Thursday, May 24, 2007

Drastic measures needed

From Ynet News, 24/5/07, by Giora Eiland, a retired IDF major-general and former head of the National Security Council ....

Prior to any important discussion regarding our handling of the Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, three key assumptions should be made.

Firstly, the Qassam rocket fire cannot be halted by means of an aerial operation only.

Secondly, without changing the situation along the Philadelphi Route Hamas will continue to boost its military force.

Thirdly, the reality in Sderot is unbearable. This assumption is not as obvious as it may sound. Until recently the Israeli government regarded the continuation of the current situation there as the better option. Apparently, this attitude has changed. If the rocket fire cannot be stopped remotely or from the air, how can it be stopped?

There are two ways of achieving this and both options have a common thread: Exercising a political option prior to a military operation and reaching an understanding with the US regarding the question of the "day after," or "how pressure will be lifted after a military operation and in exchange for what ." Such pressure would not only be painful for the Palestinians.

Option A: Capturing areas in the Gaza Strip, particularly the Philadelphi Route - while not sufficing with capturing the Route, which is too narrow to protect, and widening it. The implication of this would be the destruction of hundreds of homes in Rafah and thousands of homeless people. This will create an international outcry and spark the ire of the Egyptians – which is a good thing! Israel would insist that it would withdraw its troops only if and when a satisfactory security arrangement is hammered out. Such a settlement is possible and Israel should reach an agreement on it with the US prior to an operation.

Similarly, action should be taken in several other areas as well.

Option B: Israel announces that as far as it is concerned Gaza is a political entity (separate from the West Bank,) which is ruled pragmatically and formally by Hamas. As this entity is in a state of war with Israel, Israel would have to take three measures:
  • Immediately close off border crossings between Israel and Gaza (as Gaza is open to Egypt, supplies to and from Gaza could be transferred through there.)
  • Announce that in several months Israel would cease to supply water, electricity and fuel.
  • Since Gaza is an enemy state in a state of war with Israel, every governing institution in Gaza and the infrastructure serving the belligerent effort against us, including roads and bridges, should be targeted

Such Israeli activity would threaten the future of the Palestinian state – and this is positive. The international arena will undoubtedly protest even more strongly and will want to reinstate the old status quo. Israel would agree only if conditions are right, conditions that must be hammered out with the US first.

The continuation of tactical assaults on Hamas rocket launchers is not the solution as it allows Hamas to exploit its relative advantage. This doesn't mean that that the entire Gaza Strip must be taken. One of the drastic measures, as outlined here, can be adopted. And yes, there is no choice but to take a political risk, to anger several players and to force them to take action as well.

The world isn't perturbed by what's going on in Sderot and as long as this situation persists, we shall be called upon to "exercise restraint," and the problems will remain ours alone.

Lebanon rebels represent only Syria

From The Australian, May 24, 2007, by Martin Chulov, Tripoli ...

ABOUT 50 al-Qa'ida-linked insurgents were holed up today in a battered shantytown deep inside a besieged Palestinian refugee camp, vowing to die fighting the surrounding Lebanese army. Lebanon's Defence Minister issued an ultimatum to the militants to surrender or face a military onslaught, as the army reinforced its positions, raising fears of what could be a bloody showdown.

Close to half of the camp's 34,000 inhabitants have fled the fighting that erupted on Sunday as a fragile truce held between Fatah al-Islam and the soldiers ordered to crush them. Most of the remaining residents were expected today to join the exodus ahead of the widely anticipated last stand. "Preparations are seriously underway to end the matter," Defence Minister Elias Murr said in an interview today with the Al-Arabiya television. "The army will not negotiate with a group of terrorists and criminals. Their fate is arrest, and if they resist the army, death."

...Three days of fierce fighting has killed more than 60 militants and soldiers as well as at least 27 civilians.

....The PLO last night suspended a four-decade ban on the Lebanese army entering Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps, clearing the way for the army to carry out Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's order to annihilate the remaining rebels. "We have declared that the country is for Lebanon and sovereignty is for Lebanon, and whatever Lebanon decides or considers its higher interests, we support it," said Abbas Ziki, the PLO representative in Lebanon.

...Nahr al-Barad, meaning the Cold River, is one of 12 impoverished Palestinian camps in Lebanon that are home to more than 215,000 out of a total of 400,000 refugees in the country.Fears of large numbers of dead or wounded civilians have threatened to ignite an uprising in other camps, where leaders claim the army has been reckless in its pursuit of the militants.

....Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, have distanced themselves from Fatah al-Islam, which touts itself as a Palestinian liberation movement. Many see it intrinsically linked to the al-Qa'ida worldview with a key goal of toppling the Lebanese Government, which it views as un-Islamic. The group has been accused of acting on the orders of Syrian military intelligence chiefs, who have been widely blamed with destabilising the Government as a means to derail the establishment of a UN tribunal to try the assassins of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

Lebanon last night asked the US for $280 million in aid to suppress the uprising and alleged al-Qa'ida-linked attempts to penetrate other Palestinian areas in the country. Western and Lebanese security forces had been monitoring Fatah al-Islam since last November, but had not established the size of the group, or whether it intended to act on its militant Salafi Islamic ideology. In March, fears were raised of an imminent Fatah al-Islam attack against members of the 15,000-strong UNIFIL intervention force in south Lebanon, which was established to prevent renewed fighting between Hezbollah and Israel, who fought a bloody 34-day war last July-August.

Which "occupation"?

From THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 17, 2007, by Saul Singer, Editor [my emphasis added - SL]....

"Because the Jews destroyed my home. When my home was destroyed I couldn't find my notebook" [says] 'Mickey Mouse' character in Hamas video, crying after he had been caught copying in school (translation by Palestinian Media Watch)....Lost your notebook - blame the occupation.

....This week, Hamas and Fatah were busy killing each other, despite the Mecca deal and the "unity government" that emerged from it. Nine members of Mahmoud Abbas's security forces were killed by Hamas on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Hamas accuses Fatah of "waging war on the new government."

Of course, Hamas also blames all this on the Mossad and the CIA. If only Israel were not stirring things up, there would be tranquility in the Palestinian realm. The Arab world's penchant for blaming others for its predicament is well known and in striking contrast to the West, which often blames itself for "rage" aimed in its direction. The Arab Human Development Reports, written by Arab scholars for the UN and which frankly highlight Arab backwardness in most categories of development, governance and human rights, are the exception that proves the rule.

...Though it is difficult for us to understand that the Arab world - particularly the Palestinians - has come to such a dysfunctional point, what is harder to fathom is why the West would want to encourage such thinking. When this newspaper, for example, asked the new British ambassador, Tom Phillips, why so many in his country seemed so hostile to Israel, he explained, "with some sadness, as someone here committed to Israel," that "Israel is going to get a critical press as long as it is an occupying power."

.... Yet what if the occupied is the side perpetuating the occupation, and the occupier the one desperate to end it? .... the entire Palestinian post-Camp David terror campaign, including Hamas's current buildup for the next round, has been part of the same war to block the coming of a Palestinian state, not to build one and thus end the occupation.

WHEN FRIENDS of Israel, like the British ambassador, speak of "ending the occupation," they are thinking of two states at peace, Israel and Palestine. When Hamas teaches Palestinian children they must blow themselves up to "resist the occupation," they are referring to Israel's destruction....As its spokesman said on Lebanese television on April 2: "We in the Hamas movement will not accept... an agreement saying that at the end of the day, Haifa, Jaffa and Acre are Israeli cities. [We will] not accept any solution that prevents any future Palestinian generation from acting to liberate... the rest of the Palestinian land, if the current generation is incapable of accomplishing this" (

If Hamas is so honest with the West, the West ...should blame the occupation's perpetuation on those who would rather kill themselves and others than see it end: on Palestinian jihadists and those who cover for them in the Arab world.

Israel is often asked to provide a "diplomatic horizon," meaning to more clearly describe the Palestinian state it favors, and how to get there. Where, then, are the demands on the Arab world to clarify the more fundamental matter of which occupation it wants to end - the one that began in 1967, or in 1948?

....Until the West starts asking, "Which occupation?" and demanding the Arab world prove that the occupation they are referring to is not Israel itself, the cycle will continue.

IDF arrests senior Hamas leaders

From May. 24, 2007, by YAAKOV KATZ AND HERB KEINON...

In the continued crackdown on Hamas in the wake of Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza, the IDF conducted a massive arrest sweep of senior Hamas leaders in the West Bank overnight Wednesday, arresting the Palestinian Authority education minister, three parliament members and several mayors.

In total, the IDF said it had arrested 33 Palestinians, the most senior of which was Hamas Education Minister Nasser al-Shaer. Other detainees included three parliament members, the head of the Wakf in Nablus, a top official in the PA Interior Ministry, the mayors of Nablus, Kalkilya, Bidya and El-Bireh, and 21 Hamas operatives and other officials.

