Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stopping Iran is more urgent now

From The Washington Post, Saturday, September 26, 2009:

.... Iran has been illegally hiding another nuclear plant ...hidden in tunnels under a mountain near the city of Qom ...officials say that when it is operational, it could deliver the material for a bomb in a year...

The public announcement, which U.S. officials said they had been planning since July, also offers the Obama administration an opportunity to energize what has looked like a lagging campaign to focus international pressure on Tehran. Gathered for the Group of 20 summit, President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown took turns Friday underlining the seriousness of Iran's latest violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and warning of harsh consequences if the Islamic regime did not soon take steps to comply with the Security Council resolutions it has defied for years.

Whether the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be moved by the warnings is another matter. The two leaders give every indication of believing their own rhetoric, which declares that the United States and its allies are incapable of stopping the nuclear program or of mounting serious sanctions. Nor does Mr. Ahmadinejad show any intention of negotiating seriously with the group of five permanent Security Council members and Germany at the upcoming talks in Geneva.

The coup that Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad launched against moderates [moderate!? ..compared to what? - SL] within the regime this summer is aimed at perpetuating Iran's belligerent policies toward the West. It follows that outside powers will have little chance of stopping the nuclear program through peaceful means unless the two leaders lose power in the ongoing domestic conflict. Strong sanctions could help the Iranian opposition if average citizens blame the regime for shortages, rising prices or other economic disruptions. But Mr. Ahmadinejad probably reckons that he can use them to rally the country behind him.

That will be harder if the steps have the backing of Russia and China as well as the West -- which is why the Obama administration is focusing diplomacy on those governments. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hinted at support for sanctions this week, but it's not clear that Moscow's real ruler, Vladimir Putin, agrees. China continues to oppose sanctions in public while quietly striking deals to supply Iran with the gasoline that would be one of the best targets for an embargo.

The United States must make clear to those governments that it will not settle for inaction against a regime that is brazenly defying international treaties and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

.... If it had not been discovered, the Qom plant could have given Iran the means for a bomb by 2011 without the world knowing about it. And if there is one clandestine facility, most likely there are others.

Iran's "secret" nuclear plant

From Ynet News, 25/9/09:
IAEA confirms Iran building 2nd enrichment plant
UN nuclear agency says informed by Islamic Republic that it is running new, previously undeclared, facility to enrich uranium...

...Iran is under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze enrichment.

...because enrichment can make both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade uranium, the international community fears Tehran will use the technology to generate the fissile material used on the tip of nuclear warheads.

The revelation further burdens the chances of progress in scheduled October 1 talks between Iran and six world powers. ...the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany will be pressing Iran to scale back on its enrichment activities...

...The existence of a secret Iranian enrichment program built on black market technology was revealed seven years ago. Since then the country has continued to expand the program with only a few interruptions as it works toward its aspirations of a 50,000-centrifuge enrichment facility at the southern city of Natanz...

From Ynet News, 26/9/09, by Yitzhak Benhorin:
Obama: Time for Iran to make a choice
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama said that if Iran could not be persuaded to "come clean" about its nuclear program via diplomacy, the US will consider other options.

Speaking at a press conference at the conclusion of a G-20 summit, Obama said that, "When we find that diplomacy does not work, we will be in a much stronger position to, for example, apply sanctions that have bite. That's not the preferred course of action. I would love nothing more than to see Iran choose the responsible path."

Obama joined the leaders of Britain and France in accusing the Islamic Republic of clandestinely building an underground plant to make nuclear fuel that could be used to build an atomic bomb.

"Iran's action raised grave doubts about its promise to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only," he added, saying the Islamic Republic will soon have to choose "between international isolation and giving up any aspirations to becoming a nuclear power… If they refuse to give ground, they will stay on a path that is going to lead to confrontation...

Say ‘no’ to Obama

From Ynet News, September 18, 2009, by Yair Shamir, son of former PM Yitzchak Shamir

Poster from Children Of Jewish Holocaust Survivors (CJHSLA), a non-profit organization committed to the promotion of Western values against the dual threats of complacency at home and political Islam abroad.

Ever since Barack Obama was sworn in as president of the United States he ...deters the government from making decisions on building, populating and improving the infrastructure in Jerusalem. It also fears to implement decisions that were already approved by previous left-wing governments. At the same time the authorities are afraid to impose the law against illegal Arab construction that threatens the future of Jerusalem.

The Arabs smell this weakness and this emboldens and encourages them to harden their positions towards Israel.

However, there is no basis for this fear and overreaction. With all due respect to President Obama he is not that powerful. The polls in recent weeks point to a drastic decline in his popularity in the United States. Support for the Democrats in the Senate and Congress is now at an all time low and the Republican legislators are now perceived more worthy of being elected to Congress. Two thirds of the population feels that America is not heading in the right direction.

...Polls in the US show that there is still strong and unwavering support among the American public for Israel. Democratic legislators are aware of this and therefore will not allow the president to break Israel's back by imposing withdrawals from land vital to its security.

True leadership understands that saying no and standing up against pressure is vital to attain strategic goals while surrender and acquiescence only leads to abandonment of these goals. At the same time it increases international pressure on Israel. Fending off pressure requires you to alter your tactics but not your goal.

