Saturday, May 30, 2009
Israel fumes: Abbas uses US visit to undermine Netanyahu
-Haviv Rettig Gur
Senior Israeli officials were dismissive and defiant, following Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's visit to Washington, highlighted by a report in which PA officials said the leadership is waiting for US pressure to bring down the Netanyahu government.
The report in [the] Washington Post, came a day after Abbas's White House meeting with US President Barack Obama. "It will take a couple of years" for this American pressure to force Netanyahu from office, the Washington Post quoted one of Abbas's officials as saying...
Setting out what the newspaper called "a hardline position," the Palestinian leader conditioned a resumption of talks with Israel on Netanyahu's agreement to a halt in all settlement building and formal Israeli government acceptance of Palestinian statehood. Abbas was quoted as saying. "Until then, we can't talk to anyone."
Abbas "rejects the notion that he should make any comparable concession - such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state...
"What's interesting about Abbas's hardline position," wrote the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl, "is what it says about the message that Obama's first Middle East steps have sent to Palestinians and Arab governments."
While the Bush administration placed the onus for change in the Middle East on the Palestinians, Diehl wrote, the Obama administration had shifted the focus to Israel. The upshot is that "in the Obama administration, so far, it's easy being Palestinian," Diehl wrote.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Elite anti-terror police commandos killed Abd el-Majid Dudin, police announced. Dudin was a Hamas armed wing leader in the West Bank and was the brain behind a series of deadly terror attacks in Israel.
Dudin was a fugitive for 14 years. He masterminded, among other attacks, an attack on a public bus in Jerusalem and a similar attack in Ramat Gan.
The police commandos, acting in cooperation with the IDF's Yehuda Brigade, arrived in the village of Dura. When they reached the house where Dudin was hiding, he opened fire at the forces. During the fire exchange Dudin suffered a gun wound and was killed. None of the Israeli troops were hurt in the gun battle.
The simple truth can bring peace -Max Singer
The Palestinians teach their people that no Jewish kingdom ever existed in the land they call Palestine, and that there was never a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
For most Palestinians, these are "facts" learned in school and taken for granted. This is not merely an "alternative narrative." This false story helps explain the Palestinian refusal to make peace, because so long as Palestinians think the Jews were never here before, they will see Jews as a foreign colonial implant with no claim to the land. Modern Israel's claim depends on the Jews' historic connection to the territory. Without this history, the Jews would indeed be foreign invaders, not a people returning home.
Denial of the Jews' connection to the land is much more important than Holocaust denial. Israel's claim to the land has nothing to do with the Holocaust. The international decision that Palestine should be a Jewish homeland was made by the League of Nations a generation before the Holocaust.
Israeli diplomats should call on the U.S. to end the Palestinians' denial of history. There are plenty of Muslim sources that can be used to teach the facts.
Loudly castigating and threatening North Korea and then failing to implement sanctions is worse than doing nothing at all. It will only embolden Pyongyang and send a dangerous message to others - Iran is surely watching - about the fecklessness of the major powers.
(New York Times)
North Korea-Iran Cooperation on Nuclear Weapons -Bret Stephens
North Korea's second bomb test last week might also have been Iran's first. [T]he only thing between Iran and a bomb is a long-range cargo plane.
(Wall Street Journal)
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
No Common Ground -Jeffrey Goldberg
Benny Morris's new book, One State, Two States, says that Arab rejectionism is so profound a force that only the terminally obtuse could believe that Palestinians will ever acquiesce to a state comprised solely of the West Bank and Gaza.
Morris sees the culprit as the implacable fanaticism of Arab Islamists, who are unwilling to accept a Jewish national presence in what is thought of as Arab land, a position that hasn't changed since 1920. Subsequent events that seemingly contradict this - most notably the PLO's ostensible recognition of Israel in 1988 - have been staged for the benefit of gullible Westerners, Morris writes.
