Saturday, June 21, 2008

Olmert’s Latest Debacle

P. David Hornik

Hardly anyone in Israel sees much merit in the latest “ceasefire” with Hamas that came into effect at 6 o’clock Thursday morning. Even the United States, which generally supports, lauds, and pushes for Israeli capitulations, “reacted skeptically” according to Reuters and State Department spokesman Tom Casey said that “Even if this is…true…, I think unfortunately it hardly takes Hamas out of the terrorism business.”

The background noise is not too hard to discern: what happened to our good guy/bad guy dichotomy between Fatah and Hamas? Since the U.S. approach has been to glorify the former and condemn the latter, why is Israel making deals with the latter? And in Israel, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said the calm in Gaza would be “fragile and short…. We have to make the most of the calm but prepare for an incursion. We are on a collision course.” Top Military Intelligence official Yossi Baidatz added that Hamas would use the calm to dig tunnels into Israel—something other than a peaceful prospect—while continuing to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

Israel’s Channel 2 news reported that many top Israel Defense Forces officers are profoundly unhappy with the deal. Even Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon, a dovish politician who was an enthusiast of the Oslo accords and the disengagement from Gaza, called the ceasefire “another triumph for radical Islam. It won in Lebanon and now it is about to win in Gaza.”

Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, who negotiated the truce via Egyptian mediation in Cairo, reportedly “needs to speak out in support of the deal he reached—without any great enthusiasm—under orders from the political echelon.” As for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he too hardly sounded excited, saying as late as Tuesday that it was “too early to declare a truce” and that it was “difficult to determine” how long such an arrangement could last.

One of the least happy with the news was Noam Shalit. Father of the soldier Gilad Shalit who was abducted by Hamas two years ago and is still being held, he complained bitterly that—contrary to earlier promises by the cabinet and by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert—the deal did not stipulate his son’s release, and threatened to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

And what about Olmert himself? “We have no illusion but that this truce is fragile and could be short-lived. Hamas has not changed its skin,” he said Wednesday. “These are despicable, bloodthirsty terrorists who have not changed, and the proof is that even today, they still are making every effort to hurt innocent civilians”—referring to Hamas’s pre-truce “gift” on Wednesday of 30 rockets and 10 mortar shells, including a direct hit on a house in Sderot that sent its residents into shock.

What, then, did Israel agree to, and why did it do it?

One year after Hamas took full control of Gaza and has been—along with smaller Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and other factions—pounding southwestern Israel incessantly with thousands of rockets and mortars, and five months after Israel imposed a partial blockade on Gaza, Israel agreed to start lifting the blockade in three days if the quiet lasts that long.

By next week Israel and Hamas, via Egypt, are supposed to renew negotiations on Shalit’s release—with Hamas, just as before this truce was agreed, demanding that Israel free literally hundreds of Hamas terrorists in return. If such a deal goes through, Israel is supposed to further reward Hamas by reopening the crucial Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Egypt, for its part, is supposed to crack down on the weapons smuggling through its territory to Gaza. According to some reports, if the ceasefire lasts for six months it is supposed to be extended to the West Bank—if true, an astounding concession by Israel since it is only its military activity on the West Bank that prevents the terror threat there from growing to existential proportions.

The agreement is yet another debacle because:

* At a time when Israel had been struggling diplomatically to maintain the Western boycott of Hamas, with the inevitable cracks already showing, the agreement bestows legitimacy on Hamas as a party that can be negotiated with (albeit with the fig-leaf of Egyptian mediation) and with which peace agreements are feasible. This is, of course, concurrent with the Israeli prime minister’s description of the organization as “despicable, bloodthirsty terrorists who have not changed.”

* Even if Egypt—for the first time after innumerable promises and U.S. and Israeli pressures—finally does more to stop the smuggling, the Israeli defense and intelligence communities say unanimously that both the smuggling, in some form or another, and Hamas’s buildup of its military strength will continue.

* After first declaring that Shalit’s release was a sine qua non for a truce in the first place, Israel has again shown itself dithering and weak-kneed by caving on that point and deferring the issue. If the negotiations on Shalit are then resumed after a short span of quiet, Israel will come under immense pressure to accept a lopsided deal entailing freedom for a large number of lethal terrorists and a tremendous propaganda victory for Hamas.

* The truce repeats the pattern that was set when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 and under “truce”-like conditions allowed Hezbollah to keep arming there until a war broke out in 2006 in which Israel—at least in the time it had—proved unable to defeat Hezbollah or stop its missiles. Most Israelis, including the defense and political establishments, understand that Hamas’s raison dêtre is the destruction of Israel and hence any period of “calm” can only eventually culminate in a more deadly war with a stronger Hamas. The ceasefire is, then—as in the earlier case of the relative “calm” with Hezbollah—a strategic victory for the patron of both terrorist groups, Iran.

