Saturday, January 30, 2010

Obama should change his strategy: Larijani

Thought you should know:

KUWAIT CITY, Jan. 27 (MNA) -- Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has said that U.S. President Barack Obama should make fundamental changes in his strategies.

Larijani made the remarks at a press conference in Kuwait City on Wednesday.

Commenting on the joint military exercise held by the U.S. and Kuwait, which ended on January 26, the Iranian parliament speaker said, “Such maneuvers will have no effect on the United States’ influence in the region, and it would be better if Obama made efforts to fundamentally change his strategies.” Larijani said he discussed the exercise during his meetings with Kuwaiti officials.

Kuwaiti news agencies reported that the joint military exercise was held to enhance cooperation between the two countries.

The Iranian parliament speaker also stated that the U.S. is making efforts to undermine regional stability and security, and this has increased regional nations’ animosity toward the U.S.

U.S. policy toward Palestine has failed

The Obama administration’s policy toward Palestine has failed since the blockade of Gaza is still in place, settlement construction in the West Bank has not been halted, and Israel is putting more pressure on the Palestinian people, the Majlis speaker noted.

Despite the Obama administration’s rhetoric about change in the region, so far no sign of change can be seen, he said.

Larijani also called for unity among Islamic nations and urged them to take a firm stance against the Zionist regime and to support the Palestinian people.

He dismissed the allegations of Iranian interference in Iraq and Yemen and said that certain forces operating in the region, especially the United States and the Zionist regime, are seeking to create a rift between Iran and other regional states.

“The Americans have devised many conspiracies against us. They have assassinated our leaders and incited an Arab country to invade Iran,” he noted.

He also emphasized the importance of supporting the Islamic resistance movements Hamas and Hezbollah, adding that if Iran did not support these movements, Israel would dominate the region and Arab states would not be safe.

“We are proud to support Hamas and Hezbollah,” he said.

Commenting on Iran’s nuclear program, Larijani stated that the Islamic Republic is conducting its nuclear activities within the framework of International Atomic Energy Agency regulations and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He dismissed the concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, saying that some Western countries are putting pressure on Iran to make the country halt its peaceful nuclear program, but Iran has resisted their pressure.

“Instead of worrying about the Zionist regime, which has over 400 nuclear warheads, they worry about Iran,” he pointed out.

“Today we have acquired nuclear technology, and that is a great victory for all Islamic states,” he said.

He went on to say that the West is attempting to deprive all Islamic countries of their right to access to nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes.

To illustrate his point, he noted that former EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana once said: “If we let you have access to nuclear technology, then we will have to let other Islamic countries in the region have their own nuclear programs, too.”


Photo by: GPO PM: Ariel is the 'capital of Samaria'

29/01/2010 13:47

"We are continuing to build," Netanyahu vows after planting tree in West Bank.
Talkbacks (4)

Ariel is the "capital of Samaria" and an "indisputable" part of Israel, pledged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday afternoon just after he planted a tree in the fourth largest settlement city in the West Bank.

The move comes in the midst of stalled peace talk with the Palestinians who have insisted they will not resume negotiations with Israel until it stops building in settlements.

Israel has imposed a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction. But this week, in honor of the Tu B'Shvat holiday which celebrates the new year for trees, Netanyahu visited settlements for the first time since he took office late last March. On Sunday, he planted a tree in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in Kfar Etzion and in the settlement city of Ma'ale Adumim. On Friday, he came to Ariel accompanied by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and National Security Adviser Uzi Arad as well as Likud MKs Danny Danon, Ophir Akunis and Tzipi Hotovely.

"Everyone who understands the geography of Israel know how important Ariel is. It is the heart of our country. We are here where are forefathers were, and we will stay here," said Netanyahu who added that the area was important from a both from a security and historic point of view, said Netanyahu.

He promised Ariel that it could complete a cultural center in the city to support its growing intellectual life that is fed by the Ariel University Center of Samaria that is also located in that city.

He said that some of Israel's Arab neighbors had made peace with the Jewish state and that he hoped others would follow suit.

"We want to co-exist with our neighbors, but we can't stop our lives here," Netanyahu said.

"We will continue to build. I came here after I was in Ma'ale Adumim and in Gush Etzion where we planted trees. We said in a clear way that we will stay in these areas in any future final status agreement with the Palestinians. We need to help it develop," said Netanyahu.

"These areas will be an integral part of Israel and I say the same thing today in Ariel, the capital of Samaria," said Netanyahu.

As part of the ceremony for Netanyahu in Ariel, he was joined on the stage by Adva Anter 15, of Ariel who noted that both she and the prime minister came from bereaved families.

Netanyahu, she said, had lost his brother Yoni who was killed when he lead an IDF mission to the Entebee airport in in 1976 to rescue hostages. She lost two of her brothers in the 2002 terror attack against an Israeli hotel in Kenya.

"I am asking God to give you the strength and the ability to ensure our future here in Ariel, that like the tree you planted, our roots will be here in Ariel forever," she said.

Netanyahu said that her story showed the difference between and their enemies, "They have come to destroy and we have come to build. May you continue to sprout roots here in the land," he said.

Netanyahu said that her story showed the difference between and their enemies, "They have come to destroy and we have come to build. May you continue to sprout roots here in the land," he said.

Friday, January 29, 2010

‘Goodwill’ Measures Led to More Crime, Terror, Says Police Chief
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

( The government’s continuing “goodwill” measures to bolster Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas caused an increase in rock-throwing terrorist attacks on Jews, traffic accidents and crime, Police Commissioner David Cohen said Wednesday. He pointed out that he is not interfering with government policy decisions but simply was presenting the facts. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, under pressure from the Obama administration, has removed more than 150 checkpoints and roadblocks and reduced army patrols. The American government wants more of them taken away to help coax Abbas back to discussions on transforming the PA into a full-fledged state with its capital in Jerusalem.

The police chief said that in the last six months of 2009, the number of rock attacks in Judea and Samaria increased dramatically.

Arabs throw rocks at Jewish motorists with the intent of causing fatal accidents. Rock throwing attacks have become daily occurrences on Judea and Samaria roads in the past three months. Sometimes the rocks themselves cause injury: one small child was wounded last week when a rock crashed through a windshield.

Last month, a rabbi in Samaria was murdered by terrorists from Shechem several days after Barak ordered a roadblock to be removed. The IDF denied there was any connection between the roadblock's removal and the murder.

