|Israel Resource Review
||25th September, 2007
Where is the Issue of Education for Peace in the Olmert-Rice-Abbas Initiative?
Dr. Dore Gold , President, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Vol. 7, No. 15 September 2007
On the net: http://tinyurl.com/3e2fla
When former U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross sought to understand the failure of the Oslo peace process of the 1990s, in which he was an active participant, he zeroed in on the need to bring about a "transformation" of political attitudes that the Palestinian leadership failed to encourage. Ross pointed to the education that Palestinian children received, concluding "that no negotiation is likely to succeed if there is one environment at the negotiating table and another on the street."
The Roadmap insists in Phase I that "all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel." There are no negotiations whatsoever about Palestinian statehood, according to the Roadmap, until the Palestinians' Phase I obligations are fully met. Only after Phase I obligations are met, the Quartet then convenes an international conference in order to "launch a process, leading to establishment of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders."
In the past, the U.S. Congress has taken the firm position that a Palestinian state should not be recognized until the Palestinian Authority takes "effective steps to ensure that its educational and communications systems promote the acceptance of Israel's existence and of peace with Israel and actively discourage anti-Israel incitement."
The current effort of Secretary of State Rice to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a November 2007 joint declaration in Washington over the parameters of a future Palestinian state essentially circumvents the Bush administration's own 2003 Roadmap sequence.
The planned Olmert-Abbas declaration, it will be argued, is only an outline of a "political horizon" for the future. But how can Israel obligate itself on sensitive issues of borders or security already if it is in the dark over what kind of Palestinian neighbor it will have, especially if that neighbor still teaches the toxic hatred that undermined previous efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace?
Why Oslo Failed
The U.S. and Israel are in the midst of intense negotiations to prepare a joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration for the planned Washington peace conference scheduled for November 2007. The intended purpose of the declaration is to provide a "political horizon" for the future Palestinian state that presumably will strengthen politically moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority (PA) who prefer a negotiated settlement of the conflict with Israel over the Hamas strategy of ongoing "resistance." The underlying assumption of this diplomatic approach is that Palestinian moderation will grow by focusing on the most difficult permanent status issues - and giving the Palestinians a taste of the shape of a final settlement - instead of getting bogged down in other interim goals of peacemaking.
Yet one of the glaring oversights in this strategy is the whole issue of the Palestinians' commitment to undertake programs for their schools to advance education for peace and to halt incitement more generally. Since Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004, incitement has abated in some respects. There are no calls in Palestinian Authority-controlled media on the Palestinian population to enter into active conflict with the Israel Defense Forces as there were at the height of the Second Intifada. Nonetheless, in 2007 there has been an ongoing use of hostile terminology, even in Fatah-dominated news outlets, including references to towns within pre-1967 Israel, like Ashkelon and Sderot, as being "occupied." And virulent anti-Semitism continues in the Hamas media. Worse still, throughout 2007, political cartoons in the official PA daily al-Hayat al-Jadida utilized anti-Semitic motifs which dehumanize Jews as insects or as a sinister worldwide force with blood on its hands.1
When former U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross sought to understand the failure of the Oslo peace process of the 1990s, in which he was an active participant, he zeroed in on the need to bring about a "transformation" of political attitudes that the Palestinian leadership failed to encourage.2 Yasser Arafat, according to Ross, "continued to promote hostility toward Israel."3 Ross pointed to the education that Palestinian children received at summer camps. He concluded "that no negotiation is likely to succeed if there is one environment at the negotiating table and another on the street."4 Given the critical importance that Ross assigns to this issue in his effort to grapple with the lessons of the peace process from nearly a decade of experience, it is striking that in the public discourse concerning the upcoming peace conference, almost nothing has been said about Palestinian incitement or the Palestinian educational system.
Moreover, the need to address the fundamental issue of incitement in the Palestinian education system appears to be growing. During the visit of a delegation of U.S. Congressmen led by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) to Ramallah in August 2007, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad frankly admitted that the Palestinian Authority was not promoting a program of education for peace: "You wouldn't call our curriculum a 'peace curriculum.'" This response came after successive questions on the subject by members of Congress, who perceived Fayad's statement as an admission that efforts to stop the incitement had not been successful. Cantor interpreted his response to mean that there wasn't willingness on the part of the PA to insist on a peace curriculum.5
Little Improvement in Palestinian Textbooks
The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, which has prepared five analyses over the years on the content of Palestinian Authority textbooks, is now completing a sixth analysis of PA textbooks for the years 2006 and 2007. Dr. Arnon Groiss, who is heading the project, noted some improvements in eleventh grade Palestinian textbooks during 2005 in which the name "Israel" appeared for the first time in maps in the text. References to ancient Jewish history were also mentioned, as well as the importance of inter-religious tolerance. However, there now seems to be a regression to the use of more hostile language including references in the latest twelfth grade texts to jihad and martyrdom. Emphasis on the need for steadfastness against the enemies of Islam returned to the texts for the twelfth grade as well. "Israel" was removed from all the maps in the text. Moreover, religious education in the West Bank is being handled through the Palestinian Ministry for Religious Endowments (Awqaf) - even under the Fatah-dominated government in the West Bank - which still uses older textbooks. This arrangement allows the Palestinian Authority to circumvent any minimal reforms instituted in the Palestinian Ministry of Education and to maintain hostile propaganda against Israel in Palestinian schools.
Education for Peace was an Oslo Requirement
The idea of halting Palestinian incitement and promoting education for peace has been a legal undertaking that the Palestinian leadership took upon itself throughout the Oslo peace process. In Article XXII of the September 1995 Interim Agreement (Oslo II), Israel and the PLO agreed "to foster mutual understanding and tolerance." They specifically obligated themselves to "abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other." Finally, Israel and the PLO agreed to "ensure that their respective educational systems contribute to the peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples."
Abbas personally agreed to defining "preventing incitement and hostile propaganda" as a "Palestinian obligation" in the January 1997 Note for the Record that accompanied the Hebron Protocol. The Note for the Record was signed by Dennis Ross, on behalf of the United States. In the October 1998 Wye River memorandum, the Palestinians undertook to issue a decree which built on the Interim Agreement and the Note for the Record, prohibiting all forms of incitement to violence and terror "and to establish an enforcement mechanism."6
To its credit, on the declarative level the Bush administration has repeatedly spoken up about the problem of incitement. For example, in January 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Arab states to boost the peace process by ending anti-Israel incitement.7 In March 2007, she revealed that the U.S. was discussing with the Palestinians an end to incitement against Israel in schools, and to print maps that included the State of Israel.8
These statements aside, the primary question is how combating incitement is woven into the legal fabric of the obligations of the parties as the peace process proceeds. What happens if the Arab states or the Palestinians persist to foster racial hatred? Does the international community just move on and expect fresh concessions from Israel in order to keep up forward momentum? What happened to past U.S.-Israel understandings on reciprocity - that Israel does not proceed forward until the Palestinians fulfill their obligations?
The Road Map: End Palestinian Incitement Before Negotiations
The April 2003 Quartet Roadmap, drafted under the auspices of the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the UN Secretariat, also touched on the issue of incitement, but it is less detailed than the Oslo Agreements. The Roadmap envisions a three-phase diplomatic process toward the establishment of a Palestinian state. At the outset of Phase I, the Roadmap obligates the Palestinian leadership to issue an "unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security." There are no negotiations whatsoever about Palestinian statehood, according to the Roadmap, until the Palestinians' Phase I obligations are fully met.
Besides demanding an "unconditional ceasefire," the Roadmap insists already at this initial phase that "all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel."9 This language makes only an implicit reference to Palestinian educational institutions. Subsequently in Phase I, the Palestinian Authority is supposed to begin dismantling the military infrastructures of terrorist organizations, while the Arab states must halt all funding to them (e.g., Saudi aid to Hamas).
Bypassing the Roadmap?
