Author Topic: Israel, and its neighbors  (Read 870738 times)


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Israel, and its neighbors
« on: October 13, 2006, 05:53:09 PM »
Woof All:

Well, lets dive right in:


Is Israel in America's Interest?
By Martin Kramer
Azure | October 13, 2006

The question of whether Israel is or is not an asset to the United States is
one we rarely bother to ask ourselves. Time and again, we see prominent
Americans -- presidents of the United States at the forefront -- emphasizing
their special relationship with Israel. In polls of American public opinion,
Israel scores very high marks, while sympathy for the Palestinians, never
very high, continues to drop. Why should we even ask ourselves whether
Israel is an asset or a liability to the United States? Isn't the answer

Most supporters of Israel, when pressed to go a bit deeper, will give two
prime rationales for why the United States should back Israel. One is a
moral obligation to the Jewish people, grounded in the history of Jewish
persecution and culminating in the Holocaust. Israel, so this thinking goes,
is something the civilized world owes to the Jewish people, having inflicted
an unprecedented genocide upon it. This is a potent rationale, but it is not
clear why that would make Israel an asset to the United States. If
supporting Israel is an obligation, then it could be described as a
liability -- a burden to be borne. And of course, as time passes, that sense
of obligation is bound to diminish.

Another powerful rationale is the fact that Israel is a democracy, even an
outpost of democracy, in a benighted part of the world. But the fact is that
there are many non-democratic states that have been allies of the United
States, and important assets as well. Quite arguably, the Saudi monarchy is
an asset to the United States, because it assures the flow of oil at
reasonable prices, a key American interest. In contrast, the Palestinian
Authority and Iran, which have many more democratic practices than Saudi
Arabia, are headaches to the United States, for having empowered the likes
of Hamas and Ahmadinejad through elections. So the fact that Israel is a
democracy is not proof positive that it is an American asset.

Nevertheless, the Holocaust argument and the democracy argument are more
than sufficient for the vast majority of Americans. On this basis alone,
they would extend to Israel support, even unqualified support. And there is
an important segment of opinion in America, comprising evangelical
Christians, who probably do not even need these arguments. Israel is, for
them, the manifestation of a divine plan, and they support it as a matter of

But everywhere in the West, there is a sliver of elite opinion that is not
satisfied with these rationales. It includes policymakers and analysts,
journalists, and academics. By habit and by preference, they have a tendency
to view any consensus with skepticism. In their opinion, the American people
cannot possibly be wiser than them -- after all, look whom they elect -- and
so they deliberately take a contrary position on issues around which there
is broad agreement. In this spirit, many of them view U.S. support for
Israel as a prime focal point for skepticism.

In March, two American professors subjected the U.S.-Israel relationship to
a skeptic's examination. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the former from
the University of Chicago, the latter from Harvard, published a paper under
the title "The Israel Lobby: Israel in U.S. Foreign Policy." One version
appeared in the London Review of Books; a longer, footnoted version was
posted on the website of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The
paper caused a firestorm.

Mearsheimer and Walt are academic oracles of the so-called realist school in
international relations. Realism, in its policy application, is an approach
that seeks to isolate the conduct of foreign affairs from sentimental moral
considerations and special interests like ethnic and commercial lobbies, and
to base it instead on a pure concept of the national interest. Realists are
not interested in historical obligations, or in whether this or that
potential ally respects human rights. They see themselves as coldly weighing
U.S. interests, winnowing out extraneous considerations, and ending up with
policies that look out solely for number one: The United States.

Realist thinkers are not isolationists, but they are extremely reluctant to
see U.S. power expended on projects and allies that do not directly serve
some U.S. interest as they define it -- and they define these interests
quite narrowly. Generally, they oppose visionary ideas of global
transformation, which they see as American empire in disguise. And empire,
they believe, is a drain on American resources. They are particularly
reluctant to commit American troops, preferring that the United States
follow a policy of "offshore balancing" wherever possible -- that is,
playing rivals off one another.

These were the principles that guided Mearsheimer and Walt when they
examined the United States-Israel relationship. And this was their finding:
By any "objective" measure, American support for Israel is a liability. It
causes Arabs and Muslims to hate America, and that hate in turn generates
terrorism. The prime interest of the United States in the Middle East is the
cultivation of cooperation with Arabs and Muslims, many of whom detest
Israel, its policies, or both. The less the United States is identified as a
supporter and friend of Israel's five million Jews, the easier it will be
for it to find local proxies to keep order among the billion or so Muslims.
And the only thing that has prevented the United States from seeing this
clearly is the pro-Israel lobby, operating through fronts as diverse as the
American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy, and so on.

This "Israel Lobby," with a capital L, has effectively hijacked U.S. policy
in the Middle East so that it serves Israel's, not America's, interests. In
one of their most provocative claims, the authors argue that Israel spurred
its neo-conservative allies in Washington to press for the Iraq war -- a war
that served no identifiable U.S. interest, but which was waged largely for
Israeli security. And, they continue, the growing drumbeat for an attack on
Iran also has its ultimate source in the Lobby. A nuclear Iran would not
constitute a threat to the United States, they argue, and military action
against Iran would not be in America's interest, since it would inflame the
Arab and Muslim worlds yet again, producing a wave of anti-American terror
and damaging the American economy.

The Mearsheimer-Walt thesis is not a new one. What is new is the prestige
that they lent to these ideas. Because their paper appeared on the Kennedy
School website, it soon became know as the "Harvard study" on the Israel
lobby. Harvard is one of the most recognizable names in the world, familiar
to every American from high school on up. Their study could not be ignored,
and the responses came fast and furious.

Many of them took the form of reiterating the two arguments I mentioned
earlier: Israel as a moral obligation of the West, and Israel as a
democracy. These arguments are compelling, or at least they are compelling
when made well. But for argument's sake, let us set aside the claim that
Israel and the United States share democratic values, rooted in a common
Judeo-Christian tradition. Let us set aside the fact that the American
public has a deep regard for Israel, shown in poll after poll. Let us just
ask a simple question: Is Israel a strategic asset or a strategic liability
for the United States, in realist terms?

My answer, to anticipate my conclusion, is this: United States support for
Israel is not primarily the result of Holocaust guilt or shared democratic
values; nor is it produced by the machinations of the "Israel Lobby."
American support for Israel -- indeed, the illusion of its
unconditionality - underpins the pax Americana in the eastern Mediterranean.
It has compelled Israel's key Arab neighbors to reach peace with Israel and
to enter the American orbit. The fact that there has not been a general
Arab-Israeli war since 1973 is proof that this pax Americana, based on the
United States-Israel alliance, has been a success. From a realist point of
view, supporting Israel has been a low-cost way of keeping order in part of
the Middle East, managed by the United States from offshore and without the
commitment of any force. It is, simply, the ideal realist alliance.

In contrast, the problems the United States faces in the Persian Gulf stem
from the fact that it does not have an Israel equivalent there, and so it
must massively deploy its own force at tremendous cost. Since no one in the
Gulf is sure that the United States has the staying power to maintain such a
presence over time, the Gulf keeps producing defiers of America, from
Khomeini to Saddam to Bin Laden to Ahmadinejad. The United States has to
counter them, not in the interests of Israel, but to keep the world's great
reserves of oil out of the grip of the West's sworn enemies.

Allow me to substantiate my conclusion with a brief dash through the history
of Israel's relationship with the United States. Between 1948 and 1967, the
United States largely adhered to a zero-sum concept of Middle Eastern
politics. The United States recognized Israel in 1948, but it did not do
much to help it defend itself for fear of alienating Arab monarchs, oil
sheikhs, and the "Arab street." That was the heyday of the sentimental State
Department Arabists and the profit-driven oil companies. It did not matter
that the memory of the Holocaust was fresh: The United States remained
cautious, and attempted to appear "evenhanded." This meant that the United
States embargoed arms both to Israel and to the Arabs.

So Israel went elsewhere. It bought guns from the Soviet bloc, and fighter
aircraft and a nuclear reactor from France. It even cut a deal with its old
adversary Britain at the time of the Suez adventure in 1956. Israel was not
in the U.S. orbit, and it did not get significant American aid.

Nevertheless, the radical Arab states gravitated toward the Soviet Union for
weapons and aid. Israel felt vulnerable, and the Arab countries still
believed they could eliminate Israel by war. In every decade, this
insecurity indeed produced war: 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973. The United
States was not invested heavily enough to prevent these wars; its diplomacy
simply kicked in to stop them after the initial energy was spent.

Only in June 1967, with Israel's lightning victory over three of its
neighbors, did the United States begin to see Israel differently, as a
military power in its own right. The Arab-Israeli war that erupted in
October 1973 did even more to persuade the United States of Israel's power.
Although Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel, Israel
bounded back to achieve what military analysts have called its greatest
victory, repulsing an enemy that might have overwhelmed a less determined
and resourceful people.

It was then that the United States began to look at Israel as a potential
strategic ally. Israel appeared to be the strongest, most reliable, and most
cost-effective bulwark against Soviet penetration of the Middle East. It
could defeat any combination of Soviet clients on its own, and in so doing,
humiliate the Soviet Union and drive thinking Arabs out of the Soviet camp.

The 1973 war had another impact on American thinking. Until then,
Arab-Israeli wars did not threaten the oil flow, but that war led to an Arab
oil embargo. Another Arab-Israeli war might have the same impact or worse,
so the United States therefore resolved to prevent such wars by creating a
security architecture -- a pax Americana.

One way to build it would have been to squeeze Israel relentlessly. But the
United States understood that making Israel feel less secure would only
increase the likelihood of another war and encourage the Arab states to
prepare for yet another round. Instead, the American solution was to show
such strong support for Israel as to make Arab states despair of defeating
it, and fearful of the cost of trying. To this purpose, the United States
brought Israel entirely into its orbit, making of it a dependent client
through arms and aid.

That strategy worked. Expanded American support for Israel persuaded Egypt
to switch camps and abandon its Soviet alliance, winning the Cold War for
the United States in the Middle East. Egypt thus became an American ally
alongside Israel, and not instead of Israel. The zero-sum theory of the
Arabists -- Israel or the Arabs, but not both -- collapsed. American Middle
East policy underwent its Copernican revolution.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2006, 05:53:54 PM »
Part Two

Before 1973, the Arab states thought they might defeat or destroy Israel by
some stroke of luck, and they tried their hand at it repeatedly. Since 1973,
the Arab states have understood not only that Israel is strong, but that the
United States is fully behind it.

As a result, there have been no more general Arab-Israeli wars, and Israel's
Arab neighbors have either made peace with it (Egypt, Jordan), or kept their
border quiet (Syria). The corner of the Middle East along the eastern
Mediterranean has been free of crises requiring direct American military
intervention. This is due to American support for Israel -- a support that
appears so unequivocal to the Arabs that they have despaired of overturning

United States support for Israel has also enhanced its standing in another
way, as the only force, in Arab eyes, that can possibly persuade Israel to
cede territory it has occupied since 1967. In a paradoxical way, the United
States has been a major beneficiary of the Israeli occupation of Arab
territories: Arab leaders who wish to regain lost territory must pass an
American test. When they do, the United States rewards them, and the result
has been a network of American-endorsed agreements based on
American-mediated Israeli concessions.

It is this "peace process" that has turned even revolutionary Arab leaders
into supplicants at the White House door. They would not be there if a
strong Israel did not hold something they want, and if the United States was
not in a position to deliver it.

Compare this to the situation in the Persian Gulf, where American allies are
weak. There, the absence of a strong ally has bedeviled American policy and
forced the United States to intervene repeatedly. The irresolute Iranian
shah, once deemed a United States "pillar," collapsed in the face of an
anti-American upsurge, producing the humiliation of the embassy seizure and
a hostile, entrenched, terror-sponsoring regime still bent on driving the
United States out of the Gulf. Saddam Hussein, for some years America's
ally, launched a bloody eight-year war against Iran that produced waves of
anti-American terror (think Lebanon), only to turn against the United States
by occupying Kuwait and threatening the defenseless Saudi Arabia.

Absent a strong ally in the region, the United States has had to deploy,
deploy, and deploy again. In the Kuwait and Iraq wars, it has put something
like a million sets of boots on the ground in the Gulf, at a cost that
surely exceeds a trillion dollars.

It is precisely because the Gulf does not have an Israel -- a strong,
capable local ally -- that the United States cannot balance from offshore.
If the United States is not perceived to be willing to send troops there -- 
and it will only be perceived as such if it does sometimes send them -- then
big, nationalist states (formerly Iraq, today Iran) will attempt to muscle
Saudi Arabia and the smaller Arab Gulf states, which have the larger
reserves of oil. In the Gulf, the United States has no true allies. It has
only dependencies, and their defense will continue to drain American
resources until the day Americans give up their SUVs.

In Israel, by contrast, the United States is allied to a militarily adept,
economically vibrant state that keeps its part of the Middle East in
balance. The United States has to help maintain that balance with military
aid, peace plans, and diplomatic initiatives. But this is at relatively low
cost, and many of the costs flow back to the United States in the form of
arms sales and useful Israeli technological innovations.

In the overall scheme of the pax Americana, then, American policy toward
Israel and its neighbors over the past thirty years has been a tremendous
success. Has the United States brought about a final
lamb-lies-down-with-lion peace? No; the issues are too complex. Are the
Arabs reconciled to American support for Israel? No; they are highly
critical of it. But according to the realist model, a policy that upholds
American interests without the dispatch of American troops is a success by
definition. American support of Israel has achieved precisely that.

Then there is the argument that American support for Israel is the source of
popular resentment, propelling recruits to al-Qaida. I do not know of any
unbiased terrorism expert who subscribes to this notion. Israel has been
around for almost sixty years, and it has always faced terrorism. Countless
groups are devoted to it. But never has a terror group emerged that is
devoted solely or even primarily to attacking the United States for its
support of Israel. Terrorists devoted to killing Americans emerged only
after the United States began to enlarge its own military footprint in the
Gulf. Al-Qaida emerged from the American deployment in Saudi Arabia. And
even when al-Qaida and its affiliates mention Palestine as a grievance, it
is as one grievance among many, the other grievances being American support
for authoritarian Arab regimes, and now the American presence in Iraq.

And speaking of Iraq, we are left with the argument that the United States
went to war there at the impetus of Israel and the "Israel Lobby." This is
simply a falsehood, and has no foundation in fact. It is not difficult to
show that in the year preceding the Iraq war, Israel time and again
disagreed with the United States, arguing that Iran posed the greater
threat. Israel shed no tears over Saddam's demise, and it gave full support
to the United States once the Bush administration made its choice. But the
assertion that the Iraq war is being waged on behalf of Israel is pure

As for the suggestion that only Israel is threatened by an Iranian nuclear
capability, no assumption could be more na?ve. True, Iran has threatened
Israel, and it is a threat Israel cannot afford to ignore. But it is not the
first threat of its kind. In the spring before Saddam Hussein invaded
Kuwait, he declared that "we will make fire eat up half of Israel if it
tries to do anything against Iraq." The threat was meant to win him
Arab-Muslim support, but his real objective was to stand like a colossus
astride the oil-soaked Gulf. And so while he threatened strong Israel, he
actually attacked and invaded weak Kuwait.

This is unquestionably the first ambition of Iran: The wresting of the
Persian Gulf from United States domination. A nuclear Iran -- the
nuclearization of the world's great oil reservoir -- could allow Iran to
foment and manage crises almost at will. Iran, without invading any other
country, or using a nuclear weapon, could fill its coffers to overflowing
simply by rattling a nuclear sabre. Remember that Iran derives more than
eighty percent of its export revenue from oil, and its intensified nuclear
talk has already contributed to windfall revenues. This year Iran will make
$55 billion from oil; it made only a little more than half that in 2004.
Every rise of a dollar in price is a billion dollars in revenue for Iran. A
nuclear Iran could rattle nerves even more convincingly, and drive the price
to $100 a barrel.

So Iran has a structural interest in Gulf volatility; the rest of the
developed and developing world, which depends on oil, has the opposite
interest. The world wants the pax Americana perpetuated, not undermined.
That is why the Europeans have worked so closely with the United States over
Iran -- not for Israel's sake, but for their own.

A nuclear Iran would also be a realist's nightmare, because it could push
the Saudis and other Arabs in the nuclear direction. Israel has a nuclear
deterrent, but Saudi Arabia does not. To prevent it from seeking one, the
United States would have to put it under an American nuclear umbrella. Other
Arab states might demand the same. And so the United States might be
compelled to extend nato-like status to its Arab dependencies, promising to
go to war to defend them. If it did not, the full nuclearization of the Gulf
would be only a matter of time.

In summation, American support for Israel -- again, the illusion of its
unconditionality -- has compelled Israel's Arab neighbors to join the pax
Americana or at least acquiesce in it. I would expect realists, of all
people, to appreciate the success of this policy. After all, the United
States manages the pax Americana in the eastern Mediterranean from offshore,
out of the line of sight. Is this not precisely where realists think the
United States should stand? A true realist, I would think, would recoil from
any policy shift that might threaten to undermine this structure.

Among the many perplexing things in the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, certainly
none is so perplexing as this. After all, if the United States were to adopt
what they call a more "evenhanded" policy, Israeli insecurity would increase
and Arab ambitions would be stoked. Were such a policy to overshoot its
mark, it could raise the likelihood of an Arab-Israeli war that could
endanger access to oil. Why would anyone tempt fate -- and endanger an
absolutely vital American interest -- by embarking on such a policy?

That is why I see the Mearsheimer-Walt paper as a betrayal of the hard-nosed
realism the authors supposedly represent. Sometimes I wonder whether they
are realists after all. Mearsheimer and Walt urge "using American power to
achieve a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians." Is this realism,
or romanticism? After all, "just peace" is purely subjective, and its
definition is contested between and among Palestinians and Israelis. Its
blind pursuit might be destabilizing in ways which damage American
interests. This hardly seems like a cautious and prudent use of American
power. The aim of American policy should be the construction of an American
peace, one that serves American interests, not the unstable claims of

The arguments for supporting Israel are many and varied, and no one argument
is decisive. Morality- and values-based arguments are crucial, but a
compelling realist argument can also be made for viewing Israel as an asset
to the West. It does not take a "Lobby" to explain this to the hard-nosed
strategic thinkers in the White House and the Pentagon. Of course, Israel
always welcomes help from friends, but it does not need the whole array of
organizations that claim to work on its behalf. The rationale for keeping
Israel strong is hardwired in the realities of the Middle East. The United
States does not have an alternative ally of comparable power. And if the
institutions of the lobby were to disappear tomorrow, it is quite likely
that American and other Western support would continue unabated.

That Israel looms so large as a valuable ally and asset, in a Middle East of
failed and failing states, is an achievement in which Israel can rightly
take pride. But it must never be taken for granted. Israel has come
perilously close to doing so in recent years, by unilaterally evacuating
occupied territory -- first in Lebanon, but more importantly in Gaza.
Whatever the merits of "disengagement" in its various forms, it effectively
cuts out the United States as a broker, and has created the impression that
Arabs can regain territory by force, outside the framework of the pax

The main beneficiaries of this Israeli strategy have been Hezbollah and
Hamas, which are the strike forces of anti-Americanism in the region. It is
true that American democracy promotion has also been responsible for the
rising fortunes of such groups. But Israeli ceding of territory outside the
framework of American mediation has marginalized U.S. diplomacy. Israel has
made Hamas and Hezbollah, which claim to have seized territory through
"resistance," appear stronger than America's Arab clients, who had to sign
American-mediated peace deals to restore their territory. If Israel is to
preserve its value as a client, its territorial concessions must appear to
be made in Washington.

