Saturday, January 10, 2009

The foulest fight from hospitals and mosques

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 9, 2009, by David Horovitz:

Hamas shows indifference to any 'rules' of war. And reportage has failed to keep pace with the Islamists' innovation.

Amid all the international criticism of Israel's fighting tactics in Gaza these past few days, from the gentle to the hysterical, from the supercilious chiding about disproportionate response to the vicious Nazi comparisons, one prominent aspect has curiously escaped marked comment.
Israel is bombing mosques in Gaza. Six of them and counting ...this unprecedented assault on Islamic places of worship has passed without particular hysteria.

... the repeated direction of Jewish fire-power into Islam's places of worship, one might have assumed, would inflame the Arab world and its supporters into an orgy of anti-Israel fury.
As of this writing, that hasn't happened ...because the Islamists know they've been found out.

... Israel's declaration that it is firing on them because they are hubs of Hamas terrorism has met with no emphatic denials, no aggrieved assertions from Hamas clerics that their buildings are innocent places of humble worship, no pleas to the international community to enter the buildings and document their purity.

...the mosques that have been struck, long known as centers of Islamist indoctrination and vicious anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish incitement, are being used as weapons stores, command centers, as cover for networks of tunnels - in short, Hamas military positions. Again, there has been no frenzied rush by Gaza's clerics to dispute this devastating accusation. of those targeted was the entry point to a whole series of tunnels, he said. Another was a storehouse for Grad missiles fired into Israel. (On Wednesday, the IDF released footage of a rocket being launched into Israel from immediately adjacent to the wall of a mosque.) "When you see, day after day, people going back into a mosque for their rocket supplies," the official said, "you have to act."

Along with the absent protestations of innocence, however, there is also a regrettable absence of internal Islamic condemnation of the abuse by Hamas of its holy places....

...The leaders' silence only bolsters the perception of Islam as a religion inexorably being overwhelmed by violent extremists, with its moderates intimidated into silence. The tacit complicity of the worshipers - some of whom have lost their lives in recent days when the IAF struck, even though attacks were timed to avoid prayer services - underlines the extent of support and tolerance for Hamas's brand of Islam in Gaza. No surprise there; some two-thirds of Gazans chose to vote for Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections.

THE DESECRATION of the mosques is only one expression of Hamas's egregious indifference to any hitherto accepted "rules" of war.

Civilians are supposed to be off limits. So too, by extension, homes, schools and places of worship. Yet Hamas stores its ammunition and manufacturers its weaponry in precisely such places....

..Hamas has for years been diverting Israeli electricity supplies to the Strip for weapons manufacture. This week, it cried humanitarian disaster even as it commandeered some of the food, fuel and medical supplies flowing into Gaza and blocked others.

Hamas gunmen, even more cynical than their Hizbullah counterparts, are fighting out of uniform - they look like innocent civilians, deserving of protection, until they pull out guns or rush at IDF soldiers with suicide-bomber belts. Security officials say some are maintaining a years-long practice of taking children with them when they prepare missile attacks into Israel, confident that the IDF won't touch them. Sometimes, the officials say, they have children with them when they confront soldiers at close quarters, as well.

...HAMAS EXPLOITATION of civilian suffering reaches its apogee when it comes to the hospitals.

Earlier this week, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin briefed ministers to the effect that part of the Hamas leadership was operating from a bunker constructed under Gaza City's main Shifa Hospital. There have been reports of sightings in the hospital wards, and of the commandeering of ambulances....

Friday, January 09, 2009

Gaza op to continue, UNSC resolution not practical

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Jan. 9, 2009, by Herb Keinon, AP and staff:

Despite the UN Security Council resolution calling for a Gaza cease-fire, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Friday afternoon that the IDF operation in the Strip would continue.

"Israel has never agreed to external forces determining its right to defend its citizens," Olmert said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office following the Security Cabinet discussion on the UNSC resolution.

"The IDF will continue to work to defend Israeli citizens and will carry out all the objectives it was given in the operation," he continued.

Olmert said that the rocket fire from Gaza Friday morning "only proves that the UN resolution is not practical and will not be honored by the murderous Palestinian organizations."
Earlier on Friday, Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni convened for a preliminary consultation on the UNSC Gaza truce resolution ahead of the Security Cabinet meeting.

Livni also released a statement on Friday morning regarding the resolution in which she stressed Israel's independence in defining its goals.

"Israel's past, present and future actions are based solely on its considerations, the security of Israel's residents and its right to self-defense," she said.

Meanwhile, speaking on Army Radio, Trade, Industry and Labor Minister Eli Yishai ... blasted the UNSC resolution which, according to Yishai, supported Hamas terror.

"The world is acting as a Hamas lobbyist [but] will understand, despite the UNSC resolution, that we must act with all our force to achieve our goals, to bring quiet to the South," said Yishai....

...Osama Hamdan, a Hamas envoy to Lebanon, also rejected the UNSC call for a cease-fire, telling the al-Arabiya satellite channel that the group "is not interested in it because it does not meet the demands of the movement."

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the UN failed to consider the interests of the Palestinian people. "This resolution doesn't mean that the war is over," he told the al-Jazeera satellite television network. "We call on the Palestinian fighters to mobilize and be ready to face the offensive, and we urge the Arab masses to carry on with their angry protests."

The cease-fire game


Every political leader and diplomat wants to be seen as the key actor, or at least a major player, in the cease-fire game. The appearance of peacemaking suggests international power and prestige, and is accompanied by meetings in exotic settings, providing excellent photo-opportunities and constant press coverage.

Politicians thrive on the process, and politically correct talk about ending the "humanitarian suffering of Palestinians" gains them a major boost.

As a result, the field has become more crowded, including Turkey, Russia, numerous Europeans, the UN Secretary General, Qatar, Egypt and - far more quietly - the outgoing Bush administration in the US.

But most of these mediators have little to offer in terms of substance. Indeed, the gap between the public relations and the detailed negotiations towards a sustainable end to conflict is huge. In many cases, beyond the photos and press statements, these virtual mediators do not have the knowledge or resources required for this complex process.

This is the case for the cease-fire initiatives of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, both of whom gain primarily from the media attention. Israel is playing along with the facade in part to enhance the prestige of these leaders, and in part because the appearance of a readiness to negotiate a cease-fire softens the hostile media image, particularly in Europe.

In reality, a stable cease-fire requires an external actor that has the depth, power and political will to insure that the terms are implemented - otherwise, the violence will resume and escalate. In the failed Oslo process, when incitement and large scale Palestinian terror resumed, Norway was not willing to take any of the risks or pay any of the costs in confronting Arafat.

In Gaza, for the three years following the Israeli disengagement, Egypt has failed to stop Hamas from acquiring weapons, and numerous summits in Cairo involving top Hamas leaders have had no visible impact. Whether this is due to the weakness of the regime or ambivalence regarding the relationship with Israel is unclear, but to be taken seriously, Egypt must clearly demonstrate that it can provide more than rhetoric.

Europe in general, and France in particular, are in a similar position, as shown by the failure in implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Lebanon war. Speeches and the expanded international force have not prevented Hizbullah from rebuilding and increasing its arsenal of rockets, and its ability to use them. (Skeptics dismiss UNIFIL's recent 'discovery' of some rockets near the Israeli border as a ploy - the four rockets launched on Thursday were not found in advance.)

Similarly, the experiment involving European monitors at the Rafah crossing based on the 2005 agreement ended quickly when the monitors fled at the sight of the first Hamas gunmen. Europeans give advice generously, but do not have the ability or will to ensure Israeli security when the agreements they broker are violated.

As a result, America remains the indispensable country, and the only potential power that can give credibility to a stable and serious cease-fire agreement. But America is overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and involvement in Gaza would be limited to technical advisers on detecting and blowing up the tunnels under the Philadelphi corridor used to smuggle missiles.
Thus, as in many previous conflicts, the stability of the cease-fire will be largely determined by Israeli military achievements and the decisions made by the political leadership. A premature end will simply serve as the starting point for the next and expanded round of this war.

*Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg Chairs the Political Studies Department at Bar Ilan University and is Executive Director of NGO Monitor.

Security Council approves truce resolution; US abstains

From Ynet News, 1/9/09, by Yitzhak Benhorin and AFP:

Is Gaza operation nearing its end? UN Security Council approves Gaza ceasefire resolution by 14-0 vote; US abstains but refrains from using its veto power. Israeli efforts to postpone vote by 24 hours fail

WASHINGTON – UN calls for end to fighting: The United Nations Security Council approved the Gaza Strip ceasefire resolution by a 14-0 vote. The United States abstained in the vote.

