|Israel Resource Review
||5th May, 2008
Incisive News Diary
Senior Research Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research
Posting: May 5, 2008
Who knows how this latest potential scandal with Olmert will play out . . .
In spite of the fact that police are arguing that the investigation and its legal implications takes precedence over the public's right to know, word is that by tomorrow the gag will be at least partially lifted. Leaks have taken place that suggest unofficially that this is a new case of bribery -- with huge sums of money and an American businessman involved. We'll see . . .
Officials involved say the evidence garnered so far is "reliable" and that the nature of the findings, when released, will "shock the nation."
Olmert is going to be questioned several more times. Apparently because of his responsibilities as prime minister, any one session of questioning can last just so long. At least according to one knowledgeable source, there is a specific progression to the questioning, designed to avoid exposing the direction in which the investigators hope to go.
Questions have been raised as to why this investigation happened so precipitously, and there have been too many different answers I've encountered to explain them all. One that makes potential sense is the need to act because there had been public exposure: There seems to be some sense of rush to avoid a chance for different persons involved to collaborate on getting their stories straight or to otherwise obscure evidence.
It falls to Attorney General Mazuz to make the decision regarding indictment. If he proceeds with that, then Olmert must step down -- this is according to the precedent of court decisions and not law. And, according to what I've just read, the ministers of Olmert's gov't would have to resign with him.
The most important question in my mind is what happens next if Olmert is gone, and the answers to that are not yet clear.
While there is talk of Livni taking over for an interim, this is not necessarily the scenario that will take place (other than for some brief transitional period). It would most definitely not be a positive.
Briefly now (with more to follow in short order, hopefully): There is the possibility of a vote of no-confidence, with the Knesset disbanding. Or of the current coalition imploding because others within the coalition decide it's time to leave. (This may refer to Labor or to members of Kadima.) There may be a reshuffling of power without an election -- which would require the president to call upon the head of a faction to try to form a new coalition -- or an election might be called. Were Kadima to retain control, there would, as I understand it, be a primary to determine who heads the party.
While we all need a dollop of hope now and then , and this is what I offered yesterday, I realize that it can also be a dangerous thing, because of the potential for great disappointment.
Earlier today the news was that negotiations with the Palestinians would likely be tabled until after the legal issues surrounding Olmert were resolved, because neither Olmert nor Livni was able to concentrate on this now.
But since that news, there has been a meeting between Olmert and Abbas. A picture of a smiling Olmert and Abbas accompanied by a report that this was the most serious meeting they've had yet. The subject was borders and allegedly great progress was made.
After my talk yesterday about the possibility of settlement blocs being retained and Abbas's depression . . .
What would it take to make Abbas smile with regard to this? What has Olmert agreed to?
Of course Rice's presence is likely a factor in this. But there is something else that also occurs to me. Until now, it was clear that Olmert was always looking over his shoulder at his coalition with regard to what he agreed to (at least publicly) with Abbas. If he lost his coalition (notably via Shas) then he would shorten his term of office and cut himself off from power and perks.
But now, if he knows in his heart of hearts that he is likely to be indicted, then he may have a "damn it all" attitude -- a very dangerous feeling that he might as well agree to the maximum without regard for coalition partners' concerns.
In line with this, and extremely worrisome, is a report on TV tonight that Rice is pushing for an announcement on borders before Bush comes next week. What is more, she is interested in having Olmert proceed as quickly as possible before the criminal investigation takes him out of play.
Also extremely worrisome is a report from Arutz Sheva regarding an agreement by Barak to remove three checkpoints at the behest of Rice:
Notable here is the checkpoint between the PA city of Ramallah and Beit El, home to 7,000 Jews. The IDF objected strenuously to this, as it will permit unhindered Palestinian traffic adjacent to Jewish homes in Beit El.
"The IDF officials reminded Barak, to no avail, that shots were fired at Beit El in the past from this highway. They also told him that the nearby intersection between Ramallah and Beit El was the site of violent Arab riots when the Oslo War broke out in late 2000, and at least two separate lynchings were attempted against Jews there."
Also removed was a checkpoint at the entrance to Nablus (Shechem), even though Nablus is a key center of terrorism. The IDF encirclement of the area -- which has been a major factor in decreasing terrorism in the area -- is now ended.
A third, considered less critical, is outside of Hebron.
"'The checkpoints are a most significant factor in the war against Palestinian terrorism,' a top IDF officer told [defense correspondent Haggai] Huberman, 'in thwarting attacks, in catching wanted terrorists, and in intercepting weapons . . . The number of checkpoints in Judea and Samaria at present is the absolute minimum necessary for Israeli security. Taking off even one more will lower the security level to "below the red line' of risk."'
" . . . The Defense Minister gave the order to remove the checkpoints in accordance with Secretary Rice's wishes - but in defiance of clear IDF warnings that shooting attacks against Israeli citizens and soldiers are likely to be renewed as a result. Senior Central Region officers told Barak directly that checkpoint removals in the past have led to significant increases in attacks."
