Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Hitlers of the 21st Century"

From Andrew Bolt Blog (Herald Sun), Wednesday, February 20, 2008:

Just another charming multicultural event from our peaceable friends at the Islamic Information & Services Network of Australasia, raising money and hate:

Follow the link to see a plethora of comments and "discussion" on the blog.

Hundreds Participate in Human Rights Torch in Israel Despite Rain

From the Epoch Times, Feb 20, 2008, by Ben Kaminsky:

Although weathermen predicted storms and occasional rain, hundreds of people came out to support the Human Rights Torch Relay in Tel Aviv Monday evening, Feb. 18, and called for an immediate end to all crimes against humanity taking place in China before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Darfurian refugees, Falun Gong practitioners, Rabbis, religious leaders, physicians, artists and all kinds of supporters participated in the rally.

Prior to the rally, religious leaders and community leaders from different religions and sects signed a joint statement calling for the stop of the crimes against humanity in China such as the persecution against Falun Gong, and the forced organ harvesting.

Over 20 religious representatives, including Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Burmese, Cherkes Muslims, Uzbek Muslims and other religious and community Leaders publicly signed the joint statement. "I hope the entire humanity will work together on preventing those things," said the Sufi Imam in Israel, Abed Al-Salam Mansara. The Cherkes Sheikh Zinaldin Faruk said that humanity must join hands and fight against the brutal practice. "We do not want any more disasters like the Nazis did in the forties to happen," he said....

...The Human Rights Torch was lit in the Tel Aviv Museum Plaza and carried by runners in the streets of Tel Aviv. Among the runners was labor camp survivor, Jennifer Zeng, who carried the torch while many Darfurians were dancing around the torch and beating their African drums.
After the march, many distinguished public figures gave their support speeches....

...'I came to cry out: a Holocaust is happening!'
"When I was a child, I was taught in School about the Holocaust," said Sarit Vino-Elad, an Israeli actress, in the rally. She shared how shocked she was by the apathy in which the murdering during that period was received in the public. "When I was asked to attend this rally," she said, "a mirror was held in front of me saying: 'you are just like those people who said they did not know [about the holocaust when it happened].'"

"I came here to cry out: a Holocaust is happening!" said Vino-Elad. "We must stop everything we are doing and act against it. We should not be concerned about the economical consequences of the war against this holocaust. There is a holocaust, and it is taking place in China because we are allowing it to happen. Not only are we allowing it to happen, we are also funding it, and strengthening the power of those responsible."

The host of the rally, Billy Wasserglick, added that if a big group as this one would have stood up against the Nazi regime, stood up openly for free speech, and condemned the Nazi regime, maybe her grandparents would be still alive today....

....Mr. David Kilgour, former Canadian secretary of state for Asia Pacific attended the rally. He questioned how a regime that is responsible for atrocities in China, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Tibet or Burma be allowed to host the 2008 Olympics. David Kilgour is a co-author of the "Bloody Harvest" report that verified the allegations of forced organ harvesting from live Falun Gong practitioners in China. He spent a few days in Israel in which he met members of Parliament, law experts, and other public figures in Israel to tell them about his report and about his knowledge of the human right abuses in China....

....The Human Rights Torch Relay is an international campaign that seeks to bring an end to all human rights abuses against the people of China, while highlighting the persecution of Falun Gong—the most severely persecuted group in China today. During the run up to the 2008 Olympics, the HRTR will host events in 37 countries across six continents to present its message: "The Olympics and crimes against humanity cannot coexist in China." Israel is the 26th stop of the Human Rights Torch Relay and will then go on to North America, South America, Africa, and Asia.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fatah Falls Apart

From GLORIA, by Barry Rubin February 18, 2008 [my emphasis added - SL]:

Rather than unite in the face of the Hamas challenge and the task of gaining support from the West Bank's people, Fatah seems to be collapsing.

Or perhaps the feuds are not only over power but who gets to control the almost $7 billion scheduled to be given the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) over the next three years. A contributing factor is that Fatah has said it will hold a congress in March, the first full such meeting in almost 20 years.