The US abstained from voting because it wanted to see the outcome of Egyptian mediation efforts first, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. Despite the abstention, Rice said the United States supported the contents of the resolution.

"The United States thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation efforts in order to see what this resolution might have been supporting," she said. Earlier, Rice stressed that IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held by Hamas and must be released.

Resolution 1860 calls for an immediate end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas. The Security Council discussed the ceasefire proposal for more than four hours before bringing it up for a vote.

The UN resolution stressed the urgent need for an immediate and stable truce that would lead to the withdrawal of IDF forces from Gaza. However, the text only requires Israel to fully withdraw from the Strip after a complete ceasefire goes into effect in the area.

Israel attempted to postpone the vote by 24 hours but failed. Israeli official were hoping that a delay would enable the IDF to secure more achievements in Gaza. Earlier in the evening, Western and Arab foreign ministers agreed on a compromise draft resolution calling for an immediate Gaza ceasefire .

4 days of intensive bargaining
The agreement was announced after four days of intensive bargaining involving British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and several Arab foreign ministers as well as Arab League chief Amr Mussa.

Miliband, in agreement with his US and French counterparts, early Thursday presented a new draft resolution to the Arab delegation which had earlier produced its own revised draft demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Arab ministers were under public pressure to secure an immediate end to Israel's 13-day military operation in Gaza that has killed more than 760 Palestinians.

Arab and Western ministers held several frantic rounds of bargaining that apparently produced the compromise deal.

In a key concession to the Arabs, a text circulated by the British delegation earlier Thursday "calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire" in Gaza and "for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."

An earlier version merely "stressed the need" for an immediate ceasefire.

The latest British draft available also "condemns all acts of hostilities and terror directed against civilians" and for "the lifting of the Israeli blockade" of Gaza.

Prayer for Zahal

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Modus Operandi

Mortars fired from an UNWRA school by terrorists dressed as civilians, who flee after firing:

Israel and the Palestinians, a new(?) Strategy??

This is from a provocative paper (well worth a reading) emailed to me today, by Yuval Brandstetter MD [excerpts only - follow the link for the full paper]:

Reply to Moshe (Bogey) Yaalon

[Refer to my
previous posting and the full Ya'alon paper for background]

There is no doubt Moshe "Bogey" Ya'alon, the former IDF Chief of Staff, gives the impression of being the true bogey-man of both the Palestinians and the Israeli Appeasement cohorts who serve them. Arising from the most political of Israeli establishments, the Army, he undercuts, in fact detonates, the very foundations of that establishment by reiterating the obvious: If the train you choose to board goes to hell, then running in the corridor in the opposite direction is useless. The train he refers to is the Peace train that left Oslo Station, 1993. The question is, does Moshe Bogey Ya'alon offer us a different train, one headed on tracks founded on reason, or is he offering us another ride to hell on a slightly refurbished train.

The very choice of title suggests the train Bogey offers is no better than the train he eschews. "Israel and the Palestinians" suggests an equilibrium. Two entities of comparable weight, importance, meaning, rights, responsibilities, humanity, leadership, economy and sovereignty. By equalizing those entities Bogey commits the very sin that led to the Oslo train-wreck. Legitimizing a hoax.

Bogey then goes ahead to solidify the sin, by glorifying the various ethnicities of mostly Muslim nomads who invaded the Land of Israel with the title of Nation. Thus, two Nations of equal claim to the Land. This ludicrous notion is the basis of the whole Compromise-and-Partition framework which underpinned Rogers and Oslo and Barack. The Sin of Parity is the rock-solid foundation for the whole Appeasement-till-death-do-us-part railway to hell. Bogey appears to be unable to part from that train, so instead he back-tracks in the corridor while issuing the clarion call of a New Paradigm....

....Equating the peace of the "Palestinian People" with that of the Jewish State is vastly incompatible with reality. To quote Rabin himself, before his melt-down: A Palestinian State can only be established upon the ruins of the Jewish State. The risk inherent to those Armed Arabs in PA garb envisioned by Bogey as policemen is not "calculated", probability. It is a certainty. At some point, at some time, every armed Arab will train his weapon at the Jew, and fire, because in his eyes, in his childhood training, in his mosque, with his breast milk, Jewish sovereign existence in an insufferable blasphemy.

Most improbable is Bogey's notion of implanting a "democratic spirit" in the Arab society. An insufferably arrogant notion that a Jew, however anointed, will take a 1300 year tradition of conquest and god-sanctioned imperialism and quench it within the bosom of 300 million Arabs to suit his own need to live in peace in Liliput. Even if this truly stupendous conversion is achieved in the 4.5 million Arabs now residing in the West Bank (that is, everything west of the Jordan and east of the Suez Canal) the rest of the Arab world, the Brotherhood, the Wahhabis, Al-Ka'ida, the Shi'a, will simply not allow this conversion to persist.

From which mine-field does Bogey mine the idea that "The Palestinian collective enjoys the cultural mindset necessary for the establishment of a true democracy"? Yes, it’s the New Middle East all over again, a pipe-dream of monumental proportions, necessitating a rude wake-up to the sound of the staccato Kalashnikov mowing down the Yeshiva kids in the hands of the driver employed by the institution, a lawful resident of Jerusalem, but a Jihadi nevertheless.

As for a revision of Palestinian education, who does Bogey think he is? Salah-a-din? He is a Kaffir, a Dhimmi, a despised Jew, who is he to dictate a change of education to a blood-thirsty loosely-affiliated bunch of tribes whose only underpinning is a negation of Sovereign Israel?

But the most grievous affront to common sense and two thousand years of pining for Zion Bogey commits is relinquishing his ancestral inheritance to the invaders. Where does Bogey think this new and improved democratic freedom-loving multu-culti tolerant middle-class-driven prosperity-oriented Palestinian Authority/State will be established? Lo-and-behold, it right in our midst, in our heart-land. Not in Keturah, or Groffit, out-there in the Syrian-African rift, that is "Israel Proper" well within our "borders". It will be right here, inside our national chest and belly and around our brain!!. Where does Bogey mine the temerity to give away our national cultural historical inheritance to a bunch of foreign invaders who plagiarize a name given to the Land of Israel by one of its prolific destroyers? Beats me, I really do not know. I merely know he is one hundred percent wrong, per his own admission.

So let us re-frame a new Paradigm. There is the Land of Israel. There is no Palestine. There is a People of Israel, there is no Palestinian people. There is no parity of two nations sharing a Land. There is but one legal, national cultural, economic, military and lawful sovereignty in the Land of Israel: The Jewish State.

Arabs who reside in the Land of Israel may enjoy civil liberties, but no National rights. An armed Arab is an anathema to Jewish sovereignty, he/she is either disarmed, or repatriated, or treated as armed and dangerous. There is no Palestinian Economy, there are individual Arabs who are residents of the Land, making a living in a lawful manner. Arab policemen are limited in authority to Arab-majority municipalities, with no authority to use deadly force, calling on the Jewish State to provide terror-control or any other application of such force. The notion of the development of a national entity or authority other than the Jewish State in the Land of Israel to be strictly curtailed, and incur repatriation. Now that is a truly new paradigm, as old as the San Remo treaty to which Britain and all Western nations are signatories, which stated all of the above, and never mentioned an Arab, far less a Palestinian entity.

Israel's reluctant allies

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Jan. 6, 2009, by Douglas Bloomfield:

...Moderate, pro-Western Arab leaders are praying five times a day for Israel to deal Hamas a serious setback, if not a fatal blow, because they see it as a proxy of Iran, which they consider the real threat to their regimes. They haven't the courage to say so publicly, but through the fog of denunciations, the message comes through.

... behind the angry denunciations, these ...Arab leaders - Kings Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas - are hoping for Israeli success ...Israel is fighting their war for them, sacrificing its lives and expending its treasure to strike a blow at their common enemy, Iran.

HAMAS IN Gaza, like Hizbullah in Lebanon, is the stalking horse for Iran. Egypt had brokered the truce that Hamas ended last month with rockets, reportedly in the hopes of winning a new deal on more favorable terms. Israel's counter-offer was delivered by its air force, armor and infantry.
Egyptian and other moderate Arab leaders blamed Hamas for provoking the response, but being the courageous chaps they aren't, they couched it in bitter denunciations of Israel for having the audacity to defend itself, even if was doing a service for those same Arab autocrats.

Mubarak ... accused Israel of "savage aggression" while noting he had "warned [Hamas] repeatedly that rejecting the truce" would produce these results.

