Saturday, December 31, 2005
Anarchy in the Palestinian Authority (PA) spread to the Rafiah border crossing, which was closed Friday morning after European Union (EU) observers fled 100 armed PA policemen who formed a blockade.
The gunmen who stormed the compound belong to the unstable ruling Fatah party of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. One of their members was killed in a clash Thursday between terrorists. After the compound was stormed, the EU's observers stationed at the crossing quickly fled the scene in panic while the gunmen prevented vehicles from reaching the crossing.
The observers are responsible for monitoring the crossing and enforcing the agreement between Israel and the PA on live camera transmissions of border activity. The armed men refused to heed demands by PA officials to leave the compound, and the EU workers left out of fear for their lives. "....
...The incident was one of several on Thursday which pointed to widespread anarchy.
PA police still are looking for a British human rights activist and her parents who were kidnapped by terrorists in Gaza. Kate Burton, 25, was showing per parents around Rafiah when they were taken hostage by a gang armed with automatic rifles. She has been working as a volunteer for the past year, according to relatives.
Arab human rights groups demanded that the PA stop the kidnappings, which have become rampant. Two teachers were abducted last week by the terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine but were released several hours later.
"The lack of action by the Authority against those who stood behind previous kidnappings encouraged others to carry out crimes of that kind," the (Palestinian) Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights stated.
From JPost, Dec. 30, 2005 10:42 Updated Dec. 30, 2005 16:00 By JPOST.COM STAFF ...
As family and friends mourned the killing of 21-year-old IDF officer Lt. Uri Binamo, politicians and security officials credited the young officer with saving the lives of Israeli civilians by stopping a suicide bomber who reportedly planned to explode at children's Hanuka festivities in Israel.
Binamo, whose funeral began at 11 a.m. in Haifa's military cemetery, was a platoon commander in the Nahshon Battalion. At the funeral, his father read a letter that Uri had written at the age of 14, in which he expressed his hope that all of the people of the world could become friends and live in peace. Comrades spoke of him as the most loved platoon commander in the battalion, who brought a sewing machine to his base in order to repair his soldiers' torn uniforms.
On Thursday, Binamo and his soldiers set up a temporary checkpoint near the settlement of Avnei Hefetz after IDF forces in the area received an intelligence tip that terrorists were planning to cross the Green Line and attack Hanukka festivities.
When his troops stopped a Palestinian taxi at the checkpoint, Lt. Binamo, from the northern town of Nesher, took the lead in approaching the taxi and told the occupants to get out of the vehicle. The three Palestinian men inside complied with the order, but once out of the taxi, one of them lifted his shirt to reveal a 10-kilogram suicide belt. He then detonated the belt, killing himself, the Palestinian taxi driver, a second passenger in the taxi and Binamo.
Three soldiers and seven Palestinians were also wounded in the blast.
Lt. Einat Bing, the slain officer's girlfriend, who was stationed in the area, heard the report of the attack over the field radio. She immediately tried to call Binamo on his mobile phone but could not reach him. "He didn't answer, and I understood [what had happened]," she said.
Binamo will be laid to rest at 11 a.m. Friday at the military cemetery in Haifa.
The three soldiers covering the officer as he made his approach were wounded.
The most seriously injured soldier was taken to Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera, where he underwent vascular surgery. His condition remained serious Friday afternoon, over 24 hours after the attack. The other two soldiers were lightly wounded by shrapnel and transferred to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, where one may have to undergo surgery on his hand.
One of the Palestinians killed in the bombing was an innocent bystander. The other was the suicide bomber's guide...
Dr. Hussam al-Taneeb, the director of the Dr. Thabet Thabet Hospital in Tulkarm, said that seven Palestinian civilians, including a four-year-old child, were also wounded.
Security sources told The Jerusalem Post that there have been 50 general terror warnings and more than 10 specific alerts in the past two weeks
Binamo was supposed to have received a promotion in another two months, including an advancement to the position of lieutenant company commander. "This is a terrible loss to the IDF," said Col. Aharon Haliwa, the commander of the Ephraim Brigade, the sector in which the attack took place. "This was an officer who was loved and very professional. He carried out his role, and saved - with his body - the lives of dozens of innocent civilians."
Binamo's family spoke Thursday of a young man who, as a child, loved flowers and hikes around Israel with his family. They said that he enjoyed every minute of his military service. "He knew that the area of Tulkarm was the most dangerous sector, but he was determined to reach a goal," Binamo's father said. "This was a boy who would use his leaves - instead of going home - to travel around the country to his soldiers' houses to check and see that everything was alright. His soldiers simply loved him in a remarkable manner."
"We, as parents, as people to whom the country is often more important to them than their own private house is, understood that this could happen, but we would never have wanted this," said the parents, explaining that in their house, helping the community was a basic value.
Binado was supposed to have been featured on Army Radio Thursday, as part of the annual "Shirutrom" event, raising money for the IDF Soldiers' Welfare Association. Bing, who had been Binado's girlfriend for the past nine years, said that he had called her earlier that morning, telling her to listen to the radio broadcast. "Soon you'll hear me on the radio," he said.
When the recording staff arrived at Binado's base near Tulkarm, the battalion sergeant-major greeted them with tears in his eyes and informed them of the tragedy.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
An Israeli was killed and around 10 people were wounded in a suicide bombing in the West Bank on Thursday morning.
...The IDF estimated that the bomber intended to blow up within Israeli lines, but was stopped before he could reach his planned destination.... Seven Palestinians, including a child, were reportedly wounded as well. ....
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Two ruling-party lists merge ahead of upcoming elections; Gaza chaos continues
Fatah has officially succeeded in merging its two election lists into a single, unified list, to be headed by Marwan Barghouti, the jailed Tanzim leader.
Younger Fatah members resented the high placement of the older, senior figures in the party list, at their expense.
...Fatah members believed a united list would be presented, but sources in Barghouti's camp said the possibility of two seperate lists should not be ruled out.
...Barghouti himself authorized the merger..."We want a young, fresh list, without any stain of corruption," said a Barghouti source.
The merger took place against a backdrop of violence, as Palestinian police exchanged fire with some 60 gunmen who took over an election office in Gaza City. ...The gunmen, loyal to ...Barghouti, were demanding the elimination of "old guard" candidates .... Gunmen took over four election offices in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday. ...
An international manhunt is underway for the most wanted Nazi war criminal, Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's top aide ...(in) Brazil, where authorities believed Brunner might have recently entered to hide.
...Israel Police sources confirmed to the Post that police in Brazil and other South American countries were in the midst of a concentrated investigation after receiving intelligence information that Brunner may be hiding in Brazil. The officers said there was a "good chance" the Austrian-born Brunner was alive and in South America.
...A deputy to Eichmann, Brunner assisted in implementing the Final Solution and is held directly responsible for the deaths of at least 130,000 Jews. He is believed to have spent the last 40 years hiding in Syria under the assumed name of Dr. Georg Fischer.
... Israel's police representative in South America was in constant touch with Brazilian police and was keeping tabs on the investigation, which he said was of extreme interest to Israel. ...If caught, Brunner would be extradited to France where he was sentenced in absentia in 2001 to life in prison on charges of crimes against humanity in a trial that reportedly lasted only several hours.
Brazil contacted Interpol in May and asked member countries, particularly Israel, for assistance in identifying a man they suspected was Brunner. ...Brazilian authorities believed Brunner might still be hiding in their country and were searching for him. "We told them that they don't need fingerprints and that it is enough to look at his hand and see that he is missing several fingers," he said. Brunner was wounded twice by letter bombs sent to him - reportedly by the Mossad - during the 40 years he spent in Syria. In 1961 he reportedly lost his left eye in an explosion and in 1980 he lost three fingers in a similar blast. ...
On the same day that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered a political bombshell by resigning from the Likud, real bombshells fell on the northern town of Metulla, for the first time since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon five years ago. ...
...Israel responded with bombardments against Hizbullah's bases, but has not directly attacked the interests of the capitals it has held responsible - namely, Beirut, Damascus, and Teheran.
The question is whether such restraint on Israel's part, in the face of what the United States has rightly condemned as an "unprovoked attack," is wise. Once again, Israel seems to be acting by the old "rules" that were supposed to have been changed by the withdrawal from southern Lebanon behind a UN-recognized border.