My father, former PM Yitzchak Shamir, may he live and be well, knew that defying American pressure would harm his personal popularity and Israel's image in the short run but in the long run would turn Israel into the US strongest ally and strategic partner.

...My father's refusal to budge from his principles did not lead to a round of applause and praise in the media but it elicited respect for the man and improved Israel's national security. His heritage now forewarns Israeli prime ministers to stand up to pressure and not to define American pressure as a reason to withdraw from your vision and strategic goal. This will only erode Israel's power of deterrence and that of the US in the Middle East.

...The US post September 11th and Europe following a wave of Muslim terror and being faced with a demographic Muslim time bomb constitutes a plausible arena for Israel to stand firm and unapologetic.

The US Congress is equal in power and independence to the president. The president initiates and executes policy but Congress controls the American Purse. It has the authority to change, suspend and initiate policy. ...Very prominent and influential congressional figures have made it clear that we now have a historic opportunity to upgrade the Israeli-US strategic partnership regardless of the present disagreements with the Obama government regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The present Israeli government has a solid majority and backing of the Israeli public who is hoping for change – it wants to see a strong Israel that stands by its rights and principles and does not succumb to the pressure of international elements that have only their self-interests in mind.

"the weakest US president in modern times"

From the National Review Online (US), Wednesday, September 23, 2009, by Robert Costa:

Frequent NRO contributor Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and executive director of Human Rights Voices, gave us a call from the United Nations to relay her take on President Obama’s speech....

...Bayefsky notes that the president received a big round of applause for suggesting that Israel should return to 1967 borders, “without the slightest concern that Israel cannot return to indefensible borders — at least if there is to be any hope of real peace.” Obama, she says, also made “a unilateral policy statement about what is supposed to be subject to bilateral negotiations, as if Israel were his vassal state. That made a terrific impression with the folks at the U.N., but it has nothing to do with a global agenda that advances international peace and security.”

“President Obama also engaged in another round of moral equivalency,” says Bayefsky, “which he made infamous in his Cairo speech. He compared those who live in terror in Israel with those who are still waiting for clean water and a state of their own in ’Palestine,’ a statement which ignores history and the facts on the ground. The Palestinian people in Gaza, who elected a government sworn to Israel’s destruction, do not have a country of their own because their elected representatives in Gaza have declared their permanent opposition to living side-by-side with any Jewish state. The President’s continuing failure to recognize the difference between the victims of terror and the perpetrators bodes ill for any prospect for peace in the Middle East.”

Bayefsky adds that one interesting feature of Obama’s speech was the number of times that he apologized for America. “He essentially said to the world that ‘I’m embarrassed at America's record’ and that their hostility toward America prior to his ascendance to the country's highest office was correct.” ...

...On a final note, Bayefsky says that on Iran, the president said that “if” the country chooses to ignore nuclear standards, then it would have a problem. “If? We already know exactly what Iran has been doing,” she says. “Using the word ‘if’ suggests that President Obama is simply refusing to come to terms with the reality of Iran’s nuclear program and that he has an extraordinary blind spot that isn’t going away any time soon.”

“This speech ought to send shockwaves through the United States and our European allies,” concludes Bayefsky. “We have the weakest president in modern times ensconced in Washington, a man who will run away from saying what has to be said, if it doesn’t appeal to an audience rife with demagogues.”

Three terrorists killed in Gaza

From Ynet News, 26/9/09, by Ali Waked, Ilana Curiel:

A Qassam rocket fired from northern Gaza overnight landed in Eshkol Regional Council limits. No injuries or damage were reported. ...The fire followed an Israeli Air Force strike in Gaza, targeting a three-man Qassam cell spotted trying to fire rockets at Israel.

...Friday's IAF strike in the Tuffah neighborhood in east Gaza City was the first since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead in January.

The IDF Spokesman's Unit confirmed the attack, saying that contrary to Palestinian reports, the cell was targeted near the northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabalya.

The operatives have been identified as Kamal Dahduch, son for former Jihad commander in Gaza Khaled Dahduch; Mahmoud al-Bana, brother of one of the group's military wing commanders and Muhammad Marshud.... the cell was responsible for several rocket launchings at Israel, including firing at Sderot during Rosh Hashana.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Netanyahu addresses the UN

From YouTube, 24/9/09:

Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nearly 62 years ago, the United Nations recognized the right of the Jews, an ancient people 3,500 years-old, to a state of their own in their ancestral homeland.

I stand here today as the Prime Minister of Israel, the Jewish state, and I speak to you on behalf of my country and my people.

The United Nations was founded after the carnage of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust. It was charged with preventing the recurrence of such horrendous events. Nothing has undermined that central mission more than the systematic assault on the truth.

Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.

Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments.

Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews. Is this a lie?

A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler's deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself. Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?

This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie? And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie?

One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own. My wife's grandparents, her father's two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis. Is that also a lie? Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!

Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong. History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries.