Jordan, which has the most to lose if Hamas succeeds in taking the West Bank as well as Gaza, said if the fighting continues it might "reevaluate" its relations with Israel.

Saudi Arabia, a principle financial backer of Hamas, put the blame on Hamas when it suggested none of this would have happened had the terror group maintained the cease-fire.

The Saudis and Egyptians blocked Syrian-led calls for an immediate Arab League emergency summit to deal with the crisis; it took five days just to convene a ministerial meeting.

The principle beneficiary of any Israeli success - besides those living in the South - would be Abbas, whose life isn't worth a plugged dinar if he dares go to Gaza. Knowing a major goal of the action is to restore his power in Gaza didn't discourage him from denouncing it as "brutal aggression" and "criminal."

From this tendency of Arab leaders to speak out of both sides of their mouths, one might get the impression that they suffer from a collective case of schizophrenia, but it's actually fear mixed with hypocrisy.

NONE OF these dictators is a candidate for the next edition of Profiles in Courage. They are scared of the influence of the militant Islamists and the popularity of the Palestinian cause on the Arab street. Iran and its allies have focused on creating animosity to the entrenched and repressive Sunni regimes which, in the age of satellites and the Internet, can no longer turn public emotions on and off like a water tap.

That's why they are praying so hard for an Israeli victory.

A pro-Hizbullah newspaper said, "Israel would be satisfied with a compromise, but the Arab regimes want to finish Hamas completely." It's probably right. Israeli leaders define victory as a weakened and humbled Hamas that will halt all the attacks, honor a cease-fire and accept international supervision. Hamas, on the other hand, will declare a great victory simply if its leadership is still breathing.

Arab leaders know this is a proxy war with Iran, and Israel is on their side. Some day they may even find the courage to say so publicly....

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Look what we're up against...

Israel acts because the world won't defend it

A brilliantly-expressed point, repeated here in full, from The Times (UK), January 7, 2009, by Daniel Finkelstein:

The scenes from Gaza are heartbreaking. But the whole conflict could be avoided if the Palestinians said one small thing.

It was strictly forbidden to have a notebook in Belsen, but my Aunt Ruth had one anyway. Just a little pocket diary - an appointment book with one of those tiny pencils. And in it, in the autumn of 1944, she noted that Anne Frank and Anne's sister, Ruth's schoolfriend Margot, had arrived in the concentration camp.

My mother and my aunt had been watching through the camp wire when the Franks arrived. Mum remembers it well, because they had been excited to spot girls they knew from the old days in Amsterdam. They had played in the same streets, been to the same schools and Ruth and Margot attended Hebrew classes together. The pair had once been pressed into service to act as bridesmaids, when a secretive Jewish wedding had taken place at the synagogue during their lesson time.

But Ruth and Margot did not grow up together. Because while Ruth and my mother lived, Margot and Anne never left Belsen. They died of typhus.

I am telling you this story because I want you to understand Israel. Not to agree with all it does, not to keep quiet when you want to protest against its actions, not to side with it always, merely to understand Israel.

There are two things about the tale that help to provide insight. The first is that all these things, the gas chambers, the concentration camps, the attempt to wipe Jews from the face of the Earth, they aren't ancient history, and they aren't fable. They happened to real people and they happened in our lifetime. Anne and Margot Frank were just children to my aunt and my mother; they weren't icons, or symbols of anything.

The second is that world opinion weeps now for Anne Frank. But world opinion did not save her.
The origin of the state of Israel is not religion or nationalism, it is the experience of oppression and murder, the fear of total annihilation and the bitter conclusion that world opinion could not be relied upon to protect the Jews.

Israel was the idea of a journalist. Theodor Herzl was the Paris correspondent of the Neue Freie Presse when he witnessed anti-Semitic rioting against the Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus who had been falsely accused of espionage. Herzl was then among the small corps of journalists who in 1895 witnessed the famous ceremony of disgrace in which Dreyfus was stripped of his epaulettes.

The experience led Herzl to abandon his belief in assimilation. He became convinced that Jews would only be safe if they had their own national home. Herzl became the first leader of modern Zionism. For many years many Jews resisted Herzl's conclusion. My grandfather was among them. But the experience of Jews all over the world in the first half of the 20th century - not just in Europe but in the Middle East too - rather bore out Herzl.

So when Israel is urged to respect world opinion and put its faith in the international community the point is rather being missed. The very idea of Israel is a rejection of this option. Israel only exists because Jews do not feel safe as the wards of world opinion. Zionism, that word that is so abused, so reviled, is founded on a determination that, at the end of the day, somehow the Jews will defend themselves and their fellow Jews from destruction. If world opinion was enough, there would be no Israel.

The poverty and the death and the despair among the Palestinians in Gaza moves me to tears. How can it not? Who can see pictures of children in a war zone or a slum street and not be angry and bewildered and driven to protest? And what is so appalling is that it is so unnecessary. For there can be peace and prosperity at the smallest of prices. The Palestinians need only say that they will allow Israel to exist in peace. They need only say this tiny thing, and mean it, and there is pretty much nothing they cannot have.

Yet they will not say it. And they will not mean it. For they do not want the Jews. Again and again - again and again - the Palestinians have been offered a nation state in a divided Palestine. And again and again they have turned the offer down, for it has always been more important to drive out the Jews than to have a Palestinian state. It is difficult sometimes to avoid the feeling that Hamas and Hezbollah don't want to kill Jews because they hate Israel. They hate Israel because they want to kill Jews.

There cannot be peace until this changes. For Israel will not rely on airy guarantees and international gestures to defend it. At its very core, it will not. It will lay down its arms when the Jews are safe, but it will not do it until they are.

And if you reflect on it, doesn't recent experience bear this out? Just as Herzl was borne out? A year or so back I met a teacher while I was on holiday and fell to talking with him about Israel. He was a nice man and all he wanted was for fighting to stop and to end the suffering of children. And he had a question for me.

Why, he asked, doesn't Israel offer to give back the West Bank and Gaza? Why doesn't it just let the Palestinians have a state there? If the Palestinians turned it down, he said, then at least liberal opinion would be on Israel's side and would rally to its assistance.

So I patiently explained to this kind, good man that Israel had, at Camp David in 2000, made precisely this offer and that it had been rejected out of hand by Yassir Arafat, not even used as the basis for negotiation. I told him that Israel was no longer in Gaza, having withdrawn unilaterally and taken the settlers with it. The Palestinians had greeted this movement with suicide bombs and rockets. Yet the teacher, with all his compassion, wasn't even aware of all this. And liberal opinion? Sad to relate, my new friend's faith in it was misplaced. It has turned strongly against Israel.

Israel has made many mistakes. It has acted too aggressively on some occasions, has been too defensive on others. The country hasn't always respected the human rights of its enemies as it should have done. What nation under such a threat would have avoided all errors?

But you know what? As Iran gets a nuclear weapon and so the potential for another Holocaust against the Jews and world opinion does nothing, I am not so sure that the errors of world opinion are so much to be preferred to the errors of Israel.

Chabad House was the prime target

From NDA (Mumbai), Monday, January 05, 2009 by Somendra Sharma:

Think 26/11, and images of the carnage at the Taj come to mind. But the terrorists themselves were in no doubt that Nariman [Chabad] House was the prime focus. For this was the place which housed a Jewish centre, and the fanatics from Pakistan were clear that they wanted to send a message to the world from there.

The Mumbai crime branch, which is investigating the terror attacks, has found that the terrorists’ handlers in Pakistan were clear this operation should not fail under any circumstances. The rest of the operations — at the Taj, Oberoi and Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus — were intended to amplify the effect.

A senior police official, told DNA on condition of anonymity, that the interrogation of Mohammed Amir Iman Ajmal (aka Kasab) revealed as much. ... When asked during interrogation why Nariman House was specifically targetted, Ajmal reportedly told the police they wanted to sent a message to Jews across the world by attacking the ultra orthodox synagogue...

...Another aspect which indicates that the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) did not want the Nariman House operation to fail was Fahim Ansari’s revelation to the crime branch. Ansari, who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the bomb blasts at a CRPF camp in Lucknow in January last year, told the police that Nariman House was also surveyed by him last year. Interestingly, Ansari did not reveal this detail when he was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police in February last year. “Ansari told us that he did not divulge this information earlier because it would have jeopardised the most important operation of the LeT. He had also been warned by the LeT that Nariman House was their most secret operation and must not be compromised at any cost,” the officer said.

