Friday, January 18, 2008

Venezuelan "bicycle factory"

From The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, January 17, 2008, by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein President:

.... Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez....frequently uses his position and the state-sponsored media to viciously attack Israel and the Jewish people. In a 2005 speech he accused Jews of monopolizing the world's wealth, saying "the descendants of those who crucified Christ … took the world's riches for themselves." A pro-Chavez newspaper later published an inflammatory editorial stating "The genocide [Israel] executed in Palestine and Lebanon is similar to the Holocaust which the Nazis executed against [the Jews], and they will undergo another Holocaust because of the global hatred they are accumulating." During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Chavez repeatedly accused Israel of genocide and terrorism. With blatantly anti-Semitic lies like this coming from the highest levels of government, it's no wonder Venezuelan Jews live in a climate of fear.

... Chavez' threat extends beyond Venezuela's borders - primarily due to the growing alliance and partnership between Venezuela and Iran. Chavez and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad see themselves as fellow fighters in a struggle against Western "imperialism" and "Zionism," and routinely issue harsh threats against Israel and the U.S. When Chavez says, "The United States empire is on its way down and it will be finished in the near future," and Ahamdinejad says, "the United States and the Zionist regime of Israel will soon come to the end of their lives," it is almost impossible to tell them apart.

Even more ominously, Eppel [a veteran Venezuelan journalist] calls attention to joint "business" projects that have been launched by Iran and Venezuela, among them a "bicycle factory" in a remote area of the South American country. Why, Eppel asks, would the Venezuelan government set aside a huge tract of land for such an unlikely project? The answer is that this "bicycle factory" is believed by many to be a front for a uranium mine. Chavez and Ahmadinejad, it seems, share more than just a hatred of Israel and the West - both their countries have nuclear ambitions, and are willing to work together to further each other's aims...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Likud: Shas must quit coalition

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 16, 2008, by gil hoffman and staff [emphasis added]:

Likud on Wednesday expressed its appreciation to Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman for his decision to quit the coalition and try to stop the dangerous path that the government was leading. Likud called upon Shas to follow suit so that it wouldn't be a bridge toward dividing Jerusalem and returning Israel to indefensible borders.

Likud MK Israel Katz, who chairs the party's secretariat, called upon Lieberman to join the struggle to bring down the government and work together to advance elections.
Likud MK Silvan Shalom said: "This is the beginning of the end of [Prime Minister Ehud[ Olmert's government. I hope [Labor chairman Ehud] Barak will go in the same way as Lieberman and won't prefer the survival of the government to the survival of his own credibility."

Shas chairman Eli Yishai requested a meeting with Olmert when the Shas chairman returns from China at end of week to demand clarification of the prime minister's policy on Jerusalem, the party announced on Wednesday following Lieberman's resignation.

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef upgraded the party's threat to leave the government on Tuesday and said if Jerusalem is raised in negotiations it would be enough for the party to leave.

Communications Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) downplayed the apparent change in Shas's policy.
"Negotiations on the core issues have started and we didn't leave," Attias said. "Now that Lieberman is gone, our job is to put the breaks on dividing Jerusalem, we will check on an ongoing basis whether Jerusalem is on the table, but Olmert is not an idiot. He will leave the Jerusalem issue until the end of the negotiations because of us and he will never get there. As long as we are in the government, Jerusalem will not be negotiated over and we will go to the next elections as the defenders of Jerusalem."

Likud MK Yuval Steinitz said Shas was fooling itself by announcing that it would remain in the government in order to defend Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is being cut to shreds on the negotiating table and Shas will ultimately be responsible for the loss of the Western Wall," Steinitz said.
Lieberman announced Israel Beitienu's planned departure at a press conference on Wednesday morning, due to the commencement of talks on core issues such as Jerusalem, the refugees and the contours of a future Palestinian state.

After Israel Beiteinu's 11 MKs leave the government, Olmert's coalition will number only 67 MKs and will be propped up on Shas, which has also threatened to leave the coalition.
"I want to thank Ehud Olmert for his candor, we have always been open with one another," Lieberman said. "It was obvious that we would not agree on fundamental issues."

"Approximately a week before [the] Annapolis [conference] we put out a document [with our] red lines. We delineated in the clearest possible fashion what we are willing to abide with and what we cannot [accept]. Two days before Annapolis, I met with Olmert in his home and reiterated our red lines."