In the past thirty years, this fanaticism has swept the globe with a murderous violence and cold-blooded impartiality in its choice of victims. It has callously slaughtered Moslems and Christians, Jews and Hindus, and many others. Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherents of this unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times. Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated.

The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization. It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death. The primitivism of the 9th century ought to be no match for the progress of the 21st century. The allure of freedom, the power of technology, the reach of communications should surely win the day.

Ultimately, the past cannot triumph over the future. And the future offers all nations magnificent bounties of hope. The pace of progress is growing exponentially. It took us centuries to get from the printing press to the telephone, decades to get from the telephone to the personal computer, and only a few years to get from the personal computer to the internet.

What seemed impossible a few years ago is already outdated, and we can scarcely fathom the changes that are yet to come.

We will crack the genetic code. We will cure the incurable. We will lengthen our lives. We will find a cheap alternative to fossil fuels and clean up the planet.

I am proud that my country Israel is at the forefront of these advances - by leading innovations in science and technology, medicine and biology, agriculture and water, energy and the environment. These innovations the world over offer humanity a sunlit future of unimagined promise.

But if the most primitive fanaticism can acquire the most deadly weapons, the march of history could be reversed for a time. And like the belated victory over the Nazis, the forces of progress and freedom will prevail only after a horrific toll of blood and fortune has been exacted from mankind.

That is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction, and the most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?

Will it take action against the dictators who stole an election in broad daylight and gunned down Iranian protesters who died in the streets choking in their own blood?

Will the international community thwart the world's most pernicious sponsors and practitioners of terrorism?

Above all, will the international community stop the terrorist regime of Iran from developing atomic weapons, thereby endangering the peace of the entire world?

The people of Iran are courageously standing up to this regime. People of goodwill around the world stand with them, as do the thousands who have been protesting outside this hall. Will the United Nations stand by their side?

Ladies and Gentlemen, The jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging.

Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted.

For eight long years, Hamas fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks.

We heard nothing - absolutely nothing - from the UN Human Rights Council, a misnamed institution if there ever was one.

In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis.

We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare.

You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent.

Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond. But how should we have responded?

Well, there is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II.

During that war, the allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. Israel chose to respond differently. Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians - Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers.

That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and ferreting explosives in ambulances.

Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas. We dropped countless flyers over their homes, sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking people to leave.

Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy's civilian population from harm's way. Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel.

A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.

By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth! What a perversion of justice!

Delegates of the United Nations, Will you accept this farce? Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgment against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could declare that the earth is flat.

If this body does not reject this report, it would send a message to terrorists everywhere: Terror pays; if you launch your attacks from densely populated areas, you will win immunity.

And in condemning Israel, this body would also deal a mortal blow to peace. Here's why. When Israel left Gaza, many hoped that the missile attacks would stop. Others believed that at the very least, Israel would have international legitimacy to exercise its right of self-defense.

What legitimacy? What self-defense?

The same UN that cheered Israel as it left Gaza and promised to back our right of self-defense now accuses us -my people, my country - of war crimes? And for what? For acting responsibly in self-defense. What a travesty!

Israel justly defended itself against terror. This biased and unjust report is a clear-cut test for all governments. Will you stand with Israel or will you stand with the terrorists?

We must know the answer to that question now. Now and not later. Because if Israel is again asked to take more risks for peace, we must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow.

Only if we have the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen, All of Israel wants peace. Any time an Arab leader genuinely wanted peace with us, we made peace. We made peace with Egypt led by Anwar Sadat. We made peace with Jordan led by King Hussein.

And if the Palestinians truly want peace, I and my government, and the people of Israel, will make peace. But we want a genuine peace, a defensible peace, a permanent peace.

In 1947, this body voted to establish two states for two peoples - a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted that resolution. The Arabs rejected it. We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years: Say yes to a Jewish state.

Just as we are asked to recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation state of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. This is the land of our forefathers.

Inscribed on the walls outside this building is the great Biblical vision of peace: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. They shall learn war no more." These words were spoken by the Jewish prophet Isaiah 2,800 years ago as he walked in my country, in my city - in the hills of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem. We are not strangers to this land. It is our homeland.

As deeply connected as we are to this land, we recognize that the Palestinians also live there and want a home of their own. We want to live side by side with them, two free peoples living in peace, prosperity and dignity.

But we must have security. The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves except those handful of powers that could endanger Israel.

That is why a Palestinian state must be effectively demilitarized. We don't want another Gaza, another Iranian backed terror base abutting Jerusalem and perched on the hills a few kilometers from Tel Aviv.

We want peace.

I believe such a peace can be achieved. But only if we roll back the forces of terror, led by Iran, that seek to destroy peace, eliminate Israel and overthrow the world order.

The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces or accommodate them.

Over seventy years ago, Winston Churchill lamented what he called the "confirmed unteachability of mankind," the unfortunate habit of civilized societies to sleep until danger nearly overtakes them.

Churchill bemoaned what he called the "want of foresight, the unwillingness to act when action will be simple and effective, the lack of clear thinking, the confusion of counsel until emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong."

I speak here today in the hope that Churchill's assessment of the "unteachability of mankind" is for once proven wrong. I speak here today in the hope that we can learn from history -- that we can prevent danger in time.

