Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Arab revolt in retrospect

Bret Stephens

from Wall Street Journal
republished Wednesday December 28, 2011

In my first column of 2011, I wrote that Egypt "resembles nothing so much as Iran in the waning days of the Shah, in which a comparatively moderate regime led by a sickly despot confronts a restive and radical public." This was several weeks before the demonstrators arrived in Tahrir Square and Hillary Clinton reflexively judged the Mubarak regime "stable."

You don't have to be particularly clever to point out the relatively obvious. But what does it say of the State Department that it failed to reach the same conclusion? This has been the year of Arab upheaval, but upheaval needn't mean surprise. In Egypt, there was an 82-year-old dictator, 29 years in power, seeking a sixth presidential term via another rigged election while scheming to hand off power to his unpopular son. This was never going to go down well, with or without prior turmoil in Tunisia. And it could all be seen coming for years.

Here was another one from the Dept. of the Obvious: Islamists would run away with the elections. In February, I wrote that the Muslim Brotherhood would get as much as 40% of the vote in Egypt. That prediction was hotly denied by various experts who were sure the secular groups that had driven the demonstrations in their early days would be their prime political beneficiaries. So far, the Brotherhood has taken about 40% of the vote in rolling parliamentary elections, while the more fanatical Salafists have taken another 25%.

I don't pretend to be clairvoyant. I got some things wrong, too, like thinking Mr. Mubarak would hold on longer than he did. But it's worth wondering why so few people saw the Arab revolts coming, and why—once they began—so many misunderstood what they were and where they were going.

Tahrir Square on the day Hosni Mubarak stepped down, Feb. 11, in Cairo.

The short answer to the first question is that it's easy to mistake inertia for inertness. Egypt had been politically static for nearly 60 years; Tunisia for more than 50; Syria and Libya for about 40 apiece. Why not another few decades of the same? Besides, the Arab world had supposedly been spooked by Iraq as an object lesson in what happens when the strongman falls. The early wisdom of the Obama administration was to deal with the Arab world as it was, and not—as the Bush administration had sometimes sought—as it might be.

As for the second question, maybe the best answer is that hope and change are two words best kept far apart. Beginning in January, an unreasoning pessimism about the Arab world's capacity for change abruptly gave way to an unreasoning euphoria. Fourteen centuries of conservatism were supposedly collapsing in the face of Twitter's 140 revolutionary characters. The term "Arab Spring" became common parlance with no consideration for the change of seasons. People like Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim emerged out of nowhere to play the part of Lech Walesa. It was 1989 again at last.

But 1989 was the wrong template. The Arab world had revolted against unpopular overlords before: the Ottomans during the First World War; the British in the 1920s and '30s; the weak monarchies of Farouk in Egypt, Faisal in Iraq, and Idris in Libya. What happened in 2011 was another such revolt, this time against secular autocrats. Someday it will be known as the Fourth Arab Revolt.

A revolt is not always a bad thing. Moammar Gadhafi richly earned his fate, and Syria's Bashar Assad deserves (and will probably get) something similar. Nobody will shed tears for Mr. Mubarak or Tunisia's Ben Ali or Yemen's Saleh. To the extent that 2011 serves a warning to those who aspire to rule forever, whether in Cairo or Moscow, so much the better.

But 2011 is also a reminder of Edmund Burke's famous observation that while it's easy to make a government and even easier to give a people freedom, to make a free government—"to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work"—is the hardest task of all. Egyptians are failing conspicuously at it. We'll see if the Tunisians, Libyans, Syrians and Iraqis can do any better.

The challenge now before the Arab world is whether it can reach toward liberalism through the mechanisms of democracy. The broad experience of the West is that democratic institutions emerged over time from cultures already at home with the ideas of Locke, Spinoza, Smith and Voltaire. Does it work in the opposite direction?

The limited experience of democracy in the Arab world (and in Turkey) is that it's a handy vehicle for Islamist parties with illiberal ideas and unscrupulous methods to gain and keep power. Whether democracy tames and tempers those parties over time—or they tame, temper and ultimately destroy democracy—remains an open question. The record of illiberal democracy, from Hitler to Chávez to Putin, isn't exactly inspiring.

With the honorable (if reluctant) exception of Libya, the U.S. has mainly been a bystander in all this, partly by necessity, largely by administration choice. This too may come to be remembered as one of the lasting lessons of 2011: Freedom can't succeed without a tutor's strong and guiding hand. Or, to put it another way, to expect change to succeed without experience is the triumph of hope over experience.

Friday, December 30, 2011

PLO Plans to 'Disengage' From Israel

Gavriel Queenann

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officials said Friday their decision to return to 'popular resistance' is aimed at 'disengaging' from Israel.

PLO Executive Committee member Tayseer Khalid said the new unified Fatah-Hamas strategy will be based on 'popular resistance' which will spread into PA enclaves in Judea and Samaria.

"The popular resistance will reshape the Palestinian relationship with Israel... to reach total disengagement with Israel," Khalid said.

"We will never accept to be an agent for the Israeli occupation," he added.

Khalid's statements are only the latest in the intransigent unilateralist mantra coming out of Ramallah and have led analysts to suggest that Fatah has decided to turn the PA enclaves in Judea and Samaria into a second Gaza. Last week PLO officials officially adopted a strategy based on "continuous efforts along with the international community to secure full recognition and full United Nations membership, pursuing internal reconciliation, and keeping up the popular resistance."

They have also threatened to end economic and security ties with Israel.

Israeli officials have said the unilateral track adopted by their counterparts in Ramallah are a direct violation of the bilateral 1993 Oslo Accords - and warn unilateral moves on final status issues by PA officials will result in Israel making unilateral moves of its own.

It remains unclear what PA officials believe is to be gained by cutting all ties with Israel and returning to an all-or-nothing unilateral path.

PA security officials expressed concern earlier this year that a direct confrontation with Israel could have disasterous consequences, while Ramallah's senior economic advisers have warned discontinued Israeli participation in the PA economy would lead to fiscal insolvency.

A recent and short-lived decision to halt tax revenue transfers to the PA by Jerusalem sent Ramallah into a fiscal tail spin.

In addition, Israeli leaders have made it clear that attempts to realize territorial claims by force would result in Israel moving to secure its own communities in Judea and Samaria and could trigger Israel's annexing areas it prefers to retain in future negotiations.

Israel provides all critical infrastructure to Ramallah's enclaves, including electricity, water, telecommunications, and Internet.

Nonetheless, PA officials seem bent on confronting Israel while fomenting 'popular resistance.' While ostensibly non-violent, the so-called ‘popular resistance’ resulted in two violent Intifadas which and were accompanied by a spike in terror attacks that resulted in thousands of Israelis being killed.

Regional observers note Article 9 of the PLO charter continues to assert, "Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase.”

It also maintains “Palestine” is defined by the British Mandate and is “indivisible” – thus leaving no room for Israel to exist at all.

With Israeli military leaders saying Israel can "not escape" a major operation in Hamas-run Gaza saying such a move is fast becoming "essential" – some observers say the PLO is making a dramatic strategic blunder.


Arlene Kushner

The "Arab Spring" has made available increased amounts of weaponry that Hamas has been able to smuggle into Israel in the past year. Some 15% to 20% more. Most worrisome is the possibility that sophisticated, laser-guided Russian anti-tank missiles and shoulder-to-air missiles (such as those that have disappeared from Libyan warehouses) have found their way into Gaza.

Always, when I read this sort of thing, I wonder at what point it becomes prudent to act preemptively. Don't have the answer. But I think about it. These reports have the effect of making Israelis feel just a bit like sitting ducks.

The word is that the IDF is prepared to go in at any time, and that, in fact, active duty brigades have begun carrying out drills in preparation for a possible operation. The question is at what point the political leadership might decide to give the word.


If there is an operation, it would essentially be in response to rockets that continue to be launched from Gaza time and again -- to which the Air Force responds in a limited fashion. Or at least this is how it would be spun, even if preemption with regard to new weaponry was part of the motivation.

Said Col. Tal Hermoni, commander of the Gaza Division's Southern Brigade, in a press conference at the border with the Sinai:

"...we are prepared to launch another offensive, a different and more versatile offensive [that is, than Cast Lead, three years ago], in order to renew deterrence..."

The decision as to whether Israel goes into Gaza now or not is in the hands of people in Gaza, he said:

"If they do not prevent rocket fire and stop terrorist cells from leaving the Gaza Strip and infiltrating Israel through Sinai, we will unleash a painful campaign on the Gaza Strip."

The people? He's talking to the leaders of Hamas or no one.


Shortly before this, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz made a similar statement in a TV interview:

"From time to time we have to deal with rocket fire from Gaza and we know that terrorists are gaining strength and expanding their base on Egyptian territory. I don't think Israel will be able to tolerate a continuing threat from Hamas in Gaza. Sooner or later we will have to launch a new large-scale operation in Gaza. The IDF knows how to strike terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. Any potential operation would be planned in advance, initiated from our side, and carried out quickly."


My take? We're looking at saber rattling. Notice how qualified Gantz's remark was: "sooner or later..." If a major operation into Gaza were imminent, top brass would not be talking about it. This doesn't mean that a shift in the situation might not provoke an attack, but...


Col. Hermoni, in the course of speaking with journalists, also described efforts by terrorists groups to kidnap additional soldiers, in the wake of the Shalit deal. This is because "there are additional Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails."

Is anyone surprised?

