Friday, March 30, 2007

Gaza sewage sweeps through village

From The West Australian, 28th March 2007 by REUTERS ....

A sewage reservoir burst next to a village in the northern Gaza Strip, killing at least four people and injuring 20 in a torrent of putrid water and waste that buried their homes, officials say.

Two children, aged one and two, were among the dead in Gaza's small Bedouin Village when the sewage overflowed in what one resident called a man-made tsunami. At least 25 makeshift homes were destroyed or completely buried. As many as 96 were damaged.

It was not immediately clear what caused the sewage to erupt from the reservoir, but local residents blamed the municipal government for failing to address the mounting sewage problem.

....Palestinian Interior Minister Hani al-Qawasmi, who rushed to the village to survey the damage, was confronted by angry gunmen who fired shots in the air, local witnesses said. Qawasmi was whisked to safety in a police car.

....Hundreds of school children escaped unharmed because their school was on higher ground.

...but note this article from JPost, Mar. 4, 2007, by YAAKOV KATZ ...

Israeli metal used for Kassam rockets

It took seven years, but the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has finally put a stop to one of the more ironic aspects on Israel's war on terror: Kassam rockets made of Israeli metal.

A Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who worked as a metal merchant at the Karni crossing between Israel and the Strip was arrested by the Shin Bet last month for allegedly selling pipes he bought in Israel to terrorist groups that used them to manufacture Kassams... During his interrogation, he confessed selling the pipes to Hamas and other terrorist organizations that manufactured Kassam rockets, fired almost daily at Israel.

The Shin Bet said Azk's activities began with the start of the second intifada in 2000 and were only brought to a halt by his arrest. The agency could not say how much metal Azk traded, except that it was "significant."

The pipes that were sold to Zak were intended for the construction of a sewage system in Gaza.The Shin Bet has been unable to determine the amount of metal that actually made its way to the terror organizations, and how much went to the sewage project.

....In 2006, 1,700 rockets were fired from Gaza.

....and from Cox & Forkum, March 27, 2007....


Passover Massacre

This Seder night, remember the victims of the Passover massacre (also known as the Netanya bombing), which occurred on Seder night 2002 at the Park Hotel in Netanya for its 250 guests, especially elderly Jews who didn't have family and relatives, in the ground-floor dining room.

A Palestinian suicide bomber passed a security guard at the hotel's entrance, walked through the lobby passing the reception desk and entered the hotel's dining room where he detonated an explosive device he carried in a suitcase. Twenty-eight people were immediately killed, and about 140 were injured, of whom 20 were seriously injured. Two of the injured later died from their wounds. Many of the victims were Holocaust survivors.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. The bomber was identified as Abdel-Basset Odeh, a 25-year-old from the nearby West Bank city of Tulkarem. Hamas would later claim that the attacks were specifically designed to derail momentum from a recently announced peace offer from the Saudi government at the Beirut Summit.

While in English language media, the Palestinian Authority condemned the attack ... in Arabic it glorified the "shahid": on January 21, 2003, the official PA daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida published a report saying "the Tulkarm Shahids Memorial Soccer Championship tournament of the Shahid Abd Al-Baset Odeh began with the participation of seven top teams, named after Shahids who gave their lives to redeem the homeland. Isam, the brother of the Shahid, will distribute the trophies."

Most of the victims were senior citizens (70+). The oldest victim was 90 and the youngest was 20 years old. A number of married couples were murdered as well as a father together with his daughter. One of the victims was a Jewish tourist from Sweden that visited Israel for the passover.

Name Age Hometown

Shula Abramovitch 70
David Anichovitch 70 Netanya
Avraham Beckerman (Sgt.-Maj.) 25
Shimon Ben-Aroya 42 Netanya
Frieda and Alter Britvich 86 and 88 Netanya
Idit and Andre Fried Both 47 Netanya
Miriam Gutenzgan 82
Ramat Gan
Amiram Hamami 44 Netanya
Perla Hermele 79 Stockholm, Sweden
Dvora and Michael Karim 73 and 78 Netanya
Yehudit and Eliezer Korman 70 and 74
Ramat HaSharon
Marianne Myriam Lehmann Zaoui 77 Netanya
Lola Levkovitch 70
Sarah Levy-Hoffman 89 Tel-Aviv
Furuk Na'imi 62 Netanya
Eliahu Nakash 85 Tel-Aviv
Chanah Rogan 90 Netanya
Irit Rashel 45 Moshav Herev La'et
Clara Rosenberger 77 Jerusalem
Yulia Talmi 87 Tel-Aviv
Sivan (St.-Sgt.) and Ze'ev Vider 20 and 50 Moshav Bekaot
Eva and Ernest Weiss 75 and 80
Petah Tikva
Anna and George Yakobovitch 76 and 78 Holon

The Saudi 'peace' plan ultimatum

From The Washington Post EDITORIAL March 29, 2007 ...