According to the new rules, Israel would not retaliate tit-for-tat in the case of Hizbullah attacks, but would act directly against the interests of responsible governments in Lebanon, Syria or Iran. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz hinted as much when he stated that "Syrian and Iranian interests are behind this event....."
... Israel should be making clear to the US, France and the UN that, if Lebanon is not forced to disarm Hizbullah or move it away from our border, and if Syria is not forced to abandon its support for terrorism, Israel will be forced to act directly against the national interests of these regimes. Our message, in short, should be, either you act or we will. This, not coincidentally, should also be our new message with respect to the impotence of the Palestinian Authority. Israel cannot continue to be in a position of tit-for-tat retaliation against the terrorists themselves, while the regimes behind the terrorists escape scot-free.
Restraint for its own sake, as we should have learned by now, is worse than useless: It simply invites further and perhaps more deadly attacks. Restraint only makes sense if Israel is "paid" for it in the form of concrete actions that more effectively safeguard our security.
Hizbullah has thousands of missiles pointed at our northern residents. Though we have become used to the fact that, by and large, these missiles have not been fired since Israel's withdrawal, it is a mistake to pretend that holding large parts of the population hostage to the whims of a terrorist organization is acceptable.
When Israel withdrew from Lebanon, our leaders, and even the international community acted as if the Lebanese army's restoration of sovereignty to the south was a matter of days or weeks. Five years later, it has not happened.
The international pressure that has been building on Syria should only increase in response to that regime's resort, once again, to proxy aggression against Israel. Syria must learn that its only way out is to abandon the path of aggression and terror, rather than returning to its old-style intimidation tactics.
It is appropriate that Israel act in-sync with the international community in increasing this pressure now that, finally, our concerns have become more widely shared. But such cooperation must be a results-oriented, two-way street.
Mossad chief: Failing urgent outside intervention, Iran will in 3-6 months have all it needs to make a nuclear bomb
Tuesday, Dec. 27, Mossad director Meir Dagan joined the list of Israeli officials sounding the alarm on the imminence of Iran’s nuclear threat.
In his briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee, Dagan stressed Tehran will not be satisfied with a single nuclear weapon but plans a stockpile. This is Israel’s working assumption.
Member of the Knesset, Yuval Steinitz (Likud) says that Egypt’s arms build up over the past few years has focused on the possibility of future war with Israel.
In a radio interview to be broadcast on Arutz 7’s Hebrew internet site at 10:00 P.M. tonight, Steinitz, a former professor of political science at Haifa University who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, says that Egypt has already become a major supporter of terrorism against Israel. Steinitz said that Egypt has been allowing terrorist groups operating out of the Gaza district to smuggle missiles into Gaza. Those groups intend to use the missiles against Israeli targets. In his estimation, 90% of the explosives used by the terrorist groups are brought in from Egypt.
Steinitz explains that it is a mistake for Israel to view Syria as its principle enemy, while neglecting the Egyptian threat, primarily because Israel maintains diplomatic relations with Egypt. Steinitz said that weapons smuggled from Egypt has become so important to the Hamas, “if you would ask them what they would be willing to give up, assistance from Egypt or Syria, they would prefer to give up Syrian, but not Egyptian aid.
”The Egyptians, Steinitz asserts, have kept to the peace agreements signed in 1978 as far as not engaging Israel in outright conflict. But on other levels, such as economic relations or stopping anti-Israel incitement, Egyptian compliance has been lacking.
Arab terrorists in Lebanon fired katyusha rockets into Kiryat Shemonah, the largest Israeli town on the border with Lebanon. The shells scored direct hits on two civilian homes. No one was injured directly from the explosions, but civilians were taken to the hospital for treatment of shock.
The shelling began just after 11pm, Tuesday night. One rocket landed in the stairwell of a 3-story building in Kiryat Shemonah causing heavy damages to the homes.
A second Katyusha landed in the den of a civilian home completely destroying the room; the parents were in the bedroom and went into shock. Their child was unharmed.
Electricty in the region was knocked out as a result of the shelling. Other rockets landed in Shlomi and the western Galilee area. A total of at least 6 shells landed in Israel. An emergency situation of preparedness was declared in northern Israel, and the IDF instructed area residents to descend to bombshelters for. Later the residents were allowed to move to safety rooms for the duration of the night.
The Palestinians who took over the Jewish greenhouses in the Gaza Strip when Israel withdrew its communities from the area now are asking expelled farmers for advice after reportedly failing to reproduce the region's famous insect-free vegetables, WND has learned.
Prior to Israel's August withdrawal, the residents of Gaza's Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities ran greenhouses known for producing high-quality insect-free vegetables. The Gush Katif gardens featured some of the most technologically advanced agricultural equipment and accounted for more than $100 million per year in exports to Europe. The greenhouses also supplied Israel with 75 percent of its own produce.
The hothouses were passed to the Palestinians in September in a $14 million deal brokered by former World Bank President James Wolfenson and several wealthy Jewish Americans.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians now running the greenhouses reportedly told the Israeli-Palestinian Economic Cooperation Fund they failed in their efforts to grow bug-free produce.
Now the Palestinian owners have asked the United States Agency for International Development, which has been involved in reconstruction efforts in Gaza, to hire former Jewish Gaza greenhouse owners as consultants for their declining vegetable businesses.
...Anita Tucker, an expelled Gaza resident and one of the pioneer farmers of Gush Katif, told WND, "I am not at all surprised the Palestinians are failing. ...Tucker explained she and other Katif farmers engineered agricultural technology specific to the dry, sandy Gaza conditions.
"We used different kinds of netting... colors because we knew certain kinds of bugs were attracted to or kept away from different colors...certain organic insecticides ...and were very strict about which chemicals we used. We kept our greenhouses as clean as possible. And we also had our own proprietary inventions and technology."
Asked if she would serve as a consultant for the new Palestinian owners of her former greenhouses, Tucker said, "Probably not. We see the terror coming out of Gaza, coming out of the neighborhood I used to live in, and it's just horrible. Hamas has taken over different parts of Gush Katif and are firing rockets into Israel. I am not saying the Palestinian farmers are involved, but it seems they are not doing enough to stop the terror." ...
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
For the first time, Israeli defense experts are noting that groups identifying with al-Qaeda - or the global jihad - are determined to acquire operational footholds close to Israel's borders. The most dramatic sign was the November 9, 2005, suicide bombing of three Jordanian hotels in Amman by "al-Qaeda Mesopotamia" - the organization led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Militant Islamic websites immediately announced: "After the attack in the heart of Jordan, it will soon be possible to reach Jewish targets in Israel."
Al-Qaeda operations around Israel are becoming more prominent. In August 2005, an al-Qaeda rocket strike at the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba also reached the Israeli resort town of Eilat. To Israel's south, a growing al-Qaeda presence in Sinai led to attacks on Israeli tourists in Taba and other coastal resorts in October 2004, followed by a major bombing at a hotel in Sharm al-Sheikh in July 2005. Sinai has also served as a rear base for the beginning of an al-Qaeda presence in the Gaza Strip. Zarqawi's terrorist network formally joined al-Qaeda in October 2004.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy head of al-Qaeda, has encouraged Zarqawi to extend his jihad in Iraq to neighboring states (i.e., Jordan and Syria), where there are already increasing signs of jihadi activity. In the next stage, Zawahiri envisions "the clash with Israel." The head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi (Farkash), concluded recently: "We are not a high priority [for al-Qaeda], but our prioritization for them is increasing."
Many Western sources are convinced that Zarqawi was training his recruits in the use of toxins, including poisons and chemical weapons, at the Herat training camp in Afghanistan. In 2004, a Zarqawi associate named Azmi al-Jailusi confessed to trying to set off a chemical explosion in central Amman, near the headquarters of Jordanian intelligence, which had the potential to kill 80,000 people. In April 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that recurrent U.S. intelligence reports indicated that Zarqawi was seeking to obtain a "radiological explosive."
