Thursday, September 27, 2007

Australian Election Special: Head to Head

From the Australia/Israel Review, October 2007:

The Coalition and Labor answer our exclusive pre-election policy questions

As has become traditional in the lead-up to a federal election, the Australia/Israel Review posed a series of questions to Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd focusing on international security, the Middle East, and domestic polices of special interest to the Australian Jewish community.

Follow the link to the full article.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Debunking a persistent canard

From JPost, Sep 25, 2007, by EVELYN GORDON :

The mantra "there is no military solution to terrorism" is so rarely challenged these days .... But in the seven years since the intifada began, "the IDF and Shin Bet have come as close as possible to achieving victory. Since the beginning of the year, two soldiers (one each in the West Bank and Gaza) and six civilians (three in a suicide bombing in Eilat, two from Kassam rockets in Sderot and one who was stabbed to death in Gush Etzion) have been killed by terrorism. This is a very small number, considering the number of attempted attacks, and also compared to the high point of the intifada, when 450 Israelis were killed in 2002. The last suicide bombing in central Israel occurred 18 months ago, in April 2006.

"The formula that produced this achievement is known.... aggressive intelligence gathering, the security fence and "the IDF's complete freedom of action in West Bank cities."

If this is not victory, it is a close enough approximation that most Israelis would happily settle for it. That is why the June Peace Index poll found Jewish Israelis overwhelmingly opposed to security concessions to the Palestinian Authority, with 79 percent against arming the PA, 71 percent against removing checkpoints and 54 percent against releasing prisoners: Few Israelis want to scrap measures that have reduced Israeli fatalities from 450 to eight over the last five years.

It also helps explain the stunning reversal in Israeli attitudes toward Sderot revealed by August's Peace Index poll. According to that poll, fully 69 percent of Jewish Israelis now support an extensive ground operation in Gaza to stop the Kassam fire at southern Israel - whereas last December, 57 percent opposed such an operation. Moreover, this support crossed party lines: Even among people who voted for the leftist Labor and Meretz parties, 64 and 67 percent, respectively, favored a major military operation in Gaza.

CLEARLY, THIS reversal occurred partly because in the interim, all other options had been exhausted. The December poll came a month after Hamas declared a cease-fire in Gaza, and while the truce had not fully taken hold, many still hoped that it would. By August, those hopes had died: Not only were rockets fired at Sderot almost daily during the "cease-fire," but in May, Hamas trumpeted its contempt for the truce by claiming credit for over 100 Kassam launches in a single week. Additionally, in December, Mahmoud Abbas was nominally in control of Gaza, and many still hoped that he would take action to stop the rocket fire. By August, Hamas was in full control.

The fact that Israel first sought nonmilitary solutions in Gaza resembles its behavior during the first 18 months of the intifada: It signed cease-fires (which instantly collapsed), declined to respond even to major suicide bombings inside Israel (Dolphinarium and Sbarro), and generally sought to get the Palestinian security services to reassert control. But as the casualty toll, especially inside Israel, mounted, it became clear that salvation would not come from the PA. So in March 2002, Israel reconquered the West Bank in Operation Defensive Shield - and Israeli fatalities dropped dramatically, that year and every year thereafter.

HOWEVER, there is one crucial difference between the intifada's early years and the recent Israeli quest for a nonmilitary solution in Gaza: While Israelis would always prefer to avoid risking soldiers' lives, they now know, as they did not in 2002, that the military option works. After all, not a single Kassam has been fired at Israel from the West Bank. Hence Israelis are not awaiting leadership from above; they are backing military action even as the politicians still vehemently reject it.

Given this growing recognition among the Israeli public, it is bizarre to hear senior politicians and military officers still parroting the "no military solution to terror" mantra. But at least these officials understand that in practice, Israel's defensive measures in the West Bank work, and therefore, ending them would be a bad idea (not to mention unpopular with the voters).

International agencies and diplomats, in contrast, have not even gotten that far. Any of them could, if they took five minutes to examine the data, realize that Israel's military measures in the West Bank have dramatically reduced Israeli fatalities, especially inside Israel, since 2002; yet they persist in declaring that these measures are unnecessary and must be scrapped. Thus Condoleezza Rice uses her every visit to pressure Israel on this issue, while the World Bank once again demanded last week that Israel remove West Bank checkpoints, open its border with Gaza and restore freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank.