(New York Times)
A Palestinian State? -Amitai Etzioni [pictured above with President Obama]
The Palestinians are surely entitled to govern themselves. However, if the West Bank is not to be turned into one giant terrorist base, part of the solution will have to be a credible way to ensure that the two states will live in "security and peace" with each other.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Assumption: "Egypt and Jordan want to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved."
Reality is different. As long as the conflict exists, Egypt has the ultimate excuse for all domestic troubles. For the Jordanians, a neighboring Palestinian state - likely under Hamas' rule - would mark the end of the Hashemite Kingdom.
Assumption: "A final-status agreement would bring stability and security to the region."
The exact opposite is true. There is no chance that the small and divided Palestinian state would be viable. The frustration created by such a situation, and with Israel being stripped of "defensible borders," is an obvious foundation for instability.
Assumption: "Progress on the Palestinian front is vital in order to enlist the support of Arab states against Iran."
Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have a supreme interest in curbing Iran, irrespective of the Palestinian issue.
The Palestinian Authority is once again using Western aid money to proclaim that killing Israeli woman and children is heroic.
The PA chose to name its latest computer center "after the martyr Dalal Mughrabi," who led the 1978 bus hijacking that killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, including American photographer Gail Rubin.
The new center is funded by Mahmoud Abbas' office, Al-Ayyam newspaper reported. U.S. law prohibits the funding of Palestinian structures that use any portion of their budget to promote terror or honor terrorists.
Last summer the PA sponsored "the Dalal Mughrabi football championship" for kids, and a "summer camp named for martyr Dalal Mughrabi," Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected a Western proposal for it to "freeze" its nuclear work in return for no new sanctions and ruled out any talks with major powers on the issue. His comments are likely to further disappoint the U.S. administration which is seeking to engage Iran diplomatically.
Ahmadinejad proposed a debate with Obama at the UN "regarding the roots of world problems," but he made clear that "Our talks will only be in the framework of cooperation for managing global issues and nothing else....The nuclear issue is a finished issue for us."
Saber Rattling: Iran Sends Six Warships to International Waters
Iran has sent six warships into international waters and the Gulf of Aden in a move security experts are calling a "muscle flexing" show of defiance following missile tests last week.
Foreign policy experts are calling it an aggressive move targeted at a Western audience and regional powers like rival Saudi Arabia. Jim Phillips, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Institute, said Ahmadinejad was using the opportunity to thumb his nose at the U.S. and UN to advance his own popularity in Iran ahead of the country's June 12 election.
Monday, May 25, 2009
-Glenn Kessler & Howard Schneider
The Obama administration is pressing the Israeli government to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements, seeking a visible symbol that might inspire Arab states to consider normalizing relations with Jerusalem. But the administration's effort has been complicated by an unwritten agreement on the issue between Israel and the U.S. reached during the Bush administration.
While in Washington, Prime Minister Netanyahu argued that Israel already dismantled settlements in the Gaza Strip, going beyond the Roadmap, and was rewarded with the takeover of Gaza by Hamas and hundreds of rockets raining on Israeli towns, Israeli sources said.
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said there are no plans for a full settlement freeze. "The issue of settlements is a final status issue, and until there are final status arrangements, it would not be fair to kill normal life inside existing communities," he said.
Regev said the Israeli government is relying on "understandings" between former president George W. Bush and former prime minister Ariel Sharon that some of the larger settlements in the West Bank would ultimately become part of Israel, codified in a letter that Bush gave to Sharon in 2004.
In an interview with the Washington Post last year, Sharon aide Dov Weissglas said that in 2005 the Bush administration arrived at a secret agreement that Israel could add homes in settlements it expected to keep, as long as the construction was dictated by market demand, not subsidies. Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser who negotiated the arrangement with Weissglas, confirmed the deal in an interview last week.
Barak: U.S. Demand on "Natural Growth" in Settlements Makes No Sense
Defense Minister Ehud Barak [pictured above], chairman of the [dovish] Labor party, told the cabinet:
"There cannot be a situation whereby a father of two who bought a 54-square-meter home and then decides to expand his family will be forbidden from adding two rooms due to an injunction relayed by the U.S. This makes no sense."