A pox on the houses of all those involved with political and defense issues here who put the lives of innocent Jews at risk.
Posting: May 4, 2008
"Could It Be?"
Might the authorities really have something on Ehud Olmert serious enough to topple the government?
It hasn't happened until now , in spite of the four investigations into his alleged wrong doing that have already been started. They all seem to hang in the air, going no where.
But this one -- which I alluded to in my last posting -- has a different feel. The investigation was expedited, and he was questioned in his official residence for 90 minutes on Friday by the National Fraud Investigation Unit, under caution. Police would say no more that than this was a new issue and not connected to one of the other investigations. Precisely what is being investigated, however, is a mystery, because of a court gag order.
Today it made the news that "senior law enforcement officials" are saying that this criminal investigation is so severe that he will have to resign.
In the opposition, forces are mounting to bring the government down. MK Silvan Shalom (Likud), claiming that "the government of Ehud Olmert has reached the end of its road," said he was working to dissolve the Knesset when it opens its summer session in two weeks.
And from Olmert's own coalition , MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) called on Olmert to suspend himself immediately because the scope of charges against him was "unprecedented."
"It has been proven beyond any doubt that the prime minister can't be under serial investigations and also lead the country," she told Israel Radio. "Olmert is stuck up to his neck in investigations. We cannot have a prime minister who is serially investigated by police . . . "
Of course, Olmert's office is issuing statements declaring that nothing is seriously amiss and that everything will work out.
And there was someone else -- he should hang his head in shame -- who came out in defense of Olmert: Head of the Shas faction, Eli Yishai, who declared, "I am certain that the prime minister knows what to do, and when the investigations become clear, I'm sure everything will be fine."
I was explaining to a native Israeli today about the American concept of politicians who are "Teflon," to whom no charges or accusations stick. "Ah," he responded, "Teflon does wear out."
We can hope . . .
Speaking of my mention of this last time , I thank all of those who caught my error: that I spoke of Attorney General Mofaz, when I clearly meant Mazuz. Two names, both starting with M and ending in Z. And I appreciate those who observed that I had just written about Mofaz, thereby compounding the possibility of this error. At any rate, please be alerted to my "goof" and the correction.
This seems to be a time of hope dangled before us, without certainties:
I wrote the other day about a report that our chief negotiator Tzipni Livni had enraged PA chief negotiator Ahmed Qurei by bringing to him a map that showed Israel retaining major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, as well as the Jordan Valley.
On Friday, Khaled Abu Toameh , of the Jerusalem Post, who usually gets it right, reported on Abbas's deep depression after returning from his recent meeting with Bush. Seems Bush told him not to expect to have a Palestinian state in everything beyond the Green Line. Abbas was upset that Bush indicated he was not going to push Israel on the issue of settlements.
This certainly provides a modicum of hope. First, in terms of what the US is seeking. "The Americans have adopted the Israeli policy," one Palestinian official said. "When you hear Bush, you think you are listening to Ehud Olmert."
Well -- if you will allow a touch of black humor -- a Bush that sounds like Olmert is not necessarily terribly "pro-Israel."
But there's an important issue being played out here . When Ariel Sharon was about to force through his "disengagement" plan for pulling Jews out of Gush Katif in Gaza, he touted a letter from April 14, 2004, that he had received from Bush, which said, in part:
"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949 . . . [essentially the Green Line].
Sharon said this was the trade-off for our pulling out of Gaza -- the US would support our right to retain major settlement blocs in any negotiations with the Palestinians. It has been a cornerstone of Israeli policy when existing major settlements have been enlarged to accommodate natural growth.
Except that it hasn't exactly played out as Sharon said it would. Rice, certainly, has worked diligently to distance US policy from this letter, even criticizing Israeli building in eastern Jerusalem, which Israel considers fully part of the Israeli capital. And not so long ago, National Security Advisor Steven Hadley suggested that the letter had been aimed at securing domestic support for Sharon's plan, and must be considered in that context.
Thus does Bush's current position potentially have real import.
Then, too, there is hope because more and more it seems that there is not likely to be a meeting of the minds regarding a Palestinian state -- and thus no agreement of any sort between Israel and the PA before Bush leaves office.
Abu Toameh cites that same PA official mentioned above as saying that the PA was no longer pinning any hope on the administration helping achieve an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis.
"The Bush administration has lost it credibility as an honest broker," he said. "We will now have to wait for the next US administration."
And what will happen with a new US administration? From the US side that remains to be seen (and I shudder at some of the possibilities). But from the PA side, there are real concerns, which is one of the reasons Abu Toameh says Abbas is quite depressed: Abbas is afraid that if he doesn't forge a deal for a Palestinian state in the next few months Hamas is likely to take over Judea and Samaria.
That, of course, leads to another question: Why would the US back an entity so weak that its own leader believes it may cave in a matter of months?
Obviously, the answer lies with some notion that if only Abbas could present the people with a fait accompli regarding a deal for a state, then he would suddenly become strong enough to take on Hamas. But I'm not buying it. Because Hamas would work as the spoiler in such a situation.