And the explanation for why Israel accepted it lies in the severe dysfunctionality of the Olmert government and particularly its chief.

His tenure of just over two years has seen a disastrously bungled war in Lebanon and the strengthening of Israel’s enemies on all three neighboring fronts—Gazan, Lebanese, Syrian—amid ludicrous ventures at deal-making and propitiation with Fatah, Hamas and, particularly of late, Syria and Lebanon. The stage was set in 2005, before Olmert became prime minister, with his abject statement that Israel was “tired of fighting…tired of defeating our enemies”—words that in themselves clearly stamped him as unsuitable and incompetent for any post involving geopolitics and national security.

Lately, though, the Olmert government has been under mounting, desperate pressure from Israeli Gaza-belt residents to do something about the Hamas bombardment they live under. At the same time Hamas itself—which would like to see a stop to Israel’s tactical military strikes and partial blockade of supplies, and recalls how well past “ceasefires” have served its purposes of replenishing itself—has been signaling an interest in a lull. Hamas no doubt also recalls that in previous “lulls” it and other terror groups were able to keep shelling Israel for months before Israel finally reacted.

Shying away, then, from the only rational solution to the Hamas problem—military defeat—because of a lack of legitimacy stemming from Olmert’s legal problems, the failed legacy of the 2006 Lebanon war, and fears of casualties and international reactions, the Olmert government grasped at what it perceived to be the straw available to it, namely, this ceasefire with its grave flaws. Although any attack on Israel is deplorable, one has to take consolation in the fact that the arrangement is not likely to last very long.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs at He can be reached at

"Just chilling, reading the Koran"

"Sometime you have to do violence to bring peace." What do you think he means by "peace"?

"Suspect said he was 'just chilling, reading the Koran,'" by Melissa Leong in the National Post, June 20 (thanks to Twostellas):

A young suspected terrorist told a police officer hours after he was arrested that violence was sometimes justified to bring peace.

But during the police interrogation the youth seemed confused by allegations that his associates were making bombs to kill innocent people and claimed that a so-called terrorist training camp was a really a religious getaway to get in shape. "The intent of the camp was wrong ... and you know that," RCMP Sergeant John Tost said.

The youth disagreed, saying that the campers were "just chilling, reading the Koran" and exercising because "some guys are lazy you know, they're gaining weight.

"For two weeks we just kind of worked out," he said of the December, 2005, trip....

The officer asked the youth -- who had recently converted from Hinduism to Islam -- whether he felt it was justified to use violence to spread a religious message.

"Sometime you have to do violence to bring peace," he answered.

"For example, let's say that the Americans, when they fought against the Russians right? If they were to sit down, say ... we got to do it peacefully, peacefully, peacefully, America would have been gone a long time [ago].

"Peace talks won't work. We have to put the physical effort. We have to plan 'B' to action."

But he admitted that he also thought deeply about the merits of discussion versus "the sword."

"I feel in my heart that it would be nice if you know we could ... just talk to people, sit down with them humbly, instead of, you know, because look at this ... I'm basically in like a prison right now."

Sgt. Tost told him his faith had been corrupted. He called the youth, who was barefoot and in jeans and a T-shirt, "respectful" and "well-raised."...

Sgt. Tost is, like so many Western non-Muslim judges and law enforcement officials, apparently an expert on Islam. He knows that it doesn't really teach warfare against unbelievers. Everyone, in fact, knows that -- except the Muslims who read the Qur'an carefully and take it seriously with an eye toward following its commands.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Winograd Probe Member: 'Olmert Must Go'

Hillel Fendel

Prof. Yechezkel Dror, who made headlines several months ago when he admitted that political considerations colored his Winograd Committee decisions, has backtracked. He now says Olmert must be replaced.

Speaking at the Jerusalem Conference for Quality in Government on Tuesday night, Prof. Dror said, "Olmert did not implement the recommendations of the Winograd Committee, and did not significantly strengthen his National Security Council." Dror was a member of the Winograd Committee that investigated Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's handling of the Second Lebanon War - and that stopped short of calling for Olmert to be replaced. Though Prof. Dror described the government situation he and his colleagues were investigating as a "nightmare," they did not recommend that he step down.

This past February, Prof. Dror himself explained why they did not call on Olmert to step down. Dror admitted that the committee members refrained from toppling Olmert because they wanted to preserve the "peace process," and because of the fear that Binyamin Netanyahu would win the resulting elections.

“If we think the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, will advance the peace process, that is a very honorable consideration,” Prof. Dror told Maariv newspaper at the time. “What do you prefer? An Olmert-Barak government, or new elections where Netanyahu will rise to power?”