Or perhaps this is feigned ignorance, meant to cover a willingness to sacrifice Israeli lives in order to demonstrate "progress" in the peace process. The World Bank report, for instance, coyly stated that "the costs are subjective to each side and are beyond the scope of this report" - thereby sparing it the need to acknowledge that the likely cost is Israeli lives - but "all parties will need to expend more resources and assume more risks than they have done in the past."

Is it really unaware of what those carefully unstated risks are? Either way, however, this willful blindness perpetuates the conflict by ensuring that a key obstacle to resolving it - Palestinian terror - remains unaddressed. In 1993, many Israelis hoped that a peace agreement would end terror. Fourteen years later, after having suffered more fatalities from Palestinian terror post-Oslo than during the entire preceding 45 years, most Israelis have concluded that the allegedly nonexistent military solution does a much better job of protecting their lives. And until there is concrete evidence of Palestinian willingness and ability to do the job as well or better, there will be no Israeli majority for any deal with the PA.

Zentai wins Australia extradition reprieve

From Reuters, Wed Sep 26, 2007 ...

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An alleged Nazi war criminal living in Australia has won a temporary reprieve against extradition to Hungary after a judge ruled his long-running appeal should be heard by Australia's highest court.

Charles Zentai, 85, was arrested by Australian Federal Police in July 2005 and is accused of taking part in the fatal beating in 1944 of Jewish teenager Peter Balazs in Budapest.
At the time Zentai was a 23-year-old warrant officer in the pro-Nazi Hungarian military, but argues he left Budapest with his regiment the day before the murder on November 8, 1944.
A judge in Perth, Western Australia state, said he would not rule on the extradition request until Zentai's case had come before the High Court in Canberra, which agreed last September to hear a separate appeal.

"We'll see what the position is in February," Magistrate Steven Heath told the court on Tuesday, according to Australian media reports. Lawyers for the Hungarian Government unsuccessfully argued the extradition request should be decided by the lower Perth Magistrates Court.....

Normal Craziness

From The Times, September 26, 2007:

Ahmadinejad’s relationship with reality is beyond repair

Shortly before he left Iran for New York, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended a military parade featuring army lorries emblazoned with the slogans “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”. The Iranian President also told a US interviewer who met him in his garden in Tehran: “I cannot tell a lie.”

Less than 24 hours after the interview was broadcast he was telling an audience at Columbia University that “we do not have homosexuals like in your country” and that Iranian women, who in recent months have been detained in large numbers for failing to cover themselves in public, were “the freest in the world”.

... On his theatrical – and ultimately illuminating – visit to America, Mr Ahmadinejad has provided evidence of nothing so much as sheer mendacity. It is to be hoped that his audience at the UN last night bore this firmly in mind as he lectured them, once again, on Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear intentions.

Mr Ahmadinejad is no more truthful on his nuclear plans than on homosexuality, women’s rights or the Holocaust, which he has called a myth. Even his claim to have a right to develop peaceful nuclear reactors is false: under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed, it has forfeited that right by building the plant for highly enriched uranium production that has triggered two sets of UN sanctions in the past year. Neither set has had any significant effect. Iran has refused to cease its enrichment programme or accept the “intrusive inspections” that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is required to carry out in the circumstances.

Iran has no compelling economic need for civilian nuclear reactors. In a perfect world this would not constitute an argument against building them, but power generation is not the purpose of the cascade of 3,000 uranium centrifuges being built at Natanz. Acquiring nuclear weapons is a central aim of Mr Ahmadinejad’s blinkered brand of Persian nationalism, which aims to assert influence far beyond Iran’s borders.

When President Sarkozy of France called a nuclear-armed Iran “an unacceptable risk for regional and world stability”, he was merely articulating common sense. It is not too late to avoid that risk through diplomacy, but time is running out. France, the US and the UK have called for a third UN Security Council resolution and a new set of sanctions to punish Tehran for persistently ignoring its obligations under the NonProliferation Treaty. Such a resolution is unlikely in the short term, largely because of an unhelpful deal struck with Iran by the IAEA on a miscellany of peripheral nuclear-related questions, giving Russia and China a pretext to continue to drag their feet over joining Europe and the US on the core issues of inspection and suspension of enrichment. But even in the absence of new UN sanctions, the EU could usefully tighten its own.

Mr Ahmadinejad has shown why the world should be more concerned about his intentions for Iran. He has condemned himself in his own words.

Ahmadineh-jabber-jabber-wocky in USA

From AFP, 26/9/07 ....

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wraps up his third visit to the United States Wednesday after using his platform at the United Nations to downplay Tehran's nuclear ambitions and attack Washington.

