Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hamas confirms truce with Israel to go into effect Thursday

From JPost.com Jun 17, 2008 by JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP:

A Hamas spokesman said Tuesday that his organization is committed to an Egyptian-mediated truce deal with Israel set to go into effect Thursday. Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas will commit to the "zero hour" declared by Egypt.

An official Egyptian statement earlier Tuesday said the cease-fire will go into effect on Thursday at 6 a.m.

...Israeli officials declined to confirm a deal, but voiced "cautious optimism" and said Israel's negotiator in the truce talks was rushing to Cairo.

...Defense officials, however, said they expected negotiations on Schalit to begin on Sunday, a tacit admission that a truce was in the works.

Earlier Tuesday, during a session of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that Israel was on a "collision course" with Hamas and that he adopted the stance of intelligence officials, who believed that a truce would be short and fragile. "The IDF will respect a cease-fire but is also getting ready for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip," Ashkenazi added.

IDF's Research Division Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz had told the FADC that in his estimation, Hamas intended to continue smuggling weapons into Gaza, irrespective of a truce, and that it would continue working to bolster terror infrastructure and use the cease-fire as a chance to regroup and rearm.

Meanwhile, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported that the truce would consist of three stages and Palestinian sources told the Arabic daily that the cease-fire would be in place for six months at first and would later include the West Bank as well.

According to the report, the first stage of the cease-fire would be implemented once Israel opens the Karni and Sufa crossings. During the second stage, which would start a week later, Israel would remove certain restrictions on the goods which are allowed into Gaza.

The third stage, set to start a week later, would include discussions on a new mechanism of operating the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Blueprints have been stolen for nuclear weapon: UN arms inspector

From the ABC "PM" program - Monday, 16 June , 2008 18:27:00, with Reporter: Mark Colvin and Ehud Ya'ari, Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television:

(Press here to listen to a recording of the program.)

MARK COLVIN: A former UN arms inspector says an international smuggling ring has got hold of blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon. The former inspector, David Albright, says the ring may have sold the plans to governments including those of Iran and North Korea. His conclusions are included in a report on his four year investigation into the smuggling racket led by the Pakistani nuclear scientist, AQ Khan. Meanwhile Iran has rejected a six nation offer to stop enriching uranium. In Paris, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the US President George W. Bush jointly warned Iran against proceeding with what's widely believed to be its nuclear weapons programme. No country fears an Iranian bomb more than Israel. Ehud Ya'ari is Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television. He's visiting Australia at the moment, and I asked him first about the leaked nuclear weapon blueprints.

EHUD YA'ARI: Yes we do think that the Iranians have the plans. We do believe that the Iranians were experimenting on weaponising, both for missile warheads and for bombs to be carried by airplanes. I'll put it like this, The Israelis are convinced, and I believe most intelligence services in the West, Europe the United States et cetera, share the same opinion that the Iranians have a parallel undercover programme for developing their nuclear military capabilities.

MARK COLVIN: So if they've got the plans, then what's to stop them making the warheads. You say two or three years before it gets really dangerous?

EHUD YA'ARI: The have major technological problems. We believe that the Iranians are lagging behind their own schedule in terms of enriching uranium. We believe that their nuclear reactor heavy water in Iraq, which is being constructed now, is well behind schedule.


EHUD YA'ARI: In Iran. In Iraq, it's called Iraq, the city is called Iraq. The Iranians are trying to go for the bomb in using two ways.

One is the enriched uranium through the system of centrifuges in (inaudible). And the other through the plutonium option through the construction of a heavy water reactor in the city of Iraq, which is about two hours drive south of Tehran. We believe both these tracks, both these tracks they are still behind their own schedule. And we believe that the Russians keep dragging their feet on the nuclear reactor in Bushehr, which as you know is not yet completed. And the uranium, the nuclear rods were not yet supplied for.

MARK COLVIN: What is the role of the Russians then?

EHUD YA'ARI: I think that for several years Israel is ? Americans, Europeans, tended to see the Russians as they bad guys in the uranium, nuclear story. In my assessment it's been proven now that in fact the Russians, a) sold the Iranians quite primitive nuclear technology, Chernobyl type reactor, b) that the Russians are dragging their feet about the construction of the reactor in Bushehr, which it had to be completed years ago. And three, that the Russians are not in hurry to activate that reactor.

