Israel Resource Review 22nd Febuary, 2008


Two Weeks of Incisive Commentary
Arlene Kushner
Senior Policy Research Analyst. Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.

February 21, 2008: Standing Strong

Before returning to current news items , I would like to refer back to one of the themes of yesterday's posting, regarding the inability of some Israelis (some Jews) to defend the Israeli narrative.

Every so often I receive communications from people in the US who are staunch supporters of Israel that are essentially laments -- expressions of frustration, perhaps, or confusion. How can I speak out, I am asked, when the prime minister doesn't? How can I tell people that a two-state solution is a disaster when Olmert is pursuing it vigorously? Bottom line:

How can I contradict the government of Israel?

My response has been that it is important to support the people of Israel, not the government. But I think yesterday's discussion examines another, and very important, dimension of that same issue. Olmert and Livni may have lost the ability to tell Israel's narrative. They may have forgotten how to defend Israel because they are committed instead to a two-state solution, which leads them to believe that they must actually defend our enemy's goals.

But their position represents a pathology. And if your thinking is not pathological, if you clearly understand Israel's narrative, then it is your responsibility to tell it, and to defend without hesitation Israel's rights, even if this contradicts the goals of Oslo and what Olmert and Livni are about.

Very simply: Olmert and Livni may believe they are doing what is right. But they have lost their way, and what they promote is a danger to Israel. You want to tell a different story. ~~~~~~~~~~ Orient House, a building operated by the prominent Palestinian Husseini family, has in the past been utilized by the PLO to conduct business in Jerusalem. An Orient House website, somewhat dated, refers to the establishment as "the Palestinian national gathering place for Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem. As the PLO Headquarters in the occupied city, the Orient House aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state . . . "

It was closed down in 2001 at the time of the Intifada because of political activities in Jerusalem forbidden by the Oslo agreement. This past Monday, Maan, a Palestinian news agency, reported that the PLO has now again employed 30 - 40 people to work in Orient House. A Palestinian leader, Hatem Abdul Khadar, of Fatah, was quoted as saying that he and others were meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building. This is precisely what is forbidden -- using it as an unofficial embassy. ~~~~~~~~~~ According to the latest news from the Post, however, Israel has renewed the order to keep Orient House closed tight. In fact, a Jerusalem police spokesman says that the site is checked regularly and there's nothing going on there.

The Palestinians, claiming that Olmert had promised to open Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, are bemoaning that "This is not a good sign for the peace process." They have asked the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem to intervene, but were told there would be no quick resolution. ~~~~~~~~~~ Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former senior adviser on Palestinian affairs at the Defense Ministry, has offered comments on this situation, explaining, according to the Post, that the closure had led to a dramatic reduction in anti-Israeli activity and an increase in security in eastern Jerusalem.

"Since its closure, the Palestinians have been mourning the loss of Orient House, and say they have lost the center of their revolutionary zeal in Jerusalem. I don't know if such a promise [by Olmert to the Palestinians] was made, but if it was, it was made secretly, because nothing has been made public about such a commitment."

During the Oslo process, Orient House acted as "an organizing factor" for riots and demonstrations. "We allowed the PLO to operate in Jerusalem during the 1990s, but not the Palestinian Authority. However, Orient House was quickly infiltrated by PA elements who turned it into a kind of 'extraterritorial embassy.'

"It . . . became an institution. Police were afraid to enter or search it, and Orient House enjoyed an informal diplomatic immunity status.

"The shutting down of Orient House was the end result of a long effort by right-wing Knesset Members, led by [then-Public Security Minister] Uzi Landau, who said that Orient's use as a PA base was a violation of Oslo . . . "After a major suicide bombing, Landau effectively forced the police to close it down." Harari explained that the police at first did not wish to raid the center due to fears of a violent backlash. But it never materialized. [Note: police fear of acting against illegal Palestinian behavior because there might be violence.]

After the raid, the center's records were confiscated; they vindicated the demands of the Knesset members who had wanted it closed down. "I can say that closing down Orient House was one of main acts that caused a reduction in open anti-Israeli activity in Jerusalem," Harari said. ~~~~~~~~~~

And an enlightening side observation : According to the Post, "[Hatem] Abdel Khader said the Palestinians had given the necessary assurances to the Israelis, adding that the office was to be used for cultural, economic and social projects."

But this is the same Abdul Khadar who told Maan, a Palestinian news agency, that he was meeting with foreign dignitaries in the building. ~~~~~~~~~~

US Special Envoy Gen. James Johns is floating the idea of bringing in NATO troops for Judea and Samaria for an interim period between when Israel would pull out and the PA would be able to secure the area. It's just an idea at this point and Israel has not signed off on it. If our government does agree -- G-d forbid -- it's even more lost than I think it is. Allow me to enumerate all the things wrong with this: First, the PA isn't supposed to get territory until it is ready to administer it. If other troops are necessary, they should be given nothing. What is clear here is that the US, which truly has lost its way completely, is so damn eager to put an agreement in place that they would turn it over to an incompetent PA and then attempt to bolster it from outside. What craziness.

Foreign troops would interfere with our ability to secure intelligence or do operations to take out terrorists or stop planned operations, as necessary. It is not even clear that we'd be able to do hot pursuit of those who have committed terrorist acts and are seeking refuge. Does anyone -- including Johns or Rice -- remotely believe that NATO forces would do what we've been doing, with night operations, intensive intelligence work, and all the rest? Clearly, if territory were to be turned over to an incompetent PA, this means a situation in which the terrorists would not have been eliminated, arrested or disarmed. Actually, some of them would still be in the PA security forces. What would result is a free ride for terrorists, with international forces standing between them and our troops, and the terrorists actually able to strengthen themselves.

Johns, it should be noted, served as a commander in NATO. Just a few days ago, the American ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, hinted at the same thing. ~~~~~~~~~~

The precedent is there with UNIFIL in Lebanon (about which more below), which has allowed Hezbollah to rearm while protesting that we are "violating" the truce if we do flyovers to monitor what is happening.

I do think, however, that this is all moot, because I don't believe any European countries will want to get in the middle of this. Hamas has made it clear that they would shoot at any international forces placed in Gaza (where a similar suggestion has been made), as they would consider it an occupation. International forces in Judea and Samaria might be similarly vulnerable. And there certainly would be no guarantee, after NATO troops were in place, that the PA would ever be ready to assume responsibility. What we're looking at here is an assignment with -- as it's put -- no exit strategy. ~~~~~~~~~~

Reports are that Israel would like to predicate its exit strategy from Gaza, in event of a ground operation, on being replaced by international forces. But I think the same international reluctance to be involved would apply here, and more so because of Hamas threats. Some sources say that the IDF will go in if it's deemed necessary, even if there are no international forces in place.

It's time to wake up, I think, to the fact that when we go back in, we will not be exiting any time soon (and preferably never). ~~~~~~~~~~

Olmert made a statement earlier this week that was a serious misrepresentation (lie) and requires response. Said he: "Despite the [continuing] Kassam fire, [the "disengagement"] was a very good move since there are no longer 30,000 soldiers protecting 1,200 citizens."

First of all, it was 8,000 citizens, not 1,200. But more significantly, the soldiers were not there just to protect them. They were there to protect Israel, by securing areas from which Kassams might be fired, going after tunnels through which weapons might be smuggled, and stopping terrorist operations. Anyone who is ready to be honest about the situation will admit that the pullout was a security disaster. But it's clear Olmert isn't ready.

We haven't even received the approbation of the international community for this pullout, as promised by Sharon; we've met instead with condemnation because of how we're "treating" Gaza. ~~~~~~~~~~

As to UNIFIL: Spain may be thinking of pulling its troops out of that operation, and there is concern that this will influence others to follow suit. Matters are, shall we say, greatly unsettled in Lebanon right now with the prospect of escalating Hezbollah violence. A weakening of the UNIFIL force would further destabilize Lebanon and allow Hezbollah to move down into the south of the country unimpeded. ~~~~~~~~~~

We have deployed a battery of US-made Patriot air defense missiles in the vicinity of Haifa, as a precaution against an attack by Hezbollah. At the same time it has been announced that the Iron Dome system against short range rockets such as Kassams is in an advanced stage of development.

Regrettably, it has also been announced that the government is going to fortify only 3,600 homes in Sderot instead of the 8,000 originally announced. Homes within a range of 4.5 kilometers from the Gaza border are being targeted, as the Iron Dome system will not have enough time to respond to rockets launched from a distance of less than 4 kilometers. The plans call for building safe rooms over the course of the next two years. ~~~~~~~~~~

Abbas came to town a couple of days ago , to meet with Olmert, after which Olmert declared, "We didn't talk about Jerusalem!" while Saeb Erekat said they did.

Progress in negotiations is reportedly slow or non-existent, with Fayyad declaring that an agreement cannot be reached in 2008. All sorts of plans are in the works now for (shudder) "speeding things up," with more frequent meetings. ~~~~~~~~~~

Abbas, however, has vetoed the suggestion of Yasser Abed Rabbo that the PA follow Kosovo's example and unilaterally declare independence.

However slowly, said Abbas, negotiations are still going on and that's the path to take at present. If matters stalemate entirely, it would be time to consider other alternatives.

A pragmatic Saeb Erekat opined that what the Palestinians need is "real independence" and not just a declaration. "We are not Kosovo. We are under Israeli occupation and for independence we need to acquire independence." In other words, it wouldn't play here. Nor would the US be supportive. What their strategy will be (other than more violence) when negotiations stalemate remains to be seen. ~~~~~~~~~~

A bit of humor: Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, in an attempt, I assume, to motivate us to move more quickly, has now said, "We hope that Israel responds positively to the strenuous efforts we are making, so that we do not despair and think about taking back our offer."

Strenuous efforts? Despair?

The offer: If we pull back to the pre-67 lines, which means giving the Palestinians the Kotel and the Temple Mount, allow a Palestinian state to be established with Jerusalem as its capital, and then permit four million "refugees" to "return" to Israel, the members of the Arab League will "normalize" relations with us. What this means with regard to full diplomatic relations has not be specified. ~~~~~~~~~~

Not so funny this week was a statement made by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who said that Israel absolutely must reach a cease fire with Hamas to halt the "cycle" of Kassam attacks and responses. Israel responded to the implied moral equivalency with anger.

What angered me the most , however, was Kouchner's statement that he knew Israel was concerned that Hamas would use a ceasefire to build its strength, but Israel had "to take a chance . . . , to take a risk." Really now. How nice of him to decide this for us. ~~~~~~~~~~

When Olmert returned from his recent trip to Germany, there were reports coming from Der Spiegel that he was going to declare Goldwasser and Regev officially dead. The decision of the government has been not to do so, however, because there is no solid evidence of this (although there has been no sign that they are alive, either).

