Saturday, April 04, 2009

Clock ticks for Iran ...

From a Reuters Analysis, 2/4/09, by Louis Charbonneau:

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States will push for new U.N. sanctions against Iran later this year if President Barack Obama's effort to improve relations fails to stop Tehran from pursuing its nuclear program.

But plans for a fourth round of international sanctions will remain on hold at least until after Iran's presidential elections in June, diplomats said.

There are hopes in Washington and other Western capitals that a moderate will win the Iranian election and seize upon President Barack Obama's recent offer of new diplomatic engagement with the Islamic Republic.

...More important than the outcome of the Iranian election, analysts say, is the question of how long Israel will be willing to wait to see if the U.S. approach is working before taking a decision on whether to attack Iran's nuclear sites.

Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department official and nonproliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said Iran will not have much time after its elections to change gears on the nuclear front.

"Israel is not going to wait forever," he said. "I couldn't give you a prediction of months, but I don't think that Iran has all that much time. They have an opportunity now and they should seize it."

...Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several of his military aides told Atlantic magazine this week that the Jewish state would not wait too long. One Israeli military aide was quoted as saying Israel's time lines are now drawn in months, "not years."

Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osiraq in 1981 and has suggested it was prepared to do the same in Iran.

Obama's shift from his predecessor's policy of isolating Tehran has backing from Britain, France and Germany. These countries are helping to spearhead efforts to persuade Iran to freeze its enrichment program in compliance with five Security Council resolutions.

Russia and China have also welcomed the overture.

...Work on a new U.N. sanctions resolution would likely commence later this year if Iran continues enriching uranium, the analysts and diplomats said, but the focus at the moment will be on engagement, not punishment.

"He's (Obama) not going to be comfortable right off the box threatening," said Henry Sokolski, head of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. "They've branded themselves as the engagers and they'll stick to the brand for now."

Iran's progress in developing it's nuclear capability is also likely to provide a limit to Western patience.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog reports that Iran is making progress in purifying uranium using difficult centrifuge technology. According to one Western diplomat, that trend is "unsettling" and "cannot continue indefinitely."

The prospect that Russia and China, both of which have vetoes in the Security Council, will support new sanctions also hovers over the Iranian issue. Moscow and Beijing reluctantly backed three rounds of U.N. sanctions but watered them down.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's inauguration statement

From the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1 Apr 2009:

Statement by incoming Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the ministerial inauguration ceremony

We will honor all the agreements and all the undertakings of previous governments and act exactly according to the Road Map.

Good afternoon, honorable outgoing Foreign Minister, honorable outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister, incoming Deputy Foreign Minister, Director-General Ministry employees, honored guests,

When my fellow students and I studied international relations, and learned what an international system is, we learned that there is a State and there are international organizations and all kinds of global economic corporations. Things have changed since then and, unfortunately, in the modern system, there are countries that are semi-states. It is hard to call a country like Somalia a state in the full sense of the word and the same holds true for the various autonomies in Eastern Europe, in the Balkans and here as well. It is even hard to call a country like Iraq a state in the full sense of the word. And even worse, there are now international players that are irrational, like the Al Qaeda organization. And we can certainly also ask if the leader of a strong and important country like Iran is a rational player.

In my view, we must explain to the world that the priorities of the international community must change, and that all the previous benchmarks - the Warsaw Pact, the NATO Alliance, socialist countries, capitalist countries - have changed. There is a world order that the countries of the free world are trying to preserve, and there are forces, or countries or extremist entities that are trying to violate it.

The claim that what is threatening the world today is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a way of evading reality. The reality is that the problems are coming from the direction of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

What is important is to maintain global and regional stability. Egypt is definitely an important country in the Arab world, a stabilizing factor in the regional system and perhaps even beyond that, and I certainly view it as an important partner. I would be happy to visit Egypt and to host Egyptian leaders here, including the Egyptian Foreign Minister - all based on mutual respect.

I think that we have been disparaging many concepts, and we have shown the greatest distain of all for the word “peace.” The fact that we say the word “peace” twenty times a day will not bring peace any closer. There have been two governments here that took far-reaching measures: the Sharon government and the Olmert government. They took dramatic steps and made far-reaching proposals. We saw the Disengagement and the Annapolis Conference.

Yisrael Beiteinu was not then part of the coalition, Avigdor Liberman was not the foreign minister and, even if we had wanted to, we would have been unable to prevent peace. But none of these far-reaching measures have brought peace. To the contrary. We have seen that, after all the gestures that we made, after all the dramatic steps we took and all the far-reaching proposals we presented, in the past few years this country has gone through the Second War in Lebanon and Operation Cast Lead - and not because we chose to. I have not seen peace here. It is precisely when we made all the concessions that I saw the Durban Conference, I saw two countries in the Arab world suddenly sever relations, recalling their ambassadors - Mauritania and Qatar. Qatar suddenly became extremist.

