Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hizbullah cell in Egypt smuggled arms into Gaza

Egypt's public prosecutor investigating accusations that Lebanese Shiite group recruited 49-member cell with aim of striking inside Egypt. Al-Hayat: Cell smuggled arms into Gaza. Analyst says 'this will add some fuel to Egyptian-Iranian political confrontation'
Ali Waked and Reuters

VIDEO - Egyptian authorities accused the Lebanese group Hizbullah on Wednesday of planning attacks inside Egypt, a development that could plunge Cairo's relations with the Shiite group's backer, Iran, to new lows.
Report: Hizbullah cell in Egypt smuggled arms into Gaza

(Video) Egypt's public prosecutor investigating accusations that Lebanese Shiite group recruited 49-member cell with aim of striking inside Egypt. Al-Hayat: Cell smuggled arms into Gaza. Analyst says 'this will add some fuel to Egyptian-Iranian political confrontation'
Ali Waked and Reuters

VIDEO - Egyptian authorities accused the Lebanese group Hizbullah on Wednesday of planning attacks inside Egypt, a development that could plunge Cairo's relations with the Shiite group's backer, Iran, to new lows.

The office of Egypt's public prosecutor said it was investigating accusations that Hizbullah had recruited a 49-member cell with the aim of striking inside Egypt, a key US ally in the Middle East.

Hizbullah angered Egypt earlier this year by accusing Cairo of complicity with Israel in its siege of the Gaza Strip.

"The public prosecutor received a note from state security about information confirmed by questioning about Hizbullah leaders sending some elements to the country to attract members to work with the organization ... with the aim of carrying out acts of aggression inside the country," a statement by the public prosecutor said.

The statement said the group had been trying to monitor Egypt's Suez Canal, its border with the Gaza Strip, and tourist installations in the Sinai Peninsula and sending information back to Hizbullah.

It also said the group had been establishing links with criminal elements to forge passports and setting up businesses to cover for spying activities.

It gave no details of any attacks being planned, but accused Hizbullah of trying to spread Shiite ideology in Egypt.

According to the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat, the cell smuggled arms from Sudan to Hamas-ruled Gaza through Egypt.

The newspaper quoted Egyptian sources as saying that a Lebanese national and two Palestinians who reside in Lebanon, who are suspected of belonging to the terror cell, recruited Bedouins in Sinai to help transfer the weapons into Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

The report named the cell's leader as Lebanese national Sami Hani Shihab, who entered Egypt with a fake passport along with the two Palestinians.

Popular hero in the Arab world

A lawyer for Hizbullah said on Tuesday that about 50 men, including Egyptians, Palestinians and Lebanese, had been brought in for questioning on Saturday on suspicion of helping Hizbullah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian government is worried that public support for Hamas may boost the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ideological and historical ties with the Palestinian group and is the strongest opposition group in Egypt.

Both Hamas and Hizbullah are supported by Iran, whose growing influence in the region has alarmed conservative Arab states, including many in the oil-exporting Gulf region.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah called in December for the Egyptian people and armed forces to compel their leaders to open Egypt's border with Gaza to lift the Israeli-imposed siege on the coastal strip.

Egypt said Nasrallah's call was an appeal for mutiny and accused Nasrallah of insulting the Egyptian people.

"This will add some fuel to the Egyptian-Iranian political confrontation," said Abdel-Monem Said, director of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

"If there is firm evidence, the people in the Gulf could take it seriously. If they (Hizbullah) try to branch into Egypt, that means the possibility in the much closer Gulf countries could be high."

Said said it would be feasible for Hizbullah to set up cells in Egypt, but members of the group could also be personal admirers of Nasrallah, whose opposition to Israel has made him a popular hero in the Arab world, rather than his agents.

Egypt is eager to show it is doing all it can to stop money or aid reaching Hamas, which is at odds with Fatah, the rival movement that holds sway in the West Bank.

Mainly Sunni Muslim Egypt and Shiite Iran have not had full diplomatic relations since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Iran cut ties after former president Anwar Sadat hosted the deposed shah in Cairo.

Why am I a friend of Israel?

Got this in an e-mail this morning:

{{Why are you a friend of Israel? Just curious.}}

Which got me thinking . . .

Israel is one of only two democracies in the Middle East. The fact that both of these democracies were created with the intervention of the United States makes them, in a very real way, our spiritual step-children. Democracy has the greatest potential for the greatest good for the greatest amount of people, and is a cool drink of water compared to the Arab thug-ocracies in the Middle East. Israel is the closest thing to an American-style democracy anywhere else in the world — in many ways, they have surpassed American-style democracy and encouraged a merit-ocracy. Pilots in the Israeli Air Force lead by experience, not rank.

The people of Israel - the Jews - have been at the forefront of intelligence and enlightenment for 5,000 years. Jews were instituting education, farming, crop rotation, and optional military service thousands of years before anyone else even thought of them. Jews wrote many of the first commentaries on religion; and the first diacritical thought . This is in spite of being some of the most persecuted peoples in the world for their encouraging intelligence, education, and higher standard of living. Jews have been systematically eradicated from cultures ar varied as Nazi Germany, Medieval Spain, Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, and and multiple points in-between. Even today Israeli Jews face daily acts of terror — rockets from Gaza, suicide bombers, and rioting Arabs — on a daily basis — and persevere.

Shoot, that’s damn near heroic. Americans love underdogs, and admire heroism. Israel is chock-full of both.

Does Israel do things wrong? Sure. Does America make mistakes? Oh yeah, absolutely. But we both learn from our mistakes. We practice some level of restraint when we use force. (Israel did not obliterate Gaza during the recent military force there — although they easily could have.) Israel as a state is the best hope and example for the rest of the Middle East.

Which is why I’m a friend of Israel. Israel is most likely to be a friend to me.


Friday, April 10, 2009

PA Finds 'Huge' Weapons Lab

Maayana Miskin

Hamas terrorists in Kalkilya built a large supply of bombs and stored them in a local mosque without raising suspicion from local Palestinian Authority armed forces who represent the rival Fatah faction. However, the terrorists were out of luck on Wednesday, Passover eve, when a simple electric shortage gave away their plans. The shortage caused a small fire in the mosque, bringing PA forces to the building, where they found bombs ready for use and large cannisters of bomb-making materials. The mosque was closed down, and PA sappers removed the explosives.

The bombs were then turned over to the IDF, which sent experts to detonate the weapons in a controlled explosion.

A captain in the PA forces told Israeli journalists that the mosque had been used to both produce and store the bombs. “It was a huge weapons lab,” he said.

Four people have been arrested in connection to the incident, he said, two of them members of Hamas and two “everyday citizens.”

Kalkilya and surrounding villages have been the source of several recent attacks on Israeli citizens. Two Israelis were wounded in rock attacks in the past month when driving in the area, and other rock and firebomb attacks on vehicles have been reported.

Kalkilya is located just minutes from the Israeli city of Kfar Saba and the Trans-Israel highway. However, due to the Judea and Samaria security barrier, Kalkilya terrorists have largely turned away from attacking Israelis in those areas, and have focused on harming Jews in Samaria.