...Despite being derided as a "petty and cruel dictator" while appearing at Columbia University, the Iranian leader used his visit to try to calm the international community over the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions....

....Ahmadinejad used his address to world leaders gathered for the UN General Assembly Tuesday to say Iran considered the controversy over its nuclear program closed and to launch a broad attack on arch foe the United States.

....Iran has come under two waves of international sanctions for its nuclear program, which Ahmadinejad insists is only for energy production......Nevertheless, the international community has taken scant consolation from his comments and is expected to push for a third round of UN sanctions.

The visit comes at a low point in relations between the United States and Iran, which broke off diplomatic ties at the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution and have been at loggerheads recently over a raft of issues.

...Iran [is] a state sponsor of terror...arming insurgents battling US troops in Iraq and ...equipping Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah....a terrorist organization....

...he suffered the rare indignity of a public dressing down at the university. Booed and strongly challenged on his views on the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad ..... was forced to sit through 10 minutes of broadsides from university president Lee Bollinger....

..."Mr President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger told Ahmadinejad, accusing him of brutal crackdowns notably on the country's academics and homosexuals and for stifling dissent.

"Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?" he asked, challenging the leader of the Islamic republic to explain his comments downplaying the Holocaust.

"When you come to a place like this, this makes you quite simply ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated," he said.

Ahmadinejad ....avoid[ed] any direct answers to Bollinger's challenges.

.... as he talked of Iran's culture and outlook on the world, Ahmadinejad drew the biggest jeers from students for stating that homosexuality did not exist in the Islamic republic. "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country," he said to a chorus of howls, laughter and boos. "In Iran we don't have this phenomenon, I don't know who told you this."

Ahmadinejad was due to fly to Bolivia on Wednesday and to later visit fellow ... pariah, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Iran's proxies: a Middle East Volcano

From The Washingtom Post, by Charles Krauthammer, Friday, September 21, 2007; Page A19:

On Sept. 6, something important happened in northern Syria.....Circumstantial evidence points to this being an attack on some nuclear facility provided by North Korea.

....Which raises alarms for many reasons. First, it would undermine the whole North Korean disarmament process. Pyongyang might be selling its stuff to other rogue states or perhaps just temporarily hiding it abroad while permitting ostentatious inspections back home.

Second, there are ominous implications for the Middle East. Syria has long had chemical weapons -- on Monday, Jane's Defence Weekly reported on an accident that killed dozens of Syrians and Iranians loading a nerve-gas warhead onto a Syrian missile -- but Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Syria.

Tensions are already extremely high because of Iran's headlong rush to go nuclear. In fending off sanctions and possible military action, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has chosen a radically aggressive campaign to assemble, deploy, flaunt and partially activate Iran's proxies in the Arab Middle East:

(1) Hamas launching rockets into Israeli towns and villages across the border from the Gaza Strip. Its intention is to invite an Israeli reaction, preferably a bloody and telegenic ground assault.

(2) Hezbollah heavily rearmed with Iranian rockets transshipped through Syria and preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel. The third Lebanon war, now inevitable, awaits only Tehran's order.

(3) Syria, Iran's only Arab client state, building up forces across the Golan Heights frontier with Israel. And on Wednesday, yet another anti-Syrian member of Lebanon's parliament was killed in a massive car bombing.

(4) The al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard training and equipping Shiite extremist militias in the use of the deadliest IEDs and rocketry against American and Iraqi troops. Iran is similarly helping the Taliban attack NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Why is Iran doing this? Because it has its eye on a single prize: the bomb. It needs a bit more time, knowing that once it goes nuclear, it becomes the regional superpower and Persian Gulf hegemon.

Iran's assets in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are poised and ready. Ahmadinejad's message is this: If anyone dares attack our nuclear facilities, we will fully activate our proxies, unleashing unrestrained destruction on Israel, moderate Arabs, Iraq and U.S. interests -- in addition to the usual, such as mining the Strait of Hormuz and causing an acute oil crisis and worldwide recession.

This is an extremely high-stakes game. The time window is narrow. In probably less than two years, Ahmadinejad will have the bomb.

The world is not quite ready to acquiesce. The new president of France has declared a nuclear Iran " unacceptable." The French foreign minister warned that "it is necessary to prepare for the worst" -- and "the worst, it's war, sir."