We are also losing ground every day in public opinion. Does anyone think that concessions and constantly saying “I am prepared to concede,” and using the word “peace” will lead to anything? No, that will just invite pressure, and more and more wars. "Si vis pacem, para bellum" - if you want peace, prepare for war; be strong.

We definitely want peace, but the other side also bears responsibility. We have proven our desire for peace more than any other country in the world. No country has made concessions the way Israel has. Since 1977, we have given up areas of land three times the size of the State of Israel. So we have proven the point.

The Oslo process began in 1993. Sixteen years have passed since then, and I do not see that we are any closer to a permanent settlement. There is one document that binds us and it is not the Annapolis Conference. That has no validity. When we drafted the basic government policy guidelines, we certainly stated that we would honor all the agreements and all the undertakings of previous governments. The continuity of government is respected in Israel. I voted against the Road Map, but that was the only document approved by the Cabinet and by the Security Council - I believe it was Resolution 1505. It is a binding resolution and it binds this government as well.

The Israeli government never approved Annapolis, neither the Cabinet nor the Knesset, so anyone who wants to amuse himself can continue to do so. I have seen all the proposals made so generously by Ehud Olmert, but I have not seen any results.

So we will therefore act exactly according to the Road Map, including the Tenet document and the Zinni document. I will never agree to our waiving all the clauses - I believe there are 48 of them - and going directly to the last clause, negotiations on a permanent settlement. No. These concessions do not achieve anything. We will adhere to it to the letter, exactly as written. Clauses one, two, three, four - dismantling terrorist organizations, establishing an effective government, making a profound constitutional change in the Palestinian Authority. We will proceed exactly according to the clauses. We are also obligated to implement what is required of us in each clause, but so is the other side. They must implement the document in full, including - as I said - the Zinni document and the Tenet document. I am not so sure that the Palestinian Authority or even we - in those circles that espouse peace so much - are aware of the existence of the Tenet and Zinni documents.

When was Israel at its strongest in terms of public opinion around the world? After the victory of the Six Day War, not after all the concessions in Oslo Accords I, II, III and IV. Anyone who wants to maintain his status in public opinion must understand that if he wants respect, he must first respect himself. I think that, at least from our standpoint, will be our policy.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech 31 March 2009

From Benjamin Netanyahu's web site:

Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin - congratulations again, my friend,
Honorable Outgoing Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert - thank you for your words,
Members of the Outgoing Government,
Members of the Incoming Government,
Former Members of Knesset,
State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss,
Mrs. Aviva Shalit,
Mrs. Karnit Goldwasser,
Mrs. Esther Waxman,
Members of Knesset,
Distinguished Guests,

As the poet in Psalms wrote: “Lord, my heart was not proud, and my eyes were not haughty, nor did I pursue matters too great and too wondrous for me.”

Members of Knesset,

It is not with the elation of the victorious that I stand before you today, but rather with a feeling of heavy responsibility. However, these are not ordinary days. I ask for your trust at a time of global crises, the likes of which have not been seen in years. I speak out of a feeling of concern, but also of hope and faith, and mostly in recognition of the seriousness of this challenging hour. For Israel faces two enormous challenges: the economic challenge and the security challenge. These result from dramatic international developments; huge thunderstorms are raging around us. It is not our actions or failures of the past that are the root of these crises, but our actions and decisions in the near future that will determine if we will prevail. On this day I would like to express my full confidence that the people of Israel will be able to successfully deal with the challenges we face. The State of Israel was established during its most difficult hour, an hour during which the words of the Declaration of Independence echoed in our ears: “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to its land and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.”

Members of Knesset,

There is no more wondrous a journey in history than that of the Jewish people. There is no struggle more just than its struggle to return to its homeland and build a life here as a free and sovereign nation. There is no question mark, not about the right, not about the justice and not about the existence of the people of Israel and its country. There is no question mark, and we will not allow anyone or any country to raise a question mark over our existence. The 20th century proved that the future of the Jewish people is dependent on the future of the State of Israel, and therefore it is our duty to do all that is necessary to ensure the security, strength and prosperity of our country. It is within our power to do so and overcome any obstacle or impediment as long as our will is steadfast and as long as we are united, and it was my sincere and stated aspiration to establish a government at this difficult time that would unite all the centrist forces among our people. I saw this as the order of the day and invested ongoing and consistent efforts to achieving this goal. I am pleased that the Labor Party, a movement with deep roots and of great contributions to the history of Zionism and settlement, eventually made the responsible decision for the good of the country to join hands with the Likud Movement and our other partners.