Therefore by now everybody agrees that the main challenge is the Iranian attempt to get to nuclear capability through enrichment of uranium, and not through the Russian built reactor.

MARK COLVIN: There are some people who believe that either Israel or the United States is going to strike at Iran within the next few months, probably before President Bush leaves office. What do you think of that theory?

EHUD YA'ARI: Well my answer is that I certainly do not know the answer to that. I know that in the US there are those who are advocating a preventive strike against Iran.
But the main question there is would be what would be the Iranian reaction, not in terms of retaliation but whether a strike against Iranian nuclear installations will accelerate the pace of the Iranian nuclear programme, as happened for example with Iraq after Israelis have bombed in 1981, the Osirak reactor. As for Israel, once the Israelis will be, will reach the conclusion, and this has not happened yet, that the US is not going to strike Iran, then the Israelis faced with the possibility of a nuclear Iran will have to make their own decisions and I believe that we have had enough public statements by responsible Israelis officials to the effect that Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear threat from Iran, a country which states through its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that it's out to wipe out the sate of Israel, a country which is describing Israel as, in the language of their President, a dead man walking, and a stinking fish.

MARK COLVIN: But what could Israel do? Isn't it the case that Iran's nuclear programme is widely dispersed and in some cases very heavily protected, dug into the sides of mountains and so forth.

EHUD YA'ARI: Well here we are entering into the very sensitive area of what intelligence was gathered by Israel, the US, and other governments concerning the Iranian programme.

MARK COLVIN: But isn't it the case that you couldn't really hit as you did in Iraq with the Osirak reactor which you've mentioned, that you couldn't really hit one target and achieve anything major?

EHUD YA'ARI: For Israel certainly hitting Iraq ? Iran, Iran's nuclear problem on its won is a much more complex challenge, than hitting the Syrian reactor last September in al-Kibar or Iraqi reactor in 1981. And I can assure that Israel is not enthusiastic at all for the idea that they will have to take Iran on their own and then we know what would be the world comments and reactions to that. But still we may have a situation in which a responsible Israeli leadership will reach the conclusion that there is simply no other way.

MARK COLVIN: Because Ahmadinejad wants to wipe you off the map, has said so, and you're convinced the Iranian nuclear programme is aimed at Israel.

EHUD YA'ARI: Well we believe what the Iranian leaders are saying, we believe what we read in the Iranian press, we believe that the Iranians are out to try and mobilise the Arab world as well, into an effort to destroy the state of Israel. We have no reason to doubt that. It's a very complex and touchy problem. Luckily and fortunately, I would like to emphasise this, we believe, and I believe that I reflect the current thinking in Israel, that we have two or three years for efforts to get the Iranians through a system of sanctions and probably of [carrots] as well, into a reconsideration of their nuclear programme.

MARK COLVIN: Ehud Ya'ari, Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television.

9/11 Conspiracy Theorist is Now UN's Expert on Palestine

From UN Watch, June 16, 2008:

UN Watch Challenges Richard Falk over Support for 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.
Council President Doru Costea Rejects Egyptian Bid to Delete Question from the Record .

Today the UN Human Rights Council welcomed Richard Falk as the new expert to oversee its standing investigation into "Israel's violations of the principles and bases of international law." When UN Watch took the floor to ask Falk to explain his support for 9/11 conspiracy theories, as documented by the Times of London, Egypt made a failed bid to delete the question from the record. See full video and text below.

UN Human Rights Council, 8th SessionAgenda Item 7: "Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories"
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard FalkUN Watch Statement
Delivered by Hillel Neuer, June 16, 2008

Thank you, Mr. President.Professor Falk, we appreciate this opportunity to ask you questions.
As we gather to address the Middle East, let us all commit to a future where every child, Palestinian and Israeli alike, will see the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights become reality.With this goal in mind, Professor Falk, let us turn to the report that you presented today, HRC 7/17.

One of the report’s exceptional features is its sharp criticism of the United Nations itself. Leading UN institutions and officials are accused of being insufficiently supportive of the Palestinians, of failing to acknowledge international law, which, according to paragraph 54, “brings the very commitment of the United Nations to human rights into question.”The report criticizes the United Nations role in the Quartet and the Road Map for Peace. It criticizes the United Nations Security Council and one of its permanent members in particular. It criticizes the United Nations Secretary-General, suggesting, in paragraph 53, that he may be refusing to fulfill legal obligations out of political reasons.