His admission that an official government committee was guided by political considerations caused a public storm, but it quickly passed with no concrete action being taken against him.

Now, however, Dror seems to have changed his mind, calling specifically for Olmert to step down from office. "There is currently no strategic element helping the Prime Minister in his [national security] decision making process," he said in his speech. Dror also said that Olmert has "not yet succeeded in coming up with a reasonable explanation for why he received those [cash-filled] envelopes from Morris Talansky.".

A ceasefire at any cost

Ted Belman

As I write, the “ceasefire”, lull” or whatever has been in place for an hour, but what are its terms? Nobody is saying at least not exactly. All responsible ministers are not to be seen and they are hiding behind the back of Maj Gen (ret’d), Amos Gilad who negotiated the deal under their orders.

In his interview by YNET he had this to say,

“If Gilad Shalit is not released, Rafah crossing does not open,”

“I think the ceasefire is the only way we may be able to bring about Shalit’s release,”

“The idea is to try to focus our efforts on releasing the soldier. My feeling is that a ceasefire would promote the release. This was the policy declared by the cabinet and I spoke about this to the Egyptians. Shalit is part of the ceasefire agreement.”
These words are very conflicting. Either there are specific provisions or there are not. But Gilad says “we may be able” and “to try to focus our efforts” etc. Shalit’s father is threatening to sue the government for leaving his son out of the deal.

Rafah Crossing

“this is a complex and difficult issue. We must remember that the opening of the crossing would be a kind of de-facto recognition of a Hamas state, because it would constitute the organization’s first international border with Egypt.

“The opening of Rafah was an issue that came up during the agreement that was decided upon between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the US, and the EU, which sent its inspectors. Thus this is a complicated process conditioned on progress being made in the Shalit deal.”

This is avoiding the issue. Nowhere does he mention the terms agreed to. Why not? Why are we not entitled to read the agreement itself? Probably more holes through it then would be necessary to drive a truck through.

Rocket fire and smuggling

“We will not accept the firing of even one Qassam.

“Egypt, on its side, is committed to preventing the smuggling activity from Gaza. It’s simple; Egypt has a border with Gaza, through which weapons and terrorists are smuggled. Smuggling is a serious violation of the terms. Any such infraction will lead to a change in Israel’s stance from the way in which it was presented to the Egyptians,”

It appears that smuggling is only a “serious violation” but at least Egypt is committed to preventing it. Thank G-d. Everyone including Galid is exhibiting no confidence in the agreement which is another way of disowning it. So why is it being done? Why give Hamas international recognition for a deal that won’t last?

“In the end it comes down to a choice between options. If we had embarked on a military operation, we probably would have arrived at the same outcome; the ceasefire.”

Aye, there’s the rub. No hint of fighting for victory. Just another ceasefire like in Lebanon. So obviously, let’s avoid the fighting and go right to the ceasefire.

Now Haaretz raised some other issues. Israel Harel writes,

Israel will remove, within days, a significant portion of its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip. Hamas, in return, has promised to renew contacts on the release of Gilad Shalit. The Egyptians in response are promising to work harder to prevent arms smuggling.

But how do you measure honest efforts to advance the Shalit deal? Will intensive talks without a deal meet the conditions? It is not at all clear.

Not very encouraging.

Like Barak, Gilad believes that in the long run a confrontation with Hamas is almost inevitable, but then the cabinet can come to the nation with clean hands and say “we tried everything, now it is the IDF’s turn.”

What Gilad cannot say is that the choice of tahadiyeh was first and foremost a political one. From the moment Olmert and Barak reached the conclusion that they did not have public support or political breathing room for a large ground offensive in Gaza, the die was cast.

This is total BS. A very recent poll disclosed otherwise,

Most Israelis are against a cease-fire with Hamas if it does not include freeing kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, according to a poll released Thursday by the Hebrew University’s Truman Institute.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents opposed an agreement without Schalit while 30% said they would support one.

The poll also found that 50% of Israelis would oppose a cease-fire even if it included the release of Schalit, who was captured two years ago in a cross-border raid.

Need I say more?

Senior officers in the IDF hold

Israel has not even attempted to try a long list of measured operations that are less than an conquest of the Gaza Strip, but if tried, might have forced Hamas to accept a cease-fire from a completely different position. Brigade-level operations in the strip were halted a long time ago, and no attempt has been made in recent times to threaten the lives of senior Hamas officials.

Bottom line, he says,

The present strategic goal is not peace, but quiet, even if only for a short time - until the elections.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Israel, Hamas agree to Gaza truce

This can only help Hamas.