Many of the assaults with rocks and firebombs have occurred on Highway 60, connecting Jerusalem and Kiryat Arba-Hevron, where major checkpoints have been removed. The checkpoints often enabled policemen and soldiers to catch Arab drivers with stolen vehicles or driving them without a license.

Lebanon: Conflict widens to Syria

28/01/2010 01:29

Any future strike at Hizbullah that does not take into account its status as a client of Syria, is unlikely to land a decisive blow.

In the last week, senior Israeli policymakers made statements of an uncharacteristically bellicose nature regarding Syria.

It is unlikely that these statements were made because of sudden random irritation toward Israel's hostile northeastern neighbor. Rather, the statements probably constituted part of a message of deterrence to Damascus. The need to project deterrence itself derives from a series of significant changes currently under way on the ground in Lebanon - reflecting Syria's ever tighter alignment with Hizbullah and the pro-Iranian regional bloc of which it is a part.

These changes take place against the backdrop of awareness that the tactics likely to be adopted by Israel in a future war with Hizbullah carry with them the very real possibility that Syria could, on one level or another, be drawn in.

On Saturday night, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled said that another conflict on the northern border was a "matter of time." Peled noted that in the event of such a conflict breaking out, Israel would hold "Syria and Lebanon alike responsible."

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, meeting with Michael Williams, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon earlier this week, expressed his concern that Hizbullah fighters have been training on surface-to-surface missile systems in Syria.

Then, on Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted in a speech that if Israel was forced to fight Syria, "we won't fear and we'll defeat them." Why the sudden ministerial loquaciousness?

It may with some justification be asserted that to assume any coordination behind the statements of Israeli ministers is to betray a touching naivete. All the same, the near-simultaneous ministerial recollection of the Syrian threat should be considered in conjunction with the following facts:

Hizbullah has in the last weeks deployed advanced Syrian-made surface-to-surface M-600 missiles on the territory of Lebanon. The missiles, which according to Jane's Defence Weekly are copies of the Iranian Fateh-110 system, have a range of 250 kilometers and carry a 500-kg warhead.

They bring the entirety of central Israel within Hizbullah's range. The missiles are precision-guided, meaning that in the event of renewed conflict, Hizbullah would be able to use them to target military facilities or heavily populated areas.

According to Jane's, the deployment of the M-600s adds to concerns already expressed by Israel at Syrian supplying of the (relatively unsophisticated) SA-2 air defense system and the SS-N-26 surface-to-sea missile to Hizbullah.

Syria's undaunted and increased support for Hizbullah appears to reflect a clear strategic turn taken by Damascus. Lebanese analyst Tony Badran this week drew attention to a recent and relevant report in the Qatari daily al-Watan which quoted Syrian sources who claimed that "a strategic decision has been taken not to allow Israel to defeat the resistance movements."

Such statements, if genuine, indicate that the Syrian regime is aware of the potential price to be paid for its current orientation, but feels that the risk is worth taking.

The Syrians have not, according to available evidence, yet passed the point of no return - which, as Badran notes, would be the provision of sophisticated anti-aircraft systems to Hizbullah. The SA-2, if deployed, could constitute a danger to IAF helicopters, but not aircraft.

Israel has made clear that the deployment of systems capable of threatening Israeli aircraft by Hizbullah would constitute a casus belli.

But beyond the specific issue of weapons systems, the logic of confrontation in Lebanon suggests that Syria may find it hard to avoid direct engagement in a future Israel-Hizbullah clash.

Since 2006, Lebanon's eastern border with Syria has formed the key conduit for weapons supplies to Hizbullah. And Hizbullah is reported to have relocated its main military infrastructure north of the Litani River, in the Bekaa Valley, in areas close to the Syrian border.

Which suggests that if Israel wants in a future conflict to strike a real blow against Hizbullah, this implies an Israeli ground incursion into the Bekaa.

Should such an incursion take place, the Syrians would be intimately involved in supplying Hizbullah just across the border, and the possibility of Syrian casualties at Israeli hands would become very real.

It is again worth remembering that on August 4, 2006, 34 Syrians were killed when the IAF bombed a packing house on the Syrian side of the border thought to contain weapons for Hizbullah. The Syrians did not respond at that time.

But an Israeli incursion into the Bekaa would logically raise the question of either the Syrians ceasing their real-time supplying of Hizbullah (very unlikely), or Israel acting to prevent this.

Of course, the point of deterrence is to deter. The ominous statements from Israeli officials are not meant to signal an imminent war. Rather, they are intended to convey to the Syrians that they should not think their alliance with Hizbullah is cost free, and that they would be advised to adhere to red lines.

The developing logic of the situation in Lebanon is nevertheless widening the circle of future conflict.

The bottom line is that any future strike at Hizbullah that does not take into account its status as a client of Iran and Syria, is unlikely to be able to land the kind of decisive blow to the organization which alone would justify such a strike.

The writer is senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Deputy FM Ayalon travels to Slovakia to press on Iran and Goldstone report

The visit is part of Israel's ongoing efforts to assemble a 'moral majority' against the Goldstone report when it returns to the United Nations.

(Communicated by the Bureau of Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon)

Yesterday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon completed an official visit to Slovakia as part of Israel's ongoing efforts to assemble a 'moral majority' against the Goldstone report when it returns to the United Nations
The Deputy Foreign Minister also discussed the importance of a strong stance towards the Iranian regime in his meetings with his Slovakian counterparts, Prime Minister Robert Fico, Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak and State Secretary Diana Strofova. In the evening the Deputy Foreign Minister addressed the annual Righteous Amongst the Nations ceremony and presented awards to this year's recipients in Bratislava.

"We appreciate Slovakia's role in voting against the Goldstone Report and with the rest of the EU for taking a firm stance on Iran," Ayalon told his hosts. "Just as we commemorated Slovakian righteous gentiles, so we once again see Slovakians who are not standing idly by and are taking a firm stand on fighting against extremism and intolerance."

"The most important issue is that we must not be silent in the face of tyranny, extremism and terrorism. Just like 65 years ago when there was a small group of people who stood against Nazism, so today we seek a moral and qualitative majority to stand against the automatic majority. We know it can cost nations to show bravery and decency, but it remains the right thing to do. This is why I felt it was important to present the Righteous Among the Nations awards to those who helped the Jewish people when they needed it most. These people demonstrated hope in humanity and the ability to hold on to the values that we hold dear."

