|Israel Resource Review
||25th April, 2007
Sources: Olmert won't respond because no Israelis killed
Rejects large military operation after Hamas attack, evidence of war preparations
Aaron Klein, Correspondent, WorldNetDaily.com
JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today decided against carrying out a large-scale offensive in the Gaza Strip in response to a massive Hamas rocket attack and attempted kidnapping yesterday because no Israelis were killed in the Hamas attack, according to senior defense sources here.
He rejected any large operation in Gaza despite mounting evidence that officials say indicates Hamas in Gaza is preparing for a large-scale conflict with Israel.
In the first rocket attack it claimed responsibility for in five months, Hamas yesterday fired 39 Qassam rockets and 79 mortars from the Gaza Strip aimed at nearby Jewish communities. The projectiles were meant to serve as a diversion as the group attempted to storm an Israeli military base on the Gaza border to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The Hamas kidnap attempt was thwarted. The attacks occurred as Israelis nationwide celebrated the country's Independence Day.
Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' co-called military wing, told WND yesterday a truce Hamas made with Israel in Gaza last November is "officially over." He threatened suicide bombings in Tel Aviv if Israel launched a raid into Gaza in response to today's attacks.
Normally after major terror attacks, the prime minister's office holds an immediate security cabinet meeting to determine Israel's response, but military sources said Olmert refused to call the cabinet meeting. They said, instead, Olmert held a cabinet meeting today.
According to sources familiar with the meeting, Olmert only authorized the Israel Defense Forces to carry out limited, surgical operations in Gaza aimed at preventing another attack despite growing signs Hamas is preparing for a large confrontation.
While defense officials say Olmert is hesitating to carry out harsh measures against Hamas, the prime minister's office today released a statement claiming "Israel will not hesitate to take harsh measures against those who try to harm its sovereignty by firing rockets into our territory, attempting attacks on soldiers, and (by) other means."
Military sources here labeled yesterday's Hamas attacks an "enormous escalation." They said there have been indications for months Hamas and other major Palestinian terror groups used the cease-fire to improve the range of their rockets, smuggle in mass quantities of weapons, construct underground bunkers and build guerrilla-like armies.
"The longer we wait to deal with the Gaza threat, the more costly an operation in Gaza will be," a top military source said. "Hamas has been preparing for confrontations."
But the sources said Olmert stated during the cabinet meeting he will not order a large operation, because no Israelis were killed during the attacks, in which deadly rockets were fired at Jewish civilian population centers near the Gaza Strip.
"There is a tendency to minimize rocket attacks if civilians aren't harmed or killed. This tendency is dangerous," said Noam Bedein, director of the Sderot Information Center, a media action organization focused on bringing attention to regular rocket attacks on Jewish towns near Gaza, including Sderot, a city of roughly 25,000 Jews about three miles from the Gaza Strip.
"It's a miracle when people aren't killed in these Palestinian rocket attacks; we're talking about sizable rockets packed with deadly shrapnel," Bedein told WND. "The citizens of Sderot and surrounding towns are traumatized. They live through an average of two rocket attacks per day. Their lives are completely disrupted."
In November, Israel agreed to a truce with Gaza militants in which the Jewish state vowed to suspend anti-terror operations in the Gaza Strip in exchange for quiet. Since then, more than 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza, but the IDF largely has restrained itself from operating in the territory.
Said Bedein: "There have been so many rocket attacks in Sderot. An official here used to put red dots on areas in Sderot where rockets landed, but he had to stop because there were so many red dots you just couldn't see the map anymore."
Last month, Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's General Security Services, warned the Knesset that Hamas was sending hundreds of Gaza-based militants to Iran for prolonged periods of advanced training. He announced smuggling of weaponry into Gaza from the neighboring Egyptian Sinai desert recently increased six-fold and that Palestinian terrorist groups were taking advantage of the cease-fire to enhance rockets and create a complex system of underground bunkers.
He said Palestinian advances during the cease-fire period would make it more difficult for the IDF to confront Gaza's terror infrastructure.
Earlier, Yoav Galant, chief of the IDF's Gaza-area division, told reporters the Gaza truce enabled Hamas to grow from a ragtag terror group into a well-organized militia resembling an army – complete with battalions, companies, platoons, special forces for surveillance, snipers and explosive experts.
Galant compared Hamas to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia which last summer engaged in 33-days of confrontations with the IDF, bombarding northern Israeli population centers with thousands of rockets.