The army also shut down 10 Hamas offices in towns throughout the West Bank, includin Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem.

According to IDF sources, the operation was part of the general crackdown on Hamas and in line with the current operations in Gaza. "This is a terror group," an officer said, "and we will hunt them wherever they are."....

Also late Wednesday night, the IAF bombed a money-changing office in Gaza, as well as other businesses in the Gaza Strip responsible for transferring money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.....[which] was used to finance anti-Israel terror activity, including the manufacture of Kassam rockets - 200 of which were fired over the past week-and-a-half.

....Meanwhile, senior government officials said Wednesday night that Israel will target the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Gaza as it has been targeting the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank for years, thus rejecting the notion that a unilateral Hamas cease-fire could prevent stepped-up IDF activity in the Gaza Strip....

....One reason for the substantial reduction in attacks from the West Bank over the years has been the "freedom of action" the IDF has there to conduct raids and arrests on a daily basis. Tuesday night's operation appears to be an attempt to implement that strategy in Gaza as well.

Government officials completely rejected an idea raised by Hamas of a renewed cease-fire that would include the West Bank, and not only Gaza. The previous cease-fire, which began in November but was continually violated by Kassam rocket attacks, applied only to Gaza, with Israel refusing to halt military action in the West Bank. A senior government official said there was "no way" that Israel would extend the cease-fire to the West Bank as a "prize" for Hamas escalating the violence from Gaza. "They won't get a prize for stopping the fire that they escalated," the official said.

The official added that Israel had no intention of stopping its military operations inside Gaza, even if the attacks on Sderot tapered off, and that the level of IDF activity would depend on the intelligence information in its hands and the circumstances on the ground.

The IDF, meanwhile, continued its air strikes against Hamas terror targets over the Shavuot holiday, wounding seven Palestinians in bombing ammunition depots in Gaza City and the Jabalya refugee camp. The IDF said that secondary explosions were spotted following the air strikes, proving that weapons and ammunition were stored there.

On Wednesday night, two Givati Brigade infantrymen were lightly wounded in clashes with Palestinian gunmen in the northern Gaza Strip.

Eleven Kassams were fired at the western Negev on Wednesday, without causing any injuries. On Tuesday, nine rockets struck the Negev, including two that hit southern Ashkelon.
Palestinians said IDF troops searched several homes during the Khan Yunis raid and left handwritten notes warning that houses could be demolished if rockets were fired from them.

Also Tuesday, IAF strikes on Hamas training camps in Gaza wounded at least six people, Palestinian security officials said. Hamas officials said that one of the air strikes destroyed a building used by its private militia, known as the Executive Force. The army confirmed the strikes and said the building served as a command and control center for Hamas terrorist activity.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz met with European Union Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana on Tuesday and ... urged Solana to renew the EU boycott of the Palestinian Authority and to suspend all money transfers. "For the time being we are clenching our teeth and trying not to arrive at a situation where we are forced into a ground operation," Peretz told Solana. "Now is the time when European diplomacy is put to the test."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Muslim "politics"

From THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 22, 2007 ....

One in four younger US Muslims say suicide bombings to defend their religion are acceptable at least in some circumstances...

The survey by the Pew Research Center, [is] one of the most exhaustive ever of the country's Muslims.....

While nearly 80 percent of US Muslims say suicide bombings of civilians to defend Islam can not be justified, 13 percent say they can be, at least rarely. That sentiment is strongest among those younger than 30. Two percent of them say it can often be justified, 13 percent say sometimes and 11 percent say rarely....

....US Muslims are far less accepting of suicide attacks than Muslims in many other nations. In surveys Pew conducted last year, support in some Muslim countries exceeded 50 percent, while it was considered justifiable by about one in four Muslims in Britain and Spain, and one in three in France....

..... Only 40 percent said they believe Arab men carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
By six to one, they say the US was wrong to invade Iraq, while a third say the same about Afghanistan - far deeper than the opposition expressed by the general US public.

.....Forty-seven percent said they consider themselves Muslim first, rather than American....

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Livni says situation in Sderot unbearable

From Ynet News, 21/5/07, by Ronny Sofer ...

...Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni visited Sderot together with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Monday as a Qassam attack on the city killed one woman and injured several others.

"The residents of Sderot are suffering from an unbearable situation. We believe that the Palestinian Authority, headed by the Hamas government, is accountable," Livni told reporters.

