Friday, June 27, 2008
Foreign minister issues harsh response to Palestinian violation of ceasefire with rocket fired at Sderot: 'I don't care who fired. There must be an immediate military response to every violation'
Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni addressed the launching of a Qassam rocket from Gaza towards Sderot on Thursday with sharp, stinging rhetoric aimed at differentiating herself from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"I don't care who fired. There must be an immediate military response to every violation," said Livni upon the commencement of her meeting with Norwegian Jonas Gahr Støre.
"I have made my position clear to both the prime minister and the minister of defense after the first infringement. And I intend to make this clear to my foreign counterparts as well," said Livni.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah’s military wing, took responsibility for firing a Qassam rocket from Gaza into Israel on Thursday afternoon. The rocket landed in Sderot's industrial zone, causing no injuries or damage.
Palestinian sources believe that the firing was meant to embarrass Hamas and to harm the ceasefire efforts.
On Tuesday, Palestinians launched three rockets towards Sderot. One of the Qassams landed in a house's backyard, causing great damage. Two women were treated for shock.
The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack....
'He who seeks peace, should prepare for war,' says defense minister at Air Force graduation ceremony....
"We seek peace with every fiber of our being and detest war, but we are sober, and we know that he who seeks peace should prepare for war," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday evening at the Air Force flight school graduation ceremony at the Hazerim air base.
"Only deterrent military strength and superior excellence lead to a swift victory, and they are what will lead to peace. And when achieved, it will be stable and long-lasting," he said.
...President Shimon Peres also attended the event....[and] praised the IAF's record, quoting foreign media reports that it has launched strikes against two nuclear facilities (Iraq in 1982 and Syria in 2007). "....
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The militant group Hamas said it ...will not act as Israel's "police force" in confronting militants who breach the truce.
The comments by Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya came shortly after Gaza militants fired three rockets into southern Israel Tuesday, lightly wounding two Israelis. It was the first attack since the truce took effect last Thursday.
Israel responded by closing Gaza's border crossings, which are used to deliver food and basic supplies into the area.
Hamas said it was exerting pressure on Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack, to stop the rocket fire and demanded that Israel open the crossings. But al-Haya said its forces would not confront rocket launching squads on the ground.
"Even if there is a violation by some factions...Hamas is not going to be a police securing the border of the occupation," he added....
Israel called the rocket attack a "gross violation" of the Egypt-mediated truce. As part of the cease-fire, Israel had on Sunday begun incrementally increasing the amount of goods entering Gaza. On Wednesday, all cargo crossings were closed, though a pedestrian passage was kept open....
- Virtual Israel, as represented by Google Earth, is littered with orange dots, many of which claim to represent "Palestinian localities evacuated and destroyed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war." Thus, Israel is depicted as a state born out of colonial conquest rather than the return of a people from exile. Each dot links to the "Palestine Remembered" site, where further information advancing this narrative can be obtained.
- Many of the claims staked out in Google Earth present misinformation, and sites known to be ruins in 1946 are claimed to be villages destroyed in 1948. Arab villages which still exist today are listed as sites of destruction. The Google Earth initiative is not only creating a virtual Palestine, it is creating a falsification of history.
- The concept of "replacement geography" replaces the historical connection of one people to the land with a connection between another people and the land. The inclusion of virtual Palestine, superimposed on Israel in the core layer of Google Earth, is an example of replacement geography advanced by technology.
- Those wishing to explore Israel in Google Earth are immediately taken to a politically motivated narrative unrelated to their quest. Google should remove the narrative and treat Israel as it treats every other country on the globe. The core layer of Google Earth should be ideology free and not serve as a platform for indoctrination or a campaign to wipe Israel off the virtual map.
