|Israel Resource Review
||13th December, 2007
Senior Policy Analyst, Center For Near East Policy Research
Posting: December 13, 2007
"When Does It Get Better?"
"The resignation of Sderot's mayor constitutes a great victory for the Palestinian resistance. This is a political victory, a victory for morale, it adds to the humiliation we are heaping upon the Zionist army in the field. The man who threatened to wipe Beit Hanoun off the map and called upon the Israeli military to do just that was himself wiped off the Israeli public map today" crowed Muhammad Abd al-'Al, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, yesterday, in a statement to YNet.
It's painful, and hard to refute. And I hold the gov't of Israel directly responsible.
Al-'Al said the aim of the rockets was not so much to inflict physical harm as to destroy Israeli morale. He claims that the rockets that were fired yesterday are part of the new arsenal of weapons that has been acquired.
Responding to the situation, Russian billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak has now said he will invest 90 million shekels in fortifying homes in Sderot; secure rooms will be provided in 600 homes.
Gaydamak has been involved before in assistance to the people of Sderot, and there has been the likely well-founded observation that there is a bit that is politically self-serving in his generosity. But, at this point, so what, if he helps the people badly in need of assistance. What actually happened previously was that he served in some degree as a spur to the gov't, embarrassing them into doing more. Hopefully this may happen again -- a total of 1,200 homes need to be secured.
The US Congressional Research Service , which provides independent analysis to Congress, cites "reputable sources" with regard to the likelihood that North Korea may have given arms and possibly training to Hezbollah.
The Service refers to Paris Intelligence Online , a French Internet publication specializing in political and economic intelligence, which in September 2006 had published details of an extensive North Korean program to give arms and training to Hezbollah.
The program was initiated in the 1980s , when Hezbollah members traveled to North Korea for training; after 2000, North Koreans were dispatched to Lebanon to train Hezbollah members in the building of bunkers.
Paris Intelligence Online said this training "significantly improved Hezbollah's ability to fight the Israelis" during the war last year.
Additionally the Congressional Research Service cited a report indicating that Mosad intelligence believes that "vital missile components" used by Hezbollah came from North Korea.
I offer here from international sources examples of the bias against Israel -- the assumption that Israel is always responsible:
First, the World Bank. It has approved the PA economic reform plan that requires an infusion of $5.8 billion from 2008-2010. I wrote about this yesterday, explaining that the PA has promised economic reform for 13 years now, but has never delivered, instead refusing to staunch corruption or assume genuine fiscal responsibility. But does the World Bank address corruption, the issue of a bloated payroll, the hand-out mentality, etc. etc.? Not on your life.
What does the World Bank say? The money will not stem economic decline . . . unless Israel also eases Palestinian movement and trade.
Then there's Tony Blair. Addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday, he said that Israel faced a "nightmare" after pulling out of Gaza. He understands this better now than he did when he was British prime minister, and he realizes that Israel would hesitate to pull out of the West Bank now.
But does he follow by saying that we should sit tight while work is done to make the PA stronger from a security perspective? Of course not! He says in spite of our anxieties we should move towards pulling out anyway.
And there's the EU, naturally . On Tuesday they issued a statement noting "with concern" Israeli plans for construction "in the Har Homa settlement [settlement??] in east Jerusalem. The EU considers that this initiative might undermine ongoing efforts in the search for peace . . . " Did you read an expression of concern about the launching of rockets at the civilians in Sderot undermining the search for peace? I sure didn't.
There are few institutions more biased against Israel than the UN. Yesterday I wrote about the good feeling in the Israeli mission to the UN regarding the very first Israeli inspired resolution not involving the Holocaust or the Arab-Israel conflict to pass in that body, and pointed out that the Arabs -- and in particular the PA mission -- remained hostile.
But it turns out there's more to be said on this matter: Richard Schifter, former deputy US representative in the UN Security Council, writing in the Post, has expressed the opinion that the UN has not become less anti-Israel, but rather that a good face is being put on matters by the Israeli mission, which has learned to better navigate the system.
Schifter's litany of UN anti-Israel measures is blood-curdling:
"The UN General Assembly continues to pay more attention to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict than to any other country-specific issue. The world's worst atrocities and humanitarian crises are ignored, but time is always available for Israel-bashing . . . the UN's Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Human Rights Practices filed a 27-page report castigating Israel and focusing special attention on the security barrier. 'More than ever,' the report claims, 'it appeared to the Committee members that the construction of the separation wall violated every single human right of the Palestinians.'"
Perhaps most incredible: "The General Assembly also had before it a report from the secretary-general which purported to be evenhanded but was studded with comments slanted against Israel. Thus, Prime Minister Sharon's 'political courage' and the PA's 'responsible behavior' were lauded, but that was followed by the complaint that Israel had withdrawn from Gaza without demolishing the synagogues of Gush Katif. 'The buildings were thus passed unexpectedly to the Palestinian Authority, which was not in a position to protect them,' said the report."