During her visit to the Middle East this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been touting a peace plan advocated by Saudi Arabia as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations -- even though it has serious flaws that have raised well-founded concerns from a dovish Israeli government.

Parts of the Saudi plan, particularly the proposal for a peace agreement in which the Arab states agree to recognize Israel, are indeed laudable and deserve support. Other parts, particularly
  • provisions demanding that Israel yield all of the West Bank territory it captured in a defensive war and return to its precarious pre-1967 borders;
  • requiring that it yield the Golan Heights to a Syrian Ba'athist regime that is aligned with Iran; and
  • leaving open the possibility that Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants might be permitted to return to their former homesteads inside what is now Israel,

are unacceptable.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert quite sensibly has asked that these provisions at a minimum be significantly modified.

Mr. Olmert got his answer from Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Tuesday in the form of an ultimatum. Prince Saud said the proposal is non-negotiable, and suggested that Israel would be to blame if war broke out as a result of its failure to swallow it whole. "It has never been proven that reaching out to Israel achieves anything," he told the London Telegraph. If Israel does not agree to the offer, it will be putting its future "in the hands of the lords of war," he added. (This apparently was the royal response to the hopes of Miss Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that Saudi Arabia would make the plan the basis for future discussions with Israel, not a take-it-or-leave-it offer.)

Yesterday Saudi King Abdullah opened an Arab summit meeting in Riyadh by calling "illegitimate" the U.S. military presence in Iraq and denouncing as "oppressive" the embargo on the terrorist-dominated Palestinian Authority government.

The U.S. government has invested considerable political time and effort over the years in trying to advance the cause of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Given the strategic importance of the Middle East to the United States, that is something this newspaper has strongly supported -- in particular, the Bush administration's work to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian settlement based on the creation of an independent Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.

But in the real world, advancing any plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace today would appear to face tremendous if not insurmountable obstacles -- so much so that it is difficult to understand why Miss Rice has seen fit to spend so much political capital in wartime on a diplomatic initiative with so little likelihood of success. Ever since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat signed their Declaration of Principles in September 1993 while a beaming President Clinton looked on, efforts to create a "peace process" worthy of the name have been crippled by incitement and terror from Arafat, Hamas and others on the Palestinian side.

Today, the Palestinian Authority that runs Gaza and aspires to run the West Bank is headed by a coalition government comprised of two organizations:

  1. Fatah, which includes terrorists such as the Iranian-backed al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, as well as ineffectual "moderates" such as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who make statements about nonviolence and "two-state solutions" when meeting with Miss Rice and Mr. Olmert, but do little or nothing of substance to make them a reality; and
  2. Hamas, which remains committed to Israel's destruction and reserves the right to continue "resistance" (terrorism and other acts of violence) against Israel.

Given these realities, any peace plan would face an uphill battle -- at best.

The Saudi plan had its origins at a March 2002 Arab summit meeting in Beirut -- a meeting which was overshadowed by one of the most deadly terrorist campaigns in Israel's history, culminating in the March 27, 2002, bombing by Hamas of a Passover seder at a hotel in Netanya, in which 30 people were killed. In response to these attacks, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched Operation Defensive Shield, sending the Israeli Army into the West Bank several days later to wipe out the terror cells Arafat had allowed to flourish there. As the fighting escalated, the Saudi initiative was largely forgotten until this year when the diplomats trotted it out in desperation for something they could plausibly call "progress."

If the Saudis want to be taken seriously as peacemakers, they need to stop issuing ultimatums to Israel and start issuing them to the Palestinian irredentists they continue to lavish money on.

Arab League ultimatum

I always try to keep these postings brief, but this lengthy posting from two articles in the Jerusalem Post, Mar. 29 is ESSENTIAL READING (my own emphasis added)...

...first from an article by HERB KEINON ...

Israel adopted a low-key, wait-and-see approach Wednesday night to the Arab League's unanimous decision to relaunch without changes its land-and-refugee-for-peace initiative from March 2002.

...According to an AFP report,.... in the resolution the Arab leaders "reaffirm the commitment of all Arab states to the Arab peace initiative as approved at the Beirut summit in 2002 in all its elements."

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa .... said the Middle East was at a "critical junction...If we don't move forward, we will witness an escalation (of violence) in the region....."