The influence of the Internet on our lives is increasing. News, advertising, employment, education, and networking are being affected. Israel's security is especially vulnerable to the manipulation of geography. The online world allows the creation of a virtual reality that at times bears only passing resemblance to facts on the ground. The gap between reality and virtual reality is further exploited by political activists promoting what we term "replacement geography," a means of controlling the virtual representation of land in place of controlling the land itself. In an information age, control on the common map may be worth more in negotiations than control on the ground....
Follow the link to the full article, with references.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
...but somebody has to do it
By Hillel Halkin The Jerusalem Post, Jun. 24, 2008
So now it's official. The Israeli air force is in an advanced stage of training to attack Iranian nuclear installations....
.... The same countries that were too short-sighted and greedy to do anything significant about stopping the Iranian nuclear-bomb program ten, five, or two years ago, when oil prices were low and Iran were vulnerable to economic and diplomatic pressures, are not about to lift a finger now. ... a sudden freeze on Iran's assets and funds by Western governments could have caused the Iranian leadership to think twice. Now, while these governments have predictably wasted yet another year by jawing toothlessly away about the need for sanctions, Iran has reportedly transferred most of those assets and funds elsewhere.
... even a President Obama, let alone a President McCain, might be supportive of an Israeli attack should it take place. In general, as evidenced by the muted international response to the Israeli air exercise, the list of countries that might not mind seeing Israel stick it to the Iranians is a long one. Besides the US, it might include quite a few European states and even some Arab ones. As long as they themselves don't have to run the risk of
a) military failure,
b) retaliatory Iranian missile and terror attacks, and
c) being blamed for astronomical oil prices,
plenty of governments would permit themselves a hidden smile of satisfaction while voting to condemn an Israeli attack at the United Nations.
ISRAELIS HAVE every right to feel anger at such hypocrisy. True, a nuclear Iran would be more of a menace to them than to others, but it would be a menace to nearly everyone.
There is something genuinely revolting about a world that preaches the need for peacefully dissuading the Iranians from developing atomic weapons while knowingly practicing a policy that in the end leaves Israel no choice but to send its planes into the air.
Israelis also have the right to feel fear. A lot could go wrong with an attack on Iran. Iranian targets could be missed or insufficiently damaged; dummy objectives could be hit while the real ones are kept secret in the earth; Israeli planes could be shot down and Israeli pilots taken hostage; Israeli towns and cities could come under heavy missile and rocket fire not just from Iran, but from Lebanon, Gaza, and even Syria; Israeli casualties could run into the many thousands.
Anyone who thinks that Israel is straining at the leash to get at the Iranians has not the slightest conception of its society. Israelis are good and scared of attacking Iran, as they should be. They are just even more scared of an Iran that could annihilate them, as Iranian leaders have repeatedly said they would love to do.
But Israelis also have the right to feel pride - pride not only that they have one of the few air forces in the world with the military capability to stop Iran, but also that history has chosen them, even if they would rather it had chosen someone else, to be in the front ranks of the campaign.
Even now, it is not too late for them to hope that they will have partners. And if it is not a hope that has much to lean on, at least this time Jews can lean on themselves.
Iran's 'Nightmare Scenarios' Are Mulled in Washington
By ELI LAKE
The New York Sun, June 24
WASHINGTON — An attack on the U.S. 5th Fleet, exploding Saudi oil refineries, and a Hezbollah operation against a soft target in the Americas, Asia, or Europe. These are scenarios America's intelligence analysts are now poring over as Israel signals its preparedness to deal with Iran's race for the A-bomb.
The disclosure Friday in the New York Times of Israel's aerial training mission earlier this month over the Greek Mediterranean prompted America's intelligence chiefs to task analysts with developing contingency plans — or what one called "nightmare scenarios" — if the Israelis were to send their F-15s and F-16s to Iran's known nuclear enrichment facilities.
....Possible scenarios include:
* A terrorist attack on the Saudi oil port of Ras Tanura, an export point for oil bound for Asia. Saudi and American officials have in the past disrupted Al Qaeda plots on the facility, such as an attack on the Abqaiq oil processing plant near Dammam, Saudi Arabia, that killed two guards.