"[Some] resolutions . . . continue to authorize an anti-Israel propaganda apparatus that flies the UN flag, is paid for by the UN, and operates worldwide. Leadership of this propaganda apparatus is vested in the Division for Palestinian Rights, located in the UN Secretariat.
"This UN-sponsored anti-Israel propaganda effort, which has encouraged the divestment and academic boycott campaigns, appears to have operated below the radar screen of many observers, perhaps even the government of Israel. Its detrimental effect on the peace process has, however, been fully recognized by the US."
In my last posting I quoted Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, with regard to the fact that a ground incursion into Gaza would be necessary to stop the terrorism.
Seems Defense Minister Barak spoke at the same conference where Ashkenazi made his comments. Regrettably, Barak spoke not as a military man, but rather as a politician, calling the situation in Sderot "difficult and complicated." The "complication," of course, is negotiations with the PA.
"We know that this is a mission we haven't accomplished yet, and the road ahead is still very long. This is a solution that requires sound judgment and responsibility, the situation isn't simple and I hope it will not come to a point where we are forced to do that which, for now, we do not want to do."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has recently made comments about the need for NATO involvement in Gaza if we are to make major concessions, and this philosophy has been seconded by Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu). But this is a recipe for disaster. For this robs Israel of the right to defend herself and avoids the issue of making the PA responsible for security in its territory.
For a cogent analysis of the pitfalls, see Dr.Aaron Lerner:
In an interview yesterday, Sec. of State Rice said that President Bush will be taking a much more active role: " . . . he very much wants to signal support for the bilateral process between the parties and to continue in a hands-on way to encourage them to move forward."
There are many topics that I would like to share with my readers, but that keep getting tabled because of more urgent matters. Let me make room for some of them here.
I begin with an issue that , in its larger implications, is of considerable significance:
Most of you have read about the British school teacher working in Khartoum, Sudan, who allowed her seven year old students to call their Teddy bear Muhammad. When she was arrested for allowing "insult" to the name of the Prophet, mobs outside the jail called for her execution. She was released only after two Muslim British peers flew to Sudan to intervene.
This is a ghastly scenario , and one that is not unfamiliar. Remember the riots over cartoons.
What caught my attention, however , is the way the teacher, Lillian Gibbons, described as a kindly woman, responded after she was released and on her way home. If it was me, I think I would have lambasted that country to the moon and back. But that is not politic. No criticism is politic. What she said was: "I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone. I am sorry if I caused any distress." She didn't even remark on HER distress, which undoubtedly was considerable.
One of the Muslim peers, a Lord Ahmed , commented, "We hope that British aid to Sudan continues and that relations between our two countries will not be damaged by this incident — in fact, this should be a way to strengthen relations."
This is nauseating. Have the British no dignity these days, do they see fit only to grovel? One article I read described this as cultural jihad, and it rings true. Everyone is afraid to offend the Muslims, no matter how they behave. And this portends a very dangerous state of affairs.
Ruth Wisse has written an articl e in the Harvard Crimson called "How Much Land is Enough." She makes several excellent points but I wish to quote just one here: The ratio of Arab to Jewish land in the Middle East is 640:1. Makes one sit up and take notice.
Seven years ago, there was a horrible lynching of two IDF soldiers in Ramallah, when they ended up there by mistake. Most of you surely remember this chilling event, with a lyncher raising bloodied hands from a window of the police station in a sign of victory.
Well, it has taken seven years, but the last of those involved has been caught. This is first, a matter of justice and retribution. But it also a form of deterrent -- that those conducting themselves with such inhumanity know we'll get them. Catching them is part of the Israeli code.
The terrorist, Hayman Zaban, by the way , is with Tanzim, which is part of Fatah.
According to the Palestinian Maan news agency , the PA wants to provide one time payments of $5,000 to the families of Palestinians who have served in Israeli prisons for 20 years or more. Those who are imprisoned for lengthy periods have usually killed Israelis.
A few days ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak came up with an idea to entice settlers into leaving by offering them money, so they wouldn't have to be forced out. What he had in mind were the 70,000 settlers on the far side of the security fence. Well, a poll subsequently taken shows that 76% of the settlers wouldn't leave because of money.
This last item might be called a joke , but it tells us some painful things about where American Jewry is coming from. Just a few weeks ago, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations announced that Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. have agreed to head a committee organizing events to celebrate Israel's 60th. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the organization, called this a "great honor." My response: You have GOT to be kidding.
Bill Clinton is at least perceived as a friend of Israel . But in fact he did Israel considerable damage, first by courting Arafat in a way that absolved him of responsibility for his behavior (setting a precedent that lives to this day) and then by pushing Israeli concessions in a last minute rush to achieve "peace" while he was office, even as he knew that the Palestinians wouldn't honor their commitments (a la Bush Jr. now). This is something Clinton's special envoy, Dennis Ross, later admitted.