I wish to express appreciation to the members of this house who understood the enormous responsibility we are facing, and took the decision, not without hesitation, to extend a hand and provide support for the unity government.

Members of Knesset,

The security crisis we are facing originates from the rise and spread of radical Islam in our region and in other parts of the world. The greatest threat to humanity, and to the State of Israel, stems from the possibility that a radical regime will be armed with nuclear weapons or that nuclear weapons will find a home in a radical regime. I wish to distinguish fundamentalist Islam from the overall Muslim and Arab world, which is also threatened by the extremists. The Islamic culture is a great, rich culture, with many connections to the history of our people as well, and we have known periods of cooperation; of Jews and Arabs living together and creating together. Today, more than ever, Israel strives to achieve full peace with all the Arab and Muslim world. Today, this ambition is also backed by a shared interest of Israel and the Arab world that are facing a wave of fanaticism which threatens us all. While we may not be the only ones threatened by radical Islam, we are first and foremost threatened by it. It is true that it strives to eradicate all the Arab regimes and bring all Muslims in the world under an autocratic, narrow-minded, reactionary regime. It is also true that it threatens governments in the West and in the East with terrorism and deadly missiles. However, all its different manifestations share one common objective - to wipe the State of Israel off the face of the earth.

It is a mark of disgrace for humanity that several decades after the Holocaust the world’s response to the calls by Iran’s leader to destroy the State of Israel is weak, there is no firm condemnation and decisive measures - almost as if dismissed as routine. However, the Jewish people have learnt their lesson. We cannot afford to take lightly megalomaniac tyrants who threaten to annihilate us. Contrary to the terrible trauma we experienced during the last century when we stood helpless and stateless, today we are not defenseless. We have a state, and we know how to defend it. It was the concern for our national security that was the first and main reason that my friends and I strove to achieve national unity at this time. Terrorists from radical Islam now threaten us from both the North and the South. We are determined to curb terrorism from all directions and fight against it with all our might. Those who want peace must fight terror. However, in order for there to be peace, the Palestinian partner must also fight terror, educate its children towards peace and prepare its people for recognizing Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. Over the past two decades, six Israeli prime ministers failed to achieve peace, and through no fault of their own. To the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, I say: if you truly want peace, peace can be obtained.

My Government will act vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority to achieve peace on three parallel tracks: economic, security and political. We strive to assist with the accelerated development of the Palestinian economy and in developing its economic ties with Israel. We will support a Palestinian security mechanism that will fight terror, and we will conduct ongoing peace negotiations with the PA, with the aim of reaching a final status arrangement. We have no desire to control another people; we have no wish to rule over the Palestinians. In the final status arrangement, the Palestinians will have all the authority needed to govern themselves, except those which threaten the existence and security of the State of Israel. This track - combining the economic, security and political - is the right way to achieve peace. All previous attempts to make shortcuts have achieved the opposite outcome and resulted in increased terror and greater bloodshed. We choose a realistic path, positive in approach and with a genuine desire to bring an end to the conflict between us and our neighbors.

With regard to the global economic crisis, it is indeed of an unprecedented scope. It affects each and every one of us and it threatens the livelihood of thousands of Israelis. We do not yet know how and when it will end, but I am convinced of one thing: the Israeli economy has clear advantages that enable it to confront the crisis better than other economies. Our primary advantages are entrepreneurship and innovation, coupled with the ability to adjust rapidly. In this case, the fact that we are a small state is an advantage that will enable us to extricate ourselves quickly from the crisis. It is the reverse of having a quantitative advantage. The Israeli economy can be likened to a small racing boat sailing among large ships. It is easier to change the direction of a quick racing boat than that of a large ship. I intend to personally lead this change of direction. I will be the one to navigate Israel’s economic strategy. My Government assumes the responsibility of protecting - to the best of our ability - employment, solving the credit crisis and maintaining a responsible macro-economic policy. These are not three contradictory objectives, although there is some measure of friction between them. The three of them can be obtained through cooperation and dialogue between all the central economic forces - the Government, the Labor Federation, the employers and social organizations - the driving force behind all of us being the good of the country. Now, more than ever, we will open our hearts to the unemployed, the elderly and the weak. We must see before us the worker who was laid off on the eve of Passover, whose livelihood is destroyed, and the thought of how he will support his family torments him. The need to address the economic and social crisis is the second reason that prompted me and my friends to strive to achieve national unity.