Her party was entering Sderot several minutes before 8 pm, when a Qassam rocket hit the commercial center of town. Livni and Solana could see the ambulances and emergency vehicles rushing to the crash site.

As she was entering the city, she was greeted by Maxim Atias, a Sderot resident who said, "They are ruining the lives of our children. They are ruining everybody's lives."
Livni shook his hand and embraced him, saying that she had brought Solana to Sderot so that he could see the suffering of the local residents first hand. She added that the Israeli government will do everything to protect its citizens.

At a joint press conference held with Solana, Livni said, "It is unbearable. Children cannot go to school, and the residents cannot live their lives. I just received a message from the mayor that the woman (who was hit by a Qassam) died. So far we have shown restraint, but Israel must defend its citizens. "Israel left Gaza to give peace a chance. In exchange, unfortunately, we are getting nothing but terrorism. The Qassams are only part of the problem," she added.

Israel demands definitive action
She turned to Solana and said, "The residents of Sderot think that the world is oblivious to their suffering. We not only expect that the world understand, but demand that the international community act with determination against the Palestinian Authority with no compromises when it comes to terrorism."

Solana said, "I condemn the attacks on Israeli citizens. We identify with you, as we do with people all over the world who are suffering. I hope that we can create conditions that will allow us to continue the peace process, as soon as possible." A group of residents protested outside the building that hosted the press conference.

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal told the reporters, "Let me lead you through the streets of Sderot, streets of death, terror and trauma. I would like to remind everyone that Sderot is within the Green Line, so the Palestinians have no claim over it. "We gave the Palestinians what they wanted and they still shoot at us. Since we disengaged from the Gaza Strip, over 1,000 Qassam rockets have landed in or around Sderot," he stated.

"It is unimaginable not to respond when someone shoots at you like that. It is against human nature. I call out to the Palestinians, and assert – we are not leaving Sderot. Justice is on our side and we are staying," he declared.

Israel braces for rockets on Ashkelon, Beersheba

From JPost, May. 21, 2007 , by YAAKOV KATZ AND REBECCA ANNA STOIL [...AP contributed to the report]....

...a 35-year-old woman was killed in Sderot when a salvo of rockets pounded the western Negev and one hit her car.

Shortly after 8 p.m., five rockets were fired from Gaza and one struck the woman's car near Sderot's commercial center. She died en route to hospital, becoming the first Israeli to die in a rocket attack since November. Two other people were wounded in the attack, one moderately and the other lightly, and were evacuated to Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital.

Earlier in the day, an IAF missile hit a car in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, killing its four occupants, an Islamic Jihad Kassam squad. Another strike killed a Hamas operative and leveled a suspected weapons warehouse.

The IDF said the Islamic Jihad members were responsible for dozens of Kassam attacks, including one in November that killed Fatima Slutsker, 57, in Sderot and seriously wounded one of Defense Minister Amir Peretz's bodyguards. The IDF said the squad was intercepted based on intelligence provided by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

In response, Hamas ...threatened to renew suicide attacks from the West Bank.
Tens of thousands of people on Monday attended a funeral in Gaza City for the people killed in Sunday evening's IAF air strike.

.....The latest air strikes followed Sunday's security cabinet decision to step up operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad and to begin targeted killings of terrorist leaders and politicians.

.....Public Security Minister Avi Dichter on Monday said Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was a legitimate target. Senior defense officials said Mashaal was aware that he was a target for Israel and had refrained from visiting the Gaza Strip.

...Other Hamas leaders reportedly being targeted by Israel include Muhammad Deif, commander of Izzadin Kassam (Hamas's military wing) and a master bomb maker; Ahmad Jaberi, an Izzadin Kassam commander in the Gaza Strip; and Khaled Manzour, head of Islamic Jihad's military wing.....

US and EU incentives to terrorists

National Post, Saturday, May 19, 2007, by David Frum [CREDIT: Reuters, Yonathan Weitzman] ...

....It is a little-known fact that international aid to the Palestinian territories has actually risen since Palestinians elected a Hamas government in January, 2006.

According to International Monetary Fund and UN figures, the Palestinian areas received a total of US$1.2-billion in official aid in 2006, up from US$1-billion in 2005.

America's contribution rose from US$400-million in 2005 to US$468-million in 2006. Aid from the European Union and other international organizations also increased handsomely, and the UN has called for still greater increases in aid in 2007.

