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    Israël - Palestina Info: News & Comments about Israel & Palestine

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Abbas & Fayyad: Do They Have a Mandate? (Khaled Abu Toameh)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 29 August @ 04:36:43 GMT+1 (801 maal gelezen)

    Abbas & Fayyad: Do They Have a Mandate?
    by Khaled Abu Toameh
    August 24, 2010 at 5:00 am

    A president whose term in office expired a long time ago, and a prime minister who won about 2% of the vote when he ran in an election, have now been invited by the US Administration to hold direct peace talks with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

    Mahmoud Abbas, the president, and Salam Fayyad, his prime minister, have even won the "backing" of two key decision-making bodies that are largely controlled by their supporters: the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee.

    The 18-member PLO Executive Committee, which met in Ramallah last week to approve the Palestinians' participation in the direct talks with Israel, is dominated by unelected veteran officials.

    Only nine PLO officials attended the meeting. The PLO constitution requires a minimum of 12 members for a quorum. This means that, contrary to reports in the Palestinian and international media, Abbas and Fayyad do not have the support of the PLO committee to negotiate directly with Israel.

    With regards to the Central Council of Fatah, it remains unclear whether its 21 members ever endorsed the US invitation to hold direct talks with Israel.

    Elections for the committee were held on July 8, 2009. The results of the vote, which has been denounced by many Fatah officials as unfair, was that only Abbas loyalists were elected.

    Some of the committee members have even issued contradictory statements over the past few weeks regarding the direct talks. In the beginning, most of them seemed to oppose such talks unless Israel agreed to stop settlement construction and recognized the 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state.

    Now, however, most of the committee members appear to have changed their minds -- clearly as a result of immense US pressure on Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.

    It is not easy for a committee member who receives his or her salary from the Palestinian government to speak out in public on controversial matters.

    So here is a president whose term in office expired in January 2009 -- and who has won the backing of only some of his traditional loyalists --  preparing to negotiate with Israel about extremely important issues such as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and security.

    As if it is not enough that Abbas and Fayyad do not have a real mandate from their people, now they are going to lose what is left of their credibility as they appear to have "succumbed" to the outside pressure.

    Abbas is in power because George W. Bush and Condaleeza Rice back then told him to stay, even though his term in office had expired.

    Fayyad, who ran in the January 2006 parliamentary election at the head of the Third Way list, won only two seats. His number two, Hanan Ashrawi, has since abandoned him, making him the head of a one-man list.

    Abbas was forced to appoint Fayyad as prime minister only because of pressure from the Americans and Europeans, who threatened to suspend financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinian president failed to comply.

    Fayyad's government was never approved by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, as required by the Palestinian Basic Law. Parliamentary life in the Palestinian territories has anyway been completely paralyzed ever since Hamas forced the Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza Strip.

    Officials in Ramallah say that the Palestinian leadership is being dragged, against its will, to the negotiating table with Israel. They say that the only reason the Palestinians agreed to hold unconditional talks with Israel is because of threats and pressure from the Americans and Europeans.

    Over the past few months, Abbas and Fayyad had been telling their people that there would be no direct talks with Israel unless their conditions are fulfilled. Now, however, they have been forced to drop all their conditions and are being pressured to the negotiating table by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

    Besides, who said that Abbas and Fayyad would be able to sell any agreement to a majority of Palestinians? How can any Palestinian buy an agreement from them after they told their people that they are going to the talks only because the Americans and Europeans threatened to cut off financial aid?

    Any agreement Abbas and Fayyad bring back home will be seen by many Palestinians as the fruit of "extortion" and "threats" and not as the result of peace talks that were conducted in good faith.

    Leaders who do not have a clear mandate from their people will not be able to strike any deal with Israel, particularly when it concerns explosive issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and settlements. The Palestinian leadership's decision to negotiate directly with Israel unconditionally has already enraged many Palestinians across the political spectrum.

    Abbas and Fayyad are nonetheless not stupid. The two are well aware of the fact that they do not have a mandate to sign any agreement with Israel. This is why they will search for any excuse to withdraw from the direct talks and blame Israel for the failure of the peace process.

    Under the current circumstances, it would have been better had the US Administration thought twice before issuing the invitation for the peace talks.

    Meer lezen... | Score: 0

    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Hamas still wants to liberate 'all of Palestine' (Ari Shavit - Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 27 December @ 22:09:19 GMT+1 (781 maal gelezen)

    Hamas still wants to liberate 'all of Palestine'
    By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Correspondent
    Last update - 11:59 17/12/2009

    The cat is out of the bag: Palestine, all of Palestine. Standing before 100,000 people in the center of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh this week declared the objective of the Hamas movement. The moderate prime minister of the moderate faction of the Palestinian religious movement publicly announced the peace solution for which his government is aiming.