There are additional challenges that our government will place at the top of its list of priorities. It is time to carry out a real revolution in education. We are the People of the Book. From the “Heder” students to Nobel Prize laureates, no nation has contributed more, relative to its size, to human knowledge and civilization. We cannot accept that our children will not be amongst the world’s leading students. Therefore, the goal we are setting today is to bring the children of Israel back to the world’s ten leading countries in international tests, within a decade.

Alongside with excellence, we will also bring Zionism back. We will teach our children the eternal values of the people of Israel, and forge values of Jewish and Israeli culture in our country’s spiritual kaleidoscope.

We will also generate a fundamental change in public safety. It was the Jewish people who bequeathed to the world the Commandments: thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not kill. Even when we were scattered in exile, we maintained a high level of morality between man and man and between an individual and the community. It is therefore inconceivable that when we returned to being a free, sovereign nation in our homeland, crime organizations and criminal syndicates are emerging among us, dealing in theft, murder and trafficking in women, and fighting against each other with guns in the streets of our cities. It is intolerable that parents in Israel should be afraid to send their children to school or to the beach. We must put a stop to this. We will stiffen the penalties against criminals, advance important reforms in the police force and strengthen the Israel Police in its battle against crime.

At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned the opening section of the Declaration of Independence. I am committed to the Declaration as a whole, including the promise for complete equality between all the citizens of the State, regardless of religion, race or gender. Our concern will be for all the citizens of Israel: Jews, Arabs, Druze, Muslims, Christians and Circassians.

To the Arab citizens of Israel I wish to say: you will find in me a loyal partner to your integration into Israel’s society and economy. I believe in this aim, and I will act in this direction.

This is a time of crisis. Our government system is unsuitable to meet the challenges of today. The large size of the Government presented to you today reflects the necessity for national unity at this time, but it also reflects a certain deficiency in the existing government system - a deficiency that can be corrected, and will be corrected.

At the same time, the Government that will be leading Israel in the years to come, is expecting neither pleasures nor luxury. On our shoulders rests an enormous, overwhelming responsibility, and a duty to make decisions, with clarity of mind and purpose, on those issues that will determine the fate of Israel.

I would like to thank the outgoing Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, for his service to the nation. When you were only just elected, Ehud, I told you that very soon you would discover what difficulties and responsibilities were placed on your shoulders. Indeed, you discovered them. At numerous important crossroads of which the public are still not fully aware, you worked to strengthen Israel’s security and made brave decisions. Ehud: thank you.

Members of Knesset,

We are on the eve of the Passover holiday and the Seder. At our national table, there is an empty chair: that of Gilad Shalit. I will do everything in my power to quickly return him healthy to the bosom of his family, and will act to return all our missing soldiers.

Citizens of Israel, I asked myself how best to express the depth of my feelings at this event, on the eve of Passover 2009. I chose to read an excerpt from one of the final letters written by my late brother, Yoni, approximately one year before he fell during the operation to rescue the hostages in Entebbe: “Tomorrow is Passover,” wrote Yoni. “I always saw it as our most wonderful holiday; it is an age-old holiday celebrating freedom. As I sail backwards on the wings of history, I travel through long years of suffering, of oppression, of slaughter, of ghettos, of ostracism, of humiliation; many years that, from an historic perspective, do not contain one ray of light; but that is not the case because of the fact that the core remained, hope existed, the idea of freedom continued to burn through the fulfillment of the tradition of the ancient holiday. This, in my opinion, is a testament to the eternalness of the aspiration for freedom in Israel, the continuity of the idea of freedom. The Passover holiday,” he wrote, “awakens in me an emotional affinity, also because of the Seder which, like it does for all of us, reminds me of forgotten moments from our personal pasts, my past. I clearly remember the Seder we held in Talpiot, Jerusalem when I was six. Among the participants were a number of elders like Rabbi Binyamin and Professor Klausner, and my father was also there. There was a large table and there was light. I find myself in my past, but I do not only mean my own personal past, but also the way I see myself as an inseparable link in the chain of our existence and independence in Israel.”

Citizens of Israel, at this difficult time, let us all see ourselves as an inseparable link in the chain of our existence and independence in Israel. From this podium in Jerusalem, our eternal capital, I pray to G-d Almighty that our work will be blessed, and that the unity with which we begin our journey will be a good omen and the promise for our future.

Happy holiday of freedom.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How Israel Foiled an Arms Convoy Bound for Hamas

From TIME magazine, Monday, Mar. 30, 2009:

Israeli fighter-bombers, backed by unmanned drones, were responsible for a mid-January attack on a 23-truck convoy in the Sudanese desert carrying arms to Hamas militants, two highly placed Israeli security sources revealed to TIME. The attack was a warning to Iran and other adversaries, showing Israel's intelligence capability and its willingness to mount operations far beyond its borders in order to defend itself from gathering threats.

