Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The unholy trinity and Oslo redux

From JPost, August 14, 2007, by by Isi Leibler ....

Only a few weeks ago our erratic prime minister was still assuring the nation that for the time being no further unilateral withdrawals were under consideration.
Yet a recent report in Haaretz outlined a comprehensive new "peace" formula virtually indistinguishable from the 2002 Saudi plan, incorporating wide ranging concessions to the Palestinians which President Shimon Peres had submitted to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert immediately upon assuming office.
Of course, in line with standard procedures related to such trial balloons, the Prime Minister's office ritualistically denied that any such plan had ever been considered. However Beit Hanassi reportedly confirmed the existence of the plan and even expressed confidence that it would be endorsed by the Americans and Europeans.
Peres was the principal architect of the disastrous Oslo Accords, but his new proposal extends far beyond his original failed plan. It recommends that Israel forego the Israeli interpretation of UN Resolution 242 and accept the bitterly contested Arab-Soviet-French interpretation which demanded Israel's total withdrawal from all the territories beyond the Green Line, effectively ceding to the Palestinians 100 percent of the territories captured in 1967.
The major settlement blocs amounting up to 5% of the area would be retained in "exchange" for equivalent territory agreed to by the Palestinians. Jerusalem would be divided with its holy sites being administered by all three faiths. The Peres plan also proposed that the Palestinian flag should fly over the Temple Mount. The formula includes the standard mantras relating to security requirements and a need to formulate a "creative" declaration relating to the Arab refugee "right of return."
By basically accepting a return to the 1967 lines, supposedly described by the late Abba Eban as the "Auschwitz borders," the Peres plan forfeits the April 2004 assurances provided by President George W. Bush to former premier Ariel Sharon and conclusively jettisons any meaningful concept of "defensible borders."
The repercussions of previous unilateral territorial concessions were obviously ignored. They include the outbreak of the first wave of suicide bombings in the wake of Oslo; the failed Clinton-Barak negotiations with Arafat which led to the second intifada; the catastrophic Gaza unilateral disengagement which transformed Israeli citizens in Gush Katif into refugees in their own land and facilitated the subsequent Hamas takeover in Gaza, and the ongoing bombardment of Sderot.
In a nutshell, the evidence clearly demonstrates that, without exception, every Israeli retreat under fire has emboldened jihadists into intensifying the violence.
It is simply mind boggling that at a time when utter chaos prevails among the Palestinians, such a bizarre proposal could even be contemplated. But it is even more disconcerting that a newly elected president, whose prime obligation is to remove himself from the political arena and act as a unifying rod for the nation, reportedly considers it appropriate to launch such a controversial and highly divisive proposal as his first initiative in office. It surely augers ill for the future of the already battered image of the Presidency if it is now to be crassly exploited as a launching pad for promoting an incumbent's personal political agenda.
Olmert's Jericho meeting with Abbas indicates that contrary to statements from his spokesmen, he is indeed proceeding in the direction of the Peres recommendations, and clearly determined come what may to move speedily toward awarding Palestinian statehood to the corrupt Fatah leaders.
To expedite this, Olmert capitulated on the one crucial Road Map clause which even the Quartet had hitherto refused to concede to the duplicitous Palestinian leaders. He dispensed with the requirement that the PA uproot the terrorist infrastructure as a prerequisite to further Israeli concessions.
Instead he facilitated transfers of arms to Fatah which will invariably ultimately be employed against Israelis and undertook to release more terrorists. He also took pride in having granted amnesties to the IDF's most wanted murderers who brazenly announced in advance, that far from retiring, they were being promoted to leadership positions in the so-called Palestinian security structure.
To top it off, Olmert undertook to consider endorsing the return to the West Bank of the bloody terrorists expelled from the region after the 2002 siege of the Church of the Nativity. No concern was expressed that Hamas would almost certainly take control of Judea and Samaria once the IDF withdraws from the area. And in what sounded like black humor, Olmert's spokesman stated that Abbas "promised" that despite ongoing pressure from the Arab League, the PA would not contemplate joining forces again with Hamas. Yet within 24 hours, Fatah and Hamas functionaries were reportedly conducting secret talks designed to overcome their differences.
It was also disclosed that of the NIS 400 million recently provided by Israel to Fatah "due to a computer error" a substantial proportion was transferred to Hamas to pay the salaries of their "security forces" and provide cars for their legislators.
Clearly, the Americans are desperate to create a united Sunni bloc to neutralize the growing Iranian led Shi'ite threat and believe this can be facilitated by displaying progress on the Israel- Palestinian front. But one could surely have expected responsible Israeli leaders to resist implementing such concessions without considering the implications on their own security.
Moreover, how can a nation possibly contemplate such dramatic policy changes with potential existential implications, without undergoing a thorough internal debate to ascertain the views and obtain approval of the people? Why are such crucial initiatives leaked via favored media outlets instead of being formally initiated and debated in the Cabinet and the Knesset?
This is surely not how a genuine democracy functions.
To make matters worse, since the Second Lebanon War, the Knesset no longer represents the views of the nation. The current government is an amalgam of the shattered Kadima ruling party with no coherent political stance, a discredited Labor Party, Shas, an opportunistic hawkish inclined religious party, and a purportedly extreme right wing Yisrael Beiteinu party.
But worst of all, who would be leading such a grotesque replay of the Oslo Accords? None other than an unholy trinity of the greatest failures in Israeli political life! Shimon Peres the architect of Oslo; Labor leader Ehud Barak, whose unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon paved the way for the disastrous Lebanese war and whose impulsive overnight concessions to Arafat led to the intifada; and finally, our failed former right-wing Prime Minister Olmert, zig zagging and lurching in different directions in a desperate effort to retain power and become the darling of Peace Now.
Are the people of Israel going to stand idly by and allow this failed trio to lead them into yet another, probably more devastating unilateral withdrawal? It is surely time for Kadima, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset members still retaining any semblance of decency and integrity to stand up and revolt. They are fully aware that the majority of their constituents are strongly opposed to any further destructive unilateral initiatives. Before the die is cast, they must declare to Olmert enough is enough, withdraw support from this government, and demand immediate elections.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