Efforts are being made at several levels to prevent such attacks -- including the enhancement of intelligence to keep the IDF apprised of where tunnels from Gaza and the Sinai into Israel are being dug. Shalit was grabbed when terrorists showed up in Israel via a tunnel from Gaza that exited near the Keren Shalom crossing, and this past summer eight Israelis were killed when terrorists tunneled into Israel from the Sinai.

It is anticipated that once the fence closing off the Sinai is completed, there will be efforts to infiltrate into Israel via Jordan.

Procedures for how soldiers should act in the event of an abduction or attempted abduction are being codified by the IDF.


Yet another effect of the unrest of the "Arab Spring" may be a revitalization of al-Qaeda. Writes Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council:

"...the past half-year has seen new signs of life to the terror cartel, as it seeks to capitalize on the turmoil generated by the multiple revolutions taking place in the Middle East and North Africa in order to expand its strategic reach. And in at least one geographic location—Israel's southern border—alarming signs suggest that the organization has begun to put down fresh roots."


Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan Halevy, who has an intelligence background, has put out a briefing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Egyptian Islamist intentions with regard to Israel:

"The prevailing optimism in media reports concerning the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist party's readiness to adhere to the peace treaty with Israel is based on general statements made by senior officials in both parties. These statements maintain that Egypt must honor the international treaties that it signed.

"Yet a more rigorous examination of the two parties' stances identifies a markedly different tendency. Both seek a way to cast off the Camp David agreement in a manner that will incur minimal diplomatic and economic damage to Egypt, and restore Egypt to its leading role in the circle of states confronting Israel."

His analysis is well worth a read, and you can find it here:


Well, the deal in process that I recently wrote about with regard to Ramat Gilad -- which had been threatened with dismantlement -- has been finalized:

The state has agreed to retroactively authorize this tiny community as a neighborhood in Karnei Shomron, while the residents of Ramat Gilad have agreed to permit nine structures (five of which are homes) built on disputed property to be moved a short distance to undisputed property.

This is good news and shows what is possible in lieu of razing "illegal outposts."

I have, however, one observation. In two different media sources I read that those structures had to be removed because they were built on Palestinian land. And I want to ask, Says who?

Moshe Zar says that he purchased this land, and intends to continue to fight for it in court. So I think calling it disputed would be more appropriate.

Please keep in mind that no Palestinian Arab has come forward and claimed this area in court. The subject was raised in court by Peace Now.


A piece on this issue -- "The myth of private Palestinian land" -- by Moshe Dann may help you make some sense out of what's going on:


I am sooo tired of politicians who are not pro-Israel but claim to be "the most" pro-Israel. The latest is a spokesman for Ron Paul, and I'm not going to there because it's ludicrous.

But Obama and members of his administration have been using this line regularly, and here I would like to share an informed response to this -- "Let the Facts Tell You Otherwise" -- by Daniel Halper, deputy on-line editor at the Weekly Standard, writing as a JINSA visiting fellow:


Yesh Din ("there is justice"), an extreme left-wing Israeli NGO, went to the High Court recently to ask that 10 quarries in Area C of Judea and Samaria, which according to the Oslo Accords is under Israeli military and civilian control, be shut down because it was a violation of the Hague Convention of occupying powers.

High Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch completely rejected the Yesh Din petition. Israel, she said, could not be seen as a "classic occupying power." What is more, "Yesh Din is not an 'interested party' with a right to petition on these issues."

This is refreshing. See more here:


The last article I will recommend today is by Zalman Shoval, "Why Gingrich is right -- and wrong." This is because I agree with the essence of his thesis, and although not every detail:

"The Palestinians may indeed be an invented people, but this invention is now a fact of political life...the real issue is not a theoretical one, but how to best deal with this reality in practical terms."

Shoval provides important background information that everyone needs to have. And he makes the significant point that:

"It is an irony of history that while Arabs in Palestine didn't define themselves as 'Palestinians,' others did use that self-definition -- the Jews."


It is because the notion of a "Palestinian people" has become a political reality that I will not write about them as if they don't exist. (I refer to them as "Palestinian Arabs," and not just "Arabs.") In practical terms today they do exist. If I ignore this, I put myself on the political fringe and lose any opportunity to convince others of the nature of this people: The fact that they were invented -- as a response to Zionist development -- goes a long way to exposing the intentions of Palestinian Arab leadership. It is "against," not a positive development at all. While it venerates violence, this people has contributed nothing positive to the world.

What is more, as they are a recent invention, they cannot legitimately lay claim to the land, which is part of Jewish heritage.

And, lastly, the fact that I consider them a political reality does not mean by a long shot that I believe that this entitles them to a state. It does not. There are many peoples in the world, peoples with a legitimate history, who are not invented, and who have made genuine cultural contributions, who don't have their own state.


The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced that an ancient stone seal -- known as a cartouche -- has been found near the Robinson’s Arch at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. In Aramaic, it bears the inscription, "It is pure."

The soil layer immediately above the find has been dated to the first century BCE, and archeologists believe this is from Second Temple times.

Explained Eli Shukron of the Antiquities Authority, and Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University, who are associated with this project:

"This is the first time an object of this kind has been found. It is direct archaeological evidence of Jewish activity on the Temple Mount during the Second Temple era..

"Products being brought to the Temple had to be stamped pure – which is what this seal was used for."


December 31 will pass for me unnoted. I mark Rosh Hashana as the New Year. And yet, in recognition of the large percentage of my readers who do note -- and celebrate -- New Year's Eve, let me here wish one and all a happy new year. May 2012 be a time of blessings for all of us.

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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Libyan Rebel Commander: I Was on the Mavi Marmara

John Rosenthal

According to the Spanish daily ABC, a Libyan rebel commander who played a key role in overthrowing the rule of Muammar Qaddafi previously participated in the May 2010 attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza aboard the Turkish-owned vessel the Mavi Marmara. The operation famously culminated in a deadly clash between Israel Defense Force commandos and “activists” armed with iron rods and knives aboard the ship. The paper’s source for the story is the rebel leader himself: Mahdi al-Harati, the commander of the so-called Tripoli Brigades, which are widely credited with having played a decisive role in the rebel conquest of the Libyan capital in August. After the seizure of Tripoli, al-Harati was named second-in-command to Abdul-Hakim Belhadj, the head of the newly formed Tripoli Military Council. Belhadj is the historical leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), the Libyan affiliate of al-Qaeda.

According to his December 17 article, ABC correspondent Daniel Iriarte unexpectedly ran into al-Harati and two other Libyan associates of Belhadj in Syria, where the Spanish journalist was working on a story on the “Free Syrian Army,” the recently formed rebel force that aims to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The Libyans made no attempt to hide their identities, Iriarte reports, explaining to him that that they were in Syria “in order to evaluate the needs of our Syrian revolutionary brothers.” Altogether “a few dozen” Libyans were in Syria to support the anti-Assad insurgents, they said.

Prior to the Libyan rebellion against Qaddafi, al-Harati was living in exile in Ireland. He is reported to have returned to Libya in February, at the very outset of the uprising. On his own account, barely eight months earlier he participated in the “Free Gaza” flotilla aboard the Mavi Marmara. “I was wounded on the Mavi Marmara and spent nine days in an Israeli prison,” he told Iriarte.

Abdul-Hakim Belhadj’s al-Qaeda links were widely reported in the Western press following his emergence as the military governor of Tripoli in August. But the Spanish press has shown particular interest in Belhadj and the other members of his jihadist network. This is because Belhadj is known to have had contact to Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, the leader of the terror cell that carried out the March 2004 Madrid train bombings, which took the lives of 191 people. Spanish police investigators discovered telephone records that document contacts between Belhadj and Fakhet just weeks before the attacks.

Contrary to what some have claimed, Belhadj’s connection to the Madrid train bombers was not first “revealed” by former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar in a recent contribution in English for the business channel CNBC. The connection has long been a topic of discussion in the Spanish media.

In September, ABC conducted interviews in Tripoli with several associates of Belhadj from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The LIFG members confirmed that Belhadj had run a jihadist training camp in Afghanistan. One Tareq Muftah Durman noted that at the time Belhadj had “a direct line to Osama bin Laden.” Durman insisted, however, that the Libyan jihadists “never shared Osama’s strategy.”

— John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic security issues. You can follow his work at or on Facebook.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

U.S., Israel Discuss Triggers for Bombing Iran’s Nuclear Infrastructure

The Daily Beast

The Obama administration is trying to assure Israel privately that it would strike Iran militarily if Tehran’s nuclear program crosses certain “red lines”—while attempting to dissuade the Israelis from acting unilaterally. Eli Lake reports exclusively.

When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opined earlier this month that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could “consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret,” the Israelis went ballistic behind the scenes. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, lodged a formal diplomatic protest known as a demarche. And the White House was thrust into action, reassuring the Israelis that the administration had its own “red lines” that would trigger military action against Iran, and that there is no need for Jerusalem to act unilaterally. Panetta’s seemingly innocent remarks on Dec. 2 triggered the latest drama in the tinder-box relationship that the Obama administration is trying to navigate with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. With Republicans lining up to court Jewish donors and voters in America in 2012, Obama faces a tricky election-year task of ensuring Iran doesn’t acquire a nuclear bomb on his watch while keeping the Israelis from launching a preemptive strike that could inflame an already teetering Middle East.