Only after Phase I obligations are met, the Quartet then convenes an international conference in order to "launch a process, leading to establishment of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders." Indeed, in the past, the U.S. Congress has taken the firm position that a Palestinian state should not be recognized until the Palestinian Authority takes "effective steps to ensure that its educational and communications systems promote the acceptance of Israel's existence and of peace with Israel and actively discourage anti-Israel incitement."10 Up until this time, there has been strong bipartisan backing in Congress which has included Senator Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) embrace of the February 2007 Palestinian Media Watch report on Palestinian textbooks in the U.S. Senate.11
The current effort of Secretary of State Rice to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a November 2007 joint declaration in Washington over the parameters of a future Palestinian state essentially circumvents the Bush administration's own 2003 Roadmap sequence. Under such conditions, critical Palestinian obligations appearing in the Roadmap tend to be superseded in preparatory discussions by the larger permanent status issues, like borders, Jerusalem, and refugees.
It is in this context that the Palestinian obligations to educate schoolchildren for peace - and not jihad - can fall between the cracks, despite the lessons from the Oslo years of the importance of assuring a transformation of Palestinian attitudes and eradicating incitement. This leaves Israel highly exposed, for while Rice has been working with Abbas and Olmert, according to Ahmed Yusef, political advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Fatah and Hamas have been engaging in secret backchannel negotiations to restore their relationship.12
The planned Olmert-Abbas declaration, it will be argued, is only an outline of a "political horizon" for the future. But how can Israel obligate itself on sensitive issues of borders or security already if it is in the dark over what kind of Palestinian neighbor it will have, especially if that neighbor still teaches the toxic hatred that undermined previous efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace?
* * *
1 "The Distribution of Virulent Anti-Israeli and Anti-Semitic Hate Propaganda Continues in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Although Incitement in the Official Media Has Abated under Abu Mazen," Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S.), December 5, 2005, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/html/final/eng/eng_n/incitement_e1205.htm. See also "PMW Cartoons," Palestinian Media Watch, September 11, 2007, www.pmw.org.il.
2 Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004), p. 765.
3 Ross, p. 766.
4 Ross, p. 769.
5 Author's e-mail exchange with Rep. Eric Cantor, September 23, 2007.
6 "The Wye River Memorandum," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 23, 1998. See www.mfa.gov.il/MFA.
7 "Rice Says Syria Risks Long-Term Rift with U.S. Over Iraq Role," Voice of America, GlobalSecurity.org, January 18, 2005, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2005/01/mil-050118-3e7c51c6.htm.
8 "Rice to Palestinians: End Incitement Against Israel," YNetnew.com, March 21, 2007, http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3379571,00.html.
9 "A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," Press Statement, Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, April 30, 2003, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2003/20062.htm.
10 Aaron D. Pina, "Palestinian Education and the Debate Over Textbooks," Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, April 27, 2005, http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/47093.pdf.
11 "Senator Hillary Clinton Introducing PMW Report on Palestinian Schoolbooks," Palestinian Media Watch, February 8, 2007, http://www.pmw.org.il/getresults/political/i211849.html.
12 Khaled Abu Toameh, "Abbas Ready to Settle Tough Issues," Jerusalem Post, September 20, 2007,
* * *
Dr. Dore Gold, Israel's ambassador to the UN in 1997-99, is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and author of The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007).
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Incisive Commentary from the Past Ten Days
Arlene Kushner, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research
"A Pre-Sukkot Contemplation"
I received an e-mail from a very serious reader (who shall remain anonymous here, as I've not received permission to use his name). Things are dire, he told me with a heavy heart. We thought before that bad things couldn't come our way, and yet they did. We cannot be complacent now about what might happen again.
I answered this gentlemen privately but felt moved to address this issue more extensively here for everyone, as the issues he raised are serious ones.
I am surely no prophet, and I have no crystal ball. I can only call matters as I see them, drawing on my expertise, on what I learn from those I trust, and on my own judgment and intuition.
Things are not good. I would not presume to pretend that they are. I am not a Pollyanna, and I don't close my eyes to the harsh realities we face -- at least I try not to do this.
And yet, with all that upsets me , and angers me, and frightens me, I see signs that give hope, and signs that we are not -- G-d forbid -- doomed (although I confess I've come close to feeling that way from time to time).
The bad stuff:
We have a fool without principles as our prime minister. He seems devoid of genuine devotion to our traditions and our heritage. He is ready to surrender parts of Eretz Yisrael to our enemies. And he either deludes himself that this is a good thing or doesn't care if it is not really a good thing, as long as it serves one ulterior motive or another.
What he does is dangerous and offensive . He is not to be trusted. What is more, he has deputies, such as Haim Ramon, who are as bad as he, if not worse. He says he is for the formation of a Palestinian state at our border. At a minimum, Olmert may be making concessions in principle that set dangerous precedents and put our civilian population at risk.
We are, still, surrounded by enemies who would see us destroyed -- by devious pretense at negotiation in order to weaken us, if not by outright attack. They claim, without moral, historical or legal justification, that the land beyond the Green Line belongs to them and that they have a right to demand that we move back to within those pre-1967 lines, giving them the Old City with the Temple Mount, and that we take in their "refugees." But this is just a first step, for the truth is that when they speak of "occupation" they are speaking of our presence in "Palestine" altogether. The constitution of Fatah, the "moderate" party, calls for our complete destruction.
Even those who claim to be our "friends" (although who, today, would call Condoleezza Rice our friend?) would sell us down the river for perceived political expediency. These individuals have a poor grasp of the realities here. Besides which, they just don't give a damn about us.
Sometimes the world seems so perverse , so without reason, that it takes my breath away. I joke about the alternate universe, but it is no joke.
For too long too many Jews have been silent on these issues. We have failed to make our case, to say that it IS our land and that we Jews have rights. We have caved on making concessions to the Palestinians over and over, without holding their feet to the fire. We have not protected our own interests. And today, I state with enormous sadness, many Jews in the world no longer get it either: They forget our heritage and our rights. They have bought the Palestinian propaganda line.
With all of this, however , I am seeing signs that are hopeful.
We cannot draw a parallel between our losing Gush Katif and the risk now of losing Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. There are many differences. First, Sharon had a prestige and a reputation as a military man who was devoted to the country. People followed him as they will not follow Olmert. One of the hopeful signs is that there are members of Olmert's own party bucking him now. And the people certainly aren't with him.
Then too, the perception of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem as central to our heritage and to what belongs to us in this land far exceeds any devotion the Israeli populace felt about Gush Katif. There is a visceral response being evoked now.
Third, there are major security issues that hit people in the gut. Sharon made the very fallacious argument that walking away from Gaza would improve our security situation. Well, everyone now knows this wasn't so. Everyone who has a modicum of honesty (Olmert and Livni and Rice and Bush do not) sees that giving Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians guarantees formation of a terrorist state. Everyone with eyes to see knows that Abbas is in bed with Hamas.
I don't believe that Olmert -- as much as he might like to -- can pull off the negotiation of a Palestinian state with Abbas.
But there is something else. I suspect that we will be saved by the Palestinians, who cannot get their act together to negotiate that state. This is precisely because their aspirations are not for a two-state solution, but for a Palestine that is theirs from the river to the sea. Abbas is extraordinarily weak. Hamas is breathing down his neck and ready to sabotage any deal. But so is the right wing of his own party. The Central Committee of Fatah is controlled by one Farouk Kaddoumi, who is opposed to all negotiations with Israel. Abbas cannot get a deal with Olmert that gives him his maximalist demands -- which include Jerusalem and return of the refugees, and Abbas is far too weak to sell to his people anything that smells like a compromise.
Look what happened just in the last couple of days. Rice, in a statement of enormous foolishness, said Syria would be included in this peace conference that Bush wants so much. And so Syria responded that they will come if the demand is for everything outside the Green Line (which gives them back the Golan, too) and refugee return, and that all the Arab states should be in agreement on this.
There is no spirit of compromise and conciliation blossoming in the Arab world. It looks like the conference is going to blow up in the faces of Rice and Bush.
