Friday, February 19, 2010

PM's List of Heritage Sites Does Not Include Cave of Machpelah

Gil Ronen
A7 News

The Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (the Yesha Council), Danny Dayan, asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Thursday to make a last minute change in the list of heritage sites that the government intends to promote and enhance, and add to it the Cave of Machpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron and Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem.In recent days Netanyahu has been proudly touting a new initiative for preserving heritage sites throughout Israel. However, many who read the list of sites promulgated by the Prime Minister's Office were disappointed to find no mention of the two important sites where the nation's forefathers and fore-mothers are buried, and which are specifically mentioned in the Bible.

"No one knows better than you that our continued presence on the land depends more than anything on the deep consciousness that this is the land of our forefathers,” Dayan wrote Netanyahu. “What better than these two sites for passing on this consciousness to the public. The Cave of Machpelah and the Tomb of Rachel are the 'rock of our existence.'”

"A list of heritage sites that does not include the Cave of Machpelah and the Tomb of Rachel completely misses its purpose,” Dayan explained. “It blurs the link of the nation of Israel to its land instead of bringing it into focus; it causes one to forget, G-d forbid, rather than to remember; in disconnects instead of connecting.”

Christian sites included

The list of heritage sites does include numerous locations of importance for Christians that will be restored and receive an annual maintenance budget. These include the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Last Supper Room, the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey, the Church of the Gospel, a baptism site on the River Jordan, three churches in Capernaum, and many more.

Arutz Sheva's Hebrew service reported that in recent days, ministers and Knesset members asked the Prime Minister's Office to add the Tomb of Rachel and the Cave of Machpelah to the list of heritage sites but received a flat 'no' in response.

The Jewish sages teach that the Cave of Machpelah is one of “three places about which the nations of the world cannot deceive Israel and say 'you stole them'” (from Beresheet Rabah). The reason for this is that the Bible records the act of purchase of the cave by Abraham.

U.S. Engaging Syria - a Terror State - on Anti-terror Concerns

David Lev
A7 News

Reversing yet another policy of former President George W. Bush, current U.S. President Barack Obama announced this week that he would nominate career diplomat Robert Ford to become Washington's first ambassador to Syria since 2005, when the former ambassador was removed in the wake of the assassination of Lebanese President Rafik Hariri. As the U.S. seeks to get closer to the Arab world, Washington seems ready to re-engage Damascus, sharing with it American concerns over problems in the region – chief among them, of course, the Iranian threat, and terrorism.Analysts believe that the U.S. is hoping to co-opt Syria, veering it away from terrorism; according to U.S. officials, Damascus has been seeking an opportunity to prove itself, and has, the officials say, proclaimed its willingness to negotiate with Israel over the Golan Heights. However, Syria continues to insist on on supporting Hizbullah and Hamas terrorists, and remains on the U.S. list of states that support terrorism.

The inherent contradiction in the U.S. position – which seeks to engage a state that supports terror in fighting terror – was highlighted in a press conference held in Washington Thursday. In a regularly scheduled press conference held by Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley, a perceptive reporter pointed out that attempts to engage Syria in anti-terror dialog seemed out of place.

The nomination of a new ambassador is just one of a recent flurry of U.S. diplomatic activity, which saw US undersecretary of state for political affairs William Burns meet with Syrian President Bashir Assad this week. That meeting was followed by another one, in which Daniel Benjamin, the US State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, met with Syrian officials, with whom he held "productive and detailed" talks, the US embassy in Damascus said.

An embassy statement said that the two sides discussed "shared counterterrorism concerns and threats," adding that "we believe Syria can play a constructive role in mitigating these and other threats in cooperation with regional states and the United States."

In a press conference Thursday, Crowley was questioned on the Benjamin meeting by reporters. When asked about the content of that meeting, Crowley said that Benjamin and the Syrian officials "shared counterterrorism concerns" and reviewed threats to the region." Crowley said that the U.S. wants "to be able to have the kind of discussion and dialogue with Syria that we need, to encourage them where we think they’re taking steps that are positive, and also to continue very direct dialogue to continue to express to Syria our concerns about its relationships with various elements in the region as well. Syria has, in the past, been interested in engagement with a variety of countries. We clearly want to see comprehensive peace and that would involve progress on the Syrian-Israeli track as well as the other tracks."

Questioning Crowley on the Benjamin meeting, one reporter said that while he understood why Washington sought to engage Damascus, he did not understand why the Benjamin was discussing fighting terrorism with the Syrians. Asking whether the U.S. and Syria "have shared terrorism" information, the reporter was told by Crowley that "they do... we shared concerns about terrorism in the region, and we also have our concerns about Syria itself."

However, the reporter still sought clarification on the point. "I was about to get to the point of (Syria's) being on the terrorism list... Syria is what, now one of four countries (on the list of countries the U.S. says supports terrorism). It sort of sticks out when you do something like this."

Crowley eventually confirmed that there was a "disconnect" between Washington's expectations and the reality of Syria, "We do continue to have concerns about Syria, its ongoing support of terrorist elements in the region," Crowley said. "There are a variety of actors in Damascus that we think should not be there. And should Syria make progress in this area, then we will evaluate. But I’m not aware of any effort right now to consider removing Syria from the terrorism list," he concluded.

Ok, now we know what they mean by "pro-Israel" and "pro-peace"‏

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Several news stories recently covered what was cast as a diplomatic faux pas by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. The implication was that Ayalon should apologize for not meeting with visiting members of congress for what, it was suggested, was an act of hostility towards their host, J Street, an organization whose pro-Israel bona fides he has questioned. While traveling in Israel, Congressman William Delahunt (D-Mass.), on behalf of himself and four other congressional members, harshly criticized the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, who declined to meet with them if they were accompanied by the trip organizers. Delahunt was angered by the Israeli official’s apparent suggestion that the delegation “would even consider traveling to the region with groups” that “[Ayalon] inaccurately described as anti-Israel.”

But it appears that the ones who should apologize are those hosts - the pro-Palestinian group J Street and the overtly anti-Israel Churches for Middle East Peace. They need to apologize to the Israeli government, to all true lovers of Israel, and to the members of their congressional mission. They need to do that for inviting members of the US congress to sit down and chat with an Arab official who only days before publicly praised an Arab Palestinian terrorist for trying to murder an Israeli, and who congratulated the parents of the attempted murderer on their son becoming a martyr.

They should also be embarrassed by their hysterical response - no doubt instigated and manipulated by J Street - to the fact that they “had” to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor instead of Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. The Prime Minister outranks the Foreign Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister outranks the Deputy Foreign Minister. Does it really make sense to complain about meeting with a higher ranking official?

Many people realize that J Street is not, as it claims to be, pro-Israel. But the other group which co-sponsored the trip and with which J Street has a well-established and at times inter-connecting relationship, Churches for Middle East Peace, does not describe itself as pro-Israel -- and with good reason.

Yet CMEP does tout itself, as J Street does also, as “pro-peace.” So guess what CMEP considers evidence of being “pro-peace”? In the 2009 CMEP conference document, all 10 points of their “2009 PRO-PEACE HILL HIGHLIGHTS” have to do with support and aid to the Arab Palestinians. The only mention of a “pro-peace” US government action having to do with Israelis is the “well-coordinated attack” by congressional leaders on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his policies.

Stop the settlements, stop Jews from building in parts of Jerusalem, eliminate all checkpoints, open the borders to Gaza, stop destroying the Gazan tunnels systems, say J Street and CMEP, and then the Israelis and all the Middle East terrorists will skip down the yellow brick road to peace.

But there is still another reason J Street should apologize to Israelis, to true lovers of Israel, and to their guest congressional delegation members. The trip itinerary, apparently arranged by J Street, included a visit on Tueday, February 16, with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Two days earlier it was revealed that Fayyad visited the parents of Faiz Faraj. Faraj was killed after charging a group of Israelis in Hebron and stabbing one of them.

During his “condolence” visit Fayyad “denounced in extremely harsh terms the actions of the ‘occupation forces,’” which he claimed were part of the “ongoing campaign to suppress the non-violent protests of residents,” according to the official Palestinian newspaper (translation by Palestinian Media Watch).