Which makes it all the more urgent that powerful sanctions be slapped on the Iranian regime. Sanctions will not stop Ahmadinejad. But there are others in the Iranian elite who might stop him and the nuclear program before the volcano explodes. These rival elites may be radical, but they are not suicidal. And they believe, with reason, that whatever damage Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic folly may inflict upon the region and the world, on Crusader and Jew, on infidel and believer, the one certain result of such an eruption is Iran's Islamic republic buried under the ash.

'IDF seized nuclear materials in Syria'

From The Sunday Times (UK), September 23, 2007:

....Today [a Syrian secret military compound] near Dayr az-Zawr lies in ruins after it was pounded by Israeli F15Is on September 6. Before the Israelis issued the order to strike, the commandos had secretly seized samples of nuclear material and taken them back into Israel for examination by scientists, the sources say. A laboratory confirmed that the unspecified material was North Korean in origin. America approved an attack.

...The operation was personally directed by Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, who is said to have been largely preoccupied with it since taking up his post on June 18....

...Diplomats in North Korea and China said they believed a number of North Koreans were killed in the raid, noting that ballistic missile technicians and military scientists had been working for some time with the Syrians.

A senior Syrian official, Sayeed Elias Daoud, director of the Syrian Arab Ba’ath party, flew to North Korea via Beijing last Thursday, reinforcing the belief among foreign diplomats that the two nations are coordinating their response to the Israeli strike.

The growing assumption that North Korea suffered direct casualties in the raid appears to be based largely on the regime’s unusually strident propaganda on an issue far from home. But there were also indications of conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials and intelligence reports reaching Asian governments that supported the same conclusion, diplomats said.....

....Critics of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, believe he has shown poor judgment since succeeding his father Hafez, Syria’s long-time dictator, in 2000. According to David Schenker, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he has provoked the enmity of almost all Syria’s neighbours and turned his country into a “client” of Iran.

.... questions remain about the precise nature of the material seized and about Syria’s intentions. Was Syria hiding North Korean nuclear equipment while Pyongyang prepared for six-party talks aimed at securing an end to its nuclear weapons programme in return for security guarantees and aid? Did Syria want to arm its own Scuds with a nuclear device?

Or could the material have been destined for Iran as John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, has suggested? And just how deep is Syrian and North Korean nuclear cooperation anyway?

China abruptly postponed a session of the nuclear disarmament talks last week because it feared America might confront the North Koreans over their weapons deals with Syria, according to sources close to the Chinese foreign ministry. Negotiations have been rescheduled for this Thursday in Beijing after assurances were given that all sides wished them to be “constructive”.

Christopher Hill, the US State Department negotiator, is said to have persuaded the White House that the talks offered a realistic chance to accomplish a peace treaty formally ending the 1950-1953 Korean war, in which more than 50,000 Americans died. A peace deal of that magnitude would be a coup for Bush – but only if the North Koreans genuinely abandon their nuclear programmes.

The outlines of a long-term arms relationship between the North Koreans and the Syrians are now being reexamined by intelligence experts in several capitals. Diplomats in Pyongyang have said they believe reports that about a dozen Syrian technicians were killed in a massive explosion and railway crash in North Korea on April 22, 2004. Teams of military personnel wearing protective suits were seen removing debris from the section of the train in which the Syrians were travelling, according to a report quoting military sources that appeared in a Japanese newspaper. Their bodies were flown home by a Syrian military cargo plane that was spotted shortly after the explosion at Pyongyang airport.

In December last year, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah quoted European intelligence sources in Brussels as saying that Syria was engaged in an advanced nuclear programme in its northeastern province.

Most diplomats and experts dismiss the idea that Syria could master the technical and industrial knowhow to make its own nuclear devices. The vital question is whether North Korea could have transferred some of its estimated 55 kilos of weapons-grade plutonium to Syria. Six to eight kilos are enough for one rudimentary bomb.

“If it is proved that Kim Jong-il sold fissile material to Syria in breach of every red line the Americans have drawn for him, what does that mean?” asked one official. The results of tests on whatever the Israelis may have seized from the Syrian site could therefore be of enormous significance.

The Israeli army has so far declined to comment on the attack. However, several days afterwards, at a gathering marking the Jewish new year, the commander-in-chief of the Israeli military shook hands with and congratulated his generals. The scene was broadcast on Israeli television. After the fiasco in Lebanon last year, it was regarded as a sign that “we’re back in business, guys”.

Putin to visit Tehran Oct. 16

From a DEBKAfile Exclusive Report, September 23, 2007:

Iran’s suspect nuclear program is further polarizing the big powers.