And so, there is not going to be the establishment of a Palestinian state in November. (Even if that conference really takes place and Abbas has not yet been taken down or co-opted by Hamas.) You will note that even Olmert, trying to dampen expectations, now says this is just a preliminary meeting.
Of course we cannot be complacent . We must continue to fight Olmert's intentions and his concessions with all our beings. We must start now to strengthen ourselves: talking about our rights and making demands of the Palestinians, and telling the Americans where to get off.
For my own small part , I intend to continue to fight the good fight.
Now as to the really good stuff.
I have been here six years now , and I am seeing more and more the incredible humanity and decency of the Israeli people (if not of the leadership). I am proud to call myself Israeli. And I see the bravery and selflessness of our boys in uniform. This is our strength, and I don't count it lightly.
I see mounting fury within the population at what is going on, and this too, gives hope.
But even more our strength comes from Heaven. As a religious Jew and a passionate Zionist, I count this as a major factor. NO people in the world other than the Jews has ever left their land for 2,000 years, yet retained their identity as a people and then returned to the land. If there is any miracle I believe in, this is it. It stares us in the face. We have been brought back here against odds that are incredible, and we tend to forget this. We have won our defensive wars when we were expected to lose. We are here and growing stronger, and contributing to the world via science and medicine and hi-tech all the while. This is hardly a small matter.
I know . . . people point out to me that we've been driven from this land before, and that we must deserve it if we are to keep it. I know. And so we must work to deserve it, and we must value it, and live properly.
But what I also know is that there is no prophecy that says we are to be driven out again -- although there was prophecy regarding what came before. The Almighty has promised us this land. And in fact, during the 2,000 years when we had only a small remnant of our people here, no other people made it their land. This territory was only a neglected appendage to one empire or another. It has been, quite literally, the Jews and only the Jews who have made this land flourish. One need not be religious to know this -- one needs only to look at the history. And no people in 3,000 years but the Jews has counted Jerusalem as its capital.
And so I live also with faith and with hope , and refuse to despair.
To all of you reading this , Jew and non-Jew, who are with us in this -- I ask that you speak out for our rights at very opportunity, and in America make your voices heard in the halls of government. And please, pray for us, as well.
And I? Tomorrow night is Sukkot and my grandchildren are waiting for me to come and sleep in the Sukkah with them.
Posting: September 24, 2007
"Joy and Perversity"
The Festival of Sukkot begins Wednesday night and extends for a week, culminating in Simchat Torah next Thursday. This is known as the Season of our Rejoicing, and, indeed, a happy time it is. My spirits were lifted last night when I walked to nearby Emek Refaim street, to find that restaurants were already constructing on the sidewalk in front of their establishments their Sukkahs (in which religious Jews take all of their meals during the holiday). How special to be here in Israel at such a time.
This, it seems to me, is not a distraction from our work and focus on world matters -- it is the ikar, the essence of what life here is about. It provides inner strength, a ballast, and perspective.
During this time I will do few, if any, postings.
But, until the Sukkot holiday begins , I will continue to focus on the perversity of world events.
What strikes me as particularly perverse -- particularly out of line with what ought to be -- is the arrival in the US of Ahmadinejad. There are cries for his arrest, in accordance with Security Council and International Criminal Court calls for all states (including the US) to "bring to justice the perpetrators organizers and sponsors of terrorist attacks," with those responsible for "aiding, supporting or harboring the perpetrators and sponsors" of these acts to be held accountable.
It is blatantly obvious that Iran is a major supporter of terrorism in the world today. But of course he will move within the US without fear of arrest, more's the pity. Terrible lack of courage there.
Even more reprehensible is the willingness of Columbia University to have him speak. Dean John Coatsworth of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, has defended the school's decision to include Ahmadinejad in its Forum on World Leaders: "We're going to have to deal with people like this in the real world . . . we need to know more about this guy . . . " Columbia, he said, would have invited Hitler, provided he had been willing to be challenged by questions from the audience. And Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger refers to the invitation to Ahmadinejad as "an impressive demonstration of the university's respect for free speech and open debate."
It's hard to read this and not think that perhaps the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
The Post editorial today, which laments , with sadness, the spectacle of "one of America's great universities succumbing to the utter distortion of the hallowed value of free speech," takes a closer look at what's going on. The issue, says this editorial, is not really free speech, but "the degree of legitimacy that Columbia is willing to grant . . . " Would Columbia, asks the editorial, invite an Egyptian leader who is promoting female circumcision, or a leader of the Janjaweed militia that is committing genocide in Sudan? These are rhetorical questions as the answer is most assuredly not. "Columbia is not standing up for free speech, but for realpolitik in its crassest form: might makes right.
"Once a leader reaches a certain level of power, perhaps through terrorism and potential nuclear blackmail, then moral considerations must be set aside."
And the esteemed President Bush? He said (I am not making this up) that Amadinejad's speaking appearance at a US university "speaks volumes about really the greatness of America."
Oh, George, couldn't you do better than this?
Even with this, few matters are more obscenely out of whack than the continuing sense that Olmert is working to give away our country, our heritage.
According to the PA paper Al Hayat, when Rice was here last week, Abbas told her that Olmert had said he would divide Jerusalem. This third hand report is not necessary accurate. For if Olmert had decided this, he would have told Rice himself. Again, there is the suspicion that the Arab version is exaggerated. But by how much?
That Olmert WOULD give away half of Jerusalem , including the Temple Mount, if he could, is entirely believable. The mere possibility sends shivers down the spines of those of us for whom the notion of doing this is sacrilege.
And so the question remains one of what he has the political clout to pull off. It would seem that he may very well not be strong enough to do as he wishes. There is considerable rebellion within his own Kadima party, with MK Shaul Mofaz pulling the strongest to the right and standing opposed to the division of Jerusalem. In fact, for the first time yesterday I read that Olmert's opponents within Kadima would like to see Mofaz lead a split in the party. This is not expected to happen because Mofaz is not eager to take the lead here, but the mere suggestion is encouraging.
In addition, four MKs from Kadima -- Otniel Schneller, Eli Aflalo, Ze'ev Elkin and Marina Solodkin -- met today at the home of Jerusalem city council member Nir Barkat to establish a forum in support of a unified Jerusalem.
It was Barkat, a member of Kadima , who had written to MK Haim Ramon to ask him about Kadima plans to divide Jerusalem; he had responded with horror to the answer he received, saying he would quit Kadima. Now Barkat said the forum would work toward "removing the issue of Jerusalem from the political agenda and emboldening the government's official position on the capital's unification."
Today Olmert, addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that Israel would be withdrawing from a good part of the West Bank.
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud, formerly Foreign Minister) responded, "You don't have a mandate from the Jewish people to make these concessions."
If Israel won't talk with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, it won't find any other partner, Olmert countered. And here we have one of several fallacies in the thinking of people eager to strike a "deal" at all cost: the notion that we MUST deal with someone, even if that someone is less than reliable, because otherwise there will be a "continuous cycle of violence." What is not perceived is that we'll be subject to violence in any event, and we'll be weaker once we've made concessions.
Observed MK and opposition head Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), ""You're the only one who genuinely thinks that [Abbas] is a partner who can keep Israel secure." Any agreement struck by Olmert with Abbas, he said, would lead to Hamas taking over the West Bank and "missiles on Gush Dan."
Olmert did say, once again, that there was no draft agreement struck with the Palestinians, that if there were such an agreement he would have brought it to the Cabinet.
What potentially makes Olmert weaker is the fact that a criminal investigation has been ordered by Attorney General Mazuz into his purchase of a home on Cremieux Street in Jerusalem in 2004 at less than market value.
I have limited confidence in these investigations to bring him down. He's been Teflon until now, able to survive in spite of the multiple charges leveled at him, the multiple investigations initiated. He is currently also under investigation for his alleged intervention in the tender for the privatization of Bank Leumi in 2005.
MK Zevulun (NU/NRP], head of the State Control Committee, called on Olmert to suspend himself immediately. "In no civilized country does the prime minister serve while under a bundle of criminal investigations." Don't hold your breath. They'll have to drag Olmert out kicking and screaming.