It is time to recognize that J Street travels in a parallel universe in which they see nothing wrong in having a diplomacy meeting with an Arab official who just described stabbing an Israeli to be an act of non-violence, and to honoring that “non-violent” stabbers’ parents for their wonderful son. In that universe, apparently, it makes sense for J Street to call itself pro-Israel. And in that universe, J Street’s buddy organization which shares the same alternate universe vocabulary - Churches for Middle East Peace - calls itself that with a straight face.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the co-founder and president of the Zionist organization

‘If Israel hits Beirut airport, we’ll hit Tel Aviv airport’

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has threatened if the Zionist regime of Israel bombs Beirut airport the resistance movement will retaliate by targeting Tel Aviv airport.

“I say to the Israelis that if you bomb the Rafik Hariri Airport in Beirut we will bomb Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport,” the Hezbollah leader told thousands of well-wishers in southern Beirut on Tuesday. “If Israel strikes Dahiyeh, we will strike Tel Aviv,” Nasrallah said as the resistance movement held a ceremony to mark the death of Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in car bombing by Israeli agents in Damascus on February 12, 2008.

Nasrallah stressed that the resistance movement did not seek war but was ready to face any aggressions.

“It is untrue that we are giving Israel an excuse to launch an aggression on Lebanon. Israel does not need an excuse, and if it needs an excuse it creates one,” he explained.

However, the resistance leader added Israel was incapable of launching a new war.

Israeli suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Hezbollah guerrillas in the summer 2006. It lost 119 soldiers when its army invaded Lebanon’s territory.

“For Israel to launch a war, it requires a guaranteed victory rather than a potential one … Israel cannot afford another blow because it would mark the beginning of its end,” he said, according the Daily Star newspaper.

Nasrallah described the recent Israeli threats against Lebanon and Syria as a “psychological warfare” to frighten the Lebanese people.




Comment: So the rhetoric amps up. This Hizzbollah following orders from Iran. Some would suggest this a "shot across our bow". I suggest it is simply part of the ongoing chess game -more to follow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bibi: Recognize Hebron's Heritage! // MKs in Hebron

David Wilder
February 18, 2010
Adar 4, 5770, 2/18/2010

As has been recently reported by the Israeli press, the Netanyahu administration, announced intentions to 'refurbish Israeli heritage sites.' As reported by Arutz 7-IsraelNationalNews, at the Hertzelia Conference a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister, referring to today's education, "bemoaned the surroundings of cultural shallowness, of diluted knowledge and spirituality," which he said "dilutes and weakens the national strength."The antidote, he said, is reminding students of their "Zionist heritage," encouraging them to find themselves in the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. His plan aims to allow them to do so by walking the length and breadth of Israel []."

Netanyahu seemed to be following in the footsteps of one of his predecessors in office, Ariel Sharon. Fifteen years ago, standing outside Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, Sharon declared, "What nation in the world has such a monument, where all the leaders of the people are buried, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Lea?! All foreign diplomats should be brought here, all visiting tourists should be brought here, all Israeli school children should be brought here! This is our roots!"

This being the case, it would be expected that such a significant program would include first-hand experiences at such sites as Ma'arat HaMachpela and Tel Hebron, today referred to as "Tel Rumeida." These sites express, as no words or expressions ever can, the quintessential heritage, not only of the Jewish people, but of all mankind.

However, it seems that present-day political considerations are more important than the age-old legacy of Am Yisrael. Today's media reports the bewildering fact that Netanyahu's list of sites to be included in the National Heritage project does not include Ma'arat HaMachpela or Tel Hebron.

Is this fact truly perplexing? Perhaps not. It should be recalled that in January, 1997 this same Binyamin Netanyahu literally chopped up Hebron into two unequal sections, abandoning over 80% of the city to Arafat and his terrorist cronies, leaving the Jews in something of an Israeli-imposed ghetto. The land transferred to Arafat included the hills surrounding the Jewish community; these hills, Abu-Sneneh and Harat-a-Shech, became the source of two and half years of shooting attacks, constant terror on the street, in cars and in people's homes, the results of which were lethal and catastrophic.

It would be expected that the new-old Prime Minister might wish to atone for his previous sins, and place Hebron, Ma'arat HaMachpela and Tel Hebron in the forefront of a national heritage program, thereby, if not compensating for his previous errors, at least indirectly declaring, in other words, "Hebron, from Now and Forever – Hevron, Meaz u'letamid."

But, it seems, Netanyahu has yet to internalize the mistakes of over a decade ago.

Yet, Hebron today has tremendous support, in Israel and internationally. Knesset members of all factions visit, tour and meet with Hebron leaders. Last year some half a million people visited the "Jewish side" of Ma'arat HaMachpela, people of all religions and nationalities. Today MKs from the Likud and Kadima will later visit, Hebron, showing their continued support for its Jewish community.

We hope that Netanyahu will, finally, realize that Am Yisrael's eternity is more important than lunch with George, Hillary, Joe or Barack, and publicly place Hebron, together with Jerusalem, at the peak of Israeli's heritage.


This morning four MKs visited Hebron: Shlomo Molla (Kadima), Zeev Elkin, Ofir Akonis, and Tzion Pinyan, all belonging to the Likud. MK Molla toured Hebron's sites with Noam Arnon and Orit Struck, and then joined the others for a visit to Ma'arat HaMachpela. All agreed that Ma'arat HaMachpela must be included in Prime Minister Netanyahu's program- The Heritage Trail:

Shlomo Molla:
"Hebron and especially Ma'arat HaMachpela must be part of the heritage of the Jewish nation, therefore this is not a question of politics it’s a question of our Jewish right, without hesitation or stutter. Even in a time of peace we must ensure our access to our holy sites.Putting together a list of national heritage sites without including Ma'arat HaMachpela is like dealing with trivia rather than with substance."

MKs Elkin, Akonis and Pinyan:
We are all united in our opinion that Ma'arat HaMachpela must be included in the list of national heritage sites. We are dealing with a Jewish site that has been a part of Jewish heritage for generations and centuries, during the most difficult times, held on to by the tips of our fingernails.

MK Akonis related that he spoke with the Prime Minister's office earlier in the day expressing consternation at the fact that the Ma'ara was not included in the new list of national heritage sites. He said that he hoped to receive an answer from them later in the afternoon

MK Elkin added:

This is not my first visit and G-d willing not my last. This is one of the cornerstones of our right to Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately, everyone who visits here can see all the restrictions on the Jewish Community.

Deputy Foreign Min. Ayalon Rejects J Street Congressmen

Malkah Fleisher
A7 News

A group of US congressmen were unpleasantly surprised when Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon refused to meet with them this week.

US congressmen and other governmental representatives are generally treated as VIPs in the Holy Land. However, this particular group was organized by J Street, a lobby that pro-Israel activists say pressures Israel to implement leftist and pro-Arab policies.
Massachusetts Democrat William Delahunt fumed Wednesday that "in our opinion, this is an inappropriate way to treat elected representatives of Israel's closest ally who are visiting the country." Delahunt was joined by Democrats Donald Payne of New Jersey, Lois Capps of California, Bob Filner of California and Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio.

Kilroy was a signor of the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter given to US President Obama in May 2009. The letter urged Obama to become intimately involved in forcing talks between Israel and the PA, and said the creation of a Palestinian state must precede transparency of the PA government, control over security, or a stable economy.

Capps attended the signing of the Geneva Accords in 2003 and served as an official monitor of the PA elections in 2005. She also co-authored a letter with Congressman Henry Hyde following the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif in 2005, praising then-US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice for applying pressure to Israel to open the border crossing from Gaza into Israel. Capps was a signatory to the Ackerman-Boustany letter of October 2007, which pushed Israel and the Arab world to meet for US-brokered talks at the Annapolis Conference, and also signed the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

Group 'puzzled'

Filner was one of just 28 Democrats who called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and terror group Hizbullah in 2006, after the Lebanese terror organization rocketed Israeli civilian communities and attacked an IDF security convoy, abducting soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev before Israel responded militarily. He also signed the Ackerman-Boustany letter and the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

Delahunt sponsored a House Resolution supporting the appointment of former Senator George Mitchell as Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. He also signed the Ackerman-Boustany letter and the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

Delahunt said his group was "puzzled" that Ayalon tried to block the J Street group from meeting with Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister's Office officials.