For Israel to remain a strategic asset, it must also win on the battlefield.
If Israel's power and prowess are ever cast into doubt, it will not only
undercut Israel's deterrence vis-?-vis its hostile neighbors. It will
undermine Israel's value to the United States as the dependable stabilizer
of the Levant. Israel's lackluster performance in its battle with Hezbollah
in the summer of 2006 left its many admirers in Washington shaking their
heads in disappointment. The United States, which has seen faceless
insurgents shred its own plans for Iraq, knows what it is to be surprised by
the force of "resistance." But Washington expected more of Israel, battling
a familiar adversary in its own backyard.

If Walt and Mearsheimer were right, the disappointment would hardly matter,
since the legendary Lobby would make up the difference between American
expectations and Israeli performance. But since the professors are wrong,
Israel needs to begin the work of repair. Preserving American support comes
at a price: The highest possible degree of military preparedness and
political resolve, leaving no doubt in Washington that Israel can keep its
neighborhood in line. The United States-Israel relationship rests on Israel's
willingness to pay that price. No lobby, however effective, can mitigate the
damage if the United States ever concludes that Israel suffers from a
systemic, permanent weakness.

While many Arabs have rushed to that conclusion since the summer war,
Americans have not. But a question hangs over Israel, and it will be posed
to Israel again, probably sooner rather than later. When it is, Israel must
replace the question mark with an exclamation point.

"We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something"--Tom
Burnett, citizen-warrior KIA 9/11/01 engaging the enemy on Flight 93


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2006, 05:00:52 AM »
At the risk of getting myself in trouble on my first post, nonetheless, there will never be peace for Israel with its nighbors.  Israel's neighbors seek nothing less than the destruction of Israel, if not the outright extermination of all Jews.  The best Israel can ever hope for is a detente, the type that exists with Egypt (bought and paid for by the USA every year).  This detente exists only because of Israel's military prowess demonstrated several times over the past half century.  However, with the recent survival success of Hizballah against the fury of the IDF, the invincibility of Israel had taken a serious shot, and the contenders may start lining up once again.

The fact that Israel is a democracy is of no moment whatsover to its Arab neighbors.  Democracy is not a concept they value or appear to even be capable of valuing when so many have thrown their lot in with a 6th century mindset.  Their basic religion does not tolerate any other religious views whatsoever.  Women, at least in the Islamic dominated cultures, are relegated to the status of a dog.  True democracy (that which gives rise to true individual rights recognition) cannot even start to exist with such an imbalance.  The failure of democracy to take true hold in Iraq speaks volumes.  The closest Islam dominated states in the mid-East will ever come to democracy is the pseudo-democracy that exists in Egypt, which is not much better than the strongman runs the show political system in Syria.
"This is a war, and we are soldiers. Death can come for us at any time, in any place." ~ Morpheus


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2006, 05:54:12 AM »

Good to see you here.

Two questions:  Is Turkey a democracy?  Does Iran have the capacity to grow into a democracy?


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2006, 07:51:57 AM »

Good to see you here.

Two questions:? Is Turkey a democracy?? Does Iran have the capacity to grow into a democracy?

IMHO Iran is for all practical purposes, if not outright so, a theocracy at the present time.  There is little likelihood anytime soon of changing that political situation.  The mere fact that elections were held made these elections no more "muti-opportunity" than elections in the former USSR were.  Back when the Shah was running the show he was one of the middle-East "strongmen", as was Hussein, and as are Assad, Mubarak and the Saudi royal family.  It seems to me that benevolent despots are about as close to democracy as it gets in the mid-east.

Turkey has a significant history of actively pursuing secularism.  I believe the government may even go so far as to control religion.  It would certainly appear that Turkey has a more solid grip on activist religion than in a number of other mid-East countries.  Keeping in mind that Turkey is seeking EU admission, has been a member of NATO for about 50 or so years, and is even geographically located as it is, I think the fairer question could almost be "is Turkey even a part of the mid-East?"
"This is a war, and we are soldiers. Death can come for us at any time, in any place." ~ Morpheus


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2006, 09:10:12 AM »
I have seen an article (I'll see if I can find it) which intelligently suggested that we should think more in terms of Arab than Muslim.  Turkey is not Arab, Iran is not Arab, Pakistan (which has had bouts of democracy) is not Arab. 

Speaking of Iran, there is the matter of the US aided disruption of the election of Mossadegh in 1953 (can anyone fill in intelligent background on this?) and the interlude of Iranian movement towards fuller democracy.  There seems to be a concensus that the Iranian people want democracy (and have pro-US feelings?) and the Iraqi people have voted three times for democracy under scary conditions.

Anyway, we digress from the theme of the thread (which is allowed around here  :-)

Concerning Israel, I would offer that Hamas's election now ends the two-faced game that used to be played before and now as a government instead of a non-state entity, Hamas can be held accountable.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2006, 10:51:48 AM »
I have seen an article (I'll see if I can find it) which intelligently suggested that we should think more in terms of Arab than Muslim.  Turkey is not Arab, Iran is not Arab, Pakistan (which has had bouts of democracy) is not Arab.?

As I was preparing that last response I found myself with a nagging thought about both Iran and Turkey that I could not put my finger on.  That both of these nations had reached a level of advancement (at least by Western standards) that other mid-east players had not arrived at.  Perhaps you just answered my internal question.

Regarding Pakistan, my only thought at the moment is thank God Musharraf is its leader.  He strikes me as somebody who is able to think globally at a level that rivals or exceeds many other national leaders, including of the Western world.  Frankly I wish my President were as bright as him.  :-)
"This is a war, and we are soldiers. Death can come for us at any time, in any place." ~ Morpheus


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2006, 12:12:34 AM »
I think that Turkey's secularism is nearing extinction. The long term trends don't look good.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2006, 05:37:22 AM »

I've taken the liberty of moving your interesting post on Turkey to the "Islam in Islamic Countries" thread.



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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2006, 09:38:35 PM »
Abba Olmert
November 16, 2006; Page A18

"Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go it alone." With these words, Lyndon B. Johnson greeted Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban at the White House on May 26, 1967. The Middle East was in the throes of an escalating crisis. Gamal Abdul Nasser had evicted U.N. peacekeepers from Egypt's border with Israel, blockaded the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, and called on the Arab world to "throw the Jews into the sea." Israel had no intention of waiting to see if Nasser would carry out his pledge, or of keeping its troops on the permanent state of alert that was bankrupting the country. And so the Israeli government sent its foreign minister to seek Johnson's approval for mounting a pre-emptive strike. But LBJ only disappointed Eban. Though hostile to Nasser and firmly supportive of Israel, the president was hamstrung by America's imbroglio in Vietnam and by the drop in his domestic support. The most he offered the Israelis was Washington's help in mobilizing international action against Egypt. Beyond that, there was only that repeated, cryptic phrase, "Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go it alone."

Perhaps a similar message was imparted by George W. Bush in his meeting earlier this week with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Much like 1967, Israel faces a Middle Eastern leader who has repeatedly sworn to wipe it off the map, and to that end is assiduously trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Like Nasser, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can cripple Israel economically by keeping it in a state of alert, driving away foreign investment and tourism. In the absence of international commitment to thwart Iran's nuclear plans, Israel has no choice but to consider striking pre-emptively. Doing so, however, requires explicit U.S. support, or at the very least, an indication that the U.S. will not oppose such action. Like Eban 40 years earlier, Mr. Olmert came to Washington in search of a green light.

But the U.S. is hardly in the position to sanction an Israeli attack. Bogged down in Iraq and hemorrhaging political capital at home, Mr. Bush resembles Johnson in his inability to approve risky military initiatives. As inimical to Mr. Ahmadinejad as his predecessor was to Nasser, and at least as sympathetic to the Jewish state, Mr. Bush is nevertheless unable to undertake a unilateral attack against Iran or even to endorse an Israeli one.

This was bad news for Mr. Olmert. The Israeli prime minister hoped to secure a hard-and-fast timetable for interdicting Iran's nuclear program first by diplomacy and then, if that failed, by force. Instead, he heard that the U.S. would only support measures to isolate Iran economically and balked at the use of bombs. Though he and his administration have routinely stated a determination to prevent Iran from obtaining strategic capabilities, Mr. Bush, in the aftermath of his party's electoral defeats, avoided all public mention of armed power as a means of achieving that goal.

The only option for the U.S., then, is international sanctions. These, however, have proven singularly inadequate in quashing the nuclear aspirations of North Korea -- a country far more financially fragile than Iran -- and lack the vital support of Russia, China and France. Iran has also threatened to retaliate for sanctions by cutting back oil production and increasing its support for terror.

Back in 1967, Johnson also tried to apply international pressure on Egypt. He planned to issue a multilateral declaration condemning the closure of Tiran and to create a convoy of ships from 26 nations to physically challenge the blockade. But fearing for their oil supplies, European countries refused to cooperate with Johnson's d?marche, while Egypt threatened violence against any attempt to reopen the straits. In the end, only four countries were willing to sign the declaration and only two volunteered ships for the convoy.

Mr. Bush is unlikely to be more successful than Johnson in marshalling international strictures against a defiant Middle Eastern regime. Nor was Mr. Olmert liable to extract from Mr. Bush more concrete backing for pre-emptive action than Eban did from LBJ. At most, Mr. Bush could have signaled his sympathy for Israel's plight and for the steps it must take to ensure its survival. The light Mr. Olmert received in Washington was probably not green, but neither was it flashing red.

Eban left the White House disappointed and confused. Neither he nor the Israeli government could decipher the meaning of the message "Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go it alone." Was the president opposed to an assault against Egypt, as some of the ministers believed, or was he indicating his willingness to look the other way while Israel attacked? Ultimately, Israeli leaders concluded that, while the U.S. might condemn the action, it would probably do nothing to stop it. Johnson, for his part, understood that the Israelis had lost faith in international diplomacy and would interpret his words as a go. "They're going to hit," the president sighed, "and there's nothing we can do about it."

Lyndon Johnson indeed did little to prevent Israel from launching its surprise attack against Egypt on June 5 or, after Jordan and Syria joined the war, from advancing into the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The Six-Day War was a seismic event that profoundly altered the Middle East, with reverberations that continue to convulse the region. An Israeli strike at Iran's nuclear facilities could well have a similar impact, especially as Mr. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are certain to react violently.

Mr. Olmert and his government must consider such consequences as they decide on Israel's next moves. The ramifications of that decision are certain to affect America as well. Many Arabs to this day believe that the U.S. was complicit in the Six-Day War, and even that American pilots flew Israeli planes. Such rumors will again be rife if Israel attacks Iran, and especially if Israeli jets pass through Iraq's American-controlled airspace. Israel may indeed act alone, but in the minds of a great many people in the Middle East, the U.S. acts with it.

Mr. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present," forthcoming from W.W. Norton.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2006, 11:05:45 AM »
NYTimes today

ROAD 60, West Bank, Nov. 14 ? For four years, the separation barrier Israel has been building just inside the West Bank boundary has drawn protests from Palestinians and international censure for the hardship it imposes on their movement and access to jobs and land.

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

But getting much less notice have been parallel and perhaps even more restrictive measures imposed by the Israeli military much deeper inside the West Bank. The internal checkpoints and barriers on roads have increasingly limited movement, something Palestinians say they find especially grating, because they are not trying to enter Israel, only to go from one Palestinian area to another.

On a two-day, 75-mile trip along Road 60, the main north-south highway that runs along the hilly spine of the West Bank, a reporter and a photographer for The New York Times examined the daily friction between Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers.

In one of the more sweeping restrictions, men under 35 from the northern West Bank are generally not allowed to leave the area. The rules often change, but this one has been enforced most days for the last four months, Palestinians say.

?My main job now is waiting in line,? Hakim Abu Shamli, 40, said during a two-hour delay at a teeming checkpoint. Mr. Abu Shamli, an electrical engineer, lives in Tubas near the city of Nablus, and for years his commute to work was a 20-minute taxi ride. Now he leaves home at 5:30 a.m. to reach his job by 8, and he is often late. There are always two checkpoints, and one recent day there were seven, he said.

The Israeli military says that the web of travel restrictions was imposed in response to the Palestinian uprising that erupted in 2000 and that the measures have greatly reduced the number of deadly attacks by Palestinians.

?We?re seeing an increasing fragmentation of the West Bank,? said David Shearer, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which monitors the West Bank. ?The whole fabric of life for the Palestinians has been disrupted.?

His office says Palestinians traveling within the West Bank now face 542 obstacles, 83 of which are guarded by soldiers, compared with fewer than 400 a year ago. The obstacles have effectively divided the West Bank into three sectors ? northern, central and southern ? and limited movement among them.

?We know these measures harm the quality of life of the Palestinians, but they save the lives of Israelis,? said Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the government department that deals with the Palestinians.

As Palestinians make their way through dozens of military checkpoints, they are delayed for hours, rerouted to dirt roads and sometimes turned back altogether on their way to jobs, schools and family visits. They also face hundreds of unattended obstacles that include earth mounds, concrete blocks and trenches that have cut many roads, forcing lengthy detours.

?I used to work as a laborer in Israel,? said Mutie Milhem, 33, a taxi driver near Jenin who had just endured a lengthy wait at a checkpoint. ?When that became difficult, I thought it would be easier to be a driver in the West Bank. But every day here becomes harder. We never know what we are going to face.?

Jenin has the reputation as the most radical West Bank town, a center for militancy, and Israel has increasingly isolated it. Israel?s separation barrier, which consists of fences and walls, blocks travel in three directions, and the only way out of Jenin to another city is Road 60 to the south.

The town?s economy has been hit hard, and the main taxi stand overflows with frustrated drivers working their way through packs of cheap cigarettes. The drivers write their names on a blackboard and wait, sometimes for a day or more, before they are called to take passengers outside Jenin. Then they begin hitting obstacles well before reaching the closest Palestinian city, Nablus, less than 20 miles away.

Road 60 is closed to Palestinians for a short stretch that passes by Shavei Shomron, one of many Jewish settlements built on hilltops overlooking the road. To circumvent the blockade there, Palestinian taxi and truck drivers created a rutted path that travels across open fields for several miles.

By the western entrance to Nablus, at the Beit Iba checkpoint where Mr. Abu Shamli, the engineer, was stuck, the Israeli soldiers grew angry as the Palestinian crowd began bunching around them. The soldiers began confiscating identity documents as a punishment, though they later returned them.

Along Road 60 Israel says the multiple layers of security not only keep Palestinian attackers out of Israel but also protect the 250,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Before the Palestinian uprising began in 2000, obstacles in the West Bank were relatively few.

?Route 60, used both by the Israeli and Palestinian populations, is a designated location for terrorist attacks against Israelis,? the Israeli military said in a statement. ?If it were not for Palestinian terrorism, the crossings would not have been established.?

The Israeli military listed 13 actual or attempted Palestinian attacks on Road 60 in the last year, with four Israelis killed. In addition, Palestinians threw stones or fired on cars dozens of times.

In the northern West Bank, jobs are extremely scarce and the movement restriction on men under 35 has made it virtually impossible for them to look elsewhere in the West Bank for work. University students, most of them commuters, also face a tough time with changing rules.

?Sometimes I can?t make it to the university,? said Ala Suboh, 21, an engineering student at Al Najah University in Nablus. ?Other times I make it but I?m not allowed to leave the city and have to spend the night on the floor of a friend?s house.?

The Hawara checkpoint, on the southeastern edge of Nablus, is about 15 miles from the closest West Bank boundary, and a few years back it consisted of several soldiers on the side of the road checking identity documents. Now it resembles an international border.

Israel says internal checkpoints like the one at Hawara are crucial. Numerous would-be suicide bombers have been stopped there.

In 2002, West Bank Palestinians carried out more than 50 suicide bombings; this year there have been two that killed Israelis.

Many Palestinians going through the checkpoint are commuting to Nablus from their homes in surrounding villages. Yet Palestinians must go through turnstiles and metal detectors, while soldiers work on computers in glass booths.

It routinely takes an hour or more to pass during the morning and evening rush hours. Cars cannot pass unless they have permits from Israel. Some taxis and trucks have them, but private Palestinian cars on Road 60 are rare, because the permits are so hard to obtain.

The next major city along the road is Ramallah, the de facto political capital. Traditionally Palestinians have regarded the contiguous cities of Ramallah, Jerusalem and Bethlehem as one metropolitan area.

But now Israel does not allow the vast majority of West Bank Palestinians to enter Jerusalem. So they can no longer take Road 60 to Bethlehem and the south, but instead must take a lengthy detour on a narrow, winding road through the barren hills east of the city, which also includes a checkpoint.

Gabriel Jacoman, 50, was raised in a house on Road 60 as it enters Bethlehem. In 1994 he opened a chicken restaurant that thrived by serving the tourists who came from Jerusalem to visit the tomb of Rachel, the biblical matriarch.

Today his home and neighboring restaurant, now shuttered, are sandwiched between 25-foot concrete walls built across Road 60. One wall is several hundred yards north of his home and serves as the border between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The second wall is a few paces south of his front door, part of the wall built around Rachel?s Tomb.

?This was the road everyone took from Jerusalem to the southern West Bank,? Mr. Jacoman said. ?Now you can?t take it in either direction.?

In the 1990s, Israel rerouted parts of Road 60 so that it looped around some Palestinian towns. Those bypasses allowed Jewish settlers to travel the West Bank without having to go through Palestinian towns, where they often faced stones or worse.

The center of Hebron, the southernmost West Bank town on Road 60, is ghostly quiet. Aside from occasional pedestrians, the only activity consists of Israeli security forces patrolling near the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Several hundred Jewish settlers live in the city. Israel has imposed some of its most severe restrictions on roughly 30,000 Palestinians who used to live in the center; many have moved out, at least temporarily.

?The whole area is completely dead,? said Talib Karaki, 50, who lives with more than 100 members of his extended family in a two-house compound near the tomb.

Last month Mr. Karaki?s 3-year-old grandson, Walid, picked up gravel and started tossing it toward a soldier at the checkpoint, Mr. Karaki said. The soldier came to complain, and a big argument ensued.

?The whole thing was ridiculous,? the grandfather said. ?But it shows how crazy our life has become.?


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Israeli Map
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2006, 04:58:22 AM »
Israeli Map Says West Bank Posts Sit on Arab Land
NY Times
Published: November 21, 2006

JERUSALEM, Nov. 20 ? An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.

Settlements on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and only takes land there legally or, for security reasons, temporarily.

If big sections of those settlements are indeed privately held Palestinian land, that is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace. The data indicate that 40 percent of the land that Israel plans to keep in any future deal with the Palestinians is private.

The new claims regarding Palestinian property are said to come from the 2004 database of the Civil Administration, which controls the civilian aspects of Israel?s presence in the West Bank. Peace Now, an Israeli group that advocates Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, plans to publish the information on Tuesday. An advance copy was made available to The New York Times.

The data ? maps that show the government?s registry of the land by category ? was given to Peace Now by someone who obtained it from an official inside the Civil Administration. The Times spoke to the person who received it from the Civil Administration official and agreed not to identify him because of the delicate nature of the material.

That person, who has frequent contact with the Civil Administration, said he and the official wanted to expose what they consider to be wide-scale violations of private Palestinian property rights by the government and settlers. The government has refused to give the material directly to Peace Now, which requested it under Israel?s freedom of information law.

Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Civil Administration, said he could not comment on the data without studying it.