For some days there were hints that a deal was close for bringing Shalit home, but that now seems not the case. Apparently there was agreement on 240 prisoners to be released, but now there is contention about an additional 120. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Thursday, February 21, 2008

February 20, 2008: Words and Weakness

Back to the second, and final, day of the Jerusalem Conference. And today I want to look at some very different aspects of the difficulties we face, beginning with what is called the new anti-Semitism and the specter of Durban II.

For those who do not remember, Durban I, held in 2001, was an international conference under UN auspices that was supposed to combat racism, but which morphed into an incredible anti-Semitic nightmare, setting the tone for much that followed such as boycotts against Israel.

Part of what happened in Durban is that NGOs, many ostensibly concerned with human rights but in reality virulently anti-Semitic, co-opted the conference with a vengeance.

Rabbi Abe Cooper, of the Wiesenthal Center , who was at Durban, described a scene in which all the NGOs had gathered to approve a document. One woman raised her hand and said, "Paragraph 11, clause 3, deals with anti-Semitism (it was a very obvious statement that should have been automatically accepted, such as one disapproving attacks on synagogues). "I don't understand this," she continued. What does anti-Semitism have to do with racism?" And the representative of NGOs agreed and deleted the clause.

Coming up in 2009 will be Durban II. It's important now to examine the environment we're dealing with and to know how to handle what lies ahead. ~~~~~~~~~~ Dr. Gerald Steinberg, who founded and directs NGO-monitor, out of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, spoke about the way in which many NGOs, under the guise of protecting human rights, have established positions designed to prevent us from defending ourselves. They level broad and sustained attacks on us, and they rely on big funds for the demonization of Israel. Many of you may be familiar with this approach -- the speed with which "human rights" groups run to attack Israel for killing children in Gaza, for example, even before facts are known.

Steinberg's group does several things. It monitors and exposes the bias of these groups. It communicates with donors who often have no clue what their funds were actually used for and withhold further donations once they learn. What is significant is that large amounts of EU money go to such groups; for the first time a report is about to be released that tracks precisely where the EU money goes. And it communicates with NGOs, eliciting information about their intended Durban II participation.

He is optimistic that progress is being made and that we've moved beyond where we were in 2001. ~~~~~~~~~~ Prof. Robert S. Wistrich -- Director, Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, Hebrew University -- explained that anti-Semitism that was peripheral years ago has become mainstream today, in part because leftist students of a generation ago now hold positions of power.

But he addressed another problem as well -- one that I will come back to: There is a Jewish/Israeli contribution because of anti-and post-Zionist arguments that are exported to the rest of the world. In certain quarters there is a lack of conviction as to why Israel exists and what it represents. ~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Bayefsky, of the Hudson Institute, who founded Eye on the UN, spoke about the disinformation campaign, utilizing a UN platform, that followed Durban.

In an immoral inversion, Israel has been fashioned as the racist element in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN criticizes Israel twice as often as it criticizes Sudan. And it was someone associated with the UN who declared that there must be a "distinction between mindless terror and acts that are part of a liberation movement," concluding that Israel cannot expect a cessation of violence.

Bayefsky offered this very useful term: "humanitarian racists." Simply, it refers to groups that are ostensibly humanitarian, but hold only white people responsible for their actions. Colored peoples are only victims. (Starting to sound familiar?) But the refusal to hold colored peoples responsible for actions is racist at its core, for it relegates them to a lower moral level. ~~~~~~~~~~

Charles Jacobs, who founded and directs The David Project in Boston, observed -- right in line with Bayefsky's term -- that what motivates human rights groups is the identity of the oppressor and not of the oppressed. People who are victims of non-Westerners are abandoned. Jacobs, who has done work on this issue, pointed out that in Mauritania and Sudan there are slaves owned by Arabs, but the world pays little attention. Just as the human rights groups are enraged about perceived Israeli mistreatment of people in Gaza, but pay scant attention to the human rights suffering in Sderot. Jacobs suggest we ally with others and go on the offensive.

Jacobs also offered this insight: There is a Muslim idea that the act of Jews ruling over themselves puts the world out of joint because Israelis (as Jews) are Dhimmi. (Dhimmi is a concept in Islamic law that relegates to certain non-Muslim groups, notably Christians and Jews, second class, subservient status.)

The goal of The David Project , I will add, is to populate campuses in American with students who are articulate and informed with regard to Israel. ~~~~~~~~~~

The final participant on this panel was Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. I recently attended a very informative lecture by Dr. Gerstenfeld on anti-Semitism, its nature today and how to combat it, and would like to save his comments for another posting. ~~~~~~~~~~

And so I will turn now to the subject of hasbara (alternately defined as information or propaganda). Journalist Caroline Glick, who chaired the forum discussing this subject, defined it thus: information dispensed in the public arena in order to advance the national interest.

What is necessary for hasbara, she says, is the national desire to advance in the public arena, a goal that is logical or rational, and an appropriate style.

I ask that you follow the ensuing discussion closely , as it is exceedingly important:

Glick maintains that Israel's hasbara has collapsed because we are saying that the solution to the situation we find ourselves in is two-states (i.e., the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside us). This puts the onus on us, and we have no way to explain ourselves.

What we have actually said is that we want to advance the interests of our enemy. This leads to a covering up of truth because the truth works against the declared two-state goal.

Caroline Glick is absolutely correct. Think about the bind in which we've put ourselves. ~~~~~~~~~~

Others participating in this forum carried this theme further. Isi Liebler, who chairs the JCPA Diaspora-Israel relations committee, asked what went wrong. His assessment was that the change -- which led to doubts about the justice of our cause -- came most significantly with Oslo. Israel had declared herself ready to accept Arafat as a "peace partner" and so the obsession became one of promoting him as such.

This led to a refusal to defend ourselves. PM Yitzhak Rabin, at the start of the Oslo, told AIPAC to stop defending us. I've heard in other contexts stories about how Shimon Peres, as Foreign Minister, gave orders that nothing negative was to be said about Arafat.

We began defending "peace" instead of promoting the Israeli narrative. What other nation, it was asked, minimizes the sins of its enemies?

It has gone so far that Olmert has essentially adopted the Palestinian narrative. And if you look back to what I wrote, with despair, about Livni yesterday, you see that she fits the same mold -- so eager to pursue "peace" that she has lost the ability to stand up for who we are. ~~~~~~~~~~

Elyakim HaEtzni, lawyer and former MK , didn't accept that things fell apart with Oslo. For this doesn't explain how we got to Oslo.

His conclusion is that this is pathological, that we (as a nation) are sick. And this is something that I have suggested many a time. HaEtzni, citing other thinkers, offered a couple of reasons as to how we got this way. The first is that we were beaten down in galut (diaspora) and have internalized the hatred of our oppressors. I concur. We need more than 60 years on the land again to get past this, after 2000 years of being subservient to others around the globe. There is an eagerness to please that is a result of needing to please when we were powerless.

Another suggestion HaEtzni offered comes out of our religion, which leads us as Jews to be self-critical. The Temple was destroyed -- our tradition didn't ask what did others do to us, it asks what we did to bring this upon ourselves.

Self-critique, to a point, is a moral virtue and a strength; it allows us to be responsible for ourselves rather than think like victims. But beyond a certain point it is decidedly unhealthy and counterproductive. There is the example of the Al Dura case (about which I wrote not long ago).

Israeli soldiers were accused by devious plotting Palestinians of having shot the Al Dura boy during a gun battle. Before a serious analysis of the situation was done (which would have shown that, because of the angle of the shooting, etc. etc. we couldn't have done it), IDF officers were apologizing.

Yet another thought offered during this discussion was that our people to a considerable degree have lost touch with our religious traditions and who we are, which makes us unable to defend ourselves or share our narrative. Truth lies here, as well. ~~~~~~~~~~

Last, British journalist Melanie Phillips addressed this issue from a British perspective. There is, she informed us, incredible venom against Israel in Britain today. There is, of course, Muslim influence, as well as a variety of other factors at play. But part of it, she explained, is ignorance. The British truly believe that Israel was created after the Holocaust so that European Jews (who had no previous connection to the land) could be brought, displacing Arabs who had been on the land since antiquity. This, of course, is the Arab narrative.

The British don't receive the Israeli narrative.

She said people's jaws drop when she tells them about our ancient connection to this land, and the fact that no other people ever had a nation here, as well as about the legal foundations of the Mandate for Palestine, giving Jews a promise of a homeland well before the Holocaust. People just don't know. ~~~~~~~~~~

And so, my concluding thought is this:

It's difficult not to be deeply pained and depressed by what is discussed here. But it seems to me that what matters is that we right matters however and wherever we can.

What we see is that there is Gerald Steinberg doing a great job with NGO-monitor, and Anne Bayefsky with Eye on the UN, and Manfred Gerstenfeld, who has a very effective blog on anti-Semitism, and Charles Jacobs doing The David Project, and Melanie Phillips in Britain. And Professor Richard Landes, also a conference participant, who took on the Al Dura case, and on and on. It's an effort we all need to join, each in his or her own way.

This is essentially why I write these posts.

We're not all pathological, and some of us know our narrative and believe in who we are.

I turn to each of you reading this, if you care about Israel staying strong in this world: I suggest that each of you needs to be a messenger -- informing yourselves and telling Israel's narrative wherever you can. Don't imagine that it doesn't matter. It does. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2008

February 19, 2008: Desperate I am referring to the words of Foreign Minister Tzipni Livni.

Today was the first day of the Jerusalem Conference -- an all-day affair with many speakers examining issues such as retaining a united Jerusalem and ensuring Israeli security. I'll share here what several people said, starting with Livni.

Livni was attempting to explain why the government was negotiating now. If I had read her words somewhere, I might have been uneasy about repeating them, suspecting that she had been misquoted. But I heard her with my own ears.

"We have to write down the principle of two states," she told us. Israel as a homeland for Jews, and Palestine as a homeland for Palestinians. If we don't write this now and establish the principle, we might not have another chance. For we are facing people who want us gone.

Got it? She is so afraid of forces that would destroy us, that she's willing to accept what may be less than we are entitled to, just for the opportunity to get it in writing that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. And she believes that if we are to do it, it must be "today," because another chance might not come. ~~~~~~~~~~

There are so many things wrong with this approach it's difficult to know where to start. It is, first of all, appeasement, which never works: giving to the Palestinians so we won't be destroyed. Second it conveys a message of incredible weakness, and this is absolutely the last way who should go into negotiations. Why should the Palestinians even think of conceding anything when she makes it clear how hungry she is just for that piece of paper? "Write it down."