[Putin's will attend a Caspian Asian Summit for talks with Iranian leaders, including the signing of a document to finish and fuel the long-delayed Bushehr nuclear reactor. He will also drum up friends and influence in the Caspian-Central Asian region. DEBKAfile’s Exclusive Report: "Putin Turns His Face to Tehran, His Back to Bush and Sarkozy" (extracts below) takes a close look at the Russian president’s agenda in Tehran]

As American and European officials discussed a third round of UN Security Council sanctions, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, more pugnacious than ever, addressed a military parade Sat. Sept. 22 ...

..."The Iranian nation is ready to bring any oppressive power to its knees," read a slogan from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, inscribed on a massive board on a truck as a new, improved long-range, 1,800-km range surface missile trundled by.

Other slogans called for "Death to America" and "Death to Israel." Western military attaches, apparently warned in advance, boycotted the rally for the second year running.

But there is no escape: These are the messages Ahmadinejad takes with him this week to the UN General Assembly and Columbia University in New York.

The French president Nicolas Sarkozy meanwhile stands shoulder to shoulder with President George W. Bush. Friday, Sept. 21, he said: “Iran is trying to obtain an atomic bomb. That is unacceptable and I tell the French people it is unacceptable.” A week ago, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner warned that the world faced war if diplomacy and sanctions failed to curb Iran’s nuclear activities.

But Vladimir Putin pulled in the opposite direction from his two fellows in the UN Security Council when he decided to be the first Russian president to visit Tehran on Oct. 16. The visit, in the framework of the Caspian Asian Summit, is planned to encompass much more than state ceremonial and ritual photo-ops, although there will be plenty of that too.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO), Reza Aghazadeh, said a document would be signed setting the timeline for Russia to complete the long-delayed Bushehr nuclear plant and deliver the fuel to activate it.

Last week, at the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian and Russian teams began formulating the document to be signed by their heads of state. Reporting this, Aghazadeh also described a most useful conversation he had with the head of Russian’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Sergei Kiriyenko.

In its long dispute with Moscow, Tehran claims Russia had contracted to commission the Bushehr plant in 2000. This was later amended and under the fifth agreement negotiated between Tehran and Moscow, Russia undertook to deliver 90 tons of fuel by March 2007 and commission Bushehr nuclear plant by September 2007.

According to DEBKAfile’s sources in Moscow and Washington, the Russian president had four goals in sight when he decided to settle his dispute with the Islamic Republic and join the rulers of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan at the Caspian Sea Summit in Tehran:

1. He will be on hand to underscore Moscow’s concern and conviction that the last two or three months of 2007 will take the controversy over the Iranian nuclear program to crisis point and could determine whether or not America resorts to the military option.
The Russians have marked this period as crunch time for the international community. The UN and its Security Council will have to decide then between two options: endorse the IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei’s deal with Tehran, under which Iran promises to open up secret compartments of its program to international inspection, or else support the tougher economic sanctions advocated by the United States.
Our Washington sources report that administration heads accuse ElBaradei of practicing deceit and underhand machinations for the sake of giving Iran more time for large-scale uranium enrichment up to weapons grade, safe from the threat of a third round of sanctions until after President Bush departs the White House in Jan. 2009.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made no bones about the low esteem in which the chief nuclear inspector is held by the administration when she said Sept 19: “Diplomacy is best left to diplomats, not a technical body such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
This view is fully endorsed by Israel.

2. The Russian and Iranian presidents will publicly sign a new nuclear accord, attended by international television and media hype. This is a ploy to reposition Russia in Arab and Muslim eyes. Putin wants to demonstrate that Moscow has no objection to supplying a Muslim nation with a nuclear reactor, technology and fuel, in contrast to Washington, which is willing to go as far as military action to thwart such acquisitions.

3. The Russians are uneasy about the new Washington-Paris alliance. They were alarmed by the outspoken rhetoric coming from Sarkozy and Kouchner slamming Iran and aligning with the US - up to and including military conflict.
Putin sees the French president moving into position as Bush’s leading foreign partner in place of Britain’s Tony Blair as a portent of a potential American-European fence to block off Moscow’s influence in Europe. He links this potential with Washington’s plan to set up missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and perceives a strong line forming on the map of Europe that threatens to reverse his diplomatic gains on the continent and circumscribe his drive for the control of its supplies of energy.
These issues were undoubtedly thrashed out when the French foreign minister met his Russian opposite number Sergey Lavrov in Moscow last week.