Professor Falk, my first question to you is by what methodology does one challenge some UN decisions, while accepting others uncritically?

Why are there no questions about today’s Agenda Item targeting Israel, as expressed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on 20 June 2007, and I quote: “The Secretary-General is disappointed at the Council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item given the range and scope of allegations of Human Rights violations throughout the world.”

Finally, in light of the concerns expressed by the President of this Council -- in the newspaper Le Temps and elsewhere -- about the credibility of this council on the Middle East, could you tell us what credibility you expect your reports to have, when leading newspapers such as The Times of London are commenting on your support for the 9/11 conspiracy theories of David Ray Griffin, who argues, and I quote from the Times article of April 15th, “that no plane hit the Pentagon,” and that “the World Trade Center was brought down by a controlled demolition”?Thank you, Mr. President.
Egyptian representative Amr Roshdy Hassan
Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. President, I think any intervention that has nothing to do with the item should be deleted from the records of the meeting. The reference to September 11 is not part of the item, it’s not part of the Palestinian issue. And I think it should be deleted from the records. Thank you.
Human Rights Council President Doru Costea quietly declined to grant Egypt’s request to censor UN Watch's question from the record.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A bitter anniversary - seven years of Kassams

From JPost.com Jun 16, 2008 by ABE SELIG:

Seven years since the first Kassam rocket slammed into Sderot, a public hearing - the first of its kind in the town - is set to take place on Tuesday; residents will shuffle into one of the only buildings that is protected from Kassam fire, and testify about life in the rocket zone.

...A report summarizing the hearing will be distributed to Israel's decision-makers, with what a Shatil [the field unit of the New Israel Fund that works for democratic change and social justice] press release called "the aim of prompting policy change with regard to the social and economic rights of Sderot residents." ...

...nearly 10,000 rockets have been fired at Sderot in the last seven years, and 3,000 residents have fled, according to The Israel Project, an international nonprofit organization that provides information to the media. In addition, 22 Israeli civilians have been killed by Kassam fire since 2001, including eight in Gush Katif before the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

But aside from the hard facts, Eitan is hoping her organization will be able to highlight a different view of Sderot, outside the prism of numbers and statistics, focusing more on social justice for citizens of a democratic country.

"Until now Sderot has been portrayed a specific way in the media," Eitan said. "The people living there are shown as either worthy of pity or as heroes. We're trying to bring a different message, one that explores the social and human rights of the city's residents, because these people are citizens of Israel, and they have rights just like anyone else."

...Getting the government to help is the main goal of Tuesday's hearing, and Eitan said she hopes the people's voices and the sincere illustrations of their hardships will speak loud enough for those in positions of power to hear...

Arab media expects Israel-Hizbullah prisoner exchange

From Ynet News, 16/6/08, by Roni Sofer:

Lebanese newspapers report return of Regev, Goldwasser in exchange for Samir Kuntar imminent; Israeli official said to meets German mediator to hear Hizbullah's answer to Israel's 'final offer'

...Arab media reported Monday that a deal in which kidnapped Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev would be returned to Israel in exchange for Samir Kuntar and four other Lebanese prisoners is expected to be carried out in the next few days.

Samir Kuntar (Photo: AFP)

Samir Kuntar, a Palestine Liberation Organisation terrorist broke into an apartment in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya in 1979 , took Danny Haran and his four-year-old daughter Einat hostage. He smashed the child's head against a rock, and also murdered the father and two police officers. He was jailed in the Hadarim Prison. In the Palestinian Authority, Kuntar is considered a hero, a role model for Palestinian children.

... The Israeli proposal to release Kuntar and four other Lebanese prisoners in exchange for Goldwasser and Regev is considered Israel's "final offer".

In another sign suggesting the possibility of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hizbullah, about two weeks ago the Shiite group transferred to Israel the remains of a number of IDF soldiers who were killed during the Second Lebanon War after in exchange for the release of Nissim Nasser.

In addition, Olmert has scheduled a meeting with the family of Ron Arad, the IAF navigator who abandoned his Phantom jet over Lebanon in 1986 and whose fate has since remained unknown .

Olmert is expected to tell the Arad family that Israel is considering releasing Kuntar in the framework of a prisoner swap. Israel has said in the past that Kuntar would be released only in exchange for information on Arad's fate....

Roee Nahmias contributed to the report