Saturday, December 11, 2010

Extradition Request for Zentai, accused Nazi murderer, still stands

From a Press Release of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, December 10, ‏2010:


Perth man, Charles Zentai, wanted to stand trial for murder

Jerusalem-The Simon Wiesenthal Center announced today that it would continue its efforts to press for the extradition to Hungary of Charles Zentai for his role in the November 8, 1944 murder of 18 year old Peter Balazs, a young Jew whom he is accused of murdering, after catching him without the yellow star on a Budapest streetcar.

In a statement issued here today by its chief Nazi-hunter, Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff, in the wake of today’s proceeding in Perth in which the same judge who accepted Zentai’s appeal against his extradition ordered the government to pay his court costs, the Center indicated that it was determined to continue its efforts to bring the accused to justice.

According to Zuroff:

“The Center will do its utmost to help achieve justice in this case. I am in contact with Hungarian Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics, who was indicated that there is no statute of limitations on such crimes and that the request for Zentai’s extradition remains in force. During my visit next week to Budapest, I will continue to pursue this matter with the relevant local officials in order to facilitate justice. The Balazs family, Hungarian society, and all persons of morality and conscience deserve no less.”

Hamas will never recognize Israel

From Just Journalism :
Hamas contradicts itself on peace referendum

enemy with forked tongue

Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh was quoted last week as saying he will accept a peace deal subject to a referendum of the Palestinian people. However Hamas’ subsequent statements reject this position.

In a WikiLeaks cable detailing a meeting between Senator John Kerry and the Amir of Qatar in February 2010, the Amir is revealed as stating that ‘Hamas will accept the 1967 border with Israel.’ This is in line with a statement by Ismail Haniyeh on 1 December, in which according to Reuters, he said:
‘Hamas will respect the results [of a referendum] regardless of whether it differs with its ideology and principles… We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees’.
However, according the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, this statement has since been substantially qualified. The organisation reports that a mere three days later on 4 December:
‘… Salah Bardawil, head of Hamas’ “information” department, clarified Ismail Haniya’s remarks, claiming that Hamas would not recognize Israel “under any circumstances’.
Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar is also reported as qualifying the position further on 6 December, stating that Hamas members ‘would not recognize Israel or cede any part of Palestine.’ The report outlined his position further, saying:
‘he would not accept a referendum about fundamental principles. He said that a referendum could be held regarding “modus operandi” but not about “the holy places, faith, money, land or personal worth.” He hinted that should a future agreement which ran counter Hamas’ position be accepted, the movement would renounce it as it had renounced the Oslo Accords’.
This follows a statement issued by Hamas on the 29th November in which they state that ‘the land of Palestine is one unified entity from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and the private property of the Palestinian people.’

Friday, December 10, 2010

WikiLeaks reveals Iran's ISOLATION

From Just Journalism "Media Analysis: Regular briefings on trends in the news", December 8, 2010:

As the Wikileaks cables continue to be published ... Below is a selection of recently disclosed cables and what they reveal.

  • Saudi plan for ‘Arab force’ to confront Iran in Lebanon
  • Lebanon blasts Iranian interference
  • Syria refused war against Israel in event of Israeli attack on Iran
Saudi plan for ‘Arab force’ to confront Iran in Lebanon
A cable released by Wikileaks and reported in today’s Guardian shows Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia proposing an ‘Arab force’ which would destroy Hezbollah.

At a meeting between US ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal in 2008, the document records that the latter:

‘brought up events taking place in Beirut and emphasized the need for a “security response” to Hizballah,s “military challenge to the Government of Lebanon.” Specifically, Saud argued for an “Arab force” to create and maintain order in and around Beirut’.
The cable also quoted the Saudi foreign minister calling for ‘naval and air cover’ from the US and NATO.
...the story shows the level of anxiety felt by Saudi Arabia at what it perceived as a process leading to an “Iranian takeover of all Lebanon.” Saud elaborated on the threat, saying:
‘Such a victory, combined with Iranian actions in Iraq and on the Palestinian front, would be a disaster for the US and the entire region.’
 Prince Saud also detailed other “regional fronts” on which Iran was advancing, describing this as a ‘disaster’:
‘Of all the regional fronts on which Iran was now advancing, the battle in Lebanon to secure peace would be an “easier battle to win” (than Iraq or on the Palestinian front).’

