Friday, September 07, 2007

Alert declared in Israeli Air Forces

From DEBKAfile September 7, 2007:

Alert declared in Israeli Air and Air Defense Forces after Syria claimed Israeli jets penetrated its air space

Leaves have also been canceled at IDF bases as Israel braces for a possible Syrian reaction to the incident in the coming hours.

Israeli official spokesmen declined to comment on the Syrian News Agency claim that Israeli warplanes entered its air space from the Mediterranean Sea Wednesday night and flew opposite Al Raqqah in northeastern Syria, breaking the sound barrier. Syria fire forced them to leave without causing casualties, says the report.

The Israeli jets "dropped ammunition" over deserted areas of northern Syria early on Thursday, said a Syrian military spokesman. He warned “the Israeli enemy against repeating its aggressive action” and said his government reserved the right to respond in an appropriate manner.

A Western diplomat in Damascus said Thursday night: It appears that the Israeli planes were on a reconnaissance mission when they got caught by Syrian defenses and were forced to drop their bombs and extra fuel tanks.

DEBKAfile military sources speculate that Damascus may be seeking to raise military temperatures already high between the two countries for its own purposes, or else fabricating a pretext to go on the offensive directly against Israeli targets on the Golan or indirectly through its allies.

'Time for offense in Gaza'

From Ynetnews, 5/9/07, by Yaakov Lappin:

Former Mossad director : IDF has wide range of options to tackle Qassams

The IDF must stop responding defensively to the daily rocket attacks terrorizing Sderot, and take up an offensive posture, former Mossed chief, and Chairman of the International Institute for Counter-terrorism (ICT) Shabtai Shavit told Ynetnews on Wednesday.

"The way to deal with this is to talk less about defense and go towards attack. Without going into details. I can say with certainty that the IDF has a very wide selection of options to activate, enabling it to go from a state of defense to attack, where terrorists will be forced to hide," Shavit declared.....

...and also from Ynet news, 5/9/07, by Neta Sela:

Former Chief of Staff Yaalon says Israel should cut off water and electricity, saying it is unacceptable that a nation supply such things to an enemy

Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon called Wednesday for increased pressure on Gaza, following continued rocket fire on Israeli community in the vicinity, noting at conference for strategic thinking that Israel does not have the ability to influence the area using soft power....

...When asked his opinion of whether electricity and water should be cut to Gaza in reaction to the Qassam attacks (a question that arose at a Wednesday cabinet meeting), Yaalon answered in the affirmative, stating "it's unacceptable that we are supplying these things to the enemy.

"The question is, how is it that we disengaged from Gaza and are still responsible for its fate?" he continued. "I fear that this ambiguity is caused by ethical confusion, as well as a practical misunderstanding of the situation. We disengaged, but did not. For some reason, the occupation did not end."

According to Yaalon, if Israel disconnects electricity and water from Gaza, the finger of blame should be pointed at Hamas. "Hamas, not Israel, is the one who is causing Palestinians to go without their daily bread," he said....

...and from Ynet news, 5/9/07, by Ron Ben-Yishai:

Strike Gaza now
Only wide-scale IDF operation will curb rocket fire

....a large-scale military operation. That is, overtaking the entire Gaza Strip or large parts of it for a limited time. Such an operation would allow the IDF to destroy Hamas' existing infrastructure pertaining to manufacturing the Qassam rockets and its general combat capabilities.

We would also be able, through wide-scale arrests and interrogations, to create an intelligence infrastructure that would enable us to quickly hit Qassam cells even after the soldiers leave Gaza. We would also block smuggling above and below the Philadelphi Route through a deep-water tunnel that would be dug from the sea to the Rafah Crossing.

Later, we would go in and out of the Gaza Strip again, utilizing relatively small units, in order to maintain the achievements of the initial large-scale operation.

They're scared
The advantages of such an operation are clear: It would not completely curb the rocket fire, but would significantly minimize the ability to manufacture and launch rockets and boost the price tag for every rocket attack. Still, the government is not quick to order the IDF to enter the Strip. Even the defense minister and army chief are not recommending a large-scale operation at this time. Why?

Barak and Ashkenazi are concerned that taking over the Gaza Strip or large parts of it would also light the touchpaper on the northern front and lead Israel into an all-out war on three fronts before it's ready for such war.

They are concerned that an operation in Gaza would result in the suspension of contacts with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and would weaken his status on the Palestinian street, which is currently being boosted at great effort.