On Tuesday, Ayalon said he believes J Street willfully misrepresents itself as a pro-Israel organization, when it is not.

J Street has attempted to present itself as pro-Israel, a dovish version of AIPAC. Yet pro-Israel advocates and activists have almost universally condemned J Street as an anti-Israel, pro-Arab organization posing as a voice for American Jewry.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union of Reform Judaism, called J Street's condemnation of counter-terror Operation Cast Lead "morally deficient", and "profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment." Well-known Israeli pundit and writer Caroline Glick asserted that J Street's foremost interest is in weakening Israel.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren refused to attend J Street's first annual conference, but Kadima party members Meir Sheetrit, Chaim Ramon, and Shlomo Molla did attend.

Barkat Under Fire for Arab Building Policy

Gil Ronen J'lem Mayor 'Brings Catastrophe'

The Jerusalem Mayor's decision to retroactively legalize 95% of illegal Arab construction in the Shiloach (Silwan) neighborhood will lead to a catastrophe, land activist Aryeh King said Wednesday. King said the decision is a surrender that gives a prize to criminals.
On Tuesday, Mayor Nir Barkat told the Knesset's Interior Committee about his plan for solving the construction dispute in Shiloach, where there are about 200 illegally-built Arab buildings and one illegally-constructed building owned by Jews – Beit Yehonatan. Barkat plans to legalize 95% of the structures but insist that they be no higher than four stories. Anything over that will be “shaved” off the building.

In this way, Barkat will be legalizing the Jewish-owned Beit Yehonatan (except for its topmost, fifth floor), and avoiding a large scale confrontation with Silwan's Arab residents, at a time when such a confrontation will probably lead to a political storm and international censure.

King said, however, that the legalization of Beit Yehonatan is not worth the price that the city will have to pay under the mayor's proposed deal. “Regretfully, the mayor is continuing a policy that is disconnected from the right frame of mind in dealing with the Arabs of the city. Instead of fighting them he is giving them his entire hand. This is a discriminatory policy that encourages them to continue building illegally. Meanwhile, as regards Jews, demolition orders are issued even against synagogues.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Opposition Leader Livni: We Must Make Hard Decisions

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

Ex-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the Opposition in the Knesset, spoke at the Jerusalem Conference on her vision of Israel as a Jewish state.


“My vision, and that of the Kadima party, deals with the continued existence of Israel as Jewish and democratic, living securely in the Land of Israel. This is a vision that is shared by many in this country – but unfortunately, there are deep rifts in our society, and these overshadow our mutual goals... “The establishment of the State of Israel did not happen as a result of the Holocaust or by virtue of the UN declaration, but because it is the Jewish Nation’s legitimate right - the expression of our historic vision to return to our land. But sadly, that which was self-evident when the State was established, is no longer self-evident.”

Livni related to the hostile Goldstone report, saying it “originated in a council that promotes processes almost exclusively against Israel… The report is not only a delegitimization of Israel, but affects our very right to exist and defend ourselves. Hamas refuses to accept our existence, while the Goldstone report attempts to cut off our ability to fight terrorism. We must fight these threats together.”

In contrast with Minister Benny Begin, who said told the Conference on Tuesday that no solution is feasible in the foreseeable future and that we must strive simply to make the most out of the present stalemate, Livni said, “We must make hard decisions, for if not, we will find ourselves living in two different societies [Jewish and Arab], hostile to each other, with different school systems and with nothing in common.”

“If we don’t make hard decisions now, we are in danger of losing all that is precious to all of us. Our existence as a Jewish state is not just a technical matter... Maintaining a Jewish majority is important, but it’s not just a question of numbers, but of our ability to maintain an enduring Jewish national character – not only in Bnei Brak and Meah She’arim, but also in Tel Aviv.”

Livni said Israel must move forward towards a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, “because if not, we will end up not with one bi-national state, as some think, but with one Arab state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. We must make hard decisions – not out of weakness, but because it’s in our interest… The price of such an arrangement is dear – but not if we compare it to the alternative, namely, the loss of all that we believe in.”

Livni also spoke about the need to define the parameters of a Jewish state, the role of conversion to Judaism, the “undue” influence of hareidi-religious parties on Jewish matters, the need for a Constitution, and more.

Concluding on an optimistic note, she said, “I believe that we will be able to form and reach a common denominator, not only politically, but also socially.”

UK investigating if passports were copied by immigration staff

British Foreign Office confirms identities in passports used by Hamas man's assassins in Dubai are those of real British nationals. Germany, France also looking into passports of two of killers. Report: Syrian source provided assassins with information about al-Mabhouh Ynet
Published: 02.17.10, 00:19 / Israel News

Hours after it was revealed that the assassinators of senior Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai used the identities of Israeli citizens carrying a British passport, the United Kingdom has began probing the affair vigorously.

London-based Times newspaper reported Tuesday evening that the authorities were investigating the possibility that British passport details were copied from the originals by immigration staff while the holders were travelling.

Earlier, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that the identities in the British passports used by six members of the 11-strong hit squad were those of real British passport holders.

“We are aware that the holders of six British passports have been named in this case,” said a spokesman said. “We believe the passports used were fraudulent and have begun our own investigation.”

At least three of the six members are believed to be Israeli-British citizens who live in Israel and who recognized their details in media reports. Melvyn Adam Mildiner of Beit Shemesh, Steven Daniel Hodes of Ramat Beit Shemesh and Paul John Keeley of Kibbutz Nahsholim panicked when they saw their full names on the assassins' passports, as well as their passport numbers and dates of birth. The pictures and signatures in the passports, however, did not match their own.

The assassinators' passports include three additional names which are similar, but not identical, to those of Israeli citizens: Jonathan Louis Graham, James Clarke and Michael Bodenheimer.

British Embassy spokesman Rafi Shamir told Ynet that the embassy had not received any appeals on the matter from British citizens living in Israel.

Ireland demands explanation

The foreign ministers of the other countries caught in the affair unwillingly also responded Tuesday to reports that their citizens' passports were used by the assassins. Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said three alleged Irish citizens that Dubai authorities claim helped with the assassination do not exist.

France and Germany's foreign ministries said they were unable to verify the identities of the owners of the passports allegedly issued on their territory. "We are still checking," a French official said, "but it won't be surprising if it turns out the identity was counterfeit."

British officials estimated for the first time on Tuesday morning that the Israeli Mossad spy agency was responsible for the assassination. If the claim is proved to be true, this may lead to a new diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and London, in addition to the difficulties placed by arrest warrants issued in Britain against Israeli officials over the Israeli operation in Gaza.

Only six years ago, New Zealand severed its diplomatic relations with Israel after arresting two Israeli agents carrying fake New Zealand passports.

Michael Higgins, a lawmaker for Ireland's opposition Labour Party, said the use of fraudulent Irish passport was "of grave concern."

"It is not clear who was responsible for this killing, although local police in Dubai are not ruling out the involvement of the Israeli security services," Higgins said. "In that light, it is now incumbent on the (Irish) minister for foreign affairs to seek assurances from the Israeli government that this is not the case."

Meanwhile, a news website in the Persian Gulf quoted a security sources as saying that a Syrian element transferred information about al-Mabhouh to the assassins.

PA off the hook?

Despite a diplomatic statement by the French Foreign Ministry, Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said that his movement had already received an official answer from the authorities in Paris that the French passport used by one of the assassins in Dubai was forged and that he was not a real French citizen.

Taha, who had accused the Palestinian Authority of being involved in the assassination, refused to repeat the accusation on Tuesday, saying that "the main culprit here is the Zionist enemy, and it bears full responsibility."

Taha may have made this remark following an al-Arabiya report that one of the two Palestinians arrested in suspicion of being involved in the assassination was an officer holding the rank of major in a Hamas security organization, who fled the Gaza Strip after the movement uncovered his relations with the Israeli intelligence.

According to the report, he met with one of the cell members in Dubai and helped the executors identify al-Mabhouh. The network reported that the second Palestinian, who works in one of the Gulf cities, was linked to the arrested officer.

