|Israel Resource Review
||31st October, 2008
Barack Obama, Jewish-Americans And Israel
From a personal and professional perspective, this is the sixth American Presidential campaign that I have covered from Israel, concentrating on the "Israel aspect" of the story.
This time I not only have covered the campaign from Israel - This time, I was assigned by The Philadelphia Bulletin to fly over and cover the Obama campaign at the time of the Pennsylvania primary in April.
My observation of the "Jewish American view of Sen. Obama" was that there was an atmosphere of unreality surrounding Jewish advocacy and Jewish opposition to Sen. Barack Obama. Both pro-Obama and anti- Obama forces in the Jewish world related to the senator with an attitude of superficiality, paying more attention paid to the company that he keeps than to the policies that he stands for.
Yet here is the rub:
None one has really heard where Sen. Obama stands on Middle East issues.
When I interviewed three of Sen. Obama's staffers who specialize in Middle East issues, I presented them with 18 questions.
Besides the issue of Palestinian incitement, which his staffers said that he abhors, they could not provide any answers whatsover to basic questions put forward by The Bulletin last April.With the multi-billion dollar arms package to Saudi Arabia about to reach the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Sen. Obama is a member, his staffers could not even say what his position was on arms to Saudi Arabia, which remains in a state of active war with Israel.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia currently funds Hamas, the Democratic Front For The Liberation of Palestine (PLFP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), all of which are Palestinian terror organizations that actively engaged in planning operations against the Jewish state After Sen. Obama's formal nomination as democratic candidate for president in late August, The Bulletin resubmitted these 18 basic questions. See:
Sen. Obama's staffers promised answers this time. None were forthcoming.
Yet there is a way to gain insight into Sen. Obama's policies towards Israel. Not by tabulating votes on the Senate floor and not by counting how many superlatives that he uses on Israel.
Instead, by paying attention to the three high ranking former U.S. State Department officials whom the Senator has hired: Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross and Daniel Kurtzer.
The policy which characterizes all three of them is their consistent promotion of the PLO as a supposed peace partner with Israel for the past 20 years, no matter what the reality was.
This is the threesome that defined the PLO as a peace partner even after the PLO would not ratify the Oslo "declaration of principles" in October 1993.This is the threesome that attested to the fact that, in 1996, the PLO had cancelled its covenant to destroy Israel, when it had not done so.
This is the threesome who insisted on arming the PLO to fight Hamas even though the PLO made it clear from the outset that it would never engage Hamas in any full-scale warAnd this is the threesome who promote a PLO state, come what may.And this is the threesome who main committed to mobilizing Jewish Americans to support a PLO state, come what may. From Sen. Obama's appointment of Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross and Daniel Kurtzer, it is easy to discern where the Senator stands - for the renewal of the Oslo process once again, this time with the teeth of an American administration that would impose a Palestinian state, even though it remains at war with the State of Israel.
The role played by Daniel Kurtzer has not been forgotten - as the man who wrote tough speeches for former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker when he pressured Israel 20 years ago.
What about Sen. Obama's sensitivity to the consequences of Arab terror?
After all, during his visit to the shell-shocked Israeli town of Sderot near Gaza, he met families whose homes and lives have been devastated by Arab missile attacks. It was in Sderot where Sen. Obama looked into the eyes of each of these families and told them that he would never forget the consequences of what terror had done to people in Israel. See:
Yet on the very next morning, Sen. Obama addressed a crowd in Berlin in which he depicted how nations around the world had suffered from the consequences of terror. The senator named each of these nations. Yet he forgot to name Israel.A short term retention span which deleted Israel as a nation whose people suffered the consequences of terror could not have been a coincidence.
Sen. Obama gives prepared speeches. The time has come to put aside platitudes and to stop judging Sen. Obama's attitude towards Israel from those who have endorsed him. His choices of advisors speak for themselves.
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Incisive Insight in the News
Senior Policy Research Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
Posting: October 29, 2008
"Does This Matter?"
To me it matters a lot:
It's being reported that French president Nicholas Sarkozy thinks Obama's position on Iran is "utterly immature" and comprised of "formulations empty of all content."
Sarkozy hasn't said so publicly, only in closed forum, but as these things go, his words have been carried and are being reported here in Israel, notably by Haaretz. Sarkozy is no right-winger, and the fact that he's this disturbed carries weight. At least in private forum, if reports are accurate, he's mincing no words. This ought, at very least, to give serious pause.
According to the senior Israeli source cited by Haaretz, Sarkozy fears that Obama might "arrogantly" ignore the other members of [the united front against Iran] and open a direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions. Sarkozy met with Obama in July and expressed disappointment that Obama's policies on Iran were "not crystallized, and therefore many issues remain open." Apparently Sarkozy advisors who participated in meetings came away with the same impression.
(I will add here, by the way, that Haaretz is a far left paper, undoubtedly with an Obama tilt, and would never carry something like this for anti-Obama propaganda value.)
Some foolish policies can be rectified after the fact. A tax plan isn't working? It's possible to present a new tax plan. But where Iran is concerned, there may be no way to rectify a bad move, and that bad move might be disastrous.
It thus seems to me essential to be confident that Obama's got what it takes before voting him into office. I confess readily enough on a person level that my concern about this is keeping me up at night.
If this information about Sarkozy also puts knots of fear in your stomach, share his words with others, please! The American people need to understand the implications of Obama's positions.
Actually, an enormous amount of material comes into my in-box with regard to Obama. Much I pass by because it feels too "far out" even if perhaps it is true. I aim to be taken seriously. But there is much that merits serious consideration.
Michael Freund has just done a piece entitled: "Look Who's Rooting for Obama." It begins:
"What do Iran's ayatollahs, Hamas terrorists, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi have in common? They are all pulling for Barack Obama to win the US presidential election. When Israel's disparate foes manage to rally behind a single candidate, it should set off alarm bells for anyone who cares about the Jewish state."
Assuring his readers that this is not simply Republican "scaremongering," he provides evidence for each name he cites. For example, Freund reports that "Last week, Ali Larijani, the hard-line speaker of the Iranian parliament, told a press conference in Bahrain, that 'we re leaning more in favor of Barack Obama because he is more flexible and rational.'" More flexible?
Lastly here I cite Daniel Pipes, who is director of the Middle East Forum -- and very much an academic and a serious man. He has just done a piece in Front Page Magazine entitled, "Would Obama Pass a Standard Security Clearance?" After detailing Obama's connection with a host of unsavory individuals with a distinctly anti-American bias, Pipes concludes:
" . . . Obama's multiple links to anti-Americans and subversives mean he would fail the standard security clearance process for Federal employees.
"Islamic aggression represents America's strategic enemy; Obama's many insalubrious connections raise grave doubts about his fitness to serve as America's commander-in-chief."
On now to politics here in Israel . . .
The date that seems to be coalescing as the one for our national elections is February 10, although this is not written in stone. Apparently, the Knesset is not going to be dissolved yet.
It has been reported that some members of Labor suggested that Labor and Kadima join forces before the election in the hopes of garnering jointly more seats than Likud. Makes sense that this would come from Labor, which is expected to take a major hit in the elections. Kadima has rejected the bid.
I'd like to share the highlights of opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu's speech in the Knesset yesterday. He says a government he headed would support:
-- Defensible borders with the Jordan River as Israel's eastern border.
-- A united Jerusalem and Israeli sovereignty over holy sites.
-- Cooperation with Jordan and Egypt over final status questions.
-- Complete dismantling of all terror infrastructure.
-- Resolution of the refugee issue by dismantling the refugee camps and rehabilitating their inhabitants -- and not bringing a single refugee to Israel.
These are major long-term positions with vast ramifications. For example, he's looking, I would say, at some autonomy for the Palestinians that falls short of a full state (that's what he once told me he favored when I questioned him on this) and some cooperation or federation of the Palestinian autonomous enclaves with Egypt in Gaza and Jordan in Judea and Samaria. The Jordan River as our eastern border rules out a Palestinian state.