There are at least five factions operating in Fatah today, and even that is an understatement.

While PA "president" Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad enjoy Western support, they have very little from their own organization. These two are relative moderates who have no internal base of support. Even the very tiny group of those who can be called moderate is split since, for example, Ahmad Khouri (Abu Ala), is quarreling with Abbas.

Then there are the cronies of the late head of Fatah and the PA, Yasir Arafat, who have not developed any moderate tendencies but are using Abbas to cling to power. A typical example of this group is Hakam Balawi who was the PLO ambassador to Tunisia when Arafat's headquarters were there, a particular favorite of Arafat. These people are basically careerists who simply stick with whoever is leader.

A third group are the hardliners, like Abu Ali Shahin, who views himself as a revolutionary fighter. Other powerful figures in this group include Farouq Qaddumi, the actual head of Fatah; Sakhr Habash (Abu Nizar), chief of the Fatah Revolutionary Committee; and Salim al-Zaanoun, head of the Palestine National Council (PNC), the PLO's legislature. These people want a continuation of armed struggle against Israel and believe that total victory is still possible.

A fourth faction can be called the "young guard," but this is also split among different contenders for leadership. Muhammad Dahlan, formerly the leading Fatah security (i.e., military) commander in the Gaza Strip is one candidate; Marwan Barghouti, the head of Fatah in the West Bank and now imprisoned by Israel, is another. Dahlan and Barghouti are also very much at odds.

Recently, Shahin has called Abbas a failed leader who should resign. Balawi claimed Dahlan was plotting against Abbas, and Dahlan in return accused Balawi of being an Israel spy.
As if this isn't enough, the "young guard" knows that the current leaders will not give it any meaningful share of power in Fatah. The group, for instance, does not have a single member on the Fatah Central Committee.

In short, PA and Fatah politics are a mess. This has long been true but few noticed and it didn't matter when Arafat was alive since he kept the lid on everything, while playing off his subordinates against each other, and provided unity.

Now, however, things are different. It is amazing that since Fatah and the PA are the West's candidate to make good use of almost $7 billion, beat Hamas, establish a Palestinian state, and make peace with Israel, few observers take note of this disastrous situation or factor it into their policies.

Unless Fatah changes its ways, and there is no reason to believe it will do so, one can only wonder if Hamas will be controlling the West Bank, too, within five years. Certainly, one can expect the aid money to disappear without helping the Palestinian people much and be sure that this divided, quarreling leadership will not be able to make peace with Israel.

Bush's Mideast U-Turn

This eloquent opinion, by Natan Sharansky and Bassem Eid, is a MUST READ and is posted here in full, from The Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2008 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

On June 24, 2002, President Bush presented his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. That we both would have greeted Mr. Bush's speech with the same enthusiasm may come as a surprise.

One of us is a former Soviet dissident who spent nine years in the Gulag and, after joining his people in Jerusalem, spent a decade in Israeli political life, serving as a cabinet minister during most of that time. The other is a Palestinian who has devoted his life to exposing human rights abuses perpetrated against his people, regardless of whether the government committing those abuses was Israeli or Palestinian.

One is a Jew convinced of his people's just claim to the Land of Israel. The other is an Arab convinced of his people's just claim to the same land.Yet while we have real disagreements that would make an historic compromise very difficult and painful, we are fully in agreement that the only path to peace lies in building a free Palestinian society -- a path Mr. Bush boldly laid out in his historic speech.

Unfortunately, encouraged by short-sighted Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Bush administration, now entering its final year in office, has resuscitated the failed policies of the past that have brought nothing but tragedy, terror and war and that have only pushed peace further away.

The real breakthrough of Mr. Bush's vision five-and-a-half years ago was not his call for a two-state solution or even the call for Palestinians to "choose leaders not compromised by terror." Rather, the breakthrough was in making peace conditional on a fundamental transformation of Palestinian society:

"I call upon [Palestinians] to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. . . . A Palestinian state will never be created by terror -- it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism."