What Measures Are the Palestinians Willing to Undertake? -Herb Keinon
[A]fter meeting Obama, Netanyahu said it was particularly ingenuous for the world to demand that Israel freeze settlements, while giving the Palestinians a pass on their major obligation to uproot the terrorist infrastructure.
If the world expected Israeli concessions on settlements, it would have to ensure that the Palestinians fulfilled their part of the Roadmap, including uprooting the terrorist infrastructure - something that right now seems impossible, considering Hamas' control of Gaza.
Fix that, Netanyahu is saying, and then talk to Jerusalem about a settlement freeze. Indeed, Uzi Arad, a top Netanyahu aide intimated as much when he responded to a question about what confidence-building measures Israel would make toward the Palestinians. His reply: "What confidence-building measures are they willing to undertake?"
Friday, May 22, 2009
Hamas and Fatah members and supporters are firmly united in their desire to see Israel destroyed. This was made clear on Thursday morning when a Fatah policeman in Kalkilya used his US-provided rifle to open fire on IDF soldiers engaged in a counter-terror operation in the city.
By making the achievement of the unachievable goal of making peace…the centerpiece of his Middle East agenda, Obama is cast[ing] Israel as the region's villain.
This aim is reflected in the administration's intensifying pressure on Israel to destroy Israeli communities in [the West Bank]. In portraying Jews who live in mobile homes on barren hilltops in Judea and Samaria - rather than Iranian mullahs who test ballistic missile while enriching uranium and inciting genocide - as the greatest obstacle to peace, the Obama administration not only seeks to deflect attention away from its refusal to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It also [sets] Israel up as the fall guy who it will blame after Iran emerges as a nuclear power.
Obama's intention [is] to unveil his Middle East peace plan in the course of his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4. Israeli officials were not consulted about his plan. [I]t is clear that he will be offering something that no Israeli government can accept. [T]he Netanyahu government's best bet is to introduce its own peace plan to mitigate the impact of Obama's plan.
To blunt the impact of Obama's speech in Cairo, Netanyahu should present his peace plan before June 4.
Netanyahu should call for the opening of direct talks between Israel and the Arab League, or between Israel and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, regarding the immediate normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab-Islamic world. Both Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah claim that such normalization is in the offing. Israel should insist that it begin without delay.
This, of course, is necessary for peace to emerge with the Palestinians. As we saw at Camp David in 2000, the only way that Palestinian leaders will feel comfortable making peace with Israel is if the Arab world first demonstrates its acceptance of the Jewish state as a permanent feature on the Middle East's landscape. Claims that such an Israeli demand is a mere tactic to buy time can be easily brushed off. Given Jordanian and American claims that the Arab world is willing to accept Israel, once negotiations begin, this stage could be completed in a matter of months.
The second stage of [a Netanyahu] peace plan would involve Israel and the Arab world agreeing and beginning to implement a joint program for combating terrorism. The final stage of the Israeli peace plan should be the negotiation of a final-status accord with the Palestinians, but only after the Arab world has accepted Israel.
Are Islamists Really Motivated by the Palestinian Issue? -Melanie Phillips
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband says "Palestinian statelessness is the biggest recruiting sergeant for Islamic extremism around the world."
Ah yes - Palestinian statelessness was obviously uppermost in the minds of the Islamists who blew up Mumbai; it was obviously the reason they bombed Spain to help the restoration of the caliphate. It's obviously the driving passion of the Chechen Islamist separatists; it's obviously the rallying cry of the Islamists in Indonesia who intend to Islamize southern Asia. It's obviously the reason Islamists are persecuting, murdering and driving out Christians across the Third World from Sudan and Nigeria to Bethlehem.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project found that by 77% to 16%, Palestinians don't believe they can live side-by-side with Israel, while by 61% to 31%, Israelis do believe they can live side-by-side with a Palestinian state.
So long as fewer than 2 in 10 Arabs, both Palestinian and all others, believe in Israel's right to exist as a nation with a Jewish majority, there can be no successful peace based on a two-state solution.