Dear G-d, he should really mean it, stand by it, and win soundly so that he has the opportunity to show us what he can do. That's asking a lot, but it beats by many-fold what we've got now. There is solid reason to believe that the coalition negotiations between Kadima and Shas collapsed because Shas was demanding a promise that there will be no negotiations on Jerusalem, and Tzipi said she could not promise this. Her position is premised on moving in the direction of dividing Jerusalem, which is why chief PA negotiator Ahmed Qurei says he trusts her.
MK Yossi Beilin, former head of the left wing Meretz, has announced that he is retiring from politics and going into business.
A court decision today I thought I'd never see: right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel have been granted permission to hold a protest march with Israeli flags (and nothing other than flags) in the Israeli Arab city of Umm El-Fahm, in the north, which is the stronghold of the more radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement of Israel.
Said Marzel: "We will teach democracy to the Arabs of Umm el-Fahm, and we will mainly teach them that in this country it is permissible to march with Israeli flags everywhere."
The march will take place after November 11 municipal elections; even though permission was given to march in the center of the city, it will be done in the suburbs.
Fully do I understand the motivation for this. The Islamic Movement of Israel is blatantly anti-Israel. One gets very weary of the attempts of these Israeli citizens to build their own enclaves from within which they seek to undermine the State of Israel. Just recently the Islamic Movement's office was shut down because of Hamas affiliations.
And yet I recognize that those marching in Umm el-Fahm will be taking their lives in their hands. Said the Islamic Movement attorney: " . . . the Arab sector will not bear responsibility for the consequences, whatever they may be."
Earlier this week, IDF personnel at the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza found military fatigues intended for a Hamas terror operation hidden among humanitarian supplies on a truck that Israel had given permission to pass. Unfortunately, such stunts are not unusual. While Palestinians rant at us for not allowing sufficient supplies into Gaza (a fallacious charge), they make use of our gestures for their purposes.
Similar to this is the issue of concrete, which UNRWA insisted it needed in Gaza some while ago, in order to do construction of schools or whatever. Some of it has found its way (what a surprise!) into Hamas hands and is being used now for building rocket bunkers, Hezbollah-style.
With all of the worrisome happenings we face these days, it was a pleasure this morning to actually hear some good news. This was from Dr. Mitchell Bard, Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE)and director of the Jewish Virtual Library, including on-line Myths and Facts. (It pays to see and utilize this at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org:80/.)
Dr. Bard, speaking at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, described successful efforts at combating ignorance about Israel and anti-Israel bias (often promoted by Saudi Arabia, which endows chairs in Middle Eastern studies). Some 27 chairs in major US universities are now endowed for Israeli studies, and in other universities visiting Israeli professors are teaching. All of this is making a difference in the university climate. Incredibly, on many campuses there are no classes on Israel offered at all. The attempt is to not only deal honestly with the political and defense issues, but to show Israel as a proud and well-rounded nation in which we foster literature and dance and much more.
Other good news: It's pouring as I write this. The second day of rain we've had. This is no small matter in this drought-ridden country, and it seems we're beginning the rainy season vigorously. This is a bracha, a blessing.
Posting: October 27, 2008
"Days of Turmoil"
Well, President Peres has told the Knesset, which is beginning its winter session, that we will be going to elections. Part of the process down the road will involve dissolving the current Knesset. Several factions are urging that elections proceed as speedily as possible, for the nation's sake.
Analysts project a two-way contest between Livni and Netanyahu, with Barak of Labor falling so far behind as to be pretty much out of the picture -- which is a good place for him.
For the first time, polls have been released that show Livni ahead of Netanyahu by 2 or 3 seats. I figure that this is a result of her claiming the high ground in refusing to cave toShas's demands. It is not necessarily a stable figure.; there's no such thing as a stable predictive figure three months before an election. But I guess it won't be a shoo-in for Netanyahu, which ishow it seemed for some time.
Olmert made a statement to the Knesset in the course of this discussion:"The threats on the security of the people of Israel will not wait for political procedures. [Concern about]terror cannot be postponed because some of us are busy with the election process."
He's right. Responses to terror, actions to protect national security, may be necessary between now and the time his successor takes over. But this doesn't provide him with the latitude to continue negotiations with the PA.
Actually, because of the political uncertainty Abbas has cancelled a meeting with Olmert that had been scheduled. Whether it will be rescheduled is not clear. It shouldn't be.
The PA is terribly unhappy about the current state of affairs and the likelihood that the Israeli elections will make progress in the "peace" process impossible. What a shame . . .
What they are most worried about is the possibility that Livni might lose the elections: "If Netanyahu becomes the next prime minister, we will have to declare the peace process dead."
Fact is, Abbas is about to face enormous political turmoil come January in terms ofhis fight with Hamas regarding when his term ends. He's in no shape to advance "peace" either.
Yesterday, Home Front Commander Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, addressing a National Security Institute conference, said that Israel faces greater threat of missile attacks down the road. "In the next five years, our enemies may fire 200-300 tons of explosive's worth in rockets on Israel."During theSecond Lebanon War the rockets fired at Israel amounted to 30 tons of explosives.
Golan was reassuring, however: "The numbers may seem high but this isn't a catastrophe in waiting. We are more than capable of handling it." Let's pray so, as it's not simply a matter of more explosives, but also more sophisticated and accurate equipment.
The conference was told that Home Front readiness is being revolutionized.
But I have another thought, another concern: Are we going to sit here and wait for those explosives to start flying -- from Hezbollah or from Hamas? Will there be no pre-emptive actions, even though we know full well that arsenals are being strengthened??
Yesterday, Defense Minister Barak complained to the head of UNIFIL regarding the continuing smuggling of arms by Hezbollah over the Syrian border. A whole lot of good this will do.
Declaring that the IDF has been watching the situation closely and has seen the strengthening of Hezbollah (a re-arming that UNIFIL says they see no evidence of), Barak protested that, "The repeated violation of 1701 could lead us to upset of the delicate balance that exists in Lebanon . . . "I confess: I have no idea what "delicate balance" Barak has in mind. Hezbollah already has the upper hand, as far as I can see.
A US Special Forces operation moved about 4 to 5 miles inside Syria yesterday, as part of an action to secure the Syrian border with Iraq, viawhich about 90% of foreign fighters -- as well as cash for Al Qaida and weapons -- enter Iraq. Eight people were killed in the helicopter raid, including, according to a US official cited by FoxNews, the main target of the operation, the Al Qaida coordinator of foreign fighters stationed in Syria. Good move.
The Syrians, who have not been particularly cooperative with regard to sealing their border (any more than they seal their border with Lebanon),are decidedly not happy.
This past Shabbat, close to 600 PA special forces troops, US-trained, were deployed in Hevron. This is ostensibly to give the PA a stronger hand in combating Hamas, as Hevron is a Hamas stronghold. But this follows the deployment of PA troops some months earlier, first in Nablus (Shechem) and then in Jenin. And there is great unease in some quarters here in Israel that this is part of a process of turning Judea and Samaria over to PA security, one step at a time, as a prelude to pushing out Jewish settlement.
It remains to be seen how the forces in Hevron will conduct themselves. In Nablus and Jenin it was reported that they helped restore calm on the streets and did things such as arrest car thieves, but did not actively take on Hamas -- this was left for the IDF to handle. A first operation of some sort, that rounded up "criminals and Hamas loyalists" is being reported in the media.
For a number of reasons, the beleaguered Jewish community of Hevron fiercely protested this move, which could have been stopped by the IDF. Terrorists have on numerous occasions been incorporated into the PA security forces, and thus there is no reason to trust them. The PA-controlled area around the Jewish area of Hevron includes high points from which it is possible for snipers to shoot at Jews.