And Bush Sr.? He was never a friend to Israel in any respect. His cadre of advisers, starting with James Baker, was decidedly and rudely anti-Israel.
There was no one else available?
Posting: December 12, 2007
Pathetic isn't even a strong enough word. Disgusting? Sickening?
I am referring to the situation in which we find ourselves, in good part by virtue of the decisions of our government.
Today the Security Cabinet recommended that a major military operation into Gaza not be held.
The reason given is because there is evidence that the limited forays and targeted killings by the IDF in Gaza are having an effect. Figures were provided: 115 forays into Gaza in the course of 2007 with 270 Palestinian terrorists killed. Lately Barak has permitted forays that were more "proactive" in nature, it was said. In fact, just yesterday there was a major (limited) action utilizing bulldozers and tanks, one kilometer into southern Gaza -- between Khan Yunis and Rafah, that killed 10 and wounded more. This was supposed to reduce the launching of rockets at us.
But the REAL reason that we're not having that major operation is because it will kill the "peace talks." Fatah has already said that if we go in they'll fight in Gaza alongside Hamas. So that would be the end of that. Rice would be very unhappy -- unhappy with us.
Besides which, data on a reduction of Kassams shot at us or on the relatively small numbers killed are beside the point -- a tiny band-aid on a gaping wound. For there is continual stockpiling of increasingly sophisticated weapons brought in from Egypt, which are stored in bunkers; there is improvement in the Kassams so they may be stored longer and soon will put 250,000 people and sensitive sites in Ashkelon within range; and there is training by the Iranians of a Hamas army of some 15,000 -- already divided into specialized divisions. What is a limited foray and the murder of 10 people in the face of this? What does it matter if they stop shooting Kassams completely for the moment?
For shame! That this would be ignored, especially after our experience with Hezbollah and the intelligence about what we're going to be facing with Gaza. We have been warned by defense officials that delay in acting against this threat is dangerous.
And what is reaction to this decision? Does Rice praise us for forbearance in the face of danger for the sake of peace? Of course not. She's too busy saying that we're putting the "peace process" at risk by planning construction of 300 housing units in Jerusalem within municipal boundaries.
And the Palestinians? They said they wanted the talks, to start in Jerusalem today on procedural matters, to be "low key" with no photo ops, in protest of our operations in Gaza. Not in protest, if truth be told, but because it serves them badly in the Palestinian street to be seen with Israelis. Keep it out of people's minds as much as possible.
Please understand what this means: Even if Fatah were moderate (which they are not), it is the Hamas agenda that rules the day. Hamas has been pressuring Fatah not to sit at the table with us.
There is, of course, not the slightest PA nod towards our forbearance, never mind an expression of appreciation for it so that the talks could go on. Nor is there the remotest acknowledgement that it's wrong to propel rockets at our civilians and that we must protect ourselves. It's all our fault, you see.
I ask you, is this not a ludicrous and untenable situation? It could be seen coming from a mile away. How can there be negotiations when Abbas is tied to Hamas in Gaza (having negotiations with Hamas, actually) and shows them allegiance, but doesn't control them, while Hamas is launching Kassams now and looking to do worse? It's impossible and schizoid.
At a bare minimum, we should have insisted that there could be no negotiations until the PA (our ostensible "negotiating partner") was in control of Gaza as well as Judea and Samaria (which they don't really control either now).
And what happened today? Twenty Kassams were lobbed into Sderot this morning in the course of less than four hours. Boy, our limited operations really stopped them. Four people were wounded; one rocket landed on the main street of the city.
In response, Sderot mayor, Eli Moyal, resigned without having given advance warning, saying on Israel Radio this morning that he could no longer endure being responsible in the situation that Sderot is dealing with:
"This role is too big for any person … I do not want to stay in office until the day 20 children die in Sderot . . . I don't want to make the decision to open schools tomorrow because a Kassam might land there and I'll be blamed for opening the school."
The members of the government have abysmally failed to protect the people of Sderot. They should all hang their heads in shame, but they're too obtuse; you wouldn't believe the comments from Olmert regarding the fact that the gov't doesn't have to do more and that the people have to learn to live with it. These are Israeli citizens, living constantly at risk inside of Israel.
The High Court of Justice, in response to a petition by the residents of Sderot, has just censured the government for failing to provide the populace of that city with adequate protection.
And following the rocket attack on Sderot today, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that the possibility of a large scale attack was growing, as this situation couldn't be tolerated for much longer. In fact, at the Conference on Security Challenges at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, he said more:
"It is not possible to defeat a terrorist organization without having control on the ground. The results in the West Bank in the past two years have been impressive, because of our control on the ground level.
"We will eventually need to have [such] control [in Gaza], operations-wise and intelligence-wise…We will not be able to win only by air strikes and ground fire."
Well, mazel tov! This is telling it true. And it remains true even if the rocket launching temporarily stop. But the politicos and not the defense establishment call the shots.