He said there was a committee, called the blue line committee, that had been investigating these issues of land ownership for three years. ?We haven?t finished checking everything,? he said.

Mr. Dror also said that sometimes Palestinians would sell land to Israelis but be unwilling to admit to the sale publicly because they feared retribution as collaborators.

Within prominent settlements that Israel has said it plans to keep in any final border agreement, the data show, for example, that some 86.4 percent of Maale Adumim, a large Jerusalem suburb, is private; and 35.1 percent of Ariel is.

The maps indicate that beyond the private land, 5.8 percent is so-called survey land, meaning of unclear ownership, and 1.3 percent private Jewish land. The rest, about 54 percent, is considered ?state land? or has no designation, though Palestinians say that at least some of it represents agricultural land expropriated by the state.

The figures, together with detailed maps of the land distribution in every Israeli settlement in the West Bank, were put together by the Settlement Watch Project of Peace Now, led by Dror Etkes and Hagit Ofran, and has a record of careful and accurate reporting on settlement growth.

The report does not include Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed and does not consider part of the West Bank, although much of the world regards East Jerusalem as occupied. Much of the world also considers Israeli settlements on occupied land to be illegal under international law. International law requires an occupying power to protect private property, and Israel has always asserted that it does not take land without legal justification.

One case in a settlement Israel intends to keep is in Givat Zeev, barely five miles north of Jerusalem. At the southern edge is the Ayelet Hashachar synagogue. Rabah Abdellatif, a Palestinian who lives in the nearby village of Al Jib, says the land belongs to him.

Papers he has filed with the Israeli military court, which runs the West Bank, seem to favor Mr. Abdellatif. In 1999, Israeli officials confirmed, he was even granted a judgment ordering the demolition of the synagogue because it had been built without permits. But for the last seven years, the Israeli system has done little to enforce its legal judgments. The synagogue stands, and Mr. Abdellatif has no access to his land.

Ram Kovarsky, the town council secretary, said the synagogue was outside the boundaries of Givat Zeev, although there is no obvious separation. Israeli officials confirm that the land is privately owned, though they refuse to say by whom.

Settlements on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land Mr. Abdellatif, 65, said: ?I feel stuck, angry. Why would they do that? I don?t know who to go to anymore.?

He pointed to his corduroy trousers and said, in the English he learned in Paterson, N.J., where his son is a police detective: ?These are my pants. And those are your pants. And you should not take my pants. This is mine, and that is yours! I never took anyone?s land.?

According to the Peace Now figures, 44.3 percent of Givat Zeev is on private Palestinian land.

Miri Eisin, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that Israeli officials would have to see the data and the maps and added that ownership is complicated and delicate. Baruch Spiegel, a reserve general who just left the Ministry of Defense and dealt with the separation barrier being built near the boundary with the West Bank, also said he would have to see the data in detail in order to judge it.

The definitions of private and state land are complicated, given different administrations of the West Bank going back to the Ottoman Empire, the British mandate, Jordan and now Israel. During the Ottoman Empire, only small areas of the West Bank were registered to specific owners, and often villagers would hold land in common to avoid taxes. The British began a more formal land registry based on land use, taxation or house ownership that continued through the Jordanian period.

Large areas of agricultural land are registered as state land; other areas were requisitioned or seized by the Israeli military after 1967 for security purposes, but such requisitions are meant to be temporary and must be renewed, and do not change the legal ownership of the land, Mr. Dror, the Civil Administration spokesman, said.

But the issue of property is one that Israeli officials are familiar with, even if the percentages here may come as a surprise and may be challenged after the publication of the report.

Asked about Israeli seizure of private Palestinian land in an interview with The Times last summer, before these figures were available, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: ?Now I don?t deny anything, I don?t ignore anything. I?m just ready to sit down and talk. And resolve it. And resolve it in a generous manner for all sides.?

He said the 1967 war was a one of self-defense. Later, he said: ?Many things happened. Life is not frozen. Things occur. So many things happened, and as a result of this many innocent individuals on both sides suffered, were killed, lost their lives, became crippled for life, lost their family members, their loved ones, thousands of them. And also private property suffered. By the way, on all sides.?

Mr. Olmert says Israel will keep some 10 percent of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, possibly in a swap for land elsewhere. The area Israel intends to keep is roughly marked by the route of the unfinished separation barrier, which cuts through the West Bank and is intended, Israel says, to stop suicide bombers. Mr. Olmert, however, describes it as a putative border. Nearly 80,000 Jews live in settlements beyond the route of the barrier, but some 180,000 live in settlements within the barrier, while another 200,000 live in East Jerusalem.

But these land-ownership figures show that even in the settlements that Israel intends to keep, there will be a considerable problem of restitution that goes beyond the issue of refugee return.

Mr. Olmert was elected on a pledge to withdraw Israeli settlers living east of the barrier. But after the war with Hezbollah and with fighting ongoing in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew its settlers in the summer of 2005, his withdrawal plan has been suspended.

In March 2005, a report requested by the government found a number of illegal Israeli outposts built on private Palestinian land, and officials promised to destroy them. But only nine houses of only one outpost, Amona, were dismantled after a court case brought by Peace Now.

There is a court case pending over Migron, which began as a group of trailers on a windy hilltop around a set of cellphone antennas in May 1999 and is now a flourishing community of 50 families, said Avi Teksler, an official of the Migron council. But Migron, too, according to the data, is built on private Palestinian land.

Mr. Teksler said that the land was deserted, and that its ownership would be settled in court. Migron, where some children of noted settlement leaders live, has had ?the support of every Israeli government,? he said. ?The government has been a partner to every single move we?ve made.?

Mr. Teksler added: ?This is how the state of Israel was created. And this is all the land of Israel. We?re like the kibbutzim. The only real difference is that we?re after 1967, not before.?

But in the Palestinian village of Burqa, Youssef Moussa Abdel Raziq Nabboud, 85, says that some of the land of Migron, and the land on which Israel built a road for settlers, belongs to him and his family, who once grew wheat and beans there. He said he had tax documents from the pre-1967 authorities.

?They have the power to put the settlement there and we can do nothing,? he said. ?They have a fence around the settlement and dogs there.?

Mr. Nabboud went to the Israeli authorities with the mayor, Abu Maher, but they were told he needed an Israeli lawyer and surveyor. ?I have no money for that,? he said. What began as an outpost taking 5 acres has now taken 125, the mayor said.

Mr. Nabboud wears a traditional head covering; his grandson, Khaled, 27, wears a Yankees cap. ?The land is my inheritance,? he said. ?I feel sad I can?t go there. And angry. The army protects them.?


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2006, 10:08:09 AM »
Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 2006 / 10 Kislev, 5767

These terror busters mix motorcycles and swagger

By Ned Warwick

"No one messes with Yasam, especially the ones on the bikes," says an East Jerusalem Arab | (MCT)


ERUSALEM — What looms suddenly in your rearview mirror and is past you in a streak on the stone slip of a darkened street is crime-fighting Israeli-style: two men, dressed in black, bent low on a dark motorcycle, the one behind with his automatic rifle angled off his back, the bike darting quick as a bat.

A moment later up ahead, near the Ben Yehuda shopping area in the center of Jerusalem, a man is up against a wall, dressed in clothes that resemble what a Hasidic Jew would wear, but in a faintly raffish way that doesn't quite square with the sober probity of Hasidism. The backseat rider from the motorcycle is frisking him; the driver, still atop his bike, is reaching for the man's identification.

The man is eventually let go but not before he is closely questioned. He has just had his first, and he hopes his last, brush with the motorcycle unit of Yasam, an elite police unit.

In a city that has experienced war, terrorism, and its share of crime, the sight of these fast-moving patrols elicits little reaction. But for newcomers, the first impression is of something straight from a thriller or a gritty science-fiction tale.

Their low-slung KLE 550 motorcycles are powerful and highly maneuverable, the right specs for threading the clogged and narrow streets of this edgy city at high speed.

And speed was of the essence one night in the summer of 2002, when, at the height of the intifada, a Palestinian militant started firing automatic weapons at pedestrians on busy Jaffa Street. A two-man Yasam team, blocks away, heard the gunfire and raced to the scene.

Jumping off their bike, the officers confronted the gunman. Shots were exchanged as pedestrians flattened on the sidewalk; the gunman was killed.

Tzvika Hassia, the superintendent of the Jerusalem Yasam force, said 24 members of his 80-person unit "ride and fight from motorbikes and are meant to answer (to) special criminal or terrorist acts quickly, getting to where cars can't go." Israel is divided into six police districts, and each has a Yasam unit.

To even be considered for the Yasam unit, applicants must have served in one of Israel's military combat units and been highly rated. Given that Israel has had precious few days without conflict, that means nearly all have seen action.

Their dark clothes, their no-nonsense bikes, and a certain common swagger make them stand out in a country where many people wear uniforms and carry guns.

"In my opinion, they are awesome," said Ya'akov Brod, 24, a security guard for the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffeehouse on Jaffa Street near Zion Square. "They are like the best of the best. Although they are police - if you ask me - they are part of the army."

On the narrow, twisting streets of hilly Jerusalem, accidents on the bikes are unavoidable.

"At the speeds we go, there is no way to avoid them," said Alon Weinstein, 31, who joined Yasam 2 ½ years ago after serving in an army reconnaissance unit.

"You have to like motorcycles. You live your life on them," he said, grinning and cradling his M-16. "But this is the best place to be."

The men on each team rotate as the driver and the firepower on the back. They carry M-16s and 9mm handguns. While the units were created - beginning in Jerusalem - during the 1990s to deal with terrorism and then the intifada and the upsurge in suicide bombers, they are no less busy since the intifada gave out and the suicide attacks became rare, a police spokesman said.

While declining to give statistics, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, the units are still stopping militant Palestinians trying to commit terrorist acts. Much of the units' activity on that front takes place without publicity, he said.

In Arab East Jerusalem, feelings toward the Yasam unit are not as warm as those held elsewhere. In fact, none of the shopkeepers interviewed along Salah Eddin Street had a good word for the unit, calling it anti-Arab.

"No one messes with Yasam, especially the ones on the bikes," said Amr Sandouka, 25, who works in the family business selling electronics equipment. "They are rude, violent, and have a license to kill."

"It is shocking to hear those words," Rosenfeld said. "Yasam is the most advanced operational unit in the police that has stopped tens of terrorist attacks and hundreds of criminal acts."


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2006, 10:46:18 AM »
There is a huge amount the US can learn from Israel.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2006, 08:46:10 AM »

Congress Doubles US Weapons Storage in Israel
Wednesday, December 13, 2006 / 22 Kislev 5767

In the last day before its recess Friday, the US House of Representatives and Senate approved loan guarantees to Israel and the doubling of US arms stored in Israel for emergency use.

The new Department of State Authorities Act of 2006 adds three years to the US provision of loan guarantees to Israel (until 2011), also including an aid package for Israel separate from the annual US aid package to the Jewish state.

In 2002 Israel requested loan guarantees from the United States to help it deal with the economic affects of the Oslo War and to prepare for the US war in Iraq. In 2003, Congress approved $9 billion in guarantees over three years.

Loan guarantees are not grants, rather the US is merely cosigning loans for Israel in the event that Israel were to default. This results in better terms on the loans, but has come at a price. Israel sends most of the money directly back into the US economy.

Additionally, a condition of the guarantees is that the money may not be spent on development of any of the areas Israel liberated in the 1967 Six Day War, meaning Judea, Samaria and half of Jerusalem. In addition, whatever the amount of government funds Israel decides to spend in those areas is deducted from the guarantees.

So far, Israel has used $4.6 billion of the $9 billion in US loan guarantees, which were first extended until 2008 and now until 2011.

The Act serves the US as well, doubling the funds allotted to the existing program whereby America stores arms and equipment in classified US facilities in Israel, called War Reserve Stockpiles (WRS).

A WRS is a collection of war materials held in reserve in pre-positioned storage to be used if needed in wartime. America maintains war reserve stocks around the world, mainly in NATO countries, but in some major non-NATO allies as well.

With Friday’s approval, the bill still requires the signature of US President George W. Bush, which should not be a problem, as the move was initiated by his administration.


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Hamas v. Fatah
« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2006, 09:48:31 AM »
Interesting tidbits re the escalating violence between Hamas and Fatah, including two pieces posted below, can be found here:

DEBKAfile: Friday, Hamas escalated its internecine feud with Fatah to jihad

December 16, 2006, 10:24 PM (GMT+02:00)

Hamas leaders said Friday: “Abu Mazen and Fatah have declared war on Allah. Whoever joins them is a shahid.” They authorized the assassination of Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, accusing him of orchestrating an attempt on the life of Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, as his convoy entered Gaza Thursday night, Dec. 14. A bodyguard was killed and five members of his party injured, including Haniya’s son. Hamas vowed “to even the score”.

The Hamas prime minister returned home from a two-week absence carrying $31 million of the quarter of a billion dollars Iran donated to bankroll his organization's buildup for jihadist war. After Israel ordered the Rafah crossing from Egypt to Gaza closed, hundreds of Hamas militiamen seized control of the terminal directing heavy gunfire at the European monitors and Abu Mazen’s Force 17 presidential guard. Both fled. Thursday night, Haniya was finally allowed to enter Gaza after leaving the suitcases packed with cash behind in Sinai. It was then that Force 17 shot up the convoy.

In the Palestinian prime minister’s party was a senior Hamas military delegation led by Abu Obeida al Jerat, who signed military pacts with the heads of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards providing advanced combat training for Hamas terrorists. DEBKAfile’s military sources say Israel should have prevented Haniya’s entry with his party, even without the cash, to prevent the Iranian military training program from getting started in the Gaza Strip.

December 17, 2006, 8:14 AM (GMT+02:00)

DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal that last week, US and Israel transferred a quantity of automatic rifles to Abu Mazen’s Fatah forces

The guns reached Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan who handed them over to the faction’s suicide wing, al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Abbas’ only reliable strike force. Dahlan is now in command of the armed campaign against Hamas from presidential headquarters in Ramallah. Israeli officials are turning a blind eye to transfer of the arms into the hands of the most badly-wanted masterminds of Fatah suicide killings, such as Jemal Tirawi from Nablus.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2006, 10:40:33 AM »
I refuse to read Debka anymore.   My experience of them is that with just enough fact to bait you in, ultimately they are an airport spy novel acid trip.  Highly UNreliable and for me, to even read them muddies the mind.  YMMV.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2006, 08:43:08 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: The Palestinian Struggles

Hamas and Fatah struck a cease-fire agreement Sunday in an attempt to end one of the bloodiest weeks of feuding in the Palestinian territories. The violence was touched off Dec. 11 after suspected Hamas gunmen killed the children of one of Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' top aides. It culminated in Hamas supporters firing rockets and mortars at Abbas' residence, Palestinian television stations and members of the presidential guard.

However politically necessary the cease-fire agreement might have been, the struggle is still far from over. Since taking office in January, the Hamas-led government has been suffering under economic sanctions -- and the suitcases of cash smuggled in from Iran and other donors in the Arab world have done little to ease the pain. As intended by Israel and the Western powers, the sanctions have steadily whittled away at Hamas' support base: A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah showed that 61 percent of Palestinians favor holding early elections -- as Abbas recently suggested. Fatah would get 42 percent of the vote and Hamas would get 36 percent.

That said, it is not a foregone conclusion, even within the Fatah leadership, that early elections would bring the Hamas government down. Despite the financial desperation, there is a pervasive belief within the territories that the outside world never gave the Hamas leadership a chance to govern effectively. The party's populist image and hard-line stance against Israel still appeal deeply to large segments of the Palestinian population. Should Abbas force an early election, Hamas would encourage its supporters to boycott the polls. This certainly would give Fatah the numbers it needs to reclaim the government, but the party would be hampered by perceptions of illegitimacy.

At the same time, Hamas knows that the longer the political and economic stalemate continues, the more disillusioned the populace will become.

For economic sanctions to be lifted, the Quartet has demanded that Hamas disarm and politically recognize the state of Israel. But both are anathema to Hamas: It cannot disarm because, like Hezbollah, it needs to maintain its legitimacy as a militant resistance movement -- and Israel is the state whose existence it resists.

The geography of Israel is key here. So long as the Jewish state refrains from formally demarcating its borders, any recognition of Israel in its current shape by Hamas would be an implicit admission that Israel has a rightful claim to territory seized during the Six-Day War of 1967 -- the war that carved up the region in such a way as to prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state. For this reason, Hamas has insisted that a return to the pre-1967 borders is a precondition for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

For the Israelis, of course, this precondition is a nonstarter. In their view, the religious and historical significance of the land Israel occupies in the West Bank outweighs the value of any concessions in the name of a truce. Israel's reluctance to acknowledge its own pre-1967 borders came to light this month in a textbook controversy, when Education Minister Yuli Tamir -- a Labor Party member who advocates dismantling Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories -- ordered that maps in all future textbooks show the Green Line, an armistice boundary that separated Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip before the 1967 war. The move generated a storm among Israel's political conservatives, who argue that the Israeli position should be defined as complete rejection of any return to the pre-1967 borders.

Intransigence is an all too common theme in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Neither side has the means to discard the political constraints that keep significant negotiations from taking place. With the understanding that the peace process will remain in a stalemate, then, Israel benefits from the frictions between Hamas and Fatah. So long as the Palestinians are busy fighting each other, they will be less concerned with orchestrating attacks against Israel. Any talk of a power-sharing agreement between Hamas and Fatah, therefore, likely will meet with an Israeli military offensive or assassination attempt designed to exacerbate intra-Palestinian feuding.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2007, 07:15:39 AM »
Don't Play With Maps
Published: January 9, 2007
NY Times

I BECAME embroiled in a controversy with former President Jimmy Carter over the use of two maps in his recent book, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.” While some criticized what appeared to be the misappropriation of maps I had commissioned for my book, “The Missing Peace,” my concern was always different.

I was concerned less with where the maps had originally come from — Mr. Carter has said that he used an atlas that was published after my book appeared — and more with how they were labeled. To my mind, Mr. Carter’s presentation badly misrepresents the Middle East proposals advanced by President Bill Clinton in 2000, and in so doing undermines, in a small but important way, efforts to bring peace to the region.

In his book, Mr. Carter juxtaposes two maps labeled the “Palestinian Interpretation of Clinton’s Proposal 2000” and “Israeli Interpretation of Clinton’s Proposal 2000.”

The problem is that the “Palestinian interpretation” is actually taken from an Israeli map presented during the Camp David summit meeting in July 2000, while the “Israeli interpretation” is an approximation of what President Clinton subsequently proposed in December of that year. Without knowing this, the reader is left to conclude that the Clinton proposals must have been so ambiguous and unfair that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was justified in rejecting them. But that is simply untrue.

In actuality, President Clinton offered two different proposals at two different times. In July, he offered a partial proposal on territory and control of Jerusalem. Five months later, at the request of Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, and Mr. Arafat, Mr. Clinton presented a comprehensive proposal on borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and security. The December proposals became known as the Clinton ideas or parameters.

Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them. Jerusalem’s status would have been guided by the principle that what is currently Jewish will be Israeli and what is currently Arab will be Palestinian, meaning that Jewish Jerusalem — East and West — would be united, while Arab East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state.

The Palestinian state would have been “nonmilitarized,” with internal security forces but no army and an international military presence led by the United States to prevent terrorist infiltration and smuggling. Palestinian refugees would have had the right of return to their state, but not to Israel, and a fund of $30 billion would have been created to compensate those refugees who chose not to exercise their right of return to the Palestinian state.