The Deputy Foreign Minister also discussed the situation in the Middle East with the Slovakian officials and thanked them for their strong friendship and standing with Israel. "Slovakia, as a member of the EU, NATO, a Member of the Human Rights Council and other important international bodies can play a unique role in joining like-minded nations against those who seek to slander and act against the Jewish State," Ayalon said.

During his speech at the Righteous Among the Nations ceremony the Deputy Foreign Minister compared the situation before the Holocaust to today. "Just as the Holocaust was predated by delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish People, so we see today another regime using words, education and the media to prepare the way for a new Holocaust while denying the past," said Ayalon.

Knesset Rejects Bill to Outlaw Islamic Movement

Gil Ronen
( The Knesset plenum rejected Wednesday a bill to outlaw the Islamic Movement which operates inside Israel. The bill was proposed by MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union, who said that the Islamic Movement works openly for the destruction of Israel.
"It is no coincidence that the bill comes up on International Holocaust Day,” MK Ben-Ari said in presenting the bill. “As part of the process of drawing lessons from the Holocaust, we have realized that it is imperative that we stop the Holocaust in its initial stages – at the stage of incitement and anti-Semitic ideology which is the foundation upon which the industry of death is built.”

Ben-Ari quoted incendiary statements made by leaders of the Islamic Movement and told the Knesset that they called Jews “bugs, lice, parasites and used other imagery that reminds one of Goebbels' propaganda.”

Ben Ari reminded the MKs of Israel Our Home and the Likud that they promised, before the elections, to outlaw the Islamic Movement.

Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman opposed the bill, however, saying that it was too far-reaching. Coalition MKs, including some from Israel Our Home, opposed the bill and it was voted down.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The new conversion law is a joke

27/01/2010 00:05

Coalition MKs have added a clause that effectively neutralized the law

At the immigration and absorption conference in Ashdod this week, both Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for universal support for a new conversion bill - a bill which would ostensibly "take the power away" from the Conversion Authority and allow local community rabbis to perform conversions At first glance, their suggestion is meritorious. The Conversion Authority has been notoriously deficient in effecting conversions - to a large extent because of lack of leadership and policy. By "privatizing" conversion, the process would become much more personal and much less overwhelming. This, in turn, might alleviate a looming demographic crisis threatening the Jewish character of the State of Israel - given the more than 300,000 citizens who emigrated under the Law of Return, but do not meet the Orthodox halachic definition of Jewish.

However, the law which these ministers support is layered with populism and party interests, and ultimately, will help few potential converts.

In fact, in its original form, the bill would have allowed all community rabbis to perform conversions. Since a handful of community rabbis are considered "moderate" in their approach to conversion, the authors of the bill assumed that converts would be able to approach these rabbis and have their conversions certified nationally.

However, all that changed four months ago.

It was then that the bill came up for review in the Knesset Law Committee and almost immediately, MKs who serve in the coalition added a clause that effectively neutralized the law. The new provision mandates that community rabbis can perform conversions "if they receive an additional certification from the Chief Rabbinical Council."

IN OTHER words, the fact that a rabbi has received the authority to register marriages, supervise burials and organize kashrut in his city doesn't imply that he can effect conversions (even though he has been examined on the laws and rituals concerning this matter).

This clause is a deliberate slap in the face to the moderate city rabbis. It suggests that notwithstanding their scholarship or experience (many used to perform conversions before the Conversion Authority was established), they need further "approval." Given the constitution of the Chief Rabbinical Council, it is a given that none of the moderate city rabbis will ever be certified to convert.

Just to provide two examples, one of the members of the council is himself a city rabbi who won't register people who convert in the Conversion Authority. And another served on the rabbinical court which issued the notorious decision in 2008 by Rabbi Avraham Sherman annulling Rabbi Haim Druckman's conversions.

In short, the new conversion bill - in its present and apparently final form - is sophistry of the first order and is being promoted as an offering to the immigrant population, with no substance supporting it. In many respects, the country would be better off if the law wasn't passed and if politicians began studying the core issues and seeking genuine resolutions, rather than trying to simply pass off another bill as a solution to an essential issue threatening the Jewish fabric of Israel.

There needs to be a full review of conversion policy and strategy, and a public relations effort that will make conversion a national priority. Anything less, and we will continue spinning our wheels for another decade.

The writer is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center (, an organization dedicated to helping Israelis and immigrants navigate Jewish life here.

Israel's Heavy-Hauling UAVs Are Ready for Battle

barbara opall-rome

TEL AVIV - The Israel Air Force's Eitan (Steadfast) heavy-hauling,
multimission UAV will soon become operational, the fruit of a two-year
program to certify the system for networked operations with other manned and
unmanned platforms.
Produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the Eitan - known
internationally as the Heron TP - made its operational debut last winter
during Israel's Cast Lead anti-rocket assault on the Gaza Strip.

The 4.5-ton aircraft, whose wingspan nearly matches a Boeing 737's, flies
automatically in high-altitude safety for 60 hours at a stretch. It carries
1 ton of specialized sensors, satellite communications gear and other
equipment tailored to various IAF missions.

Sources here declined to specify how Israel's newest and largest UAV was
used in the 22-day Gaza campaign, but confirmed that data from the wartime
deployment sped up its operational acceptance.

That mimics the pattern blazed by the Shavit, an IAI-produced signals
intelligence (SigInt) aircraft based on the Gulfstream 550, whose combat
debut in the 2006 Lebanon War hastened its operational acceptance by the

With at least two new Eitans nearly ready to provide all-weather,
sensor-to-shooter networked operations, sources in Israel say developmental
efforts are shifting to equipping later aircraft for special missions now
performed by manned Shavits.

"We want to expand flexibility of the multimission payload to take on more
roles now done exclusively by manned aircraft," a Ministry of Defense
development official said.

That would include comprehensive standoff collection and processing of
strategic-level intelligence, defense and industry sources said. The UAVs
are currently capable of gathering electronic and communications
intelligence, but only at the tactical level.

"The Gulfstream costs three or four times more than Heron TP, and the UAV
can remain airborne longer in high-threat territory," the MoD official said.
In the very long term, unmanned platforms could be converted into long-range
jammers; the ministry's multiyear funding plans do not currently fund
electronic warfare-specific development.

For the nearer term, MoD is funding technical studies aimed at miniaturizing
elements of the multiton Airborne Integrated SigInt System payload developed
by IAI's Elta Systems Division for the Shavit. In parallel, MoD is working
with local industry to lower the electrical needs of the payload and other
on-board systems.