In Gaza, the real enemy is Iran

From the Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2009, by Yossi Klein Halevi* and Michael B. Oren** [an excellent analysis, repeated here in full]:

Israeli attacks must not stop until Iran's proxy, Hamas, is defeated.

Reporting from Jerusalem — The images from the fighting in Gaza are harrowing but ultimately deceptive. They portray a mighty invading army, one equipped with F-16 jets that have bombed a civilian population defended by a few thousand fighters armed with primitive rockets. But widen the lens and the true nature of this conflict emerges.

Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, is a proxy for the real enemy Israel is confronting: Iran. And Israel's current operation against Hamas represents a unique chance to deal a strategic blow to Iranian expansionism.

Until now, the Iranian revolution has appeared unstoppable. The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s ended with Iranian troops occupying Iraqi territory. Iranian influence then spread to Saudi Arabia's heavily Shiite and oil-rich Eastern province, and to Lebanon through Hezbollah. Since the fall of their long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein, Iranians have deeply infiltrated Iraq. Syria has been drawn into Iran's sphere, and even the Sunni sheikdoms of the gulf now defer to Iran, dispatching foreign ministers to Tehran and defying international sanctions against it.

Iran has co-opted Hamas, a Sunni organization closely linked to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a jihad against the Jewish state. But Iran's boldest achievement has been to thwart world pressure and approach the nuclear threshold. Once fortified with nuclear weapons, Iranian hegemony in the Middle East would be complete.

All of which helps explain the public statements from moderate Arab leaders, such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, who have blamed the end of the tenuous Israel-Hamas cease-fire on Hamas. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has even called on the Arab world to stop using the U.N. as a forum for blaming Israel alone for the fighting, surely a first. Those leaders understand what many in the West have yet to grasp: The Middle East conflict is no longer just about creating a Palestinian state but about preventing the region's takeover by radical Islam. Indeed, Palestinian statehood is impossible without neutralizing the extremists who oppose any negotiated solution.

If Israel successfully overthrows Hamas in Gaza, it would strengthen anti-Iranian forces throughout the Mideast and signal the region that Iranian momentum can be reversed. The Israeli military operation could begin the process that topples a terrorist regime that seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007 and has fired thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israeli neighborhoods. And whether or not Hamas is ultimately overthrown, Israel can achieve substantial goals.

The first is an absolute cease-fire. Previous cease-fires allowed Hamas to launch two or three rockets a week into Israel and to smuggle weapons into Gaza through tunnels. To obtain a cease-fire now, the international community should recognize Israel's right to respond to any aggression over its international border and monitor the closure of Hamas' weapons-smuggling tunnels. Above all, the goal is to ensure that Hamas is unable to proclaim victory and thereby enhance Iranian prestige in the Arab world. Yet even those limited goals are far from guaranteed.

An earlier opportunity to check Iran -- during Israel's war against Hezbollah in 2006 -- was squandered through a combination of Israeli incompetence and international pressure. Hezbollah manipulated the Western media by grossly inflating the number of civilian casualties and even "recycling" corpses from one bombed site to another.

The international community responded by imposing a cease-fire before Israel could achieve its goals and installing a peacekeeping force that has since allowed Hezbollah to more than double its prewar arsenal. Though the Israeli army killed a quarter of Hezbollah's troops and destroyed its headquarters, Israel was widely perceived as the loser. The winner was Iran.

Israel learned the bitter lesson of Lebanon. For the last two years, the Israeli army has gone back to basics, rigorously training and restoring its fighting spirit. Israeli leaders drew on that spirit to attack Hamas bases in one of the most impressive airstrikes since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Yet the question remains whether the international community has learned its Lebanon lesson, or will once again allow the jihadists to win. Hamas is attempting to portray the Israeli invasion as a war against the Palestinian people. Television viewers are being presented with heartbreaking images of dead and injured children and supposedly indiscriminate devastation. Palestinian doctors claim that Israel has blocked the supply of vital medicines, and humanitarian organizations warn of imminent starvation.

In fact, many of those claims are exaggerated.Though civilians have, tragically, been hurt, about three-quarters of the 400 Palestinians killed so far have been gunmen -- an impressive achievement given that Hamas fires rockets from apartments, mosques and schools and uses hospitals as hide-outs.Israel has recently allowed nearly 200 truckloads of food and medicine to enter Gaza, even under shellfire. It is in Israel's urgent interest to minimize civilian suffering and forestall international criticism.

For that same reason, Hamas welcomes the suffering of Palestinian civilians. According to a BBC report on Dec. 30, dozens of ambulances were dispatched by Egypt to its border with Gaza, only to remain empty because, according to Egyptian authorities, Hamas wasn't allowing wounded Palestinians to leave.

The international community must not be duped again.

If Hamas is successful in manipulating world opinion into the imposition of a premature cease-fire, it will proclaim victory and continue to stockpile long-range missiles for the next round of fighting. That would mean another triumph for Iran.

No less crucially, the international community must not allow the Gaza crisis to divert its attention from the imminent -- and ultimate -- threat of a nuclear Iran. Intelligence sources now measure that threat in months rather than years.

President-elect Barack Obama has declared his intention to confront Iran through diplomacy. Ideally, that process should begin in the aftermath of an Iranian defeat. If Israel is allowed to achieve its goals in Gaza, the Obama administration will be better poised to achieve its goals in Iran.

*Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

**Michael B. Oren is a distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center and a professor at the foreign service school of Georgetown University.

Hamas "medical care"

This report from The New York Times, December 30, 2008, by ETHAN BRONNER and TAGHREED EL-KHODARY received very little coverage:

...Thousands of Israelis huddled in shelters as the long-range rockets hit streets or open areas late in the night, the most serious display of Hamas’s arsenal since the Israeli assault began.

...At Shifa Hospital in Gaza, the director, Dr. Hussein Ashour, said that keeping his patients alive from their wounds was an enormous challenge. He said there were some 1,500 wounded people distributed among Gaza’s nine hospitals with far too few intensive care units, equipped ambulances and other vital equipment.

On Monday, Dr. Ashour was not the only official in charge. Armed Hamas militants in civilian clothes roamed the halls. Asked their function, they said it was to provide security. But there was internal bloodletting under way.

In the fourth-floor orthopedic section, a woman in her late 20s asked a militant to let her see Saleh Hajoj, her 32-year-old husband. She was turned away and left the hospital. Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Hajoj was carried out by young men pretending to transfer him to another ward. As he lay on the stretcher, he was shot in the left side of the head.

Mr. Hajoj, like five others killed at the hospital this way in 24 hours, was accused of collaboration with Israel. He had been in the central prison awaiting trial by Hamas judges; when Israel destroyed the prison on Sunday he and the others were transferred to the hospital. But their trials were short-circuited.

A crowd at the hospital showed no mercy after the shooting, which was widely observed. A man in his 30s mocked a woman expressing horror at the scene...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Jewish children 'will be murdered'

From, Agence France-Presse, January 06, 2009:

A HAMAS leader has warned that Islamists would kill Jewish children anywhere in the world in revenge for Israel's devastating assault.

Mahmoud Zahar

“They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine,” Mahmoud Zahar said in a televised broadcast recorded at a secret location. “They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.” Mr Zahar made his first appearance since Israel launched its offensive....

End the cant and hypocrisy

From a Opinion Article by Isi Leibler, January 6, 2009:

Anyone seeking a case study of the forces of good facing evil incarnate would not find a better template than our current confrontation with Hamas. And yet, having for years endured bias and the application of double standards from the amoral international community...much of the global media continues relating to us in a malevolent and hypocritical manner.

In lieu of being commended for defending ourselves against terrorists, we are portrayed as the heartless killers while the barbarians committed to murdering us are depicted as innocent victims.

Self-styled liberals refuse to face the brutal truth that that our Hamas neighbors have created a criminal society based on death and destruction. Like the Nazis, Hamas is committed to destroying the Jewish people and willing to transform its own citizens into martyrs to promote this goal. "A Palestinian who kills one Jew will be rewarded as if he killed 30 million," proclaimed Hamas legislator Fathi Hamad at a press conference. Whereas we grieve over the death of fellow Israelis and innocent Palestinians, Hamas celebrates the murder of both - the first as "apes and pigs," the latter as prized martyrs of Allah whom they gleefully exploit for propaganda purposes.
An independent state of Palestine is not Hamas's primary goal. Its charter unequivocally prioritizes the destruction of the Jewish state and killing as many Jews as possible: "The annihilation of the Jews in Palestine is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine," said Palestinian cleric Muhsen Abu Ita recently on Al Aksa TV. Only last week on Hamas TV, masked women clad in explosive belts and holding rifles vowed to become "martyrs" and blow themselves up among the "apes and pigs." From kindergarten, their children are brainwashed to sanctify their lives by becoming martyrs to the cause of killing the hated Jews.