In the spirit of the timeless words spoken to Joshua over 3,000 years ago, let us be strong and of good courage. Let us confront this peril, secure our future and, God willing, forge an enduring peace for generations to come.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brzezinski wants to shoot down Israeli jets

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Sep. 21, 2009:

Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Photo: AP

Former [US] national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has urged US President Barack Obama to make it clear that if the IAF tries to launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities via Iraqi airspace, the US Air Force will shoot down the Israeli jets.

..."They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? ... If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not....

...Brzezinski, who was former president Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, endorsed Barack Obama's presidential campaign. However, he has no role in the current administration....

Libya rants, Iran roars, Canada walks out

From (Canada), September 24, 2009, by Mitch Potter, WASHINGTON BUREAU:

UNITED NATIONS–The day began with U.S. President Barack Obama promising a new era of global engagement. Then Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi stepped up to tell the world swine flu might be a plot by drug companies.

Finally, firebrand Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a furious diatribe condemning capitalism and Israel. Canada and other nations stood up and walked out in protest.

His remarks capped a surreal day that saw a parade of 32 world leaders address the launch of the 64th UN General Assembly, including those of China, Britain, France, Russia and Brazil.

As pressure mounts over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, Ahmadinejad used the platform of the UN summit to push back.

He cited the global recession as evidence "the engine of unbridled capitalism has reached the end of the road" and said corrupted institutions like the UN are "incapable" of reform.

He railed against Israeli injustice ...

...the Iranian leader used glowing terms to describe the violence-marred vote that returned him to power this year, calling it a "glorious and fully democratic election."

And he ended, 35 minutes later, on an uncharacteristically upbeat note, vowing that despite all grievances, Iran was ready and "prepared to warmly shake hands with those extended to us."

Canada's hands, in particular, were nowhere in sight. As Ahmadinejad took the stage, a senior government minister subbing for Prime Minister Stephen Harper stormed out in a gesture of political outrage.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, standing in for Harper as nearly 100 world leaders gathered to hear Obama map out a new era of global engagement, signalled his intent to shun the controversial Iranian president hours before the fact.

"This is the strongest form of vigorously denouncing Iran for its violation of human rights, denouncing Iran for its non-respect of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, denouncing Iran because ultimately they don't recognize there was a Holocaust," Cannon told the Toronto Star on the steps of the UN's headquarters in New York.

Canada was joined in its boycott by the Israeli delegation. Deeper into the speech, the U.S. delegates also walked away. And by the end, barely half of the General Assembly hall was occupied, although many delegations made no attempt to attend.

...But the day had its mercurial moments as well, most memorably a marathon rant by Gadhafi that stretched 95 minutes – more than six times his apportioned time.

Gadhafi, in his first-ever visit to New York, directed most of his fury at the UN Security Council's power structure. But his conspiratorial rhetoric included bizarre asides, including suggestions that "swine flu" may be an evil plot by pharmaceutical makers and the assassination of John F. Kennedy might have been the work of Israeli agents.

Cannon told the Star he was conducting a bilateral meeting at the time and thus did not attend Gadhafi's speech – sparing himself the need to decide whether it was worthy of a walkout.

"If you look at President Obama's speech today and focus more on that than Mr. Gadhafi's speech," the day was a resounding success, he said. "(Obama's) call to action where everyone should renew, as he said, the United Nations and get back on track – that in itself was a very strong, positive message."

In Oakville yesterday, Harper defended the Canadian boycott, citing Ahmadinejad's "absolutely repugnant" comments on the Holocaust and Israel.

"There are times when things are being said in this world that it is important that countries that have a moral compass stand up, make their views known," Harper said. "Our absence will speak volumes about how Canada feels about the declarations of President Ahmadinejad."

We want Peace

From CNN Video, September 22, 2009:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Australia's 60 Minutes deliberately sets out to portray all Israeli settlers as extremists.

From HonestReporting, 22 Sept 2009:

Jewish settlements on the West Bank have featured prominently in the news in recent months. There is no consensus on the issue in Israel or the Diaspora and it would be naive to expect any positive coverage from a hostile media.

We should, however, expect the media to cover the story without prejudice and to accurately reflect the realities on the ground without becoming advocates for the Palestinian position. On this, Australian Channel Nine's 60 Minutes fails.

Reporter Liam Bartlett begins the segment with the wholly erroneous statement that "hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers are moving into the West Bank, building new towns on Palestinian land."

Putting aside the thorny issue of what actually constitutes "Palestinian land," hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers are certainly not moving into the West Bank. Instead, the settler population continues to grow within existing communities mainly due to natural growth. While this has allowed building and development within existing boundaries, the Israeli government has not authorized the creation of any new towns for many years.

Referring to "a day in the life of the West Bank," Bartlett focuses on a video of a settler shooting a Palestinian in Hebron, replaying it throughout the report, replete with dramatic background music for added effect. Bartlett interviews a Palestinian virtually helping him to "reconstruct" the incident without question.