That is the reality that no diplomacy can change.
Obama and Israel -Editorial
Western governments have a tendency to believe that a two-state settlement is within Israel's power to effect by fiat. In practice, two states are not a solution to the conflict so much as the highly desirable outcome of the end of the conflict.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
It was not hard to discern the incipient cracks in U.S.-Israeli relations behind the show of friendliness between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House. The cracks need not widen into a split.
Obama's envoy, George Mitchell [pictured above], has been seeking to broker measures that might include Arab grants of overflight rights or trade privileges to Israel in exchange for a settlement freeze. Netanyahu is intrigued by the potential of a de facto Israel-Arab alliance on Iran.
It may be that a mere show of U.S. sleeve-rolling on the peace process, along with pro forma Israeli cooperation, will provide adequate cover for Arab states that are eager to join in an anti-Iranian alliance.
After Israeli Visit, a Diplomatic Sprint on Iran -David E. Sanger
Obama's declaration that "we're not going to have talks forever" was a warning to the Iranians that serious American engagement with Tehran must bear fruit before Iran clears the last technological hurdles to building a nuclear weapon.
Obama's strategy is based on a giant gamble: That after the Iranian elections on June 12, the way will be clear to convince the Iranians that it is in their long-term interest to strike a deal.
But Israeli officials express skepticism that any combination of new diplomatic openness and gradually escalating pressure will work. Their assessment is that Iran wants the bomb, full stop.
A senior Israeli said the only benchmark that really matters this year is a halt in Iran's enrichment of uranium. Otherwise, he said, Iran just gets closer to a bomb capability every day that talks drag on.
(New York Times)
The charges, which include conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, represent some of the most significant allegations of domestic terrorism in some time, and come months into a new presidential administration, as President Obama grapples with the question of how to handle detainees at the Guantánamo camp in Cuba.
[New York Times]
4 Arrested while planting car bombs at Synagogues
-Javier Hernandez & Al Baker
The men were arrested around 9 p.m. after planting what they believed to be bombs in cars outside the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, officials said. But the men did not know the bombs, obtained with the help of an informant for the FBI, were fake.
Some of the men were of Arabic descent, and one is of Haitian descent, according to law enforcement officials. At least three were United States citizens, according to officials. They are all Muslim, a law enforcement official said.
[New York Times]
-Herb Keinon & Hilary Leila Kreiger
Sharp differences emerged between the US and Israel over the settlement issue one day after Prime Minister Netanyahu concluded his first official visit to the White House - with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for an absolute stop to all settlement activity...
"We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth - any kind of settlement activity," declared Clinton in some of the Obama administration's clearest comments to date on what it expects from Israel. She was speaking to Al-Jazeera in an interview...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
President Obama said that he expected to know by the end of the year whether Iran was making "a good-faith effort to resolve differences" in talks aimed at ending its nuclear program, signaling to Israel as well as Iran that his willingness to engage in diplomacy over the issue has its limits.
"We're not going to have talks forever," Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a meeting in the Oval Office.
(New York Times)
U.S.-Israel Convergence on Iran -Howard Schneider
"There is the beginning of a strategic convergence of the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government," said Dore Gold, a Netanyahu adviser and former ambassador to the UN.
"Both recognize that there are real dangers that could undermine the security of both countries, in particular Iran."
Iran, Not Palestine, Tops Israel's Agenda -Alon Pinkas
Imagine if the 9/11 terrorists who crashed planes into New York and Washington had nuclear weapons.
If Iran is not prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons, an independent Palestine will constitute nothing more than an advanced and violent Iranian outpost.
Obama Reiterates Call for Two-States, Netanyahu Stresses Security
-Jake Tapper, Simon McGregor-Wood & Huma Khan
[B]ehind their profuse praise for each other, the two leaders have clear differences on the two-state solution and construction in disputed territories.
Netanyahu said that if, and when, negotiations were to start, there are issues on which Israel is not willing to negotiate: Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state -- referring to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas' refusal last month to do so...