Tommy Silberring, general manager of IAI's Malat Division that produces the
Heron TP, declined to comment specifically on MoD plans for Israel's Eitans.
Speaking in general, Silberring said the Heron TP's 1,200-horsepower engine
can generate enough power for strategic signals collection and electronic
eavesdropping missions - "but to go to active jamming for electronic warfare
is not so easy."

The IAI executive said the Heron TP is designed to take on new and varied
missions, and will assume increasing prominence in the IAF's future force.
"The IAF is well aware of how Heron TP can help," Silberring said. "They'll
need to reduce payload power [for SigInt missions] but this area is
certainly one of the missions to be included as many air forces make the
gradual transition from manned to unmanned platforms."

Igo Licht, director of marketing and sales at Elta, said manned aircraft
offer advantages over UAVs for strategic intelligence missions.

"Manned aircraft carry much more than UAVs, they offer much higher power
generations and then there's the issue of bandwidth if you have to transmit
to the ground. And because SigInt and special mission aircraft are
inherently very long range, they're deployed at standoff ranges. They never
will get close to enemy lines," he said.

Nevertheless, Licht acknowledged that Israel and other countries are giving
UAVs missions once reserved for manned aircraft.

"There will be a sharing of missions, but we believe manned and unmanned
aircraft will operate for many years side by side. For the next 10 or even
20 years, we don't see UAVs replacing manned SigInt aircraft," he said.

Tal Inbar, head of the Space and UAV Center at Israel's Fisher Institute for
Air and Space Studies, said long-endurance, high-flying UAVs such as the
Heron TP will naturally evolve into new roles and missions, including
signals intelligence and even electronic warfare.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Weep for America"

Arlene Kushner

And then stand strong and bring her home again.

In reading Barry Rubin's most recent column, "F for failure," I recognized concerns that have gripped me of late. And so, while I hadn't intended to post today, I knew I wanted to share this.

Many of you on this list will understand what he's saying, but across the board I believe his points are more obvious from here in Israel. A great many Americans are still not seeing the forest for the trees. And too many cling to that last bit of residual hope in Obama, and won't yet grapple with the enormity of the failures of his government.
Writes Rubin:

"We must now face an extremely unpleasant truth: Even giving the Obama administration every possible break regarding its Iran policy, it is now clear that the US government isn't going to take strong action on the nuclear weapons issue. Note that I didn't even say "effective" action, I'm saying that it isn't even going to make a god show of trying seriously to do anything.

"From its behavior, it still seems to expect, incredibly, that some kind of deal is possible with Teheran despite everything that has happened...And it is too fixated on short-term games about seeking consensus among other powers; two of them -- China and Russia -- are clearly not going to agree to anything serious. This fact was clear many months ago, but the administration still doesn't recognize it...

"Not only is the Obama administration failing the test but it is doing so in a way that seems to maximize the loss of US credibility in the region and the world. A lot of this comes from the administration's philosophy of unprecedented concepts of guilt, apology, defeatism and refusal to take leadership never seen before among past liberal Democratic governments from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.

"Yet the British, French and Germans are ready to get tough on Iran, yearning for leadership and not getting it. (Emphasis added)

"...After these. six failures [documented in the full article], the US is now -- in effect -- resting. And that is the seventh failure. There are no signs that anything is changing in Washington.

"To believe that the administration has learned anything, we would have to see the following: An angry US government [that] feels that Iran's regime made it look foolish; a calculating administration that believes the American people want it to get tough and [hopes to] gain politically from being seen as decisive; a great power strategy that would make an example of Iran to show what happens to a bunch of repressive dictators who defy the US and spit on its friends and interests; and a diplomatically astute government that understands the uses of threats and pressures to force its opponent into a compromise.

"There is not the slightest indication that the Obama administration holds any of these views. On the contrary, without any apparent realization of the absurdity of the situation, high-ranking officials keep repeating in January 2010 as in January 2009 that, some day, the US might do something to put pressure on Iran. Perhaps those in the administration who do understand what's wrong don't have the influence to affect the policy being set in the White House.

"This is going to be a case study of how failing to deal with a problem sooner, even if that requires some diplomatic confrontations, will lead to a much bigger and costlier conflict later involving military confrontation." (emphasis added)

Directly implied, but not explicitly spelled out here, is the effect of Obama's non-policy on Israel.


While I'm at it, I want to also share a January 16th NY Post piece by Ralph Peters -- "Hood massacre report gutless and shameful" -- that echoes similar themes. (And thanks to Dave A. for calling this to my attention.)

Wrote Peters:
"There are two basic problems with the grotesque non-report on the Islamist- terror massacre at Fort Hood (released by the Defense Department [January 15]):

" [] It's not about what happened at Fort Hood.

" [] It avoids entirely the issue of why it happened.

"Rarely in the course of human events has a report issued by any government agency been so cowardly and delusional. It's so inept, it doesn't even rise to cover-up level.

"'Protecting the Force: Lessons From Fort Hood' never mentions Islamist terror. Its 86 mind-numbing pages treat 'the alleged perpetrator,' Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, as just another workplace shooter...

"...Murderous political correctness is pervasive in our military...

"...This report's spinelessness is itself an indictment of our military's failed moral and ethical leadership...

"We agonize over civilian casualties in a war zone but rush to whitewash the slaughter of our own troops on our own soil. Conduct unbecoming."


America is too great -- in its courage and its principles -- to go down this way. Her come-back (for which I sincerely pray) will depend on the legion of good Americans who do understand what is going on and will, finally, refuse to let it happen.

I hope this makes you spittin' mad, and that you share what is written here broadly.

see my website

Quran Cited on Jewish Links to Land of Israel

A7 News
Hillel Fendel

Land of Israel activists sought to educate Arabs regarding the Quran's teachings on the bonds between the Land and Nation of Israel, and handed out flyers in Arabic with the relevant verses. The Jewish activists were responding to a recent leftist-anarchist provocation of spray-painted graffiti in the former IDF army camp base of Shdema, between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. After it was learned of the intention to allow the Palestinian Authority to take over the area, even though it is totally inside Area C - under complete Israeli control, according to the Oslo Accords - Jewish activists have waged an active campaign to keep the area Jewish. Their weekly presence atop the hill in question has even come under IDF protection.