It is not good news that Olmert brought to the Cabinet yesterday a proposal to release 90 more prisoners (these "in honor of Ramadan") and received the go-ahead to do so, by a vote of 16-6. They are all supposed to be prisoners with "no blood on their hands," which means they may have tried but have not yet directly killed any Jews, and with no affiliation with Hamas or Islamic Jihad. The Justice Ministry drew up the list of names, which was then approved by the Ministerial Committee on the Release of Prisoners. They are scheduled to be released next week, 48 hours after their names are made public (allowing time for objections).
I rather like the comment of Zev Hendel (NU/NRP), who is on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He would support the decision to release these prisoners, he said, if Olmert agreed to resign the minute one of those freed attacked a Jew.
And speaking of those Palestinians who don't keep their pledges to stay clean: According to the IDF spokesperson's office, one Fares Natzer Hassin Abu Na'eem was picked up near Nablus. He was found hiding in a building where eight pipe bombs, a rifle and a handgun were hidden.
Abu Na'eem, you see, was one of those given "amnesty" in August -- taken off a list of terrorists to be pursued, in exchange for his pledging to give up his "militant" activity. When it was discovered that he was not good for his word, he was picked up.
Khaled Abu Toameh reports in the Post that some members of the Fatah Central Committee -- including Nabil Shaath -- who had fled Gaza with the Hamas takeover are now returning, having been assured by Hamas that it is safe to do so. Muhammad Dahlan, however, much hated by Hamas, is not welcome to return.
The Fatah men are denying that this has anything to do with an approaching reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. But Abu Toameh says two different Hamas spokespersons are claiming talks are under way.
This is one of the things I watch closely , because of the implications for the "peace" process.
Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice is moving right along with her plans for the conference. Today she said that while invitations have not gone out yet, it is to be expected that "key" Arab nations, including Syria, would be included. In fact, she really hopes Syria attends. Those to be invited are Saudi Arabia, of course, and 10 other members of the Arab League -- Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
She indicated that participation would signal the acceptance by these nations of a two-state solution. Since most of these countries don't recognize Israel's existence, she's rather grasping at straws. Her initial overtures are meeting a most tepid response, even from a country such as Egypt, which already has a peace treaty (of sorts) with us.
Also to be included would be the Quartet and possibly a handful of other nations such as Japan.
It's worth taking a look at an article in The NY Sun by Youssef Ibrahim, "The Saudi Reign of Terror."
"Well over 3,000 Saudi citizens roaming the world are managing terrorist networks and planning and executing suicide bombings and jihadist attacks that span the globe . . . Between 20 and 30 Saudis intending to be suicide bombers cross into Iraq every single day."
This complements JINSA Report # 705 (not yet up on their website), "No More Arms to Saudi Arabia":
" . . . the truth is that no President has ever been denied a major arms sale to an Arab country. Ships, planes, electronics, tanks, missiles, munitions, communications, radars - you name it, they get it. At war with Israel, at peace with Israel, having under-the-table relations with Israel, the Arabs get the arms they are willing to pay for - and some Arab countries get arms paid for by the American taxpayer. No Congress controlled by Democrats or controlled by Republicans has said no to a Democratic or a Republican President. And when Saudi Arabia violated the solemn promise to the Senate by an American Defense Secretary that Saudi F-15s would be based in the south, away from Israel, the Senate didn't blink an eye and neither, by the way, did the sitting Defense Secretary.
"Could we try again?"
Security forces raided an apartment in Tel Aviv at 4 a.m. on Saturday, which was Yom Kippur, because of intelligence they had acquired after arresting a Hamas operative outside of Nablus on Friday who turned out to be the head of a cell planning an attack.
What they found in the apartment was a suicide belt packed with explosives that was most likely going to be used to generate an attack on a packed synagogue.
Altogether too close for comfort , that the belt was already in Tel Aviv! That any Israeli official could propose a slow down of our security operations in Judea and Samaria boggles the mind. What more proof is needed of the efficacy and the importance of these operations?
According to yesterday's Sunday Times of London, commandos from the renowned General Staff's Reconnaissance Unit, Sayeret Matkal, seized nuclear material from the Syrian installation before it was bombed. The report says that the material, when tested, proved to be of N. Korean origin. (Please, do not ask me how one determines this.)
See the important article by Moshe Ya'alon -- former Chief of Staff and now with the Shalem Center -- regarding the nature of the Islamist threat and how to defeat it. If there is sufficient resolve, he says, the West can do it.
Posting: September 20, 2007
Effes . . . that's nothing. And nothing is just about what Condoleezza Rice, master of coercion, has accomplished during her stay here. Needless to say, it causes me no pain to report this.
I knew it was all going nowhere when one of her aides reported that Rice has found growing interest in "intensifying the dialogue." If that's as much substance as there is, forget it. And there was no press conference.
If I were the Secretary of State , at this point I'd say, with candor, that the parties have to be ready before negotiations can be achieved, and that, as the parties clearly aren't in that place yet, the conference will be postponed. If she proceeds with this, she's setting herself up for grief.
So today she announced that the conference must be "substantive," and that the two sides must draft a document before the meeting that lays "foundations for serious negotiations." It's that word "must," if indeed she used it, that most rankles me. Must?
This is how otherworldly this whole business is: According to YNet, Rice said the internal Palestinian conflict should not jeopardize plans to found a single state in both the West Bank and Gaza.
This was news to me -- that Rice was hoping for a single state in both places. How she hoped to accomplish this was not clear.
The tremendous irony is that just about at the same time that she was reportedly saying this, Hamas was announcing that it would not be bound by any agreement Abbas makes.
Abbas said all the things Rice would have wanted to hear, about how he hopes there will be substance during negotiations.
And our government? We got off lightly, I'm thinking, but naturally there was movement towards those "good will" gestures that it is apparently incumbent upon us to make. (We "must"?) But what I see is a bit of hedging, so that there's a gap between an apparent willingness to do certain things and an announcement that we are definitely doing them. So, we have this:
The Palestinians are saying that we've agreed to "pardon" some dozens more Al Aksa Brigades terrorists. Have not yet seen an Israeli report.
Barak says the removal of some checkpoints will be considered based on the security situation. He also says we might allow the PA to manage day-time security in one or two cities. Please note that this is just for during the day, when less is happening.
And Olmert will be bringing a request to the Security Cabinet for release of some prisoners.
He told Rice that he wants to make a "positive contribution" to the conference.
Both sides have appointed people to further pursue the "document."
There was a major Kadima faction meeting tonight and Olmert went with the goal of bringing unity to the party, after the fury that resulted when Ramon spoke about dividing Jerusalem. I have no information on anything definitive decided within that forum.
In his speech to those assembled, he said, "For many years we made do with declaring that 'there is no partner' (for peace), but now all signs indicate that there is . . . We can't be blind to the fact that the elected leader of the Palestinian people, President Mahmoud Abbas, believes as we do that the solution to the conflict is only through negotiation."
And I ask myself, WHAT is this man thinking?
Abbas is the one who invited Hamas into the political process of the PA, and into the security forces. Abbas is the one who not so many months ago stood at a rally and -- in an effort to bring conciliation between Fatah and Hamas -- said it was forbidden to point guns at Palestinian brothers, and all the guns should be pointed at Israel. Abbas is the one who signed on to a unity government with a Hamas that refused to recognize Israel. And now, Abbas is playing both ends against the middle, for while he is playing at negotiations, he is also reaching out to Hamas to re-establish that unity government. Abbas adamantly seeks "return of the refugees," a code word for destroying Israel from within.
Abbas's style is significantly different, but his goal -- the ultimate destruction of Israel -- is not so different from that of Hamas. A partner for peace.
I am reminded once again that Olmert's government must come down.
MK Shaul Mofaz, who was Minister of Defense in the Likud party, and is now with Kadima, said it exactly right at the Kadima meeting tonight:
"Jerusalem is not a piece of real estate and no one has the authority to re-divide it.