"If Muslims are weak, a truce may be made for ten years if necessary, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made a truce with the Quraysh for that long, as is related by Abu Dawud" ('Umdat as-Salik, o9.16). Note that this can only be done if "Muslims are weak." The same legal manual also quotes this verse of the Qur'an: "So do not be fainthearted and call for peace, when it is you who are the uppermost" (47:35). So it isn't likely that Hamas would be calling for a truce at all if it felt that it was in a position of strength. "Interests that justify making a truce are such things as Muslim weakness because of lack of numbers or materiel, or the hope of an enemy becoming Muslim..." ('Umdat as-Salik, o9.16).

The bottom line: Hamas is feeling the heat and wants a truce in order to regroup and emerge in a stronger position.

"Israel and Hamas agree to Gaza truce, officials say," by Nidal al-Mughrabi for Reuters (thanks to JCB):

GAZA (Reuters) - An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas will begin on Thursday, a Palestinian official said, after Israeli air strikes killed six militants in the Gaza Strip.

The official, who is familiar with the truce negotiations, said on Tuesday the two sides agreed to a six-month deal. He voiced confidence the latest violence would not hold up the start of the agreement to end constant bloodshed.

"Implementation of the truce will begin at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Thursday," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to announce an accord.

A ceasefire would aim to end rocket and mortar bomb attacks on Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Israeli raids in the territory. Israel has said it would continue preparations for broad military action should a truce fall apart.

A senior Egyptian official was quoted by Egypt's Middle East News Agency as confirming the Palestinian official's information. A Hamas source had said announcement of a deal would be made by Egypt.

Israel stopped short of confirming the timing of what it said would be an informal arrangement to halt fighting.

"What is important is not words but actions," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Not words but actions? Getting words but no actions has never bothered Olmert (and many other Israeli leaders) before.

The Barack Obama Enigma and the Jews*

Isi Leibler
June 18, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama is possibly the most charismatic US presidential candidate since John Kennedy. He is young, charming, passionate and extremely bright. He has overcome the barrier of racial bias and defeated a powerful adversary considered unbeatable. He is adored by many idealistic young people, who see in him a hope for a brighter future.

However, few would deny that there are highly questionable aspects to the Obama candidacy which electors will be mulling over between now and Election Day.

All candidates have been courting the small but highly influential Jewish electorate. As a consequence, Israel has attracted exorbitant media coverage. Under normal circumstances, Jews would hardly support a candidate known to have been associated with a racist like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ, who was until recently Obama's family pastor and spiritual adviser. Over the years, Wright, a proponent of "black power," promoted hatred and xenophobia. He blamed Israel for 9/11, which he described as a "wake-up call for white America;" he had close ties with Louis Farrakhan, the notorious anti-Semite and head of the Nation of Islam, with whom he traveled to Libya to meet Muammar Gaddafi; he promoted Hamas propaganda in his church; he continually raved about whites and cursed America.

Had Obama been a conservative, American Jews would unquestionably be at the forefront of initiatives to disqualify him for having been associated with such a bigot.

However, even more disconcerting than Obama's relationship with the racist pastor is the political stance of his friends and advisers in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Robert Malley, until very recently one of Obama's advisers, was closely associated with the anti-Israeli billionaire George Soros, notorious for his bitter hostility against Israel. Samantha Power, another policy adviser who also recently "resigned," previously called on the US to defend Palestinians from Israeli "genocide." Tony McPeak, Obama's campaign co-chair, complained about foreign policy being unduly influenced from "Miami and New York." Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's former national security adviser, who recently praised the Mearsheimer-Walt book demonizing the pro-Israel lobby, was also linked to Obama.

Another problematic relationship is Obama's long-standing personal friendship with PLO academic and activist Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi and his wife, who were active fundraisers for Obama when he ran for Congress. Obama told the Los Angeles Times that the fond memories of the time spent with the Khalidi family serve "as constant reminders to me of my own blind spots."

More recently, Obama appointed former US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, as a key political adviser for the Middle East. Kurtzer's dovish views and belief that the US should pressure Israel to make further concessions are public knowledge. He recently lauded former secretary of state James Baker and former president George H.W. Bush for having threatened to suspend loan agreements in order to bring the Israelis into line. Kurtzer criticized both presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush for not having been tough enough with the Israelis. He accused Dennis Ross, the Clinton-appointed Middle East envoy, of displaying partiality in favor of the Israelis. He even blamed Clinton for "acceding to Barak's request to blame Arafat publicly for the failure of the Camp David summit."

Taking these factors into account, one might have assumed that Jews would be somewhat hesitant about supporting Obama. But the reality is that aside from the Orthodox, 50 percent of Jewish Democrat voters are said to have supported Obama against Hillary Clinton, and indications are that the majority of American Jews will continue backing him against Republican John McCain.


Some attribute this support to the adoration of liberalism shared by the majority of American Jews, which emotionally bond them to Obama, who enjoys virtually messianic status among leftist liberals.