At the same time, however, Arabs have built a large complex on the lower part of the Shdema hill. Though it was carried out with the assistance of USAID funds, the construction is officially illegal - but the outstanding demolition orders issued by the Civil Administration have not been enforced.

Taking a break from painting over the wall-scrawls this past Friday, the activists went down the hill to the illegal Arab compound and distributed the flyers with the Quran verses. They also posted some of the flyers on the concrete barriers at the entrance to the road leading to Shdema. Last week, the activists spray-painted some of the illegal Arab structures nearby.

The verses were taken from Sura 5:20-21, Sura 7:136-137, and Sura 17:103-104. The first selection reads: “Recall that Moses said to his people, "O my people, remember G-d’s blessings upon you: He appointed prophets from among you, made you kings, and granted you what He never granted any other people. O my people, enter the holy land that G-d has decreed for you, and do not rebel…”The second selection: “We let the oppressed people inherit the land, east and west, and we blessed it. The blessed commands of your Lord were thus fulfilled for the Children of Israel, to reward them for their steadfastness, and we annihilated the works of Pharaoh and his people and everything they harvested.” The third selection: “And we said to the Children of Israel afterwards, "Go live into this land. When the final prophecy comes to pass, we will summon you all in one group." The distribution of the flyers followed the weekly Shdema lecture, which was given this time by Dr. Hagi Ben-Artzi on the meaning of Tu B’Shvat (Jewish Arbor Day) in Kabbalistic literature.

This coming Friday, January 29, the eve of Tu B’Shvat, a convoy will make its way held from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa to Shdema, culminating with traditional tree-plantings Shdema. Greetings will be offered by Rabbi Yaron Durani, rabbi of the eastern Gush Etzion community of Nokdim; MK Uri Uriel (National Union); Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council; and Herzl Yechekzel, chairman of the Har Homa neighborhood administration. Adam Tzahi will perform songs by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

Monday, January 25, 2010

Netanyahu Digs In on Gush Etzion with Tree Planting

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu planted a tree in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, Sunday afternoon, a symbolic move that firmly dug into place a message to the United States that large centers of Jewish population in Judea and Samaria will remain part of the State of Israel. The ceremony took place several hours after the Prime Minister met with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, whose efforts to bridge the deep gaps between Israel and the PA have failed, leaving American officials publicly pessimistic for the first time in the 19 years since it pressured then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir to debate Yasser Arafat in Madrid.

"Today's tree planting reinforces this international position,” the Prime Minister said. “Our message is clear. This [tree plantin is significant for making it clear that Gush Etzion is inseparable from the State of Israel forever. This is the first stop, and from here we will plant in Maaleh Adumin and Ariel.” The tree planting was staged several days before Jews celebrate Tu B'Shvat, the “New Year for Trees," which falls on this year on the Sabbath when planting is forbidden.

He added that Israel also will build in these areas, where he has clamped a 10-month temporary building freeze on new construction of Jews in a goodwill gesture to the Obama administration’s attempts to coax the PA to resume talks with Israel. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has rejected American overtures and insists that Israel answer U.S. President Barack Obama’s call last year for a total and permanent freeze on Jewish building in eastern Jerusalem as well as in Judea and Samaria.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the tree planting ceremony, “There is a national consensus regarding this issue in Israel, and this recognition is slowly permeating the international arena.”.

The PA ridiculed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s tree planting Sunday as an “unacceptable act that destroys all the efforts being exerted by Senator Mitchell.”

"Spines Stiffened"

Arlene Kushner

Mitchell's efforts at re-starting negotiations are going nowhere.

His talk with PA President Mahmoud Abbas was not productive, as he still refuses to come to the table unless we freeze all building in Jerusalem. The political climate he must deal with internally makes it close to imperative that he hold out for this -- for this is what he set as his stipulation back several weeks ago. To agree to less now would mean he was either caving to US pressure or making concessions to "the Zionist entity," and neither would play well with his people.
Not only is a complete freeze being demanded, PA negotiator Saeb Erekat has declared, not for the first time, that it is "an Israeli have negotiations resume where we left them in December 2008 [when Olmert was negotiating]."

And I hasten to declare, also not for the first time, that this simply and unequivocally is not so. Olmert signed nothing. We have no commitment to what he offered to Abbas.

That offer is reported to have included just over 93% of Judea and Samaria, with a land swap [from inside the Green Line] of close to 6% plus a safe passage between Gaza and Judea and Samaria, to "make up the difference." What is more, he apparently agreed that the "holy basin" in Jerusalem (the old city and some area outside it) would be administered by a consortium that included Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinian Arabs and Americans. (I cannot write this without a shudder.)

Abbas may now regret that he turned this down, while we must thank Heaven. Please G-d, an offer even vaguely resembling this will not come the way of the PA again.


With it all, I am pleased to report, we're not making any additional concessions to Abbas. And so there is stalemate. Mitchell was supposed to leave this area after meeting with Abbas yesterday, but requested an opportunity to come back and speak again with Barak and Netanyahu today. I cannot say exactly what he was trying to do, or what he proposed. But in the end it appears his efforts yielded nothing.


Next Shabbat is Tu B'Shvat -- technically a new year for the trees, which determines the age of trees, relevant with regard to when fruit can be harvested. More popularly it is treated as an arbor day, a time for celebrating and planting trees.

In that spirit, Prime Minister Netanyahu, after his meeting with Mitchell today, went out past the Green Line to plant a couple of trees. First in Kfar Etzion, which is part of Gush Etzion (the Etzion bloc south-east of Jerusalem in Judea) and then in Maaleh Adumim, which is a major community just outside of and due east of Jerusalem. Later this week he said he would plant in Ariel, a major community and surrounding bloc in Samaria.

By planting these trees, said Netanyahu, he wanted to "send a clear message that we will stay here. We are planning and we are building."
These areas, he declared, are an "indisputable part of Israel forever. This is an idea that is accepted by the majority of Israelis."

This is a defiantly political act following a meeting with Obama's envoy, and I salute it as such. It's worth noting that he selected areas in the south, center and north of the Judea-Samaria region -- clearly no accident. And so I won't quibble and say that there are a lot of other communities within this region that are also "an indisputable part of Israel forever." Not now.


It's fascinating: the dynamics surrounding the Fatah-Hamas relationship, as well as the face Hamas is seeking to present to the West now. There are so many aspects, so much that is unspoken, so many different -- and sometimes conflicting -- motivations.