The sources revealed exclusive details about the bold air attack on what they said was an Iranian weapons convoy, which was transporting rockets and explosives destined for Gaza, where an Israeli assault was ongoing. They denied earlier news reports that U.S. aircraft had been involved in the attack on the arms convoy as it crossed at night through the Sudanese desert heading for Egypt's poorly guarded border. "The Americans were notified that Israel was going to conduct an air operation in Sudan, but they were not involved," a source said. He denied prior claims by a U.S. television network that a ship and a second convoy were destroyed.

"There was only one raid, and it was a major operation," he said, adding that "dozens of aircraft" were used.

F-16 fighter-bombers carried out two runs on the convoy, while F-15 fighter planes circled overhead in case hostile aircraft were scrambled from Khartoum or a nearby country. After the first bombing run, drones mounted with high-resolution cameras passed over the burning trucks. The video showed that the convoy had been only partially damaged, so the Israelis ordered a second pass with the F-16s. During the 1,750-mile (2,800 km) journey to Sudan and back, the Israeli aircraft refueled in midair over the Red Sea.

The bombing raid came after an intelligence tip-off. In early January, at the height of Israel's assault on Gaza, Israel's foreign-intelligence agency, Mossad, was told by an informant that Iran was planning a major delivery of 120 tons of arms and explosives to Gaza, including antitank rockets and Fajir rockets with a 25-mile (40 km) range and a 99-lb. (45 kg) warhead. With little time to plan the operation, naval vessels and helicopters were rushed to the Red Sea in case Israel had to rescue a downed pilot, and the plan was hurried through. "The Israelis had less than a week to pull this all together," a source said.

The Iranian shipment was bound for Port Sudan. From there, according to the security sources, the Iranians had organized a smuggler's convoy of 23 trucks that would take the weapons across Egypt's southern border and up into the Sinai. Hamas would then take charge of the weapons and smuggle them into Gaza through the tunnels left unscathed by Israeli bombardments.

It was a route used occasionally by Hamas but never before on such a large scale, sources said. "This was the first time that the Iranians had tried to send Hamas a shipment this big via Sudan — and it is probably the last," a source said. Several Iranians were killed in the raid, along with Sudanese smugglers and drivers, the source claimed. "No doubt the Iranians are checking back to see who might have leaked this to the Israelis," he said.

...One Hamas official, while not denying that the arms convoy was theirs, said it numbered only 15 trucks and was laden with fewer weapons than the Israeli sources claim. "The Israelis are trying to overplay the quantity of arms as a way to justify this raid and to mobilize the Europeans to crack down on smugglers in the Mediterranean," he said. In January, Cypriot authorities seized an Iranian freighter that the U.S. and Israel claim was shipping arms to Hamas in Gaza.

...Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported on Monday that a few days before the alleged Israeli raid, a senior U.S. official warned Sudan to stop smugglers from bringing weapons to Hamas in Gaza, but Sudan failed to comply.

A Hamas security official contacted by TIME waved off Israeli reports that the destruction of the weapons convoy was a major setback to the Islamic militants who govern Gaza. "We have our own 'home delivery' setup for weapons," he said with a laugh, explaining that Sinai's tribes of Bedouin smugglers are still bringing arms to the many secret tunnels snaking into Gaza. This is no idle boast. On Sunday, a senior Israeli security chief told Olmert's Cabinet that since Israel ended its 22-day offensive in Gaza on Jan. 1, Hamas had smuggled in 22 tons of explosives and "tens" of rockets, readying for another round of fighting. Israeli officials can breathe easier knowing that the longer-range Fajir missiles did not get through. Iran and Hamas, no doubt, will try again.

Hearsay: Findings of Military Police Investigation of Soldiers' Comments on Gaza War

From the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman, 30/2/09:

The Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit, has decided to close the case in which the Criminal Investigation Department of the Military Police investigated statements made by soldiers at the Rabin Military Preparation Center in reference to the Gaza operation, after the investigation found that the crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by facts.

...The investigation concluded that the stories told were purposely exaggerated and hyperbolic. For example, one story made the claim that a soldier was allegedly given orders to fire at an elderly woman. However, upon investigation, it was found that the soldier witnessed no such thing, and was only repeating a rumor that he had heard.

...A claim made by a different soldier who had supposedly been ordered to open fire at a woman and two children was also determined to be an incident that he had not witnessed.