They are also scared of heavy IDF losses at a time when the country is still licking the wounds of the Second Lebanon War. They don't want to force the IDF to invest another two divisions in the Strip – including both regular and reserve forces – for a period of months, which will exact a high casualty toll. There are also fears over the fate of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Yet mostly, top security and cabinet officials are concerned about a further blow to the IDF's image and the State of Israel's deterrent power should the Qassam fire be renewed during or after the operation.

Despite these considerations, it is completely clear that out of all the options, a large-scale military operation is the most effective way to minimize the rocket fire and attacks originating from the Strip. In the long run, this is also the way to minimize the overall Hamastan threat on Israel or possibly topple the entire Hamas regime, on all this entails.

Moreover, if it doesn't embark on a large-scale Gaza operation now, Israel may end up doing it in the near future, but under much worse conditions. This could happen because of a lethal attack on Sderot that would force the IDF to embark on such operation hastily, for example, or because winter weather conditions will disrupt the Air Force's ability to assist such operation. Also, the international conditions, during the international peace conference or after it, would portray Israel as the party attempting to disrupt Washington's peace efforts.

In light of all this, we should start getting the move underway. First, submit an ultimatum to Hamas that includes an unequivocal demand to stop immediately the rocket fire on western Negev communities. Such an ultimatum would also prompt the international community to act and exert pressure on Iran and Syria, which instruct Hamas.

If the ultimatum is rejected and Qassams continue to fall, the government should order the IDF to enter the Gaza Strip. The initial incursion must be undertaken with very large forces and utilize a modus operandi that would split Hamas' ability to defend against such attack. Developments in the first few days would determine the operation's success over time and shorten the IDF's stay in the Strip.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Midrash as Marriage Guide

I commend JIW readers to take the time to read this beautiful essay by IDO HEVRONI, from Azure magazine, Summer 5767 / 2007, No. 29 in full. The essay interprets in detail two rabbinic stories about marriage. It is impossible to summarise, but I will simply quote one of the stories to give you a taste....

[In Babylon] it was taught: If a man has taken a wife and lived with her for ten years but she has not borne a child, he is nonetheless obligated [to “be fruitful and multiply,” and therefore to marry another woman].

R. Idi said: The story is told of a woman from Sidon who lived with her husband for ten years and did not have children. They came before R. Shimon ben Yohai and asked to be divorced from one another.

He said to them: Look here, as you married each other with food and drink, so too, may you separate only with food and drink. They went on his way, and made a holiday for themselves. They made a great feast, and she got him too drunk.

This brought him back to his senses, and he said to her: “My beloved, if you see anything (hefetz) that you want in my house, take it and go to your father’s.
What did she do? After he fell asleep, she called to her servants, saying, “Carry him, in his bed, to my father’s house.”

At midnight he awoke when the effects of the wine had worn off, and said to her, “My beloved, where am I?”

She said to him: “In my father’s house.”

He said to her: “What am I doing in your father’s house?”

She said to him: “Is that not what you said to me last evening, ‘anything you desire in my house, take it and go to your father’s house’? There is nothing I desire more in the world than you!”

They went before R. Shimon ben Yohai, and he stood and prayed over them, and they had children.

Baby Bust

From Azure Magazine, Summer 5767 / 2007, No. 29, by NOAH POLLAK [very brief extract only, with my own emphasis added - follow the link for the full paper - SL]:

.... Industrialized societies need a total fertility rate (TFR), or the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime, of roughly 2.1 just to sustain the size of their populations.

France’s 2007 TFR is 1.89, and that number is buoyed by the significantly higher birth rates of the Muslim population, which by most estimates account for a third of total births. The same is true for France’s neighbor Spain, whose TFR of 1.1 means that the native Spanish population is in free fall. The overall European TFR is 1.38, creating a stark and undeniable demographic reality: In the coming decades native European populations will implode, while immigrant Muslim populations, with little affinity for European cultural and political values, will expand rapidly.

As Mark Steyn has put it, “on the Continent the successor population is already in place and the only question is how bloody the transfer of real estate will be.”

Any number of explanations have been given for Europe’s baby bust, from the dramatic decline in Christian observance, to economic stagnation, to high divorce rates, to advanced education levels. While each of these factors may have its effect, even together they do not account for the overall picture. Those European nations that have the highest rates of Christian observance (France, Spain, and Italy), for example, also have the lowest birth rates. Nor is there any useful correlation between economic stagnation and fertility. The Gaza Strip has one of the worst economies in the world matched with one of the highest birth rates: A TFR of 5.64. Israel, on the other hand, has an economy still hampered by centralization and residual socialism, yet it has the highest fertility rate among Western democracies, at 2.38.