Also of note is the statement from Prince Saud in which he claimed that UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), which is entrusted to ‘restore international peace and security [and] assist the Lebanese Government in restoring its effective authority in the area,’ was ‘sitting doing nothing.’
Lebanon blasts Iranian interference
Another leaked cable published in Haaretz on Monday quotes the Lebanese Minister of Telecommunication Marwan Hamadeh saying in 2008 that ‘Iran Telecom is taking over the country!’ Hamadeh was referring to
‘the complete fiber optic system that Hezbollah had established throughout Lebanon’ which he claimed receives funding from Iran and signals ‘a strategic victory for Iran, since it creates an important Iranian outpost in Lebanon, bypassing Syria.’
The cable then goes on to state the value of such a network to Hezbollah:

‘The value for Hizballah is the final step in creating a nation state. Hizballah now has an army and weapons; a television station; an education system; hospitals; social services; a financial system; and a telecommunications system’.
Syria refused war against Israel in event of Israeli attack on Iran
The Israeli daily Yediot today reports that:

 ‘Syria refused to fight on Iran’s side in case of a military stand-off between Tehran and Israel following an attack on its nuclear facilities.’
The Syrians also told Iran not to expect Hamas or Hezbollah to get involved in the war... 

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Claims Conference agreement to provide homecare for Holocaust victims in 2011

From a Press Release of the CONFERENCE ON JEWISH MATERIAL CLAIMS AGAINST GERMANY, Inc. (1359 Broadway, Room 2000, New York, NY 10018, December 6, 2010 / 29 Kislev 5771:

... the Claims Conference has successfully negotiated an agreement with the German government to provide €110 million (approximately $145 million) for homecare for Holocaust victims in 2011.

This is double the amount that we received for 2010 as a result of earlier negotiations. This unprecedented amount of funding means that we can provide additional hours of care for survivors already receiving assistance as well as give additional Holocaust victims around the world the aid that they desperately need as they grow more frail.

This development speaks volumes for the skill and commitment of our negotiating delegation and the Claims Conference staff. Tens of thousands of Holocaust victims will live easier lives and in more comfort because of their efforts.

....At this time of Chanukah, indeed, we shall be able to bring some light to those who suffer alone in the dark.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Former EU Commissioner Frits Bolkenstein: " future for Jews in the Netherlands"

From JPOST, 7 December 2010:
Fritz Bolkenstein: piss off Jews...

Former European Union Commissioner Frits Bolkenstein said that Jews have no future in the Netherlands and recommended that they emigrate to the US or Israel....

...Bolkestein, former leader of the right-wing VVD party, said that due to anti-Semitism amongst young Moroccans Jews who look like Jews - those who wear kippahs or payot - should leave Holland for their own safety.

"I see no future for recognizable Jews, in particular because of anti-Semitism, specifically in Dutch Moroccans, who continue to grow in number," Bolkestein reportedly said.

The former politician added that the many Arab television channels in the Netherlands contribute to the spread of anti-Semitism. He said he has no confidence in proposed measures to combat anti-Jewish sentiment.

....Politician Geert Wilders, who visited Israel this week, responded that "Jews shouldn't emigrate, anti-Semitic Moroccans should."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Saudi Arabia is the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide

From New York Times, 5 December 2010, by ERIC LICHTBLAU and ERIC SCHMITT:

WASHINGTON — Nine years after the United States vowed to shut down the money pipeline that finances terrorism, senior Obama administration officials say they believe that many millions of dollars are flowing largely unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide, and they have grown frustrated by frequent resistance from allies in the Middle East, according to secret diplomatic dispatches.

The government cables, sent by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and senior State Department officials, catalog a list of methods that American officials suspect terrorist financiers are using, including a brazen bank robbery in Yemen last year, kidnappings for ransom, the harvesting of drug proceeds in Afghanistan and fund-raising at religious pilgrimages to Mecca, where millions of riyals or other forms of currency change hands.

While American officials have publicly been relatively upbeat about their progress in disrupting terrorist financing, the internal State Department cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, offer a more pessimistic account, with blunt assessments of the threats to the United States from money flowing to militants affiliated with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups.