Obama abroad

Apr. 9, 2009

This is day 81 in the countdown toward the 100th day of Barack Obama's presidency. The benchmark probably dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who came into office with no particular ideology but promising "action, and action now" - and a readiness to pursue pragmatic policies. Obama has returned to Washington after his most significant trip abroad since taking office. The president enjoys strong support from the majority of Americans who voted for him (Democrats give him an 88 percent approval rating) though he has made few strides in winning over John McCain's supporters (only 27% of Republicans think he's doing a good job). Obama's critics complain he spent too much time overseas in "excuse me, excuse my predecessor, or excuse my country" mode.

Still, Obama's message - "I'm personally committed to a new chapter of American engagement" - set a new tone for US foreign policy among Washington's ostensible allies in Europe, Turkey and Iraq.

•On the issues that most concern Israelis, paramount among them Teheran's nuclear ambitions, Obama reiterated that he had "made it clear to the people and leaders" of Iran "that the United States seeks engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. Now, Iran's leaders must choose whether they will try to build a weapon or build a better future for their people."

•As the Netanyahu government conducts a policy review on Arab-Israel peacemaking, Obama said: "Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security." And Obama had a message for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: "That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. That is a goal that I will actively pursue as president."

•Finally, as the West's top "emissary" to a Muslim world where visceral loathing of Israel knows no bounds, the US president told students in Istanbul: "This notion that somehow everything is the fault of the Israelis lacks balance - because there's two sides to every question."

Obama made an unannounced (but not unanticipated) five-hour trip to Iraq where he was warmly received by US troops. He said combat forces would be pulled out by August 2010, and all US troops by the end of 2011. He told Sunnis and Shi'ites, who've lately ratcheted-up their intramural slaughter, to take responsibility for their country because America needs to focus on battling al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan-Pakistan.

In Ankara, he paid his respects at the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, the secularist founder of modern Turkey. Whatever Obama may think of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose politics are rooted in political Islam, he urged the EU to make room for Turkey.

He told the Turkish parliament and the wider Muslim world that the United States "is not and will never be at war with Islam. America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot and will not just be based upon opposition to terrorism," he said. "We seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect."

Obama has been convinced - partly by venerable cold warriors such as Sam Nunn and Henry Kissinger - that it might be easier to garner international support for stopping pariah states from going nuclear if the US shows a willingness to sharply reduce its own atomic arsenal.

So he parlayed news that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile into a far-reaching call for worldwide nuclear disarmament. "In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up… Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal [a nuclear weapon]," he said.

THUS FAR into his presidency, it's already apparent that Obama seeks to harness idealism with pragmatism. Yet if the G-20 (on the economic crisis), NATO (on Afghanistan-Pakistan) and Russia (on Iran) remain unmoved by appeals to multilateralism, expect Obama, like Roosevelt, to go with whatever works.

What this means for Israel in pursuit of its highest national interest, blocking Iran from fielding a nuclear bomb, is that Binyamin Netanyahu needs to convince Obama that doing anything short of stopping the mullahs would be dangerously reckless.
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1238562949469&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Iran's prints are all over alleged Egypt terror ring

Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff

The official report from Cairo Thursday - that a Hezbollah terror ring was uncovered in Cairo and was planning hostile operations in Egypt - should be seen within the context of a greater conflict that does not necessarily involve Israel. To fight Iranian subversion in Egypt, Cairo is willing to help Israel prevent the arming of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The first reports of Hezbollah involvement in Sinai appeared in the international media a few months ago, citing collaboration between Hezbollah and Palestinians who left Gaza for Sinai via tunnels. They were assisted by Sinai Bedouin, according to reports from Egypt Thursday. The detainees reportedly include Israeli Arabs, possibly Negev Bedouin.

The Egyptians say they are concerned Hezbollah may try to attack tourist sites in Sinai and throughout Egypt.

Hezbollah is still seeking revenge for the assassination of its No. 2 Imad Mugniyeh 14 months ago. However, its goal is to undermine the Egyptian government.

As early as last year, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Iran had created an Islamic republic in Egypt's backyard, referring to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Such statements have recently become harsher, especially following the verbal attack by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Mubarak during Operation Cast Lead.

The government-affiliated Egyptian daily Al-Ahram Thursday reported that the recently exposed terror ring had planned assassinations, attacks on essential services and bombings.

Jordan, also viewed as central to what has been described as the Arab world's moderate Sunni axis, faced a similar effort by a Hamas terror network more than a year ago. In both cases, intelligence chiefs in Amman and Cairo realized that not only Palestinians and Lebanese were stirring the cauldron; so were Iranians.

Not for nothing did Mubarak boycott the Arab summit in Qatar two months ago, following Doha's decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Egyptian religious establishment is also concerned over the "defection" of thousands of young Sunnis for the Shi'ite denomination.

Ironically, Cairo is making its accusations against Iran just as the Obama administration is inviting dialogue. But Egypt cannot hold still. Cairo arrests dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members every month on terror suspicions. Since Hamas' final takeover of the Strip, Brotherhood and Hamas delegations visit each other every few weeks.

Egypt is making things harder for Hamas and its allies. Money transfers are more difficult, and since Operation Cast Lead, Israel has seen Egyptian efforts to stop weapons smuggling, Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin told the cabinet last month.

The report of Hezbollah actions in Sinai legitimizes harsher steps by the Egyptian regime. If it were only a matter of weapons smuggling into Israel, the Egyptian public response would not be as supportive. It would come as no surprise if it turned out that Israeli intelligence also helped uncover this terror network.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Dangers of Leveling - At Home and Abroad

Michael Medved
Wednesday, April 08, 2009

One of the most important distinctions between liberals and conservatives involves their contrasting explanations of the existence of inequality. Those on the left see the disparities between rich and poor individuals, or between prosperous and impoverished societies, as automatic evidence of unfairness. They instinctively assume that some people do better than others only because they began their lives with unjust advantages, or exploited the less powerful, or benefited from random good fortune. On the other hand, the less favored members of society suffered from racism or sexism or colonialism, and progressives believe that any reference to their own dysfunctional or self-destructive behavior amounts to “blaming the victim.” Liberals want to use governmental initiatives to close all gaps and level all playing fields (to cite two of their favorite clichés), in order to make up for the unwarranted and irrational processes that created the glaring and wretched inequity in the first place.

Conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, view success or failure as the inevitable consequence of different levels of talent, hard work and productivity. While acknowledging that a few lucky slackers may be born into fortunate circumstances that they never earned, or that some virtuous and gifted individuals can suffer reverses or tragedies that they don’t deserve, right wingers believe that worldly advancement (particularly in the USA) comes for the most part from focus, toil and smart choices. They therefore resent government redistribution programs for taking hard-earned wealth from the people who deserve it most and giving it to those who merit it least.

There is no doubt which attitude characterizes the worldview of President Barack Obama. As Charles Krauthammer recently wrote: “Obama is a leveler. He has come to narrow the divide between rich and poor. For him the ultimate social value is fairness. Imposing it upon the American social order is his mission. Fairness through leveling is the essence of Obamaism.”