* A naval assault on the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Iran still has warships equipped with Russian-designed Shkval torpedoes that it could fire at American vessels. Another possible attack would be suicide boat sorties similar to the one that bombed the USS Cole.
* The commencement of a new round in the war between Hezbollah and Israel, with Hezbollah firing its Shihab missiles into Haifa and possibly the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv.
* Hezbollah or Iranian intelligence terrorist operations on soft targets, such as shopping malls and community centers, in third countries and possibly even America.
* A renewed effort to stir an uprising in Iraq through Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army or the special groups controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guard....
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University defends the Jewishness of Jerusalem, the Jewish capital for over 3000 years. He also defends the right of Israelis to settle in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. "We were here when your forefathers were drinking wine, burying their daughters alive and worshipping idols" -- this was just one of Bar Ilan University political scientist Dr. Mordechai Kedar's ripostes to questions by an Al Jazeera interviewer two weeks ago, in an interview that has received rave reviews from Israel-lovers the world over for its forcefulness.
"They did not expect me to take the discussion to history and especially not to religion," Kedar told Israel National News. But discuss religion he did in the above video, reminding his interviewer that Jerusalem was not mentioned even once in the Koran and saying directly in fluent Arabic that "Jerusalem is not on the negotiating table," and that "Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, period."
"This was very aggravating" for the Al-Jazeera interviewer, Kedar explained, "because in the Islamic view, Islam came into the world to replace Judaism and Christianity, not to live side by side with them. And here, all of a sudden, the Jews are coming from exile and building their state again and G-d forbid they also regained Jerusalem." Judaism is thus regaining its meaning, and Islam is challenged by this, the Bar-Ilan professor explained. "The mere existence of the State of Israel and the fact that we are in Jerusalem is some kind of challenge to the legitimacy of Islam in their eyes," Kedar explained.
"This is not pro-Israel public relations," Dr. Kedar told Israel National News. "This is a battle for the Arab heart, which Israel is apparently losing because Israel gave up on the main tool which should have served it, which is an independent Israeli Zionist satellite channel in Arabic." Many Arabs, he said, would consider changing their views if such a channel were available.
GAZA, June 21 (Xinhua) -- A spokesman for Hamas on Saturday said negotiations with Israel is out of the question and the Islamic movement will never recognize "the enemy."
The spokesman, Ismail Radwan, also slammed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. "We are not thinking of trying the ridiculous negotiations that the others have tried ..." he said.
Radwan added that "the Zionist enemy must depart and recognize the Palestinian people's rights."
His remarks were made two days after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was ready to compromise on making peace with the Palestinians and also with Syria....
GAZA CITY (AFP) - Smuggling into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip will not stop, the head of the territory's government, Ismail Haniya, said on Friday, threatening an already tenuous two-day-old truce with Israel.
...."They also said that (the release of detained Israeli soldier) Shalit must be part of the truce deal. But we have not agreed to these demands because they are unjust and go beyond the capabilities of this government," he said.
Reacting to Haniya's remarks, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert underlined that the Egyptian-brokered truce explicitly stated that arms smuggling into the impoverished territory must halt. "The agreement with Egypt states clearly that there must not be any contraband arms heading for Gaza and no attacks from Gaza towards Israeli territory by any of the armed groups," Mark Regev said....
...Israel has also been pushing for progress over the release of Israeli Corporal Galid Shalit, who was captured by Palestinian militant groups including Hamas in a deadly cross-border raid on June 25, 2006. Hamas has repeatedly stated that Shalit's release and the Gaza truce were separate issues and that Hamas would free him in exchange for 450 prisoners held by Israel.
On the eve of Nicholas Sarkozy's first state visit to Israel and one year into his presidency, it can be asked: Does Sarkozy's Presidency mark a new era in Franco-Israeli relations? The analysis below suggests that, despite a tightening of French-Israel bilateral and strategic relations under Sarkozy and an improvement in both ambiance and tone, substantial political disagreements remain between the two countries.