It would be a cardinal error for Israel to conclude that after the U.S. war in Iraq, the region to Israel's east is moving in the direction of greater stability and, therefore, Israel can take the risk of conceding its strategic assets in the West Bank. Zarqawi now wants to destabilize Jordan, but clearly seeks to target Israel as well. Dismissing the value of Israel's security fence, Zarqawi's organization has declared: "the separation wall...will feel the might of the mujahidin," hinting that Israel could face the same waves of insurgent volunteers that have entered Iraq. Were Israel to withdraw from the strategic barrier it controls in the Jordan Valley, then Israeli vulnerability could very well attract more global jihadi elements to Jordan, who would seek to use the kingdom as a platform to reach the West Bank and then Israel.
IF the polls are any indication, President Bush's recent rhetorical offensive managed to stem the tide of opposition against his Iraq policy. But the debate on the future course of U.S. foreign policy is likely to intensify until November's midterm elections.
This debate is focused on a few key questions: Is the Bush Doctrine dead? Has the United States, chastised in Afghanistan and Iraq, decided to move beyond "neoconservatism"? If so, what new doctrine should guide U.S. foreign policy?
... much of this debate revolves around two assumptions rarely tested against reality: first, that America has failed in Afghanistan and Iraq; second, that America can change foreign policy as we lesser mortals change our shirts.
Both assumptions are false.
To show that America has failed in Afghanistan and Iraq, one needs a yardstick against which success or failure is measured: ...America intervened in both Afghanistan and Iraq with the aim of changing the regimes in Kabul and Baghdad, a goal it achieved with remarkable speed. The machinery of terror and war built and maintained by the Taliban and the Ba'ath has been shattered. And whatever happens in Afghanistan and Iraq, one thing is certain: Mullah Muhammad Omar and Saddam Hussein won't return to power.
... Critics might say that the aim of the intervention was to transform Afghanistan and Iraq into modern democracies. True — yet any judgment on the success of such projects must take into account the element of time....Both may suffer years, if not decades, of violence and terror.
The real question is whether Afghanistan and Iraq would have had any chance of even a democratic dream under Mullah Omar and Saddam.
... but one thing is certain: The region's democratic forces now have their first opportunity in generations to make a real impact. Their last chance to set the agenda was early last century, when constitutional movements triumphed in Iran and the Ottoman Empire. Today, these democratic forces may fail because of their mistakes, or be defeated by Islamist and secular despotic opponents. But they also have a chance to win. And that — as seen from the United States, which should be supportive of democratic forces everywhere — is certainly a success.
On to the second assumption — that America can change its foreign policy at will and instantly.
There are those who preach a return to the bankrupt hodgepodge that Henry Kissinger sold to the Americans under the label of realpolitik for almost a decade. ....By both choice and necessity, the United States during the Cold War on occasion acted against character by supporting despots. But the context then was a global power struggle against the Soviet bloc; that justification is no more. Bush seems to have understood this. And that... is the most realistic matrix for American foreign policy in the 21st century.
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu started off his party's campaign on Monday ...(he) outlined his positions on diplomatic and socioeconomic issues ...
"The time has come for a party to say what Israel will keep and not what we should give away," Netanyahu said. "There are three different approaches: Keeping all the land, which I think would be a mistake; withdrawing from nearly all the land, which Ehud Barak, Sharon and Amir Peretz support and I think is dangerous; and our policy, which is defensible borders for Israel."
...Netanyahu said his "defensible borders" would include the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, an undivided Jerusalem, settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria and the hilltops overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport, the Gush Dan region and Route 443.
On economic issues, Netanyahu proposed a series of measures to stimulate the economy, including cutting NIS 4 billion from the defense budget, cutting the value added tax (VAT) to 14 percent, extending train lines to the Negev and the Galilee and building homes in the two regions for recently discharged soldiers.
Netanyahu accused Sharon of harming Israel's security by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip....
Three armed Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip on Monday threatened to continue their attacks on Israel and said they have long-range missiles capable of reaching more Israeli towns and cities.
One of the groups belongs to Fatah... The two others are the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various armed groups, and ...Islamic Jihad.
PA officials in Ramallah expressed deep concern over the threats and said Israel was responsible for the latest cycle of violence...(they) did not rule out the possibility that such weapons had been smuggled from Egypt in recent weeks.
Representatives of the three armed groups appeared at a joint press conference in Gaza City, where they said attacks on Israel would continue following of Israel's decision to establish a security zone in the northern Gaza Strip to stop rocket attacks.
... "Launching rocket attacks is one of the means of resistance and soon there will be surprises," the leaflet warned. Earlier, the armed wing of Fatah, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, claimed that it possessed Grad missiles with a range of 25 kilometers.
...The 122-mm. caliber Grad missile, officially known as BM-21, was first used by the Soviet Red Army in 1963. The first missiles were fired from trucks fitted with launchers capable of firing 40 rockets within six seconds. The Popular Resistance Committees also claimed on Monday that its members managed to develop a homemade rocket with a range of 15 km....
Full-scale terrorist attacks against Israel will resume Jan. 1 unless Abbas surrenders to terms laid down by Jihad Islami, the Popular Resistance Committees and Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has refused to withdraw the 200 Palestinian security personnel posted in the northern Gaza Strip, so frustrating the Sharon government’s no-go tactic in this region and efforts to curb Qassam attacks. This Palestinian force therefore provides the Qassam missile crews with a protective umbrella against Israeli artillery, which is forced to confine its shelling to vacant land.
Taking part in the Qassam offensive now are the Jihad Islami and factions of the Al Aqsa Brigades backed and paid by the Fatah old guard, led by prime minister Ahmed Qureia, which is now at war with Mahmoud Abbas. If Abbas refuses to postpone the January 25 election - in obedience to their diktat - these groups plus the PRC will re-ignite full-scale attacks on Israel. This is designed to prompt large-scale Israeli retaliation and generate a crisis that precludes voting - and so deprive Hamas of its predicted victory. Their deadline for this ultimatum is Jan. 1. Israel has thus become a hostage to the Palestinian factional war.
Earlier Monday, a Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades spokesman revealed the acquisition of new missiles of 25km range, the first able to reach to points north of Ashkelon. He spoke of creating a Palestinian buffer belt on Israeli territory north of the Gaza Strip
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that carving out a buffer zone in N. Gaza will be a tall order at this late date in view of the Palestinian round-the-clock mortar-RPG firewall.
Mofaz reported to Israeli cabinet Sunday, Dec. 25, on orders given to Israel’s armed forces to intensify aerial and artillery operations for this no-go zone and to step up targeted assassinations. Palestinian areas will stay under closure until end of Hanukah, Jan. 3, he said, in view of terrorist threats to strike inside Israel – especially from the Jihad Islami
DEBKAfile's military sources note that the Palestinian terrorists are rapidly turning the area on the Israeli side of the Gaza border into a no-go zone. The defense minister Shaul Mofaz demanded Sunday, Dec. 25, that the government urgently release INS125m ($50m) to fortify the dozens of small villages and kibbutzim within range of Palestinian missiles and mortar fire. Civilian traffic on the roads in the region has become extremely hazardous. Protective walls are going up in the military base at Zikkim where five Israeli servicemen suffered minor injuries last week from a Qassam hit.
This situation developed following Israel’s pullback from the Gaza Strip since when Palestinian terrorist groups are pressing their advantage. While most Qassam missile barrages are reported, scant information reaches the public on hits in more remote places like Kissufim and Kerem Shalom, or the round-the-clock shelling by 60mm mortars and RPGs that keep IDF patrols and roads outside the border under constant fire. There has also been an increase in bomb traps planted and explosive devices hurled along these patrol routes. One military expert told DEBKA there is no way Israel can forge a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of the northern Gaza Strip border without first eradicating the line of Palestinian fire – otherwise the Palestinians will be left with the war initiative and nothing will be accomplished.
According to DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources, the Palestinian Authority has deployed 200 general security troops at the favorite Palestinian launch-sites in the ruins of Dugit, Nisanit and Eilei Sinai. But they have not been ordered to drive the missile crews away or interfere with their activities. Whenever a Qassam is fired, the entire troop runs for cover before Israeli artillery goes into action.