Before leaving this subject, I must point out that there are also rumors that are unsettling. Some, unconfirmed, refer to planned actions by the government that constitute a sort of pull out, leaving settlers high and dry with regard to security and support of various sorts -- this in order to "encourage" them to leave voluntarily.
Additionally, Haaretz ran a piece about the mayor of Ma'aleh Adumim, who reported that after a visit from Tzipi Livni he had an uneasy sense that she was hoping to give away parts of Jerusalem and placate the people by joining Ma'aleh Adumim to what remained of Jerusalem.
Abbas, by the way, has not been well since he returned from the US and underwent a heart catheterization procedure in Jordan last week. He's speaking about resigning, but I'm not yet ready to take that seriously, as he speaks about resigning frequently without quite doing so.
Rice blew -- I mean flew -- into town last night. She has met with Olmert, and Abbas, and is scheduled to also meet with Barak and Livni, and Fayyad, in the course of her 36 hour visit.
In a Ramallah press conference after meeting with Abbas , she said, a peace deal is still "achievable" by the end of year. This might lead one to wonder what she's been inhaling.
She alluded to Israel's settlement policy as prejudicing the final outcome of an agreement. And she suggested we might be doing more to improve the quality of life for Palestinians. By this, she is --ever oblivious to Israel's security needs -- making reference to the possibility of our taking down more roadblocks.
We can always count on Condoleezza Rice.
During that Ramallah press conference , Abbas, according to YNet, said that, "Ninety percent of the talks have been completed."
Come on! Would he be depressed if this were so? Would he be upset at not having the '67 line as the border of a Palestinian state? The borders are theoretically the easiest of the core issues -- refugees and the status of Jerusalem being more thorny. If the border issue isn't resolved, where is the rest of it?
It becomes farcical, really.
Six hundred PA police have now entered Jenin , in a bid to establish law and order in a city that has been run by armed thugs.
The PA police commander , Col. Wassim al-Jayoussi, said that "The police force came to Jenin to help in imposing law and order. There will be only one authority and one security force here."
He called on all residents to hand over illegal weapons , and on all wanted criminals to surrender to the police, warning that anyone who did not comply would be arrested.
Kassams fired at Sderot today hit a mini-market, a home and a cemetery.
The Palestinians in Gaza today also fired mortar shells at trucks attempting to transfer food and fuel to the Gazans. As a result the IDF was forced to close the Karni border crossing and the Nahal Oz fuel terminal.
Once again, the bewildering spectacle of terrorists undermining the possibility of help for their own people. Police said that approximately 50 trucks of supplies were forced to turn back.
Posting: May 1, 2008
"Words of Power"
A portion of the incredibly moving words of the IDF Chief of the General Staff, speaking at Auschwitz today to "The March of the Living":
"Here, on this cursed land , saturated with the blood of our brothers and sisters, descendants of the Jewish nation;
"Here, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp , the most evil place on the face of the planet, where our people, whose only crime was being Jewish, were tortured and murdered in gas chambers and crematoria;
"Here, in the place where the Nazi oppressor reduced our humanity to serial numbers - no more names, no more faces, no identity - all that remained was a number branded on the forearm; Here in this most dreadful place, I stand on Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, as the commander of the Israel Defense Forces.
"With hundreds of Witnesses in Uniform by my side - joining the thousands of representatives of the IDF who come here every year, commanders of the ground forces, the Air Force and the Navy - the defending force of the Jewish people, reborn in its land - with tight lips, a coarse voice and tears in my eyes, yet still standing tall - I salute to the ashes of our people and vow: 'Never Again.'
"We, soldiers of the IDF, emissaries of a country and of a nation, stand here today wearing the IDF uniform and carrying the flag of the State of Israel with pride in the name of the tens of thousands of the IDF warriors and commanders. We consider ourselves the executor of the last will and testament, the dream and the silent prayer of our six million Jewish brothers and sisters whose existence was brutally expunged by the Nazi oppressor.
"We remember, and will never forget, that from the killing and the destruction, from the ashes and the despair, we have risen to establish not only the Jewish State, but the military force that will forever provide security for the Jewish people, protecting it from any future attempts of persecution, torture and destruction.
"These days, after sixty years of independence , the existence of an independent Jewish state is not a fact that should be taken for granted . . . We have learned our lesson. We take threats of leaders calling for the destruction of Israel very seriously.
"From this sense of deep responsibility for our continued existence as a people in our land and for the continuity of our heritage, we have no choice but to continue the struggle. Since we are fighting for our very existence, we cannot afford to grow weary or be deterred in our struggle.
" . . . Here on this cursed ground, from which still cry the voices of our slain brothers, and as commander of the Israel Defense Forces of the state of the Jewish people, I salute our six million brothers and sisters, who have been persecuted, deported, tortured and cruelly murdered, and swear that 'Jewish blood shall never again be spilled in vain!'
"Blessed be the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust!"
To which I say Amen V'Amen!
How does one follow this with news? Briefs only, with more after Shabbat . . .