Worst of all is her shameful lack of Israeli pride and sense of entitlement. Why should our right to exist depend on a piece of paper arranged with the Palestinians? We are a sovereign state, with an ancient tradition on the land and a host of international legal precedents behind us. We are also a powerful nation, fully capable of defending ourselves.

We have diplomatic and commercial relationships with a growing number of nations, and we make huge contributions to the world via our hi-tech development and medical science. ~~~~~~~~~~

And there's still more, as a later speaker , Dr. Dore Gold, now head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed out the following issues:

First, there is the fact that the negotiation plan calls for setting the parameters for the agreement now but not enacting them until certain stipulations on the other side have been met.

Warns Dr. Gold, just as I have warned here many times, once that paper is signed there may well be pressure from the international community to "take it off the shelf" before those stipulations have been met. You don't sign a piece of paper giving certain things away until the conditions are right. We have in this regard the precedent of the Road Map, which called for dismantling of terrorism by the PA before we moved to discussing a state. But this has been shoved aside as too cumbersome and now we're talking about a state even though stage one was not realized.

Dr. Gold further points out that "You have to assume that the other side will violate the agreement." We have the precedent of years of Palestinian violations. ~~~~~~~~~~

I would add to this the fact that insisting that we won't have another chance puts unreasonable and undue pressure on us to negotiate. It's an act of desperation. ~~~~~~~~~~

Moving past what Livni said, I want to turn to discussion by a panel on the subject of "Regional and Global Strategic Threats to Israel." Distinguished participants touched upon issues that are exceedingly somber, providing perspectives that are important.

Dr. Rafi Yisraeli, Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University, reminded us of what an error it is to speak of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is, rather, the Israeli-Arab conflict, or, perhaps more accurately the Jewish-Islamic conflict as non-Arab Muslim states such as Iran and Pakistan are involved. ~~~~~~~~~~

The conflict, says Dr. Yisraeli, is not a quantitative one, involving interests or assets, which allows for give and take until a resolution is reached. It is a qualitative conflict, which is about religion and values and is not amenable to compromise. It's take it or leave it.

There was a time when there was a Christian geographic continuity in eastern Europe. But the Iranians have been involved in conflicts in Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, so that this is no longer the case. And here, since Oslo, we have been in a process of retreat. ~~~~~~~~~~

Maj. Gen. (res) Yaakov Amidror concurred , pointing out that you cannot deal with a values conflict the way an interest conflict is responded to. Such a conflict is resolved historically over a long haul and we had best be prepared for this. ~~~~~~~~~~

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) , former chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reminded us that the so-called "moderate" Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have not encouraged the Palestinians to settle the conflict with us. For we represent western values that are challenged by Islamic values. Egypt, for example, discouraged Arafat from accepting Barak's offer in 2000.

While Israel has enormous strengths and has achieved a great many things in the last 30 years, we are facing grave threats in the next two or three years and are not currently doing enough to meet them. MK Steinitz sees four developments with regard to Israeli defense and security:

1) Unquestionably, the specter of Iran developing nuclear capability is paramount, with the possibility of this, indeed, leading to WWIII. The NIE assessment is behind us now and there is solid communication between the Knesset and Congress, which is clear on the threat.

2) There has been very rapid development of new advanced weapons systems in the area -- in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran.

3) If the US withdraws from Iraq before too long, it may be possible for Iran to enter into Iraq. In this case, we might see Iranian troops moving into Syria and might be confronting them one day on the Golan.

4) The Arabs are using missiles and rockets as a means of attacking us indirectly, without full scale ground war. The concern is that their range and their accuracy are increasing. Thus missiles may become a threat to our military headquarters.

There are ways to counter this via the development of missile defense systems and interception systems for medium and short range rockets. Additionally we must develop massive fire power with regard to our own missile capacity.

We must do everything we possibly can. ~~~~~~~~~~

Dr. Meyrav Wurmser, Director, Center for Middle East Policy, Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, provided a significant understanding of the way in which the Iranian threat to us has changed via its involvement with Hamas, which has developed in stages over some 20 years. Iran, which provides money, weapons and training to Hamas, may even have masterminded the Hamas coup in Gaza.

It is a mistake to think of the conflict with Hezbollah and that with Hamas as separate -- they are all part of the same war with Iran.

The accepted wisdom on the nature of the Islamic world -- as divided into Shiite and Sunni camps violently at odds with each other -- no longer applies. We see Haniyeh of Hamas, which is Sunni, speaking of Iran as the defender of the faith.

What Iran now has is a Levant strategy for an Islamic Caliphate. To that end Iran is actually seeking Sunni clients to help in the fight against the West. Hamas, which has global aspirations, fits well into Iran's scheme. So much is this the case, that Iran even allow Hamas to invite Sunni Al Qaeda into Gaza.

The implications are vast. Terrorist organizations are cooperating. Iran is most interested in importing radical Islam (of either kind) in order to further the Islamic Revolution. ~~~~~~~~~~

On a more positive note, several speakers addressed the absolute necessity of keeping Jerusalem united eternally as Israel's capital. It is broadly understood that Jerusalem possess a special sanctity for the Jewish people and is at the heart of what we are all about.

Nir Barkat, a member of the City Council of Jerusalem, is seeking documentation of the fact that Haim Ramon is negotiating a secret third track on Jerusalem, so that action can be taken.

MK Gidon Saar (Likud) spoke about the bill , which has passed its first reading, that will revise Jerusalem Law so that a majority of the Knesset would be required for any concessions on Jerusalem.

He is deeply concerned about the renewal of activity at Orient House (about which I hope I will write more in coming days) and the freezing of construction.

He points out that the argument for division of the city along demographic lines is deceivingly dangerous. The case is made by persons such as Haim Ramon for giving the PA areas that are primarily Arab. This is generally represented as referring to outlying neighborhoods. However, from the time of the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem, when the city was made Judenrein, there are important areas such as Ir David (The City of David, the ancient area that was the original Jerusalem and lies just outside of the Old City) that also have heavily Arab population. ~~~~~~~~~~

I anticipate sharing more tomorrow. Other news will have to wait. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 17, 2008: Charade

You'll find no enormous credence given in these postings to what the Palestinians have to say; frequently their statements are best reviewed with a jaundiced eye. But every now and then what they say makes sense, even if their positions are antithetical to ours.

What do you mean, negotiate on Jerusalem last? PA leaders asked late last week. We're discussing core issues. One of those issues is borders. How can we finalize borders without discussing what part of Jerusalem we'll have? And another issue is settlements. For us, Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Gilo and Ramot are settlements. How can we not also discuss these? And you know what? It's difficult to argue with this. Everything has to be on the table at once (or, preferably, nothing, but that's another story).

The point here is simply that in spite of this argument, Shas continues to pretend that Olmert is straight with them when he says Jerusalem is not being discussed. That, my friends, is the charade. ~~~~~~~~~~

According to YNet, a Gaza ground operation is in the works. It has not yet been put into action as preparations are not complete.

Details are being kept quiet in order to ensure maximum surprise. But this time the goals have been clearly defined.

The short term, tactical goals are:

-- Speedy facilitation of intelligence-gathering capacity (which will make everything else possible).

-- A drastic reduction in firing of Kassams and mortars, achieved quickly.

-- Destruction of military infrastructure , arsenals and weapons manufacturing sites belong to all the terrorists groups.

-- Blocking of smuggling at the Philadelphi Corridor.

-- Avoiding a humanitarian crisis for the Palestinian civilian population. All of this will take time, will be painful, and is very necessary. According to this report, the strategic objectives are:

-- Removing Hamas from power and establishing a stable Palestinian regime with international assistance.

-- Demilitarizing Gaza for a period of time.

-- Achieving effective Israeli security and monitoring for years to come.

It's the first strategic objective , if it is being accurately reported, that I have problems with. First, because we should do this to benefit our security situation and NOT for the sake of Mahmoud Abbas. This would be short-sighted objective that is not in our best interest.

And then, it is still, in my opinion , pie-in-the-sky to imagine there can be a "stable Palestinian regime." It's time to get real. This operation is frequently compared to Operation Defensive Shield of 2002, in which we went into Palestinian areas of Judea and Samaria after horrendous terror attacks. But it has been a great success only because we've retained a presence in these areas for the last six years and do regular operations there. Had we pulled out, there would have been chaos. Remember? Abbas is afraid to leave Ramallah. Who is going to constitute that "stable regime" in Gaza? (There is talk of Europeans doing it but this would be a real disaster, and, I do not believe will ever happen.) ~~~~~~~~~~

On Friday, 14 gunmen blew up the library in a YMCA in Gaza. This is the latest in a series of attacks on Christians. Thousands of books were burnt in the ensuing fire. ~~~~~~~~~~

American citizens who were victims of PA terror, or who lost family to PA terror, and have been awarded monetary payments by US courts, went to Washington last week to meet with officials of the State Department and Justice Department. But apparently they did not come away convinced that what they said would ultimately make a difference.

One of those who went was Shayna Elliot , who was shot in the chest while waiting for a bus on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem in 2002. She lost a lung and is in constant pain. "It's obscene that they would get in involved in our case," she said. "It's obscene that they could be against the terror victims."

Before the visit, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack gave a statement for reporters: "We are absolutely committed to defending the rights of our citizens. We are also fully committed to pursuing our national interest and defending our national interest. At this point, I don't have anything to offer in terms of a decision one way or another on this particular issue."

What does it say when the "national interest" and the "rights of citizens" are in conflict? The US government has until February 29th to decide whether to get involved. ~~~~~~~~~~

Aides of Mahmoud Abbas are charging in strong terms that Mohammad Dahlan is trying to oust him as head of Fatah. The attack on Dahlan was approved by Abbas, who is feeling threatened by the young guard, headed by Dahlan.

There is much argument as to who was responsible for the failure to defeat Hamas in Gaza: Abbas, as President, or Dahlan, as former head of Fatah security in Gaza.

From my perspective, the in-fighting provides a bit of diversion. There are no good guys here, you see; there is no one to root for. The young guard is absolutely right when they complain that they've been frozen out by the old guard, which has not mended its ways. Abbas and company are knee-deep in issues of corruption and incompetence. You get a bit of the picture when you learn that the last time Fatah held a General Conference to elect new central committee and revolutionary council members was in Tunisia in 1987. (There's talk of holding such a conference now.)