"Hamas and Fatah will end up back in each others arms. Kassams are still falling, Gilad Shalit is still there, and today it is totally clear to us that an IDF operation will come. This is not the right time to pursue a permanent agreement or make concessions."
So, we breathe a bit easier, and wait and see what tomorrow brings. The situation is so volatile, it's hard to tell what will come next.
Mofaz's comment about an IDF operation is particularly relevant. How do we fight a war with some Palestinians and negotiate peace with others at the same time? What we've seen happening is a reluctance to defend ourselves in Gaza because it upsets the "peace" mood that Washington is seeking.
There's been a major IDF operation in Nablus (Shechem) over the last three days. So far some 42 terror suspects have been picked up.
Most significant is the fact that a cell planning a major suicide bombing operation was caught.
The France 2 television station has been ordered by a judge to screen in court the footage on Muhammad al-Dura that is had previous withheld. All right!
The Bush administration proposal to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion in weapons is not finding it all smooth going in Congress.
At a recent hearing, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, (R-CA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the United States had permitted the Saudis to "get off the hook" on failure to counter terrorism. They have to prove they are not in a secret coalition with terrorists."
While Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, D-N.Y ., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, pointed out that the US has not even been able to convince the Saudis to act to stop the movement of anti-American fighters into Iraq. " . . . why sell them those weapons?" he asked.
Good to know that there are some people who get it. Now's the time to contact your Congressperson, if you're an American, and register your own concern.
Friday night begins Yom Kippur , a day that is both greatly solemn and filled with promise. On this day we know that new beginnings are possible and that there is always hope. On this day we can sense the reality of a redemption that awaits us.
Posting: September 19, 2007
We're hardly home free, but things are moving, at least, in the right direction.
Abbas doesn't think he wants to attend the "peace" conference. Khaled Abu Toameh of the Post says, plain and simple, that he doesn't want to. The betting is that this will not come off.
It will avail Abbas nothing to participate and might do him a good deal of harm. He is essentially powerless, and could successfully bring back to his people only a "victory" -- a total Israeli capitulation. There is no concept here of true negotiations with give and take. No notion that peace is a hard road that must be walked one step at a time. If he makes any concessions, it will hurt him with his people -- and strengthen Hamas, which will accuse him of being a traitor to the cause of Palestinian resistance and a lackey for the Americans and Israelis.
I repeat here a theme of immeasurable significance: Abbas (or whoever represents the Palestinians) has to WANT peace with Israel enough to make concessions for it, has to sue to acquire a peace that is considered precious. In the absence of this mindset -- and boy! is it absent -- there is truly no way to coerce the Palestinians into "making peace."
Were all of the so-called moderate Arab states on board here, and ready to come to the conference to confer legitimacy on what Abbas is doing, as well as to pressure Israel, it might be different for him. But these Arab states, seeing the handwriting on the wall with regard to Abbas's weakness and recognizing that this process exacerbates Hamas-Fatah tensions, are not keen on participating. When all is said and done, Hamas has enormous influence on the dynamic.
I'm seeing several things that Abbas is demanding:
First, immediate concessions prior to the conference that include release of more prisoners, halting in the building of the security fence, and the removal of checkpoints. Always, we're supposed to give more in order to "earn" his cooperation. This is about showing his people that he has "achieved" something. The level of chutzpa -- gall -- that he demonstrates takes the breath away, and I am mighty weary of reading about it and having to write about it. If there were a modicum of justice and common sense in this world, Abbas would be told what to do with his "demands."
The bottom line here is that Olmert -- even if he is not himself sick of these demands and would be inclined to cooperate -- cannot deliver on these things. No way. The Defense Ministry is breathing down his neck with regard to maintaining security.
Then, Abbas spoke about the futility of a meeting without the Arab states on board.
And, lastly, Abbas is unhappy because Israel wants a general joint statement and not a "declaration of principles" that address the core issues. That is, Abbas wants us to sign off now on a commitment to give him part of Jerusalem, allow refugees back and establish borders that conform to the pre-'67 lines.
An advisor to Abbas has said there is no reason to have a conference if there is not going to be a "final status" agreement.
This, too, takes my breath away . Quick quick, let's give them all they want, before they're ready, before they've demonstrated good faith, before Hamas takes out Fatah.
But this ostensibly makes it our fault . They want to finish the deal but we're dragging our feet.
Olmert -- also aware of what will and will not play with his people -- is resisting this push to a final status agreement; he could not sell it now. The Israeli position is that the conference is part of a process. Olmert's office is also saying that there's no reason we cannot proceed even if Saudi Arabia doesn't come.
The fly in the ointment -- and a big fly she is -- is Condoleezza Rice, who is here now and intending to push things along. She's a top-flight pusher, too. The champion.
Said she to reporters: "We can't simply continue to say we want a two-state solution, we have got to start to move towards one. This international meeting is also going to be doing exactly that."
As Aaron Lerner of IMRA commented : "Damn reality! Full speed ahead."
Olmert's stated intention is to convince her that a general statement -- a joint declaration -- before the conference is enough.
One of Abbas's people has said, "We only hope that Rice won't exert pressure on us to participate in the conference while we are still unprepared."
Rice will be here for only 24 hours, and we have to hope this limits her ability to do damage. Besides, the reality is that she can push hard, but if the respective "pushees" cannot give more nothing will happen. Myself, I think it foolish to drag reluctant participants to a conference that's bound to fail. She's setting herself up.
My information to this point is that Israel is not budging.
She's here in Jerusalem tonight to speak with Olmert, met with Tzipi Livni today, will go to Ramallah tomorrow, and then return for a second round with Olmert, after which there is supposed to be a press conference.
The Gulf Cooperation Council -- which consists of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- has put out an interesting statement from Riyadh:
While they "welcome any attempt to reach a just and comprehensive solution of the Palestinian issue and settle the Arab-Israeli conflict," they hope the focus will be on core issues and "not be aimed at linking movement in the Middle East peace process to developments in Iraq in a bid to attract Arab states to a conference whose real goal is to help [the US] get out of the Iraqi impasse."
Well, now. The ploy failed and this might take a bit of the wind out of Rice's sails. Is this yet another reason why Saudi Arabia is not enthusiastic about participating?
Unfortunately, the statement also included a defense of Iran. Will the American administration wake up and realize who its friends are?
The other news of significance here today is that the Security Cabinet voted unanimously to declare Gaza a "hostile entity." And about time.
What is being considered are sanctions , such as cutting back on electricity and fuel (not cutting them off entirely -- as there will be concern for innocents and needs of health services will be attended to), and restricting what passes through the crossings. Many here in Israel have wondered why we continue to service this entity, while they are shooting at our innocents. This new policy goes a way towards rectifying the situation. I note that Gaza does have some of its own generators, and suggest that it's time for Egypt to assist with humanitarian needs in Gaza by way of providing some fuel and other items.
But of course there will be a hue and cry from certain quarters about how inhumane we are. It has started with the UN.
A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum , called this decision a "declaration of war." So be it. Shooting Kassams at our civilians was the first declaration of war.
As it is, Barak indicates that there are no plans for entering Gaza now in a full scale operation. Not yet, he says. While Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter stated at today's Security Cabinet meeting that deterrence can be secured only by finally stopping those Kassams, and that this would require military action.
I turn here, with reluctance , to Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon, who -- heaven help us -- holds a position as negotiator for the government. Nir Barkat, who is a member of Kadima, and sits on the Jerusalem Municipal Council, wrote to Ramon, asking him if it was true that he planned to relinquish parts of Jerusalem.
Ramon wrote back , and I would like to examine his words.
First, he said, "The Jewish neighborhoods will be recognized as Israeli and under Israeli sovereignty. Accordingly, the Arab neighborhoods will be recognized as Palestinian. Passages between the Israeli neighborhoods will be open and secure – accordingly the same will be true for the Palestinian neighborhoods."