When I decided to write the story of what had happened in the negotiations, I commissioned maps to illustrate what the proposals would have meant for a prospective Palestinian state. If the Clinton proposals in December 2000 had been Israeli or Palestinian ideas and I was interpreting them, others could certainly question my interpretation. But they were American ideas, created at the request of the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I was the principal author of them. I know what they were and so do the parties.

It is certainly legitimate to debate whether President Clinton’s proposal could have settled the conflict. It is not legitimate, however, to rewrite history and misrepresent what the Clinton ideas were.

Indeed, since the talks fell apart, there has emerged a mythology that seeks to defend Mr. Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton ideas by suggesting they weren’t real or they were too vague or that Palestinians would have received far less than what had been advertised. Mr. Arafat himself tried to defend his rejection of the Clinton proposals by later saying he was not offered even 90 percent of the West Bank or any of East Jerusalem. But that was myth, not reality.

Why is it important to set the record straight? Nothing has done more to perpetuate the conflict between Arabs and Israelis than the mythologies on each side. The mythologies about who is responsible for the conflict (and about its core issues) have taken on a life of their own. They shape perception. They allow each side to blame the other while avoiding the need to face up to its own mistakes. So long as myths are perpetuated, no one will have to face reality.


And yet peace can never be built on these myths. Instead it can come only once the two sides accept and adjust to reality. Perpetuating a myth about what was offered to justify the Arafat rejection serves neither Palestinian interests nor the cause of peace.

I would go a step further. If, as I believe, the Clinton ideas embody the basic trade-offs that will be required in any peace deal, it is essential to understand them for what they were and not to misrepresent them. This is especially true now that the Bush administration, for the first time, seems to be contemplating a serious effort to deal with the core issues of the conflict.

Of course, one might ask if trying to address the core issues is appropriate at a moment when Palestinians are locked in an internal stalemate and the Israeli public lacks confidence in its government. Can politically weak leaders make compromises on the issues that go to the heart of the conflict? Can the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, compromise on the right of return and tell his public that refugees will not go back to Israel? Can Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, tell his public that demography and practicality mean that the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will have Palestinian and not Israeli sovereignty?

The basic trade-offs require meeting Israeli needs on security and refugees on the one hand and Palestinian needs on territory and a capital in Arab East Jerusalem on the other. But producing such trade-offs won’t simply come from calling for them. Instead, an environment must be created in which each side believes the other can act on peace and is willing to condition its public for the difficult compromises that will be necessary.

So long as mythologies can’t be cast aside, and so long as the trade-offs on the core issues can’t be embraced by Israelis or Palestinians, peace will remain forever on the horizon. If history tells us anything, it is that for peace-making to work, it must proceed on the basis of fact, not fiction.

« Previous Page1 2
Dennis Ross, envoy to the Middle East in the Clinton administration, is counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2007, 06:11:54 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Back-Channel Negotiations Between Israel and Syria

Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Syria and Israel held secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006, and that the two have developed a framework for a peace agreement. Highlights of the deal include Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights to pre-1967 borders -- in exchange for retaining control over the use of water from the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret -- and an end to Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Syrian moves to distance the country from Iran. The report said the meetings were conducted primarily by academics, with the full knowledge of senior Israeli and Syrian authorities. A few hours after the story was released, officials from both countries issued denials, labeling the report "absolute nonsense," a "bluff" and "completely false."

That Syria and Israel have been holding back-channel talks should hardly come as a surprise. Lacking the strategic depth to sufficiently ensure its national security, Israel has long been in the business of quiet diplomacy with its Arab neighbors. Jordan and Egypt both engaged in secret meetings with Israel well before their respective peace agreements were made public. An Israeli-Syrian deal, however, is still far off in the distance.

Ruled by Alawites -- who practice an offshoot of Shiite Islam -- Syria is a minority-based regime in the Sunni Arab world. The Syrian government has a history of keeping its distance from its Arab neighbors, despite its calls for Arab nationalism, seeking instead a closer relationship with its Shiite allies in Tehran. The Syrians have developed a strong alliance with Iran through Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which serves Syrian interests by keeping pressure on Israel as well as keeping the Lebanese political, security and intelligence apparatus under Syrian control. Hezbollah's ability to gridlock the Lebanese government through mass protests and block any moves to hold Syrian leadership accountable for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri is a current case in point.

Syria's insurance policy against Israel comes through its support for nonstate militant assets in the region, namely Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Syria's sponsorship of these groups also allows it to maintain leverage in the region by making itself an integral part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and any flare-ups in Lebanon. Without a sufficient deterrent capability, Syria is unwilling to surrender this leverage -- and the Israelis know this.

At the same time, Israel is not ready to let go of the Golan Heights, a 15-by-32-mile territory seized by Israeli troops during the 1967 Six Day War. The Golan is of enormous strategic value to Israeli defenses, as its boundaries encompass the 7,296-foot Mount Hermon. Prior to Israel's creation in 1948, Syrian forces used this highland to attack northern Jewish villages. After Israel seized the Golan in 1967, Mount Hermon became a key observation post for Israel to use to point its guns at any hostile invader approaching the country's northeastern border. Apart from its military importance, the Golan Heights also provides Israel with roughly one-third of its water supply.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad inherited his foreign policy agenda from his father, Hafez al Assad. It stipulates that Syria must consolidate its control over Lebanon, maintain its influence over the Arab-Israeli conflict, preserve its regional status and regain the Golan Heights from Israel. Carefully managing Syria's relations with the United States to avoid provoking regime change also was a key part of al Assad's strategy to ensure Syrian national security. Though Syria is keenly interested in retaking the Golan, it will not sacrifice its militant assets without sufficient security guarantees from the United States and Israel.

The atmosphere of distrust between Syria and Israel has been exacerbated by the intensifying U.S.-Iranian standoff over Iraq. With Iran well on its way to joining the nuclear club and consolidating its gains in Iraq, the Syrians see Iran as an attractive ally in the region. Tehran is just as eager to develop Syria into an Iranian satellite, and has greatly expanded its military and economic assistance for the country in an effort to earn the Syrians' trust.

But the ruling clerics in Tehran are well aware that Syria's loyalties are flexible, and that the al Assad regime will look after its own interests before sticking its neck out for Iran. This was exemplified in the summer conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, during which Syria was extremely careful to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. Iran's distrust of the al Assad regime will become particularly critical as Iran moves deeper into hot water with its plans for Iraq and its nuclear program. The Iranians fear that, should it face a serious threat to the survival of the al Assad regime, Syria could switch loyalties down the road and join the fold of Arab states making peace with Israel.

It is this weakness in the Syrian-Iranian alliance that Western governments will try to exploit, and the Haaretz report on the Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations appears to work toward that objective. In conjunction with the revised U.S. strategy on Iraq, the Israelis have carefully timed a series of leaks about Israeli military plans to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities as part of a psychological warfare strategy to undermine Iranian confidence. In order to beef up this campaign, Israel can fuel distrust between Iran and Syria by publicizing its back-channel dealings with the al Assad regime. These leaks will be met with a downpour of denials, but the intended damage already will have been done; Iran and Syria will continue to second-guess each other as the risk of pursuing an increasingly belligerent policy reaches dangerous levels.


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Israel & Syria in secret negotiations?
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2007, 05:38:51 AM »
What if Israel and Syria Find Common Ground?
Published: January 24, 2007
NY Times

ISRAEL’S newspapers are rife with reports of a peace agreement secretly forged between Israeli and Syrian negotiators. Though both the Syrian and Israeli governments have denied any involvement in the talks, past experience shows that such disavowals are often the first indication of truth behind the rumors.

Certainly, there is nothing new about the details of the purported plan, which involves a staged Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, occupied since 1967, and the full normalization of relations between Damascus and Jerusalem. Nor is there a precedent in the willingness of Israeli and Arab leaders to enter into direct discussions without the participation or knowledge of the United States.

What is new is the Bush administration’s apparent opposition to a Syrian-Israeli accord and the possibility that Israel, by seeking peace with one of its Arab neighbors, risks precipitating a crisis with the United States.

On more than one occasion, Israeli and Arab leaders have engaged in clandestine talks without informing the White House. In 1977, the envoys of Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt quietly met and laid the groundwork for Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem and for the advent of the Egyptian-Israeli peace process. Only later, when negotiations snagged, did the parties turn to the United States and request presidential mediation.

In 1993, Israeli and Palestinian interlocutors, convening in Oslo, worked out the details of a peace arrangement and requested President Bill Clinton’s imprimatur on the accord only days before its signing. Jordan and Israel also asked Mr. Clinton to sponsor their peace treaty, initialed the following year, after they had independently agreed on its terms.

And in 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel unilaterally ordered the evacuation of the Gaza Strip, a move widely welcomed as a stepping stone toward peace but from which the Bush administration, committed to the multilateral process stipulated by the “road map,” kept its distance. Syria and Israel have also exchanged peace proposals in the past, sometimes under American auspices, as in the 1991 conference in Madrid.

Yet even when the two sides negotiated bilaterally, as during the secret exchanges between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hafez al-Assad of Syria in the late 1990s, Washington approved of the contacts. American leaders agreed that the Syrian-Israeli track offered a promising alternative to the perennially stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks, and that achieving peace between the Syrian and Israeli enemies would open the door to regional reconciliation.

All that was before Sept. 11, however, and Syria’s inclusion, alongside Iran and North Korea, in President Bush’s “axis of evil.” Once regarded as a possible partner in a Middle East peace process, the Baathist regime of Bashar al-Assad was suddenly viewed as a source of Middle East instability, a state sponsor of terrorist groups and an implacable foe of the United States.

Hostility toward Damascus intensified after the incursion into Iraq, during which administration officials accused the Syrians of abetting the insurgency and concealing unconventional weapons in Iraq. More recently, the United States has accused Mr. Assad of plotting to undermine Lebanon’s efforts to achieve independence from Syria, of assassinating anti-Syrian Lebanese and of acting as an Iranian agent in the Western Arab world.

The last thing Washington wants is a Syrian-Israeli treaty that would transform Mr. Assad from pariah to peacemaker and lend him greater latitude in promoting terrorism and quashing Lebanon’s freedom. Some Israeli officials, by contrast, see substantive benefits in ending their nation’s 60-year conflict with Syria. An accord would invariably provide for the cessation of Syrian aid to Hamas and Hezbollah, which endanger Israel’s northern and southern sectors.

More crucial still, by detaching Syria from Iran’s orbit, Israel will be able to address the Iranian nuclear threat — perhaps by military means — without fear of retribution from Syrian ground forces and missiles. Forfeiting the Golan Heights, for these Israelis, seems to be a sufferable price to pay to avoid conventional and ballistic attacks across most of Israel’s borders.

The potentially disparate positions of Israel and the United States on the question of peace with Syria could trigger a significant crisis between the two countries — the first of Mr. Bush’s expressly pro-Israel presidency. And yet, facing opposition from a peace-minded Democratic Congress and from members of his own party who have advocated a more robust American role in Middle East mediation, Mr. Bush would have difficulty in withholding approval from a comprehensive Syrian-Israeli agreement.

Mr. Bush may not have to make that decision for some time, if ever. For all his talk of good will, Mr. Assad has made no Sadat-like gestures to Israel, and many Israelis agree with Mr. Bush that Syria should not be rewarded for its assistance to terrorism and its denial of Lebanese liberty.

But if trust is established on both sides and the conditions are conducive to peace, a settlement between Syria and Israel may yet be attained — and a clash between Israel and Washington ignited.

Michael B. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of “Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.”


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #22 on: February 02, 2007, 05:35:37 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Israeli Covert Operations in Iran

French President Jacques Chirac started quite the uproar with his apparent faux pas made public on Thursday in which he downplayed the Iranian nuclear threat. Chirac says he thought he was speaking off the record when, during an interview with The New York Times, International Herald Tribune and Le Nouvel Observateur, he said an Iranian nuclear weapon would not be much of a threat because "Tehran would be razed to the ground" if it ever tried to deploy such a device.

Chirac's comments (which were quickly retracted) directly undermine the West's stance on Iran -- and they do not reflect the official French position, which was summed up Thursday in a statement from the Elysee Palace that read "France, with the international community, cannot accept the prospect of Iran with a nuclear weapon."

But despite the commotion, Chirac's statements are not all that far off the mark. It might be tempting to write off the Iranians or North Koreans as "axis of evil" regimes that are just crazy enough to cook off a nuke, but Tehran -- like all rational actors -- knows the implications and the utility of a nuclear program. A nuclear-capable Iran would primarily use its nuclear program, not to turn Israel into a radioactive wasteland, but for deterrent value to safeguard the clerical regime from possible U.S or Israeli intervention. Israel, however, does not care to gamble on the rationality of the Iranian regime, and does not intend to see an Iranian nuclear weapons program come to fruition.

The Israelis, therefore, have their own ways of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. A pre-emptive Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities is unlikely in the near future for a number of reasons that we have discussed before, including the time Israel still has before Iran reaches a technologically critical stage in its nuclear development, the strategically dispersed nature of Iran's nuclear sites and the tenuous U.S. position in Iraq. An offensive strike on Iran would still leave wide open the issue of a resolution in Iraq, which would further constrain the U.S. military position in the region.

But while the time for overt military action is likely still in the distance, Israeli covert action against Iran appears to be gaining steam.

The death of a high-level Iranian nuclear scientist, Ardeshir Hassanpour, was announced by Radio Farda and Iranian state television Jan. 25 -- a week after his death occurred. The Radio Farda report implicitly related the cause for Hassanpour's death to exposure to radioactive rays, though the details were murky. Stratfor sources close to Israeli intelligence have revealed, however, that Hassanpour was in fact a Mossad target.

Hassanpour is believed to have been one of Iran's most prized nuclear scientists. Some reports claim he was named the best scientist in the military field in Iran in 2003, that he directed and founded the center for nuclear electromagnetic studies since 2005 and that he co-founded the Nuclear Technology Center in Isfahan, where Iran's uranium-conversion facilities are located.

Decapitating a hostile nuclear program by taking out key human assets is a tactic that has proven its effectiveness over the years, particularly in the case of Iraq. In the months leading up to the 1981 Israeli airstrike on Iraq's Osirak reactor -- which was believed to be on the verge of producing plutonium for a weapons program -- at least three Iraqi nuclear scientists died under mysterious circumstances.

Yahya al-Meshad, a key figure in Iraq's nuclear program, traveled to Paris in 1980 to test fuel for the reactor; he was soon stabbed to death and was discovered by a hotel maid in his room the next morning. A prostitute who went by the name Marie Express reportedly saw the scientist the night before he died. She was then killed in a hit-and-run accident by an unknown driver who got away. After al-Meshad's death, two more Iraqi scientists were killed separately -- both by poisoning -- and a number of workers at Osirak began receiving threatening letters from a shadowy organization called the Committee to Safeguard the Islamic Revolution -- likely a Mossad front to enhance the workers' paranoia and hinder Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions.

Mossad's latest covert assassination campaign falls in line with Israel's psychological warfare strategy to undermine Iran's confidence in pursuing its nuclear agenda. The longer the Iranians are forced to second-guess Israel's intent to launch a pre-emptive strike, the more pliable Iran becomes in negotiating with the United States toward a political agreement on Iraq.

Tehran wants, ideally, to secure a Shiite buffer zone in Iraq while also reaching the point of no return in its nuclear program; but the Iranian regime must move carefully on the nuclear issue to avoid inviting airstrikes on its soil. Israel and the United States are betting for now that Iran's concerns over Iraq will override its pursuit of nuclear power -- which, however, leaves Tehran in a prime position to use the nuclear controversy as a major bargaining tool in extracting concessions from the United States over Iraq. But things do not always go as planned, and Israel appears to be setting the stage for Plan B.


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The Sinai War of 1956
« Reply #23 on: February 07, 2007, 06:09:25 PM »
The Second War of Independence
The Sinai campaign of 1956 established that Israel was here to stay.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Fifty years ago, at dawn on Oct. 29, 1956, Israeli paratroopers under the command of Col. Ariel Sharon dropped into the Mitla Pass deep in the Sinai Peninsula, 25 miles from the Suez Canal. The action was the first phase in a plan secretly forged by representatives of France, Britain and Israel, triggered by Egypt's nationalization of the canal three months before. According to the scheme, the paratroopers' landing would provide a pretext for the French and British governments to order both Egypt and Israel to remove all of their forces from the canal area. The Europeans anticipated that Cairo would reject that ultimatum, thus allowing them to occupy the strategic waterway. Israel dutifully executed its part of the scheme, smashing the Egyptian army in four days and conquering all of the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip. The Anglo-French armada, however, was late in arriving, and soon withdrew under intense international pressure. The Suez War--known in Israel as the Sinai Campaign, or Operation Kadesh--was over within a week, but the battle over its interpretation was merely beginning.

Numerous books and articles have been written about the Suez Crisis, the first post-World War II crisis to pit nationalism against imperialism, and the West against the communist bloc. Historians have long agreed that the invasion was an unrelieved catastrophe for Britain and France, precipitating their expulsion from the Middle East and their decline as great powers. By contrast, the first three decades after the crisis saw debate over Israel's fortunes in the war, with some scholars asserting that Israel had benefited from the destruction of the Egyptian army, the opening of the Straits of Tiran, and the strategic alliance with France. Starting in the 1980s, however, a movement of self-styled New Historians, dedicated to debunking the alleged "myths" of Israeli history, depicted the Sinai Campaign as no less disastrous for the Jewish state. "Israel . . . paid a heavy political price for ganging up with the colonial powers against the emergent forces of Arab nationalism," wrote Avi Shlaim of Oxford University. "Its actions could henceforth be used as proof . . . that it was a bridgehead of Western imperialism in the . . . Arab world."

Twenty years later, Shlaim's analysis of the 1956 war has become universally accepted in academia, and not only among revisionists. In a New York Times article marking the 50th anniversary of Suez, Boston University's David Fromkin, author of the widely acclaimed study of the origins of the modern Middle East, "A Peace to End All Peace" (1989), similarly portrayed Israel's victory as Pyrrhic. "Israel compromised itself through its partnership with European imperialism," Fromkin alleged, echoing Shlaim. "The more Israel won on the battlefield, the further it got from achieving the peace that it sought."

Those who have challenged the magnitude of Israel's victory in 1956, however, fail to take into account the incompleteness of Israel's triumph in its 1948 War of Independence. Customarily, states that win on the battlefield dictate the terms of the peace. But while Israeli forces had repulsed the invading Arab armies and compelled them to sue for truce, Israeli negotiators failed to transform that military accomplishment into a diplomatic device for ending the conflict. The armistice agreements that Israel signed with its four neighboring Arab states between February and July 1949 did not, for example, extend recognition or legitimacy to the Jewish state; nor did they endow that state with permanent borders.
Further complicating this anomalous situation, the agreements created various demilitarized zones of uncertain sovereignty along Israel's frontiers--at the foot of the Golan Heights, for instance, and in Nitzana, along the Sinai-Negev border. Most deleterious of all for Israel, the armistice did not provide for peace. On the contrary, the agreements allowed the Arabs to insist that a state of war continued to exist between them and the "Zionist entity." This state of war, the Arabs argued, enabled them to fire at Israeli settlements in the demilitarized zones, to conduct an economic boycott of the Jewish state, and to blockade Israeli ships and Israel-bound cargoes through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran. Arab states engaged in a relentless anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic propaganda campaign, designed to prepare their publics for a "second round" with Israel, this time to annihilate it. Propaganda did not suffice for some Arab countries, however, like Syria and Egypt, which sponsored cross-border terrorist (Fedayeen) attacks like that which killed eleven Israelis at Maaleh Akrabim in March 1954.