Dahlan? They don't come any lower than this man, and I never miss the opportunity to remind people of this. Corruption is not the only issue. There is also terrorism, and this the young guard is not adverse to. Never mind that Dahlan was directly involved in the Karine-A weapons ship. The other day I wrote about the Cohen family, whose three children collectively lost four limbs in a school bus bombing. It was Dahlan who ordered that school bus to be bombed. ~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of young children who have lost limbs, doctors now feel that Osher Twito's remaining leg is no longer at risk. Osher had been maintained in a coma, but has now been allowed to regain consciousness; he is on very heavy painkillers. While breathing on his own, he has not yet spoken. He has not yet been told that he has lost a leg. ~~~~~~~~~~

Egypt is in the process of building a new wall along the Egypt-Gaza border that will be made of concrete and reinforced to withstand the sort of explosions that brought down the previous wall made of metal and barbed wire. Hamas is threatening to shoot at anyone building the wall unless Rafah is opened. They have already shot over the heads of Egyptian workers.

A Hamas delegation led by Mahmoud Zahar went into Egypt, to El Arish, reportedly at Egyptian request, on Friday, to discuss the Rafah opening. The Egyptians were responding to reports that Hamas was planning to forcibly open the border again at the end of the month. The message to be given to Hamas: Our period of self-restraint is over; our guards have orders to shoot.

This does not mean, however, that a mechanism for allowing crossings of persons and goods will not be negotiated in the end between Egypt and Hamas. ~~~~~~~~~~

Caroline Glick, in her Friday column , writes about the strong possibility that Mughniyeh was killed not for what he had already done but rather for what he was about to do.

Says Glick: "On January 30, French security services raided a Paris apartment and arrested six Arab men. Three of the men - two Lebanese and one Syrian - were traveling on diplomatic passports. According to the Italian Libero newspaper, the six were members of a Hezbollah cell. Documents seized included tourist maps of Paris, London, Madrid, Berlin and Rome marked up with red highlighter to indicate routes, addresses, parking lots and "truck stopping points." The maps pointed to several routes to Vatican back entrances.

Libero 's report explained that the "truck stopping points" aligned with information the French had received the week before from Beirut. There, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had convened a conference of his senior terror leaders where he ordered them to activate Hezbollah cells throughout Europe to kidnap senior European leaders.

" . . . All of the feared terror attacks against French and European targets have the classic earmarkings of Hezbollah operations chief and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh was the pioneer of embassy bombings and high-profile kidnappings." ~~~~~~~~~~

The Sunday Times (London) had a different take today, but also focused on what he was going to do: It alleges, according to "informed Israeli sources," that the Mossad took out Mughniyeh because he was working with the Syrians to plan an attack against Israel to avenge the IAF strike on a Syrian site in September 2007. ~~~~~~~~~~

The connection Mughniyeh had with Iran, and the degree to which he operated at the behest of the Iranian regime, brings us around to focus on the Iranian nuclear issue. This is not something that we can ever afford to lose sight of. Less than two weeks ago, head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, delivering an assessment to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, declared that Iran would have nuclear weapons within three years and remained Israel's chief strategic threat.

According to Dagan , the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) made it harder to impose sanctions on Iran. It "pulls the rug out from under" diplomatic efforts,"leaving Israel to face the threat alone." ~~~~~~~~~~

Just about a week after Dagan's report , Vice Admiral (USN Retired) Michael McConnell, United States Director of National Intelligence, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, backtracked on the NIE for which he had been responsible: "I think I would change the way that we described [the Iranian] nuclear program."

What he now says is that the weapon program that the NIE judged "with high confidence" was halted in 2003, really constitutes "the least significant portion" of a nuclear weapons program. For uranium enrichment is continuing apace.

The damage that has been done is enormous.

Please, see Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz on this, "What We Meant to Say Was . . . " It is critically important. ~~~~~~~~~~

Meanwhile, last week Sami Alfaraj, president of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies, said that Persian Gulf States believe that Israel will strike Iran rather than permit it to become nuclear. He maintains that states in the region will not become nuclear themselves, but will instead rely on a "nuclear umbrella" - even if it meant appealing to Israel.

"I believe in something on the same Iraqi [Osirak reactor] model . . . We are assuming in the Gulf that Israel will take it out."

Oh irony! ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 02:45 a.m. by Arlene

February 14, 2008: Issues Coming Clear

"Issues Coming Clear"

It's a balagan (a confused situation) and could make you crazy if you try to make sense out of what you read in the press:

-- Olmert has denied that Jerusalem is being discussed in negotiations; Qurei doesn't set the agenda for talks, he insists.

-- Shas, which is eager to remain in the government , has accepted this denial, and is staying "for now." The charade of staying in a government that wants to divide Jerusalem eventually, even if (a big if) perhaps it is not doing so at the moment, is breathtaking.

-- Nir Barkat, a member of the Jerusalem City Council , says that he has evidence from "secret sources" that in secret meetings Israel and the PA have already agreed on dividing Jerusalem. Livni, he says, knows about this secret channel and thus is complicit. In correspondence with Livni, Barkat has written that " " I would like to remind you that if this is true, it constitutes a complete deviation from Kadima's basic principles, a blatant violation of Basic Law: Jerusalem, a breach of the voter's trust and an undermining of the Knesset's sovereignty." ~~~~~~~~~~

And so, I have now gone to my own very knowledgeable "secret source," who is happy to share information with me provided that his name is not used. Some of what he says many of you will already have intuited or understood from various public sources; what he does is provide confirmation. But he also offers details, perspective, and additional information that is likely to be new to most.

There are, says my source, three channels of negotiations:

First there is the Ehud Olmert-Mahmoud Abbas channel. They are establishing basic principles only and not dealing with details. They do not write anything down, they simply talk. And thus they have deniability. There is no question that they have discussed Jerusalem and have agreed in principle that it will be shared. Abbas makes no compromises; in all instances where agreement is reached, it is because Olmert has acceded to a PA demand.

Then there are the day-to-day negotiations of teams headed by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qurei, former PA prime minister. These negotiations involve written notes and so both sides are fearful of committing themselves prematurely. For this reason, there has been no progress on major issues; it is with regard to this level that it is said that talks are frozen. The teams are restricting themselves to discussing "pragmatics." As far as Jerusalem is concerned, they are talking about such matters as building in various neighborhoods and the possibility of re-opening Orient House. But my observation is that as much as this is called "pragmatic" it is ultimately political: To give Fatah a presence in Jerusalem, for example, is to concede that part of Jerusalem will belong to Fatah. ~~~~~~~~~~

Finally, there is the back-channel, which is what Barkat was alluding to (and he has details correct). It is also what Palestinians I've cited in recent days were referring to: on the table and under the table, open and secret meetings, etc.

The person representing Israel in these meetings is Deputy Premier Haim Ramon. He began these meetings in Rome, shortly after Fatah lost Gaza. At that time he met with Salam Fayyad, who was named PA prime minister when Abbas reconstituted his government after the Gaza rout. But the Fatah powers objected to this, because Fayyad was willing to make some compromises and they want NO compromises. What sort of compromises was Fayyad willing to consider? Maybe half a million refugees returned to Israel instead of all four million. Maybe the PA would get all of eastern Jerusalem except for the Kotel, which would remain Israeli. Fayyad was not powerful enough to withstand Fatah objections.

And so now strong man Mohammad Rashid is negotiating with Ramon. ~~~~~~~~~~

Rashid was a trusted confident of Arafat and was deeply involved in financial shenanigans of the PA (as was Qurei, incidentally). And Rashid and Ramon are business partners. What is more, Haim Ramon has a direct connection with South African/Austrian multi-millionaire businessman Martin Schlaff, who is shoulder-deep in issues of corruption in this country. Or, as Gidi Weitz and Uri Blau describe him in Haaretz in a recent major expose on these issues, Schlaff plays "the role of the omnipotent Jewish gvir [patron] who wants to manage the affairs of the Middle Eastern shtetl."

Anyone familiar with the investigations of Ariel Sharon will know the name Schlaff. More recently there are corruption investigations involving Schlaff with Olmert and Lieberman. Schlaff won't set foot in Israel now, for fear of being immediately arrested. For a summary of this, far briefer than the very extensive Haaretz article, see: ~~~~~~~~~~

My source tells me that whatever Ramon and Rashid might come up with in terms of an agreement will not be accepted by the PA because of the intransigence of Fatah with regard to any compromises. Remember that Farouk Kadoumi, who was opposed totally to Oslo, has huge influence on the Central Committee of Fatah.

And from our side, dear Heaven , do we need to clean house! ~~~~~~~~~~

Interesting: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's eldest son, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, has come out with a position that opposes his father's. He says Shas must quit the government immediately because support for Olmert's government endangers Jews.

Rabbis from Sderot have gone to see Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, to try to convince him that it was important that Shas leave the government, and they came away terribly frustrated.

I've asked myself what it might be that would convince Ovadia Yosef that Shas should pull out. And I have no answers. I do not know Rabbi Yosef and certainly cannot see into his head.

And so, it's difficult to be certain if this is relevant now (and yet hard to believe it's not): The Haaretz expose says that Shas faction head Eli Yishai was known to be present at a February 2001 meeting with Rashid, Ramon and Schlaff. And that Aryeh Deri -- who was head of the Shas faction until he was convicted of corruption in 1999 and sentenced to three years in prison -- has Schlaff connections, both business and personal. Just months ago, Schlaff held a reception in Vienna on the occasion of his grandson's brit milah. The contingent from Israel included Aryeh Deri, who presided over the circumcision. (Ramon was also there, incidentally.) ~~~~~~~~~~

A Kassam rocket hit a house in Sderot yesterday. Responsibility has been claimed by Al Aksa Brigades, in retaliation for the assassination of Hezbollah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. Al Aksa, it should be noted, is part of the "moderate" Fatah. ~~~~~~~~~~

I've written recently about theories that Egypt might take over or have more influence in Gaza, and other hints that we might weaken or take out Hamas in Gaza so that Fatah can resume control there.

Here we have yet another take , this one by Efraim Inbar, director of BESA, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. "In Gaza; Risks and Opportunities," Inbar writes the following. Please note the last sentence of this segment.

"It is very understandable that Egypt does not want to again rule over Gaza. Nevertheless, Hamas's success in opening the Egypt-Gaza border places Egypt on the horns of a dilemma.

"Thus far, Egypt enjoyed the bleeding of Israel , a regional rival, by Hamas " with little cost to itself. But Hamas has grown more powerful and its free access to Sinai has become dangerous. Hamas is far from being the darling of the current Egyptian regime since its links to the Muslim brethren threaten the rule of President Mubarak and his heir. The indecisive Egyptian reaction to the breach in the Rafah wall reflected this dilemma.

"On the one hand, Egypt must show solidarity with the Palestinians and sensitivity to their suffering. Therefore, it allowed Gazans to enter its territory. On the other hand, Egypt is a proud sovereign country that wants full control over its borders. It is particularly fearful of the influence of Hamas at home . . .