Additionally, for the majority of younger non-Orthodox Jews, concern for Israel no longer preoccupies them as it did their forbears. This was reflected in the recent Stephen Cohen survey, which showed that more than 50 percent of non-Orthodox Jews under 35 would not consider the destruction of Israel to represent a "personal tragedy" for them.

Nonetheless, Obama took no chances on losing Jewish supporters and launched a dedicated campaign to woo the backing of the pro-Israel activists, in the process of which he rapidly dissociated himself from his previous dovish stands. In so doing, he also rode on the waves of American support for Israel.

This reached its climax at the AIPAC conference where all presidential candidates competed to shower praise on Israel. In an earlier remark, Obama had quipped that support of Israel need not reflect a Likud approach. Yet the address he delivered to the 7,500 people at AIPAC could have been made as a contestant in a Likud primary.

Besides opposing ties with Hamas, he referred to Israel's need for "secure, recognized and defensible borders," a formulation far more explicit than the vague Bush prescription of "demographic realities on the ground." Obama has not withdrawn that statement, and hopefully American Jewish activists will concentrate their energies on trying to lock him into recognizing that defensible borders are indeed a crucial element of Israel's security requirements for a final settlement.

In support for Jerusalem remaining the undivided capital of Israel, Obama went far beyond what the current Israeli government says, leaving Arabs and many of his left-wing constituents, including his Peace Now Jewish fans, outraged. Uri Avnery lambasted him for "breaking all records for obsequiousness and fawning," and for "crawling in the dust at the feet of AIPAC." Not surprisingly, in less than a day his spokesmen began backtracking, saying that the future of Jerusalem had to be determined directly by the parties themselves.

So we are left wondering. Can Obama be trusted to deliver on pre-election promises? Die-hard liberals will undoubtedly say yes, but many Jews who traditionally vote Democrat will think twice before casting their ballot.

But in fairness, it should be noted that among Obama supporters one can also find stalwart supporters for Israel like Marty Peretz, editor of The New Republic, AIPAC treasurer Lee Rosenberg and others who are not doves and would not easily be blinded by a candidate fundamentally hostile to Israel.

Obama may also have sincerely changed his views as he became engaged in the debate.

But sitting here in Jerusalem as an Israeli and not an American citizen, I would be concerned about a man who has associated himself for such a long period with people who are at best ambivalent and at worst range from being opposed to what we consider to be our vital interests to being rabid racists.

Having said that, I remain fairly optimistic that irrespective of who the American people elect as their next president, the friendship with Israel will remain intact.

The good news is that grassroot support for Israel in the United States is today overwhelmingly positive and genuinely bipartisan, ensuring that even a leader not kindly disposed to us would seriously hesitate before adopting an overtly anti-Israel position. Besides, who among us ever dreamed that George W. Bush was going to be on the side of the angels?

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1212659757387&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

* This article appears in today's Jerusalem Post under a different title, but I prefer to use my own original title which I feel more accurately reflects the subject discussed.

Original article available at:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Groundswell of Opposition Against Surrendering Golan Heights

Hana Levi Julian

The number of Israelis who oppose surrendering the Golan Heights to Syria is growing, according to a new Teleseker poll published in the Hebrew-language newspaper Ma'ariv on Tuesday.

Some 85 percent of the Israeli public is opposed to ceding the Golan Heights to Syria, according to the poll.

Barely half of those living in the strategic area said they would leave their homes voluntarily if the government agreed to turn the Golan over to Syria.

Only 56 percent of respondents living in the Golan Heights agreed they would leave in return for money or equivalent property in the Galilee or Negev. The statistics did not change significantly even when residents were offered double compensation in exchange for leaving their homes in the Golan Heights.

Envoys Yoram Turgeman and Shalom Turbovich returned to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office from Ankara following a second round of talks on Sunday and Monday with Syrian representatives through Turkish mediators with new dates for further discussions in the near future.

The pair said the latest discussions went well; however, the content of the talks was not released.

Prior to the talks there was also a majority opposed to a full withdrawal from the Golan.

Last Thurday the results of a poll conducted between May 27 and June 7 by the Truman Institute of the Hebrew University found that 67 percent of Israelis are unwilling to give up the area, even in return for a complete peace agreement with Syria. Only 22 percent of respondents supported the move.

A previous survey conducted by the same group in March found that 56 percent opposed ceding the region, and 25 percent supported the idea.

The findings had a margin of error of + 3 percent..