Aviel Magnezi, Roee Nahmias and AFP contributed to this report

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Anti-Defamation League with Director Abe Foxman runs credit report on Barack Obama

Jim Meyers

The Anti-Defamation League’s National Director Abraham Foxman gives President Barack Obama an "F” - a failing report card grade after his first year in office for his accomplishments in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an exclusive Newsmax interview, Foxman also criticized the Obama administration for failing to show leadership in supporting reformers in Iran in the wake of their recent presidential election. He also warns about the growing threat posed by homegrown Islamic terrorists and sleeper cells in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, the nation's premier civil rights organization, was founded in 1913 to battle defamation and discrimination against Jews, but its scope has broadened and today it is at the forefront fighting against bigotry of all kinds. Foxman has led the ADL for 23 years and is known around the world as one the United States' most respected Jewish-American leaders. He is the recipient of many awards, including the French Legion of Honor, France's highest civilian award.

In a sit-down interview with Foxman conducted this weekend, Newsmax TV Kathleen Walter asked Foxman how he would rate Obama's handling of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

“I would give him an A for effort, a C-minus for strategy, and an F for accomplishment.” Foxman responded without hesitation. ”I think the intentions were good. I think the strategy to put pressure on Israel, to put forward the settlement issue as a litmus test, not to put pressure on the Arab countries, not to put pressure on the Palestinians, not only failed but it set the peace process back. In the past administration, under Bush, [the November 2007 peace conference] at Annapolis brought the two parties together. They talked about all kinds of issues while settlements were being built. Now for us to get to where we were before will take a great deal of effort.

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to restart negotiations with Israel unless certain preconditions are met, including a complete halt to Jewish settlement construction. Walter asked Foxman what the Obama administration can do to move the process along. ”I think the president and his administration should put more pressure on the Palestinians, embarrass them a little bit,” he said. “Why are they making preconditions? If peace is important, why is there a need to set all these preconditions which didn’t exist before? I would like to see the administration also move a little more directly on the Arab states, on the moderate Arab states, on the Saudis, on the Egyptians, on the UAE, for them to put pressure on the Palestinians to go back to the table. There’s also the issue of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

I believe the president has a bully pulpit. He has a very clear moral voice. I have not heard it in terms of the world community singling out Israel. It would be nice to hear it publicly. I think that may bring back the balance and maybe move the peace process closer. Foxman’s impatience and disappointment in Obama seems to reflect a growing unease among American Jews about the president’s Middle East policies. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, expressed concern about Obama in a June interview with Newsmaxs Chief Washington Correspondent Ronald Kessler. ” There’s a lot of questioning going on about what he really believes and what does he really stand for.” Hoenlein said. [Jews] are genuinely very concerned.” he added.

On the home front, the ADL has grown increasingly concerned about domestic terrorism. A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League’s magazine, ADL on the Frontline, warned of a growing threat from American Muslim extremists. In the past two years, the report noted, more than 30 of these extremists have been arrested on various terror-related charges including providing material support to terrorists and plotting to plant bombs in the United States. When Newsmax’s Walter asked about this worrisome threat, Foxman said, “There’s no question that there are sleeper cells in this country.”

”There’s no question that fundamentalist Islam has targeted the U.S. The 9/11 [attacks] on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did not begin with flying planes and box cutters. It began with hate, hateful words, teachings of hate. And we know throughout the world, including the United States, there are individuals who have been taught to hate, who have been inspired to hate, who have been taught to do violence, and we know they have been placed in various places around the United States to act at certain moments. It is a clear and present danger which I think we are finally becoming aware of, that we need to focus on and take seriously.”

Turning to Iran, Walter referred to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to wipe Israel off the map and asked Foxman what options Obama has in dealing with the Islamic Republic and its nuclear development program. One of the options that needs to be on the table, as long as a sovereign state is threatening the destruction of another state time and time again, is a military option” Foxman said. It should be the last option, but I don’t think anything else will work unless the Iranians understand how serious would be their consequences.” When violence broke out in Iran following disputed elections, the United States hesitated,” Foxman added. We were not out there very clearly in support of the reformers and all those who were ready to risk their lives.

I think the United States needs to show leadership. Secretary of State Clinton said we need crippling sanctions. Whether we get Russia or China with us or not, the United States should push forward aggressively in the United Nations. And if they can’t get the United Nations, then bring together those who are willing to stand up and say to Iran, this is not the way. Other courses of action may succeed if there is a military option. If there is no military option, why should the Iranians even bother to listen to all kinds of verbal threats? World peace is being threatened. It’s not only Israel. Israel is the first calling card. It’s the (so-called) moderate Arab states. It’s the Persian Gulf. It’s Saudi Arabia. It’s Europe. And eventually, it’s the United States and its relationship to the world.”

Walter referred to the June 2009 incident at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., when anti-Semite James von Brunn shot and killed a security guard, and asked if there is growing anti-Semitism in the U.S. The United States is probably the least of all countries that suffer anti-Semitism, but we are not immune,” Foxman responded. We have measured attitudes in this country, and the attitude 40 years ago was that 30 percent of the American people were infected with anti-Semitism. Today we are about 12 to 14 percent. It’s an improvement, but that still means 30 or 40 million Americans are infected with the disease of anti-Semitism. Most people don’t act on it. What we saw at the Holocaust Museum are manifestations where there’s anger, there’s hatred that moves to the surface. So far what we’ve seen are lone wolves, people acting on their own. But, it’s there. The infection is there.

What the trigger is for these individuals who have harbored this bigotry, this prejudice, to act out violently, we don’t know. Whether it’s unemployment, whether it’s blaming the government, whether it’s because they’re angry because there’s an African-American president, we don’t know what it is. But, it may trigger and therefore we are a lot more concerned about the safety of synagogues and Jewish institutions than we have been in a long time. Foxman also said the greatest threat to freedom, to democracy, to our values, is fundamentalist, extremist Islam.

Paying the price of the moratorium

14/02/2010 21:09

The gov't should prioritize the establishment of a mechanism that will promptly and sensibly compensate the settlers for their losses.

When the Netanyahu government announced a 10-month freeze on new home-building for Jews in the West Bank back in November, it knew there would be a price to pay, both in terms of political capital and in dollars and cents. While we will have to wait until the next election to see what the freeze will cost Netanyahu and the Likud in mandates, the financial cost is supposed to be determined right now by his ministers.

To the chagrin of those affected, who are understandably anxious to know their fate, however, the meeting was canceled at the last minute and rescheduled for two weeks time – which may indicate the level of urgency the issue is getting from the country’s decision makers.

The bill authorizes a streamlined process of filing claims to the state through a specially formed committee made up of representatives of the judiciary, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Interior and a representative of the settlers.

Those choosing to use the path of the committee will need to file their claims in writing, either by mail or via a specially created Web site. Claimants will have up to five years to file. The committee must answer a claim within 120 days of receiving it and payment is to be made within 60 days of a decision. Appeals will be heard by the district court.

Most of the compensation payments will go to contractors whose West Bank developments are currently in limbo. Those hardest hit are projects that were at a relatively advanced stage of development or in initial sages ofconstruction when the construction freeze went into effect. The government decided that only buildings with concrete foundations in place would be authorized to complete construction – a decision that caught out a significant number of developers. They had already paid for planning, permits and initial groundwork, but were forbidden to see through their projects. Some had even sold units on paper and are now finding themselves unable to honor agreements with buyers.

The bill offers two tracks of compensation, one for those who had purchased land but had yet to begin development or construction work, and the second, providing increased compensation, to those who had begun that work. Some compensation will also be given to buyers whose homes are complete, but who are unable to inhabit them because the infrastructure work in their neighborhood was frozen.

It is estimated that overall compensation costs will range between NIS 50 million and NIS 100m. This will also include payments to local authorities in theWest Bank for loss of revenue from municipal taxes.

WHILE IT is encouraging to see that the government is gradually moving toward taking action on the issue, it is worrying that only now, nearly four months into the freeze, is the mechanism for compensation being debated – and Sunday’s postponement only amplified the concerns.

The government, which showed rare efficiency in enforcing the freeze, should have had the foresight to set up a compensation mechanism in advance. It is unfair to the people affected, whose lives and livelihoods have suffered as a result of the decision, that their compensation be an afterthought.