"It is not yet clear how the Egyptian dilemma will play out. One distinct possibility is a greater Egyptian role in Gaza to limit the Islamist influence. This is advantageous for Israel, even if some terror may still originate in Gaza. Actually, such a scenario could evolve only after a large-scale Israeli military operation that would extract a heavy price from Gaza, seriously weakening Hamas, particularly its military wing." ~~~~~~~~~~ Israel , while currently at greater risk abroad and in the north, will reap benefits in a variety of ways from the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. There is deterrence value, because -- whoever did kill Imad Mughniyeh -- much of the world is convinced the Mossad is responsible. If he could be hit, anyone can be hit, and terrorist leaders will rest less easy. According to Al Hayat in London, Mughniyeh had been in Syria -- coming in under secret identity -- only hours before his death by car bomb. That this could have been pulled off is most impressive. There are reports that Mughniyeh had met in Damascus only weeks ago with Hamas strongman Khalid Mashaal to discuss Gaza. A blessing that he will no longer be around to provide advice and guidance. What is more, he was the key link between Hezbollah and Iran, overseeing the apparatus for international terror attacks. ~~~~~~~~~~ When writing yesterday about the possibility that the US government might intervene in court findings that required the PA to pay large punitive sums to survivors of Americans who lost their lives in PA-connected terrorist attacks, I suggested that President Bush be contacted and I provided contact information.

I have since heard from members of this list who think that information for contacting the State Department should also be provided. I had not done so sooner because I have the feeling that ultimately Bush is more accessible and Rice is totally a lost cause. But, they are correct; it doesn't hurt to try. And so here I provide some information for State. Use it, if you wish, in addition to , but not instead of contact with the president. Say that you would like Sec. of State Rice to receive the message. Fax: 202-647-2283 (from Doris Wise Montrose) Phone: 202-647-4000 (from Esther Kandel) ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 13, 2008: Totally Lost "Totally lost?"

Before I talk about being totally lost , I'm going to share something that brings a smile, because we desperately need to smile now and then to stay sane and healthy.

This is a Dry Bones cartoon entitled "Reductum Ad Absurdum."

Watson: "Holmes, the UN refers to Gaza as occupied territory. But the only non-Palestinian force now in Gaza is the UN itself.

"Does this mean that Gaza is occupied by the UN?"

Holmes: "What it means, Watson, is that the 'Palestinians' have occupied the UN."

Political cartoonist Yaakov Kirshen gets it just right. See the cartoon and Kirshen's description of the dialogue that inspired it, at:

(Thanks to Cheryl Hoffer for calling my attention to this.) ~~~~~~~~~~ One begins to wonder if the US is also occupied by the 'Palestinians.' Consider:

American victims of terror attacks here in Israel -- or their surviving families -- have sued the Palestinian Authority in US courts and have received judgments against the PA totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, none of which has been paid. These judgments were made possible because of testimony that specifically linked senior PA leaders to attacks.

Lawyers for the PA are trying to avoid payment , and to that end have asked for assistance from the US government. Their argument is that it makes no sense for the US to provide assistance to the PA while US courts are threatening to bankrupt the PA because of ideologically motivated suits. And so, they are seeking US government intervention in the court rulings. (Originally they had claimed sovereign immunity but the courts threw this out as the PA is not a nation.)

The US government has not yet made a decision in a case that forces "the Bush administration to choose between supporting compensation for victims of terrorism and bolstering the Palestinian Authority."

If they decide for the PA , then we will know that the US has completely and totally lost its way. ~~~~~~~~~~

Over a year ago , PA President Abbas asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene but she said then that "the US [government] is not party to these enforcement proceedings." But now there has been a rethinking of the issues and ultimately the Justice Department will decide in this extremely complex case.

Families of Americans killed in Palestinian terror attacks sued the PA under a law passed by Congress in 1990 in response to the terrorist murder of Leon Klinghoffer, who was thrown off the Achille Lauro cruise ship in his wheel chair.

But today, bolstering the PA has become a priority for the US. As we all know, once the PA is stronger, there will be peace in the Middle East. What sort of people have won court cases on this issue? There is, for example, the mother of six whose husband, Aharon Ellis, a US citizen, was killed in 2002 while singing at a bar mitzvah in Hadera.

PA lawyers argue that "The judgment's potential interference with American foreign policy presents a unique and exceptional circumstance justifying relief . . . "

One of the lawyers who has represented the victims in many of these cases says, "If the State Department tips the scales of justice against the victims in order to support adjudicated terrorists, the war on terrorism will be seen throughout the world as a farce."