With regard to Iran, Ashkenazi said: "The international community needs to stop Iran. But we in the IDF need to prepare for every option in case this does not succeed . . . We need to be capable of quickly defeating our enemies in any conflict. We need to have the ability to fight at the same time in different fronts and at different levels." In the future, he indicated, we would need to deal with "faraway threats" and had to upgrade our long range capabilities.
Thank G-d someone has his eyes open .
As to that negotiating session, it did happen. This was in spite of PA threats to not attend because we were sabotaging the "peace." But it was held in secret, instead of at the King David Hotel as had been announced, with a planned launching ceremony to proceed the meeting.
Livni said that security must come first and registered protest at the fact that members of Fatah recently killed Israeli Ido Zoldan in a drive-by shooting in Samaria. This, to my mind, was sufficient reason in and of itself to cancel talks. If Abbas cannot control members of Fatah, then what?
And the Palestinians registered complaint about the housing units in Har Homa.
The parties have agreed to convene again next week in Paris, where the donors to the PA will be meeting.
That conference in Paris is where the PA intends to make its request for $5.8 billion (this is not a typo), through 2010.
Barry Rubin takes a hard look at this in his latest piece, "You Owe Us Bigtime." It's a joke, he says, because the Palestinians promise "fiscal reform.":
"Reform promises have been made and broken for more than 13 years. It is hard to remember the PA has existed that long with so little positive achievement. If Palestinians have such a bad economy it is not due to the 'occupation' or to Israel but to their own leaders' greed, incompetence, failure to end violence, inability to present an attractive investment climate, and unwillingness to impose stability on their own lands."
Rubin says this is a major story because the US and the Europeans are basing their policy on the expectation that pouring more money into the PA can lead to diplomatic progress.
But the Palestinians have never remotely demonstrated any fiscal responsibility. The PA has not even instituted a comprehensive tax system, because "It has acted as if it is the job of foreigners, which mostly means the West, to pay its bills. This is not psychologically healthy . . . " The PA has welfare mentality.
[Note: just one more piece of evidence that the idea of establishing a Palestinian state is ridiculous.]
Rubin is deeply concerned that the media misrepresent the situation, implying that Israel is responsible for the PA's fiscal situation. Particularly worthy of mention is that donors cut off funds two months BEFORE Hamas took Gaza -- it wasn't done because of political reasons but rather because of corruption.
See the entire piece at:
For evidence of what a distorted and unfair world Israel must contend with, we don't need to look further than this:
A resolution generated by Israel that doesn't involve either the Holocaust or the Israeli-Arab conflict has passed the General Assembly of the UN for the very first time. This was a socio-economic resolution that aims to encourage states and organizations to develop improved agricultural technology and plant species for the good of humanity, especially in developing countries.
Said Israel's Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman, "This first historic resolution, which Israel initiated and presented, was accepted in the UN and constitutes recognition of Israeli excellence and its contribution to the world . . . Israel plans to continue presenting initiatives and resolutions that will give expression to its uniqueness, creativity, and modernity, and to demonstrate that we are a society like all others in the UN, which works and contributes on a whole slew of issues apart from the Arab-Israeli conflict."
Well, that's beautiful. The fact is that we are a fantastic nation that is focused on doing international good and has enormous scientific expertise that can benefit others, and it's time the world knew it. But why the hell should it have taken almost 60 years to recognize this?
And consider this: All 19 Arab nations present abstained from voting on this. The PA envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said Israel was "trying to score political points." When it was raised in committee he had rejected a move to have the motion presented by the chair as a consensus resolution. According to him, this motion only emphasized "the divisions between Israel and the Arab countries."
How destructive is hatred! Where we have the capacity to do good, the Arab world rejects what we offer.
This, it should especially be noted, is the paradigm of how the PA responds to us.
Before closing, one more mention of Arab antipathy towards us (and regrettable compliance with it):
I had written earlier about the fact that Rice had the Israeli delegation to Annapolis enter through a service door because the Saudis didn't want to accidentally bump into an Israeli. That sort of apartheid practiced by the US is totally unacceptable. But what bothered me a great deal, as well, was that the Israeli delegation cooperated with this (although much was written later about a Livni outburst at the Arabs, who wouldn't talk with her or shake hands). If I were Livni, I would like to think that if Rice had asked that of me I would have refused, saying that if we can't go in the same door, there is nothing to discuss, and I would have then told the press so and gone home with dignity.
What I found sad -- the word "pathetic" again occurs to me -- is that later Olmert made a big deal about the fact that the Saudi delegation applauded his talk. Wow!
Well, I've been following reports by journalists who were present in Annapolis and watching closing. And what I'm reading -- Nachum Barnea, respected Israel journalist, writing in Yediot Ahronot, is being widely cited -- is that the Saudis didn't wear their earphones and thus didn't hear what Olmert said, and didn't really applaud him but only pretended to, bringing their palms close but not allowing them to touch.