The tardiness in decision making is especially worrying in light of the state’s history of compensation in other instances, most notably in the case of the Gush Katif evacuees, many of whom are still waiting for the government to honor obligations from five years ago.

The government should prioritize the establishment of a mechanism that will promptly and sensibly compensate the settlers for their losses. It is the fair thing to do.
Comment: These are Israeli citizens choosing to live in the disputed territories!!!

'J Street' Middle East Junket for 5 Congress Members

Hana Levi Julian 'J Street' Mideast US Rep Junket

The U.S.-based leftist “J Street” political lobby is sponsoring a tour for five members of Congress this week in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

This is the first time the pro-PA lobby has put together a Congressional mission. Five U.S. Representatives, all of whom are members of the Democratic party, will meet with “key regional leaders, including Jordanian King Abdullah II and [Palestinian Authority] Prime Minister Salam Fayyad,” the J Street statement proclaimed. U.S. Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA), Bill Delahunt (D-MA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) and Donald Payne (D-NJ) will also meet with Israeli government and opposition leaders, the organization said.

J Street promotes itself as the “political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement” although it openly supported the United Nations' Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes during its counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The delegation will “travel widely” in Israel and throughout the PA areas, according to the statement, “taking a close look at the situation on the ground through the eyes of policy makers and civil society leaders.”

The statement does not specify which policy makers and “civil society leaders” will be guiding the delegation and helping them form their opinions in the State of Israel.

The J Street Education Fund, a tax-exempt division of the group, will pay for the trip. The lobby organization itself is actually comprised of three legally separate entities:

J Street – a nonprofit lobby to advocate for leftist goals in Israel on Capitol Hill and with the White House

JStreetPAC – a political action committee to endorse and raise money for candidates for federal office. Last year the group raised nearly $600,000 for its 42 endorsed U.S. Congressional candidates, 34 of whom won their races, according to the J Street website.

J Street Education Fund – aimed at persuading targeted communities there is a need for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This group includes J Street Local, J Street National Field Program and J Street U (the campus movement).

Petition to Condition Money for Hamas with Freedom for Shalit

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

( Noam Shalit, whose son Gilad was kidnapped by Hamas and allied terrorists in June 2006, is asking people to sign a petition initiated by the Aish HaTorah yeshiva that the Obama administration condition the soldier's release on its proposal to give the terrorist authority $300 million in aid. Noam Shalit has “requested” that people sign the petition, according to Aish HaTorah, which operates one of the most popular websites on Judaism and Torah. “The United States government has decided to grant Gaza 300 million dollars, no strings attached,” Aish states in introducing the petition. “Why not attach some strings -- to wit, require the release of Gilad Shalit as a condition for receiving this money? Surely this is a much better idea than pressuring Israel to release 1,000 terrorists, many of them multiple murderers who will resume their terror activities as soon as they are freed.”

Noam Shalit's backing for the petition represents an about-face from previous attempts, promoted by many Israeli academics and the media, to encourage freeing terrorists for the return of Shalit. The soldier's condition is not known. He reportedly is in good physical health, but Hamas has refused to honor the Geneva Convention that requires allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit captives.

Several groups campaigning for freeing Shalit have previously tried to pressure Israel to halt Red Cross visits to terrorists imprisoned unless Hamas offers the same right.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in Russia that Israel will not change its last offer of freeing terrorists in exchange for Shalit. He asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to inform Hamas it will not agree to add more terrorists to the list that Hamas has rejected.

Shalit has sometimes been described as the “last Jew in Gaza' following the Israeli expulsion of all Jewish residents of the area in 2005. His exact whereabouts are not known, but one Arab media source has suggested that the British journalist arrested earlier this week by Hamas was trying to locate the soldier. The journalist, Paul Martin, was taken into custody after appearing at a courthouse where a trial was held for an alleged collaborator with Israel.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mullen: No Nukes for Iran but No Attack
Mullen: No Nukes for Iran but No Attack
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Visiting U.S. Chief of Staff Mike Mullen said in Tel Aviv on Sunday that Iran must not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons but added that attacking Iran would have “unintended consequences." He maintained that Tehran is up to three years away from nuclear capability. Despite his concerns about a military attack, he stated that all options are on the table and that "we would operate all our forces for Israel." He added, "I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences of a strike. I think the Iranians are very difficult to predict.

“Politically, it is prohibited in any way that Iran will have nuclear weapons”, Admiral Michael Mullen told a press conference shortly after his arrival in Israel.

“Of course, there are limits and this [military] option is on the table, but we are not there yet,” Mullen said, explaining that Iran is one to three years away from being able to deliver a nuclear weapon. Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that Iran has produced its first batch of enriched uranium, a key element for a nuclear weapon.

Mullen's visit to Israel on Sunday is the second in the past year as the United States continues to insist that diplomatic sanctions can stop Iran from producing a nuclear warhead aimed at annihilating Israel. The Obama administration is hoping that China will fall into line and join U.N. Security Council nations to back stiffer sanctions against Iran.

Mullen is scheduled to meet on Monday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and senior IDF officials while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting Saudi Arabia and Doha, where she said on Sunday what Israel has been warning for years, namely that "evidence is accumulating" that Iran is aiming to build a nuclear weapon.

The United States has said it is depending on the Persian Gulf States to use their influence to pressure Iran to halt its unsupervised nuclear program.

The U.S. Military Looks at the Middle East: Bows to the White House But Knows Its Mission, Too

Barry Rubin

The Department of Defense has just released its new Quadrennial Defense Review Report for 2010. What does it say about the Middle East? Far less than you’d expect in terms of space but still some extremely important points about what might involve the United States in future wars there.

Aside from some scattered references on the need for more civilian nation-building experts, funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and energy conservation efforts (that's an area, no doubt, where money could be saved), that region takes up less than two pages, about two percent, of the 97-page report.In comparison, about one-quarter of the four-page note from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, attached to the report, spends 25 percent on the region and sounds far more sensible.

I read this gap as suggesting that the uniformed military (which prepared the admiral's note) is concerned about Iran and terrorist groups but that the text’s main body, by the secretary of defense and designed to please the White House, puts more emphasis on climate change, green energy, and the use of the military as a community-organizing type force to make civilians in places like Afghanistan more friendly to the United States.

But there are significant points of interests in both sections. Let’s start with the report itself which basically makes three points.

First, while an Iranian nuclear capability and terrorism are basically not mentioned at all, there is significant concern over two aspects of Iran’s military build-up. Iranian missile systems are becoming more accurate and longer-range, meaning U.S. air bases, command centers, and other military targets could come under attack. This concern presumably originated in the U.S. Army.

The other Iranian military threat comes from “large numbers of small, fast attack craft designed to support `swarming’ tactics that seek to overwhelm the layers of defenses deployed by U.S. and other nations’ naval vessels.” Though the report doesn’t say so, this refers to the Persian Gulf, and especially the narrow Straits of Hormuz, where petroleum and natural gas shipping could be blocked. This assessment no doubt came from the U.S. Navy.

The report also mentions that “non-state actors such as Hezbollah have acquired unmanned aerial vehicles and man-portable air defense systems from Iran.” And this was clearly the contribution of the U.S. Air Force. ("Man-portable," that means someone can carry it. I love military-speak.)

Taken as a whole, these concerns point to a possible scenario often forgotten in current discussions. The United States is not going to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. It is possible, however, that a future military clash could originate by an Iranian act of aggression—perhaps coming from lower-ranking personnel or some miscalculation—that could result in an armed conflict. While not highly likely, such an outcome is more possible when Iran has nuclear weapons and has gained in confidence (arrogance to put it bluntly). Again, this is a low-likelihood scenario but one the U.S. military has to be prepared to meet.

Since the U.S. government seems determined not to take notice Iranian involvement in attacks on U.S. military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, or in terrorist attacks elsewhere--for example the Khaibar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia--this doesn't seem a likely cause of conflict. Of course, the United States doesn't want--and should not want--to get into a war with Iran. The problem, however, is the failure to use of tough talk, sanctions, organizing an anti-Tehran alliance, or other stronger diplomatic means to discourage such behavior by the Iranian regime.