Aside from the offensiveness of dividing Jerusalem at all, there is a question to be asked regarding what he means about secure passages between Israeli neighborhoods. This exposes something that most people who read about this issue at a distance don't realize: The Jewish and Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem are intertwined. There is no way to draw a line and say, Jews on this side and Arabs on that side. The division of the city would be a logistical nightmare. Understand, what Ramon is talking about is passageways that go through the PA-controlled neighborhoods in order to get from one Jewish neighborhood to another. Is this not insanity?
With regard to the Old City, Ramon said that the Kotel and the Jewish Quarter "will remain under Israeli rule forever." No mention of Jewish control on the Temple Mount. And this allows me to address an issue of considerable significance.
Many people -- Jews and non-Jews alike -- think of the Kotel, the Western Wall, as the most sacred site in Judaism. It's not. The Temple Mount is. The Kotel was just a retaining wall that helped to hold up the mount on which the Temple stood. The Mount IS where the Temple stood, and underneath it today are remains of the Temples. Yet, this is conveniently forgotten because the Arabs built structures on top of the remnants of the Temples, and pretend that the entire area is theirs. I, along with many others, are deeply offended by this. It is distressing when Jews in official capacities forget their own heritage. With someone like Ramon (and many others) this is what we've come to.
A statement from Olmert's office indicated that, yes, Ramon is in a position of responsibility for negotiating, but that his words in this letter were his alone and "do not obligate the Prime Minister." Ramon is very good at pushing his own agenda.
Meanwhile, the response from various official Israeli quarters has been anything but positive.
MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu , a member of the governing coalition, said, "Minister Ramon's plan will enhance his prestige in the Left, but will dissolve the government."
MK Rafi Eitan, head of the Pensioners party , said, "The government does not have a majority (to support) Haim Ramon's opinions on anything to do with Jerusalem. He does not have a majority in Kadima, not in Labor, not in Shas, and not in Yisrael Beitenu, and certainly not with Rafi Eitan,"
Shas Chair MK Eli Yishai responded that , "I strongly oppose Minister Ramon's initiative. Jerusalem is the city that has been bringing together the Jewish people for thousands of years, and is not a bargaining chip or piece of real estate. Jerusalem is the Jewish people's right of existence and there is no one who is able to give up that right."
Yishai had previously indicated that Shas would leave the government if there was movement towards pushing Israel back to the Green Line. Now an associate of Yishai added, that "anyone willing to give up Jerusalem in order to preserve the government will end up discovering that Jerusalem is stronger than any government."
MK Ze'ev Elkin, of Kadima (which is where Ramon sits) said, "These kinds of ideas are as far as east and west from the basic original viewpoint that Kadima was built upon by Arik Sharon, and I will do everything in my power, along with many other Kadima members, to stand guard and take care of the city's future, according to Kadima's real political platform, the one that was presented to the voter."
And so it goes, with great unrest within the government and Olmert's own party.
This, my friends, is why Olmert will not accede to what Abbas is demanding or Rice pushing him to do. He cannot.
Posting: September 17, 2007
That's where eyes are turned now , after the operation in Syria.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, speaking in a television/radio interview, said that while every effort at negotiations must be tried, "We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war." From France, this is no small statement.
Meanwhile, from the Sunday Telegraph in London came reports that the US Department of Defense has drawn up 2,000 targets to hit in Iran. Reportedly, the White House, recognizing that diplomatic efforts have run their course, is gearing up for war. Intelligence sources say there are two contingency plans, one to hit the nuclear facilities only, and the other to hit other military sites as well (which is where the 2,000 targets come in). Apparently, prior to attack there will be a period of psychological preparation with a condemnation of Iran for training militants in Iraq.
Not only do top officials in both the CIA and the Defense Department think that diplomacy has failed, Secretary of State Rice is said to be heading in that direction as well after hearing from officials concerned about proliferation.
It would seem that what just happened in Syria has moved her along in this opinion. Caroline Glick says that this operation, if media reports are accurate, may "serve as a pivotal event in the free world's understanding of the enemy it faces in the current global war."
I think we did good -- real real good! -- here.
Fox News has carried a similar report , saying that Under Secretary of State Burns has advised Rice that military action is necessary, especially as Germany is now indicating it will not support further sanctions against Iran in the UN, and the Chinese, and now the Russians, are being obstructionist on this as well.
One diplomat told Fox, "There are a number of people in the administration who do not want their legacy to be leaving behind an Iran that is nuclear armed . . . "
Speculation is that this might take place in the next eight or ten months, well before the next presidential elections. There would likely be two weeks or more of sustained bombing.
Quite a shift, is it not? Maybe we are going to achieve the upper hand against the bad guys after all. Maybe the world is not about to self-destruct.
I cannot help but speculate as to how this might affect Bush policy with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pressure on us has been a key element in plans to keep so-called moderate Arab states happy so they will cooperate with the US with regard to Iraq. And now? I have no answers, I merely wonder.
According to YNet, Dr Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, believes that Rice, who is due here tomorrow, is coming more to say thank you for our operation in Syria than to discuss Palestinian affairs. I'll believe that when I see it.
But Liel says that we have supplied intelligence to the US regarding the situation in the northeast of Syria, which is an area of considerable concern to the Americans because of its proximity to Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iran has responded with bombast, saying that it has 600 Shihab-3 missiles pointed at targets throughout Israel, which be launched if either Iran or Syria are attacked.
And Zaki Shalom, who is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, has speculated that Iran may initiate a major terror attack as retaliation for the Syrian operation.
Syrian president Assad is reportedly furious about the intelligence leaks that revealed to the world that Israel has entered Syrian airspace with impunity. He is ordering a major investigation of the leaks.
While our prime minister, behaving in a fashion that is to me incomprehensible, and maddening, today stated that he is ready for negotiations with Syria, without preconditions or ultimatums.
"I have a lot of respect for the Syrian leader and for Syrian policy," he said.
Huh? Are we talking about the same Syrian leader that presumably brought in nuclear material, putting us at risk?
If I lived to be 100, I would never be able to figure out what's in Olmert's head. I'm not as upset about this statement as I might be because Syria has preconditions -- we have to agree to give them the Golan before we start negotiations -- and I don't take this seriously.
Just seven years ago the incident involving the boy Muhammad al-Dura, who was allegedly killed by IDF forces shooting towards him, made press everywhere. This happened after 55 seconds of edited video footage purporting to show the murder of the 12 year old in Gaza was broadcast by the France 2 television network, whose permanent correspondent here had filmed it, and then shared broadly.
You may remember the incident. The scene was of a father, crouched behind a barrel, sheltering his son, as bullets sailed by. Muhammad al-Dura became the poster boy for Israeli cruelty.
Subsequent investigation by private individuals demonstrated that, because of the location of the various parties and the angles involved, it was close to impossible for the IDF to have fired shots that killed this boy. It was most likely a fraud, as evidence emerged as well of staging of events.
But the IDF stayed frustratingly silent on this libel. Until now. Now an official request has been made to France 2 by the IDF that the 27 minutes of unedited film be sent to the IDF spokesman's office. It was motivated in part by a law suit that had been filed by a watchdog site against France 2.
To date, France 2 has not complied with the IDF demand, and I do not know what follows. But, oh! is it refreshing to know that finally our official silence has been broken.
For further details , see Caroline Glick on this:
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About 100 Shells Fired In One Week On Israeli Kibbutz
by David Bedein
for the Philadelphia Bulletin, September 28th, 2007
Sderot is not alone:
Within a week, about 100 mortar shells have been fired at Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in the western Negev. Unlike the city that is plagued with Kassam rockets, no Red Color alert was activated in the kibbutz, since it only warns against Kassam rockets. Therefore, the members only found out that they were being shelled after they witnessed explosions in the center of the kibbutz.
The residents of Kerem Shalom, who had been accustomed to the quiet of a remote community, were forced in the past few days to get used to the threatening sounds of explosions and living in a constant state of anxiety.
Allegedly responsible for the extreme and dangerous change is a terrorist cell that is targeting the kibbutz: The shells it has fired have fallen next to the dining room, in the chicken coops, among the members' rooms and near the kibbutz secretariat.