For the Arab states, the Palestine War, as they called it, had never really ended. Yet they were not alone in regarding Israel as an impermanent and unwanted presence: The Great Powers--the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union--routinely treated Israel as a passing phenomenon and ignored its fundamental interests. Indeed, for the Powers, Israel was little more than what United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles called "a millstone around our necks."

The period of 1948 to 1956 was one of profound upheaval in Great Power diplomacy in the Middle East. The United States was on the one hand striving to oust the old colonial powers, Britain and France, from the region, while on the other working with its European allies to prevent Soviet penetration. In response to the American threat, Britain and France sought to strengthen their alliances with local states--Britain with Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and France with Syria and Lebanon--by guaranteeing their security and selling them modern arms. Israel, which was in no Power's interest, was completely left out of these arrangements. Worse, Israel's clashes with Egypt in 1949 and Jordan in 1956 nearly resulted in direct conflict between the IDF and British forces.

Viewed antagonistically by both Britain and France, Israel was hardly valued as an asset by the United States. The Republican administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower owed nothing to the Jewish vote, and was closely aligned with State Department Arabists and American oil companies active in the Middle East. Apart from parade items such as helmets and batons, the United States adamantly refused to sell arms to Israel, even laboring to prevent Israel from purchasing weaponry from its allies. Such transactions, the administration reasoned, would push the Arabs into the Soviet sphere and endanger vital oil supplies.

For their part, the Soviets had also thrown their support behind the Arabs. Though they had provided crucial diplomatic and military backing to the Jewish state in 1948, the Soviets, having secured their objective of ousting the British from Palestine, proceeded to change sides. By 1951, they were unremitting in their hostility to Israel, and after Stalin's death in 1953, the Kremlin adopted a policy of nurturing "bourgeois nationalist" regimes opposed to the West, such as those of Egypt and Syria.

America and Britain reacted to the Soviet threat by trying to organize Middle Eastern states into a regional defense organization similar to NATO. The alliance, known first as the Middle East Defense Organization (MEDO) and later as the Baghdad Pact, was to include Iraq, Jordan and hopefully Egypt. Israel, though it repeatedly petitioned for admission to the group, was continually rejected.

Moreover, while actively fortifying the Arabs, the Powers also implicitly upheld their own interpretation of the armistice. They refused, for example, to pressure the Arab states to end their economic boycott and blockade of Israel or to stem armed infiltration. Rather, they condemned Israel's attempt to establish settlements in the demilitarized zones, to send ships through the canal and the straits, and to retaliate against Fedayeen strongholds. They also opposed Israel's construction of a national water carrier that would transfer Galilee water to the Negev, thus facilitating the desert's settlement. The Negev, the Americans and the British determined in 1949, would eventually be detached from Israel and transferred to Arab sovereignty as part of a land-for-peace deal. Indeed, an Anglo-American plan, inaugurated in 1954 and codenamed "Alpha," called for the transfer of large swaths of the Negev to Egypt as a means of incentivizing it to join MEDO; the Egyptians, in turn, would grant nonbelligerency--not peace--to Israel. Though Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion rejected Alpha, American and British leaders were prepared to exert immense pressure on him to implement the plan should Cairo accept it.

Indeed, the Egyptians had long demanded the Negev as a land bridge between them and the Arab world. In secret meetings with Israeli diplomats after the armistice, Egyptian representatives repeatedly demanded that Israel forfeit all of the Negev--62% of its territory--as the price of ending the conflict. But the Egyptians were also express in stating that peace with the Jewish state was inconceivable for the foreseeable future. That position remained unchanged after the Egyptian Revolution of July 1952 and the ascendance of Col. Gamal Abd el-Nasser to power. Though Nasser continued the secret contacts with Israel, at one point even exchanging letters with Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, at no time did he waver from the demand for all of the Negev, or change his rejection of immediate and full peace. In fact, starting in December 1954, Nasser embarked on a campaign to extend his primacy over the entire Arab world--an effort that required escalated hostility toward Israel and intensified opposition to the West. He proceeded to tighten the blockade and boycott of Israel, to order the Egyptian army to occupy parts of Nitzana, and to set up Fedayeen units to operate out of Gaza. He also declared war against the Baghdad Pact, rejecting Alpha and signing, in September 1955, the largest-ever Middle Eastern arms deal with the Soviet bloc.

This, then, was the regional and international situation that Israel confronted in the period before the Sinai Campaign. Surrounded by Arab states that were conducting acts of war against it--indeed, were arming themselves to obliterate it--Israel had no allies, no diplomatic support and no reliable supplier of weapons. Moreover, saddled with tens of thousands of new immigrants, many of them indigent, and a near-bankrupt economy in the wake of a devastating war that had killed 1% of its population, Israel was scarcely capable of maintaining its existence, much less of defending itself against Nasser, a regionally beloved and lavishly armed leader committed to its destruction. "O Israel! Weep . . . and await your end at any time now," declared the Egyptian-run Voice of the Arabs radio in 1955. "The Arabs of Egypt have found their way to Tel Aviv."
Israel's plight indeed seemed hopeless when, suddenly, in July 1956, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal. The event prodded the French, who had begun to view Israel as a possible ally against Nasser and his support for Algerian rebels, to open secret discussions on a joint operation in Egypt and undertake to arm the IDF. The French, in turn, urged the British to cease threatening the Israelis and join in the clandestine talks. The result was the Sevres agreement, named after the Paris suburb in which it was surreptitiously signed. According to the document, Israel agreed to commence hostilities against Egypt. One month later, Sharon and his paratroopers descended into the Mitla Pass and the Sinai Campaign began.

The fighting was brutal, but the Israeli forces succeeded in crushing Nasser's troops with their newly supplied Soviet arms, conquering all of the Sinai and Gaza, and reaching the Suez Canal. Though a combination of Soviet military and American economic threats eventually persuaded Ben-Gurion to evacuate these territories, in return he received American pledges for Israel's future defense, along with the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers along the border with Egypt and in Sharm al-Sheikh, overlooking the Straits of Tiran. Finally freed of the danger of Egyptian attack and strengthened through commerce with Asia by way of the straits, Israel enjoyed a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. It took advantage of those years to absorb waves of new immigrants and to galvanize its civil society. Many Israelis who lived through that time remember the decade after 1956 as the most halcyon in their lives, and in their country's history. And though Nasser unilaterally evicted the U.N. force in May 1967 and again blockaded the straits, the security guarantees Israel had obtained from the United States in 1956, and the international commitments it received regarding the inviolability of its borders and shipping rights, proved essential to generating support for Israel in the Six Day War.

Equally important, at least, was the permanence that Israel achieved as a result of the Sinai Campaign. In the aftermath of the war, the Powers ceased to regard Israel as a temporary entity whose territory could be bargained off to the Arabs. There would be no more Alphas, no more attempts to deprive Israel of the Negev or of any other part of its sovereign land. Nor did the United States endeavor to block Israel's acquisition of modern arms, which continued to flow from France. Indeed, with French assistance, Israel built the nuclear reactor that endowed it with capabilities unequaled except by those of the world's greatest powers.

Finally, though Israel did, by virtue of its collusion with Britain and France, confirm the Arab charge that the Jewish state was little more than a beachhead for imperialism, in truth that charge exists far more in the minds of contemporary Western historians than in Arab thinking of the late 1950s. An examination of Arab broadcasts and newspapers from the period reveals no substantial change in Arab hostility toward Israel--it was absolute before the war, and no less total after it. Similarly, the war could not have lessened chances for the success of a peace process that simply did not exist and, according to Nasser, would not for many, many years.

Contrary, then, to the conventional wisdom in academic circles today, Israel emerged from the Sinai Campaign economically, diplomatically, and militarily strengthened. It had forged vital alliances and earned the respect, if not yet the affection, of the Great Powers, while also enhancing its citizens' security. The situation that existed after 1948, in which Israel was denied legitimacy, permanence, and such fundamental rights as safe borders and freedom of shipping, had ended. The 1956 war allowed Israel to realize, finally, the unfulfilled aspirations of 1948, and in this represents the culmination of Israel's fight for independence.
Mr. Oren is a senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, a contributing editor of Azure and author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present" (Norton, 2007).


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #24 on: February 09, 2007, 09:17:17 AM »

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 PNA: Hamas will never recognize Israel and will not abide by treaties Fatah has previously negotiated with Israel, senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayan said. Hamas welcomed the agreement with Fatah to create a Palestinian unity government, but said Israeli recognition, as urged by President Mahmoud Abbas, is impossible.


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Israel had fewer friends than Iran
« Reply #25 on: February 24, 2007, 12:40:43 PM »
It is interesting how every move the Israel military makes is now being telegraphed by segments of people from it's supposed allies who fear any military action whatsoever.  They would rather see Iran develop nuclear weapons.   Like John Edwards who claims Israel not Iran is the biggest nearterm threat to world peace.  Now the some Brits are helping Iran.   It is not their rear ends whose existence is on the line:


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #26 on: February 26, 2007, 09:09:26 AM »

LEBANON: Hezbollah is increasing its forces north of Lebanon's Litani River, reinforcing its positions in anticipation of another conflict with Israel, following the one in August 2006, the Times of London reported. Shiite businessman Ali Tajiddine reportedly is aiding Hezbollah by buying land for the group to use as a base of operations.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2007, 09:01:59 AM »

U.S./SAUDI ARABIA: The United States will hold separate talks with Israel and Saudi Arabia before an Arab League summit in Riyadh in late March in order to come to a compromise on the so-called Saudi initiative for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2007, 11:00:39 AM »
ISRAEL AXES NAKED AMBASSADOR: Israel's ambassador was ordered home from El Salvador after he was found naked, bound and drunk in the garden of his official residence - with sado-masochistic sex toys nearby, officials said yesterday. The Foreign Ministry said U.S.-born Tsuriel Rafael - who couldn't identify himself to police until a red bondage ball was removed from his mouth - would be replaced as soon as possible.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #29 on: March 13, 2007, 04:25:32 PM »
ISRAEL: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert might be forced to resign, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing sources in Kadima. The report precedes findings from the Winograd Committee, which is investigating conduct during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, regarding Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #30 on: March 14, 2007, 05:49:25 AM »

Today's NY Times:

West Bank Sites on Private Land, Data Shows
Published: March 14, 2007
JERUSALEM, March 13 — An up-to-date Israeli government register shows that 32.4 percent of the property held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is private, according to the advocacy group that sued the government to obtain the data.

The group, Peace Now, prepared an earlier report in November, also provided to The New York Times, based on a 2004 version of the Israeli government database that had been provided by an official who wanted the information published. Those figures showed that 38.8 percent of the land on which Israeli settlements were built was listed as private Palestinian land.

The data shows a pattern of illegal seizure of private land that the Israeli government has been reluctant to acknowledge or to prosecute, according to the Peace Now report. Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and takes land there only legally or, for security reasons, temporarily. That large sections of those settlements are now confirmed by official data to be privately held land is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace.

The new data, updated to the end of 2006, was provided officially by the Israeli government’s Civil Administration, which governs civilian activities in the territories, in response to a lawsuit brought by Peace Now and the Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel in 2005. When the courts refused the request, the groups filed an appeal, and the earlier data was leaked to Peace Now. In January, the court ordered the Civil Administration to provide the data, in the form of digitized map information.

The information will be published Wednesday, and a copy was provided to The Times.

Some differences between the new data and the old data complicate the picture. The old data distinguished between private Jewish land, private Palestinian land, state land and so-called survey land, which is considered of unclear ownership.

The new data, provided by the government, makes a distinction only between private land and other land. But in the earlier data, the amount of private Jewish land was small, only 1.26 percent of the area of the settlements.

The second major difference involves the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, which looks like a suburb of Jerusalem, with a mall and a multiplex and an Ace Hardware store.

The Israeli government has said that it will never give up the three main settlement blocks— Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel — inside the West Bank and within the security barrier that Israel built. Information about them is thus extremely delicate, and that was one reason that the government refused earlier requests to provide the data.

The earlier data showed Maale Adumim containing 86 percent private Palestinian land, which seemed very high to its residents. According to the new data, however, only 0.54 percent of the settlement is listed as private land. The single case of Maale Adumim represents much of the difference in the total percentage of private land between the old and new data. Without the new Maale Adumim data, the difference between the old and new data is about one percentage point.

In settlements west of the separation barrier, which Israel intends to keep and which include Maale Adumim, the amount of private land is 24 percent, compared with 41.4 percent in the earlier data.

In settlements that Israel would presumably give up in any peace settlement, the percentage of private land is 40 percent, higher than the earlier data, which was 36.4 percent.

In the two other main settlement blocs that Israel intends to keep, Ariel is now listed as 31.4 percent private, compared with 35.1 percent before. Gush Etzion is listed now as 19 percent private, compared with 25.1 percent before.

In Givat Zeev, a settlement that Israel also intends to keep, the old data showed that the settlement contained 44.3 percent private land; the new data shows the figure to be 49.6 percent.

Dror Etkes of Peace Now, which put together the reports, said the group had asked the Civil Administration to explain the discrepancy on Maale Adumim, but had not gotten an answer.


(Page 2 of 2)

Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Civil Administration, confirmed that his department had given the official data to Peace Now following the court order, but said he had not seen the report so he could not comment on its specifics.

But Mr. Dror emphasized that the settlements themselves make up less than 6 percent of the West Bank; that some of the private land belongs to Jews, some of whom bought the land many years ago or after 1967; and that the issue is complicated, given the various ways land was registered under the Ottomans, the British and the Jordanians.

Mr. Dror said the government has had a group, known as the “blue line team,” studying the data for two years trying to determine the actual limits of the settlements and the land claims around them, and that the new data reflects that work, though it is continuing. “It could take 10 more years for them to finish,” he said.

In a written statement issued late Tuesday night, Capt. Zidki Maman, also a spokesman for the Civil Administration, said, “We were disappointed to see that despite the clarifications made by the Civil Administration regarding the previous report and the database given to Peace Now, the most recent report is still inaccurate in many places, thus misrepresenting the reality concerning the status of the settlements.”

But Mr. Etkes of Peace Now noted that the government chose to provide no details, and refused to hand over data specifying what land was owned by Israelis.

Some of the land listed as private has been seized legally, though supposedly temporarily, by the Israeli military for security purposes. Many settlements were built on such land, even though it is supposed to be returned to its owners. The military simply signs a renewal of the seizure order every few years. But the military keeps secret how much land is under such temporary seizure orders.

In a 1979 court case, the Israeli Supreme Court declared that the seizure of private land for establishing settlements for security purposes is illegal. But the official data shows that 32 percent of the land in settlements established after 1979 is private land.

Peace Now will ask Israel’s attorney general “to open an investigation into the construction of settlements on private land,” Mr. Etkes said. “There’s no way the state prosecutor can be indifferent to lawbreaking on such a scale.”


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #31 on: March 15, 2007, 11:06:06 PM »
The Coming War with Islam   
By Solly Ganor | March 15, 2007

Five years ago, I had a conversation with a young Palestinian student who in short precise terms explained how Islam will defeat the West. The conversation opened my eyes to a much larger picture in which Israel plays only a minor role in the Islamic game of conquest. Since then I tried to speak to some Arabs who come to pray at the Mosque, but they were not as outspoken as the student.

Last week, I had another conversation with an Israeli Arab construction boss by the unlikely name of Francis who was in charge of building a villa near our house in Herzelia. He told me that his family was Christian, and his name was given to him in honor of the Franciscan monks. Our conversation was as interesting as the first conversation I had with the Arab student five years ago and I would like to share it with you. Francis frequently parked his car near our house and we would exchange polite greetings.

About a week ago, the water was shut off for repairs in the house he was building, and Francis asked me if I could give him some hot water for his coffee. He was a tall man of about forty, with reddish hair and blue eyes. He spoke a perfect Hebrew, and I naturally became curious about him. I felt that he may the right person to exchange some views with. By his looks, I assumed that he was either a Druze or from the Syrian region. He looked more like a teacher than a construction worker and, as I later found out, he was actually a teacher by profession. Since my conversation with the student five years ago, I was always curious to hear their side of the story; therefore, I decided to invite him for a cup of coffee to our house. I saw him hesitate for a moment; then he smiled and thanked me for my hospitality.

While we drank our coffee, he told me that he was from a small village in the Galilee called Jish, near the present Kibbutz Sassa. I remembered the village very well as I was one of the soldiers who captured the village while serving in the 7th Armored brigade during the War of Independence in 1948. I decided not to tell him about it because at the time we encountered some stiff resistance at that village and quite a few of the inhabitants were killed.

He went on to tell me a little about himself. “For a while I was a teacher and I loved teaching, but I couldn’t make a living at it and I decided to join my father in law who is in the construction business.” Judging by the large Honda he was driving, I figured that he didn’t do too badly changing his profession.

Our conversation soon turned to the present situation in the Middle East, about Hamas winning the elections, the situation of the Israeli Arabs, and the last Lebanese war against Hezbollah. “As Christians we are in a difficult situation here in Israel. Unfortunately, the Moslems and especially the extreme Islamist section, are giving the tone here. My family who lived in Bethlehem probably since the Crusaders, had to flee for their life. The Moslems have been forcing us out, by threats and even murder. Bethlehem that was once predominantly Christian is now predominantly Moslem. Very little is written about it even in the Israeli press.”

He sipped his coffee and gave me a long look. He seemed like someone who wasn’t quite sure whether to say what he was about to say. I gave him an encouraging nod.

“I have to tell you something which very few of you seem to comprehend.” He continued, “Your bungling war against a few thousand Hezbollah fighters which you should have crushed no matter what, considering the importance of the outcome, has created a completely new situation, not only for this area, but globally. Your inept leadership totally misunderstood the importance of winning this war."

“As a matter of fact, the whole Moslem world, not only the Arabs, simply couldn’t believe that the mighty Israeli Army that defeated the combined Arab forces in six days in 1967, and almost captured Cairo and Damascus in 1973, couldn’t defeat a small army of Hezbollah men. As usual the Moslems see things the way they want to see things. Most think that the present generation of Israelis have gone soft and can be defeated."

“The American bungling of the war in Iraq only added to their conviction that victory not only over Israel but also over the West is not only possible, but certain. The ramifications of these two bungling wars may bring an Islamic bloody Tsunami all over the West, not only in Israel. The sharks smell blood and these two wars gave them the green light to attack sooner than they had in mind. Your problem is that you are on the defensive and they have the option to choose the time and the places when and where to attack and there is nothing much you can do about it. When will you Westerners realize that half measures don’t work with people who are willing to die by the thousands for Allah to achieve their goal? In their eyes the Western World is simply an abomination on earth that has to be wiped out.”

He spoke quietly and I could just picture him in the school giving his students a lecture. I poured him another cup of coffee and encouraged him to continue.

“The Americans, the Europeans, and even you Israelis really don’t know what it is all about, do you? During the last generation hundreds of thousands of children have been taught all over the Moslem world in Madrass schools to become martyrs for Allah in order to kill the infidels. These youngsters not only are ready to do it, but are actually in the process of doing it. Bombs are going off all over the world killing and maiming thousands of people, not only on 9/11 in the US, in London Madrid and Bali, but in Africa, India, Bengladesh, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and many other places. The first signs of the Islamic Tsunami is already here, but the West doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand what is coming."