The stakes are immensely high, and the distrust that Israelis feel toward the president remains a complicating factor. Those sentiments were laid bare in a speech Netanyahu’s minister of strategic affairs, Moshe Ya’alon, gave on Christmas Eve in Jerusalem, in which he used Panetta’s remarks to cast doubt on the U.S.’s willingness to launch its own military strike.

Ya’alon told the Anglo-Likud, an organization within Netanyahu’s Likud party that caters to native English speakers, that the Western strategy to stop Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons must include four elements, with the last resort being a military strike.

“The fourth element of this combined strategy is the credible military strike,” Ya’alon said, according to a recording of the speech provided to The Daily Beast. “There is no credible military action when we hear leaders from the West, saying, ‘this is not a real option,’ saying, ‘the price of military action is too high.’”
Obama and Netanyahu

US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a bilateral meeting September 21, 2011 at the United Nations in New York City., Mandel Ngan, AFP / Getty Images

The lack of trust between the Israeli and American leaders on Iran has been a sub-rosa tension in the relationship since 2009. Three U.S. military officials confirm to The Daily Beast that analysts attached to the Office of the Secretary of Defense are often revising estimates trying to predict what events in Iran would trigger Prime Minister Netanyahu to authorize a military attack on the country’s nuclear infrastructure. Despite repeated requests going back to 2009, Netanyahu’s government has not agreed to ask the United States for permission or give significant advanced warning of any pending strike.

The sensitive work of trying to get both allies on the same page intensified this month. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Washington last week to go over Iran issues; and the undersecretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, and a special arms control adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Robert Einhorn, were in Israel last week to discuss Iran as well. Panetta for his own part has revised his tone on the question of Iran’s nuclear program, telling CBS News last week that the United States was prepared to use force against Iran to stop the country from building a nuclear weapon.

The new diplomacy has prompted new conversations between the United States and Israel over what the triggers—called “red lines” in diplomatic parlance—would be to justify a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Matthew Kroenig, who served as special adviser on Iran to the Office of the Secretary of Defense between July 2010 and July 2011, offered some of the possible “red lines” for a military strike in a recent Foreign Affairs article he wrote. He argued that the U.S should attack Iran’s facilities if Iran expels international nuclear weapons inspectors, begins enriching its stockpiles of uranium to weapons-grade levels of 90 percent, or installs advanced centrifuges at its main uranium-enrichment facility in Qom.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Kroenig also noted that Iran announced in 2009 that it was set to construct 10 new uranium enrichment sites. “I doubt they are building ten new sites, but I would be surprised if Iran was not racing to build some secret enrichment facilities,” Kroenig said. “Progress on new facilities would be a major factor in our assessment of Iran’s nuclear program and shape all aspects of our policy towards this including the decision to use force.”

A cult of veils and a riot in Beit Shemesh

Tel-Chai Nation

In a followup to this earlier topic, A Mother in Israel presented these 2 pictures of women/girls who are part of a cult in Beit Shemesh that actually takes up the same approach as Muslim women with creepy looking veils that look as though there's no eyeholes. Scary, right? Maybe I'm righter than I think about Islam having a terrible influence on some alleged practicers of Judaism. More on that here, and some more here too on how some rabbis are making an effort to stop it. In more news on the current crisis, the so-called Hasidics rioted after signs calling for segregation were taken down (via Failed Messiah):

Police forces accompanied by Beit Shemesh municipal inspectors removed public signs calling for segregation between men and women in the city on Sunday. This prompted dozens of haredim to crowd around the officers. They hurled stones and cursed the officers. Some haredim called police "Nazis." There were no reports of injury.

Earlier on Sunday, Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul held a meeting on the matter in his chambers. His order to remove the signs was carried out at 5 pm when the streets were meant to be empty of people due to the lighting of Hanukkah candles. Nevertheless, several haredim rioted and hurled stones in protest.

Some of the signs were put up again later in the day by local haredim.

Abutbul strongly condemned "the radical fringes of the haredi sector who tarnish the reputation of all Beit Shemesh residents."

It's clear that we're facing a grave "religion-war", and soon.

It's fortunate that the chief rabbis have condemned this behavior, starting with the bus segregation (also via Failed Messiah):

Chief rabbis against 'kosher' buses: Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger on Sunday responded harshly to the ultra-Orthodox demand to operate "kosher" bus lines in haredi neighborhoods, saying that the haredi public had not right to impose its opinion on the rest of the population.

"We can't be the world's landlords. This isn't the haredi public's country," the chief rabbi said in an interview to Kol Barama Radio. "We have no authority to impose our opinion on others. This is a public place."

I won't be surprised if in the coming week or so, this is still going to be a major issue. Here's one more item from the Jerusalem Post.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

IDF Chief: Israel Can’t Escape Gaza Incursion

Gavriel Queenann

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz on Tuesday said there is "no escape" from launching a major operation to root out Hamas in Gaza.

"From time to time, we face rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and we understand the continuing buildup from the Egypt region," Gantz said. "I believe that the state of Israel cannot continue to live under the active threat of Hamas in the Gaza Strip."

"Sooner or later, there will be no escape from conducting a significant operation," Gantz continued. "The IDF knows how to operate in a determined, decisive and offensive manner against terrorists in the Gaza Strip."

Gantz said that any such operation would be premeditated and quick. On the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Gantz expressed satisfaction with the high level of deterrence Israel gained from it.

Critics, however, say that a Gaza incursion would be unecessary if such deterrence had really been achieved. They accuse then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of caving in to international pressure and ordering the IDF to pull out before it had achieved its strategic aims in Gaza.

Nor, they say, does Israel face rockets and mortars from Gaza "from time to time," noting that thousands of rocket and mortar shells have been launched by terrorists Gaza at Israel's southern communities since Operation Cast Lead was concluded.

Military analysts say Israel's airstrikes-for-rocket-attacks strategic posture vis-a-vis Gaza has proven ineffective against Hamas and perpetuated the poor security situation of Israel's southern communities. Over 1 million Israelis live under the threat of persistent rocket attacks from Gaza, with concurrent psychological harm to children and the elderly.

Gantz joins his predecessors Shaul Mofaz, Moshe Yaalon, Dan Halutz, and Gabi Ashkenazi in admitting the need for a major ground operation in Gaza. Former Maj. General Yoav Galant and Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch have also called for such an operation.

FA Monitors Incitement and Racism in Israeli Media

RAMALLAH, November 27, 2011 (WAFA) - Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) monitored incitement and racism against the Palestinians and Arabs published by the Israeli media between December 16 and 22.

NRG website published an article by the Israeli journalist Kalman Libeskind, in which he defended the Hilltop Youth attack, when around 50 settlers and right-wing activists entered a key West Bank military base, threw rocks, injuring an Israeli officer, and vandalized military vehicles. He described their actions and assaults against Palestinians as “unjustified”, but blamed “the Palestinian terrorism” for the youth attack. He stressed that settlers are being attacked and stoned by Palestinians in the West Bank amid media blackout in Israel, leaving only one way to struggle, that is rocks.

“The press in Tel Aviv is more concerned with a Palestinian olive tree than a bleeding Israeli toddler,” said Libeskind, adding that the Hilltop Youth watched the Israeli media tolerating Arab riots in Israel, and demanded to be treated the same.

Israeli professor in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yitzhak Reiter, published an article on NFC website inflaming sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians by the spreading false allegations to terror Christians in Nazareth.

He alleged that Muslims rose banners with verses of Qura’an inciting against non-Muslims, especially Christians, in protests against the settlers ‘Price Tag’ attacks in Nazareth.

“What scares me most that Muslim activists attempt to control the public and Islamize the Christian character of Nazareth,” he said.

Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper published an article by the Director of the Settlements Council in the West Bank and Gaza, Naftali Bennett, in he claimed that the Israeli tactical propaganda for its right in the land of Israel failed because it lacked biblical (Torah) and historical references.

“The problem is that Palestinians claimed for years that this land is theirs, and we agreed saying ‘it is true, but we need security,’” he added.

Israeli journalist Amos Oz said, “If Israel acknowledges that the land of Israel belongs to Palestinians, and we have the right to take part of it only because we were in an ordeal then we will certainly fail.

He added, “No wonder the world thinks of Israelis as thieves.”

He called on the Israeli government to declare the simple truth that the land of Israel belongs only to Israelis.

NRG website published an article by the Israeli right-wing activist, Moshe Feiglin, in which he incited against Arab Knesset Member, Ahmad al-Tibi, and accused him of supporting terrorism and murder in Israel.

Feiglin accused al-Tibi of “losing his mind,” when he said: “I am the owner of the house here,” during a televised debate between them.

“I do not need to remind you that al-Tibi was the close advisor and assistant of Yassir Arafatn, the man who killed more Jews than anyone else since the Second World War, God damn his soul!” said Feiglin.

He addressed al-Tibi saying, “If you hope to establish an Arab state to replace the Jewish state, we’ll show you the way out.”

YnetNews website reported on statements issued by the office of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemning President Mahmoud Abbas meeting, in Turkey, with Amneh Muna, who was convicted of the murder of an Israeli in 2001 and released in the Gilad Shalit swap deal between Israel and Hamas.

Netanyahu’s office said, “It is awful that Abbas, who pretends wanting to achieve peace with Israel in front of the whole world, goes to Turkey to ‘meet a killer.’”


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Hanukkah Miracle' Nixes Likely Terror Attack

David Lev

An observant IDF soldier may have prevented a major terrorist attack in a large Israeli city, in what soldiers and commanders called a “Hanukkah miracle.” An Arab terrorist who may have been on his way to the town of Har Bracha in central Samaria, was nabbed Tuesday morning when an IDF soldier arrested him, finding two large pipe bombs on his person.