A classified memo sent by Mrs. Clinton last December made it clear that residents of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, all allies of the United States, are the chief financial supporters of many extremist activities. “It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority,” the cable said, concluding that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

The dispatch and others offered similarly grim views about the United Arab Emirates (“a strategic gap” that terrorists can exploit), Qatar (“the worst in the region” on counterterrorism) and Kuwait (“a key transit point”).

The cable stressed the need to “generate the political will necessary” to block money to terrorist networks — groups that she said were “threatening stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan and targeting coalition soldiers.”

While President George W. Bush frequently vowed to cut off financing for militants and pledged to make financiers as culpable as terrorists who carried out plots, President Obama has been far less vocal on the issue publicly as he has sought to adopt a more conciliatory tone with Arab nations. But his administration has used many of the same covert diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement tools as his predecessor and set up a special task force in the summer of 2009 to deal with the growing problem.

...In hundreds of cables focusing on terrorist financing, the problem takes on an air of intractability, as American officials speak of the seeming ease with which terrorists are able to move money, the low cost of carrying out deadly attacks, and the difficulty of stopping it. Interdictions are few, and resistance is frequent.

In Kuwait, for instance, American officials have voiced repeated concerns that Islamic charities — largely unregulated by the government there — are using philanthropic donations to finance terrorism abroad...

Saudi Arabia, a critical military and diplomatic ally, emerges in the cables as the most vexing of problems. Intelligence officials there have stepped up their spying on militants in neighboring Yemen, and they provided the tip that helped uncover the recent parcel bombs. But while the Saudis have made some progress, “terrorist funding emanating from Saudi Arabia remains a serious concern,” according to a cable in February. Mrs. Clinton’s memo two months earlier said Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups “probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan.” Officials said they believed that fund-raisers for extremist groups had often descended on the pilgrims to seek money for their causes...

Argentina, Uruguay follow Brazil - recognize "Palestinian state"

From Ynet News, 6 December 2010, by AFP and Ali Waked:
Following Brazil's public recognition last week, neighboring state issues similar statement recognizing 'Palestine within borders defined in 1967.' Uruguay followed suit...

Argentina said Monday it recognized a "free and independent" Palestinian state, days after Brazil drew sharp criticism from US lawmakers for taking the same step.

...Also Monday, Uruguay made a similar statement. The step is part of efforts to reignite peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

US lawmakers have called Brazil's decision "severely misguided" and "regrettable."

Western countries have agreed that any definition of a Palestinian state required Israeli approval.

...The Palestinians have been working to persuade other countries to acknowledge their right to establish an independent state....

...Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: "This is a very disappointing step which contributes nothing to furthering the peace process." He described the announcement as "a verbal gesture which goes against the Oslo Accords whereby a permanent solution can only be the result of negotiations." Palmor stressed that the gesture "encourages the Palestinians at the very time when they insist on avoiding negotiations."

Foreign Ministry officials have therefore started holding low-profiles talks with Latin American leaders, Ynet learned. "This is a meaningless paper, a virtual declaration. These declarations may look good in print but lack any understanding of the Middle Eastern reality," a ministry source said.

Israel police arrest four teens over huge inferno

From AFP, 7 December 2010:

BEIT OREN, Israel — Israeli police said on Monday they arrested four teenagers suspected of starting a blaze that swept through a forest and killed 42 people in the country's worst fire disaster.

"We have made four arrests -- two teenagers from the Druze village of Isfiya who were arrested on Saturday, and another two who were questioned on Sunday and released to house arrest," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, without saying where the second two were from.

The four were suspected of negligence that sparked the wildfire, he said, adding that the two teenagers from Isfiya were scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

The fire in the Carmel hill range near the northern city of Haifa began on Thursday, killing 42 people before it was brought under control three days later after a massive international firefighting effort.

An initial investigation appears to show the blaze, the biggest in Israel's 62-year history, was started by accident by several teenagers who were having a picnic in the area, Rosenfeld said.

Light rain fell on Monday morning on the forests of Mount Carmel, dampening the ground, with meteorologists estimating there would be a total of 15 millimetres (0.6 inches) throughout the day.

The rain is some of the first the country has had this year, after a particularly dry summer and an unusually warm autumn. Last month saw the driest November in nearly 50 years.

Firefighters were still on the scene on Monday morning, working to ensure that the blaze, which consumed thousands of acres of forest, did not reignite.