Terror leaders admit copying Hezbollah
Three weeks after the November truce was forged, Palestinian terror leaders, including militants from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization, explained to WND they would use the cease-fire to create Hezbollah-like armies in the Gaza Strip.
"We are turning Gaza into south Lebanon," Abu Ahmed, northern Gaza leader for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group told WND, referring to the area in Lebanon in which Hezbollah built military bases and a large rocket infrastructure.
"We learned from Hezbollah's victory that Israel can be defeated if we know how to hit them and if we are well prepared," Abu Ahmed said. "We are importing rockets and the knowledge to launch them, and we are also making many plans for battle."
The Brigades, the declared military wing of Abbas' Fatah party, took responsibility along with the Islamic Jihad terror group, for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years.
Hamas' Abu Abdullah told WND in December his group is preparing for war against Israel.
"In the last 15 months, even though the fighters of Hamas kept the cease-fire, we did not stop making important advancements and professional training on the military level. In the future, after Hamas is obliged to stop the cease-fire, the world shall see our new military capabilities," said Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas' declared "resistance" department.
Al Aqsa's Abu Ahmed said his group is receiving help from Hezbollah to import long-range rockets and train in guerrilla warfare tactics.
"We have warm relations with Hezbollah, which helps with some of the training programs," Abu Ahmed said. "We don't have anything to be ashamed of – that we are dealing with Hezbollah and that we are receiving training and information from them."
He said Hezbollah maintains cells in the Sinai.
"The Sinai is an excellent ground for training, the exchange of information and weapons and for meetings on how to turn every piece of land into usable territory for a confrontation with Israel," Abu Ahmed said.
Palestinians establishing Gaza war bunkers
Abu Ahmed said Palestinian groups are developing war bunkers inside Gaza similar to the underground Hezbollah lairs Israel found during the war in Lebanon.
"Our preparations include the building of special bunkers. Of course, we are taking into consideration that Gaza is not the same topography as Lebanon," Abu Ahmed said in December.
During its confrontation with Hezbollah, Israel destroyed scores of complex bunkers that snaked along the Lebanese side of the Israel-Lebanon border. Military officials said they were surprised by the scale of the Hezbollah bunkers, in which Israeli troops reportedly found war rooms stocked with advanced eavesdropping and surveillance equipment they noted were made by Iran.
Abu Ahmed said the most important "tool" in the Palestinian resistance arsenal was rockets. He said his group learned from Hezbollah that Israel can be defeated with missiles.
"We saw that with the capacity to bombard the Israeli population with hundreds of rockets every day we can change the strategic balance with Israel," he said.
WND reported exclusively last month, Palestinian terror groups in Gaza claim they manufactured improved rockets that can travel deeper into the Jewish state, placing hundreds of thousands more Israelis within firing range of the Gaza Strip.
Abu Muhammad, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad terror group, which has been responsible for recent rocket-fire, vowed his organization would continue launching rockets deeper into the Jewish state.
He told WND Israel would be "very surprised and astonished soon by our rocket capacities. We will not abide by any cease-fire."
Are you a representative of the media who would like to interview the author of this story? Let us know.
This article ran on WND on April 25th, 2007 at http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55385
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Commetary: Post Independence Day Observations
Two pieces have come to my attention that I would like to share. The first is by Michael Freund, who, in "A Broom and a Flag," tells the story of Rabbi Avraham Yaakov, who had been the Rebbe of Sadigora and later came to Israel, where it was noticed that this pious rabbi was particularly joyous on Yom Ha'atzmaut. When he was asked why, he explained thus: He was in Vienna when the Nazis entered, and to humiliate the Jewish community, they gave him -- a learned rebbe -- a broom and ordered him to sweet the streets. While working, he looked to Heaven and said, "Master of the Universe, may I yet merit to sweep the streets of the Land of Israel." Then the Nazis gave him a large flag and forced him to raise it over a building. This time he intoned, "Master of the Universe, may I yet merit to raise the flag of Israel over a high place in the Land of Israel." When he came to Israel after the war, he was determined to fulfill his vision. And so, on Yom Ha'atzmaut, he rose very early, and went out and swept the street, and then raised an Israeli flag over his building.
"So the next time you find yourself down in the dumps, reading the newspapers and wondering about this country and its leadership - think back to the Rebbe of Sadigora, with a broom in one hand, a flag in the other, and a heart full of gratitude to G-d for the miracle that is the modern State of Israel."
To which I say, Amen.