Second, and perhaps most interesting of all, is the Department of Defense's concept of strategy for the region:

“It is time to renew focus on a strategic architecture that better serves U.S., allied, and partner interests….Long-term relationships and shared interests with allies and partners will clarify our extended commitment to the region’s security, enhance the resiliency of our defense posture, and improve our collective ability to carry out current operations while preparing for contingency requests.”

To translate this into normal English: The United States has to build up its alliances and cooperation with local states. But what does this mean? Most obviously, it requires working with the Gulf Arab states (and especially Saudi Arabia), Jordan, Israel, Iraq, and Egypt against Iran’s ambitions. “Shared interests” is a code word for that factor. Two other states which should be on that list—Lebanon and Turkey—have basically gone over to the other side though the U.S. government may not realize that situation.

But what does it mean in practice to build up such arrangements? The term “strategic architecture” is a fancy way of saying some kind of alliance system. But for several reasons—inter-Arab quarrels, the Arab-Israeli conflict, radical posturing by moderate Arab states, and Arab appeasement of Iran—this isn’t going to happen the way it should if only national interests were the motivations. (This is why “Realist” analysts don’t understand the Middle East but that’s for another article.)

Note also the phrase “extended commitment” which means U.S. power is in the area to stay, that Washington won’t bug out on allies, or in short, American credibility. That factor has been fast declining during the first year of the Obama administration.

Finally, there is Iraq, where the language strikes me as a little strange and potentially explosive:

“The United States will therefore manage a responsible force drawdown in Iraq and support an orderly transition to a more normal diplomatic and civilian presence.” The word “drawdown” means fewer troops, not complete withdrawal. Remember that one for the future—the Defense Department wants to keep open the option of keeping soldiers in Iraq and that might not just include trainers.

What does the chairman of the Joint Chiefs say? Well, he’s far blunter about it: “I remain concerned about the nuclear ambitions and confrontational postures of Iran and North Korea.” These are real threats and the word “confrontational” means that they might go to war on U.S. allies or forces. By the way, if you want to know what the United States really should be worried about regarding Iran's nuclear weapons read this.

He quickly adds, paying obeisance to the White House, how the report “emphasizes the President’s focus on engagement and reinforces our efforts to work with allies and partners to prevent global nuclear proliferation, regardless of origin.”

If you understand how these things work, that sentence has the bureaucratic brilliance of a masterpiece painting and the humor of a great comedian. It hits all the Obama themes: yes, engagement is great, we prefer a deal, of course we should never act unilaterally, and we would like to get rid of all nuclear weapons.

But the chairman goes on with a couple of great “at the same time” points regarding countering weapons of mass destruction, finding where such weapons are, and destroying them if necessary.

Translation: We know we are probably on our own. All this politics stuff is great but in the final analysis—when engagement fails and others look after their own interests rather than help us--the U.S. military must be ready to squish anyone threatening us. Yep, that’s what it’s there for.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood

Asharq Al-Awsat Talks to Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon

Interview by Ali El-Saleh

London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Perhaps for security reasons, the meeting with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister David Ayalon was at the Israeli Embassy in a neighborhood across the affluent High Kensington Street in central London. One feels the security measures even before arriving at the big gate to this exclusive area near Kensington Palace, the private residence of the late Princess Diana. You are watched from a distance by a number of British policemen in their traditional uniform, but the untraditional part of the scene is the machine guns they are carrying. As soon as you cross the gate, policemen receive you by asking you where you are going. Once that is done, you wait for an Israeli security man who comes and searches you as you undergo security measures similar to those that you go through at Tel Aviv Airport, if not more stringent. The searching does not end until you arrive at the place of the meeting from the embassy to Royal Gardens Hotel next to Kensington Palace Gardens. The interview with Ayalon began in one corner of the hotel's halls and was attended by one of his aides and the media affairs consul at the embassy.

The text of the interview is as follows:[Asharq Al-Awsat] Let us begin by what Israeli media outlets have reported about a letter from the British Foreign Office that you carry in your pocket to protect you from arrest by the judicial prosecution in Britain concerning the war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

[Ayalon] It is not a letter in the literal sense.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But your media outlets affirm that it is a letter signed by British Foreign Affairs Secretary David Miliband that you as well as the members of the delegation accompanying you carry in your pockets.

[Ayalon] We hope Britain would solve this problem as soon as possible, as did Spain, Belgium, and other western countries. We have been made promises concerning this. The laws in Spain and Belgium have been amended and we are confident the same thing will happen in Britain so that we would forestall the terrorists that are trying to exploit these laws in the democratic countries.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But who is leading the campaign against the Israeli leaders responsible for the war in Gaza? It is not the terrorists; it is renowned lawyers, including Jewish lawyers like Daniel Machover. I do not think it is your opinion that Machover is a terrorist.

[Ayalon] There are those that are trying to exploit the democracies; we should deter them.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have recently been quoted as saying that peace with the Palestinians is the first priority of the current Israeli government. Are you really convinced of this or are these mere statements to the media? Is this is indeed the case, why is Israel stalling in reaching an agreement?

[Ayalon] Yes, we are convinced of peace with the Palestinians on the basis of the two-state solution as enunciated in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech in June. However, everything should take place through unconditional negotiations.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But you are asking for a return to square one, or rather square zero, rather than a return to the point where the negotiations between Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in December 2008. Is this not a precondition?

[Ayalon] Olmert was not authorized to hold negotiations, especially in the last months of his government. He did not even involve his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (the leader of the Kadima Party and currently in the opposition) in the negotiations. Furthermore, they were not serious negotiations; Olmert could not have signed anything in his last days as prime minister. I am saying that we as a rightist government or a right of center government can carry out what we sign on. History attests to this fact. The presence of such a government that includes the Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu (Russian Jews), the Labor Party, and Shas (of the religious eastern Jews) is an opportunity that must not be missed to reach an agreement.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you as a government and Yisrael Beiteinu Party accept to discuss all the essential and major issues, including Jerusalem, the refugees, water, the border, and other such issues without setting conditions?

[Ayalon] We do not set conditions as long as the Palestinians do not set conditions, such as ceasing settlement building activities.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Regarding the issue of settlement building activities, why do you not stop it as a sign of good intentions to resume the negotiations if you are concerned for peace? This is especially true since the assumption is that the settlements or most of them will be removed as part of peace agreement.

[Ayalon] This is unfair.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How is it unfair?

[Ayalon] Asking Israel to stop settlement building activities is like saying why do the Palestinians not say that they will concede the right of return of the refugees. [It is unfair] because it is untrue and unrealistic.

[Al-Salih] But there is no room for comparison. In accordance with international law, these are settling in occupied lands, but the refugees were expelled from their homes and the United Nations and UN resolutions admit this fact.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] I believe that considering the settlements as an obstacle to peace is exaggerated. We have shown in the past that settlements do not influence results. Examples of this are the withdrawal from the Sinai Desert; the dismantling of the Yamit settlement that was carried out by Sharon himself; and the decision made by Sharon's Likud government to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and dismantle the settlements. This decision was made in August 2005.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you saying that the settlements will not be an obstacle and can be dismantled within the framework of peace process as happened in Gaza and the Sinai?

[Ayalon] They will not be a problem if there is a good settlement.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you mean by a good settlement?

[Ayalon] I mean a settlement by which the two states (Israel and Palestine) enjoy security and stability and live side by side in security, harmony, cooperation, and coordination.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is not the issue of Israel's security exaggerated? Are you really convinced that the Palestinians pose a security and military danger to Israel that may lead to its destruction?

[Ayalon] Look at Gaza. We left it completely in 2005 and the Jewish complexes there were dismantled. Then came Hamas with guns and rockets and began to shell us. Imagine such a situation in the West Bank, God forbid.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But even the rocket shelling from Gaza does not constitute a danger to Israel's security and existence. Why exaggerate?

[Ayalon] We do not wish to give any side the chance to return to such events or even to contemplate such events. We want to reach an agreement to end the problem completely and irreversibly, including the historic demands (the Palestinian demands for a return to historic Palestine).

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In the most recent interview held with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in December, he literally said and in English: We will drop all the historic demands in Palestine and we will end the conflict completely.