Core issues are a critical point for Israel Beiteinu, which does not believe that the territories and the unauthorized outposts are at the root of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Lieberman said. "Any negotiation on the basis of land for peace is an inexplicable mistake."

...."Our problem is with MK Ahmed Tibi and MK Muhammad Barakei. They are more dangerous for the state of Israel than Khaled Mashaal and Nasrallah. They are working systematically from within the state in order to destroy it as a Jewish and Zionist state," he said...

....Israel Radio reported Tuesday that US President George W. Bush told Lieberman at Thursday's dinner at Olmert's residence that he wouldn't let a Palestinian state be formed while he was president, because it would endanger Israel's security. According to the report, Bush told Lieberman that it would endanger Israel's security if a Palestinian state was created before all of the stages of the road map were implemented.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Yisrael Beiteinu leaves the Coalition

From Ynet News, 16/1/08, by Attila Somfalvi:

Minister Avigdor Lieberman announces his faction resigning from coalition over disagreements with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over negotiations on core issues with Palestinians; says Arab MKs worse than Hamas, Hizbullah leaders

Fifteen months after being sworn in, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman and Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman announced Wednesday he was resigning his office and that his party was leaving the coalition.

The move, which was announced in a press conference, came just two weeks before the Winograd Commission, probing the Second Lebanon War, plans to release its final report; but the official reason behind the move was disagreements with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert regarding the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the core issues.

...The move, said Lieberman was made despite it's being contrary to the party's electoral interests: "Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not reckless… as I've said dozens of time, we have to do what we can to stop the Annapolis process." ...

....'Our problem is fanatic leadership in Knesset'
The negotiations with the Palestinians, said Lieberman, have already hit a dead-end: "Anyone believing the fight is about territory is kidding himself and others… if we adopt Beilin's way (Meretz-Yahad Chairman MK Yossi Beilin) and go back to the '67 line will the fighting stop? Will the terror stop?

"Israeli Arabs will keep their Palestinian citizenship and keep collecting their social security benefits from the State of Israel… they come right out and say 'we will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and we want autonomy in the Negev and Galilee. That's what will happen if we go back to the borders of '67," he added.

"We find the entire principle of territories for peace wrong. It should be about the exchange of both territories and populations… Our problem is not Judea and Samaria but the fanatic leadership in the Knesset."

The Israeli people, he continued, are ready – now more than ever – to consider such an exchange: "There is no reason not to mention Israeli-Arabs, just like we mention the refugees… anyone who burn the Israeli flag on Independence Day, any professor who kicks out a reservist or won't let a student sporting the flag on his backpack into class – it's utter madness.

"Our biggest problem are (MK Ahmad) Tibi and (Hadash Chairman Mohammad) Barakeh, who are even more dangerous than (Hamas politburo chief Khaled) Mashaal and (Hizbullah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan) Nasrallah, because they work from the inside."

A shrinking coalition
With Yisrael Beiteinu's now a part of the opposition, Olmert's coalition will now number only 67 MKs and it may be shrinking further: Labor will decide its coalition future after the publication of the Winograd report, Shas is threatening to resign should the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations involve Jerusalem and the Pensioners Party's future is vague as well.....

....As for the speculations Yisrael Beiteinu will now join forces with the Likud, Lieberman said those prospects were "practically non-existent, although in politics we never say never."
Should the Likud agree to his party's four guidelines – preconditioning any negotiations with the Palestinians on the exchange of territories and populations; changing the government system to a presidential one; instituting civil marriages and changing the conversion procedures – an agreement nay be reached.

For the time being, stressed Lieberman, Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) is still head of the opposition, "as the people wanted."

Lieberman ended his statement by promising his constituents he will begin his efforts to bring down the government, starting tomorrow.

Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush

From Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, 14/1/08, by Barry Rubin, Director:

...this is an exact replay of Bill Clinton's presidency. Eight years ago, in his last twelve months in office, Clinton, too, decided that the conflict must be resolved right away. Result: total, humiliating failure and a five-year-long bloody Palestinian war on Israel.

...Bush, through no fault of his own, is in a far worse position to play this game than was his predecessor.