Many critics argued at the time that linking the peace process to a transformation of Palestinian society was a radical departure in peacemaking. It was. And it was long overdue.

What had guided policymakers for the previous decade was the idea that a "moderate" Palestinian leader who would fight terror and make peace with Israel needed to be "strengthened" at all costs. Yasser Arafat was their moderate. He was given territory, weapons, money and a warm diplomatic embrace.

Completely ignored was what was happening within Palestinian society. As Arafat was hollowing out civil society, handing control of the economy to corrupt cronies, squirreling away billions of dollars into his private accounts, trampling on the rights of his own people, and using PA-controlled media and schools to indoctrinate a generation into a culture of hatred, the international community's bear hug only tightened. Indeed, Arafat's emerging dictatorship was seen as an asset in the peace process. Here was the "strong" leader, it was argued, who could make a deal. Nothing should be done to weaken him.

Mr. Bush's speech was supposed to change all this. It was supposed to shift the focus to where it should have always been: on helping Palestinians build a decent society that would protect the rights of their own people and promote peace with its neighbors. It was supposed to begin the hard work of helping Palestinians reconstruct their civil society, build a free economy, establish real courts, reform their security services, and revamp their educational system.

President Bush deserves much credit for placing a spotlight on the issues of democracy and human rights and for his firm belief that the advance of freedom is critical for international peace and stability. He made this idea a focus of his second inaugural address and reiterated it last June in Prague at a conference of dissidents from around the world. Last month, President Bush did not flinch from speaking about freedom and human rights in the heart of Arabia.

But the past few years have shown that when it comes to dealing with Israelis and Palestinians, the vital link between freedom and peace is almost entirely ignored. True, the administration is not doing anything against the wishes of the current Israeli and Palestinian leadership. But just as the Oslo peace process of the 1990s was a disaster that Israeli and Palestinian leaders wholeheartedly embraced, the current peacemaking round will prove equally disastrous because it ignores what is most important.

Rather than begin the long and difficult process to transform Palestinian society and ultimately pave the road to peace, the administration has consistently supported quick and foolish solutions: from crafting a "road map" that only paid lip service to reform; to backing a unilateral disengagement that by its nature ignored Palestinian society; to pressing for snap elections that preceded rather than followed reform and thereby brought Hamas to power.

When Arafat passed from the scene, we hoped that the Bush vision would finally be given a chance. But all that has happened is that President Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) and Prime Minister Salam Fayad have become the new "moderates" who need to be strengthened at all costs. Rather than establish a clear link between support for the PA and reform, and openly embrace the genuine Palestinian reformers who are the democratic world's true allies, Abu Mazen is promised billions despite having done nothing. With the media entirely under his control, incitement continues and no one raises serious objections. He is, we are told, too "weak" to take action.

A few weeks ago, in a meeting with a high ranking official responsible for European foreign policy, one of us (Mr. Sharansky) spoke about the need to support the work of the other (Mr. Eid) in promoting democracy and human rights in the Palestinian territories. After the European leader expressed his deep commitment to peace, democracy and human rights, he asked the all important question: "What is his [Mr. Eid's] relationship to Abu Mazen?" After hearing that it was strained because of constant criticism of Abu Mazen's failure to reform, the official's enthusiasm quickly evaporated. "That will be a problem. We cannot do anything that will undermine Abu Mazen." This new-old attitude reminds one of the absurdity of those who refused to support democratic dissidents behind the Iron Curtain because they were undermining their leaders.

President Bush should spend his final year in office helping Palestinians begin the transformation of their society so that the vision he once spoke of so eloquently will have a chance to come to fruition some day. We have wasted too much time strengthening leaders and reaching for the moon. Let's start strengthening Palestinian society and begin a real peace process once and for all.

Mr. Eid is executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Mr. Sharansky is chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies.