[Ayalon] I am glad to hear that because he will find that we understand and we will make concessions.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some are saying that the statements being made show that the Israeli Foreign Ministry is exchanging roles with the Defense Ministry. Fiery statements are being made by the foreign minister while calm statements are being made by the Defense minister. In other words, the Foreign Ministry has become more radical and militaristic than the Defense Ministry.

[Ayalon] No, no, no; this is not true.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's statements on war with Syria and overthrowing the Syrian regime attest to my words. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is focusing on the need to negotiate with Syria.

[Ayalon] You should Read Mr. Lieberman's statement in context; it was in response to radical and provocative statements made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem. Al-Muallem said: "Do not test Syria's resolve, O Israelis. You know that at this time a war will reach your cities. Go back to reason and follow the road to peace that is clear and abide by the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace."

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But Lieberman is known for his radical statements even before he became foreign minister. I recall his threats to destroy the Aswan Dam in Upper Egypt and to bomb Tehran.

[Ayalon] That was many years ago.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But people do not forget and statements cannot be forgotten. It is also said that Danny Ayalon is "the least radical" in the ministry and is an acceptable figure on the international level; that is why he is the one, not Lieberman, that makes these visits abroad.

[Ayalon] (Laughs) No, no, no; that is not true at all; he travels more than I do. He has visited Germany and Poland. We work well together. I would like to quote his words: I am prepared to leave my home (in Nokdim settlement near Bethlehem, south of the West Bank) if genuine peace is achieved. He is a man that keeps his word.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will you - as Yisrael Beiteinu Party - accept the outcome of negotiations regardless of what they are and will work to implement them?

[Ayalon] Yes.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You are saying that the Israeli government is committed to peace?

[Ayalon] Yes.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Peace that includes withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem with the possible of exchange of land?

[Ayalon] I do not wish to talk about specific points because I do not want to pre-judge the Israeli position. At the same time, our position depends on the Palestinian stand also.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the Palestinian side has nothing to offer more than it is has already offered.

[Ayalon] Let me tell you: In its final statement, the Fatah sixth congress - that we helped convene last summer - talked about resistance (he pronounced it in Arabic) and the culture of resistance. Such words are not compatible with the spirit of peace. We wanted to a clear voice calling for peace, but this did not happen. Moreover, Fatah's constitution still includes the paragraph on Israel's removal. There is also the issue of incitement in the books and the mosques. More important than this, if we are to accept the Palestinians' right to self-determination, they should accept our right to self-determination in a Jewish state.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you mean when you talk about a Jewish state? What is the form of such a state? Do you mean expelling the Arabs?

[Ayalon] People should understand that Judaism is not only a religion; it is a national and ethnic identity and a way of life.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You cannot convince me that the way of life of a European Jew is similar to that of a Yemeni Jew or an Ethiopian Jew or an Iraqi Jew.

[Ayalon] It is almost the same way of life.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] I have personally visited Jewish homes, including eastern Jews. I saw that the way of life is different.

[Ayalon] We have the same traditions. If you were to go to Shabat prayers and rites you will see that they are one.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But these are religious matters. The same religious rites exist in Pakistan as in any other Arab Muslim country, but one cannot say that a Pakistani or a Bengali has an Arab identity.

(One of Ayalon's aides intervenes, saying we all speak the same language)

[Asharq Al-Awsat] That is not true; the language of the Falasha is different from the language of European Jews. That is why an immigrant to Israel goes through intensive language courses.

[Ayalon] Israel's Jewishness does not mean that non-Jews cannot live in Israel and enjoy all rights and opportunities that are available to everyone.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But your party says that the Arabs in Israel should swear allegiance to Israel or else they have no rights.

[Ayalon] We say that we expect national solidarity like Israelis, Jews or non-Jews. They should also serve in the army. This applies not only on the Israeli Arabs but also on orthodox Jews. We shall not try to compel them using force. But we are saying if you enlist in the army you will enjoy the privileges of enlisting, perhaps a plot of land or free education. This applies to everybody, Arabs, Jews, and others, but if you do not do so you will not receive these privileges.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will this also apply on the orthodox Jews?

[Ayalon] This is what we are demanding; it is a draft decision that we will raise in the Knesset. We respect the Arabs as much as we want them to respect us. We have nothing against the Arabs. There is another thing that makes people call us all sorts of things, which are untrue. We are talking about the exchange of lands. We are saying why should we give the Arabs barren lands in the Negev Desert? Why do we not give them fertile land that is populated? The people will not be forced to leave their lands.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You are talking about the [Galilee] Triangle, the border strip adjoining the Green Line [Israel proper] that includes Arab villages, towns, and cities.

(In his interview, Abu-Mazin said that he it made clear to the Israelis that he totally rejects this idea and that if land is to be exchanged - the settlements in the West Bank - the lands that the [Palestinian] Authority [PA) should receive should not be distant from these areas)

[Ayalon] Yes, why not? If the Arabs in Israel say they are proud of their Palestinian identity, why are they not proud to be part of the Palestinian state? They do not lose anything by joining the Palestinian state. Moreover, this will be in the interest of the Palestinian state.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why?

[Ayalon] Because they are advanced economically and socially and can put their expertise to building the state.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Your call includes Umm al-Fahm, of course. But does it also include the city of Nazareth, the largest Arab city?

[Ayalon] No.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] And why not? If you want to get rid of the Arabs in Israel, let this include all the Arabs.

[Ayalon] I am talking about the areas where there is the logic of geographic contiguity. Any area close to the border can be included in this plan.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] And the city of Nazareth is close to the city of Janin (north of the West Bank).

[Ayalon] We do not wish to go into surgical procedures. What is more important is that the acceptance of this idea would send to the Jews messages of good intentions regarding peace. The result will be that the majority of the Jews would live in Israel and the majority of the Palestinians would live in Palestine. This is logical. I am saying this not because we want to get rid of them. We know that states become fragmented and divided on the basis of demographic division. Look what happened to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. I believe that such a measure will reassure the Israelis about the demographic situation. It will also help the Palestinians without anyone being subjected to harassment. This is something to think about outside what is familiar. As I said, this will help the Palestinian state on the economic level. So, why not?

[Asharq Al-Awsat] I do not believe that the Palestinian state will have a shortage in population if the refugees are to return to it.

[Ayalon] Tell me, why do the people of Umm al-Fahm, the biggest Arab town in the Triangle, not want to vote in a Palestinian state?

[Asharq Al-Awsat] If you are prepared, let your generosity stretch to Nazareth in the northeast and even the city of Lod where there are Arabs.

[Ayalon] In Israel, about 18 percent of the population is Arab. Why does not the Palestinian state accept 18 percent of its population to be Jews?

[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Arabs are living on their land or on what is left of their lands on which Israel was established. As for the Jews in the Palestinian lands, they are living on lands that do not belong to them. They have no right there. They should leave these lands in accordance with the United Nations that established Israel. Let us move to your undiplomatic treatment of the Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv. Do you not think that that behavior reflected some sort of arrogance and ingratitude?

[Ayalon] That is not true; but I did not mean to be arrogant and there was no intention to insult the Turkish ambassador. When I felt what I had done and the pain I had caused, I apologized personally to him in writing.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the pictures were clear and identical to the words. You were sitting on a chair higher than that of the Turkish ambassador. You did not offer him any soft drinks and you did not raise the Turkish flag in accordance with diplomatic protocol. Not only that, but you also called in the press to see the insult with their own eyes.

[Ayalon] What happened with the Turkish ambassador was a technical mistake. It was not meant as an insult.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] If you do not characterize this kind of behavior as an insult, what is your understanding of an insult?

[Ayalon] I invite you to visit my office in the Knesset. You will find that there are two chairs in the office and in the other offices. One is higher than the other that is designed for guests. What happened was at a moment of expressing a protest. It was not intended as an insult and it was not supposed to be for publication.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But it was you that invited the media outlets to see your insult of the Turkish ambassador.

[Ayalon] This is not true. We brought in the cameras to take pictures for the occasion and the tape recorders were supposed to be off. But they were not so. I personally when I make a mistake I bear full responsibility and apologize. I am not afraid of admitting a mistake and I believe that others should apologize and bear the responsibility when they make a mistake.