This shooting is certainly not indicative of "a day in the life of the West Bank" and caused something of an uproar in Israel in December 2008 - some nine months before Bartlett's report. As is the case in a democracy where the rule of law is taken seriously, this incident was thoroughly investigated by the police and the suspect involved was charged with and prosecuted for assault.

While Bartlett takes the video and his Palestinian interviewee at face value, ensuring that it fits his agenda, the other side of a more complicated story did not appear in the report. Nor did the judge's statement that the Palestinians were partly at fault for what had transpired. "In their behavior the Palestinians contributed greatly to the incident's grave consequences."

Bartlett is clearly attempting to use the above incident and an interview with Nadia Matar to portray all Israeli settlers as extremists, contributing to the demonization of an entire sector of Israeli society.

Matar is a prominent leader of the right-wing Women in Green group and whether one agrees with her politics or not, she is certainly not representative of the mainstream settler leadership - something that Bartlett does not share with his audience. Indeed, Bartlett takes an aggressive line of questioning with Matar in stark contrast to his interview with the Palestinian resident of Hebron.

Likewise, Bartlett interviews Palestinian official Mustafa Barghouti, adding his own commentary, claiming that Israeli setters "look down on Palestinian towns through barbed wire and boom gates. To protect the settlers, Israel controls the movement of Palestinians. To travel from one town to another, there can be humiliating delays at checkpoints."

Nowhere in his report does Bartlett expand on the Palestinian terrorism that has necessitated Israeli security measures, while one is left wondering what "humiliating delays at checkpoints" could actually entail, short of sitting in a traffic jam.

Bartlett allows Barghouti to employ inciteful language against Jewish settlers including analogies to "cancer" and "rape."

Bartlett reports from what, according to him, is a "peaceful demonstration" outside of a settlement. The location, in reality, appears to be that of the Israeli security fence during regular Friday protests by Palestinians, probably from the village of Bil'in. These "peaceful" demonstrations usually descend into something more violent as Palestinians and international volunteers throw stones and riot against Israeli security forces who are forced to respond with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In conclusion, this 60 Minutes report is an example of the worst kind of demonization of Israeli settlers driven by Liam Bartlett's unhidden and overtly biased agenda.

Please send your considered comments to Channel Nine's 60 Minutes -

Where Is Obama's ME plan going?

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Sep. 22, 2009, by Zvi Mazel, former Israeli ambassador to Egypt:

...Faced with the stubborn refusal of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to yield an inch on proposals for token gestures of normalization in exchange for the implementation of the first stage of the road map - and specifically the total freeze of building in the settlements - it is now hard to see how US President Barack Obama will push his stated objective of restarting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

On September 13, the Saudi ambassador to Washington publicized the king's answer to the bipartisan letter he had received from 225 members of Congress in late July, concerning the Saudi initiative also known as the Arab Peace Plan. The congressmen had asked him "to make a dramatic gesture toward Israel as a confidence-building measure to promote peace."

...The Saudi answer as made public by the ambassador was unambiguous. The Saudi position was that achieving peace on the basis of confidence-building had been tried and had failed over the past 30 years; the Saudis did not believe it could succeed today ...a none-too-subtle slamming of the door in the face of the president.

...Saudi Arabia was not the only Arab state to say no. A wave of negative reactions and articles against Israel swept the Arab world.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who visited Washington in mid-August, said in a number of interviews that since the Madrid peace conference in 1991, no Arab attempts at dialogue with Israel had encouraged them to normalize ties. Arab states, he added, would only recognize Israel and normalize their relations after a full and comprehensive peace was achieved with the Palestinians.

In Morocco, there were demonstrations against normalization when the content of the Obama letter was made public. In Lebanon, Shi'ite spiritual leader Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah issued a fatwa forbidding normalization with Israel.

On September 6, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said in a joint press conference in Cairo with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal that a discussion on steps toward normalization with Israel were not on the agenda, in view of its intransigence on building in the settlements. He added that no Arab country would dare make a move in that direction for fear of the violent reaction of the Arab world. For his part, Mashaal stated that America was trying to mobilize the Arabs against Iran and deflect their attention from the Palestinian issue.

Arab media followed suit as usual and stoutly defended the position of the leaders while detailing the dangers of normalization with "the Zionist enemy."

... The US president has been turned down time and time again by states having close links with the United States on a series of vital issues - countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Qatar hosts the Central Command of the American Army; Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet; American troops pass through Kuwait on their way to and from Iraq. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are staunch allies of America in the strategic fight against Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Egypt is the recipient of massive American aid.

...Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, did respond to Obama's call and, in a startling reversal of his previously stated position, declared that he accepted the two-state solution and was ready to enter negotiations with the Palestinians on that basis.

However, Israel, which had never accepted the Saudi initiative - perceiving it as a diktat with a set of imposed conditions and not a valid basis for negotiations and compromise - saw in the Saudi answer the confirmation of all its fears. Having to agree first to the solution of all burning issues between Israel and the Palestinians is not a viable basis for negotiations, especially since the Saudi initiative asks for a "just" solution to the refugee problem, stressing that they would not be settled in Arab lands - a code word for a Palestinian right of return. Israel is in no position to accept this condition without endangering its very existence.