The explanation for Europe’s turn from reproducing its civilization is, in fact, as simple and self-contained as how children themselves are viewed. People avoid having children not because they are irreligious, lack financial means, fear the possibility of divorce, or carry university degrees. Rather, people do not have children because they do not want them: They find the curtailment of personal freedom and the assumption of the decades-long obligation inherent in parenthood unattractive, and they do not want to accept the basic restructuring of life that having a family requires. This is not a product of objective economic or social factors; rather, it is a subjective judgment about the meaning and purpose of one’s life and the civilization in which that life is lived. It is, ultimately, a moral answer to a moral question: The question of the value people ascribe to their own families and their own heritage, in a broader cultural context.

... The current generation of child-bearing Europeans came to view their lives through the cultural revolutions engendered by the generation of 1968, the great mass of young people who, ironically, were products of the postwar European baby boom and ascended to power and influence by virtue of their own demographic weight. The cultural upheaval of ’68 was an incongruous synthesis of revolutionary hedonism, political and economic collectivism, and a firm conviction that the West had become or had always been a force for imperialism, warfare, and environmental destruction. ....

The legacy of these revolutionaries stands in stark contrast to what prevailed in Israel at around the same time. While young people in Europe celebrated a newfound awareness of their power and a desire to depart from the traditions of their forebears, their Israeli counterparts were called upon to rescue the Jewish state from annihilation. ...Israelis looked to the future and saw enemy armies gathering on their borders with the intention of finishing what Hitler had started. Europeans, enamored of trendy, apocalyptic pseudo-science such as the “population bomb” theory, internalized the conviction that their civilization was part of the problem in the world, while Israel fought an existential war that assumed its own civilization to be part of the solution. Is it any wonder that Israeli families continue to thrive while Europe cannot sustain itself?

.....This, then, is the real question facing ... all of Europe... This will ultimately be an existential and moral question, and will not be addressed by piecemeal social and economic reforms. It demands nothing less than the re-establishment of a heroic national culture that rejects relativism and celebrates children. For that to happen, Europeans will have to come to believe that they belong to a civilization worth saving. If they do not, their best and brightest will repair to the United States and elsewhere, and the commanding heights of political and cultural power will pass to another population. Rome died from a lack of imperial vigor; Europe may die on its own soil, of its own barrenness...


From Ynet news, 4/9/07, by AFP:

Ahmedinejad has 'proof' US won't attack - Iranian president says proof comes from his mathematical skills as an engineer and faith in God

....Ahmadinejad told academics in a speech that elements inside Iran were pressing for compromise in the nuclear standoff with the West over fears the United States could launch a military strike.

"...I told them 'I am an engineer and I am examining the issue. They do not dare wage war against us and I base this on a double proof'," he said in the speech on Sunday, reported by the reformist Etemad Melli and Kargozaran newspapers. "I tell them: 'I am an engineer and I am a master in calculation and tabulation. I draw up tables. For hours, I write out different hypotheses. I reject, I reason. I reason with planning and I make a conclusion. They cannot make problems for Iran.'" ....

Terrorists satisfied with their attacks on schoolchildren

From Ynet News, 4/9/07, by Ali Waked:

Monday's rocket attack on Sderot and the parents' decision to launch a strike in the southern town's high schools and launch a protest against the government were received with great satisfaction in the Gaza Strip.

"The strike in Sderot strengthens us and proves that the rocket fire yields and disrupts the Israelis' lives..." a spokesman for the al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad's military wing, which is responsible for the rocket fire, told Ynet on Monday evening.

According to the man, Abu Ahmed, "We definitely planned to increase the rocket fire when the school year opened in order to cause the world to pay attention ...."

The rocket barrage on Sderot landed as thousands of children made their way to schools and kindergartens. One of the Qassams landed not far from a kindergarten, causing 12 children to suffer from shock....

.... Abu Ahmed said that "the strike proves that the rocket fire is beneficial and yields results... they manage to disrupt the Israelis' lives. ....."

Germany concerned by plans to urge aliyah among its Russian Jews

From Haaretz, 03/09/2007, by Anshel Pfeffer:

Berlin is deeply concerned over plans to expand the operations of Nativ, the Israeli government agency responsible for promoting aliyah among Jews in the former Soviet Union, to the Russian-speaking Jewish community in Germany.

...According to German figures, 206,000 Jews immigrated to Germany from the former Soviet Union between 1991 and 2006, most of who remained in Germany....

...All German governments since the end of World War Two have publicly supported the resurrection of Jewish life in Germany, although for some 40 years after the war only tens of thousands of Jews remained in Germany. Berlin politicians therefore view the arrival of Jews from the former Soviet Union as a one-time opportunity to breathe new life into the German Jewish community....