Then there is an article, "On Spirit and Sacrifice," by JP Editorial Page Editor Saul Singer. Says Singer, "Contrary to popular belief, Zionism is not dead." He then proceeds to describe a situation that is best referred to here as "more good news about Israel." Saul's brother, Alex, made aliyah from the US after his college graduation, and subsequently was killed in Lebanon, 20 years ago. While in the army, he wrote to an American friend: "There are many things about this country which I truly hate. . . . But because I see this place as my home, I don't pile the cons on one side and the pros on the other, and decide whether it is 'worth' staying here. Home is home and it will take more than irritations to force me to leave. I want to make this place better." Saul expresses a desire to be able to show Alex projects that are going on now: "They recall his spirit, are worthy of his sacrifice, and would make him still feel at home."
And now back to my several descriptions of a situation that is less than lovely:
The news of the hour is that State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss today informed the attorney-general that Olmert may be guilty of criminal behavior because of his part in certain financial dealings. The alleged criminal behavior involves conflict of interest during the time that he was minister of commerce and industry and Uriel Messer -- Olmert's close friend, former partner and personal lawyer -- represented a company seeking funds from the ministry's investment center. According to a report just released by Lindenstrauss, Olmert -- instead of disqualifying himself -- sat in on meetings and pushed for a decision that was preferential, involving the sum of $10 million.
I'd like, for once, to see one of these charges -- this is hardly the first -- followed through with at least an indictment.
MK Aryeh Eldad (NU) is calling for a criminal investigation; MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) says there is no choice for Olmert except to suspend himself until this issue is resolved. The Knesset State Control Committee will be meeting to discuss the matter.
A gag order has, until now, been in place regarding the court investigation of matters involving former (recently resigned) MK Azmi Bishara. That order has now been partially lifted and it seems that he is suspected of transferring information to Hezbollah during the war last summer. Well then, of course he would not choose to be in the country at this time. MKs are looking into ways of preventing him from receiving his Knesset pension; there are rumors that he hopes to settle in Syria.
Said Bishara to al-Jazeera:
"This is not a matter of my personal conduct. This is an attempt to make our opinions a security offense or treason, as they call it, or other Israeli terms that we do not recognize. We have clear political opinions, one of my opinions was postponing their (Israel's) aggression during the first week of the war, and clarifying the plot on Lebanon - and this is a position that angered them. It joined other previous positions that made us a 'problem' for the Zionist establishment."
He is, you see, a misunderstood man. Helping Israel's enemy during the war isn't treason, it's just a matter of his having a right to his own opinions.
Of a piece with Bishara's statement is this from Maan, an official PA news agency:
"The Palestinian Prime Minister's office has denied reports in the Israeli media of the existence of tunnels for smuggling sophisticated weapons to the Palestinian territories and the presence of Iranians in the Gaza Strip.
"The office said in a statement that these claims are part of the Israeli policy of finding excuses to practice aggressive policies on the Palestinian people."
Don't you love it?
In Rome, where Abbas met with the Italian prime minister, he declared that the barrage of rockets that hit Israel yesterday was a "one-time violation of the truce."
Right now the Palestinians are more than a bit afraid of "aggression" that may come their way in Gaza.
The IDF plans to ask Olmert to approve a pinpoint operation inside of Gaza aimed at Hamas terrorist chiefs and infrastructure.
According to some analysts, while he is waiting for release of the Winograd report on his conduct of the Lebanon war, Olmert feels constrained with regard to ordering a major attack in Gaza -- although I frankly see no evidence that he would be predisposed in any event.
Head of the IDF Southern Command, Gen. Yoav Galant, states that he believes a major operation is inevitable because of Hamas's on-going attacks and military build-up. A man with forthright courage, in my opinion, he would rather see this sooner than later. According to a piece in today's Haaretz, preparation for an operation is going on right now on an extremely significant scale.
Israel, however, is much more likely to act after a terrorist attack that has been successful. It provides justification, goes the political thinking; if an attempt is unsuccessful, it's as if nothing happened and we run the risk of looking like the aggressor. I have long mourned this mind-set, which, in essence, waits for some Jews to die before we take the action that will prevent more from dying. I pray for the day when we will have leaders with enough national self-esteem, enough sense of being in the right, that they are willing to take pre-emptive actions to save Jewish lives.
Things are going along as smoothly as ever within the PA unity gov't. After only five weeks in office, PA Interior Minister Hani Kawassmeh attempted to resign yesterday; Haniyeh has now gotten him to agree to wait until next week.