Middle East Requires Pragmatic Realism -Editorial
A dose of skepticism on Netanyahu's part about a two-state solution is understandable.
In 2000, the Clinton administration brokered a deal in which then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was offering a deal that would have set up an independent state in all of Gaza and 95% of the West Bank. PLO leader Yasser Arafat rejected the offer [and] responded with a four-year suicide-bombing campaign against Israeli civilians.
In the last analysis, it is doubtful whether the Palestinians are sufficiently mature enough to put their need of a homeland ahead of their unjust armed struggle against Israel's right to exist.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Terrorists recruit Israelis on Facebook
Terror groups are turning to Israeli citizens on Facebook and other social networking sites and offering bribes in exchange for information, the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] said in a warning issued to the public.
The Shin Bet warned of the dangers of divulging classified information, as well as the temptation to arrange meetings abroad to collect promised payments, which it said posed kidnapping risks.
In light of this phenomenon, the Shin Bet is asking citizens to refrain from publishing private information such as addresses and phone numbers, and to stay vigilant and suspicious of unsolicited propositions, especially of the kind promising high-paying employment abroad.
Heads are very deep in the sand.
Pretend that a two-state solution is possible with a mostly radical Palestinian Authority and a far more extreme Hamas running Gaza, neither having done any preparation for real compromise and a lasting peace.
Pretend that this solution - which isn't going to happen - will solve all other problems, as if personal and state ambition, ethnic conflict, ideological battles and all sorts of disputes didn't exist in the region which have nothing to do with this. Not to mention that fact that any compromise peace would actually enrage large elements of opinion and galvanize the Islamists into even more violence.
Pretend that Iran's regime will be talked out of having nuclear weapons by either the charm of Western leaders or relatively limited sanctions when Teheran already knows everything is a big bluff.
Pretend that Islamists can be moderated when they think they're winning, believe themselves to be following the will of the deity and see daily proof that their rivals are eager to make concessions.
Pretend that Syria can be wooed into changing course when it is so dependent on its alliance with the Iranian regime, thinks that it's on the winning side and is tightening its control over Lebanon.
Pretend that Hizbullah and Hamas will settle down into moderation disciplined by the task of governing, the same theory discredited by the behavior of the PLO, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority over the last 16 years.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Fears that the U.S. intends to let Iran become a nuclear power has sent other Middle Eastern countries shopping around for partners to help them join the nuclear club.
Saudi Arabia announced Sunday that it's reached an "agreement in principle" with France to develop a "nuclear industry for peaceful purposes." It becomes the third Arab country - after Egypt and Qatar - to seek French help in joining the nuclear club.
Having triggered the nuclear race, Iran is also playing an active role in proliferation, with signed agreements to help Syria and Venezuela achieve "nuclear capacity."
(New York Post)
French Poll: 73% See Iranian Nukes as Threat -Haviv Rettig Gur
73% believed an Iranian nuclear weapon would be a threat to France, up from 64% in December 2007.
[T]he peace-for-land concept has been a historic failure, not because Israel wouldn't dole out land for peace - it has, to all comers, sometimes unasked - but because the Arab/Muslim side won't dole out peace for land.
Next Round of Peace Talks, Let Palestinians Go First
-Marvin Hier & Abraham Cooper
Like clockwork, just as a new U.S. president hit the 100-day milestone, comes another push to "jump-start" the Middle East peace process. As in past administrations, concessions from "both sides" means: Israel, you go first.
But perhaps the time has come for peacemakers to try a fresh approach: Ask the Palestinians to make the first move. Israelis have been making difficult concessions at least since 1993, repeatedly trading land for promises of peace. When they turned over the major West Bank cities and Gaza to Yasser Arafat, all they got in return was broken promises.
To start the ball rolling toward real peace, Mahmoud Abbas should begin now to carry through on his repeated promises to end "anti-Israel incitement" in state-controlled Palestinian mosques and media that remain as vicious today as ever in preaching hatred of the Jewish state and Jews everywhere.