    The ultimate solution is not the total liberation of the Gaza Strip or a Palestinian state. It is the liberation of all of Palestine.

    Haniyeh did not say so outright, but his words are clear. Hamas is demanding Ramle and Lod, Haifa and Jaffa, Abu Kabir and Sheikh Munis. It is also demanding the land on which this article was written and the land on which this article was printed - the land on which the editorial offices of Haaretz are located and the land on which the Haaretz printing plant is located. The land, the entire land. Greater Palestine.

    In recent years, quite a number of experts have promised us that Hamas does not really mean it. Hamas is only playing tough, but its intentions are lofty: cease-fire, Green Line, coexistence. Live and let live. But no message conveyed by any senior Hamas member to any diplomat behind closed doors is equal in status to the message conveyed by Haniyeh to the masses. What counts is only the direct and open statement made by the Palestinian leader to his people. Palestine, all of Palestine. Every piece of Israeli land on which any Israeli citizen lives. His home, your home, our home. The land beneath our feet.

    Ostensibly, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is an alternative to Hamas. Two days ago Abbas told Haaretz correspondent Avi Issacharoff that an agreement could be reached within six months. There's one small problem: Similar things were said to us when the Beilin-Abbas agreement was formulated in 1995. Similar things were said to us on the eve of Camp David 2000. Similar things were promised us when the Geneva Initiative was signed in 2003. Similar things were promised us when Israel went to Annapolis in 2007.

    But every time an Israeli leader took another significant step toward Abbas, Abbas became evasive. To this day Abbas has not responded positively to the offer of 100 percent made to him by former prime minister Ehud Olmert 15 months ago.

    We can understand why Abbas is suspicious of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. But it's impossible to understand why Abbas has once again evaded Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin, or why the Palestinian "peace leader" has never signed a draft peace deal or offered a peace compromise.

    Minister Benny Begin says the reason is that, in its own way, Fatah is also a Greater Palestine movement. Others say the reason is that since Abbas is a refugee from Safed, he will never give up the right of return. Some argue that Abbas wants to but cannot, and others believe he can but doesn't want to.

    Whatever the case, Mahmoud Abbas seems to be presenting a mirage of peace. He has been talking about two states for the past 21 years, without being willing to pay the price the Palestinians must pay in order to implement the two-state solution.

    The truth is harsh. The occupation is destroying Israel. It is undermining Israel's ethical, democratic and diplomatic foundations. But both Hamas and Fatah are making it very difficult to end the occupation. With Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, arming itself to the teeth and enjoying the support of about one-third of the Palestinians, it has the right to veto any diplomatic progress. With Fatah unwilling to recognize the Jewish nation-state and objecting to a demilitarized Palestinian state, there is no chance for a peace treaty.

    Haniyeh and Abbas are pushing Israel into a trap, each in his own way. Only naifs believe that additional negotiations over a final-status agreement will extricate Israel from the trap. But the alternative to a final-status agreement is not a continuation of the status quo. The alternative is an Israeli initiative. MK Shaul Mofaz's plan is one possibility; a second disengagement is another.

    Whatever the case, Israel must deal with the existential threat of the occupation on its own. Time is running out, and the writing is on the wall. "Palestine," the wall is blaring, "all of Palestine."

    Meer lezen... | Score: 5

    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Weighing Netanyahu as Peace Maker (NYT)
    Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 27 December @ 22:06:34 GMT+1 (2097 maal gelezen)

    The New York Times - News Analysis
    December 16, 2009
    JERUSALEM — A month ago, Aluf Benn, a senior columnist at the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote an article that shocked many. He said he believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud party, was seriously interested in making concessions to the Palestinians and coming to an agreement on a two-state solution.

    “Nothing I have ever written has caused as much controversy,” Mr. Benn said in a telephone interview. “Colleagues, politicians and friends all said, ‘How can you believe him?’ ”

    After a long career supporting Israeli settlements in occupied land and rejecting Palestinian statehood, Mr. Netanyahu said last June that he accepted the two-state idea. Three weeks ago, he imposed a 10-month freeze on building Jewish housing in the West Bank, something no Israeli leader had done before. Settlers are outraged, and Mr. Netanyahu is facing a rebellion in his party. Together with his removal of many West Bank checkpoints and barriers to Palestinian movement and economic growth, these steps went well beyond what many ever expected of him.

    Yet skepticism would be a polite way of describing the reaction of the Palestinians and much of the world, who view his steps as either too little too late or a ruse aimed at buying time to pursue his real agenda.

    “Rather than make peace its No. 1 priority, Israel continues to prioritize settlements and the relentless colonization of occupied Palestinian land, rendering the two-state solution politically and economically unviable,” Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said this week.