Most pertinent: Gov't Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), charged with handling strategic dialogue, is in the US, meeting with key officials on the matter of the urgency of stopping Iran's nuclear progress. At a talk at Yale he said, "Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran . . . all is fair in efforts to make sure this doesn't happen."
Amen to this as well!
Mofaz warned that time is running out -- with the possibility that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in a year -- and that appeasement is not a successful policy.
There are hints, but no official statement, that the government might accept the truce proposal advanced by Egypt, now that the other terrorists groups have reportedly agreed to participate. Hints that it would also help get Shalit released. (And, forgive me for my terrible cynicism, but I wonder about officials seeing a way out of what has been threatened regarding a major terror attack on Yom Haatzmaut and breaking through the fence.)
Bad news if the truce were to happen . But we're in the "wait and see" mode right now.
Hamas officials want this so badly, it's obvious they're hurting. Do we move from squeezing this entity, directed by Iran and sworn to destroy us, to a situation that allows it to strengthen in preparation for the day when we'll again be hit? Only if we have a very very limited horizon and are led by officials who don't care what happens the day after tomorrow -- officials prepared to overrule the advice of the IDF -- is this possible.
One of those officials -- Ehud Olmert, to be specific -- is about to be interrogated by the police. How nice it would be if this interrogation actually came to something. The reason for this is very "hush-hush" and there is a sense of urgency about the matter. Attorney General Mofaz signed the order permitting the interrogation.
Henrietta Fore, administrator of the US AID, is in London for a meeting of international donors who have pledged $7.4 billion to the Palestinians over the next three years. She was asked if the US would be receptive to a request from the PA for additional funds to offset a budget shortfall, and she replied: "Yes. It's important to support and back strong efforts of progress of people who are working for peaceful, prosperous solutions."
I did not make this up.
The IDF has announced an operation in which it targeted and hit Nafez Manur, terrorist who was responsible, among other things, for helping plan the Gilad Shalit kidnapping.
Posting: April 30, 2008
Holocaust Day, or, as it is more properly known in Israel, Day of Remembrance of Martyrs and Heroes -- the feeling being that those who were brave and did fight back should not be forgotten.
This is one of those times when I feel that my 'regular' posting material can be put aside.
Observance began at sundown , and, as I do every year, I watched the televised ceremonies at the Holocaust Memorial, Yad Va'Shem. And, as I do every year, I wept.
The core of the ceremony is the lighting of six flames, by six survivors, to represent the six million. Each of those who lights has been filmed telling his or her story, and that film runs before the flame is lit. One story is more painful than the next.
But today was, somehow, different . For each of the magnificent people who told his/her story has made a significant contribution to the State. One, for example, was recruited by the Mosad, and sent into Germany, where he broke into an office and photographed the documents that convicted Eichmann. And one helped found a yishuv, a settlement, in the north in the early years of the State. His face lit with pride as he spoke of his contribution.
And -- oh! -- the lessons to be learned from this. Lessons of bravery and hope and meaning in life.
And, of course, I thought once again that this all hasn't happened to come to naught, and that whatever the horrors of what we are dealing with, we must come through at the end.
There is an honor guard on the stage for the ceremonies, and I watched them with their military precision and prayed for all of our army to be strong, strong.
Tomorrow at 10 a.m. a siren sounds and everyone stands still wherever he or she is in memory of the six million. People stop their cars and get out to stand. It's a moving and uniting experience.
Except, of course, that Arabs don't stand still . And that's a story for another day.
Posting: April 28, 2008
A correction: When I wrote about the US case against Kadish recently, I indicated that we had friends in Congress, the Pentagon and other places in the US, but that we also had enemies, in State, the Intelligence community, and the Justice department. I had secured my information from what I thought were reliable sources. Now I have heard from Sarah Stern, who heads the lobby group Emet, in Washington DC. She tells me that we have some very good friends in Justice, and that she has personally worked with some of them. I stand corrected and apologize.
I wrote last about the proposed ceasefire (technically a hudna) for Gaza and indicated that since Hamas political head Mashaal had referred to it, with honesty, as a "tactic" this clearly wasn't going anywhere. A hudna buys them time to strengthen before they hit us again.
Well . . . that was a foolish assumption on my part , altogether too rational. The news that broke yesterday was that Bush wanted to see us go for that hudna, with it in place before he arrived here in two weeks. There was some notion that this would help the "peace process." And, obviously, helping the peace process is all that really matters.
Some of you already know how infuriated this made me -- this meddling by Bush into our security affairs.
I still suspect that in the end this may go nowhere (and I'll explain a bit about why), but there are now several factors that it's worth examining.
The "inspired" notion of Bush, or his advisors, is that Abbas feels constrained with regard to dealing with Israel when Israel is shooting at Palestinians in Gaza -- terrorist Palestinians, but for Abbas that is beside the point. It makes him look as if he's consorting with the enemy. And so stopping the shooting would presumably make it possible for Abbas to negotiate more freely.