Look at the incentives that have been created for the Palestinians: vote for terrorism, get an increase in your foreign aid. The Palestinian areas now receive more than US$300 per person, per year, making them the most aid-dependent population on Earth. (The people of sub-Saharan Africa receive only $44 per person per year.)

These incentives allow Hamas to present itself both as the unyielding enemy of the Jewish state --and also as a provider of generous social welfare benefits to the Palestinian people.

What if those incentives changed? What if Hamas's misconduct produced a loss rather than a profit?

Suppose that each Hamas rocket cost the Palestinian Authority US$1-million in reduced U.S. and EU aid? The 80 rockets fired over recent days would mean US$80-million less in salaries, food, aid, subsidies of all kinds. The next 80 rockets -- another US$80-million gone.

For the first time, Hamas's adventurism would exact a serious and predictable cost. Such a cost would do more than any number of U.S.-trained Fatah gunmen to restrain Hamas.

But if the aid continues --if the world continues a policy of sending money to the Palestinian territories, no matter what the Palestinian government does -- Israel, Gaza and the world stand just one well-aimed rocket away from war.


From New York Post, May 20, 2007, by Amir Taheri, Iranian-born journalist based in Europe [my emphasis added - SL]...

... the United Nations' investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri... [is] an open-and-shut case.

Serge Brammertz, the European judge who heads the investigation, says he has more than enough evidence to initiate prosecution against those he has identified as suspects. Endorsing that position is the democratically elected Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora - backed, if opinion polls are right, by more than 65 percent of the nation's people.

Yet the U.N. Security Council, which ordered the investigation soon after Hariri's murder in February 2005, still can't decide whether or not to bring the perpetrators to justice.

...Detlev Mehlis, Brammertz' predecessor, established the motive for the murder as early as the autumn of 2005. He came out with evidence that showed the Syrian leadership, possibly at the highest level, had at one point decided that Hariri was the only Lebanese leader capable of challenging their old ambitions in Lebanon. At the start of 2005, none of the other players in the Lebanese political scene had any particular interest in wishing Hariri out of the way...

...HARIRI'S murder had unintended consequences. The Lebanese were so outraged that, setting aside the differences between their communities, they turned out en masse to demand that Syria end its 30-year-long occupation of their country. In the general election that followed, the pro-Hariri bloc and its allies won a majority in the parliament and formed a government dedicated to bringing the murderers to justice.

Unable to stop the investigation, Syria (backed by the Islamic Republic in Iran) ...deployed Emile Lahoud - the president they had imposed on the Lebanese for a further three years - to paralyze the Siniora government.....Lahoud has been withholding his [presidential] assent [to laws passed by the parliament and senior appointments made by the government], effectively preventing the government from implementing the program for which it was elected.

Lahoud's extended term will end later this year, depriving the Syrians of their veto within the Lebanese political system. But they have another card to play: Hezbollah and its ally, Maronite ex-Gen. Michel Aoun.

...ONCE it had become clear that even a war with Israel wouldn't stop the Hariri investigation, Syria and its allies in Tehran launched what amounted to an attempt at staging a coup through street politics. For months, Hezbollah and its Aounite allies besieged the seat of the government, managing to bring work to a halt in a number of ministries. In the meantime, political assassinations continued unabated.

Having failed to kill the Hariri investigation through war, street action and targeted killings, those who do not want the truth to be fully established have now switched to diplomacy.

The encounter between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Syrian counterpart, Wahid Muallem, in Egypt earlier this month was the first of many moves by Damascus to prevent the convening of the international tribunal on the Hariri murder.

The carrot that Syria is dangling is the prospect of revived peace talks with Israel. Syrian leaders laid out this prospect for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she visited Damascus last spring. It is supposed to be so attractive as to trump all other considerations, including the Hariri murder investigation.

SYRIA believes that the Hariri investigation was a pet project of the Bush administration and French ex-President Jacques Chirac. With Chirac retired and Bush's time in the White House winding down, all that Syria needs is to buy time - which it's trying to do by courting Pelosi and wooing beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Allowing such dilatory tactics to succeed, however, would have a deadly effect on the politics of the Middle East far beyond the Hariri case. It would endorse state-sanctioned murder as a legitimate tool of politics, and deal a further blow to the United Nations' already shaky authority.

It could also kill the democratic aspirations of the Lebanese people and expose the Western democracies as opportunistic powers less interested in their declared values than in securing concessions from the despotic regimes.

The Security Council has the moral and political duty to positively respond to the Lebanese government's demand and formally set up the tribunal that it promised more than two years ago.