....In 2000, a seven-year-long peace process was due for completion. The Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank had been turned over to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Yasir Arafat. The PA had been given billions of dollars and military equipment, becoming a virtual client of the United States. Despite these efforts, there was anarchy in the PA-ruled territory, constant incitement to violence against Israel on the official news media, no psychological or ideological preparation of the Palestinians by their leadership for peace, and a massive wasting of funds.

Later, some analysts would explain away the failure by saying it was a mistake to force Arafat to the negotiating table for a decision. At the time, though, all one heard was how Arafat needed progress or he would lose control of his people and that the window of opportunity was closing. The U.S., Israeli, and European governments also wanted diplomatic progress for interests of their own. The result was not only the Camp David summit but also, and in some ways even more important, the Clinton plan that followed. The Palestinian leadership rejected both and instead opted for war.

Bush's new policy may be a big change for him but, after all, he is merely making the same analysis and offering the same terms as his predecessor.....

...But aren't the Palestinians desperate for a solution, given all their suffering? Don't they pant after a state; won't the refugees rejoice at returning from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan to the new state of Palestine? The answer, as it was in Clinton's time, is "no." The ideology of extremist nationalism and Islamism, belief that total victory is possible, miscomprehension of Israel, and suspicion of the West are all still in place.

Even if there was a Palestinian leader able to transcend all those pressures he would still restrained by knowing that to make a deal might not only be personally fatal but--far more certain--would destroy his reputation and career....Nor do Palestinian leaders feel a need to run such risks. A far easier, successful policy is to take billions of Western aid dollars while doing nothing and blaming everything on Israeli intransigence and U.S. mistakes.

After all, who acts as if they desperately needed a diplomatic solution right away and would pay anything to get it? Not the Palestinians or the Arab states but, of course, the West and the United States. The bargaining tool of choice is: offer everything up front and ask for little or nothing in exchange....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gaza - one of the bloodiest days of fighting since June

From Ynet News, by Associated Press, Tuesday 14/1/08:

Gaza... total of 17 Palestinians killed during IDF activity Tuesday. 20-year-old Ecuadorian kibbutz volunteer killed by Palestinian sniper fire

Israeli tanks, bulldozers and helicopters raided the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, killing the militant son of the territory's most powerful Hamas leader and 16 other Palestinians in one of the bloodiest days of fighting since the Islamic group took over the area in June.

Palestinian sniper fire across the border killed 20-year-old Carlos Andres Chavez, a volunteer from Quito, Ecuador, at the Ein Hashlosha kibbutz.

The killing of Hussam Zahar, 24, the son of hardline Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, and the civilian death in Israel threatened to fuel the violence even further at a time when Israel and moderate Palestinians in the West Bank are trying to move peacemaking into high gear.

...Another al-Zahar son was killed in a botched Israeli assassination attempt against the elder al-Zahar in his home three years ago...

...Sniper attack on kibbutz volunteer
In the course of the fighting, a Palestinian sniper fired from the border area into Israel, killing 20-year-old Carlos Andres Chavez, a volunteer from Ecuador who was working in a potato field at the Ein Hashlosha kibbutz, Israeli officials said....

...Broad Gaza offensive?
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested Israel would not launch a broad operation in Gaza, despite Defense Minister Ehud Barak's repeated assertions that a large-scale strike was inevitable, Abbas, who has controlled only the West Bank since Hamas overran Gaza, condemned the Israeli raid....

...Threat to government coalition
While violence was swelling in Gaza, Olmert was struggling Tuesday to keep his coalition intact and broad enough to comfortably work toward reaching a peace deal with the moderate Palestinian government in the West Bank.

...Avigdor Lieberman is threatening to pull his 11-member Yisrael Beiteinu faction out of Olmert's government now that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks moved on Monday to the key issues in the conflict - final borders, disputed Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

Lieberman and the party will decide how to act after he meets with Olmert on Tuesday, Lieberman spokeswoman Irena Etinger said.

Australia votes against funding for Durban 2

From The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) by Colin Rubenstein, 08/01/2008:

...(AIJAC) has praised the Rudd Government and its UN ambassador for voting the last week of December against funding for the so-called UN Durban Review Conference, or "Durban II".

... the initial Durban conference, held in September 2001, devolved into the worst kinds of antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric. There is every reason to believe that the follow-on conference will produce more of the same....