Great world, isn't it?
Posting: December 11, 2007
A change of pace: we will look first, briefly, at some political happenings here in Israel:
A new party, Hatikvah (the hope), has been formally registered. At its head will be MK Aryeh Eldad, who is still with National Union (Moledet branch) now but will move over. The party will be a nationalist party that is inclusive and hopes to attract secular people as well as religious. Eldad himself is traditional in his orientation but is not perceived by the public as "religious," which means he may appeal to a greater number of voters than an overtly religious group such as National Union. Eldad's hope at this juncture is to do well enough in the next elections to become part of the coalition that will likely be headed by Likud, pulling that coalition to the right and helping to keep it honest. Eldad, a physician, it should be noted, has a reputation for integrity.
It seems that Shaul Mofaz -- former defense minister in Likud and now transportation minister in Kadima -- is launching a challenge to Olmert for the leadership of Kadima. He has in recent weeks consistently come out with positions that are critical of Olmert: He says that so many prisoners should not have been released, that Olmert is "letting Hamas into the heart of Jerusalem," that Olmert shouldn't negotiate core issues with Abbas when he is weak, etc.
While I was never a big fan of Mofaz when he was transportation minister (and his bolt to Kadima bespoke a significant lack of integrity, as he had previously pledged to stay with Likud when Sharon split the party), everything is relative: compared to Tzipi Livni as a replacement for Olmert, Mofaz doesn't look so bad.
The Labor Party is in disarray. It was in bad shape when Amir Peretz left the leadership position; Ehud Barak was supposed to consolidate forces and strengthen the party when he came in. But there is currently great discontent with him, so that the party is in a weak position. Labor MKs are fearful that Kadima has now assumed the mantle of "the peace party," and I laugh when I read that Barak -- who offered Arafat an enormous amount in 2000 -- is now being accused by the party's left wing of being "more right wing" than Netanyahu.
I've written, with fury and with pain , many times about the left wing bias of the law enforcement and court systems in this country, which work very decidedly against "settlers." Well now there is a group called Human Rights in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which has just issued a paper to mark International Human Rights Week. The paper outlines several areas in which the rights of settlers and their supporters were violated. Attorney Orit Struck serves as spokeswoman for the group.
A major focus of the group is the severe injustice done to the residents of Gush Katif, who were pulled from their homes and not provided with proper assistance. But here I present, from the paper, yet another glaring example of a way in which the government is causing "systematic and continuous harm" to Jews within Israel: In 1929, after an Arab pogrom in which dozens of Jews of the community of Hevron were killed, the British forced the Jewish survivors to leave the area. Those Jews retained ownership of property in Hevron. The Israeli Custodian of Abandoned Property, however, now declines to act to return this property to the Jewish families that own it, instead acting on behalf of the Arabs who rent the property. I will note that to return the property to the Jews would be to strengthen the Jewish presence in Hevron, which the government studiously avoids doing. Doesn't fit the political goals, private human rights be damned.
According to Asharq Alawsat, a London-based paper , Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas in Damascus, is said to be ready to return control of government institutions in Gaza to the PA. Meanwhile sources from both sides confirm that secret talks have been held in a number of venues in order to help Hamas and Fatah resolve their differences.
The PA is furious about an invitation -- including a visit with the royal family -- that the Saudis extended to a senior Hamas delegation right after Annapolis. Anyone with half a brain (which actually lets out a lot of people) knows that Saudi Arabia promotes Hamas: they hosted the negotiations that resulted in the Mecca agreement, forcing Abbas to bow to Hamas stipulations all the way.
Said one PA official: "Hamas is doing its utmost to undermine the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas. The timing of the visit - two weeks after the Annapolis peace conference - is also interesting. Hamas was strongly opposed to the conference and continues to issue threats to torpedo any peace process with Israel."
Bush and Rice, ludicrously, counted it a "diplomatic coup" that Saudi Arabia came to the conference, thereby presumably placing itself in the "moderate camp" that supported "peace." Yea, right.
I continue to monitor closely the rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas -- which was clearly coming after Annapolis and which the Saudis are now fostering -- and what it will mean for "peace negotiations." I have waxed cynical in the extreme, with good reason. One would expect that if Fatah joined again with Hamas, which is against peace with Israel, the US and Israel would wash their respective hands of dealings with the PA. That is, after all, what they have said they would do.
My fear is that the reverse might happen: That the parties will be so "eager" to push negotiations, that Hamas might be declared as having moderated by virtue of having joined with a "peaceful" Fatah. It will depend, I imagine, on what sort of arrangement is established. When I begin to read about new elections (which will be hailed as democratic process), I become increasingly uneasy.
Now I must return, once again, to Iran . Mohammad Mohaddessin, a spokesman for the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition group seeking the overthrow of the regime in Tehran, came out with a statement today, in response to the US intelligence report saying that Iran stopped development of nuclear weapons in 2003:
"We announce vehemently that the clerical regime is currently continuing its drive to obtain nuclear weapons. The clerical regime leaks false information and intelligence to Western intelligence services, through double agents."