..... "We are constantly trying to give the Russian Jews the feeling that they are wanted here, not as guests but as permanent residents .... These are the only immigrants we want," said a German official. "They allow us to realize our dream of rehabilitating the glorious local Jewish community." ....

Olmert speaks...

From JPost, Sep 3, 2007, by JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP:

Responding to the volley of Kassam rockets that hit Sderot on Monday morning, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel viewed the attack "very severely."

.....Meanwhile, the prime minister tried to downplay the soaring expectations about the Middle East meeting in Washington later this year, saying that while his meetings with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had been "very interesting and meaningful" they were not yet ready to put anything in writing.

Olmert said that he was not sure whether the two sides would be able to draft something before November "but we will try." [In other words: "we will fail..." - SL]...

Israeli schoolchildren attacked

From The International Herald Tribune, September 3, 2007, by The Associated Press [my emphasis added - SL]:

SDEROT, Israel: A Palestinian rocket landed in a courtyard next to a crowded day care center in this southern Israeli town on Monday, sending panicked mothers scrambling to take their screaming toddlers to safety.

None of the 15 children at the center was hurt. But frantic parents across the city — already furious over the government's failure to protect them and their children from the near-daily rocket fire — pulled their children out of schools on the second day of the academic year and it was unclear whether studies would resume.

The army said seven rockets were fired Monday morning at Sderot, a frequently targeted city that lies just a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the Gaza Strip. The Islamic Jihad militant group claimed responsibility.....

...."Buses are already on the way to pick up students who haven't been taken home already," Katar told The Associated Press by telephone, the voices of panicked parents audible in the background.

....At one Sderot school, Nahum Bitton arrived to take his children home.
"Of course I'll take them out. Should I leave them in the hands of Hamas?" Bitton told

....Sderot, a working-class town of 22,000, has been battered by thousands of the crude projectiles launched in recent years from Gaza. The inaccurate rockets rarely cause serious injuries or damage, but they have killed 12 people in the past seven years, and because of their frequency, wreak panic in the city....

....After the latest rocket barrage, Sderot's mayor, Eli Moyal, accused the government of abandoning his city. "They simply don't care," he told Army Radio....

......Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, Israel will soon have to consider a wider ground operation in Gaza. "At some stage, decided by Israel, there will be no choice but to wage a campaign in the Gaza Strip," he told Army Radio.

In the meantime, DEBKAfile reports, September 3, 2007:

Newly-arrived Iranian and Hizballah instructors upgrade Palestinian missile capabilities in Gaza. IDF restrained from striking

For all its upgraded armor, Israel’s armed forces are prevented from launching effective offensive action to destroy the upgraded Palestinian missile infrastructure in Gaza.

After a Palestinian seven-missile barrage hit Sderot and its environs Sunday, the town’s parents decided to send the town’s school children to Jerusalem with their school books to hold classes opposite the Knesset.

They are protesting yet another meaningless pledge by the prime minister “to punish every missile launcher” in Gaza and his appeal to… the UN to stop the Palestinian missile blitz from Gaza. Sderot citizens say the school year which opened Sunday, Sept 2, is over. The town is breaking up because the armed forces are not allowed to break up the Hamas and Jihad Islami missile system or stop the flow of smuggled war materiel into Gaza. Once the education system shuts down, the town will expire.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report: The Jihad Islami chief Mohammad al Hindi recently brought back from Tehran dozens of Iranian and Hizballah artillery experts who are training their operatives and advising on the development of upgraded, extended-range missiles. Southern command officers told DEBKAfile: The government forbids us to take out the Iranian and Hizballah missile experts recently arrived in Gaza.

The officers ask why the government appealed to the United Nations, which is helpless, instead of to Egypt, which knowingly allowed the terrorists and their foreign advisers to touch down in Cairo and proceed to Gaza despite an intelligence alert of their arrival. Since they landed in early August, Palestinian capabilities have improved. Above all, the commanders ask, why is the army not given the go-ahead to knock out the upgraded Palestinian military machine and its foreign helpers.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Zentai granted leave to appeal extradition

From AAP, September 03, 2007:

...The High Court of Australia today granted leave to Charles Zentai to appeal a lower court's decision to extradite him to Hungary.

Hungarian authorities want to try Mr Zentai, 84, over allegations he tortured and murdered a Jewish teenager in Budapest while serving in the army during World War II. At a hearing in Canberra before three High Court judges, Justice William Gummow gave both Mr Zentai and an alleged Irish fraudster leave to appeal against extradition orders. Mr Zentai and Vincent O'Donoghue lost a federal court appeal in April in which they argued that state magistrates did not have the legal power to deal with extraditions. Perth Magistrates Court originally ruled in both their cases....