I carried a story the other day, by Khaled Abu Toameh, regarding statements made by Hamas representative in the West Bank, Abdel Aziz Dwaik, who said that Hamas accepted Israel's existence and was prepared to consider changing its charter, which calls for Israel's elimination.

This did not play well with Hamas leadership, and Dwaik was apparently required to take a few hesitant steps back. There is, first, the distinction, and it's a real one, between recognizing Israel's RIGHT to exist, and Hamas's pragmatic de facto acknowledgement that Israel does exist. It was the latter, and not the former, that Dwaik was said to be speaking about.


As to amending the charter, Dwaik has pointed out that the PLO changed its charter to eliminate calls for Israel's destruction and gained nothing for having done this. And here I must stop to correct this statement. In the heyday of Oslo, indeed, Arafat agreed to change the PLO charter. He even mentioned which clauses had to be amended and appointed a committee that was charged with seeing to this. But the committee never met, and the charter was never changed. There is a broad impression that it was -- that Arafat's action in appointing the committee sufficed as evidence that this would happen. But it's important to know that it didn't. Even though (then) President Bill Clinton celebrated the fact that changes were made.

This is just one more signal lesson -- not to be forgotten-- in how the Palestinian Arabs conduct themselves.


There is also a signal lesson here -- which we Israelis should not forget -- with regard to how we acted in that situation: The Israeli government conducted itself as if the charter had been amended, and, in point of fact, the PLO got plenty in terms of political autonomy and international support. The process should have been called to a halt back then.


Now, Mahmoud Ramahi, whom Abu Toameh calls "another top Hamas operative in the West Bank," clarified further, saying that while Dwaik said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state within the '67 lines, it was envisioned "only on a temporary basis and without recognizing Israel's right to exist."

This, of course, is worse than nothing. For such a "temporary state" would be simply a means for weakening Israel -- and that "temporary state" would be used as a base for attacking us.

(I hasten to point out here that this not different from what the PLO aspires to, as part of its "Strategy of Stages.")


From Saladh Bardaweel, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, we had further clarification, clearly designed for Western consumption:

Hamas, he explained on a Hamas website, does not seek to destroy Israel. (Perish the thought!) "There is a huge difference between our demand to restore the Palestinian people's rights and the annihilation of Israel. We haven't said that [we want] to destroy Israel, but we are striving to restore our people's rights and refugees' rights to return to their dwellings and land from which they were deported."

A few points here, briefly: Hamas is a jihadist movement, not a nationalist movement. Its goal is not a Palestinian state, its goal is the elimination of Israel from land that it sees as Muslim and which would form part of a larger Islamic caliphate. Here Hamas uses claims of the "refugees' right" to return to Israel precisely as the PLO has used it for many years -- as a means of destroying Israel from within. What is being pushed is the introduction into Israel of over 4 million so-called refugees, many of whom are Hamas-connected and overtly hostile to Israel.

In light of this, it's hardly necessary to say the movement seeks Israel's destruction -- that is obvious on the face of it. The Hamas goal hasn't changed, only the tone is different as it seeks international acceptance.

(I will not deal now with the issue of "refugees" having been "deported" from Israel, or who counts as a genuine refugee, or how UNRWA operations fit into this picture -- that is a whole other subject that must be re-visited in a post one day.)


So we have Hamas playing to the West. And what do we see? The PA has warned the EU not to legitimize Hamas via dialogue.

For anyone who's been following PA actions over time, this is nothing short of delicious amusement. Consider this explanation by a Fatah spokesman:

"In one voice directed toward our people and Arabs and Muslims, Hamas is saying that it's a resistance movement. In another voice directed toward the international community, Hamas is talking about its readiness to recognize Israel and accept a long term hudna [temporary truce]."

All this, he said, is "an attempt to deceive public opinion by playing with words."

How about that! This is precisely what the PLO/PA has been doing for some 17 years now. What was Arafat's promise to change the PLO charter that was never really amended? And what is Abbas doing when he speaks in English about negotiating a "two state solution," while in Arabic he officially declares the three terrorists who killed Rabbi Chai in the drive-by shooting to be "holy martyrs for the Palestinian resistance"?

Those of us who watch the Palestinian Arabs know clearly: Watch what they say in Arabic to their own people; this is where their truth resides.

And now we have someone from Fatah pointing a finger at Hamas and admitting this very thing.


We need to look carefully at the motivations of Fatah leadership as they attack Hamas.

Fatah has agreed to a reconciliation with Hamas, brokered by Egypt. Hamas, while saying it goes along in principle, actually has not signed on. It is in Fatah's interest, then, to discourage the international community from legitimizing Hamas as a stand-alone movement. The stronger Hamas is, the less it requires unity with Fatah in order to be legitimized.

Thus we have Fatah saying that meetings between Hamas and Westerners undermine efforts at reconciliation.


But to my mind there is another piece to the puzzle. The PA is bouncing between two poles: the West (and particularly the US and EU) and Hamas. Yes, they play one end against the other, and yes, they there are games with one thing said in private and another publicly. But ultimately, there are choices they must make.

If they were to renounce the charade of seeking "peace" with Israel, and declare for "resistance," Hamas would embrace them. But as it is, for the sake of the Western largesse and political support, they have continued to play the peace game. How they speak about and respond to Hamas, it would seem, provides some clues, within a very complex and schizoid situation, as to the nature of PA positions more broadly.

So far, they have not renounced a relationship with the West, and so we see a readiness to criticize Hamas. But we may be close to a change. For Abbas is expressing grievous disappointment with the US for not sufficiently pressuring Israel, and he now says he doesn't believe there will be a settlement.

However, I am not hearing at this juncture any further statement by Abbas regarding a unilateral founding of a state. It may be because Obama, after his political blow in MA last week, is less ready to stick his neck out in supporting a position as radical as this. (Could Abbas's disappointment, unspoken, also be with regard to this?)

We have here a major "watch and see" situation.

Let me add to this stew of events the fact that PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is seeking to undermine and best Abbas, and it is likely that he will continue to play to the West. Fayyad, who is the darling of the West and perceived as exceedingly clean and moderate, in point of fact is neither. He simply plays a very good game.


