sites within villages and in village outskirts outh of the Litani River according to IDF radar tracking.
e. Appendix 5 : Casualties and property damage inflicted on Israel :
1) Appendix 5 (i) : Personal details about Israeli civilians who were killed by Hezbollah rocket fire.
2) Appendix 5 (ii) : Estimates of ecological damage inflicted on Israel by Hezbollah rocket fire.
f. Appendix 6 : The Israeli effort to prevent casualties among the Lebanese population. IDF warnings to the population in Lebanon to leave areas of Hezbollah ctivity and IDF attacks.
g. Appendix 7 : Legal aspects prepared by the International Legal Department of the Military Advocate General's Corps :
1) Appendix 7 (i) : Strikes on terrorist targets located within and nearby civilian population concentrations – legal aspects.
2) Appendix 7 (ii) : Targeting of infrastructure serving the Hezbollah military effort – legal aspects.
3) Appendix 7 (iii) : Hezbollah attacks on civilian objects – legal aspect

1 The study and its translation were carried out at the Center for Special Studies by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center 's staff of experts, headed by Dr. Reuven Erlich. The study was supported by Military Intelligence, the Operations Division of the IDF General Staff, the IDF Spokesperson and the legal experts of the IDF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
2 As of January 1, 2007, its name will be changed to the Israeli Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center .
3 Although such warnings often endangered the IDF's operational capabilities.
4 Danny Grossman is the Israeli Director of the American Jewish Congress.