...Brig. Gen. Mendelblit concluded the findings of the investigation: "It is unfortunate that none of the speakers at the conference was careful to be accurate in the depiction of his claims, and even more so that they chose to present various incidents of a severe nature, despite not personally witnessing and knowing much about them. It seems that it will be difficult to evaluate the damage done to the image and morals of the IDF and its soldiers."

...The juridical assistant of the Military Advocate General, Maj. Yehoshua Gurtler, said: "Soldiers and commanders should not fear reporting inappropriate events that they have witnessed, but when the reports are not precise and are exaggerated, nothing positive will come of it."

We don't want an apocalyptic cult controlling nukes

From Ynet News, 1/4/09, by Yitzhak Benhorin:

In an interview conducted shortly before he is sworn in, new prime minister says Iranian nukes are a global threat, Israel expects Obama administration to stop Tehran from acquiring atomic bomb. ...

.."The Obama presidency has two great missions: Fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu stated, referring to the Iranian threat as a “hinge of history” and adding that “Western civilization” will have failed if Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons. .... "You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs," he said.

According to Netanyahu, the Islamic republic threatens many other countries apart from Israel, and so his mission over the next several months is to convince the world of the broad danger posed by Iran.

Netanyahu, who clarified he would manage Israel’s relationship with Washington personally, addressed Barack Obama's softened approach towards Iran, saying he would support the US president's decision to engage Iran, as long as negotiations brought about a quick end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “How you achieve this goal is less important than achieving it,” he said, but he added that he was skeptical that Iran would respond positively to Obama’s appeals.

The new prime minister explained that he believes economic pressure could yield positive results. “I think the Iranian economy is very weak, which makes Iran susceptible to sanctions that can be ratcheted up by a variety of means.”

...Some of the prime minister's advisors, who were also interviewed, said they believe Iran’s defenses remain penetrable, and that Israel would not necessarily need American approval to launch an attack. “The problem is not military capability, the problem is whether you have the stomach, the political will, to take action,” one of them said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

...Asked if he could foresee agreeing on a “grand bargain” with Obama, in which he would move forward on talks with the Palestinians in exchange for a robust American response to Iran’s nuclear program, the prime minister said, “We intend to move on the Palestinian track independent of what happens with Iran, and I hope the US moves to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons regardless of what happens on the Palestinian track.”

Netanyahu takes office in official ceremony at Beit Hanassi

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 1, 2009:

Incoming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office Wednesday in a ceremony at Jerusalem's Beit Hanassi, and said that his government was faced with many pressing challenges.

..."On this eve of Pessah, we will remember this; we have no other country, we will watch over it and, with God's help, it will watch over us as well."

Speaking before Netanyahu, Olmert lamented that he had not succeeded in reaching a peace agreement during his term, and said that he regretted his mistakes. "I have made mistakes and I am sorry for them," he said. "In addition to tough decisions and achievements, I have also made mistakes, and I am not afraid to admit it."

Turning to the peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria, Olmert added, "I did not succeed in realizing my dream of attaining true peace. During the entire length of my term I did not stop trying to bring peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians." ...

...President Shimon Peres thanked Olmert in his speech and reminded Netanyahu of the importance of a two-state solution.

..."The tasks that await you are immense: The moral obligations to preserve the job market, even during a heavy global crisis; the responsible management of the national budget; expanding infrastructure and developing a regional economy; making education and social values a central effort; concluding the draft of a constitution and fighting organized crime."

"But above all," he said, the new government would be tasked with "maintaining the security of the state in view of the "Axis of Evil" and the sting of terror, and establishing a multinational front to halt the Iran's nuclear race.

"While strengthening the State of Israel you must also invest supreme efforts to promote peace on all fronts. The country adopted the vision of two states, for two peoples, as initiated by the US administration and agreed upon by most of the world's countries. And your government will establish the shape of our reality," the president said.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pox Britannica

From The New Republic, Wednesday, April 15, 2009 edition, by Howard Jacobson:

English anti-Semitism on the march...