“The Americans, instead of realizing that this is as bad as World War Two, or even worse, are going to pull out of Iraq, handing it over to Iran on a silver platter. Next may come the Saudis and the rest of the Gulf states. When dirty bombs go off all over Western towns, who is going to stop the Iranians?"

“Now is the time to stop them, not only because they are developing nuclear bombs, but because Iran has become the base for all Islamic terrorist. They supply, money, men, and weapons to Islamic terrorist around the world, quite often through their diplomatic mail. Billions of petro-dollars that are pouring into Iran are being funneled into terrorist organizations world-wide. They believe, and perhaps rightly so, that the West will do nothing to stop them in achieving their goals. Is history repeating itself? Are the Iranians making the same mistake that Hitler made when he attacked Poland? Is the situation similar?"

“As a history teacher who studied the subject thoroughly I can tell you that Western victory in World War Two was not all certain. Hitler could have won the war if he would have gone ahead with the atomic bomb development before the Americans. The Germans began working on it in the thirties, and it was Hitler’s decision to prefer building more conventional arms, as he considered atomic weapons sheer fantasy. Hitler made the wrong decision, but had he made the right decision the world would have been a different type of world today, wouldn’t it? The West won the war against Hitler by sheer chance. Very few people seem to realize that.”

I must say that his last words shook me up quite a bit. Had Hitler made a different decision, I would have died in Dachau, there wouldn’t have been a Jewish state called Israel, and most likely there wouldn’t have been any Jews left in the world. The idea that the Western democracies in general and the fate of the Jewish people in particular could have hinged on Hitler’s one decision, is a scenario of the worst nightmare.

He notices that his last words had an effect on me, and he smiled. “I see that my words are not wasted on you,” he said dryly. I nodded, and he continued with his lecture. “Coming back to our time, the Iranians rely on the West doing nothing about their development of nuclear bombs. They also rely on their secret weapon: an inexhaustible supply of Islamic suicide bombers, some of them who are already planted all over the Western World. Besides the Islamic countries that supply these suicide bombers, a second front has been opened, and that is the Internet with more than five thousand Islamic web sites, brain washing and urging young Moslems to become martyrs for Allah. They especially target young Moslems who live in Europe and the West in general. The Western intelligence authorities consider these web sites a bigger threat than the Iranian atomic bomb. Al-Qaeda recently issued a television broadcast that promised a devastating attack against its enemies this spring. As we all know, Al-Qaeda doesn’t make empty threats."

“Actually, I don’t understand why the Iranians bother to develop atomic bombs and bring the whole world down on them. Every suicide bomber is a potential atomic bomb, or a biological, chemical or dirty bomb that can be no less devastating than an atom bomb. The Americans and Europeans have no defense against this type of war."

“What can we do against this type warfare?” I asked him. “Well, you Israelis, should better prepare yourself for another round against Hezbollah. It will not be long in coming. It depends on the Iranians to give the word. This time you will have to destroy Hezbollah no matter what the cost may be."

“Of course, your next round against Hezbollah may involve the Syrians and the Iranians against you. The Iranians declared that they will not allow Hezbollah to be defeated no matter what and may launch their missiles against you. So will the Syrians. What will Israel do? It is unlikely that Israel will accept its destruction and may use their nuclear arsenal if the West will not come to their help. Perhaps our book of Revelation is not so wrong in describing that the end of the world would start at Armageddon, which we know as Har-Megiddo in Israel. The book of Revelations describe the last battle would be fought at Armageddon between the “Forces of good and the forces of evil.”

“And who would you call the forces of good ‘Israel or Islam?’ I asked looking him straight in the eyes. He gave me a startled look. “If I were a Moslem, I would have no problem to name the forces of good and it wouldn’t be Israel. As a Christian, I would probably name Israel, but as a Christian Arab I would prefer not to answer.”

We looked at each other. His answer made it clear where the Israeli Arabs stood, whether they were Moslems or Christians. And why should I be surprised? After all the Israeli Arabs call the establishment of the State of Israel their nakbah (disaster).

Is there a way to avoid the “Armageddon”?

“I think there are two ways to avoid it. One can be a major war which the West can win. As in World War Two, had the West attacked the Germans in 1936 the war would have lasted not more than a month with very few casualties. Their procrastination resulted in World War II with all its consequences. Eventually, the West will have to tackle the Iranians, it is better that they do it now to avert a world catastrophe later. With Iran defeated the Islamic onslaught will lose its base, and it may be the turning point in history to defeat the menace of extreme Islam. The majority of the Moslems don’t want this confrontation anyway.”

“You are painting a rather dark picture. When do you think we will have the next round against Hezbollah?” I asked. “I think they will attack again as soon as they are fully re-equipped and I think it will be during the summer, while Israel is still in a military and political turmoil.”

For a while, we sat in silence. He finished his second cup of coffee and got up. “I know what I am going to do. I am going to Canada to join my brother. This country is becoming much too dangerous for Christians as well,” he said. He thanked me for the coffee and we shook hands.

“You said there are two ways to avoid Armageddon?” I remembered to ask him.
“Sure, all the West has to do is follow Putin’s ways. He assassinates his enemies without blinking an eye. Assassinate the four or five Mullahs who run the show, Ahmadinejad, and a few more Iranian fanatics, and the War can be avoided. It may be difficult to do, but not impossible. With today’s hi- tech technology I am sure that new weapons against individuals are being prepared right now. I think it would be a better way of handling the matter than an all out war against Islam.”

The conversation with Francis was not more encouraging than the one I had with the Palestinian student five years ago. It was becoming clear that Israel may be on the forefront for the coming war of the West against Islam, unless we follow Francis’ suggestion to assassinate the heads of the snake, rather than going to war with Islam.
Solly Ganor is a survivor of Dachau and the author of Light One Candle.


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For Many Palestinians, 'Return' is not a Goal
« Reply #32 on: March 26, 2007, 05:54:59 AM »
For Many Palestinians, ‘Return’ Is Not a Goal
Published: March 26, 2007
NY Times

AMMAN, Jordan, March 22 — For nearly 60 years Nimr Abu Ghneim has waited, angrily but patiently, for the day he would return to the home he left in 1948.

Abdallah Zalatimo, a shop owner in Amman, Jordan, says of Palestinians who want to reclaim land, “What are we holding out for?”
A resident of a sprawling Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, Mr. Abu Ghneim, like most Arabs, says there can be no peace with Israel until he and 700,000 other Palestinians are permitted back to the homes they left in the 1948 fighting that led to Israel’s creation.

But with the Arab League expected to focus later this week on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, there is another, albeit quieter, approach being voiced, especially by younger and wealthier Palestinians: it may be neither possible nor desirable to go back.

“Every time people talk peace, you hear discussion of this subject,” said Hanin Abu Rub, 33, a Web content manager at a Jordanian Internet startup, Shoofeetv, who has been active in Palestinian politics. “But now it is a major part of the discussions we have. When people think, ‘Is it possible for us to go back?’ deep inside they now know they are not going back.”

Even having such a debate — rethinking a sacred principle — was once impossible. Now the discussion is centering on how to define the right of return in a new way. Some have come to see the issue as two separate demands: the acceptance, by Israel, that its creation caused the displacement and plight of the Palestinians; and the ability to move back to the lands they or their families left.

Almost no Palestinian questions the demand for Israel’s recognition of the right to return; many, however, now say returning is becoming less and less feasible.

The debate has been spurred again recently by plans to revive the so-called Arab Peace Initiative at the annual Arab League meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday and Thursday. The initiative, led by Saudi Arabia, offers Israel full recognition and permanent peace with the Arab states in return for Israel’s withdrawal to 1967 lines, the establishment of an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194” of 1948.

Resolution 194 says, “Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,” and calls for them to be compensated if they choose not to return.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have spoken of “positive” elements in the Saudi initiative, but they have expressed reservations about many parts, especially the issue of the refugees.

Israel says that Palestinians should have the right to return to a new Palestine, not to their original homes, especially considering that their numbers have exploded since the original 711,000 people fled in 1948. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees says it has 4.3 million registered Palestinian refugees.

But the prevailing Palestinian view is that the right of return is at the core of the dispute.

“The issue of the refugees is the Palestinian problem,” said Talat Abu Othman, chairman of the Jordanian chapter of the Committee to Protect the Right of Return, an independent Palestinian organization. “The rest, Jerusalem, the settlements and the Palestinian Authority are details. It is not about getting a few inches here or there, it is about the return itself. And even by demanding our return, we are walking away from some of our rights.”

For refugees in camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the occupied territories, the right of return is both a symbol of their plight and a financial consideration.

“The Israelis were betting that the elders would die, and the youth would forget,” said Mr. Abu Ghneim, the refugee, as he sat flanked by several other Palestinian elders who have campaigned for the right of return. “But we are here and the young haven’t forgotten. Our right to return to our homes and lands can never be replaced, not with money or anything else.”

He worries, he said, that the Arab states will give in to Israeli demands to drop the issue altogether.

Most Palestinians who fled to Jordan were granted citizenship and today account for well over half of the country’s population. Palestinian refugees living elsewhere, however, have survived with few rights and no citizenship.

A few Palestinians in Jordan now propose a more negotiable stance that seeks recognition from the Israelis, but also offers terms for restitution.

The right of return “is my right, which I have inherited from my parents and grandparents,” said Maha Bseis, 39, a Palestinian whose family comes from Jerusalem. “But if I have the right, I will not return because I was born and grew up here.”

In 2003, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in one of the most comprehensive surveys conducted on the subject, found that most Palestinians would be unlikely to move if they were granted the right of return.

“Once the Palestinian narrative is assured, then the tactical issue of where they will go becomes easy to approach,” said Khalil Shikaki, who directs the center. “Everybody wants the emotional question addressed; everybody is happy with the likely modalities.”

He added, “The novel aspect of the survey is, once we gave assurances about the right of return, the other issues became very resolvable,” meaning that many said they would take compensation and would not move.

For Abdallah Zalatimo, 41, the decision on where he will go was made long ago. Born in the United States while his father, a physician from a prominent Jerusalem family, was doing his specialization, Mr. Zalatimo returned to Amman in 1976, before attending college in the United States.

In the late 1980s he opened a business making Arabic sweets that has grown to include shops in several Arab countries with several million dollars in revenues.

“What right do I have to ask for awda when I am here and content?” Mr. Zalatimo said, using an Arabic word for return. “We’ve been accepting less and less every year. What are we holding out for?”

Mr. Zalatimo said the nearly singular focus of many Palestinian refugees on returning detracted from the daily hardships of Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, people who had far fewer options and whose conditions were far worse.

“I think the Palestinian cause today is about helping the Palestinians in the occupied territories to live a better life,” Mr. Zalatimo said. “My pressing issue is to solve the problems of the Palestinians that are living there.”

Suha Maayeh contributed reporting.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #33 on: March 26, 2007, 07:35:58 AM »
When do the jews and christians forced to flee from muslim countries get the right of return?


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The teaching and values of Israel's neighbors
« Reply #34 on: March 28, 2007, 10:07:09 AM »

The forum on which I found it asserts that the woman in question was coerced into doing a suicide killing because she was caught/tricked/lured into being caught at adultery.  I don't know if this is true.  Regardless, the values underlying this piece are quite remarkable. 

Would you be willing to trust your life in the hands of people like this?


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #35 on: March 28, 2007, 06:54:36 PM »
The so-called "Palestinians" have demonstrated over the decades that force is the only language they respect. As is the islamic tradition, treaties are for gaining advantage before war is continued, nothing more.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #36 on: March 29, 2007, 08:19:18 AM »
good thread. I am supposed to be working. :-P


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #37 on: March 29, 2007, 04:36:45 PM »

Then we are succeeding in our mission  :lol:  More seriously, part of my vision for this forum is to be a place that is part of intelligent and thoughtful people's day-- to be a place that they regularly turn to develop their understanding and thinking about what is going on.


From today's WSJ Online:

The Palestinian Sewer
"Further deadly sewage floods are feared after a wave of stinking waste and mud from a collapsed septic pool inundated a Gaza village, killing five people, including two babies," the Associated Press reports:

The collapse has been blamed on residents stealing sand from an embankment.

It highlighted the desperate need to upgrade Gaza's overloaded, outdated infrastructure--but aid officials say construction of a modern sewage treatment plant has been held up by constant Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

The report gets a bit more specific as to the meaning of "constant Israeli-Palestinian fighting":

Umm Naser is about 300 metres [300 million microns] from the border with Israel, in an area where Palestinians have frequently launched rockets into Israel and Israeli artillery and aircraft have fired back. The situation worsened after Hamas-linked militants captured an Israeli soldier last June in a cross-border raid, and Israel responded by invading northern Gaza.

The Jerusalem Post reported earlier this month that metal provided by Israel had been used in the construction of those terrorist rockets. And why was Israel selling the Palestinians metal? "For the construction of a sewage system in Gaza."

Palestinian babies drown in sewage because of the bloodlust of Palestinian grown-ups. What a fetid political culture.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #38 on: April 17, 2007, 08:25:23 AM »

ISRAEL/PNA: Israeli troops disguised as Palestinians killed Ashraf Hanaysheh, an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader, Reuters reported, citing a Palestinian source. The special unit of paramilitary border police saw Hanaysheh near the town of Jenin in the northern West Bank, identified him as a senior operative and surrounded him. When Hanaysheh drew a weapon in response, the officers shot and killed him. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is a group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.

EGYPT: Egyptian authorities have arrested a man accused of spying on the country's nuclear program for Israel, state Prosecutor Hisham Badawi said. The man, an engineer employed by Egypt's nuclear energy agency, allegedly took reports from his workplace with plans to exchange them for money. Two other foreigners, reportedly from Japan and Ireland, also have been charged.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #39 on: April 20, 2007, 07:12:14 PM »

4/13/2007   Clip No. 1426

Acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Sheik Ahmad Bahr from Hamas, Declared during a Friday Sermon at a Sudan Mosque that America and Israel Will Be Annihilated and Called upon Allah to Kill the Jews and the Americans "to the Very Last One"

Following are excerpts from a sermon delivered by Ahmad Bahr, acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which aired on Sudan TV on April 13, 2007.

Ahmad Bahr: "You will be victorious" on the face of this planet. You are the masters of the world on the face of this planet. Yes, [the Koran says that] "you will be victorious," but only "if you are believers." Allah willing, "you will be victorious," while America and Israel will be annihilated, Allah willing. I guarantee you that the power of belief and faith is greater than the power of America and Israel. They are cowards, as is said in the Book of Allah: "You shall find them the people most eager to protect their lives." They are cowards, who are eager for life, while we are eager for death for the sake of Allah. That is why America's nose was rubbed in the mud in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and everywhere.


America will be annihilated, while Islam will remain. The Muslims "will be victorious, if you are believers." Oh Muslims, I guarantee you that the power of Allah is greater than America, by whom many are blinded today. Some people are blinded by the power of America. We say to them that with the might of Allah, with the might of His Messenger, and with the power of Allah, we are stronger than America and Israel.


I tell you that we will protect the enterprise of the resistance, because the Zionist enemy understands on the language of force. It does not recognize peace or the agreements. It does not recognize anything, and it understands only the language of force. Our Jihad-fighting Palestinian people salutes its brother, Sudan.


The Palestinian woman bids her son farewell, and says to him: "Son, go and don't be a coward. Go, and fight the Jews." He bids her farewell and carries out a martyrdom operation. What did this Palestinian woman say when she was asked for her opinion, after the martyrdom of her son? She said: "My son is my own flesh and blood. I love my son, but my love for Allah and His Messenger is greater than my love for my son." Yes, this is the message of the Palestinian woman, who was over seventy years old – Fatima Al-Najjar. She was over seventy years old, but she blew herself up for the sake of Allah, bringing down many criminal Zionists.


Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, vanquish the Americans and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh Allah, show them a day of darkness. Oh Allah, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet – defeat the Jews and the Americans, and bring us victory over them.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #40 on: April 25, 2007, 08:44:58 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Hamas' Political Struggle

The armed wing of Palestinian Hamas movement, Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for launching 40 rockets and 70 mortar shells on parts of Israel bordering the Gaza Strip. The move brings to an end the five-month truce with the Jewish state. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has reportedly opted for a "limited military response" to the rocket attacks, which occurred after a daylong IDF offensive this past weekend that killed nine Palestinians, including five militants. The rocket fire, according to IDF officials, was a diversionary tactic to provide cover for a militant infiltration to nab IDF soldiers to up the stakes in the pending prisoner swap between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The cease-fire between the Hamas-led government and Israel is not exactly foolproof. Hamas is notorious for using various militant front organizations to periodically carry out attacks and remind Israel of its militant campaign's strength. But since Hamas swept parliamentary elections more than a year ago, the Hamas leadership has had to balance between proving itself as a legitimate political entity worthy of foreign aid and interaction, and as the leading Palestinian militant organization whose skilled use of explosive devices makes it capable of pressuring Israel into making concessions.

After five months of Hamas silence, however, the group made a point to take direct responsibility for the rocket attack that marked Israel's 59th Independence Day. This shift in stance comes more than two months after Hamas and Fatah leaders signed an agreement in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to reshuffle the government in an attempt to halt endless street clashes between the rival groups and ease the economic blockade on the Palestinian territories. Though Hamas and Fatah made some progress in creating a national unity government, security issues persist, the economic embargo is still largely intact and the government itself has yet to function. It is no surprise that Hamas' organizational strength has slowly begun to wither away, with increasingly more of the party's members growing disillusioned with a political agenda that has left them paralyzed and doubting whether a political future is really what is good for the Hamas movement.

This difference of opinion is becoming increasingly visible in the top rung of the Hamas command, where the group's external leadership led by exiled politburo chief Khaled Meshaal and internal leadership led by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh are battling for dominance over the movement. While exiled in Damascus, Syria, Meshaal and his colleagues do not wish to see Haniyeh compromise on Hamas' principles by making the appropriate concessions that would give the movement a moderate make-over and end up further sidelining the group's exiled leaders. Meshaal exerts a great degree of control over Hamas' militant wing, and he uses that control to prevent Hamas from making any significant political headway, as illustrated with Tuesdays's rocket barrage and subsequent claim of responsibility by the group's armed wing. Haniyeh, on the other hand, understands the need for Hamas to empower itself politically and avoid a major confrontation with Israel that would signal the (physical and political) end of Hamas' Gaza leadership.

These internal divisions are only exacerbated by the impasse on the pending prisoner exchange between the Israeli and Palestinian governments and an intense rivalry between Hamas and Fatah over control of the security forces. Five weeks into his job, Palestinian Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi tried to resign. Al-Qawasmi was chosen as an independent candidate to help quell the controversy over having a Hamas-ruled government in control of a security apparatus dominated by Fatah loyalists. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attempted to appease his Fatah followers by appointing Muhammad Dahlan, a senior Fatah figure and former interior minister, as national security adviser to restructure the security forces and thus undermine al-Qawasmi's authority. Dahlan's experience in cracking down on Hamas militants in the 1990s has made him a mortal enemy in the eyes of Hamas leaders, providing yet another point of contention between the two factions.

As we anticipated, the lawlessness in the territories has provided jihadist elements with fertile ground to take root in the Palestinian theater. The growing jihadist presence in the area has come to light with recent attacks against Western targets, including the American International School in Gaza, Western-style boutiques, music and cosmetics stores, as well as the recent kidnapping and killing of British Broadcasting Corp. journalist Alan Johnston, whose death was claimed by a previously unknown jihadist-oriented group called the Brigades of Tawhid and Jihad. Though Israel benefits from keeping the Palestinians in disarray, the attrition of Hamas' organizational control and the worsening security conditions in the Gaza Strip are creating the conditions for Israel to face a future in which it will be battling the jihadist menace along its own border.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #41 on: May 04, 2007, 10:58:27 AM »

From the Staff For the story behind the story...
Friday, May 4, 2007 11:39 a.m. EDT
Hamas Calls for 'Extermination of Jews'

The Palestinian militant organization Hamas not only wants the elimination of the state of Israel, but also the extermination of the Jews, according to the group’s newspaper.