Abbas is giving good lip service to this idea of a truce . After meeting with Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh, he intoned, "The truce is a national interest of all Palestinians. A truce will alleviate the suffering of our people and pave the way for the reopening of the border crossings."
However, reports Khaled Abu Toameh in the Post, the PA is actually quite anxious about this, because it would be a step towards legitimizing Hamas's takeover of Gaza, something Abbas is trying mightily to reverse. At a minimum, Abbas is insisting that the PA must be present at all opened border crossings, but if the crossings are opened in a deal between Israel and Hamas as part of a truce, exactly where does that leave the PA?
An analysis in Haaretz carried this theme even further , saying that a truce that opened the crossings would render the PA almost irrelevant. According to this thinking, people would get the message that concessions are more likely to be drawn from Israel when there is shooting than when there are negotiations.
It is truly ironic, and not at all surprising, that the US government, meddling in Middle Eastern affairs in an attempt to make things better, might, from their perspective, end up making them worse. Were they to push that truce down our throats, in an effort to strengthen Abbas, they might actually make him weaker.
Egypt, still working towards that hudna, has invited four terrorist factions to Cairo for meetings in an attempt to convince them to cooperate: Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) .
The serious question as to whether they will all be on board is a major factor getting in the way of what Egypt is attempting to accomplish. At a minimum, these groups are seeking commitments by Israel not to do any operations in Gaza, and to extend the truce to Judea and Samaria within six months.
Problematic, to say the least.
Then there is the issue of Egypt's commitment to blocking the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.
Head of the IDF Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant is fiercely opposed to a ceasefire, in part because he's convinced smuggling would increase.
He's also concerned about strengthening of the terrorist infrastructure inside of Gaza.
Today 15 Kassams and 20 mortars were fired at Israel. A home and a clinic were hit, and five people in Sderot were lightly wounded.
Said Defense Minister Ehud Barak: "This is not the right time for a ceasefire with Hamas."
The comment of Hamas's Mahmoud Zahar, speaking today at Islamic University in Gaza, was that, "If Israel says no, it will pay a heavy price. We are a besieged people and we will have to use all our tools to defend ourselves against Israel . . . Hamas has 200,000 people who want to blow themselves up inside of Israel."
And, indeed, we may be in for some tough times.
Head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin told the Cabinet today that terror groups are planning a major attack for our 60th Independence Day, next week.
While Hamas may be planning to breach the border between Gaza and Israel, as they did at Rafah not long ago. They would likely aim towards Israel this time because Egypt has gotten very serious about its response to a new attempt to break through at Rafah. And when the Egyptians get serious, they shoot to kill.
According to a new report from YNet, a serious blowout has erupted between Israel's chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, and the PA chief negotiator, Ahmed Qurei. Qurei reportedly exploded when Livni presented a map that showed Israel retaining Jerusalem, major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, and the Jordan Valley (essential from a security perspective).
In addition, Qurei is said to be furious because Barak has indicated that there would have to be special security arrangements at a high point in Samaria that directly overlooks the airport.
If this report is accurate, and if the quarrel is even half-way serious, then Bush can forget trying to push Israel into a truce in order to get the PA to negotiate faster. I'm waiting for confirmation.
It's very good news being reported by the Post regarding sanctions with teeth against Iran. Apparently the EU is set to blacklist one of Iran's top banks -- a bank through which Iran conducts considerable business.
Posting: April 27, 2008
"Israel and Iran"
This evening the Israel Law Center, Shurat HaDin, sponsored a talk by Brig. Gen. Yossi Kupervasser, former head of Military Intelligence, on the subject, "Does Israel have a Response to the Iranian Nuclear Threat?"
The topic of his talk not withstanding, the General was quick to say that this should not be considered an Israeli problem, but rather a Western problem. Nor is the threat "simply" Iran, but rather the radical Islamic movement, with Iran at its fore, and its goal of changing the world order.
The Iranian regime is confident that it will succeed in its goal of achieving nuclear weapons because the West's threats to date have been empty. One red line after another has been crossed by Iran over the last few years and there have been no repercussions.
Pressure via the international community is not possible because Russia and China, on the Security Council, have not been cooperative. This is because they are not entirely unhappy with Iran's progress, as each has a desire to upset the current world order in its own way.
What is frequently ignored is that Iran has been doing R&D on its nuclear weapons program for some 15 years. There is currently some disagreement as to precisely how far Iran has come to date, but what is clear is that the window of opportunity for responding is closing -- there is perhaps a year remaining before Iran has nuclear capability, perhaps two years.
The Iranians are prepared to endure hardship for the sake of their long term goals. Deterrence will work with them only if they believe that continuing with their nuclear development will endanger the Islamic revolution. Any pressure placed on Iran must be backed up with a convincing threat of military action.
As to that action, should it be necessary, far better that the US should take it. Should this not be the case, Israel is capable of military action that will set back Iran's nuclear program for perhaps five years. (General Kupervasser suggests that the memory of what Israel did might well remain for far longer than five years and act as a deterrence to rebuilding.)
The military action would be difficult for Israel because multiple sites are involved, but it would be doable.