In recent weeks Israel had sent signals to the Arab League urging it to change two articles in the initiative viewed in Jerusalem as enshrining the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. .....The initiative also calls for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem in return for a peace agreement, an end to the conflict and normal relations. a Daily Telegraph interview Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud warned that the "lords of war" would decide Israel's future if it rejected a peace plan "crafted by the entire Arab world."

"What we have the power to do in the Arab world, we think we have done," he was quoted as saying, "so now it is up to the other side because if you want peace, it is not enough for one side only to want it. Both sides must want it equally.

"If Israel refuses, that means it doesn't want peace and it places everything back into the hands of fate. They will be putting their future not in the hands of the peacemakers but in the hands of the lords of war." The prince said there wouldn't be any further diplomatic overtures towards Israel.

....Vice Premier Shimon Peres, in a meeting he held with visiting British parliamentarians, responded to Saud's statements by saying that "there are disagreements between us on a number of issues. The question is how they are overcome - through attempts to dictate terms, or through negotiations. They will come with their positions, and we will come with ours. We will discuss them and reach an agreement as we did with Egypt and Jordan."

Jonny Paul and AP contributed to this report.

...and from the same issue of the Jerusalem Post, from an Analysis by DORE GOLD....

Are the Saudis seeking peace?

With the visit of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week and the special attention she gave to the revival of the 2002 Saudi-inspired Arab Peace Initiative, expectations had been elevated that yesterday's Riyadh Arab summit might provide a mechanism for restarting the Arab-Israeli peace process.

....But the Arab Peace Initiative got off to a bad start when Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal warned Israel that its rejection of the plan would leave its fate in the hands of the "lords of war."Rather than obtaining some flexibility, Israel was handed an ultimatum.

This was not the style of either President Anwar Sadat or King Hussein, but rather a grossly mismanaged way of launching any modus vivendi with Israel.

Moreover, if Israel thought Rice's optimistic diplomacy earlier in the week was based on some well-established US-Saudi coordination, it came as a total surprise when Jim Hoagland disclosed in The Washington Post yesterday that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah canceled a mid-April gala dinner with President George W. Bush in the White House.

Hoagland heard from administration sources that Riyadh had decided for now to seek common ground with Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah. It now becomes understandable why the Saudis chose to strengthen Hamas, with the Mecca Agreement, at the expense of Mahmoud Abbas, who just became politically even more sidelined.

If Saudi Arabia has decided to distance itself from the US at this time, then how could Washington expect that now the time was ripe for a Saudi-Israeli rapprochement under an American umbrella?

The last time the Saudi initiative was discussed during the 2002 Arab summit in Beirut, Hamas attacked the Park Hotel in Netanya during the first night of Pessah, killing 29 Israelis and wounding over 150. At that time, Saudi Arabia did not signal to Israel that it was serious about peace by cutting back its financial support of Hamas; in fact, it grew to over 50 percent of Hamas's total income in 2003.

Moreover, the Saudis did not approach Israel directly but chose to launch their initiative through the columns of Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. The medium was the message. The key figure making the press contacts for the Saudis was Adel al-Jubeir, who had been sent to Washington to coordinate the Saudis' efforts to improve their declining image in America. It was apparent that the Saudi initiative was not directed towards Israel but rather to post-9/11 American public opinion, which had been shocked to learn that 15 of the 19 hijackers that attacked New York and Washington were Saudi citizens.

The real problems with the Saudi peace initiative go well beyond the much-discussed issue of the "right of return." The Saudi plan demands "full withdrawal" from "all the territories" Israel captured 40 years ago in the 1967 Six Day War, thus negating the territorial flexibility contained in UN Security Council Resolution 242 that intentionally did not use this limiting language.

Adopting the Saudi plan as presented would lead to the redivision of Jerusalem. It would also strip Israel of the "defensible borders" that Bush said was Israel's right in his April 2004 letter to prime minister Ariel Sharon. In 2007, with al-Qaida jihadism pouring out of Western Iraq and Iran on the ascendency across the region, these security assurances have only grown in importance.

The assurances contained in the Bush letter are critical for Israel and had constituted the main quid pro quo that Israel had gained for the Gaza disengagement. Yet now the letter seems to have been forgotten. Indeed, there was a glaring contradiction between the Bush administration's new embrace of the Saudi initiative and the assurances it gave Sharon only three years ago.