To sum up, Arab countries are turning a cold shoulder to the Obama initiative, even if isolated reports talk of ongoing discussions. On the other front, Israel, the new American president has failed to read the map correctly. A complete freeze on building in the settlements - including east Jerusalem - with no possibility of providing for natural growth, is just not possible. Such a policy would very likely endanger the stability of the government and of the country.

Obama's insistence on such a freeze played nicely into the hands of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who finds himself unable to act because of the lack of progress on reconciliation talks with Hamas.

Happily sensing a major shift in American policy in the Middle East, he now proclaims he won't resume negotiations with Israel as long as a full building freeze is not implemented.

...How will it all end? In a rare show of unity, all countries feel wounded by America's unrealistic policy. However, they all depend on America's military, political or economic support. Some form of a compromise will probably be found. It will not be based on the Arab initiative, because Saudi Arabia, which formulated it, has brought about its demise: Now that Riyadh has clarified its position, Israel can never accept it, even if some minor changes are made.

And so, once again, the Middle East is waiting for Obama to spell out what he has in mind. He will do so on Wednesday in front of the UN General Assembly. Although one can hope, it is doubtful he will find a way to satisfy all involved. There are signs, however, that he is beginning to understand the region a little better and is cooling his relations with Syria.

Better later than never.

PM: Israel, PA agreed to begin talks without preconditions

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Sept. 22, 2009, by Herb Keinon:

Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to relaunch peace negotiations without any preconditions, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared on Tuesday.

...Earlier, US President Barack Obama expressed a similar sentiment, emerging from bilateral meetings with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowing to move ahead with the diplomatic process, while seeming to step back from his call for a total settlement freeze, saying that Israel now is discussing "restraining settlement activities."

Prior to a tripartite meeting with the Mideast leaders, the US president said that Special Mideast envoy George Mitchell will continue holding negotiations with both sides, and Israel and the Palestinians will send delegations to Washington next week for the talks. He gave mid-October as a deadline for reviewing the status of the situation.

"Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. And more importantly, we must give those negotiations the opportunity to succeed," Obama said.

...The US president reiterated that "the United States is committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, which will result in two states living side by side - Palestine and Israel. It remains important for the Arab states to take steps to promote peace in the region."

Obama pointed out that although both sides have taken some steps, they have not done enough.

"The Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security," he said, adding that they need to do more now about incitement and move forward on negotiations.

Regarding Israel, Obama said it has "facilitated greater freedom of movement for Palestinians, and discussed important steps to restraining settlement activity, but they [Israel] need to translate the discussion into actions on that and other issues."

Following his remarks, both Netanyahu and Abbas shook hands - the first time the gesture was made between the two leaders.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, National Security Council head Uzi Arad, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mitchell took part in the earlier bilateral Israeli-American meeting....

After meeting Netanyahu, Obama met with Abbas...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Australia ridicules the Goldstone Farce

From Australian Government, House of Representatives Hansard, 17/9/09:

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (12.43 pm)—

The Goldstone Commission, which has just reported in Geneva, probably will not be discussed much by this parliament, reflecting its lack of credibility and the fact that the Australian government, I am sure, does not take it seriously.

The mandate of this regrettable commission, investigating the divisive problem of the Middle East, has been troubled from the beginning. All of the European Union, Switzerland, Canada, Korea and Japan, refused to be associated with the UN Human Rights Council mandate for this commission because it was so biased. must look at what preceded the Israel army’s action in Gaza. The 8,000 rockets that landed on Israeli southern cities would be the subject as well of any investigation by a genuine humanitarian—any fair-minded person, any fair-minded United Nations organisation....

...One can understand why the Israelis, given the fact that nothing on their side was to be looked at and only what was happening in Gaza was to be looked at, would not cooperate with the mandate at all.

What a very curious humanitarian commission that examines only one side. Most claims were unverifiable... No wonder so many people think some of these UN organizations exist in a parallel universe.

....The resolution to the problems in the Middle East will come when people have considerations for all sides....That is where justice will come from, not from this one-sided report which will only set back prospects of political settlement.

"Yes We Can" Meets "No We Won't"

From Slate, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009, by Shmuel Rosner:

Obama's attempts to broker Middle East peace are doomed to fail—for now.

... President Obama was planning a trilateral meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas on the sidelines of next week's U.N. General Assembly, and Mitchell worked overtime this week to make it happen.

But, suddenly, even getting the parties to a meeting is a challenge.

Not to mention the difficulty of getting other Arab countries to make some kind of gesture to show they will be supportive of the relaunched peace process: Obama's request was rebuffed by the likeliest—and most important—candidate to make such a gesture, Saudi Arabia. It was rebuffed privately—and later also publicly. The Saudis will "refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as well as Shabaa Farms in Lebanon," Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

So even if there is a meeting next week or in the following weeks—even if the parties grudgingly agree to "negotiate"—it is clear to everyone involved, except for the overeager Americans, that success is unlikely. Because while Obama is running as fast as he can, all the Middle Eastern players are convinced that they had better move slowly. When he said, "After me," they all replied, "After you, and him, and him, too."

Netanyahu has no desire to make political or strategic sacrifices before he sees some progress on the Iranian nuclear front.