Even the British government has given up on Abu Mazen’s Palestinian Authority asserting any kind of control in the Gaza Strip. British citizens were warned for the first time ever last week to refrain from entering the Gaza Strip for any purpose whatever because of the threat of abductions and other acts of terror.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Hamas' strength is particularly glaring against the background of Fatah's failures
The elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was created with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, have already been pushed off several times, and are currently scheduled for next month. Current polls suggest Hamas will win significant representation – perhaps as much as 40 percent.
This should come as no surprise. The current parliament, as well as the Palestinian government, is ruled by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. It is hard to imagine an authority that has been more of a failure than this.
Over the past decade, the international community has donated some USD 10 billion to the PA; money that has been used in that time to create an ocean of corruption and inefficiency.
The Fatah government has not advanced the dream of an independent Palestinian state, and has revealed again and again intolerable (and inexplicable) weakness with regard to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The faction was helpless in the face of Yasser Arafat's deceptive ways, and party officials looked away from his excesses until the day he died.
...The Fatah government did nothing to prevent the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, which was originally billed as a "popular reaction to Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount." But senior officials admitted privately to Israeli and foreign diplomats that the intifada severely damaged Palestinian interests, but refused to employ the legitimate arms of power to stop it.
One could have expected Fatah, a secular party with many senior leaders educated in the gospel of revolutionary communist ideology in the Soviet Union, to stand strongly against radical Islam. But this has not happened. Instead, Fatah has undergone a rapid process of Islamization, and at the height of the intifada gave its blessing to suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
... Thus, the Fatah government made itself completely impotent with regard to all matters concerning law enforcement or providing the most minimal government services.
Strength against failure
Hamas' strength is particularly glaring against the background of Fatah's failures. This extremist party is considered by the Palestinian street not only as clean and uncorrupt, but also as an address that cares about the ordinary citizen. Palestinians are well aware of Hamas' extremist nature and know the group rejects outright Israel's right to exist.
But many people believe Hamas in government will act entirely different than Hamas in opposition. They are calling a vote for Hamas the "Sharon Precedent": Just like Ariel Sharon, builder of settlements and champion of the Whole Land of Israel, reversed course upon becoming prime minister – so, too (they hope) will Hamas undergo a similar change, once they understand the needs of the Palestinian people from the perspective of a governing party, rather than an illegal terrorist group.
This Palestinian gamble worries us Israelis, but it is understandable. From the average Palestinian's point of view, voting for Hamas is an appropriate reaction to the rotten and failed leadership of Fatah.
Sever Plocker is a columnist for Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth
Bethlehem's Christian population has declined 10 percent in five years, and Moslems now are the majority in the city where Christians, once a majority, often have been the targets of Moslem riots.
Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas visited Bethlehem Saturday night during midnight mass and used the holidays as a platform to call on the Christian community to denounce the partition barrier which separates Bethlehem from the southern limits of Jerusalem.
Foreign clerics joined Abbas, and the Archbishop of Westminster, England told worshippers that Bethlehem's citizens are "terribly alone" because of the barrier. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor urged Israel "to build bridges and not walls" and blamed Israel for making Christians feeling "compelled to leave the land of their birth for foreign lands, on account of the political situation."
... Christians have been fleeing Bethlehem in droves due to security concerns and the changeover to Arab authority in the town, with 3,000 having fled since the outbreak of the Oslo War in 2000. Ten years ago, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat replaced the Christian-dominated town council with a predominately Moslem council. Christians made up 90 percent of the city before Israel became a state in 1948, but a Moslem influx has turned the Christians into a minority of less than 20 percent.
...The PA officially claims to allow freedom of religion, but Moslem sermons have linked Jews and Christians as enemies. A PA Information Ministry statement states, "The Palestinian people are also governed by [Islamic] Shari'a law..., and any Muslim who [converts] or declares becoming an unbeliever is committing a major sin punishable by capital punishment...."Anti-Christian sentiment also has been evident elsewhere in the PA. Last September, hundreds of armed Moslems terrorized the Christian city of Taibe in Samaria, burning homes and cars, and destroying a sacred Catholic statue. In one riot in 2002, Moslems instigated "a rampage...after torching the Christian properties," according to the Boston Globe.
While the IDF is considering methods for reducing the number of Kassam rockets penetrating into Israel, Arab terror groups are threatening an increase in rocket attacks.
...Prime Minister Ariel Sharon instructed Israeli Defense brass Sunday to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent Kassam rockets from being launched into Israel. Steps may include monitoring Gaza from the air and sea, as well as establishing a 1.5 mile restricted security zone along the northern and eastern Gaza borders.
In response, the Islamic Jihad terror group has threatened to increase the firing of homemade Kassams, should the IDF implement the security procedures. Islamic Jihad spokesperson Khaled Al Batsh said that an imposed security zone gives their group a “closer target to strike,” according to the Arab International Middle East Media Center. ....”If Israel enforces a security strip, Abu Abir says that terror organizations will continue shelling military bases, utilizing techniques employed by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
National Religious Party leader MK Zevulum Orlev visited the IDF's Zikim base near Ashkelon on Sunday. The base was recently the target of a Kassam rocket attack, injuring five soldiers and inflicting panic amongst new recruits housed at the base. Orlev stated during his visit that there is no alternative to a ground offensive into Gaza, and that the IDF must do whatever is necessary to halt rocket attacks into Israel.
Abu Abir claims that if the Israeli army orders an offensive into Gaza, the brigades will retaliate “hard and fast.” ...In a statement released by Islamic Jihad Sunday night, the terror organization asserts that Israel is being pushed into “withdrawal after withdrawal.” ....“Under a barrage of rockets, the explosions and fire of the Mujahideen, they [the Zionists] are now announcing that they are withdrawing from an army base, south of the city of Ashkelon, on lands conquered in ’48,” said the terror group. Islamic Jihad views the issue of defending the IDF base against Kassam rockets as tantamount to another Israeli withdrawal from territory.
In addition, PRC head, Gamal Abu-Samhadna, has threatened to open up his own border crossing between the Gaza district and Egypt. His threats come as Israel and Europe oppose allowing Abu-Samhadna to visit Mecca during an upcoming Moslem holiday.Abu-Samahada said his crossing would permit wanted terrorists to enter and exit the Gaza district unhindered by what he defined as “the occupation.” Under an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Rafiah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is currently subject to European and Israeli oversight.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Hamas and 10 other Palestinian factions have urged President Mahmoud Abbas not to delay parliamentary elections any further, even if Israel bans voting in Arab East Jerusalem.
Israel's refusal to allow East Jerusalem's Palestinians to vote on January 25 has drawn calls from some officials for a postponement.
A delay could suit Mr Abbas's divided Fatah movement very well, but not Hamas as it rides a surge of popularity.
Israel opposes participation by Hamas, a militant group sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state.
The Palestinian Government-run WAFA news agency quotes Mr Abbas as saying he wants the vote held on time and for East Jerusalem's Palestinians to be allowed to take part in it. Foreign donors have been pushing for the long-delayed parliamentary ballot to strengthen democracy but they are also wary of Hamas doing very well.
...Senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath says "we cannot hold elections anywhere if the Palestinians in Jerusalem are not allowed to vote".
A (Norwegian) regional parliament has ruled to boycott Israeli products in protest of 'Israel's oppression of Palestinians'; ADL condemns ruling, says 'decision only serves to exacerbate tensions and ill-will'
The Norwegian parliament in the Sor-Trondelag region ruled Saturday to boycott products made in Israel and to forbid the sale and purchase of Israeli goods.
... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) strongly condemned the ruling Wednesday, saying that "this decision does nothing to promote Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, but only serves to exacerbate tensions and ill-will.” ....
Though many of them have only appeared on page two of local Jewish papers, a wave of anti-Jewish attacks continues around the globe. In recent weeks...
* In Australia the Executive Council of Australian Jewry's annual report points to Jews there increasingly being verbally abused and physically attacked. "There were 332 incidents of anti-Jewish assault, vandalism, intimidation and harassment in the past 12 months," according to the report. ....
* A 16-year-old British Jew was attacked with a knife in Manchester last week. ...
* A French court sentenced a 25-year-old man last week to three years in jail for vandalizing a cemetery with Nazi graffiti and anti-Jewish slogans.
* Three teens in Swampscott, Massachusetts have been charged with hate crimes after burning a van belonging to a local Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue. ....