So Many Problems, So Few Solutions exasperated round-up, from GLORIA, by Barry Rubin February 17, 2008 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

The Middle East is a region where so many things seem to happen, so little appears to change, and far too much is said about it all.... March there will be elections in Iran....there is an element of pluralism since the ruling elite itself is so fractionalized. An election could shift more power away from the ultra-extremist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, making Iran marginally less dangerous. But it cannot turn Tehran toward a new course in which it would give up its regional ambitions, sponsorship of terrorism, or drive toward nuclear weapons. The most important component, international pressure, is far weaker than it should be.

In ...[the Palestinian Authority]... the internal factors for positive change are even more limited. Fatah has talked about having a party congress in March, which might or might not happen. The existing PA leadership lacks either the power or interest for clamping down on incitement to terrorism or an anti-corruption drive. The wider Fatah leadership actually embraces extremism and looting. Neither seems inclined to share power with a "young guard" leadership which might be more honest but is also, if anything, more radical. Not much hope can be expected there. The most important component, international pressure, is far weaker than it should be.

As for Hamas, while factions seem to exist there are no moderates in sight. Outside observers are determined to credit Hamas with a victory in the Gaza Strip. Yet it is ...not gained by themselves but given by those who should be their adversaries. In fact, the Egyptian border is again closed, with the Cairo government more determined (if still not determined enough) to control its own territory. Hamas's policy is merely running Gaza into the ground a bit more slowly. Still, the most important component, international pressure, is far weaker than it should be.

Regarding Lebanon, a key ingredient of any solution is ...moving ahead on the international tribunal investigating Damascus's involvement in murders there of peaceful politicians and journalists. ...this effort is advancing slowly, yet is largely overshadowed publicly by outspoken testimonies from too many naןve Westerners about how moderate the Syrian dictatorship claims to be..... Syria has good reasons to believe that the next U.S. president will reverse course and appease--I mean, engage--the regime. The most important component, international pressure, is far weaker than it should be.

...In the Middle East, there are all too many things warranting precautions and vigilance....[and the necessary international pressure is absent ...]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Israel needs a national unity government

From JPost, by Isi Leibler, February 19, 2008 [my emphasis added - SL]:

In many respects we are rapidly moving toward a situation which has ominous parallels to the weeks preceding the Six Day War. As then, the enemy is gathering on our borders while the nation lacks faith in its leadership. To make matters worse, our dysfunctional government is poised to make decisions in sham negotiations with a failed Palestinian leadership that may be irrevocable and could have existential implications for our future....

....The imminent danger confronting us is the permanent damage that could be inflicted on the nation before elections take place. It is therefore imperative for Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition, to seize the initiative and launch a campaign proclaiming that the House of Israel is facing the greatest threat to its survival since the Yom Kippur War. ..... Netanyahu should call for a government of national unity to provide the people with confidence that the critical decisions that will soon have to be resolved will not be influenced by anything other than the national interest....

....Palestinians are telling the world that they are already finalizing a deal over Jerusalem ..... And when the inevitable occurs, and Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are reunited, we may find that western Jerusalem neighborhoods will be subject to missile attacks similar to Sderot.

This is happening along with a rapid deterioration in other spheres of the security situation. The flow of advanced weaponry and the huge infiltration of terrorists through the porous Egyptian Gaza border represent new threats to the IDF. And unless we act soon to neutralize the increasingly lethal missile attacks against our civilians in the south, the entire nation may soon find itself under attack....

....THAT IS WHY it is now imperative for Netanyahu to ring the alarm bells and - as a last ditch effort - offer to participate in a unity government with a new prime minister.....If the current leaders refuse to respond to such an initiative, they will stand condemned.

With a united voice and utilizing Netanyahu's communication skills, a unity government would be able to inform the world that we have reached the end of our tether. Our message would be simple: Unless the terror attacks on our civilians are halted forthwith, we will take whatever steps are necessary....

....The implementation of such proposals may appear to be remote. But the reality is that the House of Israel is today truly in danger. Now is the time for the nation to set aside all differences and display the solidarity which in times of need has always proven to be our greatest asset.