In our desperate quest for peace, we elected successive governments which tried to achieve "peace in our time" by appeasing these fanatical terrorists - even unilaterally dismantling Jewish settlements which were subsequently transformed into launching pads for intensified missile attacks on our civilians.

During the past year, our government entered into a truce with Hamas despite repeated proclamations by its leaders that they accepted a cease-fire only to regroup and obtain more sophisticated weapons from Iran to be employed at a time of their choosing. Even that "truce" was never honored and Hamas continued targeting Israelis.

...had the IDF, with its enormous firepower, been targeting civilians as the biased media alleges, tens of thousands would have fallen. Besides, in the midst of hostilities, would the truckloads of humanitarian aid to Gaza have been approved?

Most casualties could have been avoided had Hamas not deliberately located its missile launchers, weapons factories and arms caches in densely populated residential areas, schools, mosques, hospitals and homes, cynically utilizing women and children as human shields. Hamas representative Fathi Hamad openly told Al-Aksa TV: "Palestinians formed human shields of women, children, the elderly and the mujahedeen in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It was as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death like you desire life." Not surprisingly, those human rights groups continuously castigating Israel refuse to concede that such behavior would qualify as war crimes under international law.

... the government's failure to respond earlier was unconscionable. It emboldened Hamas terrorists, accustomed the world to accepting that as long as many people were not killed, launching missiles against Israel was "tolerable" and effectively eliminated our deterrent capability.

Moreover it doomed close to a million citizens in the South to becoming refugees in their own land as they took refuge from missile attacks which, by any benchmark, were acts of war.

Now, in a rare display of unity so far including even the most dovish Knesset parties, Israelis have affirmed that the outcome of this conflict must ensure that their citizens will never again be targeted by missiles. An imposed unilateral cease-fire with Hamas that fails to implement this would be akin to the US and its allies consummating an unconditional truce with a victorious Taliban in Afghanistan.

That is why international public opinion is so important. If the victims who defend themselves by killing Hamas terrorists and the perpetrators who target and kill innocent civilians are viewed as morally equivalent, that would represent a clear victory for the global jihadists.

...Hamas the controlling authority in Gaza and determines what happens. Were it to curtail missile attacks and come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state, a cease-fire would instantaneously come into effect. Until then, it is responsible for every single Palestinian casualty.

...Today, as never before, we need the international community to act in a responsible manner. We therefore appeal to our friends and people of goodwill everywhere. Raise your voices now and support our struggle to overcome terrorism. Hamas is not merely another brand of Taliban. It is also the surrogate of Iran. If Western governments appease this criminal organization at the expense of the security of Israel, they strengthen the forces of global jihad, signal moderate Muslims that it is futile to resist the fanatics and expose citizens in their own capitals to increased bombing attacks.

Only the end of Hamas can bring peace to Gaza

From The Ottawa Citizen, January 5, 2009, by David Warren [my own emphasis added - SL]:

... war is hell. ...Yes, it is unfortunate that wars occur ... that freedom must be purchased with blood. ...

What has happened in Gaza is horrible. It is not even necessary to look at the sentimentalized atrocity pictures, which are the specialty of Gaza's freelance photographers, to understand how horrible. Of course we condemn war, and do so most effectively through literature and art. But it is trite to condemn war without qualification ... trite moral posturing is itself an evil.

... The Israeli government is unambiguously justified in taking whatever measures are necessary to make the rocketing stop. Hamas carries the entire moral responsibility for putting the people of Gaza in harm's way.

But we should not stop at justifying Israeli action. As their allies against a common enemy -- against Islamists who consider the West to be their ultimate target -- we should be offering our help and encouragement for the completion of the stated Israeli task: the complete annihilation of the Hamas organization. For by no other means can peace be obtained across the Gaza frontier.

An organization that persistently declares Israel has no right to exist, and persistently acts upon this premise, cannot be negotiated with. The Israelis have the material means to destroy Hamas, and therefore the moral imperative to do so.

Israel also has the misfortune to be defending herself today in a world that is lost in moral fog. The predictable, asinine resolution from the United Nations ("both sides stop shooting right away") is, alas, representative of public opinion in many Western countries. We are nearly incapable of making hard decisions, let alone sticking to them. We did not cry, "Both sides stop shooting right away," on D-Day. The correct response was, "Onward to Berlin."

My particular fear is that, again, as in 2006 against Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Israelis will succumb to the pressure of international blathering... is wrong to negotiate with such an enemy. It leaves him to fight another day, and then another. It thus condemns people on both sides to additional death and destruction down the road, while depriving them of the peace and order that can come only from a definitive resolution of the conflict. Moreover, it plays into the hands of an enemy whose strategic purpose is to wear Israel down.

The Western doctrine of just war, echoed in the articles of international law, moreover demands that the Israelis finish what they've started. It doesn't say "never fight," as the ignorant suppose. On the contrary, it says if you must fight, be sure to win; that victory should be achieved as promptly and humanely as possible, while observing the various formal conventions. To those who refuse to observe the conventions, it offers no quarter. Those who, for instance, fire rockets at civilian targets while themselves masquerading as non-combatants are entitled to no consideration, as prisoners of war or otherwise. Those who use civilian "shields" are responsible for their fate.

These principles are humanitarian. You don't "attrit" a cancer, then await its regrowth: you root out every speck of it. In the long run, the Germans were better off for the destruction of Nazism; and the Palestinians would be, for the destruction of Hamas. If they don't know this now, they will know it later. For those who cannot live peacefully with their neighbours must be stripped of the power to disturb them. The compulsion to live peacefully can then lead towards the habit of living peacefully.

The sad truth is that these precepts are not well understood in Gaza at present. They must therefore be inculcated. Those who truly want peace, will pray for an unconditional Hamas surrender.

Israel's Tragic Gaza Dilemma

From an OPINION in The Wall Street Journal, JANUARY 4, 2009, by MAX BOOT, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author:

A modern democracy can't be as ruthless in counterinsurgency as Russia or Algeria.

There is little doubt that Israel is morally justified in its offensive against Hamas. No nation can sit by and allow its territory to be rocketed with impunity. .... But seems highly unlikely that they will be able to decisively defeat the terrorist organization on their southern border.

Achieving total victory would require waging war in the way that America fought Germany and Japan -- all out and on many fronts until the enemy has no more capacity to resist. Then it would have to occupy the ruined land, imposing a peace at gunpoint to ensure that Gaza could never again be a launching point for attacks on Israel.

None of this is beyond the Israelis' military capacity .... They could also impose a peace at gunpoint. ....

Yet the odds are they won't. .... Israel is not Russia -- or Algeria or Burma or Syria or any other state that has taken a scorched-earth approach to counterinsurgency in recent decades. Israel is a liberal democracy in the modern age whose military operations are conducted under the intense scrutiny of lawyers, judges, opposition politicians, reporters and human-rights activists. And those are just its own internal watchdogs. To these must be added the "international community," which monitors Israeli actions with a degree of interest and antipathy reserved for no other state in the world.

For all the accusations of brutality that are routinely flung at Israel's armed forces, their conduct has been exemplary by historical standards. They have shown far less propensity for indiscriminate killing or torture than did European states in the 1950s when confronting insurgencies in such places as Kenya, Cyprus, Vietnam and Algeria, where the stakes for them were considerably less. The only comparable example of restraint is the conduct of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States, too, earns world-wide opprobrium for alleged brutality rather than approbation for its humanity.

...The tragedy for Israel is that a strategy of bolstering indigenous allies is not an option in Gaza. Hamas is, for all of the flaws of the electoral process, the choice of the people. No matter how much of a beating it suffers, there is little reason to think that Fatah could or would come in and effectively administer the territory in a way that would safeguard Israel's security. In the current, feverish atmosphere of Palestinian politics, those who would act with restraint toward the "Zionist entity" are branded as "collaborators" and liable to be killed.

That leaves only one option if Israel wants a friendly, or at least nonhostile, administration in Gaza: It would have to provide that governance itself. Before the first intifada broke out in 1987, Israel was able to administer both the Gaza Strip and West Bank at astonishingly low cost. But the intifada effectively made Israelis feel ashamed of themselves and ended their willingness to bear the costs of "occupation." In 2005, Israel evacuated its settlers from the Gaza Strip in no small part to wipe clean its moral slate.