4. Sitting together at the head of the table at the Caspian Sea Summit next month, Putin and Ahmadinejad will be broadcasting a message to Washington and the nations of Central Asia that the future and security of Caspian and Central Asian natural resources and oil do not depend entirely on their relations Washington, or even the US military bases going up on their soil. Russia will be posing a stiff challenge to America in Central Asia by holding out the offer of joint-strategic sponsorship with Iran.

More Palestinian prisoners to be released

From, Sep 23, 2007, by HERB KEINON AND YAAKOV KATZ:

It took two weeks more than expected, but the cabinet on Sunday approved the release of [another] 90 Palestinian security prisoners as a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in honor of Ramadan. [
...Even as Israel decided to release prisoners, the IDF arrested on Sunday a Palestinian who was pardoned last month by Israel.]

A plan to discuss the issue at a cabinet meting on September 9 was scuttled at the last minute after a Kassam rocket slammed into the courtyard of a Sderot daycare center. The issue was expected to be raised the following week, but was postponed again following the Kassam rocket attack on the Zikim army base.

On Sunday, the release - which followed by some two months a previous release of 250 security prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Abbas - passed by a vote of 16-6.

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima,) Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich (Israel Beitenu,) and the four Shas ministers voted against the release. Israel Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman was not present for the vote.

Olmert told the cabinet before the vote that the release would not impact on efforts to secure the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, since none of those freed were prisoners that Hamas was demanding. He said the prisoners would be released according to criteria established in the past, and that Israel traditionally released a number of prisoners for Ramadan.

...Mofaz, who was opposed to the prisoner release in July, told the cabinet that Israel hadn't received anything in return for the previous prisoner release, and wouldn't receive anything this time, either. "These are steps that send a signal of weakness and lack of determination, especially when talking about a release of prisoners from Gaza," Mofaz said. "We haven't seen anything change in the PA - the terrorism doesn't stop, the Palestinian security officials don't work, and they don't take any responsibility."

...Even as Israel decided to release prisoners, the IDF arrested on Sunday a Palestinian who was pardoned last month by Israel. Faris Nazar, a 21-year-old member of the Tanzim terror group, was apprehended at his home in Kfar Kalil, near Nablus. IDF sources said Nazar was among the 178 Palestinian terror suspects who were temporarily "pardoned" by Israel last month and given the opportunity to return to a normal life in exchange for surrendering their weapons and ceasing their involvement in terror activity. He was the first of those who received this amnesty to be re-arrested.

Central Command sources said Nazar was behind a number of recent bomb and shooting attacks against IDF troops in the Nablus area. The IDF said all of the pardoned fugitives were under constant surveillance and if they broke the agreement they would be arrested.

...Meanwhile Sunday, the IDF wrapped up a week-long operation in Nablus during which troops apprehended a suicide bomber as well as the head of Hamas in the city.

On Sunday, troops entered a home in pursuit of a terror suspect and found his pregnant wife sitting on their bed. The woman told the soldiers she could not move since she was fee ling unwell. The soldiers convinced her to get off the bed, under which they discovered a pit in which the fugitive was hiding.

EU to give e15 million to college run by allegedly anti-Semitic priest

From Haaretz, 23/9/07, by Anshel Pfeffer, Correspondent:

The European Union has decided to give 15 million euros to a Polish college headed by controversial Catholic priest Tadeusz Rydzyk, who is accused regularly of disseminating anti-Semitism. The College of Social and Media Culture, is affiliated with Rydzyk's radio station Radia Maryja, which itself has been accused of regularly hosting Holocaust deniers on its programs.

Holocaust survivor organizations have launched a campaign to block the move. Noah Flug, chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, has asked EU Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso to prevent the transfer of funds to the institution.

In addition to accusations of anti-Semitism, the institution is widely considered to oppose the European Union. The intention to fund the college is interpreted by some as an attempt by the EU and the government of Poland to silence one of the union's loudest opponents. Rydzyk has recently received press for several anti-Semitic statements he has made on the radio station and at the college, which he founded and heads. He recently told students that Jews use the American financier George Soros' money to seize control of Poland, and regularly blames Jews of being greedy. "Public figures in Poland have expressed sorrow for the pogrom after the war against the Jews in Jedwabne only because they received Jewish bribes ... All of the claims by Jews of the injustice that was caused to them had one goal: to extort money from the Polish," Rydzyk has been quoted as saying.