Impending UNIFIL breakdown in Lebanon

Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 19, 2008:

With Lebanon in political deadlock and Hizbullah threatening to renew hostilities with Israel, defense officials in Tel Aviv expressed concern on Monday that European countries will gradually reduce their participation in UNIFIL over the coming year.

A high-ranking defense official told The Jerusalem Post that Israel had indications Spain was considering withdrawing its forces from Lebanon. Spanish peacekeepers have come under repeated attacks by terrorist groups in southern Lebanon and in July, six members of the Spanish contingent were killed in an attack on their convoy near the village of el-Hiyam.
The official said that due to the attacks, Spain was under growing pressure to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, in the same way it pulled out of Iraq in 2004 following the Madrid terrorist bombings earlier that year. The official said the outcome of the national elections in Spain next month could determine whether the country would continue to participate in UNIFIL....

....UNIFIL was significantly enlarged - from 2,000 soldiers to more than 13,000 - following the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The official said that if war broke out with Hizbullah due to the assassination of arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus last week, UNIFIL would be expected to immediately withdraw its forces from southern Lebanon....

....Adding to Israel's concern is the continued political deadlock in Lebanon over the appointment of a new president since Emile Lahoud stepped down three months ago. According to a new proposal, Hizbullah could get a third of the cabinet seats, granting it the power to veto major government decisions, including the renewal of UNIFIL's mandate later this year.....

Mark Weiss and AP contributed to this report.

Austria: Iran's gateway to Europe

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 17, 2008, by SIMONE DINAH HARTMANN, spokesperson of 'STOP THE BOMB' ( [my own emphasis added - SL]:

When Hitler entered Austria in March 1938, he was welcomed by an extraordinarily large number of Austrians who advocated the "Anschluss" with Germany. A disproportionate number of Austrians served the Nazi death machinery to carry out the "Final Solution" to the "Jewish Question."

Despite these facts, for more than 50 years Austria portrayed itself as the first victim of national-socialism. It took a new generation of historians and politicians to acknowledge - 30 years after the Eichmann trial - that Austrians were actually involved in mass murder.

During the last decade Austria has worked to present itself as a country which has dealt with its past and drawn the appropriate historical lessons. But one has to ask: Which lessons have been learned? Certainly not the most crucial one: defending Israel's right to exist.

In April 2007 Austria's partially state-owned oil company, OMV, signed an agreement with Iran on a joint natural gas project. The total investment amounts to 22 billion euros over the next 25 years. Experts believe that these revenues will be used to finance the Iranian nuclear weapons program and undermine present international sanctions.

OMV is not just any company. It is the biggest oil corporation in central Europe. The state of Austria holds 31.5% of its shares. Wolfgang Ruttensdorfer, CEO of this company, served for several years in the Austrian government as a member of the Social Democratic party, which always had close ties with OMV.

THIS IS not the first time that OMV is breaking problematic ground. It was OMV that made the first Western gas deal with the Soviet Union in 1968. The first round of gas imports started just after the Prague Spring was crushed by Warsaw Pact tanks.

In the 1980s OMV signed a deal with Libya as part of an international consortium, and at the end of the 1990s, it signed one with civil-war-torn Sudan. The company's then press officer argued that despite the risk in Sudan, OMV had to go where finding oil was the cheapest, and where American competition need not be feared.

In 2003 OMV was left as the only international corporation in Sudan - other companies pulled out after the crisis culminated and tens of thousands were murdered by Arab militia sponsored by the Sudanese government in Darfur. Later that year, OMV sold its shares to Asian companies.

OMV's business with Iran is a logical continuation of this company's involvement with dictatorial regimes that suppress and murder their own people. However, Iran is different - the mullahs' repeated threats to annihilate Israel and the unique form of their regime elevates this deal to an existential question, not only for the Jewish people but for the whole world, which is threatened by the violent expansion of Islamic rule.