....The Rudd Government therefore should be commended for its foresight and principled stance in voting against UN funding for such an odious event. In so doing it joined with 39 other countries, including Israel, the US, Canada, the UK, France, Italy and other European countries, in truly trying to combat racism and xenophobia...

An appetite for self-destruction

Comment and Analysis excerpted from The Jewish Chronicle, 11/01/2008, by Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail columnist [my own emphasis added - SL]:

.... Yasir Arafat...understood that while Jews would unite against conventional attack, they wouldn’t cope with the psychological pressure of being turned into international pariahs through a falsified colonial narrative of oppression.

But even he could hardly have foreseen the extent to which Israeli intellectuals would so completely invert their own history, and swallow the fiction that the Middle East impasse is over the division of the land and that Jewish possession of that land is illegitimate.This series of untruths has now coalesced into an axiomatic assumption that Jerusalem must be divided, as stated by Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an interview in the Jerusalem Post last weekend.

....pressure to divide Jerusalem comes at a time when the Jewishness of Israel is being openly called into question. Olmert says that a “two-state solution” is essential to preserve Israel as a Jewish state. But the Arabs themselves have now ruled out a Jewish state altogether. Olmert insists nevertheless that Mahmoud Abbas accepts Israel as a Jewish state “in his soul”. Olmert clearly possesses truly wondrous psychic powers, displayed even as members of Fatah associated with Abbas’s own security apparatus were murdering two Israelis on a hike near Hebron.

The West believes that dividing Jerusalem is the fairest solution. But when were aggressors ever thus rewarded at the expense of their victims, even while they continued their century-old war as the Arabs are doing?

Why doesn’t Israel put the record straight?

Why doesn’t it remind the world of that same world’s conclusion back in 1920 that the Jews had a unique claim to the entire land of Israel, including Jerusalem? Why doesn’t it recall how, when Jordan illegally occupied east Jerusalem until 1967, it desecrated Jewish holy sites, ripping up Jewish gravestones on the Mount of Olives to use them for latrines?

Why doesn’t it tell the world that the Islamic claim to Jerusalem is not so much religious as political ... since the capture of Jerusalem is seen as the precursor to the fall of the entire West, the division of the city would recruit untold additional numbers to the global jihad?

It doesn’t do so for two reasons.

First, it still fails to grasp that the real battleground is composed not of rockets and human bombs but of ideas.

And second, much of its intellectual class has come to believe the mendacious propaganda of Israel’s enemies.

In Israeli schools and on campus, there is widespread ignorance of Jewish history and of the indissoluble bond between the religion, the people and the land which constitutes Jewish identity.

When Israel’s Education Minister issues a textbook for Israeli Arab children that teaches them the Arab propaganda line that the 1948 War of Independence was a naqba, or catastrophe, something has gone badly wrong with the foundations of Israeli self-belief.

The real reason Israel doesn’t fight the battle of ideas to defend Jewish history and identity is that increasingly it is repudiating them. The Arabs thus don’t need to do much to bring about the end of the Jewish state. The Jews will do it for them.

Aid explosion

From Ynet News 14/1/08:

Hanan Greenberg 2 tons of explosives found amongst humanitarian aid en route to Gaza

...Security workers employed by the Israel Airport Authority uncovered two tons of fertilizer used in the manufacturing of Qassam rockets on Monday afternoon, the substantial amount of explosive material was concealed in a truck allegedly transporting humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

The security officials manning the Kerem Shalom border crossing discovered the smuggling attempt during a random inspection of vehicles carrying humanitarian equipment and goods.

This is the second such incident to occur this week.

.... Despite the security restrictions and economic siege of Gaza, Israel allows the transfer of medical equipment and drugs into Gaza at the insistence of the World Health Organization.

...and from Ynet News, 29/12/07:

Army finds explosive chemicals in EU aid bags

6.5 tons of potassium nitrate hidden in sacks marked as sugar from the European Union for needy Palestinians in Gaza. EU declines comment

Israel said on Saturday it had recently seized a truck carrying chemicals used to make explosives hidden in bags marked as EU aid for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The army said 6.5 tons of potassium nitrate were in bags marked as sugar from the European Union for Palestinians in the coastal enclave.

EU officials in Jerusalem had no immediate comment.....The EU is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Gaza....