Unfortunately, the President’s recent trip to Europe showed that he applies the same leveling instinct to the international arena. His apologetic tone, insistence on “listening and learning” from the nations he visited, and controversial references to his own nation’s purported “arrogance” all suggest that he believes Americans ought to feel more guilty than grateful, more embarrassed than proud, over our disproportionate power and prosperity.

The United States remains so freakishly favored in our levels of freedom, opportunity and comfort for our citizens that any attempt to achieve global “equality” will necessarily produce efforts to lower the American standard of living and “spread the wealth around” (in the chilling phrase Obama used with Joe the Plumber). In the midst of all the trillions in new spending initiatives, the media hardly noticed President Obama’s commitment of unprecedented billions for the International Monetary Fund to aid developing nations. If “the wretched of the earth” face their misfortunes due to the West’s record of colonialism and imperialism, and not because of their own leaders’ record of malfeasance and corruption, then the never-ending drive for fairness requires punitive policies against those societies that benefited in the past.

The President’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel famously commented that the Obamatrons remain determined that they “will never waste a crisis” – suggesting that they intend to use the current economic difficulties to reshape both American society and the global economy. Just as the privileged are supposed to give up some of their wealth and privileges within the United States, so the nation itself is supposed to pull back from its preeminent position in the family of nations. Far from echoing the old American cheer, “We’re Number One!” the President and his pals might offer a new chant that says, “We’re Just One of a Number.”

While his policies at home to “soak the rich” and “share the wealth” will face strong resistance (and even counterattacks) from individualistic Americans, his corresponding efforts to address global inequality by cutting his own nation down to size might do permanent (and tragic) damage to the position of the United States in the family of nations. Instead of demonstrating more harmony and cooperation, a world without American leadership will become more chaotic, unpredictable, unjust and dangerous.

Copyright © 2009 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.

Egypt arrests 7 Israeli Arabs for alleged terror ties

Egypt arrests 7 Israeli Arabs for alleged terror ties

Islamist attorney tells al-Jazeera men are suspected of belonging to Hizbullah and aiding Hamas
Roee Nahmias and AP

Seven Israeli Arabs have been arrested in Egypt on suspicion of aiding Hamas and belonging to Hizbullah.

A prominent Islamist lawyer has told the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera that security forces have detained altogether 50 Egyptians, Palestinians and Lebanese for alleged ties to the terror groups. Montasser el-Zayat, known for representing Islamist militants in court, said Tuesday that the detainees are suspected of supplying Hamas with money. He claims to have been appointed by the suspects' relatives to represent them in court.

El-Zayat said all of the suspects were arrested over the past six months, with most of the arrests occurring in December of 2008.

He added that among the detainees are two Lebanese, seven Palestinians, and the rest are Egyptians. He said he had filed an appeal with Egypt's state prosecution requesting details on the arrests and permission to be present during interrogations.

However, el-Zayat said, he had recently discovered that security forces had begun to question the suspects without allowing him to be present.

In addition to suspicions of financial aid to Hamas, one Lebanese detainee is also suspected of belonging to Hizbullah and seeking passage to Gaza through Egypt in order to meet with Hamas officials in the Strip.

The internet site 'Islam Online Net' reported that "a cell of Egyptian intelligence conducted a chase after Hamas operatives in the streets of Cairo".

The report went on to say that "the cell stopped the car in which the Hamas members were riding and confiscated the money found in their possession – money intended for aid to the needy following the recent Israeli war in Gaza".

The report said the amount confiscated was $7 million, meant for the reconstruction of homes lost during the fighting in Gaza.

Egypt's Interior Ministry would neither confirm nor deny the arrests.

Anti-Semitism and the Economic Crisis

Wall Street Journal

Many people still blame Jews for capitalism's faults.

Walking down the street in my solidly upper-middle-class New York City neighborhood the other day was a neatly dressed man angrily cursing into his cell phone about "Jew Wall Street bankers." I was headed in the opposite direction and didn't stop to interview him about his particular grievances, but the brief encounter crystallized for me a foreboding that the financial crisis may trigger a new outbreak of anti-Semitism.

It is a fear that is being articulated ever more widely. President Bill Clinton's secretary of labor, Robert Reich, frets on his blog, "History shows how effective demagogic ravings can be when a public is stressed economically." He warns that Jews, along with gays and blacks, could become victims of populist rage.

In the New York Jewish Week newspaper, a column by Rabbi Ronald Price of the Union for Traditional Judaism begins, "In the 1930s, as Germany's economy collapsed, the finger was pointed at the Jews and the Nazis ascended to power. The famous Dreyfus Affair, in which a Jew was falsely accused of treason in France, followed on the heels of economic turmoil."

At this juncture, the trepidation may yet seem like paranoia, or special pleading akin to the old joke about the newspaper headline, "World Ends in Nuclear Attack: Poor, Minorities Hardest Hit." Everyone is feeling the brunt of the recession; why worry about the Jews in particular? After all, Jews today have two refuges: Israel and America, a land where Jews have attained remarkable power and prosperity and have a constitutionally protected right to exercise their religion freely. In that case, why worry about potential danger to the Jews at all?

One answer is that the historical precedents are exceedingly grim. The causes of the First Crusade, in which thousands of Jews were murdered, are still being debated, but some historians link it to famine and a poor harvest in 1095. As for the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, the foremost historian of its causes, Benzion Netanyahu (the father of Israel's new prime minister), writes of the desire of the persecutors "to get rid of their debts by getting rid of their creditors." More generally, he writes, "it is an iron-clad rule in the history of group relations: the majority's toleration of every minority lessens with the worsening of the majority's condition."

Lest this seem overly crude economic determinism, consider that the Jews have been victims not only of unrest prompted by economic distress but of attempts to remedy such economic distress with socialism. Take it from Friedrich Hayek, the late Nobel Prize winning Austrian economist. In "The Road to Serfdom," Hayek wrote, "In Germany and Austria the Jew had come to be regarded as the representative of Capitalism." Thus, the response in those countries, National Socialism, was an attack on both capitalism and the Jews.

There are ample indicators of current anti-Semitic attitudes. A poll conducted recently in Europe by the Anti-Defamation League found 74% of Spaniards believe Jews "have too much power in international financial markets," while 67% of Hungarians believe Jews "have too much power in the business world." Here in America, the Web site of National Journal is hosting an "expert blog" by former CIA official Michael Scheuer, now a professor at Georgetown, complaining of a "fifth column of pro-Israel U.S. citizens" who are "unquestionably enemies of America's republican experiment." And over at Yahoo! Finance, the message board discussing Goldman Sachs is rife with comments about "Jew pigs" and the "Zionist Federal Reserve."

So will the Jews come under attack? The existence of the Jewish state guarantees refuge for Jews around the world, but it carries with it its own risks. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said that if the Jews "all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them world-wide." It's a comment all the more chilling as Nasrallah's Iranian sponsors are on the brink of making a nuclear bomb.