Government officials cited by the Israeli media on Monday said the fire had caused damage estimated at two billion shekels (400 million euro, 533 million dollars).

In addition to those costs, Israel now plans to buy several firefighting planes, after scathing domestic criticism at the Jewish state's lack of an aerial firefighting capacity.

The country has just 1,500 firefighters and no firefighting planes, forcing it to rely on international assistance to put out the blaze.

The government has also announced plans to create a new body charged with overseeing the response to fires.

For the first time, the Israeli government has released emergency funding of 30 million euros to help residents who lost their homes in the fire.

"I don't want delays or bureaucracy. I want all the people who were evacuated to be able to return to their lives as soon as possible," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The prospects for a Palestinian state have rarely been more grim

From Tablet Magazine, Dec 2, 2010, by Benny Morris, professor of history at Ben-Gurion University:

In recent years, starting with the Israeli handover of West Bank cities and the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority in the mid-1990s, the Palestinians, ever-so-slowly and inefficiently, have built pre-state institutions of governance—most recently and competently under the leadership of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

During the past few years alone, Western observers have noted substantial improvements in Palestinian taxation, infrastructure, and economic development, and in the functioning of the (American- and European-trained) security services. Indeed, under Fayyad, the West Bank is flourishing economically (around 9 percent annual growth, according to the International Monetary Fund, even if the gains are fragile) and is a largely peaceful place, with residents even paying traffic tickets, and militants of Hamas and other organizations largely inactive, with some jailed in periodic round-ups.

At the same time, Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 from the Palestinian National Authority, in the process throwing PA officers off of tall buildings and knee-capping others, has also demonstrated an ability to rule, in an orderly if brutal fashion.

A series of question marks hangs over these recent improvements in the governance of the West Bank:
  • How deep do they run?
  • And can they outlast Western financial aid and political backing and the overriding guardianship of Israeli bayonets?
  • Will the American- and European-trained security forces, in crisis, hold their own against Hamas or fade away, like the Western-trained Iraqi and Afghani forces have when left to perform independent of their American and British instructors?
Even before we can get to such practical questions, though, there is a another more fundamental question that goes to the heart of the continuing historical struggle between two peoples for the same piece of land: What will be the geographical contours of the envisioned Palestinian state and what will be its nature? Put simply, will the envisioned state encompass all of Palestine, including the territory of the existing Jewish state, Israel, or will it include only the West Bank and Gaza Strip and, perhaps, Arab-populated East Jerusalem? And will the envisioned state be a secular, perhaps even “democratic,” republic as promised by the Fatah-led PNA, which rules the West Bank, or will it be a fundamentalist, Islamic, sharia-based state, as sought by Hamas, which rules Gaza? Will one of the parties absorb or co-opt the other, or will the Palestinians maintain this political bifurcation indefinitely?


Which brings us to the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiating impasse...a basic, strategic impasse which, unfortunately, is far more cogent and telling than the ongoing “negotiations,” which are unlikely to lead to a peace treaty or even a “framework” agreement for a future peace accord.

This unlikelihood stems from a set of obstacles that I see as insurmountable, given current political-ideological mindsets.

The first [obstacle] that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called “secular” and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. ...They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should.

This basic Palestinian rejectionism, amounting to a Weltanschauung, is routinely ignored or denied by most Western commentators and officials. To grant it means to admit that the Israeli-Arab conflict has no resolution apart from the complete victory of one side or the other (with the corollary of expulsion, or annihilation, by one side of the other)—which leaves leaders like President Barack Obama with nowhere realistic to go with regard to the conflict.

Philosophically, acceptance of the rock-like unpliability of this reality is extremely problematic ...our age, it may turn out, resembles the classic age of appeasement, the 1930s, when the Western democracies (and the Soviet Union) were ranged against, but preferred not to confront, Nazi Germany and its allies, Fascist Italy, and expansionist Japan. During that decade, Hitler’s inexorable martial, racist, and uncompromising mindset was misread by Western leaders, officials, and intellectuals—and for much the same reasons. Living in unideological societies, they could not fathom the minds and politics of their ideologically driven antagonists. The leaders and intellectuals of the Western democracies, educated and suffused with liberal and relativist values, by and large were unable to comprehend the essential “otherness” of Hitler and ended up fighting him, to the finish, after negotiation and compromise had proved useless.