This is not idle speculation, as this is what happened in 2001 to 10-month old Shalhevet Pass, who was deliberately shot dead by a sniper standing on a hill near the Avraham Aveinu neighborhood and aiming directly at her head.
What is more, the speculation that the deployment of these forces is a prelude to pushing out Jewish settlement gained considerable traction in the small hours of Sunday morning as Israeli forces (police, army and more) demolished the home of Noam Federman and his family:
The Federman farm is located outside of Kiryat Arba, not far from Hevron. Noam, his wife Elisheva, and their nine children, had lived in a house there for two years. In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, they were awaked without prior warning and removed forcibly from their house -- which was totally demolished with contents inside. The reason given: It was "illegally constructed."
One is struck by the difference between this action and the deferential treatment afforded by the government to the families of terrorists who are resident in eastern Jerusalem -- treatment that makes Israeli officials move only very reluctantly with regard to demolishing their homes. It isJewish Israelis, the "settlers," the residents of Judea and Samaria, who have become the enemy, the roadblock to official intentions to accommodate the Palestinians.
At the farm, as the home was being demolished, some few of the Jews present (for the word went out and people gathered) made injudicious remarks regarding the IDF. Apologies have since been offered for what was said, but a great deal is being made of this. I would offer here the words of Hevron spokesman David Wilder:
"There is a saying in Hebrew that a person should not be held responsible for his words when his loved ones are still lying dead in front of him. That is how I relate to the . . . remarks [made]. The expulsion from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria are all still much too fresh and the fate of those expelled still hurting much too much. It is no secret that this administration has plans to implement further expulsions . . . "
Arutz Sheva reports that the municipality of Kiryat Arba has decided officially to rebuild the home that was demolished on the Federman farm, using city equipment and calling upon Jews across Israel to help. It is felt important that the site not be permitted to remain desolate of a Jewish presence.
The Jews of Judea and Samaria are tired of being the scapegoats and tired of the treatment accorded them, and they are angry. It is my own opinion that their resolve and their courage will be the salvation of our nation.
A stunning analysis of the Obama campaign -- "The Obama Temptation" by Mark R. Levin -- has come to my attention. Says Levin:
" . . . I sense what's occurring in this election is a recklessness and abandonment of rationality that has preceded the voluntary surrender of liberty and security in other places . . . even some conservatives are caught in the moment as their attempts at explaining their support for Barack Obama are unpersuasive and even illogical . . . [people with] significant public policy and real world experiences . . . find Obama alluring but can't explain themselves in an intelligent way.
"There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated, which concerns me. The messiah complex. Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama's name on it, which adorns everything from Obama's plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama's name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff.
"Even the media are drawn to the allure that is Obama. Yes, the media are liberal. Even so, it is obvious that this election is different. The media are open and brazen in their attempts to influence the outcome of this election. I've never seen anything like it. Virtually all evidence of Obama's past influences and radicalism - from Jeremiah Wright to William Ayers - have been raised by non-traditional news sources. The media's role has been to ignore it as long as possible, then mention it if they must, and finally dismiss it and those who raise it in the first place . . .
" . . . my greatest concern is whether this election will show a majority of the voters susceptible to the appeal of a charismatic demagogue. This may seem a harsh term to some, and no doubt will to Obama supporters, but it is a perfectly appropriate characterization. Obama's entire campaign is built on class warfare and human envy. The 'change' he peddles is not new. We've seen it before. It is change that diminishes individual liberty for the soft authoritarianism of socialism. It is a populist appeal that disguises government mandated wealth redistribution as tax cuts for the middle class, falsely blames capitalism for the social policies and government corruption (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that led to the current turmoil in our financial markets, fuels contempt for commerce and trade by stigmatizing those who run successful small and large businesses, and exploits human imperfection as a justification for a massive expansion of centralized government . . .
"The question is whether enough Americans understand what's at stake in this election and, if they do, whether they care. Is the allure of a charismatic demagogue so strong that the usually sober American people are willing to risk an Obama presidency? . . . "
Posting: October 26, 2009
Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima party, informed President Peres late this afternoon that she could not form a coalition. Theoretically, Peres has the latitude to pick another faction head to see if someone else can put together a government. But this won't happen . . . we're going to elections. The talk now is that they would be held in about three months.
This is not the absolute answer to all of our problems, but in my opinion it's a very necessary step in the right direction. It's a sort of cleaning house that would not have taken place if Kadima had continued in power -- especially as there seems to have been some "funny business" with regard to how Livni won the recent Kadima primary.
As I indicated recently, unless there's some great change in the situation, Likud, headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, is likely to garner the most mandates (seats) next time, with Netanyahu putting together a coalition. We're going to have to watch this play out.
The down side of what's going to happen now is that Olmert (who's been extraordinarily quiet of late) gets to stay as head of the caretaker government until those elections take place. It must be hoped that he does a minimum of damage in that time.
Shin Bet and the IDF have released the information that they foiled a plan by Hamas to kidnap soldiers last month. When Jamal Abu Duabeh of Rafah infiltrated into Israel from the Sinai recently he was caught. Under interrogation he admitted he had been sent as part of a plan to anaesthetize Israeli soldiers and bring them to Gaza. He had been trained and financed by Hamas.
The Israeli navy has announced deployment of a new sophisticated missile defense system that protects ships from missiles all 360 degrees around the ship.
Daniel R. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, and Charles S. Robb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia, are co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center's national security task force on Iran. They recently wrote a piece on the need for a strong policy on Iran that is the most encouraging thing I've heard in a long time. Seems not everyone is asleep at the wheel.
They call for much stricter sanctions as the only way that a diplomatic solution might be possible. This requires building alliances for genuine international cooperation.
"The U.S. military," they say, "is capable of launching a devastating strike on Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure -- probably with more decisive results than the Iranian leadership realizes."
This should be the solution of last resort. However . . . "both to increase our leverage over Iran and to prepare for a military strike, if one were required, the next president will need to begin building up military assets in the region from day one."
The encouraging news: "These principles are all supported unanimously by a politically diverse task force that was assembled by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The group, which includes former senior Democratic and Republican officials, retired four-star generals and admirals, and experts in nuclear proliferation and energy markets, offers a clear path for constructing an enduring, bipartisan consensus behind an effective U.S. policy on Iran."
Now if the people in power would just pay attention.
In less than three weeks, there will be mayoral elections in Jerusalem. Palestinian Authority's chief Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, has issued a fatwa (a religious injunction) forbidding Arabs in Jerusalem from voting in this election.
Late in June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued his latest report on the implementation of Resolution 1701. It discussed Israeli claims that Hezbollah was rebuilding in the south of Lebanon, but said that while UNIFIL had investigated, they found "no evidence of new military infrastructure in the area of operations."
Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, has a pretty good idea as to how this could be so:
"UNIFIL does not conduct patrols, establish checkpoints or maintain a presence of any kind within the towns and villages south of the Litani [River]. Indeed, the UN forces have little unmediated security-related contact of any kind with the population of the area.
"Thus, while UNIFIL, according to its own figures, carries out around 400 foot, vehicle and air patrols in each 24-hour period, these take place exclusively along recognized patrol paths and in rural areas.
"UN forces maintain no independent checkpoints and are involved in a minimum of joint checkpoints with the LAF [Lebanese army] . . .
" . . . given the physical absence of UN forces from any of the areas where evidence of Hezbollah infrastructure-building has emerged [in built-up areas], it is not surprising that UNIFIL reports 'no evidence' that such activity is taking place.
"In general, the two sides appear to do their best to stay out of each other's way."
Charming state of affairs, is it not?
This alone is enough reason to not want Livni to head the government: the "diplomatic solution" to end the War in Lebanon, which she pushed as a great victory, is what led to these arrangements.
The fact that the stockpiling of arms is being done in populated, built-up areas should be noted. This will make going after them much harder, and if we accidentally hit civilians in the process, Hezbollah will garner a PR victory, something it knows very well.