What attracted the attention of the soldier was the unusually large bag the Arab was carrying. The soldier stopped the Arab, who was climbing up a hill that leads to Har Bracha, located near Shechem. The soldier grabbed the 18-year-old Arab's bag, and found in it not only the aforementioned pipe bombs, but also a molotov cocktail and ammunition. The Arab was immediately arrested and questioned. A search of the area by troops yielded a second bag with similar contents. It should be noted that the spot where the Arab was arrested is mere meters away from the former location of the Hawara checkpoint, which was removed at the orders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Arabs who attempted to smuggle weapons were routinely caught at this crossing, into and out of the Shechem area.

Samaria Council chairman Gershon Mesika phoned the commander of the brigade that arrested the Arab and thanked him for his and his soldiers' efforts.

“We salute the IDF for its work in preventing this attack, which could have been carried out against a major community in Samaria, or perhaps even a large city in the center of the country. Your soldier's awareness prevented this attack.

"But we cannot rely on miracles. I call on the government yet again to restore the Hawara checkpoint. Dozens of terrorists were caught there, and with its closure a terrorist can easily leave Shechem and reach the center of the country. We are blessed with wonderful soldiers who are doing holy work, and the government must give those soldiers the tools they need to stop terror."


Hebrew Union College prides itself on being open and pluralistic. But some Reform rabbinical students say the reality contradicts this vision.
By Adam Chandler

Earlier this year, the board of Hebrew Union College was approached by a potential funder named Willy Stern, a Vanderbilt law professor. Stern, an active member in the Reform movement and contributor to the Weekly Standard, wanted to endow the school with a chair for a politically conservative scholar. The proposed endowment might have scored the college upwards of a seven-digit award, according to a source familiar with the initiative. Like countless other religious and academic institutions, HUC has suffered tremendously in the aftermath of the financial meltdown of 2008. Less than three years ago, the seminary faced a $3 million deficit. Professors’ salaries had been cut, tuition had been raised, and reports surfaced that the school was considering closing two of its three American campuses. The school “was in the most challenging position it has faced in its history—even more so than during the Great Depression,” HUC President David Ellenson wrote at the time.

Yet Stern’s offer was rebuffed. While details about Stern’s proposal remain undisclosed—Stern declined comment, and repeated requests to President David Ellenson went unanswered—distinct murmurings on and off the campus strongly point to at least one possible explanation: The chair’s conservative charge made it unpalatable to the seminary’s administration.

Although American Judaism’s largest religious denomination prides itself on being a big tent—part of HUC’s mission statement is to apply “the open and pluralistic spirit of the Reform movement to the study of the great issues of Jewish life and thought”—students and observers are sensing a troubling trend that directly contradicts this vision, particularly on the matter of Israel.

“While I loved my time there and deeply respected my professors, I found that HUC was not comfortable exploring or discussing anything politically that wasn’t left,” said Rabbi Samantha Kahn, who received her ordination from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles in 2011 and is now the assistant rabbi at Congregation Emanu El in Houston, Texas. “I definitely struggled with it, and I was hurt by the lack of openness and the anger toward positions of center and right when it came to Israel and foreign affairs.”

To be sure, most observers point out that the political atmosphere at HUC does not comprehensively reflect the reality of the wider Reform movement. But the differences can sometimes be unusually stark. Kahn, who worked at the Hillel at the University of Miami before entering HUC, recently recalled the “strange transition” she experienced: “As a Hillel professional, it seemed that I was [politically] very left. All of a sudden, at HUC I wasn’t left anymore, but very right. The truth is, being in Houston, I feel more left again. I pay attention to the New Israel Fund and read Haaretz. But I’m also still involved with and appreciative of AIPAC and Hadassah and am glad to see them still thriving in Houston. At HUC, AIPAC and Hadassah were four-letter words. They were the devil.”

HUC—like all educational institutions—is a bubble of sorts, and it is often difficult to find genuine ideological pluralism inside any such closed environment, especially on a subject as complicated as Israel. Nevertheless, some have grown concerned about the ways the political culture of HUC could influence the future texture of Reform Judaism and the broader American Jewish community.

“You could probably do the same story at Yeshiva University and you might get the exact opposite political trend,” David Wolpe, the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, said in an interview this week. “Having said that, the difference between right-wing support of Israel and left-wing support of Israel is that left-wing support much more easily morphs into indifference to and abandonment of Israel. That’s what the left wing has to guard against.”


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College has always been a proudly liberal institution. It has brought religious leaders through its ranks that have played integral roles in nearly every major social movement of the past century—from its social-action mandate in the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform to the March on Washington in 1963. Rabbi Jerome Davidson, a longtime pulpit rabbi from Great Neck, N.Y., who teaches a required course on social action at the seminary, seems to exemplify a certain model of rabbi-as-political-leader popular at the institution. “As far as I’m concerned, a rabbi should be able to get up on his pulpit and speak about why it’s necessary to have stronger gun-control laws or why the death penalty should be abolished or curtailed or strengthened or whatever she or he thinks Judaism teaches us,” Davidson said in an interview this week. And to his mind, the politics that should be transmitted from the pulpit are very specific.
“Judaism is very clear about the nature of government, that government is a social contract and that it exists, in significant part, to benefit the vulnerable,” he explained. “The Torah, the book of Deuteronomy, and the book of Exodus are filled with materials that reflect that. It’s about how the structure of government has to somehow take care of the vulnerable, the needy, the poor, the orphan, and so on. There’s a real mandate. Looking through Jewish values onto the political scene certainly mandates Reform Judaism and Jews, laypeople, or clergy to act on behalf of those Jewish values, and it is certainly reflected in the politics.”

But if Davidson believes firmly in supporting left-wing causes, some students in a younger generation argue that the very definition of “liberal politics” is in flux—particularly when it comes to Israel.

Kahn recalls that during her year abroad in 2006—all students are required to spend their first academic year in Israel—war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah. Several of her fellow students were excused from class to volunteer for Encounter, a group that connects Diaspora Jews with Palestinians in part by organizing trips to the West Bank, but when Kahn informed the school that she intended to volunteer for an organization that paid visits to IDF soldiers in hospitals, she was told that her absences would not be excused.

Josh Herman, a third-year rabbinical student at HUC’s Cincinnati campus—and, according to him, not among the school’s most politically conservative students—recently found himself in an argument with another student about Israel. The other student’s reply stunned him: “I would rather give up being Jewish than ever set foot in Israel again,” Herman recounted the student saying.

The halls of academia are littered with isolated incidents of this sort, and rumors about the exchange spread. Herman eventually met with some of the administration to register his disapproval. “I suggested that I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue with school if they were going to tolerate anti-Zionist statements like that, which ended up with the student sort of retracting the statement,” Herman said.

But the episode didn’t end there. “After it happened,” Herman said, “I ended up having a lot of conversations with people informally, friends and whatnot, about the parameters of what we think is acceptable for a rabbinical student or a rabbi to say. I wondered if there was something he could have said or done that would have made HUC say, ‘We’re sorry, but we can’t ordain you,’ and I was very much the minority.”

This sense of isolation is brought up by others, too. Josh Beraha, now a third-year student at Hebrew Union College’s New York campus, was raised in Providence, R.I., and attended college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After spending much of his life in cities and institutions that were, in his view, reflexively liberal, his politics shifted after five years teaching in New York City public schools. (At the same time, he married into a prominent Jewish conservative family.)

Beraha was particularly disheartened by the way the school handled the issue of Park 51—the so-called Ground Zero mosque—which became a political lightning rod in the fall of 2010. In the midst of the controversy, a group of students marched from HUC’s campus down Broadway to the proposed site—with the dean, Rabbi Shirley Idelson, a prominent participant.

“The Park 51 controversy happened during my second year,” Beraha said. “I was a little afraid, as I still am, about how to respond. Moments like that when there’s an assumption that everyone thinks a certain way. I really don’t know where to begin. I just walked out of class that day.”

Davidson, who teaches the social action course, saw nothing wrong with the march.
“It was the right thing to do,” Davidson said this week in an interview. “Most of the Jewish community doesn’t want anything to do with Muslims, they think they are all just a bunch of Arabs who just want to blow up Israel and the United States and everything else. They have no idea what the moderate Muslim population is all about in this country. Here was an opportunity for these students who felt that Islamic faith had just as much of a right to have a place anywhere they wanted.”

Some students argue, though, that this sort of homogeneous political activism has stifled the very dialogue that Hebrew Union College historically prided itself on fostering. “I do feel as if I am always the naysayer in class, I am constantly having to be a dissenting voice,” says Herman. “It’s not that people are being unfair; it’s that it’s exhausting to constantly have arguments and to be 1-on-9 in these arguments or 2-on-8.”

“We can never have a real conversation in class because everyone assumes we’re on the same page,” Beraha added, echoing Herman. “I go back and forth about whether or not to engage in the conversation at all. It’s almost not worth it.”

Hannah Goldstein, one of the co-presidents of Hebrew Union College’s Student Association in New York, admits that an overwhelming majority—“maybe 90 percent”—share what she calls “pretty liberal politics.” Accordingly, she says, it’s no wonder that students with more center or right-wing views feel alone.