... There is something in the air here [England], something you can smell, but also, in a number of cases, something more immediately affronting to Jews..... Organizations monitoring anti-Jewish incidents in England have reported a dramatic increase after Gaza: the daubing of slogans such as "kill the jews" on walls and bus shelters in Jewish neighborhoods, abuse of Jewish children on school playgrounds, arson attacks on synagogues, physical assaults on Jews conspicuous by their yarmulkes or shtreimels. seems to me, one can find growing reason for English Jews to be concerned. Mindless acts of vandalism come and go; but what takes root in the intellectual life of a nation is harder to identify and remove. Was it anti-Semitic of the Labour politician Tam Dalyell to talk of Jewish advisers excessively influencing Tony Blair's foreign policy? Was it anti-Semitic of the Liberal Democrat Baroness Tonge to refer to the "financial grips" that the pro-Israel lobby exerts on the world? Such allusions to a pro-Israel conspiracy of influence and wealth, usually accompanied by protestations of innocence in regard to Jews themselves--"I am sick of being accused of anti-Semitism," Baroness Tonge has said, "when what I am doing is criticizing Israel"--have become the commonplaces of anti-Israel discourse in the years since Philip Roth wrote The Counterlife [1987]. And, whatever their intention, their gradual effect has been to normalize, under cover of criticism of Israel, assumptions that 50 years ago would have been exclusively the property of overt Jew-haters. The peculiarly immoderate Israel-loathing that Roth remarked upon in 1987 is now a deranged revulsion, intemperate and unconcealed, which nothing Israel itself has done could justify or explain were it ten times the barbaric apartheid state it figures as in the English imagination.

Demonstrators against Israel's operation in Gaza carried placards demanding an end to the "massacre" and the "slaughter." There was no contesting this rhetoric of wanton destruction versus helpless innocence. Hamas rockets counted for nothing, Hamas's record of endangering its own civilian population counted for nothing, Amnesty reports were cited when they incriminated Israel but ignored when they incriminated others. Whatever was not massacre was not news, nor was it germane. The distinguished British film director Ken Loach dismissed a report on the rise of anti-Semitism across Europe as designed merely to "distract attention" from Israel's military crimes. An increase in anti-Semitism is "perfectly understandable," Loach said, "because Israel feeds feelings of anti-Semitism." Scrupulously refusing the Holocaust-Gaza analogy, Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent a few weeks ago, nonetheless argued that "a Palestinian woman and her child are as worthy of life as a Jewish woman and her child on the back of a lorry in Auschwitz"--at a stroke reinstating the analogy while implying that Jews need to be reminded that not only Jewish lives are precious. And a columnist for the populist newspaper The Daily Mirror has taken this imputation of callousness a stage further, writing of the "1,314 dead Palestinians temporarily sat[ing] Tel Aviv's bloodlust." ...

...Given how hard it is to distinguish Jew from Israeli in all this, the mantra "It is not anti-Semitic to be critical of Israel" looks increasingly disingenuous. But there is no challenging it, not even with such eminently reasonable responses as, "That surely depends on the criticism," or "Calling into question an entire nation's right to exist is not exactly 'criticism.'" Nor is the distinction between Israeli and Jew much respected where the graffitists and the baby bullies of the schoolyard do their work.

But, in the end, it is frankly immaterial how much of this is Jewhating or not. The inordinacy of English Israel-loathing--ascribing to a country the same disproportionate responsibility for the world's ills that was once ascribed to a people--is toxic enough in itself.

The language of extremism has a malarious dynamic of its own, passing effortlessly from the mischievous to the unwary, and from there into the bloodstream of society. And that's what one can smell here. Infection.

Zentai loses extradition appeal

From the ABC , 31/3/09, by Andrew Nelson:

The Federal Court has dismissed an appeal against a ruling that an 86-year-old Perth man can be extradited to Hungary to face trial for an alleged war crime.

Charles Zentai is accused of beating a Jewish teenager to death during the Nazi occupation of Budapest in 1944. He denies the allegation and has spent more than three years fighting attempts to send him to Hungary to face the charge.

Justice John Gilmour today ruled in favour of a magistrate's decision last year that Mr Zentai is eligible for extradition.

However Justice Gilmour granted a seven-day stay of execution of the ruling to allow Mr Zentai's lawyers time to consider an appeal to the full Federal Court.

Mr Zentai's son, Ernie Steiner, says the family still has several options to consider.
"It's not over by a long shot because we also have rights of appeal to the Attorney General and to the Minister for Home Affairs," he said.

"So we have very lengthy submissions."

Monday, March 30, 2009

How and why Muslims riot in liberal democracies

From Jewish World Review, 27/3/09, by Caroline B. Glick:

Tuesday's violent riots in Umm el Fahm and the debate which accompanied them are emblematic of one of the greatest challenges facing not only Israel, but much of the Western world today. Far right Jewish Israeli political activists held a peaceful demonstration in the radical Arab-Islamist dominated city of Umm el Fahm in the Galilee under heavy police protection. Thousands of Arab Israelis supported by far left Jewish Israeli political activists reacted with violent rioting. And the media blamed the violence on the peaceful Jewish Israeli demonstrators.