We now know the settlers' departure did not mollify the extremists. It only emboldened them. So the Israeli armed forces are forced to re-enter the Gaza Strip on a mission without a clear exit strategy or even an obvious definition of victory. That is far from ideal, but it may also be unavoidable.

The essential dilemma Israel faces is this: It can't ignore Hamas's attacks, not only because of the damage they inflict, but also because of the terrible precedent they set. Israel has always been a state that is one battle away from destruction, and it cannot allow its enemies to think that it can be attacked with impunity. But at the same time Israel cannot do what it takes to wipe out the enemy, because of the constraints imposed by its own public, which is far less willing than in the past to suffer or inflict bloodletting.

So the Jewish state is forced to fight an unsatisfying war of attrition with Hamas, Hezbollah and other entities bent on its destruction. The current incursions are only one stage of this lengthy struggle. The odds are that once Israeli troops leave, Hamas will rebuild its infrastructure, forcing the Israelis to go back in the future.

This is the definition of a quagmire, yet Israel has no choice but to keep doing what it's doing. Unlike the French in Algeria or the Americans in Vietnam, it cannot simply pack its bags and go home. If Israel is to continue to exist, it will have to continue to wage low-intensity war for a long time to come -- definitely years, probably decades, possibly centuries.

Israelis have to discard Gen. Douglas MacArthur's famous maxim: "War's objective is victory -- not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory." They will have to settle for a substitute because from their standpoint "prolonged indecision" is better than the alternatives -- the annihilation of themselves, which would be unthinkable, or of their enemies, which would be unconscionable.

Gaza/Hamastan, Platform for Iranian Destabilization of the Arab World

From IDC Herzliya, 5/1/09, by Dr. Ely Karmon - ICT Senior Researcher [very brief excerpts only, from an important comprehensive analysis - please follow the link to the full article - SL]: extremist state, allied with Iran, Syria and Hizballah, could emerge on Israel's southern border, with a good chance of taking over the West Bank and affecting the stability of Jordan, Egypt and possibly also the Islamic Movement in Israel.

Historical relations
In the late 1980s, Iran-Hamas relations were only marginal, principally because Iran's interests were in mobilizing Shiites in the Gulf.

... The Tehran regime decided to support the "Palestinian resistance" and establish a high-level committee to unite radical organizations hostile to negotiations with Israel in an Islamic front under Iranian leadership. Iran-Hamas relations were put on a formal basis in October 1992, when a Hamas delegation, led by the then Secretary General Mousa Abu-Marzuq and spokesman Ibrahim Ghawshah, visited Tehran for talks. Iran permitted Hamas to open an office in Tehran and pledged $30 million a year to the organization, and they agreed to have the Revolutionary Guards train thousands of Hamas activists in Iran and in Hizballah camps in Lebanon....

Sabotaging the peace process
The signing of the Declaration of Principles (DoP, known as Oslo I) by Israel and the PLO on September 13, 1993, presented the leadership of Hamas with its most difficult strategic challenge: the choice between faithfulness to ideology, and the need to take pragmatic measures aimed at preventing loss of its hold on Palestinian society. The dilemma was further aggravated by the establishment of the autonomous Palestinian National Authority (PA) and the elections for the Autonomy's Legislative Council on January 20, 1996.

...Violent attacks perpetrated by Islamist activists proved crucial in determining the pace and direction of the Israeli-Palestinian political process. The attacks cultivated doubts among Israelis concerning Palestinians' genuine intentions as well as concerning the PA's ability to control elements opposing the implementation of the agreement, and thus the very ability to advance a solution to the historical conflict....

The second Palestinian intifada
... the so-called “al-Aqsa intifada” of September 2000 was a premeditated violent campaign against Israel tainted by strong religious connotations intended to rally around it not only the Palestinians but also the Muslim world at large. ...With the beginning of the violence in October 2000, the PA liberated all the Hamas and PIJ militants arrested during the previous years, but never put on trial for their terrorist activities against Israeli targets, and they began the long run of escalating the intifada with the suicide bombings.

Since the outbreak of the intifada, Iran holds a central position in granting political, propaganda and morale assistance and also material aid to the Hamas.

The Hamas external leadership, which lost its important Jordanian asset, found in Teheran a vital prop. They were received with respect and honor by all the Iranian leaders, from Khomeini to Rafsanjani, by the President and the Foreign Minister, and were allowed to use the Iranian media for their purposes. Iran is also important from the wider Islamic aspect, having tried to advance the Hamas’ aims at the Islamic Conference, as well as every other possible Islamic forum....

The disengagement from Gaza
....Hamas presented the Israeli disengagement as an affirmation that its strategies for resistance had paid off and had led the Palestinian people to victory and that this could be converted into political power through participation in the legislative elections....Hamas’ electoral victory was immediately followed by a Quartet statement conditioning the recognition by the international community of a Hamas government and continued financial support by Hamas’ meeting three requirements: recognition of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements signed by the PA and the PLO, and renunciation of violence. Hamas was quick to reject all three.

Following the growing conflict between the Hamas government and the Fatah controlled PA establishment, Saudi Arabia acted on two levels: to pacify the escalating fighting between them, which threatened to degenerate into a civil war and spill over to Egypt and Jordan. On February 8, 2007, Saudi leaders brought warring Fatah and Hamas leaders together in Mecca to hammer out an agreement on a unity government that would end the internecine violence and the chaos in the Palestinian territories. However, the Mecca Agreement focused only on establishing Palestinian unity and ignored the peace process because, for the Saudis, the most important issue was to prevent the PA from succumbing to Iranian influence.

The Mecca agreement was a victory at points by Hamas leaders, who did not compromise on any of their ideological and strategic goals in exchange for a unity government that gave them the opportunity to obtain international legitimacy and financial support.

The Hamas – Iran strategic partnership
The 18-year struggle by Hizballah in Lebanon provided a model for what Tehran would like to recreate on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: another Lebanon.

The Hamas victory in the elections was seen as a golden opportunity to enhance Iran’s influence in the region. In mid-April 2006 Iran organized a three-day conference in Tehran which brought together some 600 Palestinian leaders and their supporters from Muslim countries. Hamas’ secretary general Khaled Mashaal declared at the conference that his government would never recognize Israel. On the last day of the conference Iran pledged $50 million in aid to the Hamas government after the US and the EU froze financing.

The price of this support was the escalation campaign against Israel as requested by president Ahmadinejad during his visit to Damascus in late January 2006. He stressed that the jihad of the Hizballah and several Palestinian terrorist organizations, was an important component of a global jihad against the US-led West: "Palestine is the center of the final stages of the battle between Islam and Arrogance."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Iranians that Palestinians would never bow to pressure to recognize Israel and would keep fighting, thanks in part to support from Iran. “We have a strategic depth here in the Islamic Republic of Iran and throughout the Islamic-Arabic world,” he said.

Iran sent over $120 million in 2006 to the Palestinian Authority to offset the shortfall caused by the Western financial blockade on the Hamas-led government.

... The year 2006 witnessed a significant increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence, despite the agreement in December on a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Similarly, intra-Palestinian violence threatened to escalate into civil war in Gaza, despite the continued efforts of Fatah and Hamas to put together a national unity government. Even after the agreement, Hamas forces continued to expand quickly and to get more sophisticated weapons, especially longer range rockets, and training from Iran.

Hamas finally took over Gaza in June 2007 by a military coup. Fatah's armed forces collapsed in the face of a long-planned, well-executed campaign targeting the headquarters and leadership of the PA's security organizations. Fatah’s collapse was largely due to the weakness of their leadership, which failed to mobilize the faction's superior numbers to thwart the assaults. The coup and the horrid violence that accompanied it reveal much about Hamas' politics and long-term objectives.

Hamas began building a military and security force on the example of Hizballah...

Threats of Iranian intervention
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has issued a decree to act against Israel...: "All Palestinian fighters and all believers in the Islamic world .. who dies in this legitimate and sacred defense is a shahid [martyr]." ... over 20,000 Iranian students ...signed up be sent to Gaza if necessary...

...Iran's close cooperation with its Lebanese proxy organization, Hizballah, is the most efficient tool to intervene in the Gaza conflict, if it deems necessary....

Regional implications of Hamas control of Gaza
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit responded to Nasrallah's threats: “They have actually declared war on Egypt….” And when he says “they” he means Iran, Syria, Hizballah, and Hamas.

It should be noted that even before the takeover of Gaza Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed great concern over the increasing strength of Hamas..