* A large menorah was torn down and stomped to pieces by a group of vandals at a South Philadelphia community center last week. ....
* An anti-Jewish TV program called "America is a Changing Country” was aired on cable access television in Maryland. The program, produced by National Alliance neo-Nazi group, blames, “Jewish media” for urban decay and the denigration of "Aryan values."
* Thousands of fans of Hungary's Ujpest FC soccer team chanted anti-Jewish slogans during a league match last month ....
* In Salt Lake City, Utah, a plaque featuring a quote by Rabbi Eric Silver... was defaced. ...
* In Peru, Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein...told ...of a significant rise in attacks on the country's small Jewish community. ....
* Jews in the South Tottenham area of London have reported that they live in constant fear of violent attacks, citing several recent cases of unprovoked assaults on outwardly Orthodox Jews.
* ...the regimes in the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Syria promoted Holocaust-denial or defended Holocaust-deniers over the past year.... the head of Egypt`s Muslim Brotherhood said that the Holocaust is a "myth."
*Also on Thursday a man was put on trial in Austria for publicly swearing allegiance to Adolf Hitler.
*A French group was reported to be distributing pork soup to homeless in a bid to exclude Muslims and Jews from benefiting from their magnanimity.
Follow the link for the full report.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Qassam fire continues: Five IDF soldiers sustain light, moderate injuries after Qassam rocket lands in military base south of Ashkelon; earlier, another rocket lands in area, no injuries reported in attack
Four IDF soldiers sustained light wounds and another soldier suffered light to moderate injuries after a Qassam rocket landed in a military base south of Ashkelon Thursday morning.
The troops were hurt by shrapnel and will be taken to hospital for treatment.... The rocket landed around 9:45 a.m. near the base’s dining hall, which was crowded with soldiers and officers at the time of the attack. The battalion in question has been deployed to the area to address terror threats in the northern Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources in Gaza said Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, was behind the rocket attack.
Troops at the base told Ynet about the panic that followed the rocket attack. “We heard an explosion near the dining hall,” one soldier said. “At first we didn’t understand what happened but within several seconds it became clear a Qassam landed here. Several soldiers were hit by shrapnel and we can still hear the noises ringing in our ears.”
...Meanwhile, the IDF began firing artillery shells at northern Gaza Strip rocket launching sites in response to the latest attacks.
...Earlier Thursday, a Qassam fired from the Gaza landed in an open area near the industrial zone south of Ashkelon.
...Two day ago, Palestinians fired four Qassam rockets at Israeli targets. Two of the rockets landed in open areas near the southern town of Sderot and another one landed in an army base.
...In response, the army directed artillery fire at rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz proposed to bomb the Gaza Strip and force Palestinian residents in several areas to flee to the Sinai desert in response to the ongoing rocket attacks.
Shmulik Hadad contributed to the story
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman Wednesday and urged him to prod the Palestinian Authority to curb attacks on Israelis. Mofaz told Suleiman the defense establishment currently had six alerts of planned suicide bombings and that a wave of Palestinian terrorism was pending.
Security concerns also were at the top of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's agenda on his first day back at work after recovering from a mild stroke. Sharon ... (spent) much of his time devoted to the security situation. He ... received pessimistic intelligence assessments that the Palestinian elections would lead to a spike in terrorism, an increase in Kassam attacks and an escalation of violence along the northern border.
...In his meeting with Suleiman, Mofaz warned that the PA was losing control of the Palestinian areas, adding that this was "a situation Israel cannot accept...." ... Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dispatched Suleiman to the region to "reduce tensions" of terrorist attacks against Israelis and ensure that the PA elections take place as scheduled.
Mofaz told Suleiman that intelligence indicated funding for Palestinian terrorist groups was still flowing from Damascus, and reiterated his desire to take steps to support and strengthen PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas before the PA elections. But, he said, he would not do so at the expense of harming the security of Israelis. Suleiman assured Mofaz he would pressure the PA to restore calm and reduce violence.
... Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, head of the military/political and policy bureau at the Defense Ministry.... said the PA paid 60,000 salaries a month to their security forces, but they were for all purposes "paralyzed" because there were no instructions coming down from the PA leadership. "First of all, it is the Palestinian Authority that needs to install order," he said. "But they are doing nothing. This has wide implications. Is this even a government? Can they even exert their will? Can they prevent anarchy and crime? If not, then their weak image will deepen."
"At the moment it is an authority that doesn't impose its will and is reconciled with anarchy and violence in its territory and doesn't lift a finger to prevent terrorism," Gilad told Israel Radio. "And anyone who doesn't lift a finger to prevent terrorism should not be surprised when they ask for political concessions and they don't get them."
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman tells reporters in Jerusalem that U.S. Evangelicals are threat to America's religious pluralism. In an interview with Ynetnews, Foxman says he is not concerned with Christian support for Israel, does not see Spielberg's new film as attack on Israel.
U.S. Evangelicals are threatening America's rich tradition of religious pluralism, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Director Abraham Foxman told a press conference in Jerusalem Tuesday.
While referring to American Christian Evangelicals as "our friends," Foxman went on to warn: "If they succeed on their domestic agenda, to change the balance of the separation of church and state, and bring America closer to a Christian nation, as they wish, if they would judge candidates as they wish to judge them, by whether or not they will act under Jesus' philosophy, how many Jews do you think will eventually get elected?"
Foxman said that Evangelical Christians are attempting to implement changes "by legislation," adding that religious organizations in the United States are aiming to control "what pharmacists may or may not dispense, what operations can or cannot be undertaken, and what books can be read."
"What we found distressing was that, unlike the past when the debate was Judeo-Christian values… today the discussion is: Christian. It's not God, its Jesus. It's a particularist truth that is being promoted," Foxman said.
...In an ominous warning, he added that while the intent was not anti-Semitic, "the Hollywood media" was a common reply given to the question of who was plotting against Christmas.
"If this campaign succeeds… the unintended result is to undermine the pluralism of our country," Foxman said.
Support for Israel not a concern
Speaking to Ynetnews, Foxman fell short of extending his domestic concerns over the activities of U.S. Evangelical groups to their relationship with Israel. Their support was "based on theology," he said. "They believe in the second coming, I'm waiting for the first," Foxman said, adding that he was not worried about the motive behind the Evangelicals' support.
'Spielberg is not the enemy of Israel'
The ADL leader said he had attended a private screening of Steven Spielberg's film, "Munich," which deals with the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists, and Israel's subsequent pursuit of those behind the murders.
"We do not think this is an attack on Israel," Foxman said, adding that there was "no moral equivalency" portrayed between the terrorists and Israeli agents. "It shows unbridled, brutal terrorism on the part of the Palestinians. It shows the need to respond. Also, this is not a documentary… it's a work of fiction based on a historical event. It was a movie waiting to be made. And if anybody makes it, if I had my choice, it wouldn't be Mel Gibson. It would be Spielberg. And all of the sudden to make Spielberg the enemy of Israel and the Jewish people… is a distortion of what it's all about," he said.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Since early December, a branch of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq has been running a forward base in Gaza City preparatory to in-depth attacks in Israel, according to DEBKAfile’s exclusive counter-terror sources. It joins the Al Qaeda-Palestine cell established some weeks ago in the Gaza Strip.
A high-ranking Israeli army officer confided to us: “For years, we fought al Qaeda in unpublicized encounters in remote places far from our borders. Now we have to admit they are here, on our very threshold ... The conjunction of al Qaeda and Palestinian terrorist structures confronts Israel with a grave strategic threat.”
... Intelligence chiefs informed the prime minister that the new cell linked up with the local branch of the Palestinian terror umbrella, the Popular Resistance Committees, which is headed by Shekh Khalil Kuka. The PRC welcomed the newcomer by making its publicity outlets available. Since Monday, Dec. 5, PRC Internet websites have been posting daily bulletins on Zarqawi’s attacks on US and Iraqi targets which often run to 20-30 communiques a day.
These bulletins are now released simultaneously in Baghdad, Gaza, Rafah and Khan Younes. In Gaza, they appear alongside a PRC statement declaring: “The Palestinian and Zarqawi’s struggles are one and the same.”