Aqua Digital is flowing with Israel's cleantech industry

Karin Kloosterman

Clean technology is the latest buzzword in Israel. For decades Israelis have been developing low, mid and high-tech solutions to battle the country's water shortage and drought. Today, Israelis are not only applying their clean tech water solutions on home turf, but are becoming international leaders sought after by industry and governments everywhere. While sexy innovative companies from Israel are now taking the spotlight -- consider the water companies Checklight or Aqwise -- there is a solid industry in Israel built on pipes, parts and valves that deliver and monitor water. These products, although less glamorous, are the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts solutions that enable smart, effective and immediate changes that benefit not only Israel, but the world over.

Many of these "enabling" solutions were showcased recently at the 12th Annual CleanTech conference and exhibition at Airport City convention hall just outside of Tel Aviv, and included products for solar energy, recycling solid waste, agriculture and green building.

There was also a "green" art exhibit that featured environmental design and recycled products at the event.

Focused on the local market, those highlighted have their hopes set on entering the international scene. One of those companies is Aqua Digital, a six-month-old start-up located in the Kinrot Incubator, and supported by the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel.

"Water metering used today is a very old technology," says Avi Pauncz, the CEO of Aqua Digital. Only in the last 10 years, he explains, has America started adding digital components that can transfer information about water consumption.

However, most of the water meters consist of an add-on device that converts the mechanical registry to a digital output. Aqua Digital is doing something else, he says: it is building a cost-effective solution that provides a digital reading directly from the meter.

"It's a plug and play solution," jokes Pauncz, who says the easy-to-use low-tech/high-tech device doesn't require an expert to install (fitting between two pipes), and is suited to municipal, industrial and agricultural water consumers. It could provide immediate benefits to the emerging economies in developing nations as well, given its low cost.

Pauncz says that such a rapid and accurate output can be a tool for helping people save water and to know exactly where the water is going. In a factory, for example, this kind of information is very useful for increasing productivity, especially since the cost of water is rising, and water insecurity is on every nation's mind.

It will also be useful for American homeowners who can obtain discounts on sewage bills if they can prove that the water they are using is going to a pool, for instance, and not down the drain.

The problem with existing mechanical solutions is that they are based on rotating parts, where friction causes wear and tear and the need for maintenance. Beyond that, wear causes a loss in accuracy, and mechanical solutions suffer from sensitivity problems at low flow rates, says Pauncz, who not long ago was the CTO for Arad, an industry leader in providing water metering and billing solutions.

He says his new water meter, which hasn't yet been named, contains no parts that can wear and tear. Plus a simple add-on can remotely monitor water flow and volume. This will save water companies money because billing can be done - even in remote locations - without the need of a water meter reader.

Simply put, Aqua Digital is hoping to make water monitoring simple and smart. It is looking for a strategic investor to help take it to market, and could very well be part of American homes and businesses by the end of next year.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Don't Blame Israel For Arab Woes

Dr. Earl Tilford Thursday, June 12, 2008

As Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary last month, there were the usual voices raised accusing Israel of victimizing the Palestinian Arabs and “running them out” of the Jewish state.

Ironically, some 1,300,000 Arab-Israeli citizens live and work in Israel. They worship freely in mosques from Haifa to Gaza and from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Arab-Israeli citizens enjoy full civil rights, study at Israeli universities, serve in the Knesset, every department of the Israeli government – and even in the armed forces.

Meanwhile, the 4,000,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are largely victims of their own making. Whereas hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs remained in Israel to live unmolested in the Jewish state, Jews throughout the Arab world have been victims of pogroms like those in Baghdad in 1941 and in Cairo and Tripoli in 1948, incited by the Muslim Brotherhood and abetted by Muslim regimes.

The vast majority of Arab residents of Palestine who fled in 1948 did so because Arab leaders urged them to flee, promising that the lands and homes of Jewish Palestinians would be theirs if they joined in expelling the “Zionist invaders.”

Given the history of Arab animosity toward pre-1948 Jewish residents of Palestine, had the six Arab armies that attacked Israel in 1948 prevailed, the Jews of Palestine would have been butchered.

The Mufti-Haj Amin el Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who allied with Adolf Hitler during World War II and provided a Muslim SS division to fight in the Balkans, planned to exterminate Palestine’s Jewish population as his personal contribution to the Holocaust. The Mufti’s popularity among Palestinian Arabs and throughout the Arab world acquired heroic proportions.

Few peoples have squandered opportunities for self-determination and independence as has Palestine’s Arab population. In 1937, the British Peel Commission provided for an Arab state in Palestine – larger than the one planned for Jews. Palestinian-Arabs rejected the plan and then launched the bloody Arab Revolt of 1936-37.

In 1947, when United Nations Resolution 181 offered to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, Israelis accepted the plan while Arabs rejected it, urging Palestinian Arabs to join their jihad against the fledgling Jewish state. Why the jihad? The Islamic concept of the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) precludes any non-Muslim entity in lands ever ruled by Muslims.