    Still, Mr. Benn is not alone in his interpretation. There is a school of thought, both here and in Washington, that says Mr. Netanyahu is going through the same shift experienced by previous hawks who became more conciliatory as prime ministers — Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

    “As we say in Hebrew, things look different from there than they do from here,” observed Isaac Herzog, Israel’s welfare minister, who comes from the Labor party, referring to a saying that seeks to describe how responsibility blunts ideology. “My keen impression is that he is serious, perhaps more than people realize. He is saying, ‘Test me,’ and I am afraid the world may be missing a golden opportunity.”

    Shimon Peres, Israel’s president and a longtime two-state advocate, said he sought to serve as Mr. Netanyahu’s sounding board and occasional guide. He said he believed that Mr. Netanyahu wanted to cut a deal with the Palestinians but was worried about his political base.

    “Calling for a two-state solution was an ideological breakthrough,” Mr. Peres said of Mr. Netanyahu. “He wants to be the man that makes the peace. He is not sure about the cost of it. He wouldn’t like to find himself in a situation where he makes peace and discovers in the morning that he doesn’t have a majority for it. That’s his dilemma.”

    The cost is already becoming manifest. Likud colleagues, including Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, are calling for the settlement moratorium to be canceled if Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, does not return to talks that ended nearly a year ago when Israel invaded Gaza. The point of the 10-month building lull, they say, was to offer a gesture that would bring the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiations.

    But the Palestinians have concluded that they can get further by appealing to international bodies than by returning to talks with this Israeli government. Mr. Abbas repeated his rejection of talks without a full settlement freeze at a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council on Tuesday. Palestinian politics are also deeply divided not only between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank but also within each group.

    A senior Israeli official acknowledged that the building stoppage was also aimed at the Obama administration, which had demanded a settlement freeze last spring.

    “The credibility of the United States president is important to Israel, so we had to respond in a positive way,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It was actually decided in the summer, but we waited while the Americans tried to get some response from the Palestinians and Arab states. When that failed, we decided to go ahead anyway.”

    The freeze was less than what was demanded by the Americans and the Palestinians. It permits nearly 3,000 units to be completed, includes some 28 public buildings and leaves East Jerusalem out. Still, senior American officials say it will greatly reduce the construction as the months roll on — as many as 15,000 units by some estimates, including one by Mr. Peres. In addition, the American officials say, if the Palestinians return to negotiations, the freeze is likely to be extended.

    For Israel’s political right, which considers settling in all of the historical land of Israel to be the core mission of Zionism, such a stoppage is clearly painful.

    But aides and analysts say the prime minister’s highest priorities are keeping warm relations with Washington and checking Iran’s nuclear development and regional ambition. The United States believes that it will be easier to stop Iran if Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank. Mr. Netanyahu rejects that linkage, saying once Iran is stopped it will be easier to make peace with the Palestinians, since Iran supports anti-peace elements, like Hamas.

    But as Israel faces diplomatic isolation over its war in Gaza a year ago, it has decided to yield to the American argument, at least in part.

    Dov Weissglas, a top aide to Mr. Sharon when he was prime minister, recently wrote of the need to take this route in an article in Yediot Aharonot. He said that the settlement moratorium was not enough but that it was a sign of promise to be encouraged.

    “No one in the world agrees to Israel’s presence in a majority of the Judea and Samaria territories and the continued construction there,” he wrote. “Israeli persistence will bring upon it diplomatic isolation, and this is something that Israel cannot afford. The freeze plan is an attempt to avoid this. It is not important in and of itself, but as a first sign of a process of understanding and sobriety, it is highly meaningful.”

    Meer lezen... | Score: 0

    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine
    Geplaatst door abby op Friday 25 December @ 00:32:36 GMT+1 (1883 maal gelezen)

    Building peace without Obama’s interference
    A promising, independent Palestine is quietly being developed, with Israeli assistance.
    By Tom Gross
    The Wall Street Journal
    December 3, 2009

    It is difficult to turn on a TV or radio or pick up a newspaper these days, without finding some pundit or other deploring the dismal prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace or the dreadful living conditions of the Palestinians. Even supposedly neutral news reporters regularly repeat this sad tale. “Very little is changing for the Palestinian people on the ground,” I heard BBC World Service Cairo correspondent Christian Fraser tell listeners three times in a 45 minute period the other evening.
    In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I had spent that day in the West Bank’s largest city, Nablus. The city is bursting with energy, life and signs of prosperity, in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region.

    As I sat in the plush office of Ahmad Aweidah, the suave British-educated banker who heads the Palestinian Securities Exchange, he told me that the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world so far in 2009, after Shanghai. (Aweidah’s office looks directly across from the palatial residence of Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest man in the West Bank.)

    Later I met Bashir al-Shakah, director of Nablus’s gleaming new cinema, where four of the latest Hollywood hits were playing that day. Most movies were sold out, he noted, proudly adding that