Abbas and the Palestinians—and some other Arab leaders—are still hoping that if they wait, Obama might be drawn into pressuring Israel a little more. Arab states are reluctant to move before the Palestinians do. The Syrians want to make sure that they bet on the right horse—and will not abandon their Iranian card while it is still valuable.

In short, the Obama administration had hoped that by showing enthusiasm and dynamism it would ignite positive momentum. Instead, it had raised false expectations and now faces a credibility gap.

Even if there is a trilateral meeting in New York next week, it will be a meeting of the disappointed, the nonbelievers, and the very hard-to-please. Netanyahu was amazed and offended by "unprecedented" American pressure. Abbas was offended by America's broken promise that it would make sure all Israeli construction in the West Bank, Jerusalem included, would be stopped....

It's been eight months since the Obama administration ducked all skeptical speculation to the contrary and decided to invest heavily in a peace process that didn't present any feasible opening for breakthroughs. ...

Obama ...was reaching for the stars and reaped no more than a handful of air. "Yes we can" ran into "no we won't."

Israel will not freeze settlements, Palestinians will not soften their demands, and Arabs will not lend a hand.

And, by the way, Iran will not halt its nuclear program, Russia will not vote for stronger sanctions, Lebanon will not have a Hezbollah-free government, and Syria will not arrest terrorists crossing into Iraq.

Not until they have better reasons to do what Obama wants them to do. Not until he shows them that he can also wait for them to make a move.

Tehran's latest bid to run down the clock.

From Slate 14 Sept 2009, by Christopher Hitchens:

... the U.S. government has come to a point where it must ask itself: What is it like to enter negotiations with a man who loathes you and who every Friday holds public prayers that call for your death?

Last Friday brought the news that the Obama administration had accepted an offer from Tehran, delivered the preceding Wednesday, for the holding of what the New York Times called "unconditional talks."...

...But things have changed a little since the president and his secretary of state were sparring over the word unconditional during the primaries.

First, it has become ever clearer that Iran's uranium-enrichment and centrifuge program has put it within measurable distance of the ability to weaponize its nuclear capacity.

Second, it has become obscenely obvious that the theocracy is prepared to govern by force alone and to employ the most appalling measures to remain in power without a mandate.

...Do we seriously expect the Islamic Republic to be negotiating in good faith about its nuclear program?

...What do we know about the effect of these proposed talks on the morale and the leadership of the Iranian opposition?

One presumes that the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regime had its own reasons for firing off a five-page document proposing negotiations and including Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and China.... The letter was sent out in the same period that the Russian government opposed any further sanctions on Iran for noncooperation, in the same period that Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would never halt its nuclear fuel production, and in the run-up to Ahmadinejad's next appearance at the podium of the United Nations toward the end of this month.

Might it be possible—you will, I hope, forgive my cynicism—that this latest initiative from Tehran is yet another attempt to buy time or run out the clock?

Meanwhile, it is certainly the case that at least three of the six countries approached are being asked to negotiate under some kind of duress. In an unpardonable violation of diplomatic immunity (a phrase that may remind you of something), employees of the French and British Embassies in Tehran have been placed under arrest and subjected to show trials since the convulsions that attended the coup mounted by the Revolutionary Guards in June. And the Iranian correspondent of Newsweek magazine—who is also a Canadian citizen—has been held incommunicado for almost the same length of time. Without overstressing any "preconditions," it doesn't seem too much to require of the Iranian regime that it not send out invitations to countries whose citizens or locally engaged diplomatic staff it is holding as hostages.

... Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations ...said, [that the US] would not impose "artificial deadlines" on Ahmadinejad.... [BUT we already have a bushel of ] "genuine" deadline[s], whereby, for example, the United Nations required Iran to demonstrate compliance with the relevant Security Council resolutions on nuclear proliferation ...or face further U.N.-mandated sanctions ...

From all appearances, then, this seems like another snow job from the mullahs. ...

... Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University:
When you read [the Iranian letter] and realize how empty of earnest negotiating positions it in fact is, you are left with no choice but to conclude that they are relying on their ally in Putin's Russia to veto any resolutions against them. For the Russians to be able to even pretend to be serious in their talk of no need for more pressure on the regime, Tehran has also to pretend to be serious in negotiation....

Goldstone's sins of omission

From The Guardian, Wednesday 16 September 2009, by Dan Kosky:

Richard Goldstone's report fails to shed light on the Gaza conflict, delivering easy criticism rather than solutions

Richard Goldstone's long-awaited report has confirmed suspicions that his investigation is guided by an agenda to isolate Israel. The farcical investigative process has produced a report which vilifies Israel but helps little in better understanding the Gaza conflict.

Much was rightly made of the investigation's one-sided mandate, which erased Hamas's culpability. Panel member Christine Chinkin, branded Israel's Gaza operation a "war crime" before the inquiry had even begun. As a result, the Israeli government rightly recognised the warning signs and stayed away from the Goldstone process.

Equally worrying for the sceptics was the lack of transparency throughout the inquiry. Hand-picked "witnesses" were invited without explanation to testify before the mission. A hearing in Geneva, billed ostensibly as an opportunity to hear Israeli voices, became a cover for representatives of radical NGOs to spout propaganda with little direct significance to the conflict in Gaza.