It is the first time that a Palestinian combat-terrorist organization has aligned itself directly and openly with al Qaeda’s commander in Iraq. Yet, although no attempt has been made to conceal this alliance, it has received no publicity in Israel.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that Israeli counter-terror agencies are quietly working on the premise that the Popular Resistance Committees of Gaza and the Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades of the West Bank plan to make their operational structures available to Zarqawi’s cell for in-depth attacks in Israel.
Meanwhile, the new cell is not letting the grass grow under its feet. Its leaders have managed to enlist the support of the Bedouin clans of southern Gaza, which number tens of thousands of tribesmen, thereby substantially expanding their logistical base. Al Qaeda’s Sinai cell, which Egypt has been unable to root out, already counts on northern Sinai’s Bedouin clans for logistical support.
The pledge of solidarity issued by Gaza’s Khan Younes and Deir Balah Bedouin chiefs declares: “We are now committed to following Zarqawi’s flag.” It condemns the Bani Hassan Bedouin tribe of Jordan for reprimanding and expelling members who joined al Qaeda and accuses their chiefs of capitulating to the rulers of Jordan.
...In July and August, 2005, ahead of Israel’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip, DEBKAfile warned that Zarqawi and al Qaeda’s terrorists were waiting for the pullback to establish forward bases in the Gaza Strip. Four months later, they are poised for action on Israel’s borders.
"Kadima is not one man, it is a path," Transportation Minister and Kadima stalwart Meir Sheetrit told Army Radio Monday morning, the day after Kadima's founder and star - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - suffered a mild stroke.
. . .Kadima is Sharon. He is the magnet that has attracted politicians as diverse as Haim Ramon on the left and Tzachi Hanegbi on the right. He is the glue that binds the party together. Without Sharon, there is no cement keeping Shimon Peres and Shaul Mofaz in the same party.
Sheetrit is kidding himself if he believes that the public views Kadima as presenting a clear ideological path. For the public, Kadima represents a vehicle through which Sharon can continue to pursue his policies - policies which, if the polls are to be believed, the majority of the country wants continued.
. . .Expect to see two messages coming out of Kadima's handlers over the next few days.
The first will be obvious: Sharon is fit as a fiddle, the stroke left no lingering damage, and in no time at all Sharon will be back at his ranch hoisting grandkids on his knees and slinging lambs over his shoulders.
The second message will be that Kadima is more than Sharon, that there is indeed a Kadima team with a Kadima message and a clear line of succession.
. . .The party's strategists will likely give the public a clear indication of who will fill what positions in the next government if Kadima, as expected, wins at the polls. This may go a long way toward dispelling uncertainty as to what direction the new party would be pulled were Sharon unable to complete another term in office. . . .
ISRAELI Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom rang former premier Benjamin Netanyahu to concede defeat in the contest to become leader of the right-wing Likud party, public television reported today. The phone call came after exit polls forecast a clear victory for Mr Netanyahu over his chief challenger for the post which was made vacant by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's resignation from Likud last month.
The official results were expected to be announced shortly.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Arab Israeli Knesset Member Azmi Bishara ... addressing an Arab audience in Lebanon, asserted that Arabs were the original residents of the land and urged Israelis to leave and take their democracy with them.
”Israel is the 20th century's greatest robbery, carried out in broad daylight. I will never recognize Zionism even if all Arabs do. I will never concede Palestine. The battle is still long," Arab Knesset member Azmi Bishara stated at a Lebanese book fair last week in Beirut. "The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not a demographic dispute, but a national one. It's not the problem of 1.2 million Palestinians living in Israel. They are like all Arabs, only with Israeli citizenship forced upon them. We are the original residents of Palestine, not those who came from Poland and Russia," Bishara told Lebanese newspaper Al -Safir. .... "Return Palestine to us and take your democracy with you. We Arabs are not interested in it..." ....
Knesset Member Azmi Bishara was born in Nazareth in 1956...(he) announced his intentions to campaign for re-election to the Knesset in the upcoming elections in the party that he founded, the National Democratic Assembly (NDA). Bishara left Israel for Lebanon last week without receiving consent from the Interior Ministry for his trip.
This is not the first time Bishara has brashly spoken against Israel to audiences in hostile Arab nations. In June, 2001... in Syria at a memorial ceremony in Damascus for the late Hafez Assad....Bishara appeared jointly with Hizbullah terrorist leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and called for a ‘united Arab nation’ to come together against Israel. Angry reactions from Knesset members included then Coalition leader Likud MK Ze'ev Boim who said, "Bishara has publicly connected himself to Israel's worst enemies. This cannot be ignored, and the police should detain him and possibly charge him for conspiring with the enemy." MK Michael Kleiner of Herut stated, "In any normal country, they'd put him in front of a firing squad. It's inconceivable that an Israeli Knesset member would encourage Arab states to launch a full-scale war against us."
...In addition to his harsh statements against Israel, Bishara also criticized the leaders of Arab nations who maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, including Tunisia where Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom recently visited. "Why does one of the Arab countries provide a home for Silvan Shalom, while the army destroys homes in Palestine on a daily basis? If you want to surrender, do it, but don't force us to give in," Bishara told Al-Safir.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Israel is one of the few states in the world that for most of its history has been under repeated military assault by its neighbors. Yet Israel's vulnerability is expected to increase in the future after territorial concessions that may be part of an eventual peace treaty with the Palestinians. A formula does exist to make such peace arrangements stable. .... the idea that Israel need(s) new defensible lines to ensure a lasting peace.
While Israel's right to defensible borders has been recognized most recently by the Bush administration, unfortunately this has been largely overlooked in much of the recent public discourse on Middle East peace-making, which stresses the territorial aims of the Palestinians but rarely gives equal weight to long-held Israeli rights and defensive requirements. Indeed, in certain quarters, including parts of Europe, many of Israel's security needs are dismissed ....
This study concludes that the underlying strategic logic justifying Israel's claim to defensible borders, as well as its international legal validity, is just as relevant today as in 1967, and perhaps even more so: (go to the Executive Summary to see the explanation of each of the points below)
- Israel's strategic planning for the future cannot be based on a short-term reading of the situation after the 2003 Iraq War....
- Within the 1967 lines, from a purely military standpoint, Israel loses the ability to defend itself....
- The current West Bank security fence cannot become a future eastern border for Israel....
- Israel must retain the Jordan Valley in any future political arrangement with the Palestinians....
(go to the Executive Summary to see the explanation of each of these points)
© 2005 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
The Palestinians have a basic choice before them: continuing the war or building a state. Electorally, the war party seems to be winning.
In Thursday's municipal elections, Hamas candidates won a remarkable 13 out of 15 seats in the traditional Fatah stronghold of Nablus. In Jenin, Hamas won eight seats and Fatah won seven. In al-Bireh, a town adjacent to Ramallah, Hamas won nine seats, while Fatah won only four.
Though the strength of Hamas is often attributed to the public's rejection of the corruption of Fatah's old guard, at the Hamas victory rally in Nablus the crowd was not chanting for clean government but "To Jerusalem we march, martyrs by the millions!"
Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives has resoundingly passed a resolution stating that allowing Hamas terrorists to participate in the legislative elections scheduled next month would "potentially undermine the ability of the United States to have a constructive relationship with or provide further assistance to the Palestinian Authority." This is a welcome statement, but it also should be considered a restatement of the obvious.
As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently noted at Princeton, terrorist groups such as Hamas "cannot simultaneously keep an option on politics and an option on violence. There simply isn't a case that I can think of internationally where that's been permitted to happen." Actually, not only is such a combination of politics and terror conceivable, but this is an accurate description of the Oslo period and why that experiment failed. When Israel balked at exactly this combination, we were told that we were obstructing the peace process.
Now, attitudes have changed somewhat, and indeed there is much less international patience for the Palestinian penchant for keeping the terror option always open. To be more precise, the possibilities of pressuring Israel to make more concessions to a nascent Palestinian terror state have diminished.
Regardless of how well Hamas does in elections, the salient question for Israel and the international community is whether the Palestinian Authority prevents terrorist organizations - elected or not - from operating in its midst. If the PA does not do this, not only should Israel have nothing to do with it, but the international community should, as the US Congress suggests, stop sustaining the PA diplomatically and financially.