NEVERTHELESS, this deal is backed by all parties represented in the Austrian parliament. Social Democrats, Conservatives, Greens and the far right have closed ranks against demands to cancel the negotiations with Iran.

Ironically, Austrian Social Democratic Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer recently made it very clear that human rights have to be subordinated to business interests. His government has no intention of interfering despite the ongoing oppressions of the Iranian terror regime.

Recent criticism from German chancellor Angela Merkel, who said that Austria was setting a dangerous precedent in establishing such a deal, was countered by insistence on the private nature of OMV - even though the state is the company's largest shareholder.

On February 3 Albert Steinhauser, Green speaker for Justice, was the first member of parliament to sign our on-line petition against the OMV-Iran deal. There is hope that his courage might set an example that will be followed by more parliamentarians who finally understand that now is the time to act.

During the recent visit of a delegation of Iranian parliamentarians in December 2007, Helmut Kukacka, conservative MP and head of the Austrian-Iranian parliamentarian group, talked about the good bilateral relations that have continued after the Islamic revolution. "Austria is very keen on strengthening the friendship between the two countries," he said.

Another conservative, Michael Spindelegger, second president of the national council, commended the Iranian delegation for continuing an in-depth dialogue. The discussion was remarkable for what it lacked: Iranian's wish to eliminate Israel.

Their points shed light on the Austrian conscience, which has a history of forgetting and repressing - up to the point where Austria refuses to actually do something to prevent another killing of Jews.

AUSTRIA'S posture toward Iran has always been one of treating the mullahs' regime with kid-gloves. In 1989 the leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Abdel Rahman Ghassemlou, was murdered in Vienna by the Iranian regime. No suspect, among them reportedly Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was ever held responsible by a court for this crime. Instead Iranian diplomats pressured Austrian government officials to close the case, focusing on the Iranian commando found at the murder site. As soon as the commando left Austria, warrants were issued for his arrest, but remain without consequence.

Austria has tried to improve ties in every sector of the Iranian economy. In the midst of the Iraq-Iran war, VOEST, a state-owned steel company, sent 200 cannons via Libya to Iran. In recent years the Austrian weapons company Steyr-Mannlicher sold high-powered rifles to Iran. According to the American Enterprise Institute, the military-industrial complex accounts for 11 percent of Austrian-Iranian trade. Some of these weapons were found in Iraq, where they were used by Iranian-supported insurgents to kill American soldiers.

SINCE 2002, Austrian exports to Iran have doubled, but are still in the millions, not billions. The planned OMV deal with Iran would change this, bringing Austria and Europe into a long-term strategic partnership with the Iranian regime. As Iranian Chamber of Commerce president Ali Naghi Khamoushi put it in November 2006, "Austria is the gate to the European Union for us."

In March 2008, Austria will officially mourn 70 years since the "Anschluss." Two months later Austria will join the celebrations of 60 years since the establishment of the State of Israel. These events should be considered opportunities for some moral soul-searching.

Austria must turn its moral rhetoric into tangible action if it wants to prove that it has learned its lessons. Stopping Iran from going nuclear by canceling the largest oil deal between a European company and the mullahs would set the tone and fill these words with content.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The next war

From Ynet, by Ron Ben-Yishai, 15/2/08:

Decision on major Gaza incursion already taken; preparations underway

...The political leadership has already decided to embark on a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. However, preparations have not yet been completed, which is why the operation is delayed. A limited group of ministers who are party to the decision, just like the IDF and Shin Bet, require more time in order to create the conditions that would ensure that the operation's objectives are achieved within a reasonable period of time. Good preparation, they believe, will minimize casualties among our forces, shorten the duration of the rocket counterattack to be delivered by Hamas at the start of the operation, and prevent undesirable developments on other fronts....