The Polish weekly Wprost published excerpts from a lecture Rydzyk allegedly delivered at the college, where he is quoted as criticizing Lech Kaczynski, the president, for bowing to pressure to compensate people - many of them Jews - for property nationalized by the postwar communist government, and for donating land for a future Jewish museum when Kaczynski was Warsaw's mayor. "You know that it's about Poland giving $65 billion dollars to the Jews," Rydzyk reportedly said. "They will come to you and say: give me your coat. Take off your pants. Give me your shoes."

Mythmakers About the Middle East

From GLORIA, Barry Rubin, September 19, 2007:

People don't often threaten to murder me face to face. But in the spring of 2007, Alexis Debat, director of the terrorism program at the Nixon Center and consultant to ABC News, did so. Precisely why is not clear to me even now, but it seemed to be part of a pattern of bizarre instability that he emanated. I had never met anyone who struck me as a more obvious fabulist.

Yet after thirty years of studying the Middle East it was not surprising to meet people like that. The region is full of them, even at the highest political and intellectual levels, and they are by no means absent from the field of studying that area in the West.

....At the lunch, Debat went on and on about his inside links with terrorism and its key figures, providing lots of details. Of course, no one could verify these details, which meant one was given free reign to make them up. I applied the old Arab proverb:
"How do you know it is a lie?
Because it is so big."
His claims were just too good to be true. And his bragging about having worked with French intelligence only added to my suspicions, since that organization is known for its tendency to, shall we say, get a little too enthusiastic in claiming fabulous inside information.

Perhaps I made my feelings a little too clear, for as we walked from the restaurant, Debat insisted on going along with me to the subway. And there on the corner of Q Street, he said: "I am a great admirer of your work. Some day I might have the great honor of killing you."

"What did you say?" I asked in astonishment. He was a bit flustered but did not deny what he said. I asked him if he was threatening me, but he just smiled to let me know that his message had been conveyed.

I did not take this seriously as a real threat that he was going to do anything...Yet clearly this was someone to stay away from and who should be given no credibility.

It reminded me of an incident thirty years earlier. A fellow had appeared at various Middle East studies meetings saying he was with "army intelligence" and that he had all sorts of internal documents about the decisions of the new revolutionary leadership in Iran. He drew big audiences at such events and was invited by a leading expert on Iran to an elite seminar, where the professor proclaimed that he was a great expert.

A bit of research by a group of people including myself discovered that he was an enlisted soldier at a field intelligence unit--without access to high-level political intelligence of the kind he was fabricating. One of my colleagues intervened to stop a major university from hiring him. The individual did get a job at a smaller school.

Fabulists, suffering from psychological problems, greed, ambitions, and often with a political agenda, are not uncommon in studying or writing about the Middle East. That is in part due to the region's importance and in part due to the fact that you can apparently get away with anything. The rules of logic don't apply to a region where terrorists are magically transformed into freedom fighters; anti-Americanism is covered up or rationalized away; one thing is said in Arabic or Persian and the opposite in English; conspiracy theories are rife and get credibility even in the highest circles of American intellectuals and publishers; and so on. It is a subject area where completely unqualified people ...can ...even get U.S. government contracts to do it.

In universities in the United States today, many courses on the Middle East are taught just about as they would be at the University of Damascus or Tehran by people who hold those same ideologies. Indeed, the work of the biggest current guru for this school, Edward Said, was in itself a gigantic fraud. And what is more telling than when some of his autobiographical lies were exposed, the attacks were on the scholar who published this information and not on the one who fabricated it?

The works of Walt and Mearsheimer have about as much in common with the actual making of U.S. foreign policy as the idea that the American government carried out the September 11 attacks on itself, the sun goes around the earth, or the world is flat.

Yasir Arafat, a major league fabulist himself, once told an Arab leader who complained about his fantasies that if he was willing to die for Palestine he was certainly willing to lie for Palestine.

Yet there are supposed to be checks against such behavior. Two of the main ones are universities and the media. Yet when large elements in both have gone over to factual fable-making or, more likely, analytical fable-making, who is going to guard against the intrusion of lies, madness, and anti-democratic forces?

Nothing says it better than Woody Guthrie's "Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd":

"Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen."

Israel, U.S. Shared Data On Suspected Nuclear Site

From Washington Post, by Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright, Staff Writers Friday, September 21, 2007; Page A01 [quoted in full]:

Bush Was Told of North Korean Presence in Syria, Sources Say

Israel's decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, U.S. government sources said.