The General, of course, was not at liberty to spe ak about how this would be done, nor would he address actions that might be taken by Israel should Iran go nuclear before that military operation was put into place. (He has genuine concern about delays that might end up bringing us to that point -- in essence action should have been taken yesterday.)
Coincidentally, Haaretz reports just today on a statement by Commander of the Israel Air Force, Major General Eliezer Shkedi, who said in a television interview that "in Nazi Germany, people didn't believe that Hitler meant what he was saying. I suggest that we refrain from repeating that line of reasoning and prepare ourselves for anything."
According to Haaretz, Shkedi, who is soon to retire from his position, spent much of his service "dedicated to the preparation for a possible mission that was never discussed in public: an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, should international economic sanctions prove to be fruitless."
Looking back over the past week, we see the following, which merits at least passing mention:
Talk of a "truce" (technically a hudna) in Gaza. First it came from Carter, when he met with Hamas officials, and then from the Egyptians, who were speaking about a six-month lull. The big breakthrough was ostensibly that Hamas was willing to have this hudna just in Gaza, with hopes that it would eventually extend to Judea and Samaria as well, but with no demand that it be inclusive from the start.
No point in revisiting all of the details or statements , because in the end it is not sincere on the part of Hamas and (presumably) it is not going to happen. Yesterday Mashaal told al-Jazzeera that there might be a ceasefire but that:
"It is a tactic in conducting the struggle. . . . It is normal for any resistance that operates in its people's interest . . . to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit . . . the battle is to be run this way and Hamas is known for that. In 2003, there was a cease-fire and then the operations were resumed."
That, to a tee, is the description of a hudna -- an official lull that allows Arabs to regroup and strengthen towards the time of renewing "the struggle."
We must hope that Israeli officials do understand this.
Hamas, which is hurting, is seeking a lifting of the blockade of Gaza in exchange for the ceasefire, but at a minimum would have to get other groups such as Islamic Jihad on board.
It made big news this past week when it was revealed that Olmert -- using the Turks as a go-between -- allegedly made an offer to Syria to return the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.
That it came just when the details about Syria's nuclear reactor were being made public seemed to many as more than a little strange. There are claims that the connection in timing was not incidental -- that there was some intention on Olmert's part to allow Syria to salvage some dignity at a time of embarrassment, so that it would not overreact precipitously. (I am not sanctioning such an approach -- merely reporting on it.)
At any rate, this will in the end also be talk that comes to nothing. For what was not emphasized in most media reports about Israel's willingness to give up the Golan was what was expected in return -- cessation of assistance to Hezbollah, a break with Iran, throwing Mashaal of Hamas out of the country, etc. This is simply not about to happen.
In a statement to the Qatari paper Al Watan, today, Assad said that the time has not come for direct talks between Syria and Israel.
The Golan is not only a significant strategic asset to Israel because of its height, it is also a much loved and strikingly beautiful area where vineyards thrive and recreational facilities have been established. Not insignificantly, it is the watershed for a good deal of Israel's water.
Considered by Israeli law to be fully a part of modern Israel (civic and not military law applies), it is a region that according to Jewish law was also part of the ancient land of Israel (religious laws of the land, such as shmitah, apply here).
Most Israelis are much opposed to surrendering this area and a measure is being brought to the Knesset that would require approval within a national referendum before the Golan could be relinquished.
At the beginning of Pesach, three disguised vehicles , carrying a considerable volume of explosives, was driven towards the Keren Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza and detonated. Thirteen IDF troops were wounded.
Keren Shalom is a crossing through which humanitarian supplies are driven. This is one of a series of events in which terrorists attempt to do damage to the very facilities that make life more bearable for the people of Gaza. To many this is simply incomprehensible, but that's because we're not thinking like terrorists.
The guess in most quarters is that the terrorists believe it is better that the people suffer than that Israel look good for helping. In fact, suffering Gazans makes great PR. In the case of Keren Shalom, 200 trucks laden with humanitarian supplies are permitted by Israel to enter Gaza each week.
According to Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, head of the Southern Command , "Hamas is exploiting the compassion and generosity of the State of Israel by targeting humanitarian crossings. This is a deliberate attack against aiding the Palestinian population."
There is a further speculation that humanitarian compassion demonstrated by Israel is perceived by the terrorists as a sign of our weakness.
A similar action took place just today, when Hamas gunmen inside of Gaza attacked trucks on their way to Nahal Oz in Israel in order to receive fuel. The trucks, which had to turn back, were scheduled to bring fuel to UNRWA and to hospitals in Gaza.
While on Friday, Shimon Mizrachi and Eli Wasserman , two Israeli security guards at the Nitzane Shalom Industrial Zone, were shot dead by a Palestinian terrorist coming out of nearby Tulkarm. The complex houses nine factories that provide jobs to Palestinians.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades all claimed responsibility.
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Carter's Great Gaffe: Hamas Will Recognize Israel?