Meanwhile, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin reported today at a Cabinet meeting that Syria's relationship with Hezbollah is strengthening:
"Hezbollah operatives are working from within Syria. The Syrians are loosening all restraints, and [are irresponsibly giving] Hezbollah access to almost all of their strategic capabilities.
"Currently, Assad is continuing to open up its warehouses to Hezbollah."
Said Yadlin, Syria was "turning into the arms granary" for Hezbollah.
What was it Olmert said about negotiations with the Syrians turning them from terrorism?
I would like to end with an unusual article about Obama that appeared in this past Friday's Jerusalem Post, done by an Israeli journalist who came to Chicago to interview Jews who know/knew Obama.
This article must be read in its entirety, and it's long. It starts fairly positively. But as you read you see that the Jews who like Obama are extremely left wing. In fact, one rabbi who had a relationship with him expresses disappointment that Obama has not been true to his far left positions but has moved more centrist -- but, said the rabbi, he understands that Obama has to do this to win. This echoes precisely what I have felt regarding Obama's tendency to say one thing and mean another.
There is one quote from a resident of Obama's neighborhood that says it all: "Now it's like he wants to hug and kiss Israel every five minutes. That's completely not the Barack I had as a neighbor. That started this year when he was trying to get elected."
Posting: October 24, 2008
"A Small Modicum of Hope"
The Shas party has announced that it will not be joining a coalition headed by Tzipi Livni. This decision was made by its Council of Sages; the announcement declared that it had demanded real aid for the poor and sought to protect Jerusalem: "We suggested solutions for the poverty issues and Jerusalem, but our opinion was not accepted . . . " I cannot but wonder what role Bibi Netanyahu played in all of this.
Livni has announced that she will make her decision on Sunday as to whether to try to hobble together a narrow government, that is, one with a bare minimum of seats required, or to go to elections. Various advisors are telling her to go for elections and to hold tight. I'm betting she goes for elections. I certainly hope so. She is likely to opt for this because a narrow government is particularly prone to falling apart quickly. Labor had insisted that it wanted a stable government that would last two years.
If she decides to go for elections, it will be two months until they take place, and -- unless something totally unexpected happens -- Bibi Netanyahu will be our next prime minister.
I am including here a link to a speech given in New York on September 25, by Geert Wilders, who is another reason to have a modicum of hope.
The situation he describes in his speech is grim -- and should be noted seriously. The tendency in many quarters to make light of the realities he describes is cause for great concern. These facts need to be received by all with utmost seriousness, indeed alarm.
But good things are also happening. In his speech, which was sponsored by the Hudson Institute, Wilders -- chairman of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands -- introduced an Alliance of Patriots and announced the Facing Jihad Conference to be held in Jerusalem in December, promoted in part by MK Aryeh Eldad (NU/NRP). At long last a response to the Jihadist threat is coalescing with seriousness.
This is what Wilders -- bless him! -- says about Israel. Would that every American understood this:
"The best way for a politician in Europe to loose votes is to say something positive about Israel. The public has wholeheartedly accepted the Palestinian narrative, and sees Israel as the aggressor. I, however, will continue to speak up for Israel. I see defending Israel as a matter of principle. I have lived in this country and visited it dozens of times. I support Israel. First, because it is the Jewish homeland after two thousand years of exile up to and including Auschwitz, second because it is a democracy, and third because Israel is our first line of defense.
"Samuel Huntington writes it so aptly: 'Islam has bloody borders.' Israel is located precisely on that border. This tiny country is situated on the fault line of jihad, frustrating Islam's territorial advance. Israel is facing the front lines of jihad . . . Israel is simply in the way. The same way West-Berlin was during the Cold War.
"The war against Israel is not a war against Israel. It is a war against the West. It is jihad. Israel is simply receiving the blows that are meant for all of us. If there would have been no Israel, Islamic imperialism would have found other venues to release its energy and its desire for conquest. Thanks to Israeli parents who send their children to the army and lay awake at night, parents in Europe and America can sleep well and dream, unaware of the dangers looming."
I am hard at work on major material -- on UNRWA -- at this juncture, and so I ask your forbearance if my postings are someless less frequent or somewhat shorter than is my norm. I am finding I need at least six more hours in each day, but will do my best to post as I can.
I am by nature an optimistic person. I certainly never give up the fight and never abandon hope -- that is forbidden. But I confess a great heaviness of heart these days because I am witnessing the implosion of the US, both politically and economically. This is something I never imagined I would see. Perhaps, with the help of Heaven, the situation can be turned around. But please, please, do not write to me to tell me Obama brings great promise for good change, because I do not, cannot, accept this. Not remotely.
Blessings of peace to all.
Posting: October 22, 2008
"Where to Start?"
Never, in the time I have been doing these postings, have I received such a barrage of messages -- the vast majority anguished and supportive of my position -- as was stimulated by my piece on Obama yesterday. Volatile is hardly the word for the situation.
Before I move on to other issues -- and I will -- there is a follow-up on this subject:
Jonathan Tobin, editor of The Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia has written a piece called "Who's Obsessed About 'Obsession'?" that echoes one of my themes from yesterday.
Tobin describes the distribution inside Sunday newspapers last month of a DVD of the documentary Obsession: Radical Islam's War with the West.
"The documentary's thesis is simple: Radical Islam is at war with the West, and its hatred of Jews and Western democracy isn't based on misunderstandings but on a faith-based fanaticism that will brook no opposition. Its prime tactic is to educate Muslim youth into believing that such hatred is a divine imperative, so as to create new generations of jihadist suicide bombers.
"One might think that seven years after September 11 this insight would be self-evident, rather than controversial . . .
But though it does no more than state the obvious about the rise of Islamism, its tactics and its purpose, Obsession appears to have a message that many Americans neither wish to hear nor believe. Indeed, the free distribution of the film . . . has set off a firestorm of critics from both Islamist groups and liberal media figures.
" . . . The Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina refused the DVD insert because, as a statement from its publisher asserted, "it was divisive and plays on people's fears and served no educational purpose." The Detroit Free Press and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also declined the DVD . . .
"These papers did not refute a single point in the film. But the raising of the issue of Islamist terror has, in their view, become not merely politically incorrect but inadmissible and, therefore, something that must be suppressed. That these publishers, who should be facilitating such a debate rather than squelching it, have acted in this manner is an ominous sign of the times.
"Were that not enough, the film also has run afoul of some supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. [The distribution of the DVDs in swing states] has led some paranoids to argue that the documentary's message is a subliminal argument against their candidate . . .
"Others talk about the use of right-wing foundation money to distribute the DVD . . .
"The problem with this whole argument is that the film contains absolutely nothing about American politics or the election.
"While some on the left may consider raising awareness about the dangers of Islamism to be something only Republicans do, that is not a point Democrats ought to concede if they are as tough on terror as they claim to be . . . . some Democrats are now so spooked by the topic of the Islamist threat, they think even mentioning the topic in a nonpolitical context is somehow part of a conspiracy against their hero.
" . . . how does it possibly help the candidacy of Obama, a man who has missed no opportunity all year to assert his support for Israel and his disdain for Islamist terrorists, to claim that giving a documentary about Islamism a wide audience is hurtful to his cause? Can it be that some of his supporters believe that, contrary to his campaign statements, their candidate doesn't really share the concerns that the film raises? (Emphasis added)
"Seven years after 9/11, many Americans seem to have forgotten that indifference to the threat of radical Islamists led directly to that tragedy. Apparently, some prefer to ignore the grim truth and cling to the illusion that right-wingers are making up all the fuss about Islamism to scare everyone unnecessarily. (Emphasis added)
"As Sir Martin Gilbert, one of the greatest historians of our generation . . . points out in Obsession, 70 years ago, many in the West were similarly unwilling to face up to the danger of Nazism. Just as today many laugh at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they dismissed the murderous threats of Adolf Hitler as clownish bombast, and considered the brainwashing of a generation of German children by the Nazis unimportant. They denounced those who refused to be silent as prejudiced warmongers. Those truth-tellers were proved right, but too late to avert a world war, as well as genocide.