Another problem for Westerners is that ...Hamas, which may represent the majority of the Palestinian people and certainly has the unflinching support of some 40 percent of them, speaks clearly. It openly repudiates a two-state solution.

Hamas leaders...occasionally express a tactical readiness for a long-term truce under terms that they know are unacceptable to any Jewish Israelis (complete Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and acceptance of the refugees’ “Right of Return”), but their strategic message is clear, echoing the Roman statesman Cato the Elder: “Israel must be destroyed.”

The secular Palestinian leadership looks to a similar historical denouement but is more flexible on the tactics and pacing. They express a readiness for a two-state solution but envision such an outcome as intermediate and temporary. They speak of two states, a Palestinian Arab West Bank-Gaza-East Jerusalem state and another state whose population is Jewish and Arab and which they believe will eventually become majority-Arab within a generation or two through Arab procreation (Palestinian Arab birth-rates are roughly twice those of Israeli Jews) and the “return” of Palestinians with refugee status. This is why Fatah’s leaders, led by Palestine National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, flatly reject the Clintonian formula of “two states for two peoples” and refuse to recognize the “other” state, Israel, as a “Jewish state.” They hope that this “other” state will also, in time, be “Arabized,” thus setting the stage for the eventual merger of the two temporary states into one Palestinian Arab-majority state between the River and the Sea.

The Palestinian national movement, since its inception in the 1920s, has sought to establish a unitary Arab state in all of Palestine as defined by the British Mandate: the territory lying between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, stretching southward to the Gulf of Aqaba.

...Since the early 1990s, the PLO—at least in its overtures toward and contacts with Western governments—has identified its goal as establishing a Palestinian state in those territories captured by Israel in 1967: the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Yet the Palestinian national movement failed to prepare their people and movement for statehood. In contrast with their Zionist rivals, the Palestinians, during the years of Ottoman rule (ending in 1917 and 1918) and the subsequent British Mandate (1917 or 1918 to 1948), failed to set up representative or substantive political parties, or to establish a competent, public-service-oriented leadership cadre, institutions of self-government, and a national militia that could carry their people toward statehood when the moment ripened.

This reinforced the image of a national movement bent only or mainly on destruction of the “other” rather than seeking self-realization.


The key to understanding Fatah objectives today lies in its leaders’ stance on resolving the refugee problem. Contrary to what many Western commentators and analysts have chosen to believe, the Palestinian stress on the importance of the refugees is not a tactical matter—a way to gain further leverage in negotiations.

The Palestinian leadership is unanimous and resolute in insisting that the problem’s solution lies in the “Right of Return”: Israel, and the world, must accept the principle of repatriation and eventually facilitate repatriation. The idea that the refugees must return to their homes has been the ethos, the be-all and end-all of Palestinian politics and policy, since 1948. No Palestinian leader can or will ever abandon this principle, on pain of assassination, and none has.

...And this represents the second insurmountable obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The United Nations has on its rolls 4.7 million Palestinian refugees; the PLO claims that there are 7.5 million ...The vast majority of the ...“refugees”—say nine-tenths of them—are the children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren of the originally displaced 700,000. And more than half of them live in Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinian demand that Israel accept a mass refugee return means that, if implemented, Israel, with its 6 million Jewish and 1.5 million Arab citizens, would instantly or over a short time, become an Arab-majority state.

Paradoxically, the Palestinian demand for Israeli acceptance and implementation of the “Right of Return” is universally endorsed by Arab leaders—including those, like President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan, whose countries have peace treaties with Israel. No Arab leader has ever publicly disavowed the “Right of Return” or castigated the Palestinian insistence on it as contrary to the interests of peace. ...even the Saudi plan proposes that the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem be based on U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, of December 1948, which the Arabs interpret as unequivocally endorsing the “Right of Return.”

To these formidable obstacles to peace-making—the unchanging Arab desire for what amounts to Israel’s disappearance and consistent advocacy of the demographic means by which this can be achieved—one may add the hardly routine challenges of
  • differences over future Israeli-Palestinian borders,
  • ...sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Old City and, in particular, its Temple Mount complex...
  • the fate of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank
  • ...demilitarization of a future Palestinian ...state...
It is hard to envision any circumstances under which the current Obama-initiated direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks can succeed.