...Egypt and Jordan consider that Hamas’ success in gaining control of the PA could not only radicalize the Palestinians and the conflict with Israel but also constitute a dangerous precedent for their own Islamists. At the same time they worry that too much opposition to Hamas could produce instability in the West Bank and Gaza and do not want to be portrayed as adversaries of a democratically elected Palestinian government.

Arab countries appeared deeply divided over how to respond to the latest escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas, with sharply differing comments from foreign ministers at the opening of an emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo on January 1, 2009. Moderate Arabs blamed Palestinian disunity for the crisis and more radical states, some of whom did not attend, urged collective action to defend the Palestinians against Israel. In the most striking comments, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, criticized the Palestinians for their inability to remain united behind President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah - an implicit condemnation of Hamas.

Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, has made similar criticisms, and he has essentially told Arab nations - and Iran - that want Egypt to come to the defense of Hamas to mind their own business. The chairman of the Egyptian parliament's foreign affairs committee openly declared that "Egypt won't tolerate the existence of an Islamic state at its border."The state-controlled Egyptian media have blamed Hamas for refusing to renew the six-month cease-fire with Israel and being the main cause of the current violence, for which it also condemns Israel.

...The real conflict is Iran-Syria against Egypt-Saudi Arabia. Islamists are seeking to conquer the region from Arab nationalists....

The present conflict in Gaza must therefore be understood in its broad regional context.

Israel is fighting not only Hamas, a radical Islamist religious/political movement whose ideological and strategic goal is to destroy the Jewish state in order to build on it a Taliban-style one, but is facing a coalition of radical actors – Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas – which is responsible for the destabilization of the entire Middle East for the last two decades.

This is an axis of destabilization led by the radical Khomeinist regime in Tehran, whose president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad threatens to wipe out Israel from the map of the world but in reality is striving to achieve a hegemonic position in the Middle East and the Gulf as a basis to become "an invincible global power... as soon as it achieves advanced technologies," as he proudly declared in October 2006.

Unfortunately, as a result of the inconclusive results of Israel's Second Lebanon War of July-August 2006 and the impotence of the international community to effectively implement the Security Council resolution 1701, Hizballah has rearmed to the teeth with Iranian and Syrian support and has now an evaluated arsenal of 30,000 to 40,000 missiles, twice the number it possessed in 2006, many of which can hit Israel's main population centers.

The campaign against Hamas is raging only months from the spring 2009 elections in Lebanon and the very real possibility that Hizballah would take control of its government, and in the year during which Iran could attain the nuclear capability.

Hamas is a crucial element for Iran because it is the only Sunni member of the coalition, a faction of the broader Muslim Brotherhood movement (the Sunni Syria is actually led by an Alawi/Shia dictatorship), and represents the Palestinian cause, so dear to the Arabs and Muslims worldwide.

Hamas entrenched and victorious in the Gaza Strip represents a deadly threat to the moderate leadership in the West Bank and affects the stability and possibly the survival of the moderate regimes in Jordan and Egypt, thus playing in the hands of the hegemonic aspirations of Tehran.

It is imperative therefore for Israel to win decisively the present war against Hamas, the first step in order to back off the until now successful Iranian coalition.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Israel's international support is in pretty good shape

From The Jerusalem Post, Jan 4, 2009, by BARRY RUBIN, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center:

It's easy to be misled by elements of Western media and academia that seem to prefer terrorists and radical Islamists to Israel. A diplomatic balance sheet from Israel's standpoint is remarkably good, better than it has been for a very long time.

Of course, there are real problems, disagreements, and specific frictions. I'll come to that in a moment. But first the good news:

• These are the countries with which Israel has great relations: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and also the European Union and NATO. Moreover, there are a long list of ex-Soviet bloc states which understand the difference between a democratic state defending itself and a bunch of ideologically driven, dictatorship-worshipping terrorists. They include the new EU chair, the Czech Republic, and a dozen others, of which Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, can stand as examples. And last but not least most of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
• Countries with which Israel has good relations include China, Russia, and Turkey. See details below.
• Non-Muslim countries with which Israel has bad relations are Colombia, North Korea, Norway, Spain, and Sweden. Perhaps you can come up with a few others. Nominations are open.

OF COURSE, friendly countries have criticisms over settlements, for example, or defining "peace" as Israel not responding to Hamas attacks. Yet in practice, much of this talk is to show these countries have influence and "balanced" policies. Regarding what is important - issues such as normal relations, trade including military-related equipment, basic support, sanctions against extremist enemies - these relationships deliver.

...In France, Nicolas Sarkozy replaced the notably less friendly Jacque Chirac. While Sarkozy's soft policy toward Syria is disappointing, it doesn't conflict with Israeli policy. His recent foray into pushing a poorly conceived ceasefire in Gaza shows impulsive interventionism (France must act as a great power), but unquestionably his is the French government most friendly to Israel in 50 years.

WITH CHINA, Israel has a good bilateral relationship despite that country's arms' sales (reportedly Chinese-made rockets sold to Iran and then given to Hamas have been shot at Israel) and reluctance to support sanctions against Iran. China is motivated by a search for money, a desperate need for oil, and fear that sanctions might be turned against itself some day.

At the same time, though, China, like other countries mentioned above, has broken with the myth that it's impossible to have good relations with both Israel and the Arab world. This was always untrue but changes in the last 20 years - the Cold War's end, the peace process - made the truth especially obvious. Israel's technological wealth, impressive military performance, influence with the United States, and other factors have made it an attractive friend to have.

In addition, growing radical Islamist forces have scared many countries. One could (falsely) romanticize the PLO as a progressive national liberation movement. Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah are a harder sell.

TWO OTHER important Israeli relationships are the most complex. Turkey has an Islamist-rooted government which portrays itself as a center-right party. Its instinct may be anti-Israel but its behavior isn't. There are four reasons for this: friendship with Israel is used to prove the party isn't Islamist, the party has taken in pro-Israel politicians, the mutual benefits of economic links, and the desire of Turkey's military for a strong alliance. Like other countries, Turkey knows that cooperation with Israel is necessary for it to play an important diplomatic role in the region. Turkey's brokering of Israel-Syria negotiations proves it.

Finally, Russia benefits from a balanced policy which allows good relations with Israel, Syria, and Iran simultaneously. Of course, that is a big problem for Israel. Moscow sells weapons to Syria, paid for by Iran, which are given to Hizbullah. Still, constrained by its own wish to maintain good relations with Israel, Russia limits friction by not making certain sales - nuclear and anti-aircraft missiles to Iran - and limiting contacts with Hamas and Hizbullah. The key question is whether Moscow will go too far in tilting toward Teheran and Damascus or maintain the present balance.

WHAT IS the main problem now for Israel in these relations? It isn't that these countries are pressing Israel for concessions to the Palestinian Authority. The real issue is that they are not sufficiently supporting Israel's effort to ensure its security from threats by Hizbullah and Hamas. In Lebanon, the UN-led effort broke its promises to Israel to keep Hizbullah from rebuilding arsenals and returning to the south. This isn't an immediate problem since Hizbullah is currently too busy taking power in Lebanon to attack Israel.

Regarding Gaza, there has been much real support, which counts, coupled with scattered verbal criticism, which doesn't matter. Israel knows these countries won't support a long war or reconquest of the Gaza Strip. But those aren't its objectives. The question is how helpful these countries will be in creating new security arrangements that actually prevent Hamas from attacking Israel even under a declared "ceasefire."

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Israel's diplomatic relationships are far better than is generally realized and the importance of this fact should never be underestimated.

Next stage:'Root canal' for terror

From Ynet News, 4/1/09, by Hanan Greenberg:

After ground forces reach target destinations inside Strip, their main objective is now to search and destroy terror infrastructure, kill gunmen. IDF sees drop in rocket fire after forces seize most areas used to launch rockets...strikes some 30 targets overnight...

...After IDF forces managed to reach their target destinations inside Gaza, soldiers have started searching the area for weapon caches, terrorist infrastructure and terrorists.

The incursion into Gaza, which was launched Saturday evening, has already claimed the life of one soldier, Staff-Sergeant Dvir Emanuelof of the Golani brigade.

Dvir Emanuelof z"l

Some 40 soldiers were wounded in clashes, and over 50 Palestinian gunmen were killed in the first day of the fighting, according to the Israeli army.

The Israel Air Force struck some 30 targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night, including a mosque, a suspected antiaircraft machine gun and several tunnels on the Philadelphi Route. The Navy attacked posts belonging to Hamas' naval force and a bunker where Grad missiles were being stored....
...Military sources said that the clashes in the sector were expected to continue throughout the night and even escalate with dawn.