Even the peace that the Saudi initiative presents is not what it might seem to be to the uninitiated. It promises "normal relations" with Israel, a Syrian diplomatic term from the 1990s which was intended to be a watered down alternative to European peace implied by the term "normalization" (tatbiyan in Arabic). Nonetheless, the Saudi initiative came to be known as a grand bargain between Israel and the Arab world: full withdrawal for full peace with the Arab world as a whole, even if there are serious questions as to whether that was the Saudis' real intent.

For even today, as in 2002, peace with Israel is not likely to be at the top of the Saudi agenda. The paramount problem of Saudi Arabia is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite King Abdullah's strong ideological identification with the Palestinian cause in the past. What is shaping Saudi Arabia's new diplomatic activism is the rapidly expanding Iranian threat and the weakness of the Western response.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had committed himself to a second Iranian revolution: that means a revival of Iranian efforts to export revolutionary Shi'ism, wherever possible. In some Sunni-dominated countries, like Sudan and Syria, the Iranians hope to convert Sunnis to Shi'ism. In the Gulf, there are already substantial Shi'ite populations. Indeed, Saudi Arabia's main vulnerability is in its oil-rich Eastern Province, which has nearly a majority of Shi'ites.
Neighboring Bahrain, now connected to Saudi Arabia by a bridge, has an 80% Shi'ite majority.
The potential for revolutionary subversion is enormous. According to US court documents, already the 1996 attack on Khobar Towers in eastern Saudi Arabia was conducted by Hizballah al-Hijaz, a Shi'ite terrorist group under the direct control of Iranian officials.

What can the West do? It needs to assure its Gulf allies by being more assertive about countering Iranian power. Rice's instincts to seize the moment of a shared threat that both Israel and the Sunni Arab states perceive are essentially correct, but must be directed in totally different channels.

When Saudi Arabia is facing its own Sunni Islamist threat from within and a Shi'ite threat from without, it is not surprising that the last thing it needs are planeloads of Israeli negotiators and journalists in Riyadh. And with Hamas in power among the Palestinians and building its military strength daily in Gaza, Israel does not need to experiment with new withdrawals.

Under such circumstances, quiet contacts between Israel and its neighbors make far more sense than grandiose public diplomacy. In peacemaking, timing is everything.

What would those quiet contacts involve? First, finding ways of building on those Palestinians who are ready to distance themselves from Iran. And if no Palestinian leadership emerges, encouraging Egypt and Jordan to take a more constructive role in eliminating the present chaos by helping counter the growth of terrorist armies that are in the territories.

At present, there are no indications that anything like this is happening. But if Saudi Arabia seeks to present itself as a constructive force, it must use its political and financial clout behind the scenes to neutralize those groups seeking to undermine the stability of the Middle East at present. Only then will it be possible to explore building the foundations of the regional peace that was being spoken about earlier this week.

Dore Gold heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is the author of The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West and the Future of the Holy City.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


From JPost, March 26 2007 Bibi's Blog: by Binyamin Netanyahu

After recent visits to Britain and France, I visited the United States last week as part of my continued efforts to focus the world’s attention on the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and to explain the critical importance of increasing diplomatic and economic pressures on the regime in Teheran while there is still time.

In addition to numerous media appearances that enabled me to bring this message to a wider American audience, I had the opportunity to meet and speak to American leaders of both political parties, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams, leading Republican presidential candidates Rudy Guliani and Jon McCain, leading Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama, and prominent Democratic senators and congressman, including Joe Leiberman and Tom Lantos. In all my conversations, I found that these leaders not only expressed a clear recognition of the grave dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, but also declared their willingness to act to thwart those dangers. Republicans and Democrats alike told me that a nuclear-armed Iran was not an option, and that economic pressures should be used to convince the regime to abandon its nuclear program, if not bring down the regime itself.

...I explained that the international community faces three options in dealing with Iran.
First, it can do nothing, in which case Iran will develop nuclear weapons. That is unacceptable. Second, it can use military means to confront Iran. While this option should never be taken off the table, it should only be used as a last resort.
Third, it can use non-military pressures, primarily economic ones.The regime in Teheran is extremely vulnerable to economic pressure. More than 80% of its government revenue comes from oil exports, the government heavily subsidizes gas for the population and the Iranian oil industry is badly in need of foreign investment and technology.

In applying economic pressure on the Iranian regime, the UN took a first step – a baby step - three months ago by placing extremely limited sanctions on Iran. Yet even these limited sanctions have exposed Iran’s economic vulnerability. Ahmadinejad has faced unprecedented criticism and his allies lost a recent round of voting for representative to Iran’s Supreme Council. The cost of some goods in Iran has increased sharply, as anticipation of further sanctions grows. Whether further UN sanctions remain possible is an open question, since Russia and China have been generally unhelpful in broadening and deepening the effort to isolate Iran. Still, the UN sanctions against Iran should be encouraged.