Phila Bulletin and Front Page Magazine
In what will assuredly be seen as one of the greater gaffes of his career, former president Jimmy Carter dramatically reassured a packed crowd of diplomats and reporters this week that Hamas would now recognize the Jewish State
Hamas, apparently, is now ready to live at peace with Israel if a peace agreement is signed and ratified by the Palestinians, which would assure that the Palestinian state would be established in the areas taken by Israel in the 1967 war. Carter made his statement at the Israel Council of Foreign Relations at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Monday, following his extensive visits with Hamas terror leaders in Gaza, Egypt and Syria.
It didn't take long for Hamas to clarify their intentions. Two hours after Carter's speech was broadcast on Israel radio, Hamas leader Khaled Maschal, who had held extensive meetings with Carter in Damascus, denied that any such assurance had been made. Maschal, who had overseen Carter's talks with other Hamas leaders in Egypt and in Gaza, once again reaffirmed the Hamas commitment to liquidate the Jewish state. Not for the first time, the ex-president was left looking like a dupe of the terrorists.
As a result of Carter's consorting with Hamas terrorists, a Michigan congressman proposed cutting off all federal funding for the Carter Center. The CARTER Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg (D-Mich), would prevent any further federal aid to finance discussions and negotiations with terrorist groups, according to Knollenberg.
Meanwhile, Rep. Sue Myrick ( R-N.C), a Republican congressional leader, called upon U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to revoke Carter's passport. "Former President Carter has acted in contradiction of international agreements to isolate Hamas," said Myrick, the deputy Republican whip in the House. "He has acted in defiance of both United States policy and international policy."
For his part, Carter is none the wiser. For his next visit, Carter reportedly plans to meet with Fatah and then invite Hamas to join its governing coalition. Although this may seem more sensible than his recent outreach to Hamas, it suffers from the same delusion. Since 2002, Fatah has officially been designated by the United States government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, an "F.T.O." after Hamas was designated by the United States Government as an "F.T.O." in 1995.
Although engaged in 18 years of negotiations with Israel, Fatah is not much different in its purpose from its enemy, Hamas. For instance, Fatah has yet to ratify the 1993 Oslo accords that were reached with the late Fatah leader Yassir Arafat and his protégé Mahmoud Abbas, and which provided Palestinian recognition of Israel and renunciation of terrorism. But continued Fatah negotiations with Israel have obfuscated the Fatah goal of a Palestinian state that will replace Israel. This is a goal that it shares with Hamas. Indeed, Fatah's military wing, the Al Aksa Brigades, remains on the list of organizations that are designated by the United States government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Despite its continued terror status, the governments of the United States and Israel openly deal with Fatah. And if recent history does not make the futility of such negotiations obvious, one need only consider that their most vocal advocate is none other than Jimmy Carter.
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We Cease, They Fire: Anatomy of a Ceasefire Disaster
NOAM BEDEIN, Sderot Center for Information in the Western Negev Ltd
"Hamas could learn both positive and negative lessons from the last round of escalation. On the positive side, it succeeded in consistently and systematically launching rockets at Israel, extending the rockets' range to Ashkelon, and it had victories in the battle for hearts and minds." -- from the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center's (ITIC) summary of the recent escalation of rocket terror
There is talk circulating about the opportunity to communicate and reach an understanding with Hamas, to give Hamas a chance in creating a ceasefire with Israel.
How many people remember that there was, in fact, such a 'ceasefire' with Hamas-controlled Gaza only one year ago? How many people remember what occurred during that 'ceasefire'?
Well, the people in Sderot and the western Negev remember. Even if no one else does.
Let us refresh out memories. From November 26, 2006, until May 15, 2007, a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel went on for almost six months. One cannot ignore the statement made by Hamas five days before the ceasefire: "Hamas's military wing will stop the rocket fire when residents evacuate the city of Sderot." (from November 21, 2006)
During that 'ceasefire', Gazans launched 315 missiles targeted at Sderot and the western Negev, according to an IDF spokesman. There was not one IDF response to the rocket fire during that ceasefire period.
During a recent presentation at the IDC in Herzliya, to the cream of the crop of students of Israeli intelligence, the audience reacted with disbelief when they heard that there already was a 'ceasefire' last year, and that it wasn't kept in the slightest.
During that 'ceasefire' period, on February 27, 2007, there was an agreement reached between the Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The agreement took place three months after the ceasefire went into effect; after 160 missiles had been fired at Israel since the day the 'ceasefire' commenced. Mashaal promised, in Moscow, to stop the Kassam rocket attacks. Two days later, seven missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel.
The question begs to be asked: What kind of Western democracy in the world would allow for a one-sided ceasefire? What other state would allow for a rocket to explode within its territory?
Israel is going to celebrate 60 years of its independence in a few more weeks, as for the first time in 40 years a significant portion of its population are living under rocket threat. In the north, Hizbullah threatens with rocket fire from southern Lebanon. In the southern area of Israel, Hamas continues to fire from Gaza at Sderot, the western Negev and now Ashkelon. Hamas is also developing rockets that will reach Ashdod. At this point, up to half a million Israelis will be under rocket fire.