Methinks its time for the US to reexamine its foreign policy, if it leads to situations such as this. Actually I think monies that have been allocated for the PA by the US should be set aside in sufficient amounts to pay all those who have won judgments against the PA; that's the only way they'll ever see their money.

~~~~~~~~~~ He was surprised. Or so said Shas Faction head Eli Yishai, when he learned from press reports that Livni and Qurei had met Monday and Tuesday. You see, Olmert had promised to keep him abreast of all negotiations. Yishai intends to discuss this with Olmert.

Speaking with Olmert about all of this is very important, because Shas has a new theory. Maybe Livni was holding secret talks with the PA without telling Olmert, precisely so that Shas would find out about it and bring the government down and then she could take over. "Olmert has to decide whether he wants Shas in the government or whether he wants what Livni is doing," said MK Ariel Attias, second after Yishai. This is creative thinking, you have to admit.

Some new light has been shed on a possible reason why the members of Shas are stretching themselves so to stay in the government in spite of what's starring them in the face: According to a Haaretz report today, Shas's spiritual (?) leader Ovadia Yosef doesn't want the party to pull out yet. He doesn't believe the negotiations will yield real results because Abbas is weak and that thus Shas can sit tight. So, according to this thinking, it's OK to agree in principle that Jerusalem should be divided and Arabs should control Har Habayit, as long as it doesn't actually happen. ~~~~~~~~~~

Hatem Abdel Qader, Jerusalem affairs adviser to PA Prime Minister Fayyad, has told the Jerusalem Post that Jerusalem is being discussed now. In fact, Jerusalem "is not only on the table, it's also under the table." By which he explained he meant that "the negotiations with the Israelis are taking place both openly and secretly."

This is hardly news at this point , but it's worth noting what else he says:

"Our position is, 'Take it all or leave it. We have also made it clear to the Israelis that we won't accept any partial solutions for Jerusalem [such as permitting Israel to retain some control in eastern Jerusalem, perhaps with regard to the Kotel.] As far as we are concerned, Jerusalem must be one geographic, political and religious unit."

What was it I reported yesterday? That the Arabs were complaining that we weren't being "flexible" in negotiations. By which I correctly assumed they meant we weren't capitulating entirely.

If the PA is serious about this position , then it is a case of "leave it," whatever Olmert's or Livni's intentions. This will not fly with the majority of Israelis, or with a majority of the Knesset. We have been speaking about "core" issues, and Israeli retention of Har Habayit and the Kotel is a core issue for Jewish Israelis even if they are not religious. When polls are taken it is discovered that this issue pushes buttons that others don't. ~~~~~~~~~~

Meanwhile Olmert has told journalists that he doesn't believe Shas will quit the coalition. "It is clear to all of the sides that the issue of Jerusalem will be the last issue on the agenda with the Palestinians." According to Army Radio, Olmert told Shas that building would continue in Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, and that he would be contacting authorities in the Housing Ministry in coming days to inform them of his decision.

Well . . . what is there to say about this? If the report is accurate, it means that construction indeed had been halted (which it was not supposed have been and represents a betrayal of earlier commitments) and that he was now going to make a gesture to keep Shas happy. Are the members of Shas so stupid that they wouldn't see through this? I don't think so. But I think they'll grab at this as a reason to stay, if they possibly can. And, if turns out to be how it plays out -- if Shas is that easily bought -- this would be most disgusting. The fact that Olmert may instruct the Housing Ministry does not prevent negotiations on the issue from continuing anyway. ~~~~~~~~~~ Imad Mughniyeh, the "super chief of staff" in Hezbollah , and a co-founder of the terrorist organization, was killed in a car bombing in Damascus late last night. While there have been accusations to the contrary, the Israeli government denies any involvement

Mughniyeh was top on Israel's wanted list , ahead of Nasrallah, and on US "most wanted" list as well.

He was originally a member of Fatah in southern Lebanon and served in Force-17, Arafat's personal guard. In the 1980s he was responsible for the attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Marine headquarters in Beirut that killed 241 a.m.ericans. He planned two bomb attacks in Argentina against the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Community Center. In 2003 he was involved in attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq. He is believed to have been involved in the kidnapping of Goldwasser and Regev.

Israeli embassies and institutions abroad have been put on increased alert. Hezbollah has cells in as many as 40 countries.

From the US, from a State Department spokesman came this statement: " The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a cold-blooded killer, a mass-murderer and a terrorist responsible for countless innocent lives lost. One way or another he was brought to justice." Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora , on the other hand, sent condolences to Mughniyeh's family. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 01:33 p.m. by Arlene |

February 12, 2008: Who Knows

Who can say precisely what is going on with negotiations currently taking place between Israel and the PA?

I am tempted to say only the participants in the negotiations and their aides, and a handful of others at the top, such as Olmert and Abbas, who are not direct participants. But I'm not sure even this is true, as I suspect that different versions and interpretations of what is being said are circulating, even within this select circle.

The point is that most people in Israel -- including members of the Knesset -- don't really have a clue about what is going on in these discussions between Livni and Qurei, and even more so can we understand that this the case now that we've learned that there are "secret" negotiations.

This is a decidedly bad state of affairs. The concern here is that an "agreement" -- with commitments made -- might be sprung upon us before there is adequate opportunity to object. Quite simply, the fear is that Olmert, who seems determined to do so, might initiate a process for giving away part of the country literally behind our backs.

At one level this is a genuine source of concern. At another level I remain convinced that Olmert, as much as he might like to, simply cannot initiate a Gaza style "disengagement" from Judea and Samaria. I believe attempts to do so would bring down the government and generate a groundswell of grassroots outrage such as hasn't been seen here before. ~~~~~~~~~~

And this too must be noted: From all indications, even though all "core" subjects undoubtedly are on the table, things are not going smoothly with the negotiations. There have been statements about stalemates, and it is this very slowness of progress that is bringing Condoleezza Rice here to "move things along."

On Saturday, Al Quds Alarabi, London , reported that a "senior Ramallah official" was saying that "Final status talks between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams have reached a severe standstill due to Israeli stubbornness." The Israeli delegation, he complained, was "not demonstrating flexibility on any issue," by which I assume he meant was not acceding to all Palestinian demands.

And yesterday, Deputy Premier Haim Ramon , who is an Olmert mouthpiece, made a statement scaling down expectations with regard to the negotiations. It is not likely, he said, that a full agreement would be reached in 2008, but rather a "declaration of principles" spelling out a Palestinian state in enough detail to be implemented in the coming years.

For example, he said, the declaration would deal with Jerusalem, i.e., presumably saying that it would be shared, but not saying exactly what would happen in the Old City. ( Interesting, that he used Jerusalem as the example.) But it is my observation that the devil is in the details. Today, Abbas told journalists , "We cannot speak about a progress in the peace process." ~~~~~~~~~~

Bradley Burston, writing in Haaretz , suggests that Sderot is our Stalingrad. Stalingrad's stand against Germany was viewed as a turning point of World War II. And indeed he may be on to something: "The longer the siege against the civilian population of Sderot continues, the more the Palestinians are seen more as aggressors and less as victims . . . The world is beginning to view the people of Sderot as true victims of brutality against civilians. The Kassam rockets have acted to delegitimize the Palestinians as a people capable of governing an independent state." ~~~~~~~~~~

Osher Twito, the eight-year old who lost his leg , and his older brother, Rami, both underwent second surgeries today, and doctors say even more will be necessary, followed by intensive rehabilitation. They are now at Sheba Hospital in Tel Shomer because of its specialized facilities. Osher's remaining leg remains at some risk because of threat of infection and damage to its main artery; he is being kept sedated at present. And now the Twito family was visited by the Sabu family, whose son lost a leg in rocket attack in the north. The Sabus offered reassurance about what is possible with rehabilitation. ~~~~~~~~~~

Olmert is currently in Germany. A main topic of discussion has been Iran, and this is important. But what's going on with regard to the Kassam attacks was also discussed. Chancellor Angela Merkel told Olmert that Israel has a right to defend herself and that in light of what's happening Germany would support an operation in Gaza.

Well . . . Good that international opinion is with us , and heaven knows that I sometimes despair that we don't present our position forcefully enough. But my own response to this: We need international sanction to defend ourselves? Does our defending ourselves depend, in Olmert's mind, on having first received that sanction? If no one understood, our right to defend ourselves still would exist, and I fear that we, forever looking over our shoulders, haven't been enough convinced of this. ~~~~~~~~~~

As to an operation in Gaza , there are hints now that it may actually be coming. (Some suggestion is being made that it may be held off until after the rainy season, as cloudy skies block aerial views. This is reasonable.) Increasingly, Defense Minister Ehud Barak refers to preparations for such an operation. And there is yet more:

Yesterday, Barak told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, "I don't see the Palestinians giving Gaza back to Fatah . . . . Outside developments might bring this about."

And when Ramon made his statement about the declaration of principles, he echoed the same theme: "I believe the combination of [Israeli] steps against Hamas in Gaza will bring an end to the Hamas regime in Gaza . . . the Hamas regime in Gaza will not last."

Reportedly, what is planned, beside retaking the Philadelphi corridor to block smuggling, is a division of Gaza into areas, with a careful, slow and painful taking out of the terrorist infrastructure that has been built up by Hamas over the last 2-1/2 years. Now THAT would bring us deterrence. ~~~~~~~~~~

I'd like to look just a bit further, however , at what's being suggested here, which is more than deterrence and defending ourselves -- rather, this vision of matters includes weakening Hamas sufficiently so that Fatah can take over in Gaza. Then we would be able to negotiate with Abbas, who would control all Palestinian areas, and we would give him a state. (This may have been a sub-text in some of what Livni has said of late.)

I am exceedingly cynical about the possibility of this happening for a variety of reasons. Analysts far more knowledgeable than I have suggested that if Abbas attempts to "ride into Gaza on an Israeli tank" he will be lost, as the Gazans will see him as having sided with the enemy. Remember that, for all the lamenting about poor innocent Gazans, they are a radicalized population.

Then, too, Abbas is extremely weak. And the PA security forces greatly compromised, with Al Aksa terrorists within those forces. All of this, needless to say, will bear very close watching. ~~~~~~~~~~

According to Egyptian sources, Palestinians have dug new smuggling tunnels in recent weeks -- resuming the smuggling now that the fence is no longer breached -- and the Egyptians are combing the area to find them. Finding them isn't always easy, say the Egyptians, as the tunnel entrances are sometimes hidden inside of closets and even bathrooms. It would represent a new situation if the Egyptians were really serious about monitoring this.

In the past week, the Egyptians have rounded up some 3,000 Palestinians who remained in Egypt after the fence was sealed, and have deported them back into Gaza. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2008

February 11, 2008: Holding Pattern

Perhaps the best thing that happened here today is that the protesters from Sderot moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and blocked traffic on two main arteries. More power to them. It falls to all of Israel to join them now and to continue to raise the roof until the necessary actions to defend our nation are taken. ~~~~~~~~~~ There was also a suggestion from a group in Sderot that they make their own rockets and launch them at Gaza. Don't know how seriously this was meant, but a bit of tit for tat might not be bad. ~~~~~~~~~~ A brief and poignant story: In November 2000, a school bus was bombed in Kfar Drom (Gaza), and three children of one family -- the family of Noga and Ofir Cohen -- lost limbs, four limbs among the three kids. I remember the shock of that news, and the awe I felt at the strength of the parents, who held tight where they were and helped their children get on with their lives.

Noga Cohen called the mother of Osher Tuito, the eight-year old who lost his leg this week. It will be all right, Noga told her. My children do everything, and your son will too.

It must get a whole lot better than this. But I've said before, and I see it here, that the people of Israel are strong and good people. This is why we shall ultimately prevail. ~~~~~~~~~~

But it won't be because of the support of Shas that we will prevail, that's for sure. Their response to the information that was exposed yesterday regarding negotiations on Jerusalem is pathetic. First the comment was that they won't stay in a government that negotiates on Jerusalem, and they will expect Olmert to tell them if this is happening (as apparently he had promised to do). But come on! These were secret negotiations, guys.

Now, having been told by many, in essence, that this is nonsense and that it's time they faced what was going on, we see a slightly different response.

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai says that "if the reports [about negotiations on Jerusalem] are true," they will leave the government. Exactly how they will determine for themselves that this is the case, he didn't say. It's starring them in the face, and they won't see it yet.

Then another issue was raised by Yishai -- the error of negotiating while Israel continues to sustain Kassam rocket attacks. In fairness to him, he did say the other day that we should stop negotiations if we keep getting hit by Kassams.

But, says a Shas official, "currently there is no progress in the negotiations; it's all talk at this point." But that's the time to leave -- while it's still talk and not on paper! Yet they have apparently determined that this means they don't have to leave. Soon maybe, but not now. ~~~~~~~~~~