"Just like then, those who ignore similar evidence about radical Islam today 'don't connect the dots,' Gilbert asserts.
"That is a mistake the next president, who will confront an Islamist threat that may well be augmented by a nuclear Iran sometime in the next four years, cannot afford to make."
What does it take to wake American up?
On other subjects:
Tzipi Livni has requested, and received, of President Peres an additional two weeks to put together a coalition. She's still on shaky ground, in spite of the fact that Labor has now come along -- that's still only 48 seats out of 61 required.
The Pensioners party was on board but is now upping the ante.
Shas is still holding out and declaring itself not pleased. I know that Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu visited Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and appealed to him to stay out of this coalition. And, in fact, a former Shas spokesman Itzik Sudri has joined Netanyahu's team of advisors and will presumably be assisting in the attempt to keep Shas from joining Livni.
So maybe on this score there's hope.
President Peres is scheduled to go to Cairo to meet with Mubarak tomorrow, at the Egyptian president's invitation. The key issue, it is said, will be the Saudi Peace plan, which is really bad news. It calls for our complete withdrawal to pre-1967 lines, including from all of eastern Jerusalem.
Reports now are that there are at least 600 active tunnels between the Sinai and Gaza operating under the watchful eye of Hamas. Everyone is making money on this.
The Guardian describes one instance in which a tunnel, just 200 meters from an Egyptian watchtower, operates 24 hours a day.
Some of these tunnels are big enough to transport a cow.
And now for the first time there has been a tunnel discovered in Judea, not far outside of Hevron. About 150 meters long, and not completed, it was large enough to accommodate a person standing erect. There is speculation regarding the purpose of this tunnel -- to permit the movement of weapons for purposes of terror attacks, or to permit movement of terrorists without being exposed.
The report on this, in the Post, was baffling and disturbing. The tunnel was discovered by PA security forces, which immediately reported it to the IDF. An Israeli Engineering Corps was then sent to destroy it
The tunnel, as approached by the Israelis, was empty. But it has been revealed that arms and hundreds of kilograms of explosives had been in the tunnel, but were confiscated by the PA before they notified the IDF.
The Jewish community of Hevron is deeply anxious about the anticipated deployment in Hevron of 700 PA troops, presumably trained to take on Hamas.
Plans are afoot as well for the PA to assume control of several cities in Judea and Samaria over the coming months. Defense Minister Barak is coordinating this with the Americans. All of this is designed, in theory, to "bolster the moderates" and provide momentum on the ground in lieu of a peace agreement. Great, huh?
It must be noted that, according to Herb Keinon and Yaakov Katz in the Post, "officers in the [IDF] Central Command stress that while Palestinian security forces are effectively restoring law and order in Jenin, they have yet to noticeably crack down on local terror elements." Then, by all means, let's give them control.
Posting: October 21, 2008
Motzei Chag (After the Holiday)
For us here in Israel, the Sukkot-Simchat Torah holiday season has ended; in the Diaspora, it will be another day. This holiday is the season of our joy, and, indeed, it is celebrated with gladness and song.
But now it is time to come down to earth and focus on matters both mundane and serious. There are a dozen issues on my lists -- topics to be explored. Yet I've decided to devote today's posting to one issue alone: The election in the US. The ramifications of what is taking place are extraordinarily serious.
Just days ago, someone in the States with whom I am very close told me that he could understand how I might favor McCain because he is stronger on terrorism, but . . . and but . . . there are many other reasons to vote Obama. I would suggest that there is no "but." That the heart of the matter lies with this issue.
I wish to make it clear that I am not writing this as an Israeli, who wants to see an American president who will be good for Israel (although, clearly, I do). I am writing as a voting American citizen who has lived most of her life in the US. My overriding concern here is for what is happening to America, and by extension the Western world.
What my being in Israel has done is to broaden my perspective. And I seek here to bring that perspective to Americans. John McCain's tougher stance on terrorism is important not just for Israel, but also for America. The failure of many Americans to perceive this is both shocking and frightening. It's as if nothing has been learned.
What should have been learned -- back in the 1930s, when Hitler was not stopped -- is that appeasement does not work.
Yet now we are facing a world threat as serious as the Nazi threat and -- may Heaven help us all -- the US electorate seems prepared to put into office the candidate who espouses a philosophy of appeasement. The candidate who simply doesn't get it: who is ready to sit down and talk with Iran without preconditions, who is vigorously promoting a state for the Palestinians without demanding that they first relinquish terrorism.
It could be that the US electorate is prepared to vote Obama because it not only he who doesn't get it. What I fear is that a large percentage of Americans don't get it either.
From where I sit it is very clear. There is evil afoot in the world, an evil that it behooves us to stop before it is too late. Islamic Jihadists -- with an Iran that intends to go nuclear seeking to lead the way -- are deadly serious about establishing a new Caliphate and destroying the Western way of life. Wake up, my friends! The Twin Towers wasn't taken down by downtrodden, poor, hopeless Arabs, but by educated Arabs living a materially comfortable life, and motivated by an ideology of hate.
Here in Israel, we pulled -- so foolishly, so wrongly -- out of Gaza, leaving behind infrastructure and greenhouses. The Arabs there had an opportunity to make something of themselves, to build their agriculture. But their hate took precedence. They destroyed the greenhouses and built rockets to launch at Israel instead.
The radical Muslims are watching. They will take the measure of the man who sits in the White House and they will know what their advantage is. Hitler took the pulse of the world back at the time of Munich, and saw that he wouldn't be stopped by the world. So it would be now . . .
I will suggest to you that putting Obama in the White House brings World War III closer.
Thus am I not swayed by arguments about health care or tax cuts. For those who don't have a broader perspective regarding the precarious state of the world, these things loom as over-riding issues. I do not make light of them -- if you have no health care or cannot manage on what you're earning, it is hardly a small matter.
But in the face of WWIII? In the face of forces that would destroy the way of life you know and the traditional values you once held dear? It's time to put first things first.
Time was that America was the leader of the free world. But now America seems to be imploding fast. I am terrified. So are many of my associates. How about you?
If you are an American citizen, I suggest that before voting for Obama you search your heart with regard to which candidate you truly believe is better equipped to keep America and the Western world strong and to defend America against her enemies. Unless you are convinced that Obama is better able to do the job, think and think again before pulling that lever next to his name.
Here in Israel the voting public is caught in a parliamentary electoral system that relies too much on party lists, and back room wheeling and dealing, and doesn't permit the voice of the people to be clearly heard.
But in America, the people vote for the president. It is likely that the vote has never been more critical to the future of the US.
I ask everyone who is an American citizen to give deep and serious thought to the issues I raise here. And then I ask that each of you forward this to others who are voting American citizens.
Posting: October 12, 2008
"The Season of Our Rejoicing"
Tomorrow night begins the week-long festival of Sukkot, the most joyous of our holidays. The heartache of world events must not rob us of this joy, as we sit in our Sukkahs. Sit, and eat and sleep in these fragile but lovely structures, mindful of the fact that we are in the hands of the Almighty.
In all likelihood this will be my last posting until after the holiday ends a week from Tuesday here in Israel.
To one and all: Chag Sameach: Joyous Holiday!
Don't be fooled. Don't imagine that what has been going on in Acre is no more than an innocent local disturbance. Yaakov Lapin, writing about the situation, cited on-the-scene residents:
"This is our city. What happened on Yom Kippur was a pogrom. We had to hide in our own homes and turn off the lights as the mob passed," said Datya Bracha Malka . . .
"All of the cars on our road were damaged. Some were flipped over and burned," recounted Herzl Malka, her husband . . . "The TV news has swept this under the carpet."