In the kibbutz, where 20 adults and 19 children live today, the residents are pinning their hopes on the closure of the Karni Terminal, the reduction of activity at the Sufa Terminal-and the move of the main activity to the new terminal at Kerem Shalom, which was built on kibbutz land. According to the plans, the new terminal-which is strategically situated at the Israel-Egypt-Gaza Strip border triangle-will serve as a hub around which cooling rooms will be built for storing agricultural produce, as well as warehouses and a parking lot. All this is contingent on having the Palestinians halt the terrorist activity in the area. Kibbutz manager Ilan Regev believes that the terminal will help the kibbutz receive dozens of new families.
Meanwhile, no one in the kibbutz can explain the fact no one has been hurt. Even the shell that landed in the middle of one of the chicken coops, say kibbutz residents, did not scratch a single chicken.
Anat Politi, who is in charge of the lunchroom, readily recreated the fall of the mortar shell near the lunchroom: "I heard a loud boom, and the entire fortified building shook. The fire bothers us. We are citizens and it is annoying that the terrorists fire at us. It is mainly scary because of the kids."
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Hamas Said To Be Training In Judea and Samaria
The Middle East News Line has confirmed that Hamas has been secretly training paramilitary forces in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority (PA) security sources said Hamas' Executive Force has been training in combat and weapons skills in several areas of the West Bank.
They said the Executive Force, secretly formed in the West Bank in 2007, has selected the Judean Desert south of Bethlehem for training.
"Hamas has trained units of the EF for attacks on Fatah and the PA, and they have been equipped with weapons and radios," a PA security source said.
These sources said PA intelligence has tracked EF units south and east of Bethlehem. They said scores of Hamas fighters were found training in remote desert areas controlled by Israel.
"The Israeli military doesn't patrol these areas, so they are wide open for Hamas," the source said. "Most of the training is done without live fire, but there is plenty of physical exercises as well as instructions on how to fight PA police at street demonstrations."
Hamas was believed to be in control of most of the villages around Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank. The sources said Hamas has also been the dominant influence of 70 percent of mosques throughout the West Bank.
PA security forces have arrested about 700 Hamas operatives since June 2007, about 150 of whom remain in detention. Over the last week, PA units arrested four suspected EF commanders in the Bethlehem area.
In response, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum has called for a coup against the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria.
Mr. Barhoum has warned against a Middle East conference in Washington in November and the prospect that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas would be overthrown.
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Former Israeli Defence Minister Proposes To Free Fatah Secretary Marwan Barghouti
A senior Israeli cabinet minister and former Israeli minister of defense, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, has proposed that the jailed Fatah secretary Gen. Marwan Barghouti, be released from an Israeli prison in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and said that Mr. Barghouti is expected to be the next leader of the Palestinians. In Mr. Ben Eliezer's words, "We must break the cycle; the release of Marwan Barghouti could constitute a move that would both move the peace negotiations forward and lead to the release of Shalit."
Mr. Barghouti, whom Mr. Ben Eliezer suggests should be released from prison so he can "lead the Palestinian people," was convicted of murder of direct responsibility for the murders of Salim Barakat, 33; Eli Dahan, 53; Yosef Habi, 52; Fr. Georgios Tsibouktzakis, 34, a Greek Orthodox monk from St. George's Monastery in Wadi Kelt near Jericho; and Yoela Chen, 45.
According to the court protocols, Mr. Barghouti proudly admitted that he directed terrorist attacks in which scores of Israelis were killed and revealed how he directly allocated funds needed by terrorist cells to operate and purchase necessary weapons. He stated that Yasser Arafat personally authorized this funding for Tanzim activities, knowing that this money would be used to finance murderous attacks. Furthermore, protocols of interrogations of Palestinian officials before the trial showed how the process worked: Names of Tanzim killers were submitted to Mr. Barghouti, who would routinely take them to Mr. Arafat for approval.
At Mr. Barghouti's trial, people who were maimed as a result of Barghouti-sponsored attacks also appeared as witnesses to the pain that he caused them - pain they will experience for the rest of their lives.
Chicago-born Alan Bauer and his then seven-year-old son Jonathan were among those witnesses. They were walking on King George Street in downtown Jerusalem when a Barghouti-funded suicide bomber blew himself up three feet away from them on March 21, 2002. Two arteries in Mr. Bauer's arm were severed. A screw went all the way through little Jonathan's head. Today, as a result, Jonathan walks with a limp.
It was also Mr. Barghouti who, from 1995 until his imprisonment in 2002, hammered out cooperative agreements in Cairo between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and who continues to do so today from prison.
According to Israeli intelligence sources and in the indictment issued against him, it was Mr. Barghouti who, on the outbreak of an armed rebellion in October 2000, became the head of a joint coordinating body of all violent Palestinian organizations in the West Bank - including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, all three of which are listed by both the American and the Israeli government as terrorist groups.
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Germany's Economic Ties To Iran
German engineer Heinz Mebus made contact with Iran through A.Q. Khan in 1987, before he worked on the Pakistani nuclear weapon program.
In 2006, Germany was Iran's biggest trade partner with 4.1 billion euro turnaround. The following German companies continue to trade with Iran: Dillinger Stahl, Heidelberg Zement, Krupp, Siemens, Linde, Lurgi, Lufthansa, Mercedes and Volkswagen.
Germany opposes stricter embargoes against Iran proposed by France (Der Spiegel, September 22).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in February 2006, "We must take the Iranian president's rhetoric seriously." Similarly, Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier has more than once declared his support for diplomatic and economic sanctions against Iran.
Nevertheless, German companies have continued to invest billions of Euros in Iran over the past decade, and the German government supports those investments through public subsidies.
Germany is Iran's number one trading partner, providing vital investments for Iran's economy.
"Some two-thirds of Iranian industry relies on German engineering products," said Michael Tockuss, former president of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran. "The Iranians are certainly dependent on German spare parts and suppliers."
In 2005, export guarantees were reduced by more than 36.8 percent to around 1.4 billion Euro. The German government's compensation for the risk of trade with Iran was 5.8 billion Euro.
The German Engineering Federation stressed how its business with Iran has grown: "In the year 2005, the German machine construction made exports to Iran worth 1.5 billion; in 2006, the business was even more lucrative."
Five thousand German companies do business with Iran, a third of which have a representative in Iran. Of these companies 1,750 are registered as members of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce.
Many firms want to do business in Iran, albeit increasingly in secret to avoid public awareness of their partnership with the regime. They include giants such as BASF, Henkel, Continental, Bahlsen, Krupp, Linde, Lurgi, Siemens, ZF Friedrichshafen, Mercedes, Volkswagen, MAN, Hansa, Hoechst, and smaller firms such as Stahlbau Schauenberg, Schernier, and Wolf Thermo-Module.
"German companies are trying now, as much as possible, not to publish their contracts with Tehran," the German business paper Handelsblatt wrote in January 2007. "Everything that could affect the U.S. market is deadly. Siemens for example, did not comment officially on its locomotives deal."
On July 29, Deutsche Bank announced that in the future it is not going to keep accounts in Iran. In doing so, it will be following the footsteps of Commerzbank and UBS.
On August 21, Dresdner Bank has said it plans to pull the plug entirely on "its activities with Iran and in Iran," citing excessive "bureaucratic expenses." The Financial Times Deutschland said Dresdner Bank's 2006 lending in Iran amounted to the low end of the hundreds of millions of Euros and had fallen to double digits in 2007.
On November 14, 2006, Iran's Power Plant Projects Management Company (Mapna) and Germany's Siemens signed a deal worth 450 million ($570 million) to build 150 locomotives for the Iranian railway network, the official news agency IRNA reported. The deal envisages the import of 30 fully built locomotives to Iran in the first phase and construction of 120 more inside
Iran over six years. The contract also requires Siemens to transfer the technical know-how to Iran in 10 years. Three years earlier, in August 2003, Siemens - a firm with expertise in nuclear power plant construction - signed a contract to deliver 24 power plants. To complete the deal, Siemens had to commit itself to "technology transfer with regard to small and medium-sized power stations."