Kawassmeh's alleged complaint is that his security plan, which would restore law and order, was being thwarted by key members of Fatah, notably Abu Shabak and Muhammad Dahlan. Hamas officials said that Shabak had given instructions to the security forces to ignore Kawassmen's orders. But Fatah officials denied this, saying that Kawassmeh's resignation was in protest because he didn't think the PA security forces should be involved in stopping Kassam launchings. One official thought it a "ploy" to blame Fatah for the chaos.
It's only a matter of time . . .
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info
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Palestinian Authority (PA) Cheerleading Increasing Terror Attacks
Dr. Michael Widlanski
Palestinian terrorists staged a massive series of rocket and mortar attacks along Israel's southern border in an apparent attempt to abduct another Israeli soldier, and Israeli army officers renewed their calls for a major Israeli retaliatory strike into Gaza.
"The ceasefire has been over for some time," announced Abu Zubeida, the spokesman for the Hamas Islamic terror organization, and he explained that his organization was behind the more than 80 mortar and rocket impact points stretching from Sufa Junction on the Egyptian border to the Israeli port city of Ashkelon, south of Tel Aviv.
Abu Zubeida, speaking with a green mask on his face, told a press conference that Hamas wanted to force Israel to release hundreds of convicted Palestinian terrorists, but this position has also been supported by the Fatah organization of Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the PLO.
Through its press statements and propaganda messages, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been cheerleading the increasing terror attacks of the last three weeks in Gaza and the West Bank, and this same approach was evident after today's attack.
"This is not a Palestinian problem but an Israeli problem because of the general Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people," declared PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyyeh, who is also a leader of Hamas.
There have been more than half a dozen shooting attacks on Israelis in the West Bank in the last week, and the tempo of rocket fire and mortar attacks from Gaza has increased steadily over the past month.
Official Palestinian broadcast media have sharply increased anti-Israeli propaganda in recent days, including explicit and implicit calls for suicide attacks on Israeli civilians and kidnappings of Israeli soldiers.
"Oh, Lord, martyrdom is [being done] for you," crooned a singer, while pictures of prominent Palestinian women suicide bombers, clad in white, floated beatifically across the screen.
It was part of a music video aired Sunday on the PBC television network under the direct control of Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority leader. The same video had appeared in the past, but had disappeared after protests from Israel and the United States, but it has now returned, and it is not alone.
Voice of Palestine radio, also controlled by Dr. Abbas and his Fatah movement, have resumed regular airing of the song "Felastin Arabiyyeh" - Palestine is Arab - which includes specific praise for "martyrs" acting against "the cowardly enemy."
And the broadcasts of PBC television and V.O.P. radio have for the last month left no doubt who that enemy is. It is Israel, which is increasingly called "al-'udu al-sihiyouni" (The Zionist Enemy) or "al-kayaan al-sihyouni" (The Zionist Entity) or simply "al-'udu" - The Enemy.
"The only language the enemy understands is force," declared several different members of Abbas' Palestinian Authority cabinet in broadcasts dedicated to "The Day of the Prisoner" in the last three days.
While PLO Chairman Abbas has told Israeli officials and American officials that he is working for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Palestinian officials appearing before Palestinian audiences say that the Palestinians are entitled to use the "Zionist soldier" [Arabic-al-jundi al-sihyouni] to extricate thousands of convicted Arab terrorists from Israeli jails.
Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns in the Negev, such as on Sunday and Saturday, are ignored in the Palestinian media, while Israeli strikes at the rocket launchers or terrorists trying to infiltrate bombs into Israeli cities are regularly condemned as "aggression," and the terrorists are lauded as "martyrs" and noble citizens.
"Nine more martyrs reached the heavens in the last 48 hours," observed Voice of Palestinian radio, referring, in part, to a rocket crew that had attacked the Israeli town of Sderot, destroying a house.
"These are crimes against humanity," declared Dr. Mustapha Barghouthi, the PA information minister, in a statement to the foreign press, referring to the Israeli "assassination" of members of the rocket crew in Gaza and armed terrorists in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Jenin.
There are also indications that mosque speeches broadcast by the PA media are turning back to the anti-Semitic themes which regularly appeared during the leadership of Yasser Arafat and the early leadership of Abbas, and it seems there is scant difference between the messages of Abbas' Fatah movement and the Hamas movement.
In a mosque speech on March 30, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan explicitly called for killing Jews, during a Friday prayer address at the Sheikh Zayad Bin-Sultan mosque in Gaza, citing a Hadith - or oral tradition - attributed to Muhammad, Islam's founder:
"The Day of Judgment will not arrive until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, until the Jew hides behind the stones and the trees; and each stone or tree will say: Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him; except for the gharqad, which is the tree of the Jews."