As for the idea that Jewish professional, political, and economic success in America is a guarantee of security, that, too, has its risks. As Yuri Sleskine recounted in his book "The Jewish Century," in 1900 Vienna more than half of the lawyers, doctors and professional journalists were Jewish, as were 70% of the members of the stock exchange. In Germany, after World War I but before the Nazis came to power, Jews served as finance minister and as foreign minister. Such achievements have a way of being fleeting.

It may yet be that the Jews escape the current economic crisis having only lost fortunes. But if not, there will have been no lack of warning about the threat. When Jews gather Wednesday night for the Passover Seder, we will recite the words from the Hagadah, the book that relays the Israelite exodus from slavery in Egypt: "In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us." This year, they will resonate all the more ominously.

Mr. Stoll is the author of "Samuel Adams: A Life" (Free Press, 2008).

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ketzaleh Still May Join Gov't

Hillel Fendel Ketzaleh Still May Join Gov't

Opposition MK Yaakov Katz, the leader of the National Union, says his party is still likely to join the coalition – if Prime Minister Netanyahu stands by his promises. Making a 73-minute video appearance on Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew internet site, Katz explained what happened from the moment the election results were known until now. In a nutshell: Netanyahu promised to include all those who recommended him to the President, sent his representatives to conclude a coalition agreement between the Likud and the National Union - but as soon as Labor agreed to join, everything was put on hold.

“Even now,” Ketzaleh said, “Netanyahu's people call me almost every day to say, ‘It’s just a matter of a day or two, and the agreement will be signed and you’ll be in the government.' We’re still waiting.”

Ketzaleh said that shortly after the elections, Netanyahu called him and met with him before the National Union was to speak with President Peres. This was during the period of time when Peres was meeting with all the parties, in order to hear their recommendations regarding who should be chosen to form the government. Kadima had 28 Knesset seats, but Netanyahu of the Likud, with only 27 seats, was still considered to have better chances of forming a government - and he needed the recommendations of the nationalist parties in order to prove this.

Netanyahu: I'm Not the Same Bibi, You Can Trust Me

“Netanyahu met with me,” Ketzaleh said, “and I told him we would recommend him. Still, he called me again just an hour or two before I was to meet with Peres, to make sure that I would recommend him. He promised repeatedly, and in front of several people, that the parties that recommended him would certainly be included in the coalition, even if Kadima or Labor later joined.

"I told him that we would recommend him even without his promises, because that’s what our voters want and expect. He said, ‘I hear in your voice that you don’t trust me. I’m telling you that things are now different; I’m not the same Bibi; you can trust me: You will certainly be in our government.’ He said this over and over. I answered, ‘I can only believe my own promises. As for yours, your actions will determine whether you can be trusted.’ And here we see what happened.

“I met with MK Ze’ev Elkin of the Likud, and [Likud negotiato Natan Eshel, and we finalized the agreement down to the last detail. We even agreed what ministerial portfolio I would receive, as well as the budget allocations to Judea and Samaria. But it was as if he was just trying to keep eye contact with us, keeping us on a leash, while he continued to talk with [Labor Party chairman E Barak.”

Barak apparently demanded that the National Union be kept out of the coalition, but Netanyahu did not promise to do so - "at least not in writing,” Ketzaleh said. “I can tell you that no one seems to believe that we are definitely out, because a Labor member recently gave an interview in which he listed two things that Labor had already accomplished by joining the government: Kicking out former Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, and the fact that the National Union was ‘still’ not in the government.

"The word ‘still’ implies that the game is not over yet. Possibly Netanyahu is waiting to see if Barak will continue not to supply the goods; only 7 or 8 of his 13 MKs are actively supporting the government."

Netanyahu Added Insult to Injury

“Not only has Netanyahu not kept his word,” Ketzaleh emphasized, “but he has added insult to injury by causing the blame for the apparent failure of the negotiations to be placed on us – most people think it's our fault - when the fact is that we have already come to an agreement, and it is just waiting to be signed by the Likud.”

Arutz Sheva: What demands did the National Union have regarding Judea and Samaria?

Ketzaleh: “We spoke to Netanyahu about the draconian rules that accompany any housing construction in Judea and Samaria. At present, eight – eight! – signatures are needed for the process, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak has to add his own signature on every single stage. This is an impossible process, and totally discriminatory against Jews. Nowhere else in Israel is this necessary.

"Yet Netanyahu refused, contrary to what he promised during the election campaign, to agree in writing to any changes in this process [all coalition agreements must be made public – ed, but merely said, ‘Trust me, trust me.’ Sure – we should trust him, with Labor and Barak still in the Defense Ministry. But still – we were able to solve even this difficult problem in the coalition negotiations by having an appended letter in which we state our position.”

Negev and Galilee

Asked what ministerial portfolio is left for him, Ketzaleh said, “I have been made to understand that the Negev and Galilee Development portfolio is being held by the Likud’s Silvan Shalom merely as a deposit, and that it will include budgeting for settling Judea and Samaria as well.”

Asked if his insistence on the Housing Ministry might have caused a breakdown in the talks, Ketzaleh said, “First of all, our demand for Housing was very legitimate. I served as top aide to Ariel Sharon when he was Housing Minister, and together we built 60,000 units in Judea and Samaria, and I was in fact planning to return to this Ministry and continue this important work. However, it was promised to Shas, which truly was very loyal to Netanyahu.”

Against Shas

Ketzaleh had harsh words for Shas and its leader Eli Yishai: “We wanted to form a religious bloc with Shas and the other religious parties. I told Yishai that we could be [a very lar bloc in the Knesset, and we would be able to accomplish great things.

"But in typical fashion, he chose the path of what was best for Shas, and refused to work together with us. I believe that Shas worked so hard to bring Labor into the government simply because they knew that Barak would insist that we not be allowed in, and this would leave them [Sha as the only [significan religious party.

"I am very disappointed that many religious-Zionist voters voted for Shas, which has brought about many terrible things. For one thing, they enabled the first Oslo agreement to go through, which led to 1,500 deaths. Secondly, many terrorist murderers have been released from Israeli prison, because whenever the matter comes up, Yishai declares, ‘The Jewish security prisoners must also be released’ – thus giving his approval for the release of the Arab terrorists, while nothing happens with the Jewish security prisoners – but he’s happy because he was able to take the populist position of demanding that the Jews be released.”

“They behave the same with Judea and Samaria,” Ketzaleh continued. “Shas takes a very strong stand on Jerusalem - implying that the rest of Judea and Samaria can be abandoned. Shas keeps screaming about how important it is to keep Jerusalem undivided, but what about Maaleh Adumim? and Beit El? and Ariel? and all the rest of the 350,000 Jews here – Shas doesn't care about them?”

Interviews on a Limited Basis

Ketzaleh was critical of the right-wing media: “Makor Rishon repeatedly had polls showing that we would not pass the minimum threshold. In fact, when I asked Prof. Katz how is it that his polls always show us lower than the other surveys, he told me, ‘You’re not the one paying me.’… In addition, Amit Segal of Channel Two, even though he grew up here in Ofra, consistently ridiculed our chances… Now, if something happens in Amona [an outgrowth of Of, or somewhere else nearby, he can go for help to those parties that he recommended…”

Ketzaleh said he would not agree to be interviewed by the above two media elements, “though we have others, like [MK Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel, who don’t mind, and they can do a fine job.”