...even if, by some miracle, Abbas and Netanyahu were to reach a framework agreement or even a detailed peace treaty (a departure into the realm of total fantasy) with Abbas accepting the Jewishness of the “other” state and waiving the “Right of Return,” and Netanyahu conceding Arab sovereignty over the bulk of Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Temple Mount, such an agreement would fail to stick and would never be implemented.

Abbas might sign off on “an end to the conflict” and “no more demands”—and most likely be assassinated by Arab extremists in consequence—but a majority of Palestinians, and certainly a large minority of them, would continue the struggle, rendering the agreement no more than a wind-blown piece of paper.

Hamas, which won the 2006 Palestinian general elections, would denounce the signers as traitors and continue the fight for all of Palestine, as would many in Abbas’ own Fatah party. The agreement would not end the conflict. Nor would it deter or obstruct future, continuing Palestinian claims.


In short, a Palestinian state will not arise out of the current round of negotiations.

But it might emerge some time after their failure—and on the model of Hamas’ Gaza “republic.”

Put simply, if faced with continuing Palestinian unwillingness to sign an end-of-conflict agreement...Netanyahu or his successor—may opt for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the bulk of the West Bank (and, perhaps, parts of East Jerusalem).

...But a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem ...uprooting tens of thousands of Israeli settlers from the hill-country of Judea and Samaria, east of the Security Fence, would, in terms of Israeli politics, be a major national trauma. The right would fight it tooth and nail, perhaps to the point of largescale bloodshed....

Alternatively, the IDF and the Israeli police could in theory unilaterally withdraw to the Security Fence while leaving a minority of the settlers in situ (the majority, in the border hugging settlement blocs, such as the Etzion Bloc, would remain on the “Israeli” side of the Security Fence, which runs more or less along the old Israel-West Bank divide, and leaves only some 7 percent of the West Bank in Israeli hands). But Arab attacks on the remaining settlers, their homes or transport, would most likely trigger Israeli re-entry into the evacuated areas.

Viewed militarily, a unilateral pullback to the Security Fence would pose a major strategic problem. Hamas as likely as not would try to take over the West Bank: How could Israel prevent this without physically re-entering the territory?

And, even without a Hamas takeover, Arab control of the territory could result in continuous rocketing by Hamas and perhaps by Fatah itself. The scene would be reminiscent of that which followed Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip, but with this difference: Where Hamas since 2005 has rocketed small border towns and villages, short-range rocketry from the West Bank would doubtless hit Israel’s main population centers, such as West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, rendering life in central Israel untenable. Moreover, how would Israel ensure that foreign troops—Iranian, for example—would not be invited by the Palestinian government, the present one or a future Islamist regime, into the West Bank, strategically threatening the Jewish state?

What remains, in the absence of a basic change of Palestinian mindset, is a bleak picture. No viable peace agreement is remotely in prospect. Neither is the emergence of a full-fledged Palestinian state. A unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is so problematic as to be virtually unimplementable. Yet continued Israeli rule over the territory and its people, obnoxious to most Israelis and to the rest of the world, raises the prospect of a bi-national state or an apartheid state, both of which most Jews regard as anathema. That, unfortunately, is where we’re at.

The flames are out, now come the recovery and recrimination

From JPost, 5 December 2010, by YAAKOV LAPPIN:

Carmel inferno finally defeated after four days, though emergency teams still on standby; forest will take 40 years to recover; state comptroller finalizes "grave" report on years of Fire and Rescue Service neglect.

Millions of Israelis breathed a collective sigh of relief on Sunday after firefighters from here and abroad succeeded in overcoming the worst fire disaster the country has known, which killed 41 people, destroyed at least 50,000 dunams of Carmel forestland, damaged 250 homes, and caused over NIS 200 million in damage, according to initial estimates.

A number of small fires remained active in the Mount Carmel region, and the fleet of international fire planes that proved decisive in putting an end to the fires on Sunday, including a Boeing 747 supertanker leased by the government from a US company, remained on standby as night fell.

Weather forecasters said rain would likely help put out the remaining fires overnight.

“From our point of view, the danger has passed for all the places that were evacuated,” fire official Boaz Rakia said.

The relief quickly gave way to mourning, as 24 fire casualties – 22 Prisons Service staff and two policemen – were buried on Sunday.