Mohaddessin said that Iran did shut down a weapons production center in Tehran in 2003 under international pressure, but shifted it to other sites and resumed work in 2004.
"These centers are working just now for producing nuclear bombs. This is contrary to the United States' National Intelligence Estimate." Mohaddessin said the information came from sources inside Iran; sources were checked within the last week to confirm that the nuclear development was still going on.
Four years ago NCRI disclosed information about hidden nuclear sites in Iran that uncovered long-standing covert operations.
And lastly, I cite President Bush. After meeting with the Italian president today, he met with the press and said:
"Iran is dangerous. We believe Iran had a secret military weapons program, and Iran must explain to the world why they had such a program."
I confess, I am still scratching my head over this convoluted and nonsensical statement.
Note the past tense: "Iran had . . . " So, if Iran doesn't have it anymore, why does it have to explain anything? (As if it would be inclined to in any event.)
Seems as if Bush is trying to play both ends at the same time -- he wants to sound tough, but is backing off from challenging Iran now.
This is pathetic and sickening from the president who declared a war on terror.
Posting: December 10, 2007
"And Still Iran"
Yesterday I shared the bad news -- the very serious bad news -- about a dubious intelligence report that is likely to reduce efforts internationally to reign in Iran's nuclear efforts.
The good news is that a majority of the American public doesn't buy it and a host of serious analysts in the US have come down hard on the NIE for the scenario it paints.
Main points expressed by various critics are these:
-- The 2007 NIE report reverses the 2005 report, but it says that Iranian nuclear weapons efforts were halted in 2003. Why wasn't this reported in 2005?
In "The Limits of Intelligence in The Wall Street Journal, Reps. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.) -- both past leaders of the House Intelligence Committee -- ask this question.
-- They, and many others, also raise the issue of whether the weapons program, allegedly stopped in 2003, has since been restarted or what it would take to restart it. The point is made that the restart might happen so quickly that the West might be unprepared to deal with it, if it is not dealt with in anticipation thereof.
Amir Taheri, writing in the NY Post , makes a very similar point. He says Iranian policy has not been to develop a nuclear bomb, but rather '"nuclear surge capacity": "This means having the knowledge, technological base, infrastructure and raw material needed to make nuclear weapons in a short time - without actually making the bomb . . . It's certainly foolish to cry wolf where none is around. But it could be suicidal to pretend there can be no wolf where one may come along."
And Jeff Stein, in "Iran Intelligence Report: Garbage In, Garbage Out," in the Congressional Quarterly, deals with a related question: At what stage did the program stop in 2003? He cites Richard Barlow, a top former CIA and Pentagon expert on Pakistan's clandestine nuclear program in the 1980s, who points out that the NIE doesn't say at what stage the Iranians allegedly "halted" their weapons program in 2003. "The entire NIE is meaningless without this being addressed. Its omission from the Key Judgments is so glaring as to be suspicious. These programs have these little 'stoppages' not that infrequently," said Barlow.
-- There is a political hand in the writing of the report -- it is not straight intelligence.
John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN , wrote, in "The Flaws in the Iran Report," in The Washington Post, that " . . . we not only have a problem interpreting what the mullahs in Tehran are up to, but also a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation rather than 'intelligence' analysis."
Bolton points out that "The real differences between the NIEs [of 2005 and 2007] are not in the hard data but in the psychological assessment of the mullahs' motives and objectives . . . many involved in drafting and approving the  NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran's nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. In fact, these are precisely the policy biases they had before, recycled as 'intelligence judgments.'"
-- Iran is said to be developing nuclear capacity for peaceful energy purposes only, but the track for doing so is the same as for developing weapons, or so similar that switch over is easily and readily done.
Bolton makes this point, as does Alan Dershowitz, who, in "Stupid Intelligence," The Huffington Report, writes, "The recent national intelligence estimate that concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 is just about the stupidest intelligence assessment I have ever read. It falls hook, line and sinker for a transparent bait and switch tactic . . . The tactic is obvious and well-known to all intelligence officials with an IQ above room temperature. It goes like this: There are two tracks to making nuclear weapons: One is to conduct research and develop technology directly related to military use . . . The second track is to develop nuclear technology for civilian use and then to use the civilian technology for military purposes. What every intelligence agency knows is that the most difficult part of developing weapons corresponds precisely to the second track, namely civilian use. In other words, it is relatively simple to move from track 2 to track 1 in a short period of time."
-- Those writing the report were duped by the Iranians .
Lots of comments on this, including by Ken Timmerman , writing in Newsmax, who says, "sources in Tehran believe that Washington has fallen for 'a deliberate disinformation campaign' cooked up by the Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers posing as senior diplomats in Europe."
-- There is some sort of clandestine deal at work .