Decline in rocket fire Defense establishment officials estimated Sunday that the ground incursion has led to a reduction of long-range rocket fire into Israel, and added that should the operation continue as planned, rocket fire at Ashdod, Netivot, Beersheba and Ofakim would be substantially reduced soon.

However, they stressed that Hamas was still capable of targeting these towns.
On Sunday's cabinet meeting, the ministers were informed that 220 of the 300 rockets fired on Israel's south in the last week – 73% - were launched from areas that have been seized by the army in the last 24 hours.

This fact, coupled with the shutting down of a great number of the tunnels used for smuggling weapons and the heavy damages inflicted on Hamas' arms storages, workshops and rocket production facilities, has contributed to the decrease in rocket fire on Israel.

However, security officials believe that the terror group still posses a great number of short-range rockets. It is also possible that Hamas has reduced rocket fire for tactical reasons and will resume the attacks at a later stage of the fighting.

Seeking intelligence, bargaining chips Another objective of the forces is to arrest Hamas operatives in Gaza and bring them for questioning in Israel. This is aimed to serve two purposes: Obtaining new intelligence from the detainees that could be used by the forces on the ground; and using the captives as bargaining chips in future negotiations.

The IDF has set up a facility near the Strip in which captives will be held and interrogated.

The army has also begun preparing for the possibility that the operation will be expanded and reserve units have already started training on Saturday, in the event that they will be needed in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the transferring of humanitarian aid into the Strip is expected to be renewed Monday after being halted during the first day of the ground operation.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Palestinian girl loses family - blames Hamas

Editorials on the Gaza Conflict

From the DAILY ALERT, Friday,January 2, 2009 (prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs):

[follow the embedded links to read the full editorials]

Peace in Gaza Is in the Hands of Hamas - Editorial
The Israel Defense Forces have been condemned around the world for a disproportionate use of force in Gaza, though it must be remembered that 8,000 rockets have been fired at their territory in recent years. Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to London, asked what we would do if our sovereign territory were under daily attack. It is a good question; the answer must be that we would seek to protect our people. As long as Hamas refuses to contemplate a two-state solution, there is little chance of peace. (Telegraph-UK)

Hamas Terrorists Have Only Themselves to Blame for Israeli Retaliation - Editorial
There is terrible guilt to be ascribed in the Israeli raids on Gaza - and it falls squarely and solely on the shoulders of the death-to-Israel fanatics of Hamas. It was rocket-firing, suicide-bombing Hamas that broke a six-month-long truce by raining missiles down on southern Israel, necessitating a stern - and remarkably precise - military response. There is no doubt civilians are among the dead or wounded. And there is guilt for that carnage. It belongs to Hamas, which has woven terrorism into the very fabric of life in the Gaza Strip, placing mortar-firing militants side-by-side with children and exposing them to the risk of harm by a country forced to defend its own people. (New York Daily News)

Israel's Gaza Defense - Editorial
The more successful Israel is in damaging Hamas as a terrorist force, the better chance Mr. Obama will have to make progress in facilitating a genuine Mideast peace. Mr. Obama is about to discover that the terrorists of the Middle East aren't about to change their radical ambitions merely because America has a new president. (Wall Street Journal)

The Blood on Hamas' Hands - Editorial
Let's keep straight whose fault this tragedy is: Hamas, the fanatical Islamists who rule Gaza. Yes, the Israelis have inflicted far more casualties on the Gazans than the Gazans have on them, but that is because Hamas deliberately and evilly locates its military resources among civilians, cynically hoping for a propaganda victory. There can be no peace as long as Hamas is a player. (Dallas Morning News)

Daily Rocket Attacks by Hamas Invited Israeli Military Response - Editorial
Israel is fulfilling the most elementary obligation of any government: to protect the lives of its people. This was the reason for the founding of the Jewish state in the first place. Hamas was founded not to win independence for the Palestinian people but to destroy Israel. Palestinians have a legitimate right to pursue the creation of an independent state, but not to seek the destruction of another country. Any outcome that is perceived as a victory for Hamas would be a victory for terrorism. (Miami Herald)

Hammering Hamas - Editorial
Israel needs the support of decent people everywhere. (New York Post)

Hamas Fantasy Rules - Editorial
Hamas is never going to change its belief that it has a God-given mission to destroy Israel, and the capacity to do so. The truce Hamas offered was an opportunity to stockpile weapons and undergo training. Hamas interpreted Israeli restraint as evidence that Israel was unable to defend its sovereignty and was therefore actually on the path to defeat and national dissolution. An essential factor in this tragic situation is the readiness of Arabs and Muslims everywhere to take the Hamas fantasy for reality. In Cairo, Damascus, or Tehran, many evidently think it right and proper and normal for Hamas to keep up a barrage of missiles and rockets while Israelis are supposed to accept the punishment, while measures of self-defense on the part of Israel are to be considered criminal. (National Review)

Hamas Has Invited Its Own Destruction - Editorial
Calls on Israel to immediately cease its pounding of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip are misdirected. Hamas' rockets are growing in range and sophistication, and soon will be able to strike targets deep inside Israel. That's intolerable. (Detroit News)

Israel Finally Says: Enough - Editorial
Hamas and other Islamist groups deliberately target Israeli civilians and celebrate when Jewish children die. Israel, responding in self-defense, seeks to minimize civilian casualties and grieves when Arab children get caught in the crossfire. There is no mystery to this asymmetry. Israel is a Western-style liberal democracy; Hamas is a fundamentalist, Iranian-backed Islamist group. We are in this mess because the national priority of Hamas, as always, is to hurt Jews rather than help Palestinians. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)

Self-Defense - Editorial
Israel is acting in self-defense, as any country in its position would. If Gaza had not served as a launching pad for terrorism, then Israel would not have struck at the source. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Poor Hamas? No! - Editorial
Hamas brought its woes upon itself. Now it's paying the price. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

U.S. Should Support Israelis in Campaign Against Hamas - Editorial
As Israel continues to respond to rocket attacks launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza, we offer some unsolicited advice to a fellow democracy and ally: Go all in. Finish the job. (The Oklahoman)

IDF in ground offensive

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Jan. 3, 2009, by Yaakov Katz:

At least 30 Hamas gunmen were reported killed as IDF troops swept into the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday night, encountering fierce resistance from Hamas forces entrenched in fortifications just over the border.

IDF sources said that the goal was to conquer territory in northern Gaza, including rocket launch sites. Soldiers from the Armored Corps, Engineering Corps, and Paratroopers, Givati, Golani brigades were participating in the fighting, with at least four brigades' worth of troops inside the Gaza Strip.

The sources said that a majority of the rockets fired into Beersheba and Ashdod were launched from the northern Gaza Strip.

..."We know there will be dangers, difficulties and victims... It must be said that the ground operation entails dangers to the lives of soldiers," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. "We must end the hostile actions against Israel... We will not abandon our citizens."

..."This will be a lengthy operation and there will likely be casualties on our side," a senior defense official said. "But our mission is to defend the home front. The purpose is to destroy Hamas's infrastructure and impair its ability to fire rockets into Israel."

...Terrorists using civilians as human shields would bear full responsibility for their fate, the army warned. "Anyone who hides a terrorist or weapons in his house is considered a terrorist," but "the residents of Gaza are not the target of the operation," the IDF Spokesman's Office said.

...The cabinet also approved the call-up of tens of thousands of reservists, mostly from combat units, but also from the Home Front Command. Already on Saturday night, several thousand emergency orders were issued.

Fighter jets, missile ships and artillery struck more than 40 Hamas targets on Saturday, including Hamas's central intelligence headquarters in Sha'ati, weapons storage facilities, training centers and leaders' homes.

...The IAF also hit the home of senior Hamas commander Abu Zacharia al-Jamal. A Hamas spokesman announced that Jamal was killed, which would make him the third senior operative of the group to be killed in three days. ...On Saturday morning, the air force struck the homes of two Hamas operatives used to store weapons and plan attacks. Hamas outposts, training camps and rocket launching sites also were targeted, the army said.

The IDF also struck the American International School in Beit Lahiya, the most prestigious educational institution in Gaza. The school is not connected to the US government, but teaches an American curriculum in English. The IDF said the campus was used to fire rockets and was a legitimate target.

...Earlier, the army dropped leaflets in downtown Gaza City ordering people off the streets. The warnings were followed by the air strikes.