No one can force the Palestinians to choose peace and the state that is being offered to them in exchange. What Israel and the rest of the world can do is force the Palestinians to choose between peace and a state on the one hand and continuing war and terror on the other.
The international failure to make this choice stark enough for the Palestinians - by allowing them to receive aid and negotiate without abandoning terror - has ensured the failure of any peace process and has prolonged the suffering of both parties. Even now, we would hazard a guess that most Palestinians do not believe that voting for Hamas, at least in local elections, will jeopardize international financial support.
Indeed, many Palestinians seem to believe that, not only do they not have to choose between terror and a state, but that terrorism remains the best way to obtain their national goals. The fact that such a belief is evidently alive and well after all the declarations that terror must stop is damning evidence that the international community has failed to convince Palestinians that it is serious about forcing such a choice.
The international community has done the Palestinians no favor in this respect. Nor can anyone expect the situation to change as international aid to the PA continues to pour in despite the corruption, lack of transparency, anarchy, and refusal to end incitement and crack down on terrorism.
To date, the refusal of donors to turn off their financial spigots has been out of fear that the alternative is Hamas rule. Now we see the exact opposite: the more the corrupt PA is artificially propped up, the more the people want to replace it with Hamas. The solution, rather than continuing to finance the PA at all costs, is to more seriously link funding to what the donors have demanded for years: ending terror, corruption and incitement and introducing the rule of law.
A special Iranian plane flew Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to Revolutionary Guards HQ at Bandar Abbas Monday, Dec. 12, after he spent 10 days in Tehran as favored guest of Iran’s clerical rulers ....
There, he conferred with the RG commanders, heads of its intelligence branch and officers of the al Quds Battalions, which host the men fighting in Iraq under al Qaeda chief Abu Musab al Zarqawi, for training, medical aid and rest.
Meshall conferred with the RG commanders on operational collaboration between the two Palestinian groups Hamas and Jihad Islami in Gaza and the West Bank and their hook-up with Iranian networks and Hizballah in Lebanon. Tehran is footing the bill for the boost in their terror operations.
DEBKAfile terror experts add: The Bandar Abbas conference also discussed ways and means of bolstering al Qaeda’s presence in the Gaza Strip and helping Osama bin Laden’s organization spread its wings to the West Bank alongside Meshaal’s own Hamas.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank opened fire in the southern Hebron Hills early Friday afternoon, killing an Israeli man and lightly wounding two other women.The victim of the attack has been named as Yossi Shok, 35, from the West Bank settlement of Beit Hagai.Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a Fatah-linked militant group, claimed joint responsibility for the attack.
. . .the gunmen shot at Shok's vehicle near Beit Hagai, not far from the regional IDF headquarters.
'The murderer is sitting in Sharon's bureau'
Beit Hagai spokesman Yair Lior said he saw an IDF bulldozer removing a military checkpoint from the location of the attack, which took place just hours later. "The murderer is sitting in Sharon's bureau," Lior said in response to the shooting. "Whomever votes for Kadima is voting for a gang of murderers who have no respect for the spilling of the blood of Israel. They are doing to us what Joseph's brothers did to him - 'Go away, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let not our hands be on him'... Sharon, Mofaz and the chief of staff are responsible for this murder. The blood is on their hands. I and others warned the military echelon, painting a precise scenario of such an event. We will not be broken by the Arabs. The problem is the Israeli government. A government in which criminals and murderers sit, and I invite anyone who wants to bring me to trial for this statement to do so," he added.
Security forces closed off the southern Hebron Hills area after the attack and were searching for the gunmen, Israel Radio reported. It said a militant cell specializing in shooting attacks is known to operate in the area where the shooting took place. . . .The attack was carried out not far from an IDF regional brigade headquarters, indicating that the perpetrators of the attack meticulously planned it.
Two months ago three Israelis were killed and three others were wounded in the area after Palestinians fired at a hitchhikers station.
Nine months ago four soldiers were wounded in the area by shots fired at them from a passing car.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke on Thursday said that the fight against terrorism will not succeed unless the United States leads efforts to create a viable Palestinian state.
'Nothing effective can be done while the festering sore of the Palestinian problem continues,' Mr Hawke told delegates at a global peace forum in Malaysia.
....Mr Hawke said the lack of jobs and dismal living standards for Palestinians 'is a breeding ground for despair and worse'. ...The United States, along with other countries in Europe and the Middle East and the World Bank should help provide the capital, technical and educational expertise and equipment to create a viable Palestinian state, he said.
He was speaking to some 2,000 delegates attending the three-day forum, organised by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad.... Other speakers include ...Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
There is a right way and a wrong way, strangely, to call for the elimination of Israel.
Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, provided an example of each in recent weeks. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, stated on October 2 6 that "the regime occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history," Annan replied by expressing "dismay." Again on December 7, when Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be moved to Europe, Annan responded with "shock."
But dismay and shock at Ahmadinejad's statements did not prevent Annan from participating on November 29, just between the Iranian outbursts, in a UN-sponsored "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People." Anne Bayefsky of "Eye on the UN" (www.eyeontheun.org) reports that Annan sat on the dais adjacent to an Arabic-language map of "Palestine" showing a Palestine replacing Israel. It cartographically achieved exactly what Ahmadinejad called for: The elimination of the Jewish state.
Annan's contradictory actions result from the fact that, since 1993, explicit calls for the destruction of Israel have become offensive but implicit ones have become more acceptable. The latter include:
- Demands for a Palestinian "right of return" (demographically overrunnin g the Jewish state with anyone claiming to be a Palestinian)
- declaring a "jihad to liberate Jerusalem"
- commemorating the creation of Israel as Al-Nakba ("the disaster")
- proposing a "one-state solution" (i.e., no more Israel)
- tributes to "all those of who have given their lives for the cause of the Palestinian people" (including suicide bombers)
- maps that do not show Israel
Fatah and Hamas together display this dichotomy. Both aspire to eliminate Israel, but they choose different paths to get there. Fatah's tactics have been opportunistic, duplicitous and inconsistent since 1988, when Yasser Arafat nominally condemned terrorism and began the "peace process" with Israel - even as he simultaneously sponsored suicide terrorism and promoted an ideology totally rejecting Israeli legitimacy. This transparent deception enabled Fatah to gain great benefits from Israel, including a self-governing authority, a quasi-military force, vast Western subventions, and near-control of one border.
Hamas, in contrast, consistently rejected Israel's existence, winning it ever-larger segments of Palestinian public opinion (the latest poll shows it ahead of Fatah in the forthcoming elections, 45 percent to 35%).
BUT THIS overt rejectionism also made it anathema to Israel and others, limiting its effectiveness. As a result, Hamas in recent months has started showing more flexibility; for example, it has generally honored a cease-fire with Israel and is moving in the direction of entering the diplomatic process. This brings advantages; the "Conflicts Forum" and others are, with some success, presenting Hamas as a newly legitimate interlocutor.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) might find itself the only purely rejectionist organization against Israel.
Why do such distinctions in style matter? Because the Fatah approach seduces Israelis enough to work with them; Arafat-like euphemisms, inconsistencies, subterfuges and lies encourage them to make "painful concessions."
Contrarily, the Ahmadinejad-PIJ approach crudely confronts Israel with overt and brutal threats that cannot be rationalized away. Blatant calls for Israel's destruction make Israelis bristle, acquire new armaments and close down diplomatically.
These ploys might strain credulity - surely the Israelis realize that more subtle tactics are no less lethal than overt threats with the same aim? Actually, they do not.
Since 1993, Israelis have shown themselves, in the words of the philosopher Yoram Hazony, "an exhausted people, confused and without direction," willing and even eager to be duped by their attackers. All they need are some overtures, however unconvincing, that they will be freed from war, and they barely can restrain themselves from making concessions to mortal enemies.
Thus does enlightened world opinion condemn Ahmadinejad, sensing he went too far and will cause Israelis to retreat. If he would only tone down his comments and politely call for Israel's elimination by, for example, endorsing a one-state solution, all would be well.
Thus have Israelis effectively defined which anti-Zionism is acceptable and which is not. Kofi Annan's record of both condemning and endorsing Israel's elimination merely reflects the etiquette of destruction established by Israelis themselves.
PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) submits letter of resignation to Chairman Abbas Thursday; sources say Qureia decided to quit after being placed only fourth on Fatah’s list ahead of elections
...Abbas accepted the resignation and appointed Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Sha’ath as interim prime minister.
.... Should the resignation hold, it may pave the way for the return of several prominent Fatah members who recently joined Marwan Barghouti’s alternative list of candidates ahead of the elections.
Barghouti, the West Bank Tanzim leader currently jailed in Israel (serving five life terms for his direct involvement in deadly terror attacks - SL) , heads Fatah’s official candidate list for parliament, alongside senior figures such as former PA Minister for Civilian Affairs Mohammad Dahlan and National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub.
...The Fatah list was submitted by Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa and other senior Fatah members. Barghouti's name is followed by only two veteran members: Prime Minister Qureia, who is in the fourth spot, and Intisar al-Wazir, member of the Fatah's central committee. The rest of the candidates are mainly activists and senior members of the young generation.
...Prisoner Affairs Minister Sufian Abu Zaydeh, a member of Barghouti's new party, told Ynet that "our list is the one which expresses the desire of the majority of Fatah members. It comes to say that it is time for the young members to fulfill their duties inside the movement and on its institutions." ....
(I wonder what "duties" he has in mind - SL)
. . .To run for the leadership of one party and then switch to another because you lost, as Peres did - or because you are clearly going to lose, as Mofaz did - is genuinely contemptible. If you do not support a party's goals and ideals, you should not be in it to begin with, much less running for its chairmanship. And if you do, you should not switch to another party just because the voters declined to give you the No. 1 slot.
Nevertheless, Peres at least never actively undermined Labor while still a member. During the leadership campaign, he touted the party's virtues, and after he lost, he kept silent until he joined Kadima.
Mofaz and Hanegbi, in contrast, both exploited their senior positions in Likud - Mofaz as a candidate for its leadership and Hanegbi as its acting chairman - to actively undermine the party in the weeks before they jumped ship to Kadima. ...Likud has been plummeting in the polls for two main reasons, and both are largely the work of Mofaz and Hanegbi.
One reason is that Likud is the only major party that has not yet even started campaigning, because it still has not chosen its prime ministerial candidate. Without a leader, the party lacks a rallying point and a unified message. Moreover, the lengthy primary campaign has meant that rather than directing their fire at Labor and Kadima, leading Likud members have been launching vitriolic attacks on each other...
YET THIS entire situation is due largely to Mofaz and Hanegbi. When Ariel Sharon first left Likud to found Kadima, the three original leadership candidates - Binyamin Netanyahu, Uzi Landau and Moshe Feiglin - all urged that the primary be held as soon as possible so that the party could focus on the real campaign. But three other candidates who joined the race only after Sharon's departure - Mofaz, Silvan Shalom and Yisrael Katz - demanded a much later date, charging that otherwise, they would not have time to campaign. And Hanegbi, the acting chairman, used his authority to force a compromise. As a result, the leadership primary will be held only on December 19, and Likud will have spent the crucial first month of the campaign season leaderless and rudderless.
Mofaz was also largely responsible for the primary's vitriolic character. Netanyahu, to his credit, largely refrained from attacking his rivals, focusing instead on his own achievements. But Mofaz, along with Shalom, attacked the other candidates incessantly ...
The second problem dogging Likud has been its stigmatization as a party of right-wing extremists. ... Mofaz and Hanegbi both leveled this charge relentlessly. Mofaz, in fact, made this the centerpiece of his primary campaign: His consistent message was that Likud had become a party of extremists, and only by making him chairman could it recapture the center.
But Hanegbi ... termed ... MKs who opposed the disengagement - "extremists" who "destroyed" the party by "expelling" Sharon. In other words, not only is it "extremist" to honor the wishes of party members - who voted 60-40 against disengagement in a referendum - but the entire party is worthless without Sharon!
The truth is that Likud is far from extremist.... Granted, the party's membership opposed the disengagement, as did leadership candidates Landau and, to some extent, Netanyahu. But according to repeated polls, so did 35 to 40 percent of the Jewish public .... A position adopted by close to 40% of the Jewish public is hardly marginal or extremist.
Moreover, even among the "rebels," a primary objection to the plan was Sharon's refusal to obtain a genuine public mandate for it, via either a referendum or new elections, after having won office by campaigning explicitly against unilateral withdrawal. ...Even among the plan's supporters, roughly half consistently expressed unease over Sharon's undemocratic behavior and would have preferred a clear public mandate.
...the fact that (Mofaz and Hanegbi) chose to serve Kadima from senior positions in Likud should put them beyond the pale.
Candidates running under the banner of Hamas terrorists won municipal elections in Jenin Thursday, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine won in Ramallah. Earlier reports showed Hamas winning in Shechem and El-Bireh, near Ramallah. The latest results represent a serious defeat for the Fatah party, headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas won landslide victories in Shechem, receiving 75 percent of the votes, and inEl Bireh with 72 percent of the ballots.The results signaled increased popularity for Hamas, which is fielding candidates in the January 25 PA legislative elections.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Amongst the terrible hostage news in Iraq it has almost been forgotten in the UK that this is the week of Iraq’s most important elections for decades.
... well these are certainly the most dangerous elections in the world. Scores of people have already been killed who were involved in some way in the elections. The former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has already had 11 of his parties candidates killed. At the other end of the spectrum young Christian men have been shot dead as they placed posters in place for the Assyrian Democratic Party.
Yet however much one tries to keep religion out of politics it still features prominently. The Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had said he was going to keep out of the election after supporting the Iraqi Alliance last time. However he has told people to vote for religious candidates and he has allowed his face to appear on various candidates posters.
Despite the dangers involved Iraq is not short of parties or candidates. Two hundred and twenty six parties are standing with over 7000 candidates. Quite a list to choose from. Also electioneering has been intense. With it being too dangerous to take to the streets the price for advertising on TV has climbed to $3000 per minute. Un-requested text messages have been sent to the new Iraqi mobile phones. Many of Iraq’s 200+ newspapers have pushed their parties hard, half of them are owned by political parties. Amidst this great activity the shooting and killing has continued. Indeed in the past few weeks the violence and insurgency has increased.
Yet people will be turning out to vote in their masses, despite being a new phenomenon in Iraq democracy is taken seriously. What the West needs to realise though is that democracy here in the Middle East is a very different phenomena than in the USA or UK. We do not know yet if it will even work. The down side is that you can not predict who is going to win. Or even who will be Prime Minister.
It may well be people the West does not like. We just have to look at what recently happened after elections in Iran, the possible results in Gaza next month are equally worrying. When you look at the most stable countries in the region one is immediately drawn to Jordan and Morocco. Both in reality are not democracies but the benevolent dictatorship of their kingdoms. So we do not know what the results will be and it is likely to take several weeks before we precisely know who will lead the nation.
In a poll released in Iraq this week people stated that having a strong leader was the most important thing that the nation needed. They saw this requirement as being more important than even democracy. As Thomas L Friedman of the New York Times said jut after the war “Saddam ruled this nation with an Iron fist, we are trying to rule it with and Iron finger, and this isn’t Norway you know”. Iraq certainly needs strong leadership but it also needs benevolent leadership. For too long Iraqis have suffered the abuse of their leader, they now need to see strength and kindness and the two can go together
The election is overseen by the independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI). They themselves only just know what they are doing. It was only a month ago they came to us at the Iraqi Institute of Peace and asked if we would run all the elections in Al Anbar (The Sunna Triangle) it involved taking on 6500 staff in just 10 days. Not quite the way you would expect elections to be organized, but here in Iraq nothing works like one would expect.
The advantage of the new Government will be that it will have time to begin to bring about real change. Since the war, Iraq has had three Governments in fewer than three years. Now at least it will have four years to try and begin to work things out. At its outset though it will be plagued by difficulties as it tries to come to terms with what is certain to be great diversity. The difficulty is that many of those elected will not just be political opponents, they will hate each other. What’s more they will not even all be nice people. There are certain to be elected some very dangerous individuals.
Democracy in Iraq is not the solution to all it problems. We now realise it will take years to work out. This may though just be the beginning of change, but even that will take time.
Canon Andrew White
CEO of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East
Anglican Priest in Iraq
International Director of the Iraqi Institute of Peace