IDF celebrates Druze soldiers' day

From Ynet News, 12/8/07, by Hagai Einav ....

Senior IDF officers, government officials gather in Carmiel to honor IDF's Druze soldiers. Druze brigade to be presented with Commander in Chief's Citation for actions in Second Lebanon War

The IDF celebrated its Druze soldiers' day Sunday, honoring the 110,000 Druze soldiers in its ranks. The official military ceremony was held in Carmiel, where senior members of the government and the military spoke of the community's valuable contribution to the IDF.
The IDF's Druze brigade is also to receive the Commander in Chief's Citation, for their actions in the Second Lebanon War.

"It is our duty to serve our country and we take pride in it – that's the way I was brought up and that's the way I raised my children," Riad Assad, a Druze from Beit-Jan who served in the IDF in the 1970s and now has five sons serving in the army, told Ynet Sunday.

The service, said Assad is somewhat of a way of life in his family: His eldest served is the Druze brigade as a paramedic, his second son serves in the regular army, his third son serves as a deputy company commander, his fourth son is on the last legs of his service and his fifth son just finished basic training.....

Syrian rockets aimed at Tel Aviv

From Ynet News, 9/8/07, by Ron Ben Yishai ...

Long-range rockets already in place on Golan; is Syria preparing for war?

The latest official IDF intelligence branch assessment, adopted by the Israeli government, is that Syria is not planning to attack Israel. At least not in the coming months. ....This is the official assessment. Yet this is not the complete picture. The truth is that there is no certainty within Israel’s intelligence community that Syria is not planning to initiate a military confrontation with Israel. Quite a few researchers in the IDF intelligence branch and Mossad suspect that Syria is waiting for a convenient point in time – which is not necessarily in the distant future.