I know I use the word "ironic" a good deal lately, but that is simply because the situation abounds in irony. And the greatest irony of this entire situation is that the US president who came into office determined to court Muslims has made a mess of his relationship with the PA because he elevated expectations unreasonably.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Signs of Oil in the Negev

Hillel Fendel Signs of Oil in the Negev
A7 News

A joint venture near the Negev city of Arad has produced “preliminary indications” of an oil reserve, the drillers announced.The venture is a partnership of Zerach Oil Exploration Ltd., which owns 50%, and Avner Oil Ltd. and Delek Drilling Ltd, which own 25% each. The three companies notified the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) on Sunday that they had found oil at the Tzuk Tamrur 4 oil exploration well, west of the Dead Sea. They emphasized that they do not yet know if the quantities found are commercial.

The Tzuk Tamrur 4 drilling began three months ago, after seismic studies indicated that 6.6 million barrels of high-quality oil could be found there. The drilling has reached a depth of 2,040 meters, and the partners plan to keep on going until they reach 2,150 meters.

"When the drilling is complete,” the partners stated, “electrical logs [a form of underground testing - ed will be conducted, which will take several days, after which an announcement will be made, including whether the partners decide if it is worthwhile to carry out well production tests."

Just last month, the Givot Olam Oil Exploration company announced it had found a very large amount of oil and gas below the city of Rosh HaAyin in central Israel. Recently, Noble Energy said it had discovered more than 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea, about 90 kilometers from Haifa.

NYT can't run anything positive about Israel

Leo Rennert
Since Israel responded quickly to the Haiti earthquake with a major relief effort, including a field hospital that trumps all other medical services in the devastated country, it has received widespread, unalloyed recognition and praise from mainstream media in the U.S. and abroad. ABC News, NBC news, CNN, Fox News, just to mention a few, along with many foreign media, have given extensive, favorable coverage to the life-saving efforts of Israeli doctors and nurses operating with cutting-edge skills and resources.

But NOT in the New York Times.In its Jan. 22 edition, the Times carries an article by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner that manages to rain on Israel's parade of rare media salutes for its display of genuine humanitarian caring half way around the world ("For Israelis, Mixed Feelings on Aid Effort -- Questions arise about image and the national character" page A11.) As far as Bronner is concerned, Israel's life-saving marvels in Haiti are just a mixed bag -- with at least as many minuses as pluses.

Bronner starts by acknowledging that Israel has demonstrated that it is "one of the mst nimble countries in disaster relief" -- recognized as such by Western television news correspondents.

But he immediately balances this with a hefty dose of negativism -- quoting several Israeli leftists who fault the Haiti relief effort by asking why Israel can't be as generous to Palestinians in Gaza -- "the left has complained that there is no reason to travel thousands of miles to help those in need -- Gaza is an hour away."

And Bronner continues with his pejorative coverage by writing that Israel's government is trying to figure out "how to make the most of the relatively rare positive news coverage, especially after the severe criticism it has faced over its Gaza offensive a year ago."

Bronner, with his pluses-minuses balancing act, cites a Jerusalem Post commentator's assessment that the Haiti relief project shows that "the Jewish people demonstrated that their extended hand can bridge any gap and traverse any chasm when it comes to saving lives."

But just as quickly, Bronner neuters this kudo with a quote from another commentator, Larry Derfner, who wrote that "it's the Haiti side of Israel that makes the Gaza side so inexpressibly tragic. And more and more, the Haiti part of the national character has been dwarfed by the Gaza part."

Well, you get the picture, as sketched by Bronner -- anythng good done by Israel in Haiti is neutered, erased by what it's doing to the people in Gaza.

Except, the Haiti-Gaza contrast fails on two counts:

1. The devastation and suffering in Haiti are due to a natural disaster; while the plight of Gazans is due entirely to human factors -- i.e. the terror war waged by Hamas and Islamic Jihad against Israel with a decade-long barrage of thousands of rocket and mortar rounds against Israeli civilian populations. Bronner doesn't bring himself to point out this obvious and telling difference between these two calamities. Likening Haiti to Gaza is a totally irrelevant apples-and-oranges ploy.

2. Even with the Israeli-Palestinian economic blockade of Gaza, Israel sends about 100 truckloads daily into Gaza, carrying food, medicines and other basic necessities. Plus it provides sufficient diesel fuel to meet Gaza's needs. Plus it has admitted hundreds of injured and sick Gazans into Israel where they receive the same dedicated, advanced medical care that Haitians receive in Israel's field hospital at Port-au-Prince. Again, while Bronner gleefully quotes slanderous allegations about Israel's lack of humanitarian zeal, he omits any mention of the vast extent of humanitarian aid that is pouring into Gaza from Israel every day.

While Bronner relies on a few Israelis spouting a leftist-chic line against their country, he doesn't have the grace to quote the simple, short comment of Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel, with its Haiti operation, shows "it's a small country with a big heart."

And the same can be said of Israel in regard to Gaza, when taking into account the unremitting terror war waged against it from Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Both Haiti AND Gaza demonstrate that Israel indeed has a "big heart." No other country in the world, given the same provocations and rocket barrages, would treat its enemy as kindly as Israel has in responding to Hamas's war making from Gaza.

Bronner's Haiti-Gaza contrast doesn't hold water.

Page Printed from: at January 23, 2010 - 11:05:22 PM CST

Arlene Kushner

Because of the growing anarchy -- the chaos and violence in the streets --- occurring in Haiti, the UN has asked Israel to send a contingent of police. And so, 100 armed Israeli police officers will be joining a peace-keeping mission there.

You can believe this. It is real news. Only unbelievable in the ironic sense of the word. Hamas West Bank representative, Aziz Dwaik, met yesterday in Hevron with influential UK millionaire David Martin Abrahams. In the course of the meeting, which was covered by Khaled Abu Toameh, Dwaik said that Hamas has accepted Israel's right to exist and would be prepared to nullify its charter calling for Israel's destruction.

Now this is unbelievable in a literal sense. Anyone who is familiar with Hamas ideology, and who realizes that even the PLO and Fatah have not removed calls for Israel's destruction from their respective charters, would have trouble swallowing this.

Dwaik sits in a different climate, in the "West Bank." It's different from Gaza, where Ismail Haniyeh -- senior Hamas political leader recognized in Gaza as prime minister -- sits, and from Damascus, where Khaled Mashaal --Hamas politburo head in exile -- maintains his office. How much this affects the apparent moderation of what he said is difficult to determine. He is in touch with both Haniyeh and Mashaal, but did not explicitly say he was speaking on their behalf. What he did say is that both men have made statements agreeing to a Palestinian state within '67 lines.