MK Katz had nothing to do with the failure of the two religious-Zionist parties to unite, as he entered the political scene after that failure had already occurred. He said that though it is important to turn to the right-wing secular camp, "the fact is that most secular voters will not vote for us. What we have to do is to unite among ourselves. The religious-Zionist camp must unite, and I have a very good relationship with Jewish Home leader Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, and with MK Uri Orbach, and with [former M Nissan [Slomiansk, and with other people of vision in the Jewish Home, and I believe that with a little more openness, and a little more ideology, and a little less sharpness, we can do it. It's the charge of the hour, so that in the next elections we can have 12 or more Knesset Members."

Obama: See the Palestinian perspective

In Turkey, US president says regional peace possible, but stresses 'now what we need is political will and courage on the part of leadership'; diplomatic sources say Obama's June visit to Israel, West Bank yet to be finalized

US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he believed peace in the Middle East was possible but added that Israelis and Palestinians must make compromises. Obama, in Turkey to repair America's ties with the Muslim world, hammered home his support for the creation of a Palestinian state, as he aims to change a perception among Muslims that Washington backs Israel at the expense of the Palestinians.

"I believe that peace in the Middle East is possible. I think it will be based on two states side by side," Obama told a students meeting in Istanbul at the end of a two-day visit to predominantly Muslim Turkey.

"I think we have a sense of what those compromises should be and will be. Now what we need is political will and courage on the part of leadership," Obama said.

"In the Muslim world, the notion that somehow everything is the fault of the Israelis lacks balance because there are two sides to every question," Obama said at a meeting with university students.

"I say the same thing to my Jewish friends -- you have to see the perspective of the Palestinians. Learning to stand in someone else's shoes, to see through their eyes... this is how peace begins."

Obama, on the last leg of his debut on the world stage, has used his visit in Turkey to reiterate the US position of a two-state solution after rightist Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took power and formed a new government.

'Annapolis has no validity'

On Monday, he told Turkey's parliament that he would "actively pursue" the goal of a two-state solution, citing understandings reached by Israel and the Palestinians at a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland in 2007.

Obama's reference to Annapolis put him at odds with Israel's new foreign minister, ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, who said last week that negotiations launched in Annapolis over statehood borders, and the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, had "no validity".

A senior Israeli official, asked about Obama's comments on Tuesday in Turkey, said: "We are looking forward to working with the Obama administration in advancing the common goals of strengthening
security and the peace process."

Obama is expected to visit Israel and the West Bank in June, though the trip has yet to be finalized, according to Western diplomatic sources.

The Muslim world had accused Obama's predecessor George W. Bush of bias in favor of Israel. Obama is trying to rebuild ties with Muslims after anger at the invasion of Iraq and war in Afghanistan.

Comment: See the Palestinian perspective-what does the president think has been going on? This is really code for "take their point of view as gospel and support all of their demands". For a narcissist named Obama, the best strategy to use with him is to always, constantly remind him and the world how awful Bush was, how evil he was to Islam and how Bush caused the divide. Then, make sure you tease, make fun of Obama by saying he is no different than Bush. Why do this? Simple, Obama's ego, sense of self only allows him to react with behavior that distinguishes him from Bush. How do I know? Again, did you not observe his behavior as he moved from one country to another, he was emboldened, his rhetoric, sense of self puffed up with each country. Remember, this is a human being, that's all he is, who is susceptible to human psychology. He not only sees himself as able to talk his way into and out of any situation, he has been rewarded and reinforced by so many these past several years-the behavior only deepens. Our enemy knows this, is using it as a stealth tactic and we are witness to the behavioral outcomes.

US hits back at Lieberman: The goal is two states

In response to divisive comments made by new foreign minister, State Department makes clear Washington fully behind two-state solution as only viable option. Opposition at home also seizes on chance to accuse FM of destroying US-Israel diplomatic ties
Yitzhak Benhorin

The US State Department hit back at Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's warning on Tuesday to those pressuring Israel on its foreign policy agenda. "We have never interfered with other people's affairs and we expect of others not stand with a stopwatch in hand," Lieberman told party members at a conference.

Washington has other ideas however. State Department spokesman Robert Wood responded to a question regarding the foreign minister's statements, saying that the US' top priority was to steer the stagnated talks back to the pursuit of the two-state solution.

Wood said that President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Mideast, George Mitchell, would be visiting the region next week to "continue discussions with how we can move back to a very positive track with the goal being a two-state solution. We are going to hear comments from various parties about how they assess things.

"The important objective for us is to get this process back on track so that we can get to this two-state solution that we think is in the best interests of not only the Israelis and the Palestinians, but the United States and the rest of the world."

Wood acknowledged that the situation was complex. "You know, it’s difficult. It’s not easy. And the people on both sides want to see results. And this Administration, in appointing a special envoy so early on in its tenure, shows that it’s committed to trying to get – to jumpstart this process to get everybody focused on the bigger goal, which is trying to get to that two-state solution. So it’s a process and there are going to be ups and downs, but we’ve got to continue to work through them," he said.

Sources in Washington say that at present time President Obama does not have plans to visit Israel in June, nor are there clear plans for Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit Washington in May.

Behind the scenes both sides are intent on reassuring each other, with the Americans maintaining restraint in the face of Foreign Minister Lieberman's statements until the Netanyahu government formally lays out its foreign policy agenda.

'The elephant running amok'
Lieberman riled not only American nerves on Tuesday, but Israeli ones as well. Opposition MK Yohanan Plesner from Kadima said that Leiberman's comments "are causing grave harm to Israel's (ties) to the US administration. The fears preceding his appointment to such a sensitive office are proved true every day anew.

"At such a sensitive time, when Israeli-US ties are about to be redefined, Lieberman is damaging the relationship and putting at risk America's commitment to supporting Israel. Lieberman needs to understand that state diplomacy can't be managed like a branch of Yisrael Beitenu," he said.

Plesner said that Labor now has one last chance to "come to its senses and stop playing the role of fig leaf for a government that is causing so much damage to Israel's foreign relations."

And as for the 'opposition' within Labor? MK Eitan Cabel: "The elephant continues to run amok and there is no one to stop him. I expect the Labor ministers, first and foremost among them (Defense Minister Ehud Barak), to stop standing on the sidelines – because this is the promise made to the public when (Labor) entered the coalition. It must be stopped now because the man's lack of control over his mouth causes irreparable harm."

Labor MK Yuli Tamir told Ynet: "People listen to Lieberman in the world, they just don't agree with him. His words are testament to the fact that the current government is a right-wing government that is disconnected form the world, and that the Labor party has no place in it."

Amnon Meranda contributed to this report

Comment: The PR campaign has begun-how will our Israeli government stand up to it? Obama and his gang have made clear their position-in turn, they are signaling how they will approach Israel in the coming months. Best that we first get our aide packages approved, make this a key point immediately-second, propose UN action against hate filled legislation toward us-become pro-active!