"The extermination of Jews is Allah’s will and is for the benefit of all humanity, according to an article in the Hamas paper Al-Risalah,” the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports.

"The author of the article, Kan’an Ubayd, explains that the suicide operations carried out by Hamas are being committed solely to fulfill Allah’s wishes. Furthermore, Allah demanded this action, because ‘the extermination of the Jews is good for the inhabitants of the worlds.’”

PMW points out that Hamas’ justification for the extermination of the Jews echoes Adolph Hitler’s words in "Mein Kampf”: "Thus I believe today that I am acting according to the will of the almighty Creator: when I defend myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

Another Hamas statement monitored by the PMW called Judaism "a faith that is based on murder.”

And in a televised speech, Dr. Ahmad Bahar, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, called for the killing of Americans as well as Jews.

Bahar said his people were "afflicted by the cancerous lump, that is the Jews, in the heart of the Arab nation,” according to a transcript provided by the PMW.

"Be certain that America is on its way to disappear. America is wallowing [in blood] today in Iraq and Afghanistan. America is defeated and Israel is defeated . . . Allah, take hold of the Jews and their allies. Allah, take hold of the Americans and their allies . . . Allah, count them and kill them to the last one and don’t leave even one.”

© NewsMax 2007. All Rights Reserved.


Added on Saturday evening, what seems to be a better report from another forum:

Here is a fuller report of Bahr's speach. If you want to pass it around Marc, this is probably a better version: Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 1, 2007

Sheik Ahmad Bahr, acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, declared during a Friday sermon at a Sudan mosque that America and Israel will be annihilated and called upon Allah to kill Jews and Americans "to the very Last One". Following are excerpts from the sermon that took place last month, courtesy of MEMRI.

Ahmad Bahr began: "You will be victorious" on the face of this planet. You are the masters of the world on the face of this planet. Yes, [the Koran says that] "you will be victorious," but only "if you are believers." Allah willing, "you will be victorious," while America and Israel will be annihilated. I guarantee you that the power of belief and faith is greater than the power of America and Israel. They are cowards, who are eager for life, while we are eager for death for the sake of Allah. That is why America's nose was rubbed in the mud in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and everywhere.

Bahr continued and said that America will be annihilated, while Islam will remain. The Muslims "will be victorious, if you are believers." Oh Muslims, I guarantee you that the power of Allah is greater than America, by whom many are blinded today. Some people are blinded by the power of America. We say to them that with the might of Allah, with the might of His Messenger, and with the power of Allah, we are stronger than America and Israel.

The Hamas spokesperson concluded with a prayer, saying: "Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh Allah, show them a day of darkness. Oh Allah, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet defeat the Jews and the Americans, and bring us victory over them."
« Last Edit: May 05, 2007, 08:46:23 PM by Crafty_Dog »


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #42 on: May 05, 2007, 04:48:08 AM »
Move Over Olmert
Will Tzipi Livni be Israel's next prime minister?

Saturday, May 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

HAIFA, Israel--On Wednesday, Tzipi Livni gave a press conference calling for Ehud Olmert's resignation in the wake of the Winograd Commission's sharp critique of his performance during the Lebanon war. She also announced she would be challenging him in the Kadima Party primary elections. Mr. Olmert fumed, but stopped short of firing the minister of foreign affairs, aware of her popularity within the party and striving to keep his government above water.

Many Israelis, by contrast, found Ms. Livni's soft tone and refusal to step down a symptom of political weakness. Still, she is determined to keep alive both Kadima and the chances for Israeli-Arab peace. Amid the political tsunami that washed over Israel in the last four days, this is something of a feat.

In an interview given prior to the release of the Winograd Report--which lambasted Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz--Ms. Livni told me why she ought to stay in power. She has a peace-seeking vision for Israel's future, which she has consistently pursued since her appointment in March 2006 and throughout the 34 days of war with Lebanon. Despite current accusations of wishy-washiness, she is still considered by many voters to be the stuff prime ministers are made of. If not now, a little later--assuming Kadima survives.

Ms. Livni has the distinction of being Israel's least-hated leader, widely trusted and considered a spotless and serious stateswoman. The president is suspended and faces likely prosecution on rape, and both prime minister and finance minister are suspected of corruption; Ms. Livni's slate, by contrast, is glaringly clean. A good number of Israelis have considered her a viable heir to Mr. Olmert, and now, in the eye of the storm, many of her party members and supporters still do.
Yet the country is on a political roller-coaster. More than 100,000 protesters flocked to Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Thursday, calling for Messrs. Olmert and Peretz to step down. Minister Livni was not targeted. And significantly, the rally did not demand new elections. The reason is clear: Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is poised to win them. His support rose to 27% in recent polls. But many Israelis fear his leadership no less than they despise Mr. Olmert's. This concern is echoed by prominent voices world-wide. Germany's foreign minister Steinmeyer, on behalf of the EU, said on Thursday that "Israel's internal crisis must not be allowed to jeopardize the efforts to resuscitate the Middle East peace process."

If the polling box stays comfortably far, Ms. Livni faces four alternative futures: Mr. Olmert may survive and oust her; he may survive, swallow his pride and keep her in the cabinet, setting his sights on mending both army and peace process; Shimon Peres could take over if Mr. Olmert is forced to resign; or Ms. Livni would take the prime ministerial helm herself. The last three options leave ample room for her international vision to push onward.

This weekend, therefore, Ms. Livni's views are still deeply relevant to Israel's future.

We met in her modest, one-day-a-week Tel Aviv office. Somewhat slumped after a heavy lunch with EU ambassadors, Ms. Livni's energies promptly resurfaced as she recalled addressing a cheering Kadima audience. She told them she had left Likud last year because she couldn't support a political platform dominated by the word "No." "My colleagues and I established Kadima because we were sick and tired of Likud's political fallacies, both ideological and procedural. We wanted to spell out what Likud knows, but due to militant members of its electoral assembly, cannot utter: the principle of two states for two nations. The Kadima platform is based on a paper I originally drafted for the Likud; I took it from my computer, deleted the title 'Reaching Agreement in Likud,' and typed 'Platform' instead."

Ms. Livni's document won voters' confidence last March, scoring a historical victory for the newly founded party shortly after it was deprived of its natural leader, Ariel Sharon. Ms. Livni misses him, personally and politically: "He belonged to a generation of leaders whose commitment to Israel and to the Jewish people was obvious to the public even when they erred," she told me. His heirs, by contrast, must prove their worth. "Kadima represents a huge portion of the Israeli public that is sitting on the fence [between left and right]," she says. "We must regain its trust."

Center parties have never done well in this opinionated country, but Ms. Livni thinks the middle road will prevail. "It is a worldview, not a bunch of nondeciders. My vision of Israeli society and economy is clear and focused." In effect, her economic views are consistent with Kadima's social-minded but essentially free-market stance. Far more urgent for most Israelis is her international outlook. Can she get talks with the Palestinians going? Can she jump-start the peace process, cashing in on American support while courting a helpful European input? Will Israel's strongest female politician since Golda Meir deliver the goods which all her predecessors--Golda most of all--failed to bring home?

Born in 1958 to a seasoned right-wing family--her father was Knesset member for Likud--Tzipora Livni trained as a lawyer and worked for Mossad. Married with two children, she entered Israeli parliament in Netanyahu's list in 1999, and held several ministerial posts under Sharon. Her rise to political stardom was swift and relatively painless. Her political views shifted from right to center early in the new millennium. The longtime hawk, who at 16 years old demonstrated against Henry Kissinger's mission to get Israel out of the Sinai and the Golan Heights, became a supporter of major territorial compromise, buttressed by a vital condition: that not one Palestinian refugee be repatriated into the Jewish state as part of the final deal.

"The establishment of Israel," she says, "has removed 'the Jewish problem' from world agenda. A Palestinian state must do the same for all Palestinians, residents of the territories and exiles alike. It is the only solution for the refugee problem." Can this be anchored in the newly awakened Saudi peace initiative? Ms. Livni draws a clear demarcation: She would give her blessing to the Saudi plan--in fact, she did so from the day it was broached in 2002--as long as the Palestinian "right of return" is off the agenda. "Any border disagreement can be solved by negotiation," she says. Demography is another matter.

This statement not only matches a near-consensus among Jewish Israelis, it also reflects a constitutional credo. Ms. Livni and I have met during the lively debates of the public council of the Israeli Democracy Institute, a powerful independent think tank drafting a written constitution for the country and closely associated with legislators of all political shades. This ambitious project is based on Israel's self-definition as a "Jewish and democratic state" (though some Israelis, this writer included, would prefer to change the order of the adjectives). Ms. Livni is committed to both tags, along with "a strong protection of individual rights." Put together, "these are the Israeli values that every immigrant should memorize, just like the American values in the U.S." Not all Israelis would agree, I retort. Ms. Livni thinks that the solid center is on her side. So, by implication, is the political left. "The real political fault-line runs between those who accept the 'Jewish and democratic' principle, and such religious groups who demand Jewish presence in as much of the Land of Israel as possible. For them, each passing day is a net gain. For me, every decision must substantiate Israel's dual-value vision. Therefore, the land must be divided into two nation states."
Unlike her former Likud friends, she chose to face reality: Avery large Palestinian minority within Israel's final borders would kill off either its Jewish or its democratic character. A generous territorial compromise is her way to square the ensuing circle. This was Kadima's initial raison d'etre, before it slalomed into Lebanon and corruption charges.

Till recently, Israel did not officially respond to the Saudi peace plan. A mistake? "We ought to have put our concept on the table years ago," Ms. Livni concedes. "By neglecting to do so, we lost opportunities of launching a viable process." Her tenure at the ministry of foreign affairs is marked by an effort to advertise a clearer Israeli stance. "There is a pragmatic Muslim-Arab world, which conceives Iran as the primary threat rather than Israel and its [West Bank] settlements. The fundamental solution we can offer these countries is based on two equilibriums: a Palestinian state entailing a [non-repatriation] solution for the Palestinian refugees, and a border agreement entailing [Israel dealing with] the Jewish settlements." The Oslo accord, negotiated by Yitzhak Rabin's labor-led coalition, was therefore a dire error. "Leaving the refugee issue hanging out for separate negotiation is our worst-case scenario. The two-state concept incorporates the solution for the refugees' problem. Israel agrees to a major border compromise in return for a clear international statement about the non-return of the refugees. We have accomplished this with the Bush administration, and I have asked for a similar statement from the Europeans. My interlocutors tell me it makes sense."

Ms. Livni is convinced that an independent, peaceful Palestine is in Israel's best interest. "I want to accomplish a viable Palestine. It is in our interest, because the Palestinian nation state would vouchsafe the Jewish nation state." Are moderate Muslims part of the solution? "Oh yes. They are crucial for strengthening the Palestinian moderates, who are unfortunately weak."

In recent months, Ms. Livni has publicly called for immediate dialogue on a prospective Palestinian state, based on a new common denominator. Iranian Shiite ideology is now a shared enemy, and Middle Eastern extremism no longer stems from the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. "The camps and the alignments have changed. The solution depends on Israelis, moderate Palestinians and pragmatic Arabs and Muslims working together. The two nation state concept is the touchstone of moderation."
Like many Israelis, Ms. Livni feels that television is the enemy of peace-promoting subtlety. "The electronic media does not generate moderation: neither Al-Jazeera television, nor the Internet insofar as it serves al Qaeda. Public opinion has become a tool for extremists, and [Muslim] moderates are afraid to speak up." Another good reason, I tell Ms. Livni, to cultivate every bud of European-Muslim moderation. She consents, then lashes out against what she calls "attempts to theologize the conflict. I cannot solve a religious strife," she says, "but I can solve a conflict between nations."

The Road Map is of course a starting point, although Ms. Livni regrets its vagueness on the refugee issue. Territorial compromise, furthermore, demands mutual flexibility. "We must explain--mainly to Europe--that a wholesale return to the 1967 border is no magic solution. It would bust the dream of a Palestinian state, because there was no geographical or political connection between Gaza and the West Bank. So amendments would be necessary, and both sides would appeal for them. I believe in bilateral negotiation."

"Is Europe a helpful member of the peace-brokering Quartet?" I ask. Most Israelis are painfully suspicious of the old continent's true feelings toward the Jewish state. Ms. Livni is quick to praise the EU's new presence in the Middle East. After all, the deployment of European forces in Lebanon last summer is partly credited to her diplomatic performance. "Yet Israel's image among the European public is remote from reality," she adds. "European leaders told me they must take their own public opinion and media on board. Some EU members, impatient to move on, might soften the conditions imposed on the Palestinians, and speed the process in the wrong direction. If they tell the Palestinians they need not recognize Israel's existence, then we are back to 1947." For the German chancellor, though, Ms. Livni has nothing but praise. "Angela Merkel is a leader with strong values. Like myself, she refuses to accept that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. She has a moral backbone."

Nothing of the sort can be said of Vladimir Putin. "Russia is recently edging away from American positions, and from the Quartet. It aims for independent policies, softer on Iran, accommodating to Hamas." A pause, and then a small concession to Israeli frankness: "Russia's wish to play a different game, vis a vis the Americans, is not helpful." What of the U.S. after President Bush? Israeli commentators suggest that a Democratic White House would pull some carpet from under our feet. On this, Ms. Livni is the diplomat again. "I take the American outlook I have discussed here to be bipartisan."

At close quarters, Ms. Livni is very much the sharp and likeable Sabra gal that middle Israel cannot dislike. She has genuine and refreshing faith in Israeli society and economy. The recent corruption investigations are a healthy sign, she says. Norms are changing and a painful cleanup operation would leave the country stronger, its ethical standards even higher. This utterance is no lip service: Israelis have good feelers for fakes, and Ms. Livni's optimism strikes even her political rivals as authentic.

Asked to comment on the outstanding performance of the Israeli economy throughout these years of crisis, her face lightens up. "This is amazing indeed: war in Lebanon, political dramas, and investments keep pouring in. I ascribe it to the human quality and originality of a group of Israelis. . . . Our economic policy has remained stable, despite the frequent government changes. We have not tilted between ideologies, but kept a consistent middle path. The Israeli public, grumpy as it is, has faith in its economy. So do international investors." Significantly, Israel's stock exchange did not even blink during this week's Winograd mayhem.

Ms. Livni's particular strength is the solid, optimistic, almost old-fashioned Israeli faith in her moral vision. Widespread public trust has been her greatest asset. Ironically, her greatest liability is the party she co-founded, fraught from its infancy by an unending tide of drama: Ariel Sharon's stroke, Mr. Olmert's Lebanese misadventure, Labor's unsuccessful chief as coalition partner, the string of probes and investigations, and now the Winograd showdown. If Kadima sinks, it is hard to see how Ms. Livni will remain afloat. If Kadima survives, however, Ms. Livni may yet be called upon to navigate the ship of state through the world's wildest water course.

Ms. Oz-Salzberger is the Leon Liberman Chair of Modern Israel Studies at Monash University and a senior lecturer in history at the University of Haifa.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #43 on: May 07, 2007, 06:29:14 AM »
May 6, 2007 -- EACH time I visit Israel, I come home more pro-Israeli - and more worried about Israel's future.

The nation has been a stunning success, as close to a miracle as humanity achieved over the last, horrid century. But Israel is also a victim of that success. Built - like the United States - by the "old country's" rejects and outsiders, Israel's triumph is a slap in Europe's face. Europe was comfortable with its image of the Jew as a narrow-shouldered rabbinical student the local toughs could bully. But Europeans don't like Jews with muscles.  As for Israel's neighbors, they had 13 centuries to make a go of "Palestine." Instead, they turned the Land of Milk and Honey into a desert.

The ecological reclamation of the land of Israel is nearly as dramatic as the creation of a Jewish state. (Indeed, environmentalists of real integrity should count among Israel's strongest advocates.) That return to the garden is as humiliating to feckless Arab cultures as their military defeats.

And we won't even talk about Israel's introduction of rule-of-law democracy into the wretchedly governed Middle East.

The point is that, whatever Israel does or doesn't do, it will always have plenty of enemies. No matter how self-destructive and murderous Palestinian behavior may be in Gaza, how nakedly corrupt Palestinian leaders are, or how hypocritical Arab governments remain, the global left will always make excuses for them, while blaming Israel for every boil on a terrorist's backside.

SO why should Israel surren der any land to its enemies, if it gets in return nothing but empty promises and more security problems?

The reason has nothing to do with justice or sense, but with one of those oddities of the international system, "world opinion." I wish Israel could keep every inch of ground it now holds. But the reality is that global leaders who don't know Gaza from Giza will demand that Israel give up turf.

Some of those pressures can be shrugged off. But not all.

In this unjust world, Israel will be forced to make very difficult choices. Some of the toughest will have to do with the land it must surrender to thugs who'll turn it into yet another patch of self-made Arab misery. And there's a very real danger that, for internal political reasons, a future Israeli government will make faulty decisions.

ISRAEL must be severely prag matic, distinguishing between strategic terrain and evocative terrain - between those stretches of land critical to security and those whose appeal is purely emotional.

Sounds sensible and easy, but it isn't.

Israel's internal enemies are the rogue, extremist settlers who invoke a real-estate-magnate god to occupy West Bank territory that the state doesn't need and can't digest - and whose seizure plays into the hands of Israel's foes and complicates the support of her all-too-few friends.

Yet the fateful evolution of the Israeli parliamentary system has made those who return the least benefit to Israel - who drain its resources and give nothing back - into political kingmakers.

Jews who insist that their god cares more about a plot of bedeviled dirt than the reverence in their hearts are behaving like Arab militants (complete with the intolerance). No religious text is a valid deed.

Don't get me wrong: Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Christians have a stronger claim to Alexandria, Antioch and Istanbul than Muslims do to Jerusalem.

But when it comes to strategic terrain, forget about Hebron - the West Bank town that's home to less than 1,000 Israeli settlers, and well over 100,000 Palestinians. It's just one of the many settlements that hurt Israel's security instead of helping it.

SO what land truly matters to Israel's survival (assuming, for a moment, that Iran won't be permitted to build a nuclear arsenal)?

Israel can never surrender the Golan Heights. We might as well be honest about it. Syria repeatedly - three times - attacked Upper Galilee from the Golan. Three strikes and you're out.

Syria's a phony state, anyway, its borders drawn to please France. Israel has administered the Golan longer - and far better - than post-independence Damascus did.

Borders change. Get over it.

Elsewhere, though, traditional strategists have it wrong. They claim that whoever holds the mountainous "spine" running down through the West Bank controls the land that now comprises Israel. But Israel's survival and victorious wars disprove that "law."

What matters is control of the lines of communication - the roads - that enable Israel to shift military forces rapidly, and the control of foreign borders across which weapons can be infiltrated.

Thus, control of the Jordan Valley and its vital north-south highway is essential. The string of hilltop settlements east of Jerusalem that dominate the direct route to Jordan can never be given up.

And the recently floated scheme to swap Arab towns in northern Israel for part of the West Bank is madness - it would cost Israel control of a militarily vital highway from the coast into Galilee.