“I think feeling lonely is not the same as being made to feel like an outsider,” she said. “If I had more conservative political leanings, I would feel lonely. I think there’s a lot of people who feel that way in the student body. It would be the same if you were in a liberal-arts school in New England. But is feeling lonely the same as being made to feel like an outsider?”

In Goldstein’s view, the faculty seems to have more political diversity than the student body—which, while possibly true, is also difficult to gauge.

“I would be curious to know how many registered Republicans there are among the HUC faculty, and I say this as an independent—not a Republican,” said Wolpe. “If there are few or none, for a representative education in America, that’s something that ought to be taken note of.”

In 2008, Martin Sherman—a self-defined “hawk” on Israel—was asked to be a visiting professor at the Los Angeles campus, teaching a course on the Arab-Israeli conflict called “Prospect for Peace.” According to Sherman, when he arrived on campus, it was explained to him that his views would be known and that he should anticipate that students would challenge him. Instead, only four students opted to take his course. When virtually no students registered for his second-semester course, Sherman taught exclusively at the University of Southern California, which had partnered with HUC to bring him to Los Angeles.

“I had the feeling they didn’t want to engage. And with the social milieu, I understand there was some hostility,” Sherman said in an interview this week from Israel, where he lives. “There were one or two people on the faculty who were interested in what I was saying and wanted to give me a wider audience, and they couldn’t. Some of them might have even had more assertive hawkish views than they could actually have expressed given their professional positions.”


The division between the old guard and at least some of HUC’s current students is not just over politics, but over what the very definition of pastoral duty should be today. The students I spoke to tend to believe in a very different conception of the rabbi than the previous generation.

“I personally—and this is an argument I get into constantly—have no patience for politics from the bimah,” Herman asserted. “I think that the job of the rabbi is to teach and that any given event or issue being played out, it’s usually very difficult to find what Judaism says about it unequivocally. You take any sort of issue, and there’s not usually a Jewish answer to that issue, which is why I don’t believe in the Religious Action Center and why I don’t think rabbis should be preaching from the pulpit, as they say.”

“The Jewish community needs spiritual leaders who can bring people Torah, they don’t need someone who’s going to read the New York Times and give a sermon about it,” Beraha added. “People are intelligent, you can tell them what Torah, Talmud, Midrash says, end of sentence. Let people go a step farther and understand that Judaism says feed the poor and don’t add Obama’s policies on wealth distribution.”

Despite their occasional objections, Herman and Beraha speak highly of the professors and their programs. Both are also confident that after being ordained each will find pulpits where they fit and are happy, as Kahn has done. The question, if this trend continues, is what it will mean for the Reform movement and its more than one million members.

“HUC is training a one-niche rabbi,” said Kahn. “It’s off from where the rest of the movement is. And if there’s more anger than hope, it will carry through to the movement.”

Adam Chandler is a contributing editor for Tablet Magazine. His work has appeared in the Atlantic, Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere.

Palestinians stake claim at Hebron holy site

HEBRON, Palestinian Territories — After his release from an Israeli jail, Barakeh Taha could finally marry and held the wedding at a disputed West Bank site holy to Muslims and Jews where tension once led to a massacre of unarmed Palestinians.

No random choice, Taha aimed to back a Palestinian campaign to claim heritage rights over an ancient burial cave in the heart of Hebron's Old City.

Known to Muslims as the Ibrahami Mosque and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, the landmark is venerated in both religions as the gravesite of the Biblical patriarch Abraham and his family. It is long claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians. But the row has extended to cultural rights, and looks set to end up before the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, which -- in a diplomatic victory for Palestinians -- just admitted them as a member despite stiff resistance from Israel and the United States.

"I encourage all couples to get married here to support the holy site and the resistance," said the 32-year-old, who was released in October under a prisoner swap deal which also freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who spend more than five years in Hamas captivity.

Palestinians must "thwart attempts to occupy it so it can be Judaised or controlled," Taha said.

Last year, Israel added the Cave to its list of national historic monuments in a move that sparked days of clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces, thousands of whom are stationed here to protect an enclave of hardline Jewish settlers holed up in Hebron's Old City.

Jewish groups are now working hard to increase the number of visitors to the Jewish section of this site on the occupied West Bank.

In response, the Palestinians launched a counter-campaign to encourage their ranks to hold celebratory events like circumcision ceremonies and weddings at the site's mosque.

"The Ibrahimi Mosque is for the Muslims and the Palestinians, not for the Jews nor for the settlers and I'm proud to be getting married in this magnificent place," said Lubna al-Natsheh, Taha's 19-year-old bride.

"We will not abandon it," she vowed. "We will continue to come here and return one day with our children."

The Palestinians say they will ask UNESCO to formally recognise their cultural attachment to the Ibrahimi Mosque in February -- a move only made possible by their admission to the UN body two months ago.

"Before we gained membership, we didn't have the right to add a Palestinian archaeological site to the World Heritage List because we are under occupation and the only way to do it was through friendly countries," said Palestinian culture minister Siham al-Barghuti.

"Now we can ask UNESCO to add our archaeological and religious sites to the World Heritage List," she said. "It's the main benefit we've won." And if granted, would be a second symbolic victory after UNESCO membership.

Before the diplomatic wrangling starts, the Palestinians want to send clear signs that their people cherish the Ibrahami Mosque -- as on November 26 when huge crowds gathered there to mark the Muslim New Year, many with their hair newly cut in line with tradition.

"I haven't seen such crowds for long time, it's five times more people than were here last year," said Palestinian Hijazi Abu Sneineh, who called it a "reaffirmation of the Arab and Islamic character of the mosque".

While both Muslims and Jews pray at the compound, the site has been divided into separate sections since 1994 when an Israeli settler opened fire on Palestinian worshippers, killing 29 of them.

Despite the mosque's bloody past, Salah Abu Turki, 44, proudly carried his baby son for his circumcision ceremony -- a rare event in recent years because of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to the site.

"It's a great honour for me that my son is being circumcised here," he said.

"The settlers also circumcise their children here, but we have more rights to do so than them because this place is a mosque and this is an ancient tradition for the people of Hebron," he said.

Heritage efforts are focussed on more than the mosque. The city's Mayor Khaled Essili recently returned from Paris where he took part in a conference at the Institut du Monde Arabe in support of adding Hebron's entire Old City, including its holy sites, to the World Heritage List.

"We started a campaign three years ago to add Hebron's Old City to the UNESCO list," he said.

"Now the request is ready and we will present it to UNESCO in February 2012."

No need for a civil war

MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich

Before the fall of the Second Temple, a terrible civil war tore the Jews apart. At the time, a cruel enemy lurked on the sidelines seeking to enslave the divided nation. This civil war was fueled by greed for power and the preference of personal interests above the good of the nation. We, with our own hands, brought about the destruction of the Second Temple. Two thousand years later, it appears as though we have learned nothing. Our elected officials' greed for power and delusions of grandeur have diverted public attention from the fundamental problems facing our state and our society. The chief justice in Israel's Supreme Court is a woman. The two main opposition parties in this country are headed by women. For years there has been an equal number of male and female judges serving in Israel's courts. Our Knesset boasts more women than most parliaments in the world. Instead of putting an emphasis on that and promoting full equality in every field, look at what we are dealing with: Someone went out of their way to find a mentally unstable member of some weird extreme ultra-Orthodox sect and from there arrived at the conclusion that we live in a fundamentalist country.

Criminals should be punished, but we must avoid inciting a civil war against the ultra-Orthodox in the service of political interests. Much to the chagrin of the ultra-Orthodox warmongers, they are our brothers, and we also have plenty to learn from them. They could teach us about mutual responsibility. Neglecting this mutual responsibility and compassion is what brought about our widening income gaps, which in turn sparked the social justice movement last summer. Our brotherly Jewish love for one another has been replaced by hatred, fuelled by the calls of those who seek power. Picking on the ultra-Orthodox has become the new national pastime, replacing the social justice protest, which was abandoned the minute it became clear to power grubbers that the protests would not topple the government.

A Jewish state means more than a menorah and a flag. We have to remind ultra-Orthodox extremists of the saying by our sages, who taught us that kindness toward man comes before keeping the laws of the Torah. We will not allow discrimination against women, or restrictions on women's freedom, but at the same time let us remember: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Avidly protecting the principles of democracy is not the same as unbridled incitement.

There are those who are doing everything in their power to make Israel look as racist as South Africa, as backwards as Syria and as oppressive to women as Iran. Even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contributed to this effort. These people think that, like 2,000 years ago, our leadership will be replaced thanks to external intervention. I have news for them: The people of Israel are not buying it. Our people will not tolerate incitement by one sector against another.

What we can learn from Salam Fayyad's threat

Elder of Ziyon

From WAFA:

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Monday condemned the Israeli deliberations on a bill submitted to the Knesset for declaring Jerusalem, including West and the East Jerusalem, to be the capital of Israel and the Jewish people.

Fayyad, in a press conference while signing a cooperation agreement between the Palestinian Investment Promotion Agency and Jordan Investment Board in Ramallah, stressed that no one has the right to decide the future of occupied East Jerusalem.

“There will never be a solution unless Jerusalem becomes the eternal capital of the Palestinian state,” said Fayyad, adding that the Israeli government, Knesset or any Israeli political party cannot deliberate on the Palestinian inalienable right to self-determination. There is a contradiction between the two statements. Fayyad is not saying that "no one has the right" to determine the future of the parts of Jerusalem across the Green Line, he is saying that only Palestinian Arabs have the right to determine it.