If Palestinian-Arabs were content to live peacefully with their Jewish neighbors, there would be no refugee problem.

If Hamas, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade and Palestinian Jihad – terrorist groups coddled by most Palestinian Arabs – had not participated in the Second Intifada initiated by Yasir Arafat in 2000, there would be no separation barrier.

If suicide bombers had not murdered hundreds of Israeli citizens since 2000, checkpoints and the inconveniences they cause Palestinian Arabs would not be necessary.

If the Palestinian people rejected rather than embraced Hamas and its stated objective of annihilating Israel, peace and a viable Palestinian state co-existing – and co-prospering – with Israel could be achieved.

Those Palestinian Arabs and their descendants who are crowded into refugee camps have survived for nearly two generations on the largesse of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) created specifically to relieve their distress. Additionally, millions in U.S. taxpayers dollars support what have become centers for terrorist recruitment.

Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the oil-rich sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf could provide permanent homes to their Arab kinsmen, but keeping these fellow Muslims in misery provides them the “Jewish boogeyman” and the “Day of Catastrophe” vital to distracting the attention of their own peoples from the misery and poverty in which their wealthy oligarchs keep them.

Meanwhile, Arab-Israeli citizens live, work and prosper in Israel, the region’s only democratic state.

Dr. Earl Tilford is professor of History at Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania. After retiring from the U.S. Air Force, he served as an associate professor of history at Troy State University and professor of military history at the U.S. Air Force Air Command and Staff College. In 1993 he became director of research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. He has authored three books on the Vietnam War and co-edited a book on Operation Desert Storm.

Historian: Jewish Towns Populated by Arab Late-Comers

Hillel Fendel

Historian Dr. Rivka Shpak-Lissak has embarked on an ambitious project, detailing the history of Jewish towns in the Land of Israel that are now known as Arab. Seven of her articles in this series have appeared on the Omedia website, and she has many more coming.

The bottom line, Dr. Lissak told Arutz-7, is that the Arabs have not been here for thousands of years, as they claim, and that in fact most of the formerly Jewish towns of the Galilee were populated by Arabs only within the last 300 years or so. "The goal of all the rulers of the Holy Land, from the times of the Romans and onward, was always to rid the Land of the Jews," she said. "Finally, they succeeded. Many Jews simply left the Land rather than convert to Islam."

The series began last month with a short treatise on the town of Tzipori, famous from the times of the Mishna. The article noted that the Supreme Israeli-Arab Tracking Committee was preparing a "march of return" from Nazareth to Tzipori, to mark Catastrophe Day [Israel's Independence Day]. "We should remind the marchers," wrote Dr. Lissak, "that Tzipori was a Jewish city for 2,000 years, while the [adjacent] Arab village Safuriya was founded only in 1561."

Dr. Lissak was born in "the Land," she told Arutz-7, received a doctorate in history, and lectured in Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University. She has also specialized in American history.

Other originally-Jewish cities highlighted in the series include Kafr Kana, Biram, Pekiin, Sakhnin, Gush Halav, and Arabeh.

Kafr Kana
The latest article is on Kafr Kana, just north of Upper Nazareth in the Lower Galilee. Some 260 Arab families lived there in 1945, and it now has a population of 18,000 people, mostly Moslems and some Christians - leading many to forget its Jewish past. It was a Jewish city during the period of the First Temple (between 2,800 and 2,400 years ago), as well as under Persian rule during the Second Temple period several centuries later. Josephus fortified the city against the Romans in the year 66 C.E., and after Jerusalem fell, priests from the Elyashiv watch moved to Kana. Talmudic sages lived there, and tradition has it that Rava and Rav Huna are buried there. Remnants of a 4th-century synagogue have been found in Kana.

Kana continued to be a thriving Jewish town in the ensuing centuries, though Christians began to move in as well. Eighty Jewish families were reported to be living there in 1473. Rabbi Ovadiah from Bartinura, whose student visited the town, reported that he heard that its Jews, though by then a minority among Christians, were living there peacefully. Somewhere in the 17th century, Bedouin and Arab attacks, as well as Turkish taxation, forced the Jews out, and Arabs replaced them.

During the War of Independence 300 years later, Arab terrorist gangs from Kafr Kana attacked nearby Jewish towns, until the IDF conquered it in July 1948.

Gush Halav
Another now-Arab town whose roots are Jewish is Jish, north of Tzfat (Safed). Known also by its Jewish name Gush Halav, the town is mentioned in the Mishna as having been walled since the times of Joshua ben Nun - i.e., nearly 3,300 years ago. Gush Halav was the last Jewish stronghold in the Galilee and Golan region during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-73 CE); its fall was described at length by Josephus.