(New York Daily News)
The Jordanian Option Is Back -Michael Bar-Zohar
The West Bank is less than half the size of Los Angeles County. The Judean Desert comprises one-third of the area. Does anybody believe that this tiny slice of territory, sandwiched between Israel and Jordan, will provide enough living space for the local 2.4 million Palestinians, for millions of Palestinian refugees, and for Palestinians from overcrowded Gaza? It appears that the supporters of the two-state solution are determined to give the Palestinians a state that would not be able to sustain itself economically.
There is a solution, but it must be a regional one that includes at least Jordan or, even better, Jordan and Egypt. It is based on the idea of a Palestinian-Jordanian federation. Jordan is a largely uninhabited country that possesses huge tracts of land where the excess population of the West Bank, Gaza and the returning refugees can establish new towns and villages and find a little breathing space.
Most of Jordan's citizens are Palestinians.
PLO Ambassador to Lebanon Abbas Zaki [pictured above] told ANB TV:
"With the two-state solution, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People?"
"What will become of all the sacrifices they made - just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status....If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward."
In the decade before Israel won statehood, Simcha Blass was captivated by an abnormally large tree he spotted in a grove, he shoveled underneath it and discovered a cracked drainpipe feeding steady droplets directly to the tree's roots - just enough water to allow the tree to flourish.
In 1965, Blass patented and sold his vision of "drip irrigation" [pictured above] to Kibbutz Hatzerim. Today the company has grown into Netafim, a $500 million high-tech drip-irrigation giant employing 2,600 people in 110 countries. (Business Week)
A Turkish court has ordered an employer to reinstate a woman who was fired after she kissed her boyfriend at work, ruling it was just a stolen kiss and that no customers saw it. The woman was confronted by her boss after she was caught kissing on tape on the business's closed circuit TV, Anatolian said. The business was not identified.
"When you take into consideration that the kissing was momentary and that there were no customers present and that no other workers saw it, is a grave decision to say the action breached the order of the workplace," the appeals court said, annulling a decision by a lower court to uphold the firing.
Critics of the Islamist-rooted AK Party government frequently complain of increasing social pressure to conform with conservative social values in predominantly Muslim but officially secular Turkey since the AK party took power in 2002.
The AK Party, which draws its support from a growing pious middle class in the Anatolian heartland, denies European Union candidate Turkey is becoming more socially conservative since it came to power.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
[T]he reason for the U.S. to pursue a non-nuclear (and non-terrorist) Iran is not to avoid Israeli military action, but to advance American interests and security.
Forcing Iran to back down would be the greatest setback for Islamofascism since the fall of radical regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Lisa Ashton, a stewardess with British Midland Airways, was sacked for refusing to fly to Saudi Arabia after she was ordered to wear a traditional Islamic robe and walk behind male colleagues.
She was told that in Saudi Arabia she was required to wear a black robe, known as an abaya [pictured above], that covers everything but the face, feet and hands. She was also told to walk behind her male colleagues.
"I'm not going to be treated as a second-class citizen," Ashton said. "It's outrageous. I'm a proud Englishwoman and I don't want these restrictions placed on myself."
-Jeremy Page & Zahid Hussain
The Sunni Itehad Council claims to represent about 85 million Pakistani followers of the moderate Barelvi school of Sunni Islam. The Council is now joining secular Pakistani political parties in an effort to shore up public support for the army's campaign against the Taliban in the Swat Valley.
Experts believe that at least half of Pakistan's 173 million people are Barelvi. (Times-UK)
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I recently met with a very prominent figure in one of the Gulf states. He said,
"The reason I had an interest in meeting you could be summed up in one word: Iran. We are on the same side. We feel threatened by the Iranian nuclear projects, by their political ambitions, by their subversion and so on. And frankly, we are skeptical of whether Iran could be stopped. We don't know if the U.S. administration will be assertive enough, and if Iran goes nuclear it's going to be hell for all of us."
This confrontation between the radical and the moderate axis impacts the behavior of some of the regional actors, and you see things that you have not seen in the past. Look at the way Egypt behaved while we were operating in Gaza. They basically gave us a free hand and wished that we would crush Hamas.