This is especially true in four areas:
- Israeli-Palestinian issues,
- the crisis in Lebanon,
- Sarkozy's "Arab policy" and
- Iran's nuclear drive.
Sarkozy's election in May 2007 sparked expectations in Israel of a new era in Franco-Israeli relations. These expectations were related to Sarkozy's friendly declarations towards Israel, including his sensitivity to Israel's security challenges and his determination to fight terror. ...
... Nonetheless, one year after Sarkozy's accession, substantial differences of opinion, which have characterized French-Israeli relations in the past, still persist, despite the tightening of bilateral and strategic relations....
...Four issues serve as indicators in examining the question of whether Sarkozy's presidency represents a new era.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
It appears that there has been no change in France's position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thus, on many occasions, including Shimon Peres' highly covered visit to France in March 2008, Sarkozy has declared France's hopes for the establishment of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, by the end of 2008. The French Foreign Ministry, headed by Bernard Kouchner, continues its condemnation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and portrays them as an obstacle to the peace process, alongside that of Palestinian terrorism. France fiercely demands the removal of checkpoints intended to protect Israeli citizens from acts of Palestinian terror. Additionally, France blames Israel for the economic damage incurred by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and for the PA's failure to establish effective governance.
Indeed, France does condemn the firing of Qassam rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza on civilians in Israel and demands Hamas to stop terror activities and recognize the state of Israel. However, in an attempt to present a balanced position, it immorally equates acts of terror with acts of defense. France demands Israel's restraint and frequently denounces Israel's military operations that are meant to protect its citizens from the daily barrage of rocket and mortar rounds launched from Gaza. Additionally, France frequently criticizes Israel for the severe humanitarian situation in Gaza, although this is the result of Hamas' terrorist attacks on Israel and on the border crossings between Israel and Gaza. Additionally, France disagrees with Israel regarding the interpretation of UN Resolution 242, which calls for the return of territories seized in 1967.
Regarding the Arab refugees' right of return, an issue of almost overwhelming consensus in Israel, Sarkozy's France has not changed its official position. ...French official policy still backs UN Resolution 194, which refers to the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel. It is hard to imagine that a French Foreign Ministry spokesman would declare a position that was not in accordance with the President of France, who has the constitutional authority over matters of foreign policy and security.
The Crisis in Lebanon
Sarkozy’s policy on Lebanon, much like his predecessor's, emphasizes France's historical and emotional ties to the country. As in the past, France often declares its uncompromising support for Lebanon’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as its resolve to bring about the dismantling of the militias in Lebanon according to UN Resolutions 1559 and 1701. Sarkozy's France stands by its refusal to declare Hizballah a terrorist organization, claiming it constitutes an integral part of Lebanese political life. .... Despite France's repeated public support for Lebanon's democratic government, France did not condemn Hizballah's use of force in order to impose its political ambitions on Lebanon's government in May 2008. On the contrary, France declared its satisfaction with the agreed resolution of the crisis, reached at the Doha conference in May 2008, presenting it as a French diplomatic success.
Sarkozy's meetings with Hizballah representatives during his recent visit to Beirut on 7 June 2008 might similarly be perceived as endorsement of Hizballah's aggressive military strategy to gain control of Lebanon....
...From an Israeli point of view, these developments certainly create risks that could give rise to a third Lebanon war, since Hizballah, much like its Iranian patron, openly declares its desire to destroy the state of Israel.
Sarkozy's "Arab Policy"
As in the past, Sarkozy's relations with the Arab and Muslim world represent a central component of France's foreign policy. Soon after assuming power, Sarkozy initiated intense contacts with Arab and Muslim countries. In addition, France launched fundraising conferences in favor of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
A noteworthy development in France's Middle East policy was civilian nuclear cooperation with Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, the Gulf countries and Egypt. Faced with criticism, Sarkozy asserted that in principle, Muslim and Arab states have the same right to civilian atomic energy as any other state.