In addition, there is an effort, led by the US Treasury, to have the international banking system reassess the risks of doing business with Iran, and these efforts have met with some important successes.

But there is another tool, I explained, that could bring enormous economic pressure to bear on Iran: Divestment. Today, the American people are invested in Iran. Not directly, of course. That is against US law. Rather, through pensions, savings plans, and other diversified investments, American money is invested in companies - mostly European companies - that do business in Iran. By insisting that their investment dollars not be used in Iran, the American public can send a powerful and effective message. For pension funds and other savings investments, divesting from companies doing business in Iran will be relatively painless. In most cases, it will only entail substituting a few companies in a diversified portfolio. For some major European companies, a decision to pull the plug on investing in Iran will be more painful, but for most companies, Iran represents a tiny share of their revenues. These companies will adapt quickly to a divestment environment.

But for the regime in Teheran, the blow of divestment could prove fatal. Fewer and fewer companies will enter Iran. More and more will leave. Investment dollars and the technology it buys will dry up. The lifeline of the regime will be cut. Teheran will face a stark choice: Change its polices and win back investment, or maintain its policies and risk economic collapse. The effort to divest from Iran could quickly bear fruit. Few people today have any idea they are supporting a regime inciting to genocide. When they do, they will want to stop that support. There are efforts underway in a number of individual American states to divest state pension funds from Iran. Similar divestment initiatives are being pursued against Sudan, a country in which genocide is actually taking place in Darfur. I see no reason why they cannot be combined -- why those working to stop genocide and those working to stop a regime inciting to genocide cannot work together.

We in Israel must do our part as well. While the power of our investment dollars is infinitesimal compared to the US, if we hope to persuade the world to divest, we must lead by example. Therefore, I have submitted a bill in the Knesset that will outlaw investing in companies that invest in Iran and Sudan. I know that there are some who are afraid of mounting a divestment campaign since there have been attempts in the past to divest from Israel. Some are concerned that by supporting divestment, we will be establishing a precedent that will later be used against Israel.

But divestment against Israel is wrong not because divestment per se is wrong. It is wrong because it is directed against Israel -- a democratic state that yearns for peace with its neighbors. Divestment against Iran and Sudan is right for the same reason why divestment from Nazi Germany in the 30s and 40s would have been right. I said last year that it was 1938. But today, we have the lessons of the 1930s to guide us, and the power to choose a different course that will make all the difference. We must mobilize the power of the free world to confront the dangers in time. We must, as the old saying goes, put our money where our mouth is.

If we divest from Iran, we will be able to say what our parents and grandparents could not: That we acted in time, that we prevented genocide, that we preserved peace. In short, the message of my trip to the US was simple. Divest Iran. Divest Sudan. Invest in Peace.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

UN tightens sanctions on Iran

From Ynet News, 24/3/07, by Yitzhak Benhorin ...

UN Security Council agrees on further sanctions aimed at curbing Iran nuclear program; new sanctions target arms exports, state-owned bank and Revolutionary Guards. Iranian FM says Iran will not change nuclear policy

...The package of sanctions, aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program, targets the country's arms exports, its state-owned Bank Sepah and the elite Revolutionary Guards.

Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem expressed satisfaction at the UN Security Council's resolution. "These sanctions are an appropriate response to the Iranian refusal to honor past resolutions, including Security Council resolution 1737," said sources.

Another diplomatic source said that the resolution was partly a result of Israel's activity around the world.

Diplomatic officials in New York told Ynet that the resolution deals a harsh blow to Iran because it expands the list of boycotted Iranian organizations, and for the first time imposes sanctions on conventional arms deals with Iran.

It also issues a warning to all nations and financial bodies against doing business with Tehran.....The 15-nation body unanimously voted for tightening the sanctions....

The sanctions
The new measures are a follow-up to a resolution adopted on December 23 banning trade in sensitive nuclear materials and ballistic missiles, as well as freezing assets of individuals and institutions associated with atomic programs.

It will impose an embargo on all conventional weapons Iran can sell and freeze the assets abroad of Bank Sepah, as the United States has already done, isolating it from international financing.

The text does not order but calls on nations and international financial institutions to restrict new grants, credits and loans to Iran, which the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund are unlikely to issue.

The resolution also calls for a voluntary travel embargo on Iranian officials and Revolutionary Guard commanders listed in the text and urges restrictions on the import of heavy weapons to Iran....

Go to a special report in The Jerusalem Post to see key elements of UN resolutions (this latest one and the 23 December resolution).