I am often asked, why did you stop the operations in Gaza? Why didn't you crush Hamas? Gaza is not the number-one challenge that we face. We have Iran, we have Hizbullah, we have other issues. So we decided not to go the full way.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Christians in Mideast Losing Numbers and Influence -Ethan Bronner
Christians used to be a vital force in the Middle East.
They dominated Lebanon and filled top jobs in the Palestinian movement. In Egypt, they were wealthy beyond their number. In Iraq, they packed the universities and professions.
But as Pope Benedict XVI wends his way across the Holy Land this week, he is addressing a dwindling and threatened Christian population driven to emigration by political violence, lack of economic opportunity and the rise of radical Islam.
A region that a century ago was 20% Christian is about 5% today and dropping. In Lebanon, Christians now amount to [only] a quarter of the population. A century ago there were millions of Christians in what is today Turkey; now there are 150,000. In Bethlehem, Christians now make up barely a third of the population after centuries of being 80%. Of the 1.4 million Christians in Iraq in 2003, nearly half have fled.
(New York Times)
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
In the wake of the Obama administration's decision to curtail the US's strategic alliance with Israel in the interest of American rapprochement with Iran and Syria, the Netanyahu government has been moving to fill the void.
[W]ith Pope Benedict XVI's arrival and with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at Sharm e-Sheikh, two potential strategic alliances came into view.
The strategic goal that Israel wishes to advance through an alliance with the Vatican is the strengthening of its international position as the sole sovereign in Jerusalem.
[T]he possibility of winning the support of the Catholic Church for Israel's position that Jerusalem will never again be partitioned is greater than it was under his predecessors. [T]he pope made clear that he views the preservation of Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem as essential for Christian heritage.
Unlike his predecessors, Benedict has been outspoken in his concern for the plight of Christian minorities in Islamic countries.
as part of a Star of David
(Al-Watan, Qatar, April 30, 2009)
Islamic Radicals Blame Jews for Swine Flu
For Hamas, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, and Arab cartoonists, the spread of swine flu and the panic it caused was an opportunity to associate the disease with Jews and Zionists in order to incite hatred against the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
On May 6, the Hamas organ Felesteen charged "that Zionists began spreading the disease."
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood published an anti-Semitic video on April 30 titled "Swine Flu or Jew Flu," in an attempt to associate swine flu with the Jews.
(Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
U.S. officials ought not to have been surprised by the smiling solidarity between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad in Damascus — but they may, nonetheless, have been disappointed.
Syria Criticizes Renewal of U.S. Sanctions -Albert Aji
Syria rejected the Obama administration's decision to renew economic and diplomatic sanctions against Damascus and urged Washington to abandon "foolish policies," the state-run Tishrin newspaper reported.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi [pictured above], launched a poisonous verbal attack on Israel at a gathering attended by Pope Benedict XVI. In a meeting with organizations involved in inter-religious dialogue at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center, Tamimi called upon Muslims and Christians to unite against what he said were the murderous Israelis.
Taking the podium after the pope without being on the original list of speakers scheduled for the evening, Tamimi accused Israel of murdering women and children in Gaza and making Palestinians refugees, and declared Jerusalem the eternal Palestinian capital. Nine years ago, Tamimi caused a similar scandal when at an interfaith meeting at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center, attended by the late Pope John Paul II, who was the pontiff at the time. Then, the Palestinian religious leader condemned Israel for a long list of offenses.
Following the diatribe and before the meeting was officially over, the pope exited the premises.
Minutes after the embarrassing occurrence, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, released a response to the incident. "The intervention of Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi was not previewed by the organizers of the meeting," the message read. "In a meeting dedicated to dialogue, this intervention was a direct negation of what [it] should be," it continued. "We hope that such an incident will not damage the mission of the Holy Father," Father Lombardi added.
"We hope also that interreligious dialogue in the Holy Land will not be damaged by this incident," the message concluded.