Syria, Iran trying to overthrow Abbas and Fatah

From THE JERUSALEM POST, by Khaled Abu Toameh, Jan. 15, 2008:

Syria and Iran have stepped up their efforts to overthrow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his ruling Fatah party, PA officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post Monday.

The officials accused the Syrians and Iranians of "encouraging" Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups to establish a new organization that would replace the PLO. They also accused the two countries of continuing to provide Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip with millions of dollars and weapons.

The officials pointed out that in the context of their efforts to overthrow Abbas's regime in the West Bank, Damascus and Teheran have encouraged Hamas and 10 other radical groups to meet in the Syrian capital on January 23 to discuss forming a new PLO and increasing their terror attacks on Israel.

"Syria and Iran are working toward undermining the PLO and President Abbas," a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah told the Post. "They want to help Hamas extend its control to the West Bank. They are pouring millions of dollars into Hamas and its friends."

...The conference, according to Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders, will discuss ways of "developing and reactivating" the PLO. The two Islamist groups have never been part of the PLO, which is dominated by Fatah. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have in recent years openly challenged the PLO's claim to be the "sole and legitimate" representative of all Palestinians. Hamas is hoping to name its leader, Khaled Mashaal, as chairman of the new PLO.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have invited several Palestinian groups to attend the conference, including Fatah. However, Fatah officials have turned down the invitation, accusing Damascus and Teheran of using their Palestinian allies to topple Abbas. ....Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials said the conference was also being held "to stress the importance of maintaining the option of armed struggle [against Israel] and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees."

Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Al-Batsh said the conference's goal was to "thwart American and Zionist schemes" in the aftermath of Bush's visit. "This conference is not aimed at overthrowing anyone," he said. "It's only aimed at foiling the schemes of the Americans and Zionists."
A similar conference was due to be held in Damascus to coincide with last November's peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. But the Syrians, under pressure from the US and some Arab countries, called off the meeting.

The planned conference comes amid reports that the PA is considering dissolving the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council and calling new elections in the PA territories.
At a meeting of PLO and Fatah leaders in Ramallah Sunday night, Abbas said he did not rule out the possibility of holding new parliamentary elections. He also strongly condemned Hamas, dubbing Khaled Mashaal a "liar."

In response, Hamas legislator Yahya Musa condemned Abbas as an "evil liar," adding that the PA president no longer cared about the interests of his people. He also denied Abbas's claim that Hamas had tried to assassinate him.

TWO states, not three

From AFP 13/1/08:

US admits Mideast peace deal hangs on fate of Gaza

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) — A senior US official acknowledged on Saturday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would depend on the fate of Gaza, which is controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Hamas .... meanwhile, dismissed US President George W. Bush's vision of a Palestinian state.
The US official, who declined to be named, said the fate of Bush's targeted peace deal by the end of this year depended on Abbas taking back control of the Gaza Strip. "I don't think in the long term that an agreement is going to work if Hamas continues to control Gaza," he said. "That's why we repeatedly said that the Palestinian Authority should resume its responsibility for the government in Gaza as well," he said. "Exactly how that is going to work I don't know, I can't predict the future."

The official also drew a distinction between any Israeli-Palestinian agreement and its actual implementation. "It seems that it will take some time," he cautioned....

....Dismissed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, meanwhile, rejected what he termed "Bush's vision ..."...Haniya hit out at the president's suggestion that a peace agreement might exclude the refugees returning to the homes they fled in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.... Haniya also called for an end to "security cooperation" between Israel and Abbas.

Another Hamas leader, Ahmad Bahar, accused Bush, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of "conspiring against the Palestinian cause and the armed struggle."

On Friday, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said the movement would not be bound by any agreement that Abbas and Olmert reached, adding that the proposed deal fell far short of Palestinian aspirations.

On this subject, following are excerpts from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting 13/01/2008:

"US President George Bush concluded his visit to Israel last Friday.... The President was briefed, made his views known and reiterated the US's absolute commitment that no agreement between us and the Palestinians can be carried out on the ground before the Roadmap is implemented in full, including all of its commitments regarding the security of the State of Israel both in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria. There is no separation between the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria regarding the Palestinians' commitments. The US President said that we are discussing the establishment of two states for two peoples and not three states for two peoples. The emphasis on this is very important....