As was the case with other towns and cities in the Galilee, a dynamic Jewish presence continued in Gush Halav well into the second half of the second millennium C.E. Archaeologists have excavated a synagogue at Gush Halav that was in use from the 3rd to 6th centuries, and a Jewish burial site similar to that at Beit She'arim has been excavated. The Prophet Joel is said to be buried in Gush Halav.

Many Jews continued to live in Gush Halav, but by the 18th century - by which time the town was renamed Jish - their number had dwindled. Maronite Christians then began arriving in Jish, joining the few Jews who still remained. In 1948, most of the population left, but Arabs from nearby villages took their place. Jish-Gush Halav now has a population of some 2,700 - none of them Jews.

(to be continued)

Abbas: Jerusalem, Arab Refugees are on the Table

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

In his opening remarks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ramallah on Sunday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas repeated that the issues of Jerusalem and Arab refugees, among others, are on the table in ongoing PA-Israel negotiations.

At the very start of his introductory remarks, Abbas said: "It is known that the issues we are still debating are Jerusalem, the refugees, the borders, the settlements, security and water. All of these issues, as we had said before, are on the negotiations table." Despite the emphasis on the issue of the status of Jerusalem in the media and among politicians on the Israeli side, Abbas explained in his comments that the Arabs side sees current Jewish construction projects as the main issue holding back negotiations.

"I requested from Dr. Rice to assist us to make Israel fulfill its obligations vis-a-vis colonization," Abbas said, "because we consider settlement activity as the most important obstacle facing the political process. And the more there are dates and construction of settlements, the more this will constitute an impediment that will obstruct reaching any peace."

Again, towards the end of his remarks, Abbas repeated that the end of "settlement expansion," as he called it, "is one of the most important conditions" for reaching an agreement with Israel by year's end, as sought by the US.

Secretary Rice, as well, harshly criticized Israel for its continued construction in Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Promoting Hamas, Fatah Unity
Regarding the other negotiations he is involved in, those with the jihadist Hamas organization controlling the PA in Gaza, Abbas said, "We are moving on this track. If we succeed, it is quite important that we regain national unity." The solution he seeks with Hamas "is comprehensive, entire, in order to regain the national unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank," he concluded.

At the same time, during the question-and-answer period, Abbas called the Hamas takeover of Gaza a "coup d'etat," but added that his Fatah-controlled PA "never forsook the Palestinian people living there. We are still sending salaries to 77,000 civil servants and we are still paying 58 percent of our budget to enable the people of Gaza to continue living."

In the meantime, however, Abbas is leaving Egypt to negotiate with Israel over the situation in Gaza, which Hamas terrorists and their allies are using as rocket-launching pads aimed at Israel. "We hope they will conclude a speedy agreement, because it has been too long of a suffering and we hope that a solution will arrive soon," Abbas said.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rice on the Rampage Against Housing Construction in Jerusalem

Hana Levi Julian

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Israel Sunday ready to rebuke Israel for deciding to approve construction of 1,300 housing units in the capital city.

During her flight to the Middle East late Saturday, Rice told reporters, "We've said before that this is a time to try and build confidence, and this [decision to build homes for Jews in Jerusalem] is simply not helpful to building confidence. And so we'll have a further discussion of it, but I intend to have a discussion of Roadmap obligations generally, and this is obviously a Roadmap obligation that's not being met." Rice maintained that the discrepancy between the views of Israel and the Palestinian Authority over what constitutes a violation of the Roadmap obligations only underscores the need to come to an agreement on final borders as soon as possible.

The status of neighborhoods in the eastern sections of Jerusalem, and for that matter the greater Jerusalem area – which were annexed to Israel 28 years ago – is one of the numerous sore points still proving insurmountable in final status negotiations between the two sides.

"I think it's a problem," Rice said, "that I'm going to address with the Israelis. And it's also, as the President said today, it gives us every reason that we really ought to be determining the boundaries of the state, because what's in Israel will be in Israel at that point, and what's in Palestine will be in Palestine. And that's the best way to resolve this - but you know, I repeat, we've talked a great deal about the importance of Roadmap obligations, and this one isn't being met."

As for whether some of the issues might be resolved and others ultimately left for later – this was a notion Rice squelched instantly:

"Part of the difficulty in negotiations like this is that the issues are intertwined. You know, borders and security, issues concerning Jerusalem, and issues concerning borders, and issues concerning refugees... They're all very intertwined. I believe the parties have adopted the right strategy here, which is that they work on all of them, recognizing that some may move more quickly than others, but also recognizing that nothing can be agreed till everything is agreed. And it's just very difficult to imagine a circumstance under which you could separate somehow the border issue from these other important issues… I've encouraged the parties not to hesitate to push ahead if something is moving, but the idea that you could have a separate agreement, I think that just doesn't make sense."

This is Rice's 18th visit to Israel..