When Fayyad says "there will never be a solution unless..." he is implicitly saying that "there will never be peace unless..." What he is saying is that without Palestinian Arab control of the historic parts of Jerusalem, there will continue to be fighting, terror, war and whatever else the Arab world wants to serve up.

Palestinian Arab leaders can make such threats with impunity, and without any fear that any Western leaders or the UN will criticize the fact that they are essentially acting like the mob, saying that if you don't want to get hurt, do what they say.

An interesting subtext to his statement is that Fayyad is tacitly admitting that Israel wants peace and that Palestinian Arabs consider peace to be of secondary importance - not as important as getting their demands met. After all, there is no legal, logical or moral reason a solution must include Jerusalem as part of "Palestine." A solution can certainly be found - and reached quite quickly - if Palestinian Arabs would compromise on their demands. But if we take Fayyad's words at face value, he is saying that his people are less interested in a solution to the conflict as they are in gaining all of the land they claim exclusively.

The funny thing is that everyone knows this. Arabs know it, the UN knows it, the EU knows it: Israel craves peace and is willing to compromise to reach an agreement. Palestinian Arabs are more interested in getting 100% of their demands met - to them, it is more important than peace, or independence, or gaining a land that could be a refuge for the descendants of 1948 Arab refugees.

The relative priorities of both sides are neatly encapsulated by Fayyad's demand.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Number of Palestinians in World is 11.22 Million, says PCBS

RAMALLAH, December 26, 2011 (WAFA) – The projected number of Palestinians in the world increased to reach 11.22 million at the end of 2011, Monday said a report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

There are 4.23 million Palestinians in the Palestinian Territory, 1.37 million in Israel, 4.99 million in Arab countries and around 636,000 in other countries, said the report.

Around 4.2 million Palestinians live in the Palestinian Territory, around 2.6 million in the West Bank and 1.6 million in the Gaza Strip at the end of 2011.

PCBS said that of every 100 persons in the Palestinian Territory, about 44 are refugees: 42 per 100 in the West Bank and 58 per 100 in the Gaza Strip. The total fertility rate declined in 2010 to 4.2 births compared with 6 births in 1997. The rate in the Gaza Strip in 2010 was 4.9 births compared to 3.8 births in the West Bank, which have been stable for the past few years with no significant changes.

The report indicated a decrease in the average household size in the Palestinian Territory which reached 5.8 persons in 2011 compared with 6.4 in 1997: 5.6 persons in the West Bank and 6.3 persons in the Gaza Strip.

PCBS said the crude birth rate is 32.8 births for every 1000 of population: 30.1 in the West Bank compared to 37.1 in Gaza Strip. The rate is expected to decline to 31.9 in 2015.

The crude death rate is 4.0 deaths for every 1000 of population: in the West Bank the figure is 4.1 compared to 3.9 in Gaza Strip. The rate is expected to decline to 3.6 in 2015.

The total fertility rate for Palestinians living is Jordan is 3.3 births compared to 2.5 in Syria and 3.2 in Lebanon, added the report.

The number of Palestinians living in Israel is 1.37 million, of whom about 37.5% are aged less than 15 years compared to 3.9% aged 65 years and above; the average Palestinian household size is 4.8 persons.

The total fertility rate in 2010 among Palestinians living in Israel was 3.5 births compared to 3.0 births among Jews, whereas the crude birth rate of Palestinians in Israel exceeded 26.2 births for every 1000 of the population.

PCBS indicated that the number of Palestinians in historical Palestine totaled 5.6 million at the end of 2011, whereas the number of Jews living in historical Palestine totaled 5.8 million.

“Based on estimates of the Israeli Department of Statistics for 2010, the number of Palestinians and Jews will total about 6.3 million each by the end of 2015, provided current growth rates remain the same. However, the number of Palestinians in historical Palestine will total 7.2 million compared to 6.8 million Jews by the end of 2020,” said the report.



Micah Stein

For the millions of Israeli citizens drafted into the Israel Defense Forces over the past 60 years, military service has involved patriotism, community, self-sacrifice—and Loof, Israel's kosher Spam. But, with the IDF updating its battle rations, a new generation of soldiers is about to experience military service without the familiar pink meat. And the end of Loof may portend more drastic changes in Israel's military. According to Gil Marks' Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Loof has been around for nearly as long as the IDF itself. Inspired by Spam, a culinary mainstay of the U.S. Army during World War II, the IDF developed its own meat product in the late 1940s; the name apparently stems from a distorted pronunciation of "meatloaf." Edible, durable, and kosher, Loof satisfied military and religious requirements. No one asked the soldiers.

Loof looks like ground beef cross-bred with a sponge, it doesn't taste particularly good, and it smells . . . well, unpleasant. Yet, generations of IDF soldiers came to tolerate it. Not that they had much choice. Loof was the primary protein source in manot krav, the IDF's MRE, which also included pickles, hummus, tuna, and chocolate spread. Over the course of their service, out of desperation rather than enthusiasm, hungry soldiers wolfed down countless Loof sandwiches and Loof salads, and even Loof straight. Inevitably, they came to crave it. Loof has left its mark on the Israeli national consciousness. It has a Facebook page, a Wikipedia entry, and a film credit—a memorable cameo in the Israeli comedy Halfon Hill Does Not Answer.

In 2009, however, the IDF's Logistics and Equipment Division announced that Loof was on its way out. Why? According to Colonel Ziv Gafni, the company that manufactured Loof had ceased production; the IDF was dipping into inventory to feed its soldiers. As consumer tastes moved toward fresher, healthier alternatives, non-IDF demand for Loof practically vanished. By the end, the IDF was responsible for nearly 100 percent of Israel's Loof sales.

Israelis reacted to the news with nostalgia, wistfully reflecting on a bygone heyday of the Israeli military and society. Active-duty soldiers, in contrast, were thrilled. And, trivial though Loof's interment may be in isolation, it may presage an attempt to extract the country from another longstanding institution beset by problems of insufficient supply and public unease—the military draft.

The draft is older than the State of Israel itself: It was instituted in 1947 by the nascent Israeli military in anticipation of the coming conflict. After independence, conscription was formalized to require 30 months' service for men and 18 months for women. After the 1967 Six-Day war, the term was increased to 36 months for men and 24 months for women, where it remains today.

Conscription was more than just a military necessity; it was a social policy designed to protect Israel's shared identity as well as its borders. The IDF became the "people's army," a melting pot of soldiers religious and secular, rural and urban, sabra and oleh, left and right. Draft-dodging was taboo, discouraged by social more than legal consequences.

In the last 20 years, however, these attitudes have changed. A 1988 poll of Israeli high school students found that 94 percent would volunteer for the IDF even without the draft; today that number is 58 percent. In 2007, Haaretz reported that 27 percent of conscription-age men and 40 percent of women managed to avoid the draft entirely; another 18 percent dropped out during service, typically within the first year. A Haifa University study found that 54 percent of recruits managed "quasi-evasion," agreeing to serve only in risk-free positions. Today, fewer than a third of draftees complete the full 36 months of duty.

However, the news is not all bad. The most vital parts of the IDF—elite combat units, intelligence corps, technology—continue to attract more than enough soldiers. Meanwhile, despite reduced enlistments, the IDF has widespread "hidden unemployment": Many soldiers simply don't have enough work to keep them occupied. The current universal, undifferentiated conscription fails to account for the division of labor in a modern army. Combat soldiers must train for longer than schnitzel chefs. The IDF must invest more in an engineer than a secretary. Today's military cannot be egalitarian.

Universal conscription is also expensive, for soldiers and the State. According to the Ben Bassat Commission, appointed by the Defense Ministry to study the impact of mass conscription, a single year of IDF service costs each class of soldiers an estimated NIS 90 million in lost wages, education, and professional experience. The Bordet Commission, which conducted a comprehensive audit of the IDF in 2007, calculated the country's annual production loss from conscription at NIS 11 billion, 1.7 percent of Israel's GDP. The Ministry of Finance put the total loss at NIS 9 billion.

Of course, self-preservation trumps economics: If national security is expensive, it is also vital. Could Israel survive without a conscripted army? Is the current undifferentiated mass conscription sustainable? How should Israel balance national security against personal liberty, economic growth against self-defense?

There are no clear answers. The Ben Bassat Commission concluded that Israel should have more soldiers serve shorter terms. It called for closing draft loopholes, reducing the conscription period to 24 months, and paying fair wages to soldiers in roles, like combat and intelligence, that demand longer service.

Others are more radical. In their paper "Conscription Versus a Professional Army," economists Sasson Haddad and Asher Tishler say conscription is doomed. They estimate that by 2020 draft evasion will reach 43 percent, effectively eliminating a "people's army" and presenting a real national security threat. All Israel can do is to make the transition to a professional army as smooth as possible.

On November 14, the IDF's Loof supply finally ran out, unceremoniously replaced by a concoction of ground meat with tomato sauce. It is still unclear when the supply of draftees will run out; but, as with Loof, the timing may be beyond IDF control. Let's hope they're more prepared for this one.

Micah Stein served in the 92nd Samson Battalion of the IDF; he is currently a Fellow at the Tikvah Fund.

The Israeli Economy - Summary of 2011

The following article summarizes key events and developments over the last year in the Ministry of Finance and the Israeli economy.

(Communicated by the Ministry of Finance)

The Israeli Economy - Summary of 2011

The Israeli economy continued to withstand the global economic crisis in 2011, which turned out to be an important year for the Israeli economy also due to key socio-economic issues receiving more attention.