I cannot vouch for the veracity of any of this, but there are various suggestions afloat. For example, not from the US, but from Al Hayat in London, comes the suggestion that the US and Iran are cooperating to divide up Iraq.
And so, hopefully this is not a closed issue yet . Hard questions are still to be raised at official levels. And, I should add, should be raised as well by every American citizen distressed by what is happening.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, at a security conference in the Persian Gulf on Saturday argued that Iran still represents a major threat.
Now Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is here in Israel now to meet with Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on this issue. Mullen's spokesman, made a statement before the meeting: "Despite the American intelligence report on the Iranian nuclear program, Iran still poses a major threat to the region. The Iranians have tried in the past to develop their nuclear capabilities, they can still develop them, they have tried it and they support terror groups in the region."
It is at this meeting that the Israeli defense establishment hopes to use intelligence to convince Mullen of what Iran is up to now. In spite of the words of Mullen's spokesman, it is not clear how possible this will be, as Mullen is said to be among those opposed to attacking Iran.
Posting: December 9, 2007
The issue of Iran -- which I have not covered in recent days -- looms as likely the most significant with regard to threats Israel faces. As all or most of you are aware, a recently released US intelligence report -- National Intelligence Estimate -- reverses the US position on Iranian intentions to develop nuclear weapons; reportedly such efforts stopped in 2003. It has been met with incredulity and anger here in Israel.
Let me quote Yossi Klein Halevi , from his article, "An Insult to Intelligence," in The New Republic:
"The sense of betrayal within the Israeli security system is deep. After all, Israel's great achievement in its struggle against Iran was in convincing the international community that the nuclear threat was real; now that victory has been undone--not by Russia or the European Union, but by Israel's closest ally.
"What makes Israeli security officials especially furious is that the report casts doubt on Iranian determination to attain nuclear weapons. There is a sense of incredulity here: Do we really need to argue the urgency of the threat all over again? The Israeli strategists I heard from ridicule the report's contention that 'Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.' Is it, asks one Israeli analyst sarcastically, a cost-benefit approach for one of the world's largest oil exporters to risk international sanctions and economic ruin for the sake of a peaceful nuclear program?
"No one with whom I've spoken believes that professional considerations, such as new intelligence, were decisive in changing the American assessment on Iran. What has been widely hailed in the American media as an expression of intelligence sobriety, even courage, is seen in the Israeli strategic community as precisely the opposite: an expression of political machination and cowardice. 'The Americans often accuse us of tailoring our intelligence to suit our political needs,' notes a former top security official. 'But isn't this report a case study of doing precisely that?'"
Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz in his column, called "Bushwhacked," says:
" . . . a close reading of the material released from the National Intelligence Estimate offers little legitimate reason for any sense of relief. Quite the opposite. Along with the opening judgment that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 comes the immediate caveat that 'Teheran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.' And then, just a few paragraphs later, comes an undermining of the original, headline-making assessment. The authors acknowledge that 'because of intelligence gaps' they can 'assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to these activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.'
"After that, the reservations and flat-out terrifying assessments in this supposedly sanguine estimate flow thick and fast. The authors state in their opening paragraphs alone: 'We do not know whether [Iran] currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.' 'We cannot rule out that Iran has acquired from abroad - or will acquire in the future - a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon.' 'We assess centrifuge enrichment is how Iran probably could first produce enough fissile material for a weapon, if it decides to do so. Iran resumed its declared centrifuge enrichment activities in January 2006 … [and] made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz.'"
Caroline Glick writing on "The Abandonment of the Jews," says that either Bush ordered this report because he didn't want to bomb Iran, or the intelligence community used this report to push him to that position. She writes:
" . . . not only does the NIE make it impossible for the US to take action against Iran, it also sets a dangerous trap for Israel. If Israel doesn't take action against Iran's nuclear installations it risks annihilation. And if it does take action, it can expect to be subject to international and American condemnation far worse than what it suffered after bombing Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.
" . . . The NIE's message to Israel and world Jewry is clear. Again we are alone in our moment of peril. It is high time that our political and military leaders acknowledge this fact, stop hoping that someone else will save us, and get to work on defending us.
Today's Sunday Telegraph (Britain) reports that the British are upset about the NIE report. "British intelligence is concerned that US spy chiefs were so determined to avoid giving President Bush a reason to go to war - as their reports on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs did in Iraq - that they got it wrong this time."
According to the Telegraph, a senior UK official says that British spies share the concerns of Israeli defense chiefs that Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons:
"We are skeptical. We want to know what the basis of it is, where did it come from? . . . They say things on the phone because they know we are up on the phones. They say black is white. They will say anything to throw us off.
"It's not as if the American intelligence agencies are regarded as brilliant performers in that region . . .
"Many middle- ranking CIA veterans believe Iran is still committed to producing nuclear weapons and are concerned that the agency lost a number of its best sources in Iran in 2004."