...In accordance with the police guidelines, Tuesday the marchers were transported to the outskirts of the town in bullet-proof buses. 2,500 policemen deployed along Wadi Ara highway, and throughout the town to protect them. They were allowed to march holding flags and singing folksongs for a half an hour and then returned to their bullet proof buses.

In the meantime, thousands of local residents standing on rooftops and crowding into the streets began rioting. They threw volley after volley of rocks at the Jewish marchers and the police protecting them. They cursed them. They cursed the police. In the end, some 15 policemen were wounded by the projectiles - including Inspector General Shahar Ayalon, the Deputy Superintendent of the National Police.

As far as the media were concerned, the fact that thousands of Arabs attacked the police and the lawful demonstrators ...[and] that these Israeli Arab citizens claimed to be personally insulted and injured because the demonstration "forced" them to set their eyes on their national flag was seemingly understandable.

The fact that these Israeli citizens rejected Israel's flag while waving Palestinian and Islamic flags was neither newsworthy nor controversial.

No one in the media asked the Arab rioters whom they felt threatened by...[or]why seeing Jews marching with the flag of Israel should provoke them to attack.

... Ben Ari, Marzel and Ben Gvir were not the cause of the enormous police presence. They were a danger to no one. The reason the police were forced to deploy so massively was because they believed that the Arabs would violently attack the Jewish demonstrators. It was the Arabs, not the Jews whom the police feared would break the law. And as it works out, they were right.

...As far as Israel's media are concerned, Arabs cannot be expected to act like responsible citizens. They cannot be required to abide by the law like the rest of the country's citizens. ... All Arab actions are but reactions to Jewish provocations...

...Either we encourage our Arab citizens to fully accept both the rights and duties of citizenship or we continue - through either populism of cowardice - to facilitate their rejection of our society. If we embark on the first path, we will safeguard our national identity as a Jewish liberal democracy. If we remain on the second path, we will imperil our lives, our way of life and our national existence.

“Dialogue” with Islam

From ICJS by Raphael Israeli, Saturday March 28, 2009:

On the eve of this Passover, 2009, we are faced with announcements from the British government, to the effect that it has ceased dealing with the major Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), and that the Jewish organizations of France have discontinued their “dialogue” with French Muslims. In both instances, the reason cited is the same. It is the duplicitous game the Muslim groups have been playing: on the one hand seeking “dialogue” with their partners, as a means of coexistence and smoothing over difficulties in communication; but on the other hand supporting Hamas, which wants no dialogue with Israel.

The non-Muslim parties in these “dialogues” have been late to wake up to the reality that Muslim culture understands “dialogue” not as a means to facilitate rapprochement and understanding through negotiation and clarification, but as a means to lend legitimacy to the monologue it wishes its partners to hear and to heed. Now, after years of empty encounters, the non-Muslim participants finally understand and they have withdrawn from that exercise in goodwill , realising that the other party does not respond in kind.

Some naïve minds in the West have believed that dialogue and negotiation with Muslim radicals can and will alter attitudes and lead to coexistence between Muslims and their rivals. ...But while Europeans have regularly entered a “dialogue” with Muslims in good faith, fully intending to find common ground with their often unruly Muslim interlocutors—for the Muslims, “dialogue” means something else entirely. For them, it signifies the submission of a lesser culture and religion to their own superior one, a culture they seek to impose on others.

Muslims hope to inspire in Westerners and Israelis, conversion to an Islamic view of the world. Anything short of that is regarded by them as an abject “failure of dialogue,” and a signal to resort to threats of violence or acts of terrorism. They are well-practiced at both. Apart from the U.S., most Western nations believe nothing is worth fighting for, and they do not have the stomach for a fight of unlimited duration. They would rather capitulate than investigate what tolerance, understanding, dialogue, and peace really means to the Islamists...

...When the President of Iran vows to eliminate the Jewish people and to wipe Israel off the map, none of those dialoguing Muslim organizations raises a voice in protest; none also protested when Christian churches were torched, as a matter of course, throughout the Muslim world, or when the Tomb of Joseph and the Jericho synagogues were burned and destroyed by Palestinians during the Intifadah.

Only hurting the reputation of Muhammed matters, and justifies the use of violence, whilst the very notion of respect for other religions, simply does not exist.

Therefore, the purpose of dialogue is only to instill respect of Islam into western minds, to which the recently adopted resolution of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, plainly attests. As more and more western and Jewish organizations come to understand what the meaning of “dialogue” with their Muslim partners actually means, they may at last, also learn how to make it more egalitarian, reciprocal, and perhaps also effective.

Go to the ICJS web site to read the full article.