IN short, there are vital loca tions within the West Bank. They're just not the ones obsessing the fanatics who shame their faith.

If Israel doesn't do a cold- blooded analysis of what it truly needs to retain, the world will ask too much, its government will make decisions based upon political pressure rather than military necessity - and the result will be a far-worse mess than the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip created.

Israel must do what its survival requires. As the interim Winograd Report made clear on Monday, last summer's duel with Hezbollah was disastrous. Now Israel's enemies smell blood. Instead of the longed-for era of peace, we'll see no end of violence in the Middle East.

THERE'S no good solution to the region's problems. There may not even be any bad solutions that work. The failed civilization surrounding Israel may be hopeless - a possibility we pretend away because we cannot bear the implications.

But Israel can't pretend anything away. In a world in which so many openly seek its destruction - while others secretly long for the same thing - Israel is going to have to play flawless political chess. That means giving up the spaces on the board that don't help it checkmate its enemies.

Ralph Peters' most recent book is "Never Quit The Fight."


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #44 on: May 08, 2007, 08:55:37 AM »

Jerusalem Before Israel
At the twilight of empire, the origins of conflict.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Editor's note: The roots of Arab-Israeli enmity are usually traced to Palestine's administration as a British Mandate (1920-48). But in "Jerusalem 1913," Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Dockser Marcus--the paper's former Middle East correspondent (1991-98) and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for her coverage of improving cancer-survival rates--finds that the conflict's origins lie deeper in the past, in the Ottoman Empire before World War I. She begins by noting a long period of mutual accommodation that would vanish with the rise of modern nationalism. Some excerpts:

The Ottoman occupation of Jerusalem in the 16th century until the early 20th was often marked by peaceful coexistence: "Twice a year, Jews, Muslims, and Christians celebrated together at the shrine of Simon the Just, a popular biblical figure. For a single coin, you could buy a ride to the tombs on a camel or donkey. Their owners would lead the animals from café to café soliciting business, the colored rocks worn around the beasts' necks to protect them from the evil eye clicking rhythmically as they made their way down the street. During the monthlong Muslim holiday of Ramadan, nighttime shows featured entertainers who would make shadow puppets against the walls of the café, often using the puppets' dialogue to poke fun at local officials or make veiled political commentary on the latest events. During the Jewish holiday of Purim, children from all over the city dressed up in colorful costumes to celebrate and exchange sweets. The Arabs even had a name for Purim in their own language, which translated as 'the sugar holiday.' "

Theodor Herzl, the author of "The Jewish State," which called in 1897 for a Jewish homeland, visited Palestine after the first Zionist Congress that same year had settled on it as the best site for a Jewish home: "Herzl was everywhere greeted as a kind of prophet. Children lined up at the village gates to sing to him, dressed in white, freshly laundered linen and bearing gifts of chocolate. Old men rushed to his side clutching bread and salt, a traditional gesture of hospitality. Groups of farmers left their fields and rode out to meet him on horseback, cheering him on and shooting their rifles in the air as he approached.

"During an appearance at one Jewish settlement, three elderly men trailed behind him as he walked, falling to their knees to kiss the tracks he left in the sand. That incident so unsettled Herzl that afterward he made certain never to be seen riding a white donkey while in the country, for fear that people would think he considered himself the Messiah and turn him in to the Ottoman authorities."

World War I dissolved the Ottoman Empire, leaving Palestine, the nascent Jewish homeland, in the hands of British administrators for nearly 30 years. After gaining its independence in 1948, the country newly named Israel joined the United Nations the following year: "After the state of Israel had been founded and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was well under way, many looked back, trying to pinpoint the moment when they realized that that conflict was inevitable. David Ben-Gurion, who became Israel's first prime minister, said it was the day in 1915 that he sat on a train waiting to leave Jerusalem at the order of [Ahmed Djemal, the city's Ottoman ruler], who banished many known Zionist activists from the city.

"Ben-Gurion had tried to turn himself into an Ottoman--studying Turkish, attending law school in Constantinople, trying to organize a Jewish legion to fight on behalf of the Ottoman Empire in the war, and even donning a red fez. But all these gestures had been to no avail, for at the end of the day, Djemal had looked at him and seen not an Ottoman but an advocate for a future Jewish state, and had him jailed in Jerusalem. . . . Upon his release from jail, he was exiled to Alexandria. Later, in his books and memoirs, he recalled vividly a particular moment on the train, when an Arab acquaintance of his, whom he called Yeya Effendi, walked by and saw him waiting to leave. The men embraced, exchanged news and greetings, and then Yeya Effendi asked him where he was going.

"Ben-Gurion told him that he was being exiled, ordered never to return to Jerusalem. Yeya Effendi held him in the embrace of a true friend, mourning his loss of their shared city. Then he looked at Ben-Gurion and said something that Ben-Gurion pondered for the entire train ride to Alexandria. 'As your friend, I am sad,' Yeya Effendi told him. 'But as an Arab, I rejoice.' "

You can buy "Jerusalem 1913" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #45 on: May 10, 2007, 09:52:38 AM »


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #46 on: May 11, 2007, 04:12:45 AM »
Posted because of who writes it.  From today's NY Times Op Ed page:

Give the Arab Peace Initiative a Chance
Published: May 11, 2007

ALMOST a year has passed since Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon, time enough to draw lessons from the conflict and reflect on its consequences.

Last week, Israel’s Winograd Commission published an interim report scrutinizing Israel’s conduct during what it called the country’s most recent military “campaign.” But the report failed to draw the most essential lesson from the July war and the wars that preceded it: military action does not give the people of Israel security. On the contrary, it compromises it. The only way for the people of Israel and the Arab world to achieve stability and security is through a comprehensive peace settlement to the overarching Arab-Israeli conflict.

It is in this vein that participants in the March Arab League summit in Riyadh called again for a peace proposal originally put forward at a similar gathering in Beirut in 2002. The Arab Peace Initiative, as it is called, was introduced by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by all the Arab countries. It offers Israel full recognition by the 22 members of the Arab League in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders, thus allowing the Palestinians to create a viable independent state on what is only 22 percent of historic Palestine.

This is a high price but one the Arabs are willing to pay, as it is the only realistic path to peace that conforms to all United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions addressing the conflict, and ensures the right of return of the Palestinian people. The Arab states are not seeking to wipe Israel off the map. Rather, we are seeking the legitimate goals of an armistice, secure borders and the ability of all of the region’s people to live in peace and security.

Last summer’s war was only the latest eruption of violence in this enduring conflict, and hindered prospects for peace rather than creating opportunities for it. The Winograd interim report criticized the Israeli government’s war goals as being unclear and unachievable, yet the Israeli Army came dangerously close to achieving the stated goal of its chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz: to “turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.”

The report made no mention of the sheer damage inflicted. Lebanon’s airports, bridges and power plants were systematically ravaged. Villages were destroyed, and more than an eighth of its population displaced. The bombardment caused an estimated $7 billion in damage and economic losses while leaving behind 1.2 million cluster bomblets that continue to kill and maim innocent people.

Most important, the war took the lives of more than 1,200 Lebanese citizens, the vast majority of them civilians. This epitomizes the protracted injustice Arabs feel as a result of Israel’s record of destruction of their lives and livelihood, its oppression of the Palestinian people and its continued illegal occupation of Arab lands. The July war proved that militarism and revenge are not the answer to instability; compromise and diplomacy are.

This should be the impetus for Israel to seek a comprehensive solution based on the Arab Peace Initiative. The Winograd Commission’s failure to discuss the war’s implications for peace prospects leads one to wonder whether Israel would rather allow this conflict to fester as long as it is under relatively controlled conditions. Its goal should be regional peace and security, which can be realized only through a just resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The inevitable alternative is increased extremism, intolerance and destruction.

Like the Israelis, the Arab people have legitimate security concerns, as evidenced by what Lebanon endured last summer. So often we have seen parties to the conflict use force in the name of self-defense and security, only to further aggravate the situation and compromise the very security they seek. These escalations also occur because there has never been full compliance with international law. Thus, illegal occupations, over-flights, detentions, house demolitions, humiliating checkpoints, attacks and counterattacks continue to heighten the anger and despair. Perpetuating hostility and distrust in this manner goes against the tide of confidence-building this region needs to foster stability. The conflict has persisted for so long, generating so many tangled consequences, that diplomacy remains the only option.

Because of its unique role in the world, the United States has a responsibility to display leadership and courage in helping the two sides achieve a just and lasting peace. The people of the Middle East aspire simply to live in freedom and dignity, without constant threats of violence, occupation and war. This is achievable if we demonstrate political will and learn the harsh lessons from the past. Leading these peace efforts is not only an American responsibility, it is in the United States’ interests: peace in the Middle East would offer a gateway to reconciliation with the Muslim world during these times of increased divisiveness and radicalism.

The Winograd Commission tried to draw conclusions about the Israeli political and military leadership from their actions during the July war. The correct lesson is that the only path to long-lasting peace is itself peaceful. With the support of the United States and its partners in the Quartet on the Middle East — the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — we hope to use the Arab Peace Initiative as the foundation to finally bring about a comprehensive peace to our troubled region. Only then will the people of the Middle East be able to finally realize their shared goal of living in freedom with security and lasting peace.

Fuad Siniora is the prime minister of Lebanon.


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The Six Day War
« Reply #47 on: May 20, 2007, 04:41:56 AM »
Houston Chronicle
May 17, 2007
Viewpoints, Outlook

May 17, 2007, 8:44PM
History tells why Israel's mistrust of Arabs is deep



There has hardly been an Arab peace plan in the past 40 years — including the current Saudi version — that does not demand a return to the status quo of June 4, 1967. Why is that date so sacred? Because it was the day before the outbreak of the Six Day War in which Israel scored one of the most stunning victories of the 20th century. The Arabs have spent four decades trying to undo its consequences.

The real anniversary of the war should be three weeks earlier. On May 16, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser demanded the evacuation from the Sinai Peninsula of the U.N. buffer force that had kept Israel and Egypt at peace for 10 years. The U.N. complied, at which point Nasser imposed a naval blockade of Israel's only outlet to the south, the port of Eilat — an open act of war.

How Egypt came to this reckless provocation is a complicated tale (chronicled in Michael Oren's magisterial history Six Days of War) of aggressive intent compounded with fateful disinformation. An urgent and false Soviet warning that Israel was preparing to attack Syria led to a cascade of intra-Arab maneuvers that in turn led Nasser, the champion of pan-Arabism, to mortally confront Israel with a remilitarized Sinai and a southern blockade.

Why is this still important? Because that three-week period between May 16 and June 5 helps explain Israel's 40-year reluctance to give up the fruits of the Six-Day War — the Sinai, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza — in return for paper guarantees of peace. Israel had similar guarantees from the 1956 Suez War, after which it evacuated the Sinai in return for that U.N. buffer force and for assurances from the Western powers of free passage through the Straits of Tiran.

All this disappeared with a wave of Nasser's hand. During those three interminable weeks, President Lyndon Johnson tried to rustle up an armada of countries to run the blockade and open Israel's south. The effort failed dismally.

It is hard to exaggerate what it was like for Israel in those three weeks. Egypt, already in an alliance with Syria, formed an emergency military pact with Jordan. Iraq, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco began sending forces to join the coming fight.

With troops and armor massing on Israel's every frontier, jubilant broadcasts in every Arab capital hailed the imminent final war for the extermination of Israel.

"We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants," declared PLO head Ahmed Shuqayri, "and as for the survivors — if there are any — the boats are ready to deport them."

For Israel, the waiting was excruciating and debilitating. Israel's citizen army had to be mobilized. As its soldiers waited on the various fronts for the world to rescue the nation from peril, Israeli society ground to a halt and its economy began bleeding to death. Army Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, later to be hailed as a war hero and even later as a martyred man of peace, had a nervous breakdown. He was incapacitated to the point of incoherence by the unbearable tension of waiting with the life of his country in the balance.

We know the rest of the story. Rabin recovered in time to lead Israel to victory. But we forget how perilous was Israel's condition. The victory hinged on a successful attack on Egypt's air force on the morning of June 5. It was a gamble of astonishing proportions. Israel sent the bulk of its 200-plane air force on the mission, fully exposed to antiaircraft fire and missiles. Had they been detected and the force destroyed, the number of planes remaining behind to defend the Israeli homeland — its cities and civilians — from the Arab air forces' combined 900 planes was ... 12.

We also forget that Israel's occupation of the West Bank was entirely unsought. Israel begged Jordan's King Hussein to stay out of the conflict. Engaged in fierce combat with a numerically superior Egypt, Israel had no desire to open a new front just yards from Jewish Jerusalem and just miles from Tel Aviv. But Nasser personally told Hussein that Egypt had destroyed Israel's air force and airfields and that total victory was at hand. Hussein could not resist the temptation to join the fight. He joined. He lost.

The world will soon be awash with 40th anniversary retrospectives on the war — and on the peace of the ages that awaits if Israel would only return to June 4, 1967. But Israelis are cautious. They remember the terror of that unbearable May when, with Israel possessing no occupied territories whatsoever, the entire Arab world was furiously preparing Israel's imminent extinction. And the world did nothing.

Krauthammer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C. (


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Re: Israel, and its neighbors
« Reply #48 on: June 05, 2007, 05:40:34 AM »
No Pyrrhic Victory
Most of the conventional wisdom about the Six Day War is wrong.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

On the morning of June 5, 1967, a fleet of low-flying Israeli jets surprised the Egyptian air force on the ground and destroyed it. This act of military pre-emption helped save Israel from what Iraq's then-President Abdul Rahman Aref had called, only several days earlier, "our opportunity . . . to wipe Israel off the map." Yet 40 years later Israel's victory is widely seen as a Pyrrhic one--"a calamity for the Jewish state no less than for its neighbors," according to a recent editorial in The Economist.

And the alternative was?

The Six Day War is supposed to be the great pivot on which the modern history of the Middle East hinges, the moment the Palestinian question came into focus and Israel went from being the David to the Goliath of the conflict. It's a reading of history that has the convenience of offering a political prescription: Rewind to the status quo ante June 5, arrange a peace deal, and the problems that have arisen since more or less go away. Or so the thinking goes.

Yet the striking fact is that all of Israel's peace agreements--with Egypt in 1979, with the Palestinians in 1993, with Jordan and Morocco in 1994--were achieved in the wake of the war. The Jewish state had gained territory; the Arab states wanted it back. Whatever else might be said for the land-for-peace formula, it's odd that the people who are its strongest advocates are usually the same ones who bemoan the apparent completeness of Israel's victory in 1967.

Great events have a way not only of reshaping the outlook for the future but also our understanding of the past, usually in the service of clarity. "Why England Slept" was an apt question to ask of Britain in the mid-1930s, but it made sense only after Sept. 1, 1939. By contrast, the Six Day War laid a thick fog over what came before. Today, the pre-1967 period is remembered (not least by many Israelis) as a time when the country's conscience was clear and respectable world opinion admired "plucky little Israel." Yet these were the same years when Israel lived within what Abba Eban, its dovish foreign minister, called "Auschwitz borders," with only nine miles separating the westernmost part of the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea.
It is also often said today that the Six Day War humiliated the Arabs and propelled the region into future rounds of fighting. Yet President Aref of Iraq had prefaced his call to destroy Israel by describing the war as the Arabs' chance "to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948." It is said that the war inaugurated the era of modern terrorism, as the Arab world switched from a strategy of conventional confrontation with Israel to one of "unconventional" attacks. Yet hundreds of Israelis had already been killed in fedayeen raids in Israel's first 19 years of existence.

It is said that the Palestinian movement was born from Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Yet the Palestine Liberation Organization was already in its third year of operations when the war began. It is said that Israel enjoyed international legitimacy so long as it lived behind recognized frontiers. Yet those frontiers were no less provisional before 1967 than they were after. Only after the Six Day War did the Green Line come to be seen as the "real" border.

Fog also surrounds memories of the immediate aftermath of the war. To read some recent accounts, a more sagacious Israel could have followed up its historic victory with peace overtures that would have spared everyone the bloody entanglements of its occupation of the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Or, failing that, it could have resisted the lure of building settlements in the territories in order not to complicate a land-for-peace transaction.

In fact, the Israeli cabinet agreed on June 19 to offer the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace deals. In Khartoum that September, the Arab League declared "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." As for Jewish settlements, hardly any were built for years after the war: In 1972, for instance, only about 800 settlers had moved to the West Bank.

It's true that the war caused Israel to lose friends abroad. "Le peuple juif, sûr de lui meme et dominateur" ("the Jewish people, sure of themselves and domineering") was Charles de Gaulle's memorable line in announcing, in November 1967, that France would no longer supply Israel militarily. Such were the Jewish state's former friends.

On the other hand, Israel gained new friends. The U.S., whose declared policy during the war was to be "neutral in thought, word and deed," would never again pretend such indifference, something that made all the difference to Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Tens of thousands of American and European Jews immigrated to Israel after 1967, sensing it was a country not on the brink of extinction. Christian evangelicals also became Israel's firm friends, expanding the political base of American support beyond its traditionally narrow, Jewish-Democratic core.

None of this is to say that the Six Day War was an unalloyed (or unironic) blessing for Israel. By gaining control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel swapped its old territorial insecurities for new demographic ones. As Palestinian numbers grew, Israel's efforts to find a new strategic equilibrium--first through negotiations with the PLO, later through unilateral withdrawals--became increasingly frenetic. Who knows whether they will succeed.
Then again, when the sun rose on June 5, 1967, Israel was a poor, desperately vulnerable country, which threw the dice on its own survival in the most audacious military strike of the 20th century. It is infinitely richer and more powerful today, sure in its alliance with the U.S. and capable of making concessions inconceivable 40 years ago. If these are the fruits of Israel's "Pyrrhic victory," it needs more such of them.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

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slanted views of the liberal media bias against Israel
« Reply #49 on: June 09, 2007, 08:52:57 AM »
I hope this post is appropriate here, I feel that as of late the liberal media never reports the attacks against Israel with the same zeal as it does when the case is reversed and Israel is defending herself. Just my $.02

JERUSALEM, June 9 — At least four Palestinian gunmen using an armored vehicle and grenade launchers broke through Israel’s border fence from Gaza today and fought a gun battle with Israeli soldiers, while Israeli troops entered Gaza near the southern town of Rafah to search for weapons and tunnels used to smuggle arms and explosives from Egypt.

In the border fence incursion, at the old Kissufim crossing near Deir el Balah, there were conflicting reports that one of the Palestinian gunmen was killed, that some were still inside Israel and that three of the four had returned to Gaza.

The attack evoked the Hamas raid into Israel a year ago, in which several Israeli soldiers were killed and another, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was captured. He is still being held somewhere in Gaza. Negotiations for a prisoner exchange have been intermittent but have thus far faltered over Hamas demands for prisoners Israel does not want to release.

Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, told Gaza radio stations that at least four militants broke through the Gaza border fence and were fighting Israeli troops. “It is difficult to storm,” he said. “But when they entered in a surprise, they confused the enemy.” He said that the raid was carried out with the help of members of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, affiliated with Fatah.

An Israeli army spokesman confirmed that “four or five gunmen infiltrated through the border fence into Israel.” They approached an Israeli army post and there was a gun battle, in which the Israelis confirmed shooting one man, but did not know his status, the spokesman said.

The gunmen used an armored jeep with United Nations markings to ram the border post, according to Abu Ali, a spokesman for the Al Aksa brigades. Other reports said the jeep was disguised to look like an Israeli army vehicle.

Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.

(I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head.)