As smoke rose from the smoldering forests of the Carmel, public pressure on the government and anger mounted over decades of neglect of the Fire and Rescue Service.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said he would soon publish a “grave” report on the shortcomings that led to the present state of the service. He was “only sorry” that warnings about the dangers that became evident in recent days had been disregarded by the authorities.

Magen David Adom officials said 33 people suffering from fire-related injuries were evacuated to hospitals during the four-day blaze.

Three of the injured – including Haifa police chief Asst.-Cmdr. Ahuva Tomer – were in critical condition, while three others were moderately hurt and the remainder lightly hurt.

Prof. Avi Pervolovski, a senior researcher at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Organization, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that it would take around 40 years for the Carmel forests to recover.

All of the estimated four to five million trees incinerated in the inferno will be replaced naturally, Pervolovski said, due to a fire-coping mechanism evolved by trees over millions of years, such as seeds that take flight during blazes and survive the flames, and underground branches that can also survive. But, he stressed, it will take decades for the forests to regain their natural heights.

“It will be a long time before the view we were used to in the Carmel will return,” Pervolovski said.

“Experts knew that this was the most likely area for a fire of this type,” he added.

At 5 p.m. on Sunday, police notified residents of the worst-hit area that they could return to their homes in Nir Etzion, Ein Hod, Ein Hud and Kibbutz Beit Oren.

Emergency officials said 250 homes suffered extensive damage, mostly in Ein Hod and Beit Oren. Live TV broadcasts carried images of shocked residents returning to Ein Hod and inspecting blackened homes.

The government has estimated that around 70 homes will have to be torn down and rebuilt, and allocated funds for mobile homes for displaced residents...

Obama’s Iran failure

From an Op-ed in Ynet News, 5 December 2010, by Shoula Romano Horing:

Unlike Arab leaders, American president fails to understand scope of Iranian threat

For the last two years President Obama has been obsessing with “engaging” the Muslim world while ignoring the “moderates” in the Islamic countries who have been imploring the US to stop Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

For two years President Obama and his administration have fabricated a mythical argument that progress on the Israeli–Palestinian issue through the stopping of settlement construction will help get the “moderate” Arab nations in the region like Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf State, Egypt and Jordan on board in stopping Iran.

But the confidential documents from US embassies made public on WikiLeaks reveal that those countries have already been on board, by hounding and begging the Obama administration to take military action, including airstrikes and the use of ground forces, against the Iranians

Moreover, while Obama was wasting time and personally orchestrating public confrontations with Israel over the settlement issue and the creation of a Palestinian state, it seems that Arab Sunni leaders, in private communications with US officials, did not even mention the settlements or the Palestinian issue as their main urgent concern. As one Middle East expert from Cairo told the Los Angeles Times, the official stance in the Middle East led by Arab Sunni states has always been” that it is Iran and not Israel that poses the main threat to the region.”

According to WikiLeaks, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah urged the US to attack ”evil” Iran, saying that “it is necessary to cut the head of the snake.” King Hamad of Bahrain was quoted in 2009 as saying ”the Iranian nuclear program must be terminated by whatever means necessary. The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed urged the US not to appease or engage Tehran, referring to it as an “existential threat” and stating that “Ahmadinejad is Hitler.”

Iran is not Soviet Union
It appears that Arab leaders agree with Prime Minster Netanyahu‘s assessment that Iran is the main threat to peace and stability in the Middle East and not the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and that economic sanctions may hurt Iran but military action is the only way to stop it.

It seems that Obama chooses to ignore the concerns about Iran from his friends, and feels compelled to occupy himself with sideshows like the Israeli-Palestinian issue and “settlements” because he does not understand the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran. Obama does not believe in a military solution because he believes it is possible to “contain” Iran as the US contained the Soviet Union. But he does not understand that contrary to the Communist leaders, Iranian leaders are not “rational “adversaries.

To understand Iran’s ambitions it is necessary to understand Iran’s religious ideology. The Iranian regime believes that the right religion for humanity is Islam and the right sect of Islam is Shiite and not Sunni. Iran’s ultimate aim is to establish global Islamic rule, a new Islamic empire, but this time under Shiite leadership.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated in the past his belief that amidst the chaos of a catastrophic war, the 12th Imam, the Mahdi, would make his prophesied Messianic return and establish new order where the whole world would convert to Shiite Islam. This belief lies at the heart of Iran’s ambition to spread its influence and acquire nuclear weapons and this is the reason such ambition is dangerous not only for Israel but for Sunni Arab countries, Europe and the world.