Most notable was the appearance via video of Shawan Jabarin, director general of al-Haq, a Ramallah-based NGO which spearheads lawsuits against Israeli officials in courts across the world. Jabarin's contribution over events in Gaza is overshadowed by evidence that he is "among the senior activists of the Popular Front terrorist organisation". Al-Haq's allegations are cited at least 30 times in the report, but the critical context of his background is hidden.

Grave doubts over the investigative process have been realised by the mission's conclusions. These strengthen the game plan designed to condemn Israel. The report is replete with dubious statistics and sources. Casualty figures are quoted from the Gaza based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a politically motivated organisation, which consistently refers to terrorism as "resistance". PCHR's faulty statistics include senior Hamas military figures such as Nizar Rayan and Said Siam, as civilians.

Yet it is perhaps what is missing which is most telling. Reading the report, one would be unaware of Hamas's human-shield strategy, a significant contributory factor to the civilian deaths in Gaza. Goldstone prefers to ignore the obvious. Although he states: "Palestinian armed groups were present in urban areas during the military operations and launched rockets from urban areas", he avoids the logical conclusion of the massive use of human shields. Of course, admitting that Hamas endangered Gazan citizens would provide an alternative to Israeli guilt. Yet, rather than state the inconvenient truth, the report reinforces preconceived Israeli culpability.

Goldstone is similarly evasive over the unreliability of key "eyewitnesses". Like the flood of NGO publications in the immediate aftermath of the conflict (particularly those by Human Rights Watch, of which Goldstone was a board member) Goldstone's so-called investigation is largely reliant upon "eyewitness" Gaza testimony. The report applies entirely illogical reasoning, failing to elaborate on "a certain reluctance by the persons … interviewed in Gaza to discuss the activities of armed groups". This observation provides a glimpse of the dangers faced by those speaking out against the regime in Gaza, yet Goldstone omits to mention how Hamas intimidation undermines witnesses and with it the very foundation for his conclusions.

On the basis of such flimsy testimony, Goldstone's recommendations are particularly sinister. Although "the findings do not … pretend to reach the standard of proof applicable in criminal trials", they will undoubtedly fuel a judicial campaign against Israel. Both Israel and the euphemistic "Gaza authorities" have been given six months to prove their mettle in investigating potential war crimes or face the prospect of becoming international pariahs at the international criminal court (ICC).

Realistically, no one can expect to hold to account a non-state actor such as Hamas, supported by Iran. Fewer still can imagine that any Israeli investigation will be judged by the UN framework as satisfactory. The Israeli authorities have already investigated more than 100 allegations of wrongdoing, with 23 cases still pending. These efforts were deemed insufficient before they began and one wonders how many convictions would have to be secured in Israeli courts to ward off the wrath of Goldstone.

Once again it is his sins of omission which truly undermine Goldstone's recommendations. Having condemned Israel's military campaign, Goldstone does little to provide solutions. He pays lip service to the complexities of asymmetric warfare, preferring the easy route of criticism. Rather than advise how to better stop groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad who deliberately target civilians, Goldstone opts for straightforward denunciation of Israel.

Of course, these are the same battle dilemmas facing UK and US armies in foreign fields. Until the issues are seriously addressed or, alternatively, forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are subjected to similar scrutiny, Goldstone and the NGOs and UN frameworks which threw their weight behind his mission will justifiably be viewed with suspicion.

Obama sharply alters missile defense plans

From the US Air Force Times, Saturday Sep 19, 2009, by William H. McMichael:

In a major policy reversal, President Barack Obama has scuttled plans to build a massive ground-based missile defense system based in the Czech Republic and Poland that the Bush administration intended to counter the threat posed by Iranian ballistic missiles.

Instead, Obama favors shorter-range ground- and sea-based missiles positioned closer to Iran.

The new system, which Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said will be “globally deployable, ... globally exportable,” initially will center around ground-based Patriot and Aegis-ship-based SM-3 missiles, networked command-and-control systems and improved sensors. It will mimic the ship-based defense system now used in the joint defense of South Korea and Japan, he said...

...Now off the table are plans to build the politically sensitive system that Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed to President George W. Bush in 2006 that called for construction of a complex radar station in the Czech Republic and the installation of 10 silo-based Ground-Based Interceptor missiles in Poland...

....Russia had long opposed the 2006 U.S. plan, saying it would undermine its strategic nuclear posture. Asked whether the cooled relations that resulted were a factor in formulating the new policy, Gates said the Russians “are probably not going to be pleased that we are continuing with missile defense efforts in Europe.”

But two elements of the new plan should allay those fears, [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates said. The new sensor plan will not have the capability to look deep into Russia, as the previous omni-directional system could have. ...And the SM-3, with its kinetic warhead, is a weapon that Gates said the Russians “simply cannot, at least rationally, argue bears any kind of a threat to Russia.”

...The overriding U.S. motivation for the change, Gates said, was “almost exclusively” driven by the new intelligence assessments and improvements in technology....