The upsurge in official Palestinian hate messages against Israelis dovetails with a sharp rise in rocket attacks and attempted suicide bomb attacks against Israeli targets.
A Palestinian truck bomb laden with more than 100 kilograms of explosives blew up accidentally in the West Bank town of Qalqilya early this month, after the suicide bomber drove into Tel Aviv and returned for no apparent reason, according to Israeli security officials.
Israeli forces subsequently arrested 19 members of the Hamas movement that was allegedly behind the planned attack.
Israeli Army intelligence reported that during the second half of March, there was an increase in the number of rockets fired at Israeli settlements in the western Negev (22 confirmed rocket strikes), following a relative reduction in attacks of the first two weeks of March (12 confirmed rocket impact points).
Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics, terror and communication who has served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.
This piece ran in the Philadelphia Bulletin on April 25th, 2007
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Hamas Launches Missile Attacks On Israel's Independence Day: World Surprises Israel And Recognizes Hamas Government
Published on April 25th 2007 in the Philadelphia Bulletin:
Jerusalem, Israel - The Palestinian-operated Ma'an news agency reported yesterday that Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority, took responsibility for launching more than 80 missiles into the Israeli communities that border Gaza during Israel's Independence Day, which this year was observed yesterday, April 24. Hamas claimed direct hits on the city of Ashkelon, located just north of Gaza.
Over the past year since Hamas assumed power in the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has rarely taken credit for missile attacks on Israel. In the spring of 2004, the Israeli army killed the leaders of Hamas at the time, Achmed Yassin and Abdilaziz Al-Rantissi, after these Hamas leaders took credit for terror attacks against Israel.
Ma'an news agency also reports that the An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), fired two missiles, said that at the kibbutz Kerem Shalom, located southeast of Rafah on the border point between the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Israel. The Al-Quds brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa brigades, the main armed wing of Fatah, chaired by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, also claimed responsibility for launching missiles at a number of the Israeli city of Sderot.
The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Israel's military has warned of a major attack against Palestinian insurgency strongholds in the Gaza Strip.
"Six years of turning a blind eye have ended, and from now on, no one will be immune. We will operate across the border," declared Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz during a ceremony commemorating Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism for Memorial Day, speaking in his home town , the missile-battered city of Sderot.
Throughout Israeli Independence Day, Israeli fighter-jets patrolled the air space over the Gaza Strip and dropped leaflets around major cities. The leaflets warned that the Israeli army would invade the Gaza Strip unless Palestinians ended their missile strikes on Israel immediately.
The Bulletin has asked the Israel Ministry of Defense as to whether current Hamas leaders of the Palestinian Authority will now face a similar fate that Yassin and Rantissi suffered three years ago, since Israel faced no international outcry after the Israeli army put the previous leaders of Hamas to death.
Published April 24th, 2007 in the Philadelphia Bulletin:
Jerusalem - One of the cardinal assumptions of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was that the world would not recognize a government headed by Hamas. She had been proven wrong, because Mahmoud Abbas has successfully sold the idea to the world, since he is the figurehead leader of that government.
Last Thursday, Abbas met with the Swedish prime minister in Stockholm. Following the meeting, Abbas said that he found that there was a positive atmosphere that tended toward lifting the economic siege on the Palestinian government. Saeb Erekat, the director of negotiations in the Palestinian Authority, said last week that the PLO recently signed an agreement with SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, that the latter would donate $25 million in aid to the Palestinian people in addition to the aid that Sweden transfers to the Palestinian people by means of UNRWA and other international organizations.
Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr said last week that a number of countries, like France, Spain and Norway, intend to normalize their relations with the Palestinian government.
Different voices are beginning to be heard in the United States as well.
While the U.S. administration is prevented by law from helping a government that is headed by a member of Hamas, which was defined by the United States as a terrorist organization, a spokeswoman for the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem said last week that financial relations with the PLO were not a violation of American law. She was referring to the possibility that the United States might take steps against the PLO similar to the ones being taken against the Hamas government, particularly in light of the recent
Palestinian efforts to revive the PLO and the possibility of placing Hamas and Islamic Jihad under the PLO umbrella.
Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayad met last Wednesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington to discuss the financial restrictions currently placed on the Palestinian government.