The Bush administration has not commented on the Israeli raid or the underlying intelligence. Although the administration was deeply troubled by Israel's assertion that North Korea was assisting the nuclear ambitions of a country closely linked with Iran, sources said, the White House opted against an immediate response because of concerns it would undermine long-running negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Ultimately, however, the United States is believed to have provided Israel with some corroboration of the original intelligence before Israel proceeded with the raid, which hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties, the sources said.

The target of Israel's attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. A Middle East expert who interviewed one of the pilots involved said they operated under such strict operational security that the airmen flying air cover for the attack aircraft did not know the details of the mission. The pilots who conducted the attack were briefed only after they were in the air, he said. Syrian authorities said there were no casualties.

U.S. sources would discuss the Israeli intelligence, which included satellite imagery, only on condition of anonymity, and many details about the North Korean-Syrian connection remain unknown. The quality of the Israeli intelligence, the extent of North Korean assistance and the seriousness of the Syrian effort are uncertain, raising the possibility that North Korea was merely unloading items it no longer needed. Syria has actively pursued chemical weapons in the past but not nuclear arms -- leaving some proliferation experts skeptical of the intelligence that prompted Israel's attack.

Syria and North Korea both denied this week that they were cooperating on a nuclear program. Bush refused to comment yesterday on the attack, but he issued a blunt warning to North Korea that "the exportation of information and/or materials" would affect negotiations under which North Korea would give up its nuclear programs in exchanges for energy aid and diplomatic recognition.

"To the extent that they are proliferating, we expect them to stop that proliferation, if they want the six-party talks to be successful," he said at a news conference, referring to negotiations that also include China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

Unlike its destruction of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, Israel made no announcement of the recent raid and imposed strict censorship on reporting by the Israeli media. Syria made only muted protests, and Arab leaders have remained silent. As a result, a daring and apparently successful attack to eliminate a potential nuclear threat has been shrouded in mystery.

"There is no question it was a major raid. It was an extremely important target," said Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence officer at Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. "It came at a time the Israelis were very concerned about war with Syria and wanted to dampen down the prospects of war. The decision was taken despite their concerns it could produce a war. That decision reflects how important this target was to Israeli military planners."

Israel has long known about Syria's interest in chemical and even biological weapons, but "if Syria decided to go beyond that, Israel would think that was a real red line," Riedel said.
Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria and founding director of Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said that when he was in Israel this summer he noticed "a great deal of concern in official Israeli circles about the situation in the north," in particular whether Syria's young ruler, Bashar al-Assad, "had the same sensitivity to red lines that his father had." Bashar succeeded his Hafez al-Assad as president of Syria in 2000.

The Israeli attack came just three days after a North Korean ship docked at the Syrian port of Tartus, carrying a cargo that was officially listed as cement. The ship's role remains obscure. Israeli sources have suggested it carried nuclear equipment. Others have maintained that it contained only missile parts, and some have said the ship's arrival and the attack are merely coincidental. One source suggested that Israel's attack was prompted by a fear of media leaks on the intelligence.

The Bush administration's wariness when presented with the Israeli intelligence contrasts with its reaction in 2002, when U.S. officials believed they had caught North Korea building a clandestine nuclear program in violation of a nuclear-freeze deal arranged by the Clinton administration.

After the Bush administration's accusation, the Clinton deal collapsed and North Korea restarted a nuclear reactor, stockpiled plutonium and eventually conducted a nuclear test. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convinced Bush this year to accept a deal with North Korea to shut down the reactor, infuriating conservatives inside and outside the administration.

But for years, Bush has also warned North Korea against engaging in nuclear proliferation, specifically making that a red line that could not be crossed after North Korea tested a nuclear device last year. The Israeli intelligence therefore suggested North Korea was both undermining the agreement and crossing that line.

Conservative critics of the administration's recent diplomacy with North Korea have seized on reports of the Israeli intelligence as evidence that the White House is misguided if it thinks it can ever strike a lasting deal with Pyongyang. "However bad it might be for the six-party talks, U.S. security requires taking this sort of thing seriously," said John R. Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who was a top arms control official in Bush's first term.
But advocates of engagement have accused critics of trying to sabotage the talks. China on Monday abruptly postponed a round of six-party talks scheduled to begin this week, but U.S. officials now say the talks should start again Thursday.

Some North Korean experts said they are puzzled why, if the reports are true, Pyongyang would jeopardize the hard-won deal with the United States and the other four countries. "It does not make any sense at all in the context of the last nine months," said Charles "Jack" Pritchard, a former U.S. negotiator with North Korea and now president of the Korea Economic Institute.