Pope Walks Out after Muslim Cleric Accuses Israel of "Slaughter"
After the pope was informed of the political nature of al-Tamimi's speech, delivered in Arabic without simultaneous translation, he left the conference.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, charged with coordinating the pope's visit to Israel, said, "It is a shame that the extremists were those who represented the Palestinians and the Muslims in this important event."
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Israel as part of his first papal visit to the Middle East and a self-proclaimed "pilgrimage of peace."
"I take my place in a long line of Christian pilgrims to these shores," he said at the airport. "I come, like so many others before me, to pray at the holy places, to pray especially for peace - peace here in the Holy Land, and peace throughout the world."
"Anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world. This is totally unacceptable. Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found," he added.
The Vatican, the Jews, and the Palestinians -Shlomo Avineri
The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s not only absolved the Jewish people of collective guilt for crucifying Jesus, but recognized the continuing covenant between God and the Jews, paving the way for recognizing the legitimacy of their existence. This transformation, in turn, enabled the Vatican's recognition of the State of Israel.
The Arab League [has] shot down a U.S. suggestion that the Arab peace initiative be changed to make it more palatable to Israel.
Several Arab diplomats said that the Americans are asking Arab states to drop demands for a right of return for Palestinian refugees and agree to either resettle them in the host countries or in the Palestinian territories.
Arab foreign ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo rejected the request, said Jordan's foreign minister. "The ministers renewed their commitment to the initiative as it is without change," Nasser Judeh said.
(Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Did U.S. Help Lebanon Crack Alleged Israeli Spy Rings? -Yoav Stern
Lebanon arrested five people over the weekend suspected of belonging to an intelligence cell transmitting information about Hizbullah to Israel, the most recent arrests in a two-month crackdown apparently aided by American training and equipment.
Lebanese security sources attribute the recent arrests to better-trained personnel and access to more sophisticated equipment. The U.S. has provided $1 billion in aid since 2006, including $410 million in security assistance to the Lebanese military and police.
Israel has expressed reservations about American aid to the Lebanese army and security services, saying that any aid is liable to serve Hizbullah's interests.
Lebanese Security Unit Cooperating with Hizbullah -Andrew Wander
Increased intelligence sharing between Hizbullah and a new, specialized ISF counter-espionage unit - for the first time openly admitted by Lebanese security officials - has given authorities an advantage in the fight against Israeli espionage operations in the country, experts said.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
President Obama's efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel's nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials say.
For the past 40 years, Israel and the U.S. have kept quiet about an Israeli nuclear arsenal. Israel has promised not to test nuclear weapons while the U.S. has not pressed Israel to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which permits only five countries - the U.S., France, Britain, China and Russia - to have nuclear arms.
The accord was forged at a summit between Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Nixon [pictured] on Sept. 25, 1969, and commits both the U.S. and Israel never to acknowledge in public Israel's nuclear arsenal. Israeli defense doctrine considers the nuclear arsenal to be a strategic deterrent against extinction.
Israel: Signing NPT Won't Prevent Nuclear Armament -Roni Sofer
An Israeli official criticized a U.S. call for Israel to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)...
Breaking Faith with Israel -Editorial
Will the U.S. sell out its strongest ally in the Middle East to cozy up to its worst enemy? America treats Israel and Iran differently because they are fundamentally different. Israel is a dependable U.S. ally and a free liberal democracy.
Iran is a long-standing enemy of the U.S., is directly or indirectly responsible via Iraqi insurgents and others for more deaths of U.S. service members than any country since the Vietnam War. Its people suffer under an oppressive theocracy.
We approve of an Israeli nuclear force for the same reason we approve of a British, French or American nuclear force: We know it will serve peaceful purposes.
We oppose an Iranian nuclear force for the same reason we oppose a North Korean nuclear force: We know it will not serve a peaceful purpose.
Any attempt to establish parity between Israel and Iran on the nuclear issue is dangerous and naive. Pressing Israel to make its suspected nuclear arsenal into a bargaining chip only weakens our allies without defanging our foes.