We’re not talking about the kind of war we’re familiar with like the Six Day War or Yom Kippur War, but rather, a Hizbullah-style war – but on an immense scale. These arguments and assessments are being taken very seriously by officials in Jerusalem, and this is the reason why the cabinet tasked with monitoring home front preparedness convened again Wednesday for its third or fourth session in order to discuss the possibility of a massive Syrian missile offensive.

Why do intelligence officials fear a Syrian attack? Below are some reasons, based on foreign sources and information already reported by the media:

 Syria is currently completing the accelerated deployment of a large rocket arsenal on the Golan aimed at Israel. We’re not talking about 122-millimeter Katyusha rockets with a 20-kilometer (roughly 12 miles) range and warheads that contain only a few dozens of kilograms of explosives, but rather, heavy rockets of the type possessed by Hizbullah (most of them were destroyed in the Air Force attack at the start of the Second Lebanon War.) These are 222, 302, and even 600 millimeter rockets that can carry hundreds of kilograms of explosives – up to 500 – and can reach Tel Aviv. Dozens of launchers have already been deployed on the Golan and they can fire, in one barrage, hundreds of such rockets. This comes in addition to the various types of Scud missiles positioned deep within Syrian territory and capable of hitting southern Israel. However, the Arrow missile is supposed to intercept the Scuds. Yet at this time, the IDF has no good technological response, either aerial or on the ground, to the heavy rockets.

 The Syrian army is quickly equipping itself with hundreds of advanced anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets made by Russia and funded by Iran with the aim of thwarting an IDF ground or air assault – an assault aimed at paralyzing the missile arsenal.

 Since the end of last year, the Syrian army has accelerated the training sessions of all its formations, both regular and reserve, and already views them as fit for confrontation.

No advance warning
The military implication of the above-mentioned facts, according to some of those tasked with assessing Syrian intentions, is that Syria is preparing and able to embark on a Hizbullah-style war of attrition even without changing its military deployment from a defensive to an offensive one. Therefore, if Bashar Assad decides to launch such war, there will be no clear advance warning that will attest to his country’s intention to embark on a military campaign – and it would be able to launch it based on the current deployment.

In addition, intelligence officials point to a growing Syrian-Iranian interest in such war, for the following reasons:

 Syria’s president is currently confident of his military power and truly believes that if he only adopts the Hizbullah model, he has the ability to force Israel to accept his demands regarding the Golan Heights, and ease some of the international pressure over the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri.

 Syria sustained harsh blows when it was forced to withdraw from Lebanon and isolated in the international arena. In addition, Sunni opposition elements in Syria are getting stronger. All these factors threaten Assad’s regime and the Alawite sect he bases his power on. A military achievement, and even a partial one, in a confrontation with Israel may boost the regime.

 Teheran is investing efforts to convince Syria that Israel is about to attack it “in order to erase the shame of the defeat in Lebanon” or as part of the clash that will develop as a result of an American assault on Iran’s nuclear sites. The Iranians tell the Syrians that President Bush intends to strike in the summer or fall, and they expect Damascus to join Iran’s counter-attack on western interests in the region. Therefore, Teheran says, there is a need to prepare and possibly even launch a pre-emptive strike, before Israel possesses effective systems for intercepting rockets. Iranian figures who visited Syria convinced Damascus that the Israeli home front is the Zionist enemy’s Achilles heel and that hitting it gravelly would force Israel to accept the Arab dictates on the Golan.

In this context, we should be paying attention to what a senior Syrian official told the New York Sun about a month ago. Should the Golan not be in Syrian hands by August-September, Syria would be allowed to embark on a “resistance” campaign, including raids and attacks on Jewish targets, the official said. The interviewee, who is a member of the ruling Baath party, provided the American newspaper with incredibly detailed information regarding his country’s intentions and its military preparations. His words make it appear that Syria is planning a war of attrition that would start with border attacks and continue, after the IDF responds, with severe blows to the Israeli home front. He also noted that Damascus has established for that end a new underground organization, called the Committees for the Liberation of the Golan, which will be tasked with carrying out attacks on IDF border outposts and even infiltrating Golan communities.