Pogrom. That's the term I've seen used in connection the Acre events several times now.
What's different about this situation from many others that appear similar is the mindset of the particular Jews in Acre. For the most part they are working class Sephardi Jews who have little patience with the left wing elite of the nation, and who take no nonsense. Attacked, they attack back. Proudly.
"They [the media] are making out like we are the aggressors. Why don't they come here to speak to us? We've had a Kristallnacht here."
I daresay, we Israelis need a bit more of this attitude as we make our way within the world.
I want to call your attention to a disturbing and important piece by Jonathan Rosenblum, which appeared in Friday's Post, "Ignore the Grandchildren."
This is in reference to the deeply offensive and literally obscene YouTube video in which comedienne Sarah Silverman suggests that Jewish youth travel to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Obama. You don't have to convince them with facts, she tells the young people, make threats: "If you don't vote for Obama I'm not going to visit." And she suggests that the objection the elderly people of Florida have to Obama is his skin color. No thought that perhaps the older generation has considerably more wisdom with regard to the political issues than their grandchildren.
This is what Rosenblum addresses. He writes:
"My guess is that bubbie and zaidie will not be too impressed by such bullying; nor should they be. The grandchildren will seek to prove that Obama is good for Israel, but their identification with Israel bears no relationship to that of their grandparents . . .
"A 2007 study by sociologists Stephen Cohen and Ari Kelman found that more than half of non-Orthodox Jews under 35 would not view the destruction of the State of Israel as a personal tragedy. The death and/or expulsion of millions of fellow Jews is something they can live with . . .
"Indifference to Israel, Cohen and Kelman found, 'is giving way to downright alienation.' Israel complicates the social lives and muddles the political identity of young Jews. Only 54 percent of the under 35 cohort profess to be comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state at all."
Dear Heaven, this is enough to make any committed Zionist weep. Where has it gone wrong?
Concludes Rosenthal: "Bubbie and zaidie should tell their progeny that in Jewish tradition wisdom flows from the elders to young, not vice versa."
It's worth noting that this disgusting Silverman video was produced by the Jewish Council for Education and Research. This is a group with a benign and elevated sounding name -- who could be against education and research? -- whose goal, in matter of fact, is the promotion of Obama.
This is the same group that produced the video "Israel's Generals Speak," which gives the fallacious impression that those interviewed are for Obama. Two interviewees, Uzi Dayan, former deputy IDF chief of staff, and Ephraim Halevy, former Mossad chief, both say they were duped and their words taken out of context.
Protested Dayan: "This was a lie and a deception since I never expressed support for Obama or for John McCain. I was told this was a movie about the issues the next president will have to deal with and that concern Israel. I responded accordingly without taking any side politically."
Posting: October 11, 2008
Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)
Acre, or Akko -- an ancient Mediterranean port city in the north of Israel with a mixed Jewish and Arab population that has prided itself on coexistence -- is currently in the midst of violence with most serious implications.
The violence -- which started on Yom Kippur eve -- began with a car driven at high speed by an Arab resident of the Old City of Acre through the main street of the Jewish Ben Gurion neighborhood with his radio blaring. In the solemnity of Yom Kippur, cars are simply not driven in Jewish neighborhoods here in Israel, and certainly not with radios blaring. Acre police say this was clearly a provocation.
According to the Post, when he was asked by local residents to leave, the man refused. And then what began as a verbal confrontation became more violent as Jewish residents began tossing things at the car. False rumors were then carried into the Arab Old City saying that Jews had killed the Arab, and a crowd of hundreds of Arabs marched into the Ben Gurion neighborhood saying "Kill the Jews" and Allah Allahu Akbar" [the traditional praise of Allah used when killing Jews], wielding axes and truncheons and smashing cars and store windows.
According to YNet, there are suggestions that this was a planned attack by Arabs, some of whom didn't even live in Acre. This report indicates that the fasting Ben Gurion residents were unarmed -- that the attack by the Arabs didn't occur because the Arab driver was attacked by the Jewish crowd.
Police intervened that night to prevent severe Jewish - Arab clashes, for Jews had gathered in preparation for a response to the violence of the Arab mob. The city was actually shut down briefly.
Tonight, however, is the fourth consecutive night in which Arab-Jewish clashes have erupted. This time an Arab home was set on fire. The mayor of Acre, Shimon Lankry, says he is determined to handle this with a firm hand.
The mayor has brushed aside a conciliatory gesture made by the leaders of the Arab community of Acre. They have announced that they will be releasing a flier condemning the man's drive through the Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur. What I noticed, however, is that it was to be in Hebrew and distributed in the Ben Gurion neighborhood. That is, it is designed to placate the Jews and not to advise the Arab community regarding appropriately respectful behavior.
From my vantage point, most serious is the statement by a spokesman from Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza: He said that the anger by "Jewish settlers" [settlers??] in Akko "should serve as a wake-up alarm to those who are betting on reaching peace with an occupation that rejects everything Palestinian or Arab." He defined Acre -- which is well within Green Line Israel -- as having been occupied in 1948, and accused "extremist Jewish settlers [in Acre] of acts of terror that could be the start of the final phase of ethnic cleansing."
This is an attempt by Jihadist Arabs to provoke Israeli Arabs to respond with hostility to Israel -- to see Israel as the enemy -- and it is something we are seeing with increasing frequency. This makes credible the claim that some of the Arab rioters that first night were not from Acre. The Jews were provoked and threatened on their holiest day and then their response is cited as evidence of "ethnic cleansing."
It should not be taken lightly.
There have been two attempted stabbing attacks by Arabs in Hevron:
In one last night, a man at a checkpoint near the Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs), when called on to submit to inspection of his package, then pulled out a knife and started to attack a border policeman. He was stopped.
Tonight something similar happened in the Jewish neighborhood of Hevron.
Egypt, which has been working on ways to heal the "rift" between Hamas and Fatah, has met with some tentative success -- although I have no confidence that the factional tensions can be genuinely and permanently smoothed over. A Hamas delegation, headed by Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, met recently in Cairo with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman. Abu Marzouk has now announced that Hamas will be meeting with Fatah before the end of the month. Next month the Egyptians hope to convene a conference with all the Palestinian factions.
"We want national unity," said Abu Marzouk. The last unity government lasted just months.
Issues to be dealt with include: the status of the Palestinian government, reforming the PLO, reconstructing the Palestinian security forces, preparing for the next parliamentary and presidential elections and restoring the pre-June 2007 situation to the Gaza Strip.
Posting: October 10, 2008
"Where Are We Headed?"
Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Twenty-six hours in which we are to be, according to the tradition, as angels: not eating nor drinking, not concerned with worldly matters, focused on Heaven. The prayers were strong and deep, at least in my shul -- and I hope in all of them. But now we've returned to this world, and resume our roles as very flawed human beings.
And I take a look around me and what I see from all sides is grievously worrisome. I wish I could say otherwise.
The US is caught in a political situation that suggests deep problems and a lack of moral and political clarity. The financial crisis originally set off by the Lehman Brothers collapse is reverberating dangerously around the world -- with economic instability having the potential to generate political instability as well. And more and more various international figures are saying they're not sure they can stop Iran from going nuclear.
Has humanity learned no lessons? Is there no end to shortsightedness and greed?
Here, Livni is inching closer to a coalition agreement with Barak, not a source of good news. They are having a major meeting today.
And this week EU envoy Mark Otte told The Jerusalem Post that Olmert's recent statement -- which was comprised just of spoken words and not anything on paper! -- regarding Israel's "need" to pull back to the '67 lines will be a "reference point" in the future. This is the damage that it was feared Olmert could do. Although it should be noted that Livni has declared she does not support what he said, we're going to face international pressure based on his declaration.
Over Yom Kippur, a riot by Israeli Arabs in Acre against the Jewish population there was deliberately instigated. This is deeply troubling as well as infuriating. After Shabbat I would like to deal with this is greater detail -- it requires attention.