Following the meeting, Fayad said that the secretary of state was understanding of the government's needs to manage its banking affairs without restrictions in order to ensure transparency. Fayad said that the minimum sum the Palestinian government needed to get through 2007 was $ 1.8 billion.
Yet the U.S. government behaves as if this is not a Hamas government, when that is exactly what it is.
Nasrallah's Deputy: Negotiations Only For A Prisoner Exchange
The Hezbollah secretary-general's deputy announced during a Hezbollah event in Beirut that serious negotiations were being held for the release of Israeli hostages Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. He said that the two would only be released in exchange for the release of all Lebanese prisoners imprisoned in Israel, including the murderer of the Haran family from Nahariya, the terrorist Samir Kuntar.
Israeli officials confirm that there are indeed significant talks, but say that a breakthrough is still far off.
Sheikh Naim Kassem, who serves as Hassan Nasrallah's deputy, spoke in a mosque in Lebanon at an event marking the 28th anniversary of the incarceration of Kuntar, who has been serving his sentence in an Israeli prison. He was sentenced to 542 years in prison for the brutal murders of Smadar Haran's husband and her two small children in Nahariya in 1979.
Kassem emphasized that the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers Goldwasser and Regev would only be released in exchange for the release of all Lebanese prisoners imprisoned in Israel. In the past, Israeli governments have opposed the release of Kuntar as long as no real information is received on the fate of missing navigator Ron Arad.
"The negotiations are serious, and when they bring results we will announce it," said Kassem. "We have agreed not to publish any details about the negotiations in order to ensure their success."
Upon the end of the Second Lebanon War, the U.N. called to release the soldiers unconditionally. Hezbollah Secretary-General Nasrallah, however, made it clear that the Israeli soldiers would only be released in a prisoner exchange deal.
Israel refused to negotiate the matter directly with Hezbollah, and ultimately agreed to hold negotiations with U.S. mediation. Last September, a U.N. envoy arrived in the region and began the mediation work. Since the indirect negotiations began, Hezbollah has not released any information on the fate of the soldiers and has not provided any sign of life from them.
Kassem said Sunday that he hoped that the indirect negotiations with Israel would end in a quick and positive manner. "We are committed to the release of our prisoners, in any deal that is signed. We are optimistic that the Israelis will ultimately agree to this. No other solution is possible for the topic of the prisoners except for a mutual exchange, which will include the release of Samir Kuntar," said Kassem and was roundly applauded. Among those present at the mosque were also Kuntar's mother and relatives. Kassem's statements Sunday are opposed to the statements made by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about a month ago during a visit to Lebanon. Ban voiced disappointment at the "lack of progress in release of Israeli soldiers."
Israeli officials confirmed that significant talks are being held for the release of the soldiers, but asserted that a breakthrough is still far off. The talks are being conducted through an international mediator acting on behalf of Ki-moon. From Israel's side, the person in charge of the negotiations is Ofer Dekel, who serves as the coordinator of the issue of POWs and MIAs. The talks have focused so far on Hezbollah's demand that Israel pay a price for a sign of life from the soldiers, but Israel has rejected this condition.
Syria Deploys Iranian Missiles
The Middle East NewsLine confirms that Syria deployed an Iranian-origin cruise missile.
Israeli Military sources said Syria has obtained and deployed the Iranian version of the Chinese-origin C-802 anti-ship missile. They said the missile was used successfully by Hezbollah during the war against Israel in mid-2006.
"Syria has ordered scores, if not hundreds, of such missiles," a military source said. "The C-802 would keep the Israel Navy away from the Syrian coast in any future war."
The C-802 employs a small turbojet engine and contains a range of more than 70 miles. The missile could be launched from aircraft, ships, submarines and land-based vehicles.
Iran imported the C-802 from China in the 1990s and began developing an advanced variant in cooperation with North Korea. A C-802 variant named "Spear" was produced and delivered to Hezbollah and Syria.
The firing of the C-802 marked a surprise for Israel's navy. At least one Israeli small corvette was struck by the missile and heavily damaged in July 2006. An Egyptian merchant ship was also struck by the missile.
The sources said the military has assessed that Syria was procuring a range of Iranian-, Chinese-, North Korean- and Russian-origin missiles for any future war against Israel. They said Syria has been rebuilding its army and navy with stand-off weapons.