The senior official said that Syria possesses hundreds of missiles that would hit Tel Aviv and overcome Israel’s interception efforts. We can treat these words with contempt, or as an attempt to scare Israel and the United States in order to bring about negotiations on the Golan and ease the pressure over the Hariri affair. Yet the facts on the ground fully support the Syrian official’s thesis, and therefore it would be worthwhile to address his words seriously.

One way or another, the information and declarations coming from Damascus create a high level of uncertainty within Israel’s intelligence community regarding the other side’s intentions. And in cases of uncertainty, one must prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Holy Land terror finance trial

From The Dallas Morning News Thursday, August 9, 2007, By JASON TRAHAN ...
The federal judge presiding over the Holy Land Foundation terror finance trial ordered his courtroom cleared of spectators Thursday as a secret agent for the Israeli Defense Forces took the stand.

The agent, referred to only by the pseudonym Major Lior, testified through a translator about a cache of documents, videos and posters that his team of commandos seized during raids on several charity committees in the Palestinian territories between 2002 and 2004.

Prosecutors say these zakat, or charity, committees are controlled by Hamas and contend that Holy Land's support of them amounts to illegal support of terrorists.

.....This is only the second trial in which Justice Department prosecutors have put Israeli secret agents on the stand. The other was a similar terrorism-support trial of an Illinois used-car dealer and a co-defendant. That case ended in acquittals.

Defense frustration seemed to spill over into the cross-examination of the Israeli agent. Attorney Linda Moreno grilled him and his translator about whether his team got any kind of court order, or warrant, before seizing the documents. "You're not contending the Fourth Amendment applies outside the U.S., are you?" Judge Fish asked her at one point.
Later, as Ms. Moreno questioned the major about a school where his team seized evidence, she asked whether his "soldiers knock on the door of the places they are about to invade."

....The government argued in a brief that there is no other way to get such evidence, as the Palestinian government is now ruled by Hamas, which won a majority of parliamentary seats in election last year. And under U.S. law, what's classified by the Israeli government is classified here....

Bethlehem Council 'Terror link'

From The Australian, by Imre Salusinszky, NSW political reporter August 11, 2007 ....

A PLAN by Marrickville Council in Sydney's inner-west to establish a sister-city relationship with Bethlehem could founder because of alleged links between members of a proposed civic delegation and terror groups.

An internal memorandum by Israeli officials in Tel Aviv, where the five-person delegation recently lodged visa applications to visit Marrickville, warns that the Jewish community "might be adversely affected by the applicants' presence in Australia". The delegation, which has been invited to a gala dinner in Marrickville on August 25 to sign the twin-city agreement, includes two members of Bethlehem Council, mayor Victor Batarseh and councillor Anton Salman.

The immigration note on the visa applications says Jewish groups "may be offended by DrBatarseh's campaign alliance with Hamas and both his and MrSalman's readiness to participate in an institution that also includes representatives of the terrorist organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad"....

...A spokesman for Marrickville Council said the reception was still planned to go ahead, pending approval of the visas. All five delegates will be subject to security checks, along with the character test that was recently used to cancel the visa of Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef.
An applicant can fail the test if federal Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews deems there is reasonable suspicion they have associations with criminal groups....

...Dr Batarseh is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is banned in the US as a terror group. Mr Salman is a member of the governing Palestinian faction Fatah, and unsuccessfully opposed Dr Batarseh for the mayor's position. Both men are Christians, as specified in the council's constitution.

Five of the council's members are affiliated with Hamas, which is banned in Australia.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier refused to meet Dr Batarseh in May because of his PFLP links.