This is a dangerous ploy, for while I consider what Dwaik said to be unbelievable, and so will many of you, there are those willing to accept his word, and that of Haniyeh, and Mashaal. Dwaik's statement can be seen, as Abu Toameh pointed out, within the context of Hamas attempts to gain international recognition. And there are those, particularly within the EU, who may swallow this whole -- eager to see the problems in this part of the world miraculously resolved.

Dwaik, I will assume, understood whom he was addressing, for Abrahams is one of those eager to believe. This is what he said:

"The fact that there is a possibility for recognition of Israel is a symbolic gesture. We can all look for good in people, and can all look for bad in people. I always look for the good.

"People might say that I'm naive, so let them. But I'm prepared to give them a chance because I've got faith in Dwaik and Haniyeh, We cannot allow 1.5 million to be festering in the Gaza Strip while the majority of them are good and well educated."

Oi vey. The thinking represented here (also unbelievable) is what has gotten the world into so much trouble. The refusal to grapple with unpalatable truths -- to understand that there is evil that must be named evil. The eagerness to try, with blinders on, to transform what should be into reality that is.


Before someone from the UK comes knocking on our door, telling us that Abrahams has said that Hamas leaders have moderated, and we should start talking to them, allow me to point out that recognition of Israel is never "symbolic." It is a very very real issue, and the recognition must extend to us as a Jewish state. I am quite safe in assuming neither Haniyeh nor Mashaal has ever offered this.

Is Abraham's desire to help the people in Gaza dependent upon his perception of them as "good and well educated"? Would he be less eager to help if they were illiterate?

You have, undoubtedly, noted the connect: because he wants to rescue them from their plight, he "trusts" Haniyeh. Unfortunately, he shies away from the fact that Haniyeh has major responsibility for the situation that the Gazans find themselves in. (That would require him to think bad of someone.)


The issues raised here extend far beyond what Abrahams, as one individual, neglects to recognize with regard to Hamas. Regrettably, his thinking is typical of a far broader mindset.

I recommend a briefing for the Global Law Forum of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, by Justus Reid Weiner and Dimitri Teresh. What they address is Amnesty International's predilection for "Forgetting the Real Culprits in Gaza." Amnesty International, of course, points its finger at us, without due attention to our rights under international law (for example, our right to close our own border) or Hamas's embrace of violence.

This merits a read, as well, in order to gain a more accurate picture of life in Gaza, which is not the horror it is routinely represented as being.


Jibril Rajoub, deputy-head of the Central Committee of Fatah, and former head of the PA security apparatus in the West Bank, has given an interview to a Tunisian newspaper. In this interview, he charges that when Fatah was negotiating reconciliation with Hamas, several American officials threatened that the US would boycott Fatah and the PA, should that unity with Hamas be achieved.

As there is no outside corroboration, I cannot attest to the accuracy of this charge, but found it significant enough to share here.

Do the Americans understand what is at the heart of Hamas well enough to recognize that its joining with Fatah would further undermine and not enhance chances (already close to non-existent) for peace? Perhaps. It's an interesting concept to ponder.

My own take, however, is different. If this is true, I would suggest that it has to do with the Dayton-trained forces. The US is investing millions, as well as putting its prestige on the line, in training PA security forces under the direction of US Lt.-General Keith Dayton. These PA/Fatah security forces are supposed to combat Hamas. What happens if Fatah joins with the very group it is supposed to fight? It makes the brains in Washington who dreamed up this idea look like total idiots, and it represents a loss in terms of money and effort. I can see that the specter of this happening might move some US officials to make threats. There is no clue as to which "officials" were allegedly involved, and it is not clear as to whether Rajoub is suggesting their threats were official or off-the-record.


Egypt has been central to negotiating efforts to bring reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, but in recent weeks Hamas-Egyptian tensions have flared considerably.

There has been a built-in tension for some time, that was long kept on a back burner, because Egyptian interests are complex: There is enormous enmity between Egypt, which is Sunni, and Shia Iran (whose influence Egypt fears). And Iran backs Hamas. For a long time Egypt was more content than not because Hamas was making difficulty for Israel. For Egypt also has great enmity for Israel.

Now the tensions with Hamas have erupted. What receives little press when there is talk about an Israeli blockade of Gaza is the fact that there is a crossing between Egypt and Gaza, as well, at Rafah -- with Egypt disinclined to permit free movement there. In fact, Egypt has been so concerned about a Hamas presence undermining Egyptian stability that a decision was made to install an impermeable steel fence at the border with Gaza, a fence that would go underground (but in fact not as deeply into the ground as the more serious of the tunnels). Earlier this month, violence erupted at the border, with one Egyptian soldier killed -- when Egypt refused to allow into Gaza "peace activists."


George Mitchell met with Barak for two hours this morning with regard to security issues and restarting "peace" negotiations. The release from the Defense Ministry said nothing of consequence. Mitchell is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and then Abbas, this evening and tomorrow morning.

Reportedly, Mitchell is carrying to Netanyahu the request from Abbas for a total short term freeze. I hope and trust that I will be able to report that this request was summarily rejected, and that no other concessions were offered. To make any concession would be absolutely the most unwise of steps for Netanyahu to take, and I'm betting he knows it.


More significant, it seems to me, is that Obama may be starting to back down. He has given an interview to Time Magazine, in which he said that his administration had overestimated the possibility of getting Israel and the PA to re-start negotiations.

"Both sides — the Israelis and the Palestinians — have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that."

Obama, admitting that expectations were too high, instead of insisting that we must proceed starting yesterday. How about this!

What is more, according to French sources, in an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in London, Mitchell will not be providing Abbas with guarantees regarding pressure on Israel to freeze all building. According to this report, there seems more concern about what Israel will accept than we've seen before.

According to once source cited: "Washington cannot provide guarantees if it is unsure Israel will accept them, especially on the issue of Jerusalem."


Ending on a light note: A 17 year old boy praying with tfillin -- phylacteries -- on a US Airways flight that had left from LaGuardia (NY) and was bound for Kentucky, caused the plane to be aborted in Philadelphia. The tfillin consist of two leather boxes containing parchments with biblical passages that are strapped to the head and the arm during weekday prayers. The boy tried to explain to the crew members, who were alarmed about the possibility that the boy was sporting bombs on his body during prayer. The pilot thought better of continuing the flight.

Seems some airline crew education is in order.

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