These piece ran in the Philadelphia Bulletin on April 25th, 2007 and April 24th, 2007
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HIAS Calls for CNN to Fire Lou Dobbs After Comparisons to Nazis
Hias Press Release
New York City - HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which has helped
more than 4.5 million people in its 125-year history, is calling for the
dismissal of Lou Dobbs, the CNN personality, who on Monday suggested
that immigrant rights groups use propaganda tactics reminiscent of the
"Comparisons to Nazis - especially in this day and age - are abhorrent,"
said Gideon Aronoff, president and CEO of HIAS. "Mr. Dobbs has crossed
the line between responsible television commentary and hate speech
propaganda of his own. Keeping him on the air is essentially
sanctioning by CNN - which is why we're asking CNN to remove Dobbs from
his very public platform."
Referring to immigration advocates and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom,
Dobbs said, "They might as well work for Hermann Goering; I mean,
they're running so much propaganda, trying to confuse the debate, the
national dialogue, by talking about immigrants rather than illegal
aliens and legal immigrants. It's mindless beyond belief."
(It is not clear whether Dobbs actually meant Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels , rather than
Goering - who was actually commander of the Nazi Air Force - the
Luftwaffe - and who was the highest ranking government official who
issued written authorization for the Holocaust) In a weekend speech,
Mayor Newsom reiterated San Francisco's policy of not assisting federal
officials with immigration-related raids.
Aronoff says the Jewish community should be particularly concerned about
Mr. Dobb's comments. "Comprehensive immigration reform should involve a
civil, national conversation that includes the American people and
professionals who actually work with refugees, asylum-seekers and
immigrants; make policy, or both - not dominated by TV blowhards, whose
raison d'etre is entertainment. Setting himself up as an arbiter of
common sense may make for amusing television, but it is insulting to the
serious matter of immigration reform."
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An Opium Market Mystery
Antonio Maria Costa
Something strange is going on in the global opium market, and it could spell trouble.
Opium is a commodity -- an illegal commodity, but it should still be subject to the normal rules of supply and demand.
Annual demand for opium is approximately 4,500 tons. Last year a record 6,100 tons were produced in Afghanistan alone. That country's production is 30 percent more than total world demand. Heroin prices should, in theory, be plummeting. But they are not. So what is going on?
Does opium defy the laws of economics? Historically, no. In 2001, prices surged tenfold from 2000, to a record high, after the Taliban all but eliminated opium poppy cultivation across the Afghan territory under its control. So why, with last year's bumper crop, is the opposite not occurring? Early estimates suggest that opium cultivation is likely to increase again this year. That should be an added incentive to sell.
Yet prices seem to be resilient. The (unweighted) national average price of dry opium at the farm gate in Afghanistan is dropping, but not significantly -- it was $125 per kilo in December 2006 compared with $150 per kilo a year earlier. Prices differ across the country, not surprisingly, since Afghanistan is not a unified territory or market, even for opium. But overall, the drop in prices is modest when compared with the massive increase in opium production, 50 percent, in 2006.
Heroin prices on the streets of Western Europe are also relatively steady, although the drug's purity is going up -- a telltale sign of greater availability.
Are farmers stockpiling the drug? Unlikely. Opium, unlike cocaine, has a long shelf life and can be stored as a form of saving, a source of liquidity and as collateral for credit. But why would poor farmers sit on more than $1 billion worth of stock when they are struggling to make ends meet and common sense suggests that prices could easily fall?
An alternative hypothesis is that new heroin markets may be emerging somewhere we do not yet know about, perhaps in Asia. But if new markets were absorbing a 1,500-ton surplus, we would expect an increase in seizures of the drug and overdoses in these countries. That hasn't been happening.
So where is it? I fear there may be a more sinister explanation for why the bottom has not fallen out of the opium market: Major traffickers are withholding significant amounts.
Drug traffickers have a symbiotic relationship with insurgents and terrorist groups such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Instability makes opium cultivation possible; opium buys protection and pays for weapons and foot soldiers, and these in turn create an environment in which drug lords, insurgents and terrorists can operate with impunity.
Opium is the glue that holds this murky relationship together. If profits fall, these sinister forces have the most to lose. I suspect that the big traffickers are hoarding surplus opium as a hedge against future price shocks and as a source of funding for future terrorist attacks, in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
What can be done? Since NATO forces are wary of making enemies out of opium farmers by being associated with eradication, and since the Afghan government is opposed to spraying poppy fields, rounding up the major traffickers may be the best available option for disrupting Afghanistan's lucrative opium market.
Another step in the right direction would be to draw up a list of most-wanted traffickers involved in the Afghan drug trade. These criminals would be subject to international arrest warrants, asset freezes, travel bans and, where appropriate, extradition to face justice.