Perhaps most hard-hitting of all were the words of MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) during a Security Cabinet meeting this morning on the subject of Iranian nuclear intentions:
"It can not be that Bush is committed to peace as was declared at Annapolis, and then the Americans propagate such an intelligence report which contradicts the information we have proving Iran intends to obtain nuclear weapons. How can we rely on the Americans if they publish this report that emasculates what the world explicitly knows regarding Iran, and renders impotent the entire struggle against the Iranians?"
"[the report must have been] ordered by someone who wants dialogue with Tehran.
"In the middle of the previous century the Americans received intelligence reports from Auschwitz on the packed trains going to the extermination camps. They claimed then that the railways were industrial. Their attitude today to the information coming out of Iran on the Iranians' intention to produce a nuclear bomb reminds one of their attitude during the Holocaust."
Olmert, speaking on this issue for the first time at the Security Cabinet meeting today, said:
"Israel has no reason to change the assessments it had all along that Iran is continuing to pursue nuclear weapons and is developing weapons and rockets and enriching uranium." He says we will work with the Atomic Energy Commission to prove the point. But the bottom line, as Glick makes clear, is that it will fall to us to attack Iran.
This is chilling news and represents a shameful time for the U.S. How low will the American government sink, and how completely abandon its principles?
A tender has been put out for construction of 300 housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, which is beyond the Green Line.
Condoleezza Rice doesn't approve . She says it "doesn't help build confidence" as we enter negotiations, and she sees it as a threat to peace efforts. That makes me gag, but for once our government has come back with a solid response.
Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim (Kadima) was quoted on Army Radio yesterday as saying that:
"Secretary Rice is to be praised for her part in getting the peace process restarted, but it is inconceivable that at every opportunity this will be tied to construction in Jerusalem.
"The neighborhood of Har Homa is within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to which Israeli law applies. Accordingly, there is no obstacle to building there as there is no obstacle to building anywhere else in Israel."
According to Aaron Lerner of IMRA , all of Kadima has backed Boim on this. Lerner asks, is this a way to gain some points with the public momentarily, or is this real.
Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator, has said that if the homes in Har Homa are built, "it will ruin all the efforts to reach meaningful negotiations to end the Israeli occupation." Great!
But Haim Ramon, while defending our right to build in Har Homa, which is Jewish Jerusalem -- as all of Jewish Jerusalem should be retained by us -- told Army Radio that Israel should make it clear that it intends to turn over Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians.
Now, this is not an official gov't statement , but it is unlikely that Ramon, close buddy to Olmert, would say this without sanction. Often such statements are put out to test the waters.
There are huge -- enormous -- problems with turning over Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the PA. The first is that the neighborhoods are so intertwined that a simple division is not possible. I've deal with this before. It would mean going through Palestinian territory to get from one Jewish neighborhood to another and cause a security, political and logistical nightmare. This only sounds reasonable to people who are not familiar with the area.
Then, it puts the Jewish neighborhoods -- including neighborhoods in western Jerusalem -- at direct risk for being the target of mortar shells, Kassams and more, and enormously increases the risk of infiltration by terrorists. It would make the city in its entirety unbearable for Jewish habitation -- which is the idea, really. There are reasons why Arab neighborhoods were incorporated within the municipal boundaries: to serve as a buffer to keep the city safe.
And then there is the issue of the enormous reluctance of Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem to suddenly find they are under Palestinian and not Israeli control -- the question of the legality of doing this without their consent.
The newspaper Al Quds Al-Arabi, in London , reported on Saturday that the militant groups in Gaza -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Resistance Committees and Al Aksa Brigades (Fatah) -- have met to discuss offering Israel a hudna. As we haven't dealt with this for some time, let me point out here that while a hudna is often referred to in the press as a ceasefire, it is not. It is not! A hudna is a way of buying time with the intention of building strength with the intention of attacking when the time is right; it is a well-acknowledged pillar of Islamic military strategy. Egypt has offered to negotiate this hudna. It is, of course, being discussed now because of increasing indications that Israel is getting close to the major operation, and a stipulation would be that all Israeli incursions and targeted killings cease.
I can only pray that our gov't is not stupid enough to fall for this: for there would be no stipulation that the terrorist groups stop training or building their weapons arsenal. We've been trapped in this before. We stop everything, they stop launching rockets at us temporarily, and they get stronger in the interim.
The flip side of the story is this: IDF officials are increasingly concerned about the upgrading of the Kassams in the Hamas arsenal. They are now able to store their rockets (which have a relatively volatile charge) for longer periods of time -- thus building up their arsenal -- and they are working on improving the range of the rockets. Rocket experts, capable of working on this, have been brought in via Egypt since Hamas gained control of Gaza. As range is improved, Ashkelon and other communities will fall within that target range. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said today that were this to happen, 250,000 would fall within range of the rockets, compared to the 25,000 today.
It is incomprehensible that action should not be taken against this. And even more breathtakingly inconceivable that we might agree to give them time to garner even more strength while we sit like idiots.
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