The following article summarizes key events and developments over the last year in the Ministry of Finance and the Israeli economy, with links to further information in articles posted over the last year by the International Affairs Department in the ministry. The Israeli economy maintains growth

The Israeli economy continued to withstand the global economic crisis in 2011, while maintaining growth: Israel's GDP per-capita is forecasted to grow by 3% in 2011. Also, Israel managed to decrease its unemployment to an historic low level, standing at only 5.5% in the 2nd quarter of 2011, and 5.6% in the 3rd quarter of 2011.

Inflation in the last 12 months (Nov. 2011 compared to Nov. 2010) stands at 2.6%, within the target bandwidth of the Bank of Israel (1%-3%). Average monthly Consumer Price Index (where 2010=100) grew from 101.4 in Nov. 2010 to 104.1 in Oct. 2011. The Bank of Israel Interest rate grew gradually from 2% in Jan. 2011 to 3.25% in June. In between June to September, Bank of Israel interest rate was stagnant, and then was gradually decreased to 2.75% in Dec. 2011.

Both imports and exports knew a recovery in the 1st half of 2011, with a decline in the 3rd quarter. Exports of goods and services are forecasted to grow by 3.8% in 2011, and imports of goods and services are forecasted to grow by 9.2% in 2011.

For more extensive information, see:

· Economic Overview of Israel

· Economic Highlights

Israel's rank in leading economic indicators

· Israel's rank in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report rose from 24th to 22nd.

· Israel's rank in the IMD Global Competitiveness Yearbook was kept at 17th.

The Sheshinski Committee submitted its final conclusions

Final conclusions by the Committee to Examine the Policy on Oil and Gas Resources in Israel, headed by Prof. Eytan Sheshinski were released on January 3, 2011. The Committee recommended several fiscal changes due to major developments and findings of natural gas in Israel.

The outcome of these fiscal changes will ensure that the cash flow of the projects during the debt repayment period will not be impaired, which will safeguard the ability to finance the ventures. That, by reducing the maximum tax rate of the state’s share in the profits, which keeps it on par with the accepted rate of taxes in most countries in which these operations are conducted.

Barclays to establish R&D center in Israel to support their global operations

Barclays Capital investment bank began operating in Israel in 2008, and in March, Barclays announced plans to open a technology research and development (R&D) center in Israel, to be called the Israel Development and Engineering Center (IDEC).

The decision to establish the center was made by the Barclays Group's management following the unveiling of the government's Competitive Advantage program to promote high-tech industries in Israel, which was formulated by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

Following Barclay's, the American Citigroup bank also intends to open a technology R&D center in Israel to support its global activities.

Social protests over the cost of living sweep Israel

After several demonstrations over prices of specific products in Israel, such as fuel and cottage cheese, a protest over housing prices in July evolved into a cross-nation general protest over the cost of living, including basic grocery consumption products, housing, the price of raising children, and more.

On August 7, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a professional committee for socio-economic change, chaired by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, in order to hold a broad dialogue with different groups and sectors within the public, listen to the distress and to proposals, and make recommendations that will be submitted to the Social and Economic Cabinet chaired by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Yuval Steinitz.

So far, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) enacted the committee's tax proposals in December, benefiting middle wage earning workers. In addition, a team to examine how to increase competitiveness in the banking industry was appointed by the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Israel. The team will also give its views on various means for simplifying the banking product, strengthening customers' ability to negotiate with banks, and improving and broadening the service relating to credit information in the household and small business sectors.

Also, the Committee on Increasing of Competitiveness in the Economy has concluded the interim stage of the formulation of its recommendations at the end of September. The Committee has been requested to examine the effect of the existing structure of the economy on the level of competition in various sectors of the economy, its financial stability and its economic efficiency.

The Committee's main recommendation was to prohibit the control or holding in a significant financial institution by a significant real entity or by the controlling shareholder of a significant real entity.

Principal Recommendations of the Committee on Increasing Competitiveness in the Economy

S&P upgraded Israel's credit rating to A+

In September, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raised its long-term foreign currency sovereign credit ratings on the State of Israel to 'A+/A-1' from 'A/A-1'. S&P also affirmed the local currency ratings at 'AA-/A-1+'. Also, S&P's outlook is stable, and the transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment remains at 'AA'.
The rating action reflects S&P view of Israel's improved economic policy flexibility as a result of strong growth and careful macroeconomic management.

Completion of the Israeli Chairmanship of EUREKA

Israel's EUREKA chairmanship for 2010-2011 was implemented by MATIMOP, the Israel Industry Center for Research and Development, acting on behalf of the Office of the Chief Scientist in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

Throughout the Israeli Chairmanship year, over 220 cooperative R&D projects were approved, totaling more than 300 million euros of private and public investment. Israel is only one of 40 member countries in EUREKA but represents over one-quarter of the overall number of projects approved during the past year.

PA negotiator: We may withdraw recognition of Israel


Palestinians may cancel agreements signed between the PLO and Israel; Abbas paving way for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to take control over entire W. Bank, says Fatah official after Islamist groups agree to join PLO.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, member of the Fatah Central Committee and one of the Palestinian Authority negotiators with Israel, was quoted Sunday as saying that the Palestinians may cancel the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.

Meanwhile, some PLO and Fatah leaders have privately criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for agreeing to incorporate Hamas into the PLO.At least three senior officials in Ramallah have voiced strong reservations over the decision, a Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post. He said that those who were opposed to the move were worried that Hamas would replace Fatah as the dominant party in the PLO.

One official was quoted as saying that Abbas was paving the way for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to take control not only over the PLO, but the entire West Bank as well.

Shtayyeh's comments were published by the London-based Asharq Al Awsat newspaper.

This was not the first time that a senior PA official had talked about the possibility of abrogating the Oslo Accords.

The comments came less than 48 hours after Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreed to join a temporary leadership of the PLO that would prepare for new elections for the organization's two key bodies - the Palestine National Council and Executive Committee.

In response to a question about Israeli settlements, Shtayyeh said: "If Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insists that there is no difference between the settlement of Abu Ghneim [Har Homa] and Tel Aviv, we won't distinguish between Ramallah and Jaffa."

With regards to the PLO's decision to recognize Israel in 1993, Shtayyeh explained: "The recognition of Israel was not a balanced recognition. The PLO recognized Israel in the geographic sense, but Israel did not recognize Palestine geographically, but as an institution. Israel only recognized the PLO. Now we are demanding a mutual recognition. We want Israel to recognize the Palestinian territories of 1967."

Shtayyeh said the Palestinians' efforts would from now on focus on internal affairs. "President [Mahmoud] Abbas is now interested in reuniting the Palestinians," he said. "In the year 2012, their will be a political vacuum because the US will be preoccupied with presidential elections, the Europeans with the Euro crisis and the Arabs with their "Spring."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Region: Obama preaches, dictators sneer

The Obama administration is building up the threat Israel faces to unprecedented levels. “I love Israel” statements don’t solve this huge strategic problem.


I don’t think one could come up with a more teachable moment regarding international affairs – and including Middle East politics – than a little incident that just happened between US President Barack Obama and Venezuela.

First, the facts: Obama gave an interview to a Venezuelan newspaper in which he articulated some of his administration’s most basic themes. “Venezuela is a proud, sovereign nation,” said the president, adding that “the United States has no intention of intervening in Venezuela’s foreign relations; however, I think the government’s ties with Iran and Cuba have not benefited the interests of Venezuela and its people.

“Sooner or later, Venezuela’s people will have to decide what possible advantage there is in having relations with a country that violates fundamental human rights and is isolated from most of the world. The Iranian government has consistently supported international terrorism.”

Now, this is precisely the same approach that Obama has taken toward Iran. He said, and this has been a common talking point for administration officials, that Iran would not benefit from having nuclear weapons. He continued:

“Iran understands that they have a choice: They can break that isolation by acting responsibly and forswearing the development of nuclear weapons, which would still allow them to pursue peaceful nuclear power, like every other country that’s a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or they can continue to operate in a fashion that isolates them from the entire world.” Obama has rejected America’s leadership role. He feels that the United States has been too much of a bully historically, so he doesn’t stress what US interests require but politely asks other – hostile – countries to behave differently. He tells them that to do so is in their interest because their current behavior doesn’t benefit them.

Foreign leaders can only react with astonishment and – if they are hostile – laughter. If they are pro-American they react with horror.

THIS APPROACH is a clear sign of weakness and fear. It practically puts a “kick me” sign on Washington’s back.

Furthermore, telling someone else what their “true” interests is no less patronizing than telling them what your own interests are and demanding that they be respected. When you ask an aggressive dictator “pretty please,” you are asking for some spit in the face.

That’s just what Obama’s gotten received from Venezuela, Iran, and others. Take the response from Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez: “Obama, mind you own business, man. Focus on governing your country, which has become a disaster.

Now you’re going looking for votes by attacking Venezuela....

“Obama, you’re a phony.... Go and ask the black community in your country what you are to them: the biggest frustration in I don’t know how many years. Go and ask the many people in Africa who may have believed in you because of the color of your skin, because your father was from Africa. You’re a descendent of Africa, but you are the shame of all those people.”

In other words, your enemy reacts with disdain. You may not criticize him but he’ll criticize you. You may not do things he doesn’t like but he’ll do things you don’t like.

And each time Obama ignores these insults, ignores the violations of US interests, ignores the threats and attacks on US allies.