BASF Iran has been active since 1959 and represents the entire BASF portfolio, with a special emphasis on strongly growing industries like automotive, petrochemicals (catalysts) and fiber. BASF Iran had a turnover of around 70 million in 2005.
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Four Questions for Reporters to Ask in the New Year
On July 15th, 2007, Israel Resource News Agency placed four [unanswered] questions of consequence to the governments of the United States and Israel concerning the Fatah:
1. The Israel Ministry of Justice and the United States Department of Justice both define the Fatah organization as an illegal terrorist organization. The Israeli Ministry of Justice made that determination on March 1st, 1980. The US Department of Justice made that determination on March 23rd, 2002. Since the US and Israel now deal directly with the Fatah, why has neither country changed the legal status of the Fatah? Shouldn't Fatah's legal status as a terrorist organization be amended before the US and Israel move forward with recognition and negotiation with the Fatah?
2. In September 1993 on the White House lawn, the Fatah signed the Declaration of Principles of the Oslo accords (for recognition of Israel and against terrorism). However, in October 1993, the Fatah would not ratify these accords. Should not the Fatah be asked to finally ratify the 1993 "Declaration of Principles" against terror and violence before the US and Israel proceed with recognition and negotiation with the Fatah?
3. As an integral part of the Oslo accords, the Fatah promised to cancel its covenant that calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. The Palestine National Council convened in 1996 and 1998 to discuss that covenant yet has never canceled it. Should not the US and Israel insist that the Fatah cancel its covenant before proceeding with recognition and negotiation with the Fatah?
4. According to the studies of the Fatah's most recent Palestinian Authority school books, authored by Noa Meridor (see www.intelligence.org.il) and by Dr. Arnon Groiss (see www.edume.org), the new school books of the PA continue to demonize Israeli Jews and prepare Palestinian children for war. Should the US and Israel not insist that the Fatah cancel its curriculum before proceeding with recognition and negotiation with the Fatah?
Neither the American or the Israeli governments will answer any of these questions.
Spokespeople of both governments say - off the record - they wish that our news agency would not ask such questions.
Hardly anyone asked these questions of the Fatah at the outset of the peace process. As a result, the Fatah got away with murder.
Indeed, this past July 26th, the Philadelphia Bulletin published a list of 328 men, women and children who were murdered by the Fatah over the past seven years: this can be seen at:
Indeed, during the "cease-fire" between November 21st and May 15th over the past year, the Fatah took credit for the majority of the rockets fired from Gaza into Sderot and the Western Negev region of Israel.
The Fatah also took credit for the bombardment of Sderot on the day before the Rosh HaShanah New Jewish New Year last week.
What remains clear is that both American and Israeli governments cut corners, acting as if the Fatah is something other than what it is.
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Preventing a Terror State
Center for Near East Policy Research position paper
The Bush administration and the Olmert government have determined that - in order to serve their perceived goals in the Middle East - a Fatah-led Palestinian state should be established in Judea and Samaria. To that end, the US government and the Israeli government are prepared to promote the idea that Israel must withdraw from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, and provide aid and military training to Fatah.
That policy is predicated on the notion that Fatah is a "moderate" entity that can be relied upon; it is willfully ignorant of all evidence to the contrary:
* That Mahmoud Abbas was a deputy of Yasser Arafat, participated in terrorism-supporting activities, and continues Arafat's policies to this day;
* That Farouk Kaddoumi, the Secretary-General of Fatah , completely rejects the concept of peace with Israel;
* That Abbas, as Palestinin Authority president, has been in league with and fostered support for terrorist entities such as Hamas. The culmination of the Fatah history of cooperation with Hamas was the unity government, which led to the Hamas takeover of Gaza;
* That Fatah continues to strive for a new rapprochement with Hamas;
* That the Fatah Charter to this day calls for the destruction of Israel via armed resistance, and that the PLO charter calling for Israel's destruction was never actually amended, in spite of the pretense that it had been;
* That after the Bush Administration supplied arms, ammunition and intelligence to Fatah this past year, under the specious premise that it would fight Hamas, it was forced to watch Fatah surrender its entire American arsenal in Gaza to Hamas;
* That the PA, even under the Abbas aegis, pumps out inciteful material - in its textbooks and via its media - that is anti-Semitic, denies the legitimacy of Israel and praises jihad; and
* That Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, which the US Justice Department and the Israeli government designated in 2002 as a terrorist organization, remains a part of Fatah. The Al-Aksa Brigade members see Abbas as their leader and Abbas serves to protect this group, even incorporating its members into PA security forces. Meanwhile, Al-Aksa takes credit for shelling Sderot.
In the course of providing assistance and support to the PA run by Fatah, neither the US nor Israel require any quid pro quo and make no demands with regard to such matters as cessation of incitement, commitment to take out Hamas, or disbanding of, or total disassociation from, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
The strengthening of Fatah and efforts to bring about a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria serve to undermine the security of Israel (and also Jordan) and bring further instability to the entire area, including Iraq. Support for the terrorist-allied Fatah gives comfort to radical, fiercely anti-Zionist and anti-American forces in the region. As was clearly the case when Israel left Gaza two years ago, a pullout from Judea and Samaria would provide terrorists with control of further territory from which to operate. This is neither in the best interests of Israel nor of the United States. This policy is myopic at best.
Challenging the Bush-Olmert Policy
The US Congress remains overwhelmingly pro-Israel and dedicated to helping Israel when called upon to do so. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed criticism of the Bush administration's continuing coddling of Abbas, especially in light of the collapse of the US initiative to bolster Abbas only six months ago, which resulted in the strengthening of Hamas. And the administration remains accountable to the Congress, especially to its operational subcommittees.
However, because the government of Israel hesitates to challenge the Palestinian policies of the Bush administration, many members of Congress remain passive in their opposition to these policies; the truism about not wanting to be more Catholic than the Pope applies here. Congresspersons are more likely to respond with vigorous opposition to the Bush policies if: they have solid, cutting-edge information on the issues; they hear from Israelis prepared to counter their government's passivity; and they are encouraged by their constituents to act.
Opinion-makers who have influence with the White House should be approached. They, too, require solid, cutting-edge information on the issues and an opportunity to hear from concerned and knowledgeable Israelis.
Attempts must be made to alter US public opinion, which will, in its turn, have an effect on the White House, on Congress and on opinion-makers. This should be done via providing cutting-edge information to key members of the press.
All efforts in the USA should focus on the ways in which the Bush-Olmert policy is detrimental to US goals and best interests.
Garner information on Fatah. Draw upon the services of top-notch, Arabic-speaking journalists and investigators, as it is vital to compile cutting-edge, solid documentation regarding the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist entity.
Share information on Fatah utilizing a variety of means to channel information to key Congressional staffers, key members of the press and key opinion-makers.
Enhance efforts at disseminating and consolidating information about the Palestinian Authority-Fatah in a timely Internet newsletter, in concise format.
Bring Israeli experts to Washington DC to speak about PA textbooks, matters of security, etc., and hold briefings with key staff members on Capital Hill.
Hold press conferences to expose information about Fatah with journalists.
Apply pressure upon Congress and the Knesset concerning Fatah. To this end, mobilize American citizens who live in Israel - especially in in Judea and Samaria - to reach out to staff members of their own Congresspersons, as well as members of Congressional Middle East subcommittees, to ask that they override Bush's coddling of Fatah. What they should communicate is that helping Fatah is counterproductive to US interests and would only facilitate an anti-American and ant-Semitic Islamist entity. Americans in Israel should also be encouraged to generate support for this effort in their original communities, among family, friends and synagogues.
Parallel to the work in Washington, experts on Fatah should maintain constant contact with all levels of influence in Israel - and provide briefings for the Knesset, for the Israeli media, for Israeli universities, for Israeli corporations, for Israeli victims of Fatah terror, and for the Israeli intelligence community.
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