America Seeks Bonds to Islam, Obama Insists


ANKARA, Turkey — President Obama formally began his outreach to the Muslim world on Monday when he spoke before Turkey’s Parliament, telling legislators that the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam.”

“America’s relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot and will not just be based upon opposition to terrorism,” he said. “We seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.”

Showing more self-confidence each day on his maiden overseas trip as president, Mr. Obama, in addressing a majority Muslim country for the first time, appeared to have prepared carefully for one particular line in his wide-ranging speech.

“The United States has been enriched by Muslim-Americans,” he said. “Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country.

“I know,” he said, “because I am one of them.”
And then he paused. Throughout his speech, he had moved swiftly from passage to passage, but this time, he waited for the interpreter to catch up. After about five seconds, the applause came.

The line was a bold one for Mr. Obama, who has been falsely described as a Muslim. The claim persists on some right-wing Web sites, which may try to interpret his remarks as proof of that view.

But Mr. Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, is calculating that the benefits of demonstrating to the Muslim world that Americans are not antagonistic toward it outweigh the potential political fallout back home. His calculus may also reflect an increased belief that he has enough political capital that he can spend some of it in pursuit of strengthening ties between Muslim nations and the West.

Introduced as “Barack Hussein Obama,” the president told the assembly that he planned to push for a two-state solution in the Middle East, despite the view of many foreign policy experts that such a goal will be even more difficult to reach because of the makeup of the new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not to mention the fractured state of internal Palestinian politics.

In a direct rebuttal of comments made last week by Israel’s hawkish new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that agreements reached at an American-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Md., in 2007 have “no validity,” Mr. Obama said: “Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”

He added: “That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. That is a goal that I will actively pursue as president.” The road map refers to a 2003 outline of steps toward a peace agreement.

Turkey is crucial to American interests on many fronts. It borders Iraq and Iran; it has deep influence in Afghanistan; and it is helping efforts to forge a peace deal between Israel and Syria.

In choosing Turkey as an example of the type of relationship that can be struck between the United States and an Islamic population, Mr. Obama also seemed to be pushing for more acceptance of the separation of religion and the state. Turkey is a secular Muslim democracy that has recently seemed at war with itself over its own religious identity. Its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has roots in political Islam, a worry to secular Turks.

On Monday morning, Mr. Obama went to pay his respects at the Ankara mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a secularist who established modern Turkey, and the president wrote at some length in a guest book at Ataturk’s shrine.

“It is also clear that the greatest monument to Ataturk’s life is not something that can be cast in stone and marble,” Mr. Obama said during his speech. “His greatest legacy is Turkey’s strong, vibrant secular democracy, and that is the work that this assembly carries on today.”

White House officials say they still plan for Mr. Obama to make a major speech to the Muslim world from an Islamic capital in the early months of his presidency, and they were quick to say that Monday’s Ankara speech was not that. There will be another, they say, in which Mr. Obama will try to define, at length, his views on America and Islam.

Mr. Obama also threw his weight solidly behind Turkey’s accession to the European Union, an issue that has split Europe, with France and Germany lobbying against Turkey’s entry.

“Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union,” he said. “We speak not as members of the E.U., but as close friends of both Turkey and Europe.”

The president also waded into the fraught issue of Turkey’s relations with Armenia, and the genocide of more than a million Ottoman Armenians beginning in 1915. Turkey acknowledges the killings but says they did not amount to a systematic genocide, and it has vehemently opposed the introduction of a bill in the United States Congress that would define it that way.

As a senator, Mr. Obama voiced support for the legislation, but during a news conference with President Abdullah Gul before the Parliament speech, he did not use the word genocide and said Turkey and Armenia had made progress in talks.

Armenian-Americans were quick to voice their ire.

“In his remarks today in Ankara, President Obama missed a valuable opportunity to honor his public pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide,” Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said in a statement.

Mr. Obama’s remarks, he said, fell “far short of the clear promise he made as a candidate that he would, as president, fully and unequivocally recognize this crime against humanity.”

During the Parliament speech, Mr. Obama did speak of the Armenia issue, saying, “History is often tragic, but unresolved, it can be a heavy weight.”

He said that the United States “still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.”

In another similarity between Washington and Ankara, Mr. Obama was mobbed by legislators angling for a handshake as he tried to leave the chamber at the end of his speech. In many ways, it resembled the scene in the United States Congress after a State of the Union speech.

Steven Erlanger contributed reporting from Paris.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

"As Pesach Approaches"

Arlene Kushner

It is unlikely that I will be posting again until after Pesach. I ask you all -- please! -- after today to hold comments and sharing of information until the completion of the Chag.

As I contemplate Pesach, I am mindful of its messages for today. The Exodus forged us into a people. The Almighty brought us out of Egypt to come to Sinai and receive the Torah, and then, when we were ready, to enter into Eretz Yisrael, the land that has been given to us as sacred trust.

We were all there on that fateful night. We must stand together now.


To all those on this list who will be celebrating Pesach, I send my warmest wishes for a Chag Kasher v'Sameach. May HaShem bless and keep us in the year ahead. It is time for standing tall.

StandWithUs, a fine Israel advocacy organization originally founded in LA, has put up a site called "Soldiers Speak Out.' It provides video clips (and summary text of those clips) of Israeli soldiers explaining how they tried to protect civilians in Gaza and how Hamas operates. There is one sequence describing a old woman crying out in pain, seen by soldiers. When they began to approach her to help her, they realized she was wired to a suicide belt and was being used as a trap. If this doesn't open eyes...

See it at: and recommend it to others.


On the very same subject, is other news, which merits a "How about that!"

Danny Zamir is the head of a pre-military academy who had called in some of his former students to discuss the operation in Gaza and what they had experienced or perceived as soldiers. He put the transcript of the discussion in an in-house newsletter which Haaretz -- and then the NY Times and other media sources -- picked up and ran, making implied accusations about the immorality of an IDF that allegedly shoots civilians, etc. etc.

Turns out that Danny Zamir himself was horrified with what was said and has now written and article and given an interview to the Jerusalem Post, to set the record straight.


"The whole story spun out of control," he says. What he intended as an internal discussion was used by the media to turn the IDF into war criminals. "It was as if the media were altogether so eager to find reason to criticize the IDF that they pounced on one discussion by nine soldiers who share their experiences and subjective feelings...using that one episode to draw conlcusions that felt more like an indictment.

"...Operation Cast Lead was justified; the IDF worked in a surgical manner. Unfortunately, in these types of operations, civilians will be killed. The IDF operated in a way in which it tried to protect civilians in the most crowded place in the world (sic). There were no orders to kill civilians or anything like that..."


Zamir was particularly disturbed by one aspect of the reporting that I hadn't even touched upon here: the implication -- most prominent in the NY Times -- that an increase in the number of religious soldiers and officers was leading to a deterioration in the moral standards of the IDF.

This is a libel if ever their was one, and fits into the whole falsely constructed image of the "radical" religious Zionist as the enemy of moderation and peace.

Said Zamir, who is himself a secular leftist, the more graduates of the religious academies [yeshivas] in the army, the better. "There will be a higher moral level in the army. The religious Zionists are leading the camp in many areas..."