That is also why Obama can disrespect US allies: They can only rarely, if ever, answer back as Chavez or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad do. Obama may sizzle over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s slap-down in a brilliant oration to a joint session of Congress, but his websites bulge with statements of praise wrung from Israeli leaders heard through their gnashing of teeth.

But there’s something else going on here that shows his ignorance and signals his ineffectiveness. America’s enemies know perfectly well where their interests lie. Of course, the Venezuelan regime benefits by building alliances with fellow radicals and anti-Americans. Iran’s regime benefits in many ways by seeking nuclear weapons.

It’s the same in Turkey, where the regime benefits by forming alliances with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and other fellow revolutionary Islamists. Palestinian Authority rulers benefit by not negotiating or compromising with Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood benefits by seeking to seize state power and transform their states into Islamist ones. And so on.

Obama thinks that he can persuade radicals to be moderate. Thirty years ago, President Jimmy Carter also thought the US government could persuade the new Islamist regime in Iran to be moderate. In the 1990s President Bill Clinton thought a spell in power would turn Yasser Arafat into a moderate. It was just a matter of these revolutionaries seeing where their true interests were.

More recently, Vice President Joe Biden said US policy in Afghanistan was to “try to get the Taliban to move in the direction to see to it that they, through reconciliation, commit not to be engaged with al- Qaida or any other organization that they would harbor to do damage to us and our allies....”

Recently, a Third World diplomat whose democratic country has faced threats from radical regimes asked me why people fail to understand that the Muslim Brotherhood is a radical group. All I could answer was that people simply do not understand the role of ideology.

Part of this handicap is cultural; part due to ideological blindness on Obama’s own part. Yet the Obama administration is also ensuring it won’t learn by covering its eyes and ears, pretending that a revolutionary Islamist ideology doesn’t even exist.

Perhaps the most incredible aspect of all this is the numerous attempts by the Obama administration and its apologists –including Jews – to pretend that its policy is really good for Israel. Over and over again such people and their writings always ignore the regional strategic aspect of the damage that it is doing.

So what if the US government gives Israel military aid, which mostly consists of maintaining old programs? The Obama administration is building up the threat Israel faces to unprecedented levels. “I love Israel” statements don’t solve this huge strategic problem.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a featured columnist at Pajamas Media. His new book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January.

Dan Friedman

Before we preach to Israelis living abroad


Are we so desperately afraid of our external enemies that we’ll support at all costs a government that just watches as the country rots from within?
IT’S ALMOST 2012 – practically 99 years since Rosa

Kamal Subhi, formerly on the faculty of Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University, recently joined other clerics in warning that if the Saudi ban on women driving is lifted, mixing of genders will increase and that, in turn, will encourage premarital relations. If women are allowed to drive, he said, in 10 years’ time the kingdom will have no virgins left. “The virgin dearth,” I guess we could call it. In Europe – and I’m not making this up – a Muslim cleric ruled that women should not touch or be proximate to bananas and cucumbers, in order to avoid “sexual thoughts.” Their fathers or husbands should chop them before they eat them, he suggested. Ouch. It’s tempting to laugh, of course, to point to the absurdity that can result when a religious tradition develops thoroughly unfettered by any contact with or influence from the outside world, guided by clerics with the narrowest intellectual training imaginable. But before we point with derision to Saudi Arabia and some dark corners of Europe, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look around and remind ourselves of what’s unfolding right here at home.

Israel, our perky start-up nation, now has another credit of which to boast. We have our very own Rosa Parks. Her name is Tania Rosenblit; she’s the young woman who refused to move to the back of the bus when instructed to do so by haredi passengers on a bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem. It’s almost 2012 – practically 99 years since Rosa Parks was born. But parts of the Jewish state are still struggling to enter the 20th century, which, of course, ended over a decade ago.

Thankfully, and none too soon, Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, rushed to condemn the segregation of men and women on public buses. “We [the ultra-Orthodox] don’t have the authority to force our ideas on others,” he asserted. “This state does not belong to the haredi community.”

Ah, so there’s the problem. The issue is not that it’s wrong to relegate women to the back of the bus (why don’t the men go to the back of the bus and let the women sit up front if they’re so worried?) or that the segregation of men and women on buses is absurd (does insurmountable temptation really lurk at every stop?) but simply because the haredim don’t (yet?) have the political power they need to enforce this. Metzger’s concern was only tactical – the haredim were over-reaching. Not a word about the shamefulness of a society in which men and women cannot respectfully and properly occupy the same public space or how similar to Saudi Arabia we seem intent on becoming. Will there be a separate section on the bus for women carrying uncut fruit?

Buses are far from the full extent of it, of course. Now we learn that the Karmiel Employment Bureau has assigned different days for men and women seeking unemployment compensation. But lest we worry that this is fundamentalism-creep, rest assured, it’s only an administrative nicety. It is “more convenient” for men and women to use the office’s services on different days, the office explained to Ynet. “It prevents stress and chaos in the waiting room and is more aesthetic.” Aesthetic? How’s that, exactly?

And let’s not forget the still-simmering controversy over women singing at army ceremonies. Since halachic rulings are apparently immutable, Israel’s noble political leaders are resorting to – what else? – technology. That, after all, is where we Israelis shine. Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has a brilliant solution: he simply puts his fingers in his ears when women sing at army events. (I would pay for a photograph of that.)

Not to be outdone, and perhaps in order not to offend those singing young women (who are actually in the army serving their country – yes, some people still do that, apparently) who might find the sight of the state’s chief rabbi with his fingers stuck in his ears somewhat disconcerting or even offensive, Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev has a much better idea: religious men should simply use earplugs when women sing. Brilliant. One only hopes that they remember to remove them before heading into battle. I’m told that being able to hear your commander can increase effectiveness in combat. Unless you had no intention of obeying his orders in the first place, I guess.

And we have, infinitely worse, the burning of mosques, vicious and violent attacks on Israeli soldiers by radicalized settlers and an emerging national debate as to whether (or when) the army is going to have to start shooting them. And our government? It’s tiptoeing around, doing nothing and saying little, its only genuine concern that the coalition not be weakened.

AH, THE joys of Jewish sovereignty, the nobility of Jewish independence. A.D. Gordon, Ahad Ha’am, Ze’ev Jabotinsky and David Ben-Gurion may have all disagreed in life, but now they have one thing in common – they are undoubtedly turning in their graves. That, by the way, was the real absurdity of those much-discussed ads begging Israelis abroad to come home. Those pot-shots at Jewish life in America (gratuitous and simplistic, a bit offensive and not entirely wrong) utterly missed the point – maybe those Israelis live in America because what’s unfolding in Israel is so thoroughly unappealing to them. Maybe they’ve noticed that back “home” in Israel the pockets of outrage against all of this violence and medievalism are tiny, virtually muted.

It’s Hanukka, our collective reminder that in an era of darkness, Jews struggle to create more light. Do those of us unafraid of cucumbers or mixed buses, those of us who believe that women serving their country ought to be able to sing, those of us who are ashamed of a country that takes only the feeblest action against Jews who do to mosques what anti- Semites did to our synagogues not that long ago, possess the courage of which this holiday is a reminder? Will we, like the Maccabees, take our country back before it’s too late?

It’s hard to know. So far, it seems we are so desperately afraid of our external enemies that we’ll support at all costs a government that just watches as the country rots from within.

At moments like this, it’s hard not to think about the Altalena affair. Tragic though it was, it was the defining moment at which Ben-Gurion made it clear to all that there would be one central authority in the Jewish state. Those who sought to subvert it would be treated in accordance with what they were – threats to the state’s very existence. One prays that some progress can be made here without the use of force. But if it cannot, it’s worth remembering that we once had a prime minister who knew what had to be done.

But then, of course, it’s been a very long time since we’ve had a leader with that character, that confidence, those deeply held commitments. These days, with Hanukka reminding us of the enormous power of convictions, it would be nice to have some leadership with any principles at all.

Daniel Gordis is president of the Shalem Foundation and senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. His latest book, Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War that May Never End (Wiley), won the 2009 National Jewish Book Award. His next book, The Promise of Israel: Why Its Seemingly Greatest Weakness is Actually Its Greatest Strength, will be published this August.

Responses to Gordis article:
Gordis, please give it up. There are real problems to be addressed like the foreign funded NGOs that subvert the state of Israel.

I normally look forward to Rabbi Gordis column with great anticipation but his effort published 12/23 was wrong on many counts.
First of all, Chief Rabbi Metzger is not a Chareidi. He was arguing, as is common in the Talmud, according to the opinion of the opposition. The Chareidim would no more take the opinion of the Chief Rabbi on the proper place of women than they would take the opinion of the Pope. What he was saying is even for your opinion, this enforced back of the bus policy is out of line.
As far as women singing in...
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Israel is a wonderful place where even Mr. Gordis, who plainly and routinely has no idea what he is talking about, can write a column for a serious newspaper. Indeed, what is really amazing is that the Jerusalem Post actually published this sanctimonious piece of nonsense.

Daniel Gordis used to be one of my favourite commentators. I think a leftist with the usual bankrupt leftist ideas has kidnapped him and is submitting articles in his place.

for heaven's sake: there are just a few bus routes that go into Haredi areas, where men and women prefer to be separate. I don't condone this and I don't agree with it. But NEITHER DOES THE GOVERNMENT!!! Rosa Parks was protesting against racist laws, which is why Tania Rosenbilt is no Rosa Parks.

As another poster has pointed out, nobody anywhere has said that women should not sing, or...
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