Saturday, February 26, 2005

Poll: Sharon Implementing Labor's Platform

From Israel National News

A recent poll shows a majority of voters believe Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is acting contrary to the platform upon which he was elected.

The poll, carried out by "Brain Base" ["Ma'agar Mohot"] via telephone conversations with a representative sample of 568 adult Israelis (including Israeli Arabs), was broadcast on Israel Radio's "Another Matter" program Tuesday. Asked whether the Labor Party ministers who claim that Ariel Sharon is implementing the election platform of Labor Party are correct, 55% answered yes. Whereas only 44% of Likud voters answered in the affirmative, 92% of Labor voters agreed.Sharon ran against Labor candidate Amram Mitzna last election. Mitzna’s central campaign issue was a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, whereas, while Sharon spoke about “painful concessions for peace,” he spoke out strongly against Mitzna’s ideas. The Likud platform reads: “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”With regard to the creation of a PA state it says: “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel's existence, security and national needs.”

Europe decides that Bush may be right after all

From the Wall Street Journal, Friday, February 25, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

Visits by U.S. Presidents to Europe tend to have a template-making quality: Wilson, the peace maker, in Paris, 1919; Truman, the victor, at Potsdam, 1945; Kennedy, the stalwart, in Berlin, 1963; Reagan, the visionary, in Berlin, 1987. If President Bush's trip this week has some kind of new theme, the word for it is probably conciliation. But our sense is that Mr. Bush is really following in Reagan's footsteps.
Admittedly, this thought is not original: Der Spiegel beat us to it. Still, it says something that the leftish German newsweekly, which two years ago devoted an entire cover story to advancing the "Blood for Oil" thesis about U.S. ambitions in the Middle East, has gingerly raised the question, "Could Bush Be Right?"
"The Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today's Germany, was very skeptical of the American president and his foreign policy," Der Spiegel writes. "When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate--and the Berlin Wall--and demanded that Gorbachev 'tear down this Wall,' he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators. . . . But history has shown that it wasn't Reagan who was the dreamer as he voiced his demand. Rather, it was German politicans who were lacking in imagination--a group who in 1987 couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany."
It is doubtful that Der Spiegel would have made these observations had Mr. Bush's visit taken place just before Iraq's election rather than just after. And we suspect most of the magazine's editors would dearly have preferred to see a President Kerry.
But events have a way of imposing both discipline and clarity. For much of Europe, the idea that President Bush is the real and legitimate face of America came a few years late. But it has come, as has the realization that a hopeful era is dawning in the Middle East thanks to U.S. "unilateralism" and force of arms. In this sense, the purpose of Mr. Bush's trip isn't to present himself anew to Europe. It is to allow European leaders--France's Jacques Chirac, Germany's Gerhard Schroeder and Russia's Vladimir Putin--to present themselves anew to Mr. Bush.
Partly this reflects political facts: Contrary to expectation a year ago (and with the qualified exception of Spain), the leaders who supported the war in Iraq have all been returned to office, while Messrs. Chirac, Putin and Schroeder languish in polls.
Partly, too, it reflects the realities of power. Europe, collectively and in its several parts, requires a functioning relationship with the U.S. to secure its vital interests. The same cannot be said of America's requirements of Europe. President Bush was gracious when he acknowledged the willingness of Germany and France to contribute to the training of Iraqi policemen. But the one (yes, one) French officer now detailed to the task will probably not turn the tide of war.
Probably the most important component is that President Bush's vision of spreading democracy--of getting to the "tipping point" where tyrannies start to crumble--seems not only to be working but also winning some unexpected converts. Just ask the Lebanese who are suddenly restive under Syrian occupation. As a result, European politicians are in a poorer position to lecture this President about the true ways of the world.
This isn't to say that Mr. Bush can or should be indifferent to the attitudes of his European counterparts. They have agreed to put differences about Iraq behind them, which is good. The U.S., France and Germany also seem to be reasonably united in their concern about Russia's imperial pretensions and attenuated civil liberties. But potentially larger differences loom before them, above all over the nuclearization of Iran and the lifting of the post-Tiananmen arms embargo to China.
In each case, fundamental U.S. strategic interests--the security of Taiwan and Israel; the sovereignty of Iraq; naval supremacy in the Persian Gulf--stand at odds either with European commercial interests or ideological hobbyhorses (the French infatuation with "multipolarity"). If smoother diplomacy, both public and private, can avert another Iraq-style eruption without compromising U.S. interests, so much the better.
Then again, if Europe continues to demand a high price for its political favors, the Bush Administration would do well to shop for partners and ad hoc coalitions elsewhere. America's cultural links to Europe may be precious, but there is no law of nature or history that requires both sides of the Atlantic to act in concert. To the extent that Europeans continue to value the relationship, it is up to them to demonstrate it, chiefly by not acting as freelancers or spoilers in areas of vital U.S. concern.
Still, there are reasons to be sanguine about the future of trans-Atlantic relations. We are in no doubt that most European hearts thrilled to the sight of Iraqi voters going to the polls last month, suggesting that, whatever Europe and America's political or ideological differences, we remain alike in our innermost values and aspirations. Nor do we believe our world views are so divided that persuasion and compromise are impossible. Pundits may differ as to whether Mr. Bush and his European counterparts planted the seeds for a better relationship. What's sure is that they were planting on fertile soil.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Since 'Cease Fire' - A Bomb Every Day