..... A significant part of the Second Lebanon War's failures stemmed from a negligent and unrealistic definition of the objectives of the military move, which started as an aerial operation and ended as war. This time around, the targets have already been defined, and they are clear. Some of them are tactical:
1. The facilitation of operational and intelligence-gathering freedom of action for the IDF and Shin Bet all across the Strip, as quickly as possible. This is a crucial basic condition for achieving the other objections.
2. A drastic reduction of rocket and mortar fire as quickly as possible.
3. Destruction of most military infrastructure, arms arsenal, and means of production. We are not only talking about Hamas infrastructure, but rather, also that of the other organizations and crime families.
4. Blocking the Philadelphi Route in a manner which would curb, by at least 60%, smuggling into and out of the Strip.
5. Avoiding, as much as is possible, harming Palestinian civilians who are not involved in the fighting, and the prevention of a humanitarian crisis.

The strategic objectives are as follows:
1. Removing Hamas from power and establishing a stable Palestinian regime in the Gaza Strip, with international monitoring and assistance.
2. Demilitarizing the Strip for an extended period of time in terms of rockets and the infrastructure to produce such weapons.
3. Effective Israeli security and monitoring for years to come of crossings into the Strip, including Philadelphi (either independently or through an agreement with the Palestinians, the Egyptians, and international monitoring parties.)

In order to achieve this ambitious list of objectives, or at least most of it, Israel must secure the "operational environment." Simply put, Israel must create, in advance, international understanding and backing for the Gaza campaign and elicit the willingness (of NATO or other international parties) to by party to the agreement to follow in its wake, which would enable the IDF to exit Gaza. This matter is an important component in the preparations ahead of the campaign. Another important condition for success is to prevent escalation on other fronts during the fighting.

Hizbullah and its patron, Iran, may attempt to open a second front in the north, in order to mitigate the pressure on Hamas. Both of them, as well as Syria, must be made to understand in advance, in an unequivocal manner, that any intervention on their part may cost them dearly. The IDF must also prepare for a terror wave in the West Bank; meanwhile, the police must prepare for possible riots among Israel's Arabs.

In addition, we must prepare for the possibility of Hamas attempting to organize mass marches of civilians towards Israel's borders and within the Strip.

Heavy barrages in first 2 weeks
In order to address all of the above, large forces (including reservists and police) must be prepared in advance, in a manner that would enable them to quickly join the fighting or prevent massive riots. Plenty of diverse equipment should also be prepared in order to handle riots.

Once the military operation starts, this equipment must already be waiting at regional warehouses near possible trouble spots, or even in the possession of the forces. The home front must be prepared as well. Western Negev residents will surely have to sustain heavy Qassam and mortar barrages in the first week or two (in a good case scenario.) But they are not the only ones who must be ready – residents on the Lebanese border and even south of it must be ready for rocket barrages...

....Operation Defensive Shield was followed by other operations and two years passed before the number of attacks was drastically reduced. In Gaza, should all go well, it would take much less time. Yet we must not expect instant results. To that end, the Israeli public and politicians must show all the restraint and patience they are able to draw on. The public must also internalize the realization that a Gaza campaign would exact a human toll and an economic price.

We can draw encouragement from the fact that the preparations undertaken these days by the IDF and Shin Bet, and also on the diplomatic front, are being undertaken thoroughly and secretly.....

...It has already been proven that the more thorough the preparation process, the more successful and smooth the operation tends to be. Let's hope that this rule will also apply to the upcoming major Gaza campaign.

Egypt uncovers 100 kg explosives cache near Gaza border

From Ynet News, by Associated Press, 18/2/08:

...Egyptian security forces on Monday uncovered an explosives cache containing 100 kilograms (220.5 pounds) of TNT hidden in sacks near the country's volatile border with the Gaza Strip....

The cache, found buried a few feet deep in the soil in a deserted area of the northern Sinai peninsula, came after police acted on a tip from local Bedouins, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

The find took place near Sheik Zuwiyed town, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The Bedouins led the authorities to the location of the explosives. A total of three sacks of TNT were found, the official said....

.... Israel has repeatedly accused Egypt of not doing enough to stop weapons smuggling into Gaza, particularly through tunnels. Cairo has promised it would make a greater effort to stop smuggling....