I would like to turn to clarification of a critical issue that is most often left fuzzy: the question of what our goals are with regard to Gaza. Mofaz raised this at the Cabinet meeting yesterday, and the whole failure of our government in this regard in Lebanon was criticized by Winograd. Perhaps it seems obvious, but it's not. The Olmert government is simply shooting from the hip without thinking strategically.

There are potentially two or three goals. One is to simply stop the launching of Kassams. Many seem to suggest that this is all we need. But it is sorely insufficient as long as Hamas, which has a stated goal of destroying us, still has the capacity to start launching again whenever it suits them.

The second is to establish deterrence power with Hamas and other terrorist groups. Deterrence power is what we've lost, by pulling out of Lebanon in 2000, pulling out of Gaza in 2005, and then by not decisively winning in the Lebanon War in 2006.

Deterrence means making them afraid of us. Then they might still have the means to hit us again, but they would think very seriously about doing so because the repercussions would be severe. We badly need to regain deterrence, and this is a far better goal then just making them stop for now.

Lastly, there is the goal of taking out the terrorist capacity that currently exists in Gaza: the weaponry and the army. ~~~~~~~~~~

As various glib statements are made by officials , it helps to keep the issue of goals in mind. Particularly is this the case right now with a number of things Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has said -- statements that are unclear in their implications and might make anyone who thinks carefully on these matters more than a little uneasy.

On the one hand, I've read statements by her that suggest we cannot negotiate a Palestinian state unless they stop launching rockets at us from Gaza first. But here we come to the issue of whether it's enough to just get them to stop. Suppose (this is not going to happen now) Hamas decided to play along with Abbas, and stop Kassams so that he could negotiate that state, which would include Hamas in Gaza -- and then once there was a state they started again. Livni is trying to motivate a stop in Kassams, but she's not on solid ground here.

Then, I've read it put by her a bit differently : Israel won't negotiate a Palestinian state that includes Gaza unless they stop those rockets. And here we come to an even more problematic (and yet more possible) scenario. Suppose Hamas doesn't stop. Does this mean we're now willing to negotiate a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria only? The implications are huge. Either there is Palestinian nationalism or there isn't. (There isn't.) I would suggest that Livni has not thought through the consequences of her various comments, and is not really certain, long term, what our goals should be.

Actually, let me carry that one step further: Olmert and Livni have backed themselves into an untenable situation. There is no way, really, to negotiate a state with the Palestinians, and yet that is what we're ostensibly doing. And so we encounter statements that reflect an attempt to grapple with this. ~~~~~~~~~~

Ismail Haniyeh has gone into hiding in Gaza for fear that Israel might target him. ~~~~~~~~~~

Couldn't happen to a better group: The Israeli government has determined that Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) has broken the law. A report released by the Justice Ministry, following an investigation, indicates that Peace Now used money earmarked for a non-profit educational group for political purposes. There is talk of dismantling them, but I won't believe it until I see it. It should only be. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Monday, February 11, 2008

February 10, 2008: Gut Wrenching

What we're seeing today IS gut-wrenching, and I can only hope that the ultimate effect of all the bad news will be something positive, i.e., the downfall of Olmert's government.

There are times for staying calm , and times when staying calm is inappropriate. Consider all of the following:

Osher Tuito, the eight-year old boy hit by a Kassam yesterday had to have his leg amputated. The deputy director general of Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon where this boy and his relatives were taken, reported:

"When Osher arrived here, his leg was completely crushed. It was clear that we would probably have to amputate it. He underwent surgery during the night and we are trying to keep the second leg, but it's also in bad condition.

"Apart from that, he has a hole in his chest and his lungs are injured. We still fear an infection and are constantly on the lookout. His brother Rami was also operated on tonight. Both his legs are plastered now and we presume that he will be transferred to the orthopedic ward in the coming hours."

Osher's father, Rafi, said, with tears in his eyes, "He is just an eight-year-old kid. A child who should be playing football, riding his bike. How can such a child live with an amputated leg, with his entire life ahead of him?"

He further explained that his sister's house in Sderot was hit six months ago, and that his daughter, who lives outside of Sderot, is afraid to come and visit with her baby, and he tells, her, "You're right, don't come." ~~~~~~~~~~

This is a source of shame for all of Israel.

Olmert seems beyond shame. He wished the people injured in this attack in Sderot a refuah shlemah, the traditional wish that means a "complete recovery." How is he so insensitive as to wish a boy who lost his leg a "complete recovery"? ~~~~~~~~~~

Enough is enough, and this is way over the top. Many many people are furious today. The Cabinet meeting, from all reports, was hot. Interior Minister Sheetrit, for example, recommends leveling one Gaza neighborhood as a warning. "Any other country would have already gone in and leveled the area, which is exactly what I think the IDF should do " decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it . . . . We should let them know 'you have to leave, this area will be taken down tomorrow' and just take it down " that will show them we mean business."

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (who intends to challenge Olmert in Kadima primaries) lamented that there's no plan in Gaza. Wasn't that the trouble in Lebanon?

Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter , who just visited Sderot, is pushing for that operation into Gaza. "The home front is under an extensive Kassam attack. The home front is sustaining casualties and its civil functioning is badly damaged, but no military operation is prepared to give an answer to the situation." Dichter pointed out that the limited results of what is being done are causing frustration and dissatisfaction "among commanders and fighters." Destroying fighting morale is dangerous. And, in my opinion, considering what we face, stupid. ~~~~~~~~~~

In addition, furious residents of Sderot came to Jerusalem, where -- joined by Jerusalem residents in solidarity with them -- they first blocked the entrance road to Jerusalem.

Then, carrying parts of a Kassam , they moved on the prime minister's office, where they hoped to break in. Said Sderot resident Davidi, "We have a coward for a prime minister and a coward for a defense minister. Is there any reason to abandon children?" While one of the many children participating said, "We've had enough. They are firing Kassams at us. This is no joke, the Kassam kills." ~~~~~~~~~~

But, says Olmert, "Rage is not a plan. "We need to act in a methodical and organized fashion, over time. That's what we're doing, that's what we'll continue to do. We'll continue to go after all terror operatives, their handlers and their dispatchers." But it's not enough. It's not enough. It's not enough. What is being done isn't working. And now Olmert is giving notice that even though it isn't working, he intends to go on with the same approach and not order that ground operation.

He brags that we've taken out about 200 terrorists who launched rockets. But I've read that thousands of such guys exist, and reducing the numbers to this extent is meaningless. ~~~~~~~~~~

Why won't he order that ground operation? Because the Palestinians have let it be known that it would interfere with "negotiations," and -- Heaven help us! -- Livni is coming back to invigorate that "peace process," which has been moving slowly and seems more moribund than not. In fact, the PA has appealed to the US to intervene to stop us from doing a ground operation.

So, what does Olmert answer to? His responsibility to keep Israelis safe, or his perceived need to keep Rice happy and to move on that "process" no matter what? ~~~~~~~~~~

Oh! And there's more. Hopefully this will help bring down the government. Shas has agreed to stay in the government because Olmert promised that there would be no negotiation on Jerusalem now -- it would be saved for last. Seemed like a flimsy excuse for staying in the government -- when it was obvious what Olmert's intentions were, but Shas faction head Minister Eli Yishai latched on to that. See, he said, because of us there are no negotiations on Jerusalem. Good we're in the government.

It turns out that Olmert deceived Shas. First there was this in today's Post: "There are public meetings and there are secret ones," the PA official explained. "The main progress has been achieved during the secret talks, particularly on the issue of Jerusalem. Today we can say that Israel is prepared to withdraw from almost all the Arab neighborhoods and villages in Jerusalem. Israel is prepared to redivide Jerusalem and this is a positive development." This was followed by a report by Hagai Huberman in today's edition of Makor Rishon that FM Livni told foreign diplomats a few days ago that "in her talks with [Ahmed Qurei] they are in fact discussing all the key issues, including Jerusalem. She admitted that this conflicts with what the prime minister said two weeks ago . . . for Shas to hear, that the matter of Jerusalem would only be discussed at the end of the negotiations." How low can Olmert sink? If he goes much lower he'll be operating underground. The pressure is now on Shas , in a major way, to leave the government and help bring it down. Tonight a spokesman for Shas, unnamed, was cited in the Post as saying Shas would not stay in a government that negotiates on Jerusalem. Right . . . But "would not stay" is not the same as "we resign this instant and since you lied to us, we will work to bring you down." I want to see them do it. ~~~~~~~~~~

Posted on Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 10:53 a.m. by Arlene |

February 9, 2008: How Much?

It is late and there will more to write shortly. But this brief posting is necessary because the outrage is too great for silence. Abandonment of a city. Sderot, that is. Two brothers, ages 8 and 19, were seriously wounded today when a rocket slammed into the center of Sderot; their mother and a third brother were lightly wounded. The younger boy was wounded badly in his legs, which may have to be amputated. There had been five rockets launched in the barrage that caused these serious injuries. Three missed the mark and two entered Sderot. The wounded family was simply crossing a street when the alarm went off; they didn't make it to shelter in time. Islamic Jihad claimed credit for this. Two hours later a sixth rocket landed in the Negev. Yesterday, Friday, 40 Kassams and mortar shells were launched at Israel. Kassams hit two homes in Sderot late in the day, while the inhabitants were eating their Shabbat dinner. ~~~~~~~~~~ Said Israeli gov't spokesman David Baker , with regard to this attack: "Israel will take resolute and decisive measures to protect our citizens. We will not allow Israeli families to be victimized by Palestinian rockets in the heart of their own cities."

I suppose, as he's only a messenger, we can't hold him responsible for how ludicrous this is. Give us a break, already! What do you mean, "We will not allow Israeli families to be victimized by Palestinian rockets"??

Haven't you noticed? By refusing to take strong action, the Olmert government has been allowing just that. It is clear (I think I've said this before a few dozen times) that the "action" against the terrorists -- bombing launchers and their sites -- is NOT working.

How long before that major operation? I read the other day that more and more it's understood in the IDF that it's not a question of "if" there will be a major operation so much "when," and I realized as I read it that I'd read this before, weeks ago. So, when? ~~~~~~~~~~

Already the world is whining because of the "humanitarian" damage we may do with cutting back electric power to Gaza. But where do we see distress in the international community registered on a comparable note with regard to the humanitarian damage done to the people of Sderot? Even though I know better than to expect equity in such matters, the obvious tilt still enrages me.

In Gaza, gunmen from Islamic Jihad are shooting their weapons in the air and broadcasting messages through mosque loudspeakers. Teenagers are dancing in the streets.

What's the occasion? They're celebrating that they seriously injured two Jewish boys in Sderot. But the world takes little note of this. "There are none so blind as those who will not see." ~~~~~~~~~~

According to Reuters, the US estimates that it will require between $4 and $7 billion to restructure Abbas's security forces to prepare the PA for statehood. I am not making this up.

The PA has advanced a five-year plan for a single force of 50,000 that would include both units to do civilian police work and units to "rein in militants." It is being backed by the US, which has now shared the plan with the EU and Israel.

How can the US justify Fatah being worth this level of effort? If the PA, in spite of all the assistance received to date, still requires this amount of overhaul, is it not time to admit defeat and look for other plans? Maybe it's time to retire the PA altogether. It's shameful that there is such a paucity of creative diplomatic thinking in the US, that they are willing to sink good money after bad rather than admit that what they're doing isn't working.

Why is it assumed that money fixes all the problems? Evidence is rife of a reluctance by Abbas and the Fatah security forces to take on their brothers who just happen to be terrorists. Where motivation is weak, and ideology is tinged with terrorism even amongst those purported to be "moderates," the notion of bringing genuine reform through expenditures is nonsense.

And one last question here: If this, even in a best case scenario, is supposed to take five years, why are negotiations supposed to be done now? It is expected, it seems, that we'll come up with a "political horizon" (it won't happen), by the end of this year, and that the Palestinians will sit around for another four or five years, while their security forces are revamped, without demanding what has been promised.

US envoy for Middle East security, James Jones, is preparing a report on how to ensure any future withdrawal of Israeli troops would not create a security vacuum. But the IDF is all that stands between Fatah and Hamas in Judea and Samaria. And when the US armed and trained Fatah in Gaza, they ran from Hamas.

The only possible good news here is that the international community, which just pledged parallel sums for economic development in the PA, is not likely to buy into this, too. ~~~~~~~~~~

The IDF, during an operation in northern Gaza last Thursday, discovered rocket launchers hidden in underground bunkers; the launchers could be activated from a distance.

This is reminiscent of the way Hezbollah operated during the war, and evidence of the cooperation between Hezbollah and Hamas now. ~~~~~~~~~~

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Education for war: Delegitimization, Demonization, and Violence
American Jewish Committee Underwrites Study of New Palestinian Authority School textbooks.

Reviewed by Arlene Kushner, Senior Policy Research Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.

The American Jewish Committee, in cooperation with The Institute for Monitoring the Impact of Peace and Tolerance in School Education (formerly known as CMIP), will soon release a cutting edge report on Palestinian Authority textbooks most recently published. The findings, based on a detailed analysis of the textbooks, has particular relevance in light of on-going negotiations between Israel and the PA.