In fact, as Shabbat comes early here now, much more will have to follow after Shabbat . . .
Posting: October 5, 2008
The idiocy of Ehud Olmert.
He wishes to transfer to the Russian government rights to the Sergei Compound, which is part of the Russian Compound, in the heart of western Jerusalem, right off Jaffa Street.
Of course, we cannot blame him alone for this, for he brought it to the Cabinet today, which approved it. And it was, weeks ago, approved by a committee that consisted of Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Justice Minister Daniel Friedman, and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On.
Olmert is going to Russia next week, where he will meet with Russian president Dmitry Medevev; he hopes to present title to the building to Medevev then, as a gesture that will help persuade him not to sell arms to Syria and to back sanctions against Iran.
Here we see the mind (such as it may be) of an appeaser at work. Foolishness. Medevev will thank Olmert for the building and then proceed to do as he wishes. If he decides not to sell arms to Syria, or to back Iranian sanctions -- both of which are unlikely -- it won't be because of that building.
There is an historical connection between the Russian Compound and Russia; it fell under Israeli guardianship in 1952, and 90% of it was bought by Israel in 1984, but this particular building apparently fell into the 10% that was not purchased.
There are some very strong arguments for not setting the precedent of turning property in the heart of Jerusalem over to foreign governments.
With all of the other arguments, there is one that pertains in particular to our current situation: The Olmert government is a transitional government, legally bound to only take routine actions to sustain the functioning of the State. Attorney General Mazuz has made this clear.
Thus, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel is protesting this action. They have written a letter to Mazuz in this regard. If Mazuz plays it straight -- not in any way a given -- he cannot allow this to go through. But the issue is also being put before the High Court. Also no guarantee of anything.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who was here for meetings, made a statement on Israel Radio today, regarding the fact that his country is worried about Iran. He knows, he said, that "something must be done about Iran," either peacefully or by means of a military operation.
Well, I thought, a bit of logic at play in a crazy environment. That's what I thought for a brief interval of time, anyway. For he had more to say today. He urged Israel to proceed with the "peace" negotiations even during this turmoiled political time. The reason? Solving the "Palestinian problem" would make it easier to resolve the "Iranian crisis."
Oi! Just one more person who doesn't have a clue. Such persons are legion. I would love to have him explain how putting a terrorist entity at our eastern border will so mollify Iran's leaders that they will decide to halt their nuclear development.
Later, Kouchner made a statement at a Foreign Ministry meeting regarding Tzipi Livni:
"I have confidence in her because I know her. She will manage to create . . . a vital Palestinian state bordering the State of Israel, guaranteeing the security of Israel."
Confidence in her? He thinks she's a miracle worker. While he's doing explaining, I want to hear how he imagines the mess that is the PA today can be turned into a "vital" Palestinian state. Vital? And exactly how its creation would guarantee Israel's security.
According to a top IDF officer cited by the Post, the PA is gearing up for a major action against Hamas in Judea and Samaria in a few weeks time, as Hamas challenges Abbas, whose term is scheduled to end.
Yet another sign of the PA's lack of moderation (such signs also being legion): Ahmed Qurei, chief negotiator for the PA, has met with Sheikh Raed Salah of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement of Israel, a radical Islamist movement tied to Hamas.
According to the Palestinian news agency Maan, Qurei said that the PA would never sign an agreement with Israel that didn't include Jerusalem, and that delays in finalizing such an agreement simply permits Israel to advance its plans to "Judaize" Jerusalem.
Note, please, that he didn't say "eastern Jerusalem," but simply "Jerusalem."
Two pipe bombs were found by the IDF in a parcel of an Arab man crossing the Hawara checkpoint in Samaria.
This is the same checkpoint where a youth attempted to stab a soldier with a knife two weeks ago, and where a woman threw acid into the face of a soldier just days before that (with the soldier's vision in one eye still in doubt).
Aaron Lerner in his headline on this today on IMRA reminds us that this sort of checkpoint is labeled "humiliating." We must never forget that these checkpoints are up for a life-saving reason.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz has returned from his brief "time out." He has resumed his tasks as minister and attended today's Cabinet meeting. However, he did not attend the Kadima faction meetings; his aides say he is in doubt about his political future and does not intend to participate in political activities.
This cannot please Livni, who was hoping for a boost from him.
Livni met tonight with Labor head Ehud Barak, but nothing definitive came out of that meeting. The issues are economic.
Posting: October 3, 2008
"Sharing My Article"
I devote this entire posting to an article of mine that just went up on YNet. This was a cry of the heart.
At bottom you will find a link to it so you can readily share it with others.
Who Are We?
Do we know any longer? The signs are strong that here in Israel we have lost our way. We have now entered the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If ever national soul searching was called for, it is now:
We are an ancient people, with a bond to the land that is 3,000 years old.
Driven out two millennia ago, we did what no other people has ever done – what the historians had thought was impossible: We returned to the land, with identity in tact, and with the sanction of international law. We revived our ancient language and have flourished beyond all expectations. Time and time again, we defeated enemies against odds that were considered insurmountable. In the course of a defensive war over 40 years ago, we once again acquired the cradle of our heritage: The Old City, with the Temple Mount; Hebron and the Machpelah; Shilo; and more. A Jewish presence was returned to our ancient areas that had been rendered Judenrein by Jordan.
But we have a government that is apologetic about our possession of what is ours. We are being told we must give away areas that are historically Jewish, and quickly, because the "window of opportunity" is closing. What will happen if we don't pull back to pre-'67 lines (lines, it should be noted, that were only meant to be temporary armistice lines)? The world won't accept our legitimacy.
Excuse me? We are legitimate, in every sense of the word. The notion that we might require the present-day sanction of the UN would be farcical if it were not so serious. The UN, which may elect Iran to the Security Council.
The simple, unalterable truth is that the world respects us as legitimate when we respect ourselves. If there is a window of opportunity closing, it is the window to our own dignity and sense of who we are.
We are meant to be a light unto the nations.
With regard to hi-tech, and medicine, we are precisely that. We have gifted the world with our advances far more than most people care to acknowledge.
But our national reputation has been sullied of late because of unprecedented levels of corruption. It matters not whether Ehud Olmert is ever indicted; the investigations and the testimonies have done their damage. The image is a dirty one, not befitting us at all. A light unto the nations must have sterling integrity.
We breathed a collective sigh of relief when Olmert submitted his resignation. As the process has since unfolded, Tzipi Livni, by a margin of 431 votes, won a primary that makes her the head of the Kadima party; if she is able to put together a coalition she will become our next prime minister.
A fresh start, you imagine? Hardly that.
Multiple charges have surfaced of irregularities within that primary – charges that are particularly significant because Livni's margin of victory was so slight. These accusations have been made by supporters of Shaul Mofaz, the candidate who came in that very close second in the election, and by Avi Dichter, who was also a candidate, as well as serving as Internal Security Minister. The charges are too serious to ignore.
There are complaints that hours of the polls were extended at Livni's request because some of her supporters had not had time to vote. While Dichter has charged that "In quite a few polling stations, people who hold official positions in Kaima were walking around and crudely getting involved not in how to vote, but rather, whom to vote for."
Right now we are running the risk that Olmert will be replaced by someone who achieved her position via improprieties. Are we so inured to "irregularities" – have we sunk so low – that we accept this without a murmur?
A great cry should go up now from the people. We deserve – we must have! – better. Demanding this would be a huge step towards reclaiming ourselves and who we are meant to be.
Posting: October 1, 2008
Motzei Hag (After Rosh Hashana)
After two days of Rosh Hashana, with heart-felt prayer and deep contemplation, I have returned to my computer to find more of the same from Olmert -- as if he haunts us and we can never quite be done with him. It is certainly not what I hoped to return to, but his comments must be answered, and so I do this posting now . . .