Another way of promoting France's economic and political standing in the Arab world was evident in Sarkozy's initiative to create a Mediterranean Union, intended to link European and non-European countries along the Mediterranean Sea. France is organizing a conference for the inauguration of the Union on 13 July 2008. The preparations are marked by the opposition of Arab countries such as Libya and Algeria to an Israeli presence in the new forum.
Another recent development is the warming of Franco-Syrian relations, which had deteriorated since the assassination in February 2005 of Rafiq Hariri, Chirac's close friend. Sarkozy, who invited Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to the conference, also offered France's assistance in mediation between Israel and Syria and even proposed handing over the disputed area of Sheba farms to UN custody.
This abrupt reversal of French attitudes towards Syria might indicate its wish to buy calm in Lebanon and to keep Syria away from meddling in Lebanese affairs. From an Israeli point of view, such an abrupt reversal, as in the case of the Lebanese crisis, sounds warning bells as to France's capacity and willingness to deliver on its promises of support for Israel's security needs.
Iran's Nuclear Project
In contrast to the Lebanese context, which is marked by appeasing attitudes towards Iran's allies, Hizballah and Syria, Sarkozy leads a hard line against Iran's nuclear intentions. Sarkozy has declared that Iran's nuclear project and aspirations present a major threat to the world's security.
Consequently, France advocates further UN sanctions and also conducts intensive efforts to promote unilateral European sanctions. Sarkozy's position against Iran is more hard-line than that of his predecessor and is augmented by tightened cooperation with the US and Israel on this issue.
However, Sarkozy explicitly expressed his objection to military action against Iran. Sarkozy did fiercely condemned Iranian president Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitic expressions and his call for the annihilation of Israel. It remains an open question whether the discrepancy between French rhetoric and action will not again prevail on the Iranian nuclear issue, as it did in the issue of Lebanon.
Thus far, Sarkozy's presidency, while marked by genuine expressions and gestures of friendship towards Israel, has not changed France's deep-rooted political and economic contacts in the Arab and Muslim world. Furthermore, France has its own Middle East perceptions which do not converge with those of Israel, thus producing substantial divergences.
This state of affairs is unlikely to change dramatically in the foreseeable future, especially as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists and Hizballah remains dominant in Lebanon.
Yet, taking into account France's upcoming presidency of the EU (July through December of 2008) and the preoccupation of the US in the approaching presidential elections, Sarkozy's France might occupy a more prominent role as mediator between Israel and its neighbors. Israel might benefit if it consents to greater French diplomatic involvement, conditioning it on France's commitment to adhere, as much as possible, to balanced and unprejudiced political attitudes.
*BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity of the Littauer Foundation.
Monday, June 23, 2008
The essay was first published in Hebrew in 2005 and provoked intense public debate. Azure, following its commitment to provide a forum for the most challenging contemporary voices in Jewish thought, presents the first English translation of A.B. Yehoshua’s controversial essay.
Yehoshua sets out to analyze and describe the quintessence of antisemitism in its various historical and cultural incarnations. He asserts that it is Jewish identity’s unique structure that itself creates antisemitism’s venomous "reaction".
After publication of his essay in Hebrew, Yehoshua said: “Because there is something unclear in their identity, the antisemite can easily project his problems, his fantasies, on the Jews. The Jew is like a text with a lot of gaps. As a Zionist, I know our purpose is to be among ourselves and not to wander again in the world. The Diaspora Jews have to know that the structure of their identity invites antisemitism. They need to decide themselves if the price is too high."
The essay is too long to post in full. I haven't even read it yet...I'm putting it aside for later, knowing full-well that it will be challenging...
Click here to read A.B. Yehoshua’s essay in Azure 32.