More could also be done to find and destroy opium storage facilities and heroin labs. This is by no means easy, but interdiction at the source is always more effective than trying to catch drug shipments dispersed into smaller units and smuggled across mountain passes and deserts.
Afghanistan's neighbors are either accomplices or victims in the opium trade, so they need to be part of the solution. They could, for example, improve intelligence-sharing and border security to ensure that more opium is seized. At the moment, less than a quarter of the world's opium is intercepted, compared with around half of global cocaine output.
But even if the surplus is tracked down and destroyed, and even if law enforcement efforts improve, interdiction alone will not solve Afghanistan's opium problem. More needs to be done to wean farmers off illicit crops, especially by giving them sustainable alternative sources of income.
Most important, the consuming countries need to get serious about curbing drug addiction. If there was less demand for heroin, the bottom really would fall out of the opium market.
The author is executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Tis piece ran in the Washington Post of April 25th, 2007
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Senior Editor of Israel TV Channel One comments on BBC Tendentiousness
I learned the name of a British citizen, one Steven Sugar, after following the battle that he is waging (on my behalf as well, as an Israeli citizen who seeks the good of his country) against the BBC. Sugar is a Jewish jurist who lives in London, pays a license fee and is a listener and spectator who is troubled by the hostile attitude towards Israel that he discovered in the BBC broadcasts. Of course, Sugar is not the only one who believes that the BBC is not balanced in its treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet Sugar stood up and took action.
Recently, the managers of the BBC decided to hold a self-examination,
in order to see if there is any truth in the complaints that the
broadcasts are biased against Israel. A investigative committee was
formed consisting of one person, Malcolm Balen. Balen, an editorial
adviser to the BBC, examined tens of thousands of broadcast transcripts,
and authored a report of about 20,000 words on the attitude towards
Israel in the broadcasts. The BBC, however, has been waging a
persistent war against the publication of the report, versus Attorney
Sugar, who demands that it be published.
As far as we know, the BBC's legal battle to shelve the Balen report
has cost approximately GBP 200,000 of British taxpayers' funds. Is it
the role of a journalistic body in a democratic country to shelve or to
publicize? And what does the Balen report contain? Did the
investigator reach the conclusion that the BBC's broadcasts are biased
against Israel? Or did he find no fault in the journalistic reports
about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
"The BBC is a public body, which is financed by the British public.
I want to know what is in the Balen report," Steven Sugar said to us in
a conversation from London. A final legal decision on the fate of the
public disclosure of the Balen report is expected in the coming days.
But either way, what kind of "journalistic integrity" can be expected
from Britain's journalists these days? Britain's National Union of
Journalists (NUJ), which includes some 40,000 journalists, recently
passed a decision calling for a boycott of Israel due to its "aggression
in the Second Lebanon War." Just so, as if Israel's citizens were not
attacked in this war by thousands of rockets fired from Lebanon's
sovereign territory, while a million Israeli civilians were forced into
shelters in the north.
The press in Israel is still debating the Second Lebanon War and its
outcome, in a spirit of freedom, even in days of emergency and war. And
the British press salutes-as implied by its decision to boycott
Israel-the freedom of press that is in effect in Syria, in Sudan, in
Saudi Arabia, everything but the freedom of the press in Israel. The
term "ridiculous" does not even begin to describe the British decision.
But in the NUJ decision, the journalists of Britain are harming only
themselves and their credibility, and are shooting themselves in the
foot. How can a British reader, not to mention his counterpart in
Israel, trust what is written and broadcasted from now on in Britain
about the Middle East conflict? Are the winds of boycotting Israel not
blowing in the British Isles, and among the journalists there?
We can look even father and recall the boycott decisions made by the
academic lecturers in Britain, the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in
this country, and now the BBC's war for shelving the Balen report.
Britain, even by means of its official spokespersons, does not have
to excuse, explain or even apologize, since these are not governmental
measures. But to the Israeli citizen, I believe, it is all clear and
open. Once, when the undersigned warned of such phenomena and similar
ones in Britain, out of a sense of sincere and profound disappointment,
a very sharp but accurate headline was given to those lines: "Brits,
We're Sick of You." Former British ambassador to Israel Simon McDonald
was very annoyed, and expressed his displeasure on these pages. But
this headline, "Brits, We're Sick of You," can also be repeated today.
Wouldn't you say so, Mr. Current British ambassador?
----- End forwarded message -----
This article was orginally published in Ma'ariv on April 25th 2007
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