In an interview, Dr. Arnon Groiss, Director of Research for the Institute, has provided an advance view of the material that will be offered in the report, as well as an over-view of the Institute’s findings regarding all of the textbooks previously reviewed.


The project is best understood within an historical context: From 1948 until 1967, textbooks utilized in Palestinian schools were published by Jordan, in Judea and Samaria, and by Egypt, in the Gaza Strip. When Israel assumed control of these areas in 1967, the same textbooks were used, but with blatantly anti-Israel material excised.

It was in 1994, shortly after its establishment, that the Palestinian Authority began to take over the schools. When they reintroduced the old Jordanian and Egyptian material, Israel protested and was assured that new books were going to be published. Complaints, said the PA, should be reserved until these books were released.

(In 1996, the PA began to produce textbooks in National Education, as this was lacking from Jordanian and Egyptian texts; these have now been superseded by more recent books.)

What is of concern for this review is the fact that in 2000, the Palestinian Authority began to produce new textbooks for all subjects. From 2000 through 2004, books for grades 1 through 10 were published, two grades each year. They were reviewed in a series of reports issued by CMIP.

In 2005, books for grade 11 were released, and in 2006, texts for grade 12.

In 2007, a major operation was undertaken and all textbooks were reprinted. There were changes instituted, some of the changes were assessed as good and some not.

The report to be released shortly reviews the texts for grades 11 and 12. (Additionally the report examines old Jordanian books issued by the PA Ministry of Religious Affairs for use in religious schools " but they will not be considered here.)

Political Periods

The textbooks were published and revised by the PA during four different political time periods:

1) In the early years of the PA, Yasser Arafat was firmly in charge. It was under his administration that the books for grades 1 through 10 were published.

They rigidly delegitimized the presence of Jews in Israel; demonized Israelis and Jews; presented a biased view of the conflict; and focused on the violent struggle, emphasizing jihad and martyrdom, with an absence of advocacy of peace with Israel.

2) In November 2004, following Arafat’s death, Mahmoud Abbas assumed the presidency of the PA. It was following this change, in 2005 and early 2006, that texts for grades 11 were produced.

These texts reflected a small measure of moderation over what had been produced previously, with regard to how the “other” is presented and the issue of peace. It must be remembered, however, that this is with reference only to texts for one grade and that the texts produced in Arafat’s time continue to be in circulation.

3) In 2006, Hamas gained ascendancy in parliamentary elections in the PA, and it was following this that the grade 12 texts were published.

All the beginning signs of moderation disappeared from these texts.

4) In 2007, Hamas routed Fatah from Gaza and President Abbas then reconstituted the PA government with Salam Fayyad as prime minister.

It was after this that the reprint operation took place. The changes that have been noted are mostly in format and not in content. There have been some minute changes with significance.

Themes Noted in the Texts

Delegitimization. Palestinians are represented as the only rightful possessors of Palestine. They are seen as descendants of the Canaanites, who are said to be Arabs who immigrated to Palestine in 3,500 BCE. A 2004 text describes the Canaanites as having made the most significant contributions to mankind.

Jews are seen as invaders in antiquity and colonialists now. There are gaps in history so that in most texts there is no mention of a Jewish commonwealth or any suggestion of Jewish legitimacy " or even presence " in the land.

It is only in grade 11 texts that there allusions to King David, King Solomon, etc.

Jerusalem is represented as exclusively Arab, from the Jebusites. Jews are seen as occupiers in the city.

In the grade 11 texts there are a few references to Jews in Jerusalem.

We are witnessing a myth in the making. In older books used in the PA schools (from 1996), Jewish holy sites were referred to as such: the Kotel (Western Wall), the Machpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron), Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. By 2000 this had changed in PA texts and the Jewish connection to these places had been erased. Rachel’s Tomb, for example, is called the Mosque of Bilal Bin Rabbah.

Zionism is not seen as legitimate. Jewish immigration is referred to as “infiltration.” Jewish presence in the land is not recognized and Jewish residents are not counted among the inhabitants of the land. (When population statistics are given, Jews are simply excluded from the numbers.)

There is no mention of Jewish cities, such as Tel Aviv. The one exception is an 11th grade text that includes Tel Aviv but in very small letters. Israel is not identified as such.

Israel is not recognized as a sovereign state, either in text or on maps. An example: A 2001 text lists the countries of the Levant as Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In maps " e.g., a 2002 Atlas " the whole is Palestine. (In some maps Israel within the Green Line may be delineated, but marked as the area occupied in 1948.)

In one grade 11 text there are two Israeli maps utilized that do label Israel. These are for Allon’s plan and Sharon’s plan for division of the land, and the purpose is to demonstrate “Israeli colonialist schemes.”

The establishment of Israel is not recognized. Israel is referred to as the occupation from 1948.

There is an attempt to even avoid referring to “Israeli” territory. Instead such terms are substituted as ‘land of the 1948 war,” or the “interior.”

The exception is in grade 11 texts in which pre-1967 Israel is referred to in some instances. (This is the single moderation carried into grade 12 texts.)

Cities within the Green Line such as Haifa and Jaffa are referred to as Palestinian.

Palestine is referred to as a country that already exists, its declaration of independence having taken place in 1988.

Demonization. There is no objective information provided on the history and culture of Jews or Israelis. The exception is a reference to the Jewish Bible in an 11th grade text.

Individual Jews are never mentioned, only groups. Jews are thus denied their humanity and seen as threatening aliens.

Jews in Israel are represented as evil and without a single positive trait. Jews commit treaty violations, use tricks, kill people, are seeking to expel and exterminate Palestinians.

From a grade 8 text: “Your enemies kill your children, split open women’s bellies, etc.”

From a 12th grade text there is a poem in which Jews are compared to snakes.

A total of 22 “crimes” committed by Jews has been counted in the texts: destruction of the environment, occupation, expulsion, oppression, aggression, massacre, assassination, racial discrimination, desecration of holy places, promoters of drug use and family violence in Palestinians, and on.

Zionism is defined as a racist, western imperialism.

A grade 10 text produced in 2004 represented the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as true. After the Belgian government, which had provided support for these texts, protested, a reprint of the book was done in 2007 that left this out. There is no evidence, however, that the version of the book that alluded to the Protocols was removed from all schools.

Jews are represented as solely responsible for the current situation while Palestinians are their victims. The single exception is in an 11th grade text that acknowledges that the Arabs attacked Israel in 1948.

Violence The focus in the texts is on violence. There is no open support for peace based on reconciliation. Where “peace” is mentioned, it is in the abstract.

“Liberation” of all of the land of Palestine is encouraged and praised. “Return” is seen as a violent process, part of the liberation.

The emphasis on the violence of the struggle is intensified because of focus on the traditional Islamic ideals of jihad and martyrdom. Martyrdom is sometimes described as a “wedding party.”

From a grade 7 text: “Hearing weapons clash is pleasant to my ears. And the flow of blood gladdens my soul.”

The grade 11 texts have fewer references to jihad and martyrdom.

As to terror: The texts declare themselves as being against terror, but say that Israel improperly defines the legitimate struggle as “terrorism.” (The exception: One grade 8 book from 2002 provides a favorable description of terrorism.)

However, there is an abundance of implicit support for terrorism via the use of terms such as “martyrs,” praise for those in prison and those in Palestinian armed groups (called Fidai). And never is terror actually denounced.


These texts nurture hate education and do not foster peace. They prepare the students for perpetual struggle.

While the picture is exceedingly grim now, there is hope for improvement in these texts via re-printing with changes made.

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Protecting Our Children: A Plan of Action to Deal with Mass Arrests of Supporters of Israel

The Threat: ----------------

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saved by the United States from his domestic rivals in wake of the Winograd Report, is under tremendous pressure to dismantle Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Olmert has promised to help Bush in the U.S. plan to establish a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria by 2009. This will demand the destruction of first the so-called unauthorized outposts, followed by communities established in the early 1970s.

The government offensive has been planned by a triumvirate of Vice Premier Haim Ramon, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Justice Minister Daniel Friedman. Friedman's job is crucial as he heads the effort to maintain a legal system meant to quickly stifle peaceful protest against the government plan. As a result, Friedman and his chief aide, Shai=- Nitzan, are preparing a crackdown on all dissent, including a ban on assembly, speech, movement and prayer in holy sites. The government has introduced new laws to prosecute political dissent on the Internet and cellular phones while building new prisons to handle the thousands of demonstrators expected to be arrested under the crackdown.

The Timetable: --------------------- Olmert has sought to delay the offensive against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria . But he has become more vulnerable than ever, given the growing threat to Israel from Iran , Syria and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, which he believes would require increased support by and coordination with Washington . Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been meeting with Israeli officials and demanding that steps be taken in early 2008 that would lead to an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.

The Experience: ------------------------

The Olmert government, and its predecessor, the Sharon government, have singled out Jewish supporters of Israel for special punishment. The feeling is that punishing Jewish dissidents, particularly residents of Judea and Samaria as well as their supporters, generates support from the governments of the United States , the European Union as well as their clients among the Israeli Left. Olmert and Sharon have pointed to the crackdown on the Jewish residents of the territories as proof of his willingness to take political risks to satisfy the international community.

As a result, the government has refused appeals to pardon the thousands of Jews arrested prior and during the Israeli expulsion of Jews from their homes in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria in 2005. The prosecution has refused to close the more than 700 indictments that stem from those cases. Today, Jewish minors, particularly girls, are held for months without charges because they refuse to cooperate with authorities. In all of the cases, the defendants were not accused of violent offenses. In January, several people were grabbed off the streets of Jerusalem for talking to foreign journalists during the visit by President Bush and charged with sedition.

Experience has shown that the politicians are either afraid of Olmert and the police. Indeed, many Knesset members are threatened by police investigations or scandal that could turn into indictments at any time. The major print media, with interests in government-controlled companies, have ignored the Jews. Even Israeli human rights organizations, financed by the European Union and U.S. foundations to defend Arabs, have refused to become involved. Members of the organized Jewish community in the United States have feared to speak out because they do not want to be seen as opposing an Israeli government propped up by Bush.

The Proposal: -------------------

Some Americans in Israel -- whose children or friends have been among the detainees -- have found one pressure point on the Olmert government that actually works: telephone calls from members of Congress or their staffers to the Israel Embassy in Washington to request information about Jewish protesters arrested in peaceful demonstrations. Within hours, these detainees have been released from Israeli police custody.

We would like to help build a network in the United States that would expand on this success. The network of supporters of Jewish rights in Israel would demand accountability for those arrested or beaten by police in peaceful demonstrations, including attempts to pray at holy places.

The network would have two channels: One channel would focus on grassroots support; the other on political activists who have access to members of the House and Senate. The network, designed to generate constituency complaints, would encourage members of Congress to question the Israel Embassy in Washington and perhaps even the State Department to clarify alleged human rights violations of Jews. Supporters of this initiative would not need to take any position on the future of Judea and Samaria -- merely to call on Israel to account for reports of police brutality, arrest without charges and refusal to release Jews on bail for non-violent protests.

We are hoping to build this network so that we can stop the impending Olmert offensive against the Jews in the coming weeks. We urge you to help us establish this network or set up your own pressure group. As few as five people per congressional district willing to telephone a member of Congress can make a difference.

The prospect of turning to the U.S. political system to intervene is something we don't relish. But we have to face facts: Olmert, whose approval ratings have approached zero, has survived purely because of the Bush administration and its hopes that the prime minister will unilaterally withdraw from Judea and Samaria and establish a Palestinian state over the next year. Indeed, when Bush visited Israel in January, Olmert called the U.S. president "my confidante."

Our goal is to deter Olmert from draconian measures meant to destroy the Jewish community in Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem . A network that monitors the arrests of Jews, particularly Americans, and asks members of Congress to seek clarification could buy valuable time. It could also move American Jewish leaders to quietly warn Olmert that he cannot continue to trample on Jewish rights without a backlash from American Jews and their supporters in Congress. Every Jew who is released is a Jew redeemed one of the most important mitzvot in the Torah. Can anything be more important?

Please send comments, suggestions or offers to be part of this network to

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