Put simply, Olmert granted a "farewell" interview to Yediot Ahronot, which has made press in several places. He warns us that if we want peace with the Palestinians we must leave most, if not all, of the West Bank (i.e., Judea and Samaria) and eastern Jerusalem.
The Palestinians won't settle for less, you see. So we have to do the compromising, the surrendering of what is ours.
It boils down, again, to the question of who needs this agreement. Olmert behaves as if we must have it, and thus must give them what they want -- which is exactly the wrong position to take. They have to want it, and, as it is, there is precious little evidence that they do.
I will not belabor here what we would get in return for surrendering all that Olmert suggests we give up. I've covered that ground a hundred times before and undoubtedly will a hundred times again. Olmert says we will get "peace." I say that we will get terrorism that makes the Kassams coming out of Gaza seem like child's play. Hamas is breathing down Abbas's neck, and he is powerless to enforce any agreement. The entire thought of negotiating with him is unmitigated nonsense.
What Olmert does is not only advance a position that weakens us from a security position, he also weakens our sense of ourselves, and of our rights. He is a destructive force.
Allow me here to simply quote Olmert with regard to the fact that the Palestinians don't meet our readiness to compromise:
"Unfortunately, the Palestinians don't have the necessary courage, strength, internal determination, will or enthusiasm."
With this he makes the argument for giving them nothing. And yet he persists. Idiocy.
Unfortunately, he continues to represent a danger, although a diminishing one. He talks about "finishing the job" (i.e., negotiations) before leaving office. This is grandstanding: A deal is not going to be struck before he leaves office, even if that is a few months away. If he were to put his signature to something of an partial nature -- outlining what had been agreed to so far -- it might be binding down the road. That shouldn't be permitted to happen, because he is now heading an interim government that the attorney general has cautioned to act with "restraint." Besides which, that would require the Palestinians to also sign off on progress, and this they do not intend to do, whatever the calls from the likes of negotiator Saeb Erekat now for Olmert to put something on paper.
Abbas has made a comment, however, that he hopes Olmert's statements are a "deposit" for the next government. Therein, too, lies a danger -- that the Palestinians will demand that any future negotiations be based on what Olmert said, even if it was not in writing.
Some of us have been in synagogue the last couple of days, and some of us have been having meetings. Reportedly, Livni and Mofaz have had their first meeting since the primaries. What, if anything was promised to Mofaz is not clear. What amuses me is that the meeting was referred to as "clandestine." How clandestine if it was being reported in the news?
Livni and Barak also met. But the word here is that Labor's demands are not being met and that no progress was made in forming that coalition.
The US Defense Department, I am pleased to note, has agreed to sell the Israeli Air Force 25 F-35 stealth-enabled Joint Strike Fighters.
According to the Post, a Pentagon official has said that "the sale of the stealth jets to Israel was essential to American national interests and was meant to ensure that Israel maintained its qualitative edge over armies of neighboring countries."
This is a plane that is not only stealth, it can hover, and land vertically and take off vertically is lightly loaded and in a few hundred feet if fully loaded.
I wrote recently about violence that is being presumed -- without solid evidence -- to be from the right wing here, and I alluded briefly to the left-wing bias in this country. Evelyn Gordon has written a very powerful and painful piece on this subject, that tells it absolutely straight. I urge you to read it. She has addressed an issue that has been too much hidden:
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Phillies World Series Victory Echoes in Jerusalem:
After fourty-four failures, Phillies fan finally 'fesses '64 folly
Author: David Bedein
A common theme of Catholicism and Judaism involves the command to confess your sins. While Catholics often confess their sins to their clerics, Jews confess their sins to the community at large.
With the news of the Phillies winning The World Series reaching Jerusalem, the time has come for true confessions of a Phillies baseball fan from 1964 who may have wrought heavenly havoc on a team that was supposed to win the pennant that year, a scant 44 years ago.
Yes, I sinned with my mitt and scorecard in hand, at the tender age of 14.
You see, I grew up in Philadelphia, a place where the Phillies never won. Prayers never helped. And then 1964 came, the year after my Bar Mitzvah, when our Rabbis taught us that it was now up to me to keep the commandments of God.
Well, that momentous year after my bar mitzvah, when our traditions have it that we pray as adults and that God listens intently to our prayers, the Phillies looked like they were going to win.
I put in a special prayer for the Phillies on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, 1964, reciting an incantation of the Phillies lineup and pitching rotation, adding special prayers for the Phillies bullpen when the Holy Ark was open for divine intercession.
It was on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, however, that I made a radical decision: to depart on a personal pilgrimage to Connie Mack Stadium.
The escape to the holy baseball grounds was well planned. Soon after I heard the Shofar Ram's Horn being sounded to call for repentance, I quietly moved to the back of the schule, feigning a tummy ache to my little brother and sister.
I had five crisp one dollar bills that wouldn't jingle in my pocket, saved from my summer paper route, violating the Jewish tradition of not carrying money on the holiday.
I had thought of everything: My Phillies Hat was even in my Tallis Prayer shawl bag.
Like Moses who had just killed the Egyptian, I looked this way and that, and saw no one in my way from the men's room exit, and left a place of worship to quietly ascend a PTC bus to 69th street and ascend even higher to the heights of the Market Street subway and then on to the Broad Street Subway.
Wearing my bar mitzvah suit, the destined arrival was Connie Mack Stadium, at 21st and Lehigh, in time great unreserved seats behind home plate.
I clutched my Machzor Rosh Hashanah prayer book together with my score card.
The Phillies were playing the hapless Mets.
12 games left in the left in the season. six and a half games ahead.
In the Fifth inning, time of afternoon mincha prayers back at the synagogue, Frank Thomas, the Phillies much-needed right handed power whom they had recently acquired, was on first. Thomas suddenly sprinted to second base on an infield ground ball, sliding head first into second base, breaking his thumb. Sliding into second base? Hmm…That never happens . . .
The play by play by former Phillie Whiz Kid Center Fielder Richie Ashburn was very loud on a transistor radio near by. Richie announced that Thomas would be out for the season. Richie Ashburn was the Phillies star turned Phillies announcer who died in 1997. He had been a Whiz Kid in the last Phillies victory during the year of my birth in 1950 and seemed to represent the glorious past and promising present of the Phillies.
In the end, the Phillies lost that day. I made it back to synagogue for the concluding Maariv service at Overbrook Park Congregation . . . Or that is at least what I told my mother.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of the Phillies ten game losing streak.
Everything that could go wrong in those ten days went wrong for the Phillies
Perhaps I had jinxed the Phillies, by leaving the synagogue the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
By Yom Kippur, there was no joy in Philly mudville.
I remember the great despondency when the Sukkot Feast of Tabernacles occurred in early October, when the Yankees of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford did not face our holy Phillies.
So I phoned a call in show on WCAU, then the CBS affiliate in Philly, to ask Richie Ashburn what had gone wrong.
Ashburn gave me an answer that I felt like a reproach for going to the ball game on second day Rosh Hashanah.
Richie said that a great lesson is never to be overconfident and not to do things that you shouldn't do.
He was referring to Phillie manager Gene Mauch overplaying his star pitchers, Jim Bunning and Chris Short, whom he played with only two days rest at the end of the season . . .
Yet, at age 14, coming into an age where I was supposed to observe God's commandments, I thought that he was referring to my mistaken pilgrimage to Connie Mack stadium on a day that was supposed to be devoted to prayer.
Forgive me, dear Philly fans of yesteryear, if my shortsighted trek of 1964 may have angered God in some way.
As dawn struck early in the morning of the new Hebrew month of Heshvan the holy city of Jerusalem, word came forth of the Philly victory. Phillie fanatics in the Holy Land promptly cited the traditional Hallel prayer of thanksgiving, that is reserved for the new month, and, of course, dedicated to thanking the Lord for bequeathing a victory to the Phillies, 44 years after the disaster that befell our fallen Phillies in 1964.
This must be a sign of Messiah.
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