"The guiding principle that directs IDF combat soldiers," Zamir told the Post, "...encompasses a balance between two needs: to defend soldiers' lives and to minimize harm to the civilians behind whom terrorists try to hide. This is expressed in the tension between the necessity of opening fire when the soldiers' security and battled conditions require...and the absolute obligation to hold fire and to act with due compassion toward civilians when it appears they have no evil intent...

"These guidelines and the obligaiton to uphold them are an inseparable part of the Jewish Zionist world of IDF soldiers, and deeply anchored in generations of Jewish heritage, particularly in the doctrine of military conduct renewed by the early socialist-Zionists a century ago. They called this principle by a name that's unlikely to have been given to any other nationalist movement fighting for its independence; 'Purity of Arms'...

"...The outsider might not understand this, be we -- the Jews of the State of Israel -- live this every day, every hour.

"...In order to appreciate this moral code, one must note the context in which it operates...


"Our war against an unrestrained terror organization that uses human shields in various ways...presents the IDF...with almost impossible complexities...The greatness of any army fighting under such conditions lies in its aspiring to 'zero errors' and in its openness to examining its failures -- finding them and fixing them.

"'May our camp be pure.' This is the watchword born by my soldiers in the IDF...because this is the essence of their belief and their national heritage."


"May our camp be pure."


All else will, please G-d, keep until after Pesach.

see my website

Gush Katif Town to be Rebuilt

Hillel Fendel

Three and two-thirds years after being thrown out of their Gush Katif homes in Ariel Sharon’s 2005 Gaza Disengagement program, the former residents of Netzer Hazani are signing a historic agreement to build their town anew - midway between Rehovot and Beit Shemesh.Residents of the destroyed town of Netzer Hazani, the first one to be built in Gush Katif in 1973 are marking a historic day Monday, after years of uncertainty and limbo. Following expulsion from their homes in the summer of 2005, nearly half of the 400 residents moved to temporary housing in Hispin in the Golan Heights, while most of the others moved to similar quarters in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, northeast of Ashkelon. Within a few months, most of those in the Golan joined their former townsfolk in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim.

Though told that they would be able to build their tight-knit religious-Zionist community anew outside Yesodot, a hareidi-religious moshav some 20 kilometers northeast of Ein Tzurim, the plans became continually bogged down in bureaucracy and indecision. The residents never lost faith or hope, however, that they would one day merit to leave the transient lifestyle to which they refused to become accustomed, and would be afforded the opportunity to rebuild a Jewish community in the Land of Israel.

On Monday, it happened – on paper. In an afternoon ceremony in the Netzer Hazani community building in Ein Tzurim, members of Yesodot, the individual families of Netzer Hazani, and the representatives of the SELA Disengagement Authority, representing the Prime Minister’s Bureau, signed an agreement signaling the beginning of the new town. The land is being purchased from Yesodot by the government of Israel and the families.

Near Yad Binyamin

Yesodot is located just to the east of Yad Binyamin, where many Disengagement-expelled families reside in temporary quarters. The former community of Ganei Tal, a neighboring community of Netzer Hazani in Gush Katif, has been living intact in Yad Binyamin; its families recently signed a similar contract paving the way for the rebuilding of their community outside nearby Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim.

It is estimated that it will be at least another two years before the Netzer Hazani families will actually be able to move into their new homes. This, despite the fact that the temporary "caravilla" trailer park in which they are living was originally designed for a maximum of three years. The “expiration” date of their homes is thus right around now.

Anita Tucker, a founding member of Netzer Hazani who has become the town’s unofficial spokeswoman, expressed satisfaction with the new agreement, but added, “At the same time, we long to return to our real homes - especially those of us who were born and grew up in Gush Katif [Jewish Ga. We hope the day will soon come when we will be able to return home to Gush Katif and rebuild there.”

"Collision Coming?"

Arlene Kushner

In an address to the Turkish parliament today, President Obama stated, in a not-so-veiled response to our new government (and Foreign Minister Lieberman in particular), that:

"In the Middle East, we share the goal of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security." He uses that expression "let me be clear" a great deal. But I would also like to be clear: Obama is living in that dreamworld in which he imagines that we can have security and peace, and a Palestinian state at our border at the same time. The old worn out terminology, which is so failed, remains the same. No thinking out of the box here. And what is worse, he made the statement in a Muslim country.

"...Both must live up to the commitments they have made." he said. "Both must overcome longstanding passions and the politics of the moment to make progress toward a secure and lasting peace."

Excuse me? Overcome longstanding passions and the politics of the moment? Passions such as Jewish devotion to the Land of Israel? Current politics that tell us that concessions are self-destructive? The man is an outrage.

And who is he to tell us that we "must" do anything?


According to Herb Keinon, writing in the Post, Netanyahu's new government is going to re-evaluate all diplomatic commitments. The prime minister has no intention of making a detailed statement on the nature of these commitments until the policy review is complete.

Interestingly, while Lieberman, in his remarks on taking office, had said we were obligated to the Road Map, an unnamed official in the prime minister's office is suggesting that this has to be re-evaluated as well, because the status of the document has changed. Final status talks were supposed to have been held by 2005.


Netanyahu may delay his trip to the US, tentatively scheduled for early May, until this review is complete.

But yes, indeed, the whiff of a collision is in the air. We might say that it is inevitable.

Consider these words by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud):

"Israel doesn't take order from Obama.

"In voting for Netanyahu the citizens of Israel have decided that they will not become the fifty-first US state."

Whoa! A new mood is definitely in the air. A mood that has the power to lift one's heart. Never mind that Erdan did all the necessary qualifying regarding the fact that the US is an important ally with which we'll communicate, etc. etc.


Netanyahu's office released a statement expressing "appreciation" for Obama's "commitment to Israel's security and to the pursuit of peace.

"The Government of Israel is committed to both of these goals and will formulate its policies in the near future so as to work closely with the United States towards achieving these common objectives."

Please note that while Obama put "peace" first, Netanyahu's spokesman referred to our security first. As I read this, the message to Obama is that, yes, the new government of Israel will be committed to peace (you'll never hear us say we're not for peace), but will make Israeli security its first priority. What is more, one might read this as a diplomatic challenge to Obama: a reminder that, as he has committed to our security, we do not expect him to sacrifice it on the alter of his vision of "peace."


Netanyahu has appointed a large 15-member security cabinet (including Netanyahu himself), that consists of:

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon; Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin; Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch; National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau; Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom; Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor; Defense Minister Ehud Barak; Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer; Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz; Justice Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman; Interior Minister Eli Yishai; Housing Minister Ariel Attias.

There are a considerable number of issues of importance that will come before this group.

Barry Rubin recently observed that of the 30 ministers in the new cabinet, almost half of them deal with security or foreign policy. For example, there are not only ministers for defense and foreign affairs, there is also a strategic affairs minister and a regional cooperation minister. That is reflected in this security cabinet.