No family in the state of Israel should have to live under rocket threat. At 60 years of independence, Israel's goal should be to end the rocket terror upon its citizens. It all starts with Sderot.
Also, what most people forget is that Israel's adversaries are not advocating a 'ceasfire'; they promote a hudna.
A hudna means no more than a temporary respite in the war between Islamic forces and non-Islamic forces. The authoritative Islamic Encyclopedia (London, 1922) defines hudna as a "temporary treaty" which can be approved or abrogated by Islamic religious leaders, depending on whether or not it serves the interests of Islam; and a hudna cannot last for more than 10 years.
The Islamic Encyclopedia mentions the Hudaybia treaty as the ultimate hudna. Yasser Arafat also talked about a hudna in his speeches when he would refer to the Oslo Accords. In the words of the Islamic Encyclopedia, "The Hudaybia treaty, concluded by the Prophet Mohammad with the unbelievers of Mecca in 628, provided a precedent for subsequent treaties which the Prophet's successors made with non-Muslims. Mohammad made a hudna with a tribe of Jews back then to give him time to grow his forces, then broke the treaty and wiped them out. Although this treaty was violated within three years from the time that it was concluded, most jurists concur that the maximum period of peace with the enemy should not exceed ten years, since it was originally agreed that the Hudaybia treaty should last ten years."
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Israel's Predicament at 60
Director, Middle East Forum
Two religiously-identified new states emerged from the shards of the British empire in the aftermath of World War II. Israel, of course, was one; the other was Pakistan.
They make an interesting, if little-compared pair. Pakistan's experience with widespread poverty, near-constant internal turmoil, and external tensions, culminating in its current status as near-rogue state, suggests the perils that Israel avoided, with its stable, liberal political culture, dynamic economy, cutting-edge high-tech sector, lively culture, and impressive social cohesion.
But for all its achievements, the Jewish state lives under a curse that Pakistan and most other polities never face: the threat of elimination. Its remarkable progress over the decades has not liberated it from a multi-pronged peril that includes nearly every means imaginable: weapons of mass destruction, conventional military attack, terrorism, internal subversion, economic blockade, demographic assault, and ideological undermining. No other contemporary state faces such an array of threats; indeed, probably none in history ever has.
The enemies of Israel divide into two main camps: the Left and the Muslims, with the far Right a minor third element. The Left includes a rabid edge (International ANSWER, Noam Chomsky) and a more polite center (United Nations General Assembly, left-liberal political parties, the mainstream media, mainline churches, school textbooks). In the final analysis, however, the Left serves less as a force in its own right than as an auxiliary for the primary anti-Zionist actor, which is the Muslim population. This latter, in turn, can be divided into three distinct groupings.
First come the foreign states: Five armed forces that invaded Israel on its independence in May 1948, and then neighboring armies, air forces, and navies fought in the wars of 1956, 1967, 1970, and 1973. While the conventional threat has somewhat receded, Egypt's U.S.-financed arms build-up presents one danger and the threats from weapons of mass destruction (especially from Iran but also from Syria and potentially from many other states) present an even greater one.
Second come the external Palestinians, those living outside Israel. Sidelined by governments from 1948 until 1967, Yasir Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization got their opportunity with the defeat of three states' armed forces in the Six-Day War. Subsequent developments, such as the 1982 Lebanon war and the 1993 Oslo accords, confirmed the centrality of external Palestinians. Today, they drive the conflict, through violence (terrorism, missiles from Gaza) and even more importantly by driving world opinion against Israel via a public relations effort that resonates widely among Muslims and the Left.
Third come the Muslim citizens of Israel, the sleepers in the equation. They benefited from Israel's open ways to grow in numbers and to evolve from a docile and ineffective community into a assertive one that increasingly rejects the Jewish nature of the Israeli state, with potentially profound consequences for that the future identity of that state.
If this long list of perils makes Israel different from all other Western countries, forcing it to protect itself on a daily basis from the ranks of its many foes, its predicament renders Israel oddly similar to other Middle Eastern countries, which likewise face a threat of elimination.
Kuwait, conquered by Iraq, actually disappeared from the face of the earth between August 1990 and February 1991. Lebanon, under Syria's control since 1976, could be officially incorporated by Damascus at any time. Bahrain is occasionally claimed by Tehran to be a part of Iran. Jordan's existence as an independent state has always been precarious.
That Israel finds itself in this company has several implications. It puts Israel's existential dilemma into perspective: If no country risks elimination outside of the Middle East, this is a nearly routine problem within the region, suggesting that Israel's unsettled status will not be resolved any time soon. This pattern also highlights the Middle East's uniquely cruel, unstable, and fatal political life. The Middle East's deep and wide political sickness points to the error of seeing the Arab-Israeli conflict as the motor force behind its problems.
Israel having survived countless threats to its existence over the past six decades, and it having done so with its honor intact, offers a reason for its population to celebrate. But the rejoicing cannot last long, for it's right back to the barricades to defend against the next threat.
Daniel Pipes is also the Taube/Diller distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2008 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
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