(Ayalon has been cited as telling Television Channel 10 on 6 February: Israel refuses to be kicked around and attacked by any state without retaliating. If a state harms Israel, we will keep all our options open, including the expulsion of ambassadors. We do not wish to attack anyone or argue with anyone, but we will not be like a leaf blown in the wind.) The crisis erupted as a result of a Turkish Television show that showed men from Israel's Mosad killing Palestinian children.

Russia Says 'Nyet” to Israel on Missile Sale to Iran

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

Russia gave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the cold shoulder before he even landed in Moscow Sunday night and said it will proceed with its sale of advanced S-300 missiles to Iran. The Prime Minister said before departing for Moscow he would press Russia to cancel the sale. Vladimir Nazarov, deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council secretary, told Interfax news agency that the S-300 is an “exclusively defensive weapon” and therefore is not covered by international sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Iran says it needs the system to defend against an aerial strike.

"There is a signed contract (to supply S-300 missiles) which we must implement, but deliveries have not started yet," Nazarov said before Prime Minister Netanyahu landed for a three-day visit with Russian and Jewish leaders.

The Prime Minister visited Russia several months ago for a one-day visit, ostensibly to convince Moscow to suspend the deal. However. Iran also is on the agenda, and he said before leaving Israel on Sunday that he will push for “crippling sanctions” in another diplomatic effort to halt the advancement of its unsupervised nuclear facilities.

Nazarov echoed sentiments expressed in Israel by visiting U.S. Chief of Staff Mike Mullen and said that attacking Iran would be a mistake, but he used harsher terms. "Any military action against Iran will make the situation explode and will have extremely negative consequences for the entire world, including for Russia, which is a neighbor of Iran," he warned.

Prime Minister Netanyahu (left) will meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir as Russian falls into line with an American-led effort to place stiffer sanctions on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday night that she believes China, which has been the toughest opponent to sanctions, also will agree.

Both Russia and China have a vested interest in Iran's nuclear reactors, which they are helping to build

Ex-IDF commando teaches survival at UC Irvine


Stivi knows about death. The married, father of four has about him the air of mysterious tough guy.

IRVINE, California – When the shooter burst through the door, the students were ready.

They jumped over and around tables. They rushed the gunman. They screamed and tossed anything within reach; backpacks, books, pens.

In less than five seconds, the would-be killer was on the floor, powerless to carry out his planned – and staged – massacre.

“How many shots did you get off?” the guest instructor asked after the simulated attack in a University of California, Irvine, classroom. Two,” the shooter said.

“How many people did you hit?”

“Maybe one. A head shot. I got off one good shot.”

Alon Stivi, the guest instructor, will take that any day.

One death; only one.

Stivi knows about death. The married, father of four has about him the air of mysterious tough guy – a vibe underscored by an accent that is difficult to pin down. Stivi was born in France and raised in Israel. He’s fluent in English, French and Hebrew, can get by in Arabic, and is studying Russian and Spanish.

But Stivi also knows violent death in ways that go deeper than accents or Hollywood cliches. Before moving to the states more than 20 years ago, Stivi spent four years in Israel’s special forces, including nearly a year in Lebanon during the 1982 war.

“I have personally witnessed soldiers, innocent civilians, and children, injured, maimed and killed at war, and in several terrorist attacks in the region – including a suicide bombing.”

Now, at 48, he’s a recognized expert on counterterrorism, violence prevention, security, and hand-to-hand combat. (Ask him if he can kill you with one finger, and Stivi – who is trained in the Israeli fighting system Hisardut (survival) – asks, “Which one?”) Stivi also has protected billionaires like Warren Buffett and politicians, including the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So what’s Stivi doing with all this expertise on violence and death and security? Going to school.

He’s launching a special training program to make students and office workers safer even from the most extreme forms of violence. “Schools are in denial and disorganized [about coping with violence],” Stivi says.

Orange County’s worst mass-shooting occurred at a school, on July 12, 1976, when custodian Edward Allaway opened fire on his fellow workers at Cal State Fullerton, killing seven and wounding two. Since the mid-1960s, 207 people have been in killed in on-campus shootings in the US.

“With the techniques I teach, you don’t have to be a martial artist, a solider, a policeman or policewoman to protect yourself,” Stivi says. “You can be anybody.”

Stivi doesn’t want to sound alarmist, or promote paranoia, but he’s got a message that isn’t reassuring. “No matter how quickly first responders arrive, they simply won’t be there within the first 10 minutes – when most casualties occur.”

Stivi is saying this to a crowd of about 300 in a UC Irvine class called Violence and Society, taught by Ray Novaco, a professor of psychology and social behavior.

Novaco invited several educators and law enforcement officials to hear Stivi present an overview of his new online defense course. The class teaches school officials what to do before, during and after a violent incident.

Called ACT Cert, for Attack Countermeasures Training Certification, the 25-hour course is tailored to faculty, school staff and school security. It launches nationwide next month, and typically will cost $2,500 per person.

Stivi has consulted with schools for years on safety issues, but believes a standardized online training program is long overdue. “Schools need to think seriously about security and the millions of dollars that could potentially be paid out in damages and increased insurance rates [if serious violence erupts],” Stivi says.

Cowering under tables, the students are sitting ducks. Make that, dead ducks.º

When the gunman bursts through the doors, he methodically walks around the room, picking off victims one at a time. It’s a massacre.

In a demonstration following a recent lecture, Stivi shows what not to do – sit and cower. He also shows how to survive – to act as a group and apply the tactics he terms “collective resistance.”

“You are trapped,” Stivi says. “There’s a shooter between you and a safe area. What do you do?

“There’s strength in numbers,” he adds. “You have the element of surprise.”

The UC Irvine classroom has two doors. Stivi shows students to crouch low while running out the back door after making sure the coast is clear. He shows them to stand against a wall, body low, to knock the shooter over when he enters the room.

He shows them how to use a table to disrupt a shooter’s line of sight, and he teaches other ways to distract a would-be killer – even for a few seconds. “Sometimes,” Stivi says, “a few seconds is all you need.”

Novaco, who has known Stivi for nearly 20 years, but has no financial ties to his business, says the training is effective because it’s based on what works – not theory.

“I have personally seen him instruct students of all ages and capabilities, and he trains them psychologically and in personal character, as well as physically,” Novaco says.

“He also doesn’t teach people to do things that will not work or cannot be done by them... And he knows the realities of what goes down in a violent incident.”

Says Stivi: “Everything I teach is based on common-sense things people can do. This isn’t about making people fearful, but about empowerment.”

Oscar I. Gonzalez, a doctoral candidate in psychology and social behavior attending the demonstration, calls it “one of the most valuable lessons I have ever received.”

This is true, he says, even though he’s been trained as an army medical specialist.

“Looking back at recent events highlights the obvious,” says Gonzales, 32. “This type of training could save lives and should be a standard procedure of our education system.”

(The Orange County Register/MCT)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New: Fence Along the Egyptian-Israeli Border

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

The government is expected to pass today (Sunday) a proposal to build a border fence between Israel and Egypt, at a cost of 1.5 billion shekels (roughly $400 million).The proposal was made by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, based partially on a plan formulated by the office of Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch. The purpose is primarily to stop or impede the infiltration of illegal migrants into Israel from the Sinai.

Police estimate that some 100-200 infiltrators currently sneak into Israel from Africa in this manner every week – some looking for work, and the rest defined as “criminal elements” and refugees. In addition, in 2009, Israeli authorities confiscated 1.3 tons of hashish and 130 kilograms of heroin that smugglers were attempting to bring into Israel. Some 5,000 illegal migrants were caught trying to sneak across the border last year; the rest were not caught.

Minister Aharonovitch originally proposed the construction of a simple, low-cost fence along the roughly 200-kilometer-long border. However, the proposal to be voted on today has radar features replacing a physical partition along the middle sections.

“We hope the government will approve the proposal,” Aharonovitch aides said. “This is the first step in a large-scale plan that will deal with the criminal and security aspects of the entire area.”

The Chairman of the Foreign Workers Committee, MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh), has long been calling for such a partition to prevent the flood of foreigners from Sinai, which “gravely harms the social-demographic balance in the country.”