As Israel finalizes plans to give away Gaza to Palestinian Authority control in light of the non-declared ceasefire, attempted terror attacks against Israeli targets are on the upswing.

"In the past three weeks," IDF sources reported, "we have discovered an explosive device on the average of one a day. This indicates a potentially dangerous method that terrorists have employed since the beginning of the ceasefire: They are simply filling the land with explosives.""At least some of the [bombs] have been planted under the noses of PA policemen," the sources said. Palestinian terrorists fired a Kassam rocket yesterday at the Gush Katif town of N'vei Dekalim, opened fire on soldiers in at least two instances, and fired a mortar shell towards Gadid. No one was injured and no damage was reported.Israeli soldiers discovered four bombs planted near Jewish towns in northern and southern Gaza yesterday. The bombs weighed a total of over 200 kilograms (440 pounds). Two of the bombs were found near the town of Rafiah, which straddles the Egyptian border. One of the devices was of the type used by Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon. Two other bombs were discovered near Kibbutz Alumim, a religious kibbutz within Israel's pre-1967 borders.Military sources explained the dangers of the hidden explosive devices, which often look like rocks and are usually detonated through hidden wires: "Each explosive device is equal to several explosive belts, and it's clear that if an army vehicle trips a device, there will be injuries. But since we are talking about a roadside bomb attack, it is considered a 'passive act' without anyone even taking responsibility. This is considered legitimate by terrorist organizations."This morning (Sunday), IDF forces saw a terrorist cell trying to smuggle weapons across the Israeli-Egyptian border. The soldiers opened fire, killing two terrorists and wounding a third, who was apprehended by the Israelis. IDF officials were scratching their heads last week, asking themselves if there is something the PA knows that the Israelis don't. PA forces discovered no fewer than 12 arms-smuggling tunnels in the first four days of last week. By contrast, Israel discovered eight arms-smuggling tunnels in the past eight months. Yesterday, over 20 Gazan Arabs arrived at the gate of an IDF outpost near the N'vei Dekalim industrial zone. The soldiers did not respond, however, in keeping with new orders not to shoot without prior permission from the highest military echelons. Local residents who saw the incident reported that when security forces arrived on the scene, the Arabs left – but not before taking several boxes from the outpost entrance.On the other hand, in the framework of the goodwill gestures Israel is making to Abu Mazen, 16 terrorists who were transferred to Gaza during the past four years of warfare were allowed to return to their homes today. The Supreme Court, responding today to a petition against the intended release of 500 Palestinian terrorist, refused to intervene in the case.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Time Out for Terror?

Ehud Ya'ari's article in the Jerusalem Report today credits Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) for putting a stop to the bloodletting of the last 52 months...

"The question now is what will be the nature of this truce, if it in fact stabilizes? What will be its political structure? Are we witnessing a hudna that reflects genuine recognition that the terror campaign boomeranged into failure? Or will it emerge as a mere opportunity for the armed factions to use the truce to make gains, something that Hamas and its ilk are stubbornly pressing for?"

"These are the three most important assets that these factions hope to acquire during the hudna:
* A time-out ...during which they can recover and regroup
* Participation in the PA's decision-making process
* Immunity against Israeli attacks, and the legitimisation of ...(terror)"