At a pre-Pesach gathering before a left wing group, Defense Minister Barak confessed that:

"I don’t feel as though I am a natural part of this government...despite the fact that I supported the party's participation in [Netanyahu's] government, I admit that I am still uncertain whether it was the right move or not. But I feel it was the responsible thing to do for the good of the country."

Labor MK Yuli Tamar opined that "there is a deep ideological crisis [in Labor], and I am not at all certain Barak still supports a two-state solution."


It's way overdue, but cause for celebration none-the-less.

The people of Netzer Hazani, a former community in Gush Katif, have been living in temporary and uncertain conditions since their expulsion as part of the "disengagement," going on four years ago.

A good percentage of the community ended up in temporary quarters in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, not far from Ashkelon, after they were forced from their homes. (Some went straight there, while many others were briefly in Hispin in the Golan and later joined them.) They live in so-called caravilla, which are no more than glorified mobile homes.

Now, after many bureaucratic delays and false starts and promises, this community, which has in the main persisted in staying together, will be given the opportunity to build a new Netzer Hazani outside the community of Yesodot, a religious moshav about 20 kilometers northeast of Ein Tzurim -- about midway between Rehovot and Beit Shemesh.

Today papers were signed for land to be purchased from Yesodot -- by the government of Israel (represented by SELA, the Disengagement Authority) and individual members of Netzer Hazani. The new community is expected to take two years in formation.


I note the comment of Anita Tucker, a founder of Netzer Hazani and a spokeswoman for the community:

“At the same time, we long to return to our real homes - especially those of us who were born and grew up in Gush Katif. We hope the day will soon come when we will be able to return home to Gush Katif and rebuild there.”

To which I say, Amen.

The courage and sense of purpose demonstrated by Anita and her fellow members of Netzer Hazani should be an inspiration to us all.

The people of Netzer Hazani went straight to the Kotel after having to leave their homes, and I was one of many hundreds gathered there to greet them that painful night. When I put my arms around Anita to comfort her, she smiled at me and said, "Don't worry, we may have lost our homes, but we haven't lost our spirit."


A community that had been close in proximity to Netzer Hazani in Gush Katif was Ganei Tal. The members of this community have been living, in similarly temporary quarters, in Yad Binyamin. They have now made arrangements that will allow them to rebuild their community outside of Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim.

see my website

Monday, April 06, 2009

IDF chief of staff glad troops' Gaza 'testimonies' were thrown out

Ashkenazi tells soldiers in letter that accounts of military misconduct in Gaza lack factual basis
Hanan Greenberg

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi wrote to soldiers Sunday regarding testimonies of immoral military conduct during Israel's offensive in Gaza. Ashkenazi tells soldiers in letter that accounts of military misconduct in Gaza lack factual basis
Hanan Greenberg

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi wrote to soldiers Sunday regarding testimonies of immoral military conduct during Israel's offensive in Gaza.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Govt. to Propose Two-Year Budget

David Lev Govt. to Propose Two-Year Budget

The 2009 budget has still not been passed, and the government is approaching the deadline for its submission – 45 days after this year's elections. But with the new government just beginning to function, and the new Knesset holding barely any deliberations on the budget, the likelihood of it being passed within the deadline – which comes out during the Passover recess – is highly unlikely. As a result, the government will call a special session Monday to urge Knesset members to change the budget's deadline to 120 days. In addition to allowing the government more time to pass the budget, the bill will provide a provision for allowing passage of a two-year budget – a tenet officials in the new government have said they intend to take advantage of this year. Taking into account the increased time for passage of the budget and the fact that it was already delayed because of the elections, the 2009 budget could become law as late as August. Officials said it makes sense to pass a two year budget, given the circumstances.

A Likud MK will propose the bill Sunday, and if it is passed on its first reading, it will be checked by the relevant Knesset committees and prepared for its second and third readings – to take place Monday afternoon or evening. With 74 Mks in Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition, the measure is expected to pass easily.

Since January, government ministries and offices have been funded based on the allocations they received in 2008, with one twelfth of that amount being forwarded to them monthly. As a result of the delays, however, offices have nearly stopped altogether instituting new projects, preferring to wait and see what their actual budget this year will be.

The plan has raised the ire of Knesset members in the opposition. Former Finance Minister Roni Bar-on called it "a foolish move that reveals the true intent of the government – to preserve itself, regardless of the cost to the economy. There is no person in the political and financial establishment of Israel who can foresee the needs of the country in 2010. This is a hasty and erroneous move, an underhanded attempt to push through major changes in the guise of economic issues that will greatly harm the Knesset's ability to fulfill its role in supervising the government."

"Strength Required"

Arlene Kushner

Pesach comes close, and with it a slow-down in my writing. I ask you please, friends, to limit your communication to me to issues that are significant, and to understand that responses may be slow. If I could figure out how to put more hours in the day, it would be great. I have no word on the capture of the terrorist who axed the head of two boys last week. The horror of that attack has lingered. The murdered boy had not wandered into dangerous territory. This was not a drive-by shooting. This was a case of the terrorist coming right into the town and going at young people.

Here I wanted to do just a bit of sharing. I was not well acquainted with Bat Ayin myself, but decided to do some checking in order to present a picture of this Gush Etzion town of 1000 that is being represented as "extreme" in certain quarters. This community, which is Orthodox -- Religious Zionist in the main, with Breslov and Chabad and Carlebach influences -- is devoted to organic farming and holistic medicine. A friend of mine who spent time there tells me the people are very gentle and that the atmosphere feels idyllic. The community boasts two institutions of Jewish learning -- a Yeshiva for men and a Midreshet for women.


It's not going to stop: Today two terrorists were caught trying to plant bombs along the Gaza border fence and killed by the IDF.

Just hours later, a 16 year old Bedouin girl -- an Israeli citizen, who had obviously been recruited and trained -- attempted a shooting attack at a base in the Negev. Basma Awad al-Nabari of the village of Houra, arrived at a Border Police base between Arad and Beersheva armed with a gun, which it was obvious she was able to handle well, and began shooting at the soldiers. She was killed by an officer on the scene.

Investigation is now being done to determine who drove her to the base and who trained her.


Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to fight terror with full force and militarily, as necessary. Let us pray so.


It occurs to me that while we are quick to register distress with our officials when we are discontented, so should we register satisfaction. Especially is this the case with our new government, which is going to be pressured on all sides, and with our new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who spoke so forthrightly this past week. He needs to know we're pleased.

I suggest that Israel citizens take the time to send a word of congratulations and support.

For Prime Minister Netanyahu:

Telephone: 02-640-8456 Fax: 02-649-6659 E-mail:

For Foreign Minister Lieberman:

Telephone: 02-640-8388 Fax: 02-640-8921 E-mail:


It's generated a minor furor: the fact that US President Obama bowed from the waist to Saudi King Abdullah at the G20 meeting in London. This is obsequious and not in line with protocol. (He didn't bow to the Queen.)

It's not surprising -- just one more reflection of the direction in which Barack Obama has chosen to orient himself.

Obama is on record as supporting the Saudi "peace plan," which is essentially a plan to weaken Israel into non-existence. It calls for pre-67 lines as borders and "return" of refugees.

see my website