Acquiring nuclear capability would give Iranian leadership even more room for reckless and aggressive foreign policy.

The Sunni Arabs understand the Iranian Shiite ambitions for regional hegemony and the threat to their survival, even though Obama does not. The Israeli government should stop participating in the sideshows of Obama and refuse any requests for a settlement freeze or negotiations over a future Palestinian state until the Iranian threat is eliminated.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Wildfire in Israel: Firefighters face 'wall of flames'

From Ynet News, 4 December 2010*:

Forces fighting wildfire near Hai-Bar nature reserve on Mount Carmel receive reinforcement after running out of water. 'The flames are 15-20 meters high,' their commander reports. Fire and rescue commissioner: It'll take a day or two to contain fire

Firefighters on Saturday night continued their efforts to contain a wildfire on Israel's Mount Carmel, which has claimed the lives of 41 people since it broke out on Thursday morning. The forces were aided throughout the day by firefighting aircraftsent from many countries across the world.
"At this point we have reached the best situation since the fire began," said Israel Fire and Rescue Commissioner Shimon Romach. "We are still not talking about controlling the fire.

It will take us a day or two and then we'll still have the final extinguishing work, so there is a lot of work ahead."

Live: Ynet's Yoav Zitun and Roee Idan with firefighters

The wildfire has so far burnt some 50,000 dunam (12,300 acres) of land. The firefighting operations continued Saturday night in the Hai-Bar animal and nature reserve near Haifa and west of Haifa University. Fire was also raging near a garbage site in the village of Usfiya and in the western part of Dalyat al-Carmel.

Four firefighting teams operating in the Hai-Bar area ran out of water on Saturday evening and were forced to pull back before getting reinforcement. "The fire is 15-20 meters (50-65 feet) high – a wall of flames," their commander reported.

"We are fighting fire from three directions," he said. An Israel Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle was reporting of the flame's progress to an Israel Defense Forces officer stationed in the area with the firefighters, who continued to request more and more water.

צילום: AP
Israel on fire - NASA satellite image (Photo: AP)

Boaz Rakia of the firefighting services reported earlier of "several areas where the fire is raging". He said that "fires are still erupting from time to time, for example in the Ein Hod and Nir Etzion areas. The fire died down there during the day, but there are still places where it hasn't been completely extinguished. A sudden gust of wind could ignite the fire again. Our people are in those places to provide a response."

Some of the residents of Ein Hod and Nir Etzion chose to remain in their communities despite a police evacuation order, and are patrolling the houses in a bid to prevent plunder.

Internal security minister 'not optimistic'

Hezy Levy, a spokesman for Haifa's firefighting services, expressed cautious optimism on Saturday evening, saying that "the battle will be relaunched tomorrow with renewed forces. Some 400 firefighters are expected to arrive from their homes all freshened up, and the aerial activity will resume as well."

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, on the other hand, said during a press briefing at the command post at Haifa University that he remains "not optimistic".

"My working assumption is that it will take a few more days. The fleet of planes which will join us tomorrow will provide real aid. You must remember that we hardly engage in fire extinguishing at night."

צילום: דפנה מרוז
Carmel forest before fire (Photo: Dafna Meroz)

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi spoke of more than 25 different aircraft which had arrived from various countries. "The weather forecast for tonight is slightly better," he said. "The massive operation of hundreds of tons of water being thrown every hour and dozens of tons of material are eventually leading to the desired income. We'll defeat this fire. It will take a day or two more, and we will then draw the conclusions."

Meanwhile, the police have arrested a 16-year-old boy and his 14-year-old brother from the Druze village of Usfiya on suspicion of negligence which started the major fire. The two suspects' mother claimed that her sons were in school when the fire broke out and expressed her hope that they would be released from custody soon.
"At this stage we are talking about negligence and nothing more," said Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen. "There have been several cases of arson in the northern district and we have appointed a special investigation team."

*Ahiya Raved, Yoav Zitun, Adi Sardas and Roni Sofer contributed to this report