Friday, January 21, 2011

Which "Occupation"?

From Ynet News, 19 January 2011, by Martin Sherman:

Restoring historical memory ...Palestinian enmity towards Jews is not about borders but about Israel’s existence

Israel is continuously accused by its detractors of "occupying" Palestinian territory and "usurping" Palestinian land by means of an "expansionary settlement policy." "Occupation" and "Settlements" have thus become the buzzwords by which to denote and defame Israel's control of the territories across the 1967 armistices lines. This prevailing custom is wildly at odds with the realities that forced Israel to seize these territories in an unequivocal act of self-defense against threats of annihilation, in a classic preemptive exercise of the right of "anticipatory self defense."

A 2003 article "Jus ad Bellum: Law Regulating Resort to Force", published by the American Bar Association, sets out the rather stringent conditions for the legitimate exercise of "anticipatory self defense." It stipulates that the necessity for action must be "instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation." It goes on to quote a "recent edition of a leading treatise (which) states that (anticipatory) self-defense may justify use of force under the following conditions: an attack is immediately threatened; there is an urgent necessity for defensive action; there is no practicable alternative, particularly when another state or authority that legally could stop or prevent the infringement does not or cannot do so..."

There is clearly not doubt that these conditions were met in June 1967. On March 8th 1965, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser proclaimed:

"We shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand. We shall enter it with its soil saturated in blood." On May 18, 1967 the Cairo-based radio station Voice of the Arabs blared stridently: "As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. .... The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence." Two days later, on May 20, 1967, Gen. Hafez al-Assad, Syria's Minister of Defense, and later President, boasted: "Our forces are now entirely ready.... the time has come to enter a battle of annihilation."
Therefore, it was not Israeli aggression but unequivocal Arab aggression that led to the events which precipitated Israel's takeover of territories across the 1967 frontiers, an act of clearly legitimate anticipatory preemption of that aggression.

Liberation or annihilation?
On November 18, 1965, Nasser asserted:

"Our aim is the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people. In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel."

It should be recalled that at this time the entire "West Bank" and Gaza, the territories that are now claimed for the establishment of a Palestinian state, were under full Arab control. Nasser himself ruled over Gaza and King Hussein of Jordan over the "West Bank."

Yet neither undertook any initiative to set up any kind of Palestinian entity in these territories. (At that time the Palestinians themselves eschewed any aspirations of sovereignty over the “West Bank” and Gaza, which seem to have been totally irrelevant for "full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people," both in the eyes of the Palestinians and in the eyes of the wider Arab world.)

So, as the Arab armies massed against it, Israel began to brace itself for the coming war, preparing mass graves in Tel Aviv and other cities in anticipation of large civilian causalities. On May 27, 1967, the then-chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Ahmed Shukairy, gloated,

"D-Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation."
"All of the Arab armies now surround Israel. The UAR (the United Arab Republic, the name by which Egypt called itself from 1958 to 1971), Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Algeria, Sudan, and Kuwait. .... There is no difference between one Arab people and another, no difference between one Arab army and another."

"This is a fight for the homeland. It is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road. The Jews of Palestine will have to leave. We will facilitate their departure to their former homes. Any of the old Palestine Jewish population who survive may stay, but it is my impression that none of them will survive....We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors - if there are any - the boats are ready to deport them."
This view is strongly endorsed by the text of the original formulation of the Palestinian Covenant adopted in 1964, before any "occupation" or "settlements" were ever part of the discourse, much less facts on the ground. In Article 24, it specifically eschews claims to "any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (sic) and Gaza."

What more authoritative source could be imagined for exposing the Palestinian claims to the West Bank and Gaza as bogus than the Palestinian themselves? The source being their own "National Covenant" no less.

The Palestinians: Then and now
So what, if anything, has changed since then in the motivations and objectives of the Palestinians? Very little, it would appear. For when one looks at the founding documents of the major Palestinian organizations today, the same abiding animosity persists. For example, the constitution of the allegedly moderate/pragmatic Fatah, adopted in 1964 and purposefully left un-amended in its 2009 Convention in Bethlehem, states as its "Goal" (in Article 12):

"Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence."
“Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, … in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated."
In this regard, Article 22 is quite specific stating that the
"... liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence ..."

"The partition of Palestine in 1947, and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time..."
Furthermore, should anyone opine that the vigor of the Palestinians' genocidal - or rather "Judeocidal" - aspirations have receded, the Hamas Charter will quickly dispel such illusions. For the founding document of the largest Palestinian political faction, which sets outs its raison d'etre, proclaims:
“Israel ... will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors ...Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam ... The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, ... there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.”
(From the Preamble, Article 28 and Article 7)

Clearly then, Arab Palestinian enmity towards the Jews is not about borders but about being; not about Israel's "occupation" but about Israel's existence; not about what the Jewish people do but about what the Jewish people are; not about the Jewish state's policy but about the Jewish state per se.

Indeed, should further evidence be required that "Occupation" and "Settlements" are merely an excuse and not a reason for Palestinian violence, the situation in Gaza provides the ultimate proof. For after Israel razed all of its settlements to the ground, evacuated all the settlers, removed any vestige of "occupation," violence against Israel surged rather than subsided. And any suggestion that the continuing Palestinian attacks are due to the "blockade" should be swiftly dismissed since the blockade post-dated these attacks and is thus demonstrably a result of them not a reason for them, it is a consequence - not a cause - of Palestinian violence.

So, in the final analysis, in accounting for the enduring bloodshed in the Middle East, the claims that Israeli "occupation" and the Israeli settlements are to blame must be assertively repudiated.

Israel will hold the PA to account and disconnect from Gaza

From The Jerusalem Post, 20 January 2011:
The Palestinian Authority’s insistence on confronting Israel in international forums at every opportunity cannot go on forever, and will lead to a breakdown in ties between Israel and the PA, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a meeting Thursday with new French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie. He told his French counterpart that there was a “dangerous gap” in relations between Israel and the PA.
“While Israel last week approved 5,300 additional jobs for Palestinians inside Israel, the PA presented a resolution to the UN Security Council condemning Israel for all possible sins,” Lieberman said. “This gap cannot remain forever and will lead to a breakdown of ties between the sides.”
Lieberman said Israel would not sit back and perpetually absorb Palestinian “criticism and insults.” He said the Foreign Ministry is preparing a report charting what Israel and the PA have and have not done to move the diplomatic process forward since the beginning of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government in March 2009.
Lieberman said that on the Israeli side of the ledger there was
  • Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech adopting the two-state program,
  • the removal of roadblocks,
  • a 10-month settlement freeze, and
  • providing the Palestinians with a frequency for a cellular phone network.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, have
  • brought Israel to the UN Human Rights Council and the International Court in The Hague,
  • condemned Israel at the UN Security Council, and
  • named streets and squares in Palestinian cities after terrorists.
“Israel can’t allow this situation to continue,” he said.
Lieberman also highlighted the hypocrisy of the Arab League, which he said worked “with great energy to condemn Israel,” but did not show the same energy in dealing “with issues no less important than peace in the Middle East, such as the situation in Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq and other places.”
Alliot-Marie, in addition to meeting Lieberman, also met Thursday with President Shimon Peres, just before he heard of his wife Sonia’s death, with Netanyahu, and with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Netanyahu told Alliot-Marie, who is scheduled to visit Gaza on Friday, that Israel would work toward “disengaging” from Gaza’s infrastructure, starting with removing the area from Israel’s water and electricity grids.
This plan was first brought up by Lieberman in the summer, with the idea being that the EU would be asked to help build a power plant, water desalination plant and sewage treatment plant in Gaza to make it self sufficient.

One of the rationales behind the plan was that it would help Gaza’s economy without necessarily strengthening Hamas.
In addition to Alliot-Marie, White House senior adviser Dennis Ross and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s top aide David Hale arrived in Israel Thursday for discussions Jerusalem said were aimed at charting Israel’s security needs under any future accord.
The goal, according to a statement issued by the PMO, was to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge after any future agreement.
One of the main obstacles hindering a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has been the Palestinian insistence to first talk about settlements and borders, and Israel countering that security should be discussed first, because no decisions on borders could be made without knowing precisely what security arrangements would be put into place.
The US efforts to map out precisely Israel’s perception of its security requirements after the establishment of a Palestinian state is widely seen as a US effort to bridge the gaps between the two sides’ positions, with the US talking with Israel about what Jerusalem wants to talk about first.
Netanyahu has said in the past he would agree to a Palestinian state only if that state would be demilitarized, meaning – in part – that Israel needed to retain a security presence on the Jordan River to prevent the type of arms smuggling that takes place from Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon, and from Egypt into Gaza.
...Netanyahu is adamant that – at least for the foreseeable future – there must be an Israeli presence [along the Jordan River]. The Palestinians are opposed to any Israeli soldiers’ stationed in their future state.
...In Washington Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underscored American opposition to Palestinian unilateral moves at the UN, saying that the only way to achieve a two-state solution is through negotiations.
“We don’t see action in the UN or any other forum as being helpful in bringing about that desired outcome,” Clinton said in a response to a question posed during a press appearance after a meeting with her Estonian counterpart...

Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

UN met only 52% of target for Palestinian aid in 2010

From JPost, 20 January 2011, by TOVAH LAZAROFF:

First time such large gap exists between initial aid request, amount of money donated since UN began humanitarian appeal to member states, international organizations in 2003.

The UN was only able to fund 52 percent of the humanitarian aid it wanted to provide to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in 2010, according to statistics it released on Wednesday at a press conference in Jerusalem.

It’s the first time such a large gap has existed between the initial aid request and the amount of money donated since the UN began a humanitarian appeal for Palestinians to member states and international organizations in 2003.

...The UN raised funds that met 79% of its humanitarian requests for Palestinians in 2009 and 75% in 2008.

...What frustrates him about the Palestinian appeal, [UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, Maxwell] Gaylard said, is that unlike in a natural disaster, the humanitarian problem in the West Bank is man-made and unnecessary.

Humanitarian assistance there is a necessity, but it is not the answer, he said.

The situation can only be resolved through a political solution that would bring peace and prosperity to the region, Gaylord said.

Intel pumps $2.7b into Israeli plant

From Israel21C, January 19, 2011, by Viva Sarah Press:

U.S. chipmaker Intel has confirmed plans to invest $2.7 billion in its southern Israel facility in order to produce 22-nanometer technology for semiconductors.

The two-year investment plan in the Kiryat Gat factory includes a $210 million grant recently approved by the Israeli government.

The investment will make the Kiryat Gat plant the second of Intel's properties to be fully ready for 22nm production. The new venture will also boost the facility's workforce, opening approximately 1,000 jobs over the coming year.

"We are already in preparation for hiring," Maxine Fassberg, general manager of Intel Israel, told a news conference. "We are scheduled to start production in December."

Intel currently employs 7,057 people in Israel. The company is one of Israel's largest private-sector employers.

Intel has received $1.2 billion in grants from the Israeli government since it began manufacturing in the country 25 years ago, according to Fassberg. Before this year, it invested $7.3 billion in Israel.

Meanwhile, technology blogs are announcing that if Intel's 22nm production starts in December 2011 as planned, the first 22nm chips could be ready in early 2012.

A New York Jew in China - What Do Chinese People Think of Jews?

This very interesting 10-minute video is in Yiddish, with English subtitles:

A New York Jew in China - What Do Chinese People Think of Jews? from Forverts on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Israel must defend itself

From Hadar Israel, recorded at Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Jerusalem December 26, 2010:

Not relying on foreign forces to defend Israel was a key principle of Ben Gurion and the state's founders, and it is still as true today, according to Mag. General (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former Director of the Israel Defense Force's Research Division.

Ultimately Israel must defend itself by itself.

Amidror says that international troops are at best ineffective and potentially dangerous. UNIFIL has never stopped Hizbullah forces from building an illegal arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles and rockets aimed at Israel. Deploying international troops will only narrow Israel's options and provide an umbrella under which terrorists can build their capability to strike.

Likud and new Independence faction reach coalition agreement. Government has become 'much stronger'

From JPost, 18 January 2011, By GIL HOFFMAN:

Barak will remain defense minister; Agricultural Minister Shalom Simhon to replace Ben-Eliezer as Industry, Trade and Labor minister.

The sides agreed upon who would replace the three Labor ministers who resigned from the government on Monday: Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben- Eliezer, Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman.

  • Ehud Barak will retain his role of defense minister as part of the deal.
  • Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, will be promoted to Ben-Eliezer’s job, and
  • Ben-Eliezer’s current deputy Orit Noked, who represents Labor’s kibbutz sector, will replace Simhon.
  • Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i will keep his present responsibilities for the home front while being promoted to minority affairs minister.
MK Einat Wilf, who is on maternity leave, will chair the Independence faction and will become chairwoman of The Immigration and Absorption Ministry. She will also become chairwoman of the Knesset Education Committee.

Shas asked to receive the Welfare and Social Services portfolio, but Netanyahu intends to keep it for the Likud. He will hold the post for a few weeks and then bestow it upon a Likud minister-without-portfolio, deputy minister or MK who proves his or her loyalty.

The deal will be brought to a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon, when the three departing ministers’ resignations take effect.

On Monday, Barak ended an era when he announced at a surprising Knesset press conference that he and four of his allies were leaving the Labor Party and forming a new faction called Independence.

Barak and his allies said they could no longer function in Labor due to the constant threats by ministers and MKs to break up the party if it did not leave Netanyahu’s coalition....

Netanyahu: Government has become 'much stronger'
The prime minister told the Likud faction that his government had ironically become “much stronger” with the departure of eight Labor MKs from the coalition, because the remaining 66 coalition lawmakers still wanted to be a part of it. He said this would convey to the international community that his government was stable, and there was no point in waiting for it to fall.

“The entire world knows, and so do the Palestinians, that this government will be here for the coming years, and it is with this government that it will have to conduct the peace process,” Netanyahu said. “I want to have [a peace process] and advance it on the basis of promoting our interests of achieving security and peace.”
Netanyahu thanked the ministers who quit and said that despite their political disagreements, he had enjoyed working with them. He praised them for what he said were their many professional accomplishments.

In his press conference, Barak said he had never intended to leave Labor and that he loved many of the party’s people, but that he was tired of apologizing for remaining in the government.

He compared himself to former prime ministers David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon, who all left their political parties and formed new ones.

Simhon, who has chaired the Labor faction over the past year, said it had become four or five separate factions acting independently. He said that at times, he was the only Labor MK voting with the coalition.

“People ask if we are destroying Labor,” Simhon said. “We aren’t destroying Labor.

Labor was destroyed when a minority group refused to accept a decision of 2,500 members at a Labor convention [to enter the coalition].”Barak denounced his critics in Labor who he said wanted it to go more and more to the Left. Wilf said the five MKs had decided that the best way to advance the diplomatic process was with the current government.

“We are leaving today to independence,” Barak said. “We are leaving to a faction, movement and – eventually – a party that will be centrist, Zionist and democratic and act according to the legacy of Ben-Gurion.”

Netanyahu is determined to advance peace talks

From Ynet News, 18 January 2011, by Attila Somfalvi:

...Prime minister briefs Americans on political drama ...he will work to renew negotiations

...Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to speed up the dialogue with the United States in a bid to renew the regional peace process, state officials said Monday night.

...The prime minister's advisors contacted American, Palestinian and European elements in the midst of the political drama created Monday following Barak's announcement, in a bid to clarify that Netanyahu is determined to advance the peace talks.

..."Netanyahu will not make any political considerations when it comes to the peace process," a Jerusalem source said. "The prime minister has made a strategic decision to advance to an agreement as long as Israel's security demands are met. He is aware of the opportunity created in his second term and plans to make use of it."

Sources close to the prime minister noted that the opposition would back any progress made in the peace talks. "Kadima will be committed to the peace process and to progress made on the Palestinian channel or any other channel," one of the sources noted.

Barak's departure from Labor, the source added, "has made it clear to Kadima that the elections are still far off."

Historians: Peres caused initial downfall

From Ynet News, 18 January 2011, by Nir Cohen:

Professors offer in depth analysis of Labor Party's fall from grace. From its origins as workers' party, Ben-Gurion's rise to power, divisions, leaders, succession, through to loss of voter confidence and Barak's resignation

The Labor Party and political system were left in shock Monday as Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Monday that he was resigning from the Labor Party together with four of the faction's members, a move first revealed on Ynet.

Some see the move as the end of the party that was for generations, the ruling party in Israel, one that actually founded the State. In a talk with Ynet, historians of Israeli politics explain what and who brought about the rise and fall of the Labor Party. Barak is really not the only responsible party.

"Mapai, which would one day become the Labor Party, was the dominant party in the days of the British mandate and the days before the establishment of the State Israel, from the time of David Ben-Gurion's victory over Jabotinsky in 1938 in the elections at the 18th congress," Professor Yechiam Weitz, an expert on Israeli politics at Haifa University recalls.

"Two aspects made it the dominant party: Its pragmatism which placed it at the center of the political dialogue and the party's ability to absorb people from both the working and middle classes."

In the professor's opinion, the pragmatic outlook "was expressed in their ability to continue a dialogue in the face of the changing reality. This was led by Ben-Gurion who until the 1966 Lavon affair changed the party's stance time and again, adapting it to the reality shifts. It started with the 1946 partition plan and continued in his ability to change his stance within 24 hours on the Sinai withdrawal issue."...

Historian Professor Yossi Goldstein agrees that if not for Ben-Gurion's ability to see one step ahead of the ever changing reality, the Labor Party's decline would have begun a long time ago. "From the day Ben-Gurion first won the elections, his greatness was in his ability to analyze the reality," he states, "he also represented only a small sector in society, but he knew how to make the reality work for him, his successors, Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol also had that talent."

... Professor Goldstein believes that the person responsible for the Labor's Party current situation is Shimon Peres who "failed to look into the future. The Labor Party had historical rights and an outstanding leader at the helm (Ben-Gurion) and yet it hasn't represented a central sector of Israel's society for years."

'Peres became political joke'
He adds: "Mapai and the Labor Party which was its successor represented a sector that was suitable to the 20s and 30s of the twentieth century – famers and laborers. And yet Israeli society was always composed of a middle class. From the 70s the party was being carried on the wings of change leaving the memories of past kindnesses and Ben-Gurion's charisma, and that of his successors – Meir, Eshkol and even Rabin during his second term, behind."

Professor Weitz also points a finger in Peres' direction. "...that is Shimon Peres' political heritage."

He believes that Peres was the one who determines that the Labor Party must always be in power. "He became a political joke because he was willing to accept any insult in order to be part of the government. Barak's decision two years ago to join the Netanyahu government was a death blow to the party, but he wasn't alone in making the decision, the fact is, a majority of party members made that decision. Today it is clear that Tzipi Livni was right, politically speaking – you should never become a government third wheel."

As for resigning from the party, Goldstein believes that Barak's move was a wise one: "The segment in society and the values that the Labor Party represents are that of a party with a socio-economical outlook represented by people like Shelly Yachimovich, a social-democratic party with a number of mandates that suits its representation in Israeli society.

"Which is why both Barak and Peres did right when they tried to be part of the coalition at any price, they knew that otherwise the party would be wiped out. The Labor Party isn't a contender for power because it doesn't represent a large enough sector of Israeli society and it has no chance of revival in the opposition."

No room for Labor
And what of the future? Goldstein is pessimistic. "I'm no prophet, but in today's political situation I fail to see the possibility of a Labor Party revival."

Since it joined the political map, he explains, Kadima took most of the Labor Party's voters. "Kadima shares the Labor Party's ideals in both the political and social front, it appeals to a much larger sector in Israeli society – there is simply no room for the Labor Party.

Goldstein adds that "even the power of inertia that carried the Labor Party through to this day has run out. A charismatic leader, or someone with renewed drive like Amram Mitzna could very well save the party, but I find it hard to believe that it will ever be able to reproduce its glory days."

Professor Weitz shares the pessimistic view. "In 2004 Labor joined the Sharon government, and Shimon Peres became vice prime minister. It was a distinguished role, but lacking in substance and Peres took it so that he would be able to be part of the government. Those are the political genes that Peres left for the Labor Party. You can absorb all the shame – as long as you stay in government."

Palestine – Time for Hard Questions and Even Harder Answers

From J-Wire, January 19, 2011 by David Singer:

The international failure to accept the final breakdown of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was yet again highlighted in the communique issued in Sydney on 18 January 2011 at the conclusion of the Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations between Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd and Minister for Defence Stephen Smith, and the United Kingdom’s First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague and Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox.

...It seems as though both countries were living in a dream world of their own as they solemnly pronounced:
“Australia and the UK highlighted their strong support for a just and enduring peace in the Middle East based on a negotiated two-state solution where Israel and a future Palestinian state live side by side in peace and security. Both countries highlighted the urgent need for Israel and the Palestinians to return, as a matter of urgency, to direct talks on final status issues, and to refrain from actions which undermined confidence, such as settlement construction. Both countries reaffirmed their practical support for Palestinian institution-building in preparation for statehood.”
Surely the Ministers were engaging in wishful thinking with no possible hope of their wish-list ever coming to fruition.

■direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority effectively ended,
■an impotent Quartet comprising America, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations unable to bring the parties together and
■a raft of countries recognizing or threatening to recognize a non-existent, undefined and undeclared 22nd Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt in flagrant violation of international law

- it surely is time to question whether there is any reasonable prospect of ever achieving a negotiated two-state solution between Jews and Arabs pursuant to the Oslo Accords formulated in 1993 and the Roadmap proposed by President Bush in 2002.

There are those countries such as Australia and Great Britain that apparently believe such a resolution is still possible.

Yet 17 years of negotiations have only seen
■the division of the West Bank into three administrative districts and
■the unilateral decision taken by Israel to evacuate Gaza in 2005.

The evacuation of Gaza has proved a total disaster
■ruining the lives of thousands of Jews forcibly removed from their homes,
■splitting the area proposed for the new Arab state – the West Bank and Gaza – into two separate and separately administered entities with no prospects of reconciliation between the two governing political entities – the Palestinian Authority and Hamas
■sparking the return of Israel’s army to Gaza in December 2009 to root out the threat posed to Israel’s civilian population by the indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets from Gaza
■causing Israel and Egypt to impose a blockade to prevent the entry of terrorists, arms and war materiel into Gaza
■Witnessing an ever increasing level of violence from Gaza and retaliation by Israel

Gaza and Hamas now appear to have been placed in the “too hard basket” by the international community. Instead it has thrown its weight behind the Palestinian Authority in seeking to resolve the issue of sovereignty in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – a far cry from the two-state solution posited by Oslo and the Roadmap.

Administrative responsibility for 95% of the West Bank Arab population has been vested in the Palestinian Authority and has indeed begun to see a marked improvement in their daily lives.

However the continuing refusal of the Palestinian Authority to moderate its political claims to sovereignty in anything less than 100% of the entire territory of the West Bank remains a stumbling block that has precluded any progress at all in resolving the division of sovereignty in the West Bank between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

There are other impediments to the conflict that have defied resolution and increasingly make it certain that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are already dead and buried.

If countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom still believe otherwise – then they would do well to seek answers to the following questions from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority:
  • Is the Palestinian Authority prepared to recognize Israel as the Jewish National Home reconstituted pursuant to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter?
  • Does the Palestinian Authority intend to persist with its demand that every square centimeter of the West Bank be ceded to it by Israel or is it prepared to accept less in exchange for an equivalent land swap by Israel?
  • Is Israel prepared to contemplate a land swap?
  • Is the Palestinian Authority still committed to former Arab residents of what is now Israel or their descendants being given the right to return to live there, what would be the appropriate number the Palestinian Authority would demand be given this right and what number would Israel be prepared to accept?
  • Is Israel prepared to allow the creation of a 22nd Arab State between Israel and Jordan in the West Bank with full and unfettered access and control over West Bank air space?
  • Is the Palestinian Authority prepared to accept a State in the West Bank with restricted control over its air space?
  • Is Israel prepared to evacuate and relocate all the Jewish residents of the West Bank?
  • Is Israel prepared to cede its claims to sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem?
On any minimal understanding of the conflict – one could not expect answers to these questions that would pose the slightest optimism in believing the negotiated two-state solution has any chance of success.

The sooner alternative solutions are introduced to replace the failed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority – the sooner the current dangerous impasse that threatens the resumption of hostilities can be averted.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hezbollah Aiming for Lebanon Takeover

From The Israel Project 14 January 2011, by Alan Elsner (Senior Director of Communications):

•Iranian-backed organization has 45,000 rockets aimed at Israel
•U.S.-backed government is powerless to oppose Hezbollah
•Its members helped murder former prime minister

Washington, Jan 14 - The Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization with its 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel clearly aims to dominate the country and control the selection of its next leader, analysts believe.

Hezbollah this week brought down the U.S.-backed Lebanese government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri when its 11 ministers resigned. The organization is desperate to prevent the indictment of several of its members in the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He died along with 22 others in a gruesome suicide bombing that also left 494 people wounded.

A United Nations tribunal is about to issue indictments. Hezbollah’s move came after the younger Hariri rejected its demands to cut off cooperation with the tribunal and instead investigate those who have provided the panel with evidence.

“Lebanon is about to fall into another dark period. But this time, the forces of Hezbollah and its patron Iran seem finally to have the upper hand,” wrote Marc Ginsberg, a former U.S. ambassador to Morocco.
“With a provocative infusion of tens of thousands of sophisticated new missiles allegedly to defend Lebanese "sovereignty" (that's a bad joke) and financing to buy off or bump off any Lebanese authority that stands in its way, Hezbollah may ironically be on the verge of converting its dastardly assassination of Hariri into a golden opportunity to finally seize full power in Lebanon,” he wrote in a commentary on Huffington Post.

Hezbollah fought a war with Israel in 2006 during which it fired some 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians, killing around 50 and driving much of the population in the north of the country into shelters or forcing them to flee. Since the end of that conflict, it has rearmed and acquired much more sophisticated long-range weapons from Syrian and Iran capable of hitting Tel Aviv, a flagrant violation of the ceasefire agreement. United Nations UNIFIL peacekeepers have stood by helplessly while this took place.

...Now, the fundamentalist Shiite organization may be on the verge of taking over the entire country. Mustapha Alloush, a member of the political bureau of Hariri's Future Movement told the Washington Post Hezbollah was trying to "rule Lebanon" and annex it for Iran.

With 20,000 trained fighters, Hezbollah is already much more powerful than the Lebanese army and in 2008 demonstrated its superiority by seizing part of the capital, brushing aside the army’s resistance. “There is currently no force within Lebanon able to stand firmly against the physical power of Hezbollah,” wrote Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya in the Jerusalem Post.

The impending Hezbollah takeover threatens to destabilize the entire region as well as Lebanon itself. It could heighten sectarian tensions as well as fears of Iran, already widespread throughout the Arab world. While analysts do not see an immediate outbreak of hostilities with Israel, few doubt that another confrontation is coming some time down the road...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stuxnet virus sets back Iran's clock

From The new York Times, January 15, 2011, by WILLIAM J. BROAD, JOHN MARKOFF and DAVID E. SANGER:

...Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.

...In recent days, the retiring chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Meir Dagan, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton separately announced that they believed Iran’s efforts had been set back by several years. Mrs. Clinton cited American-led sanctions, which have hurt Iran’s ability to buy components and do business around the world.

The gruff Mr. Dagan, whose organization has been accused by Iran of being behind the deaths of several Iranian scientists, told the Israeli Knesset in recent days that Iran had run into technological difficulties that could delay a bomb until 2015...

The biggest single factor in putting time on the nuclear clock appears to be Stuxnet, the most sophisticated cyberweapon ever deployed.

In interviews over the past three months in the United States and Europe, experts who have picked apart the computer worm describe it as far more complex — and ingenious — than anything they had imagined when it began circulating around the world, unexplained, in mid-2009.

...In early 2008 the German company Siemens cooperated with one of the United States’ premier national laboratories, in Idaho, to identify the vulnerabilities of computer controllers that the company sells to operate industrial machinery around the world — and that American intelligence agencies have identified as key equipment in Iran’s enrichment facilities.

Seimens says that program was part of routine efforts to secure its products against cyberattacks. Nonetheless, it gave the Idaho National Laboratory — which is part of the Energy Department, responsible for America’s nuclear arms — the chance to identify well-hidden holes in the Siemens systems that were exploited the next year by Stuxnet.

The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.

The attacks were not fully successful: Some parts of Iran’s operations ground to a halt, while others survived, according to the reports of international nuclear inspectors. Nor is it clear the attacks are over: Some experts who have examined the code believe it contains the seeds for yet more versions and assaults.

...Officially, neither American nor Israeli officials will even utter the name of the malicious computer program, much less describe any role in designing it.

But Israeli officials grin widely when asked about its effects. Mr. Obama’s chief strategist for combating weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, sidestepped a Stuxnet question at a recent conference about Iran, but added with a smile: “I’m glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated.”

...By the accounts of a number of computer scientists, nuclear enrichment experts and former officials, the covert race to create Stuxnet was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis, with some help, knowing or unknowing, from the Germans and the British.

The project’s political origins can be found in the last months of the Bush administration. In January 2009, The New York Times reported that Mr. Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz, Iran’s major enrichment center. President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy. So did the Israelis, other officials said. Israel has long been seeking a way to cripple Iran’s capability without triggering the opprobrium, or the war, that might follow an overt military strike of the kind they conducted against nuclear facilities in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007.

Two years ago, when Israel still thought its only solution was a military one and approached Mr. Bush for the bunker-busting bombs and other equipment it believed it would need for an air attack, its officials told the White House that such a strike would set back Iran’s programs by roughly three years. Its request was turned down.

Now, Mr. Dagan’s statement suggests that Israel believes it has gained at least that much time, without mounting an attack. So does the Obama administration...
Finding Weaknesses
...Computers known as controllers run all kinds of industrial machinery. By early 2008, the Department of Homeland Security had teamed up with the Idaho National Laboratory to study a widely used Siemens controller known as P.C.S.-7, for Process Control System 7. Its complex software, called Step 7, can run whole symphonies of industrial instruments, sensors and machines.

...Only months later, in June, Stuxnet began to pop up around the globe. The Symantec Corporation, a maker of computer security software and services based in Silicon Valley, snared it in a global malware collection system. The worm hit primarily inside Iran, Symantec reported, but also in time appeared in India, Indonesia and other countries.

But unlike most malware, it seemed to be doing little harm. It did not slow computer networks or wreak general havoc.

...No one was more intrigued than Mr. Langner, a former psychologist who runs a small computer security company in a suburb of Hamburg. Eager to design protective software for his clients, he had his five employees focus on picking apart the code and running it on the series of Siemens controllers neatly stacked in racks, their lights blinking.

He quickly discovered that the worm only kicked into gear when it detected the presence of a specific configuration of controllers, running a set of processes that appear to exist only in a centrifuge plant. “The attackers took great care to make sure that only their designated targets were hit,” he said. “It was a marksman’s job.”

For example, one small section of the code appears designed to send commands to 984 machines linked together.

Curiously, when international inspectors visited Natanz in late 2009, they found that the Iranians had taken out of service a total of exactly 984 machines that had been running the previous summer.

But as Mr. Langner kept peeling back the layers, he found more — what he calls the “dual warhead.” One part of the program is designed to lie dormant for long periods, then speed up the machines so that the spinning rotors in the centrifuges wobble and then destroy themselves. Another part, called a “man in the middle” in the computer world, sends out those false sensor signals to make the system believe everything is running smoothly. That prevents a safety system from kicking in, which would shut down the plant before it could self-destruct.

“Code analysis makes it clear that Stuxnet is not about sending a message or proving a concept,” Mr. Langner later wrote. “It is about destroying its targets with utmost determination in military style.”

This was not the work of hackers, he quickly concluded. It had to be the work of someone who knew his way around the specific quirks of the Siemens controllers and had an intimate understanding of exactly how the Iranians had designed their enrichment operations.

In fact, the Americans and the Israelis had a pretty good idea.

Testing the Worm
Perhaps the most secretive part of the Stuxnet story centers on how the theory of cyberdestruction was tested on enrichment machines to make sure the malicious software did its intended job.

The account starts in the Netherlands. In the 1970s, the Dutch designed a tall, thin machine for enriching uranium. As is well known, A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani metallurgist working for the Dutch, stole the design and in 1976 fled to Pakistan.

The resulting machine, known as the P-1, for Pakistan’s first-generation centrifuge, helped the country get the bomb. And when Dr. Khan later founded an atomic black market, he illegally sold P-1’s to Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

The P-1 is more than six feet tall. Inside, a rotor of aluminum spins uranium gas to blinding speeds, slowly concentrating the rare part of the uranium that can fuel reactors and bombs.

How and when Israel obtained this kind of first-generation centrifuge remains unclear, whether from Europe, or the Khan network, or by other means. But nuclear experts agree that Dimona came to hold row upon row of spinning centrifuges.

“They’ve long been an important part of the complex,” said Avner Cohen, author of “The Worst-Kept Secret” (2010), a book about the Israeli bomb program, and a senior fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He added that Israeli intelligence had asked retired senior Dimona personnel to help on the Iranian issue, and that some apparently came from the enrichment program.

“I have no specific knowledge,” Dr. Cohen said of Israel and the Stuxnet worm. “But I see a strong Israeli signature and think that the centrifuge knowledge was critical.”

Another clue involves the United States. It obtained a cache of P-1’s after Libya gave up its nuclear program in late 2003, and the machines were sent to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, another arm of the Energy Department.

By early 2004, a variety of federal and private nuclear experts assembled by the Central Intelligence Agency were calling for the United States to build a secret plant where scientists could set up the P-1’s and study their vulnerabilities. “The notion of a test bed was really pushed,” a participant at the C.I.A. meeting recalled.

The resulting plant, nuclear experts said last week, may also have played a role in Stuxnet testing.

But the United States and its allies ran into the same problem the Iranians have grappled with: the P-1 is a balky, badly designed machine. When the Tennessee laboratory shipped some of its P-1’s to England, in hopes of working with the British on a program of general P-1 testing, they stumbled, according to nuclear experts.

“They failed hopelessly,” one recalled, saying that the machines proved too crude and temperamental to spin properly.

Dr. Cohen said his sources told him that Israel succeeded — with great difficulty — in mastering the centrifuge technology. And the American expert in nuclear intelligence, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Israelis used machines of the P-1 style to test the effectiveness of Stuxnet.

The expert added that Israel worked in collaboration with the United States in targeting Iran, but that Washington was eager for “plausible deniability.”

In November, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, broke the country’s silence about the worm’s impact on its enrichment program, saying a cyberattack had caused “minor problems with some of our centrifuges.” Fortunately, he added, “our experts discovered it.”

The most detailed portrait of the damage comes from the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington. Last month, it issued a lengthy Stuxnet report that said Iran’s P-1 machines at Natanz suffered a series of failures in mid- to late 2009 that culminated in technicians taking 984 machines out of action.

The report called the failures “a major problem” and identified Stuxnet as the likely culprit.

Stuxnet is not the only blow to Iran. Sanctions have hurt its effort to build more advanced (and less temperamental) centrifuges. And last January, and again in November, two scientists who were believed to be central to the nuclear program were killed in Tehran.

The man widely believed to be responsible for much of Iran’s program, Mohsen Fakrizadeh, a college professor, has been hidden away by the Iranians, who know he is high on the target list.

Publicly, Israeli officials make no explicit ties between Stuxnet and Iran’s problems. But in recent weeks, they have given revised and surprisingly upbeat assessments of Tehran’s nuclear status.

“A number of technological challenges and difficulties” have beset Iran’s program, Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, told Israeli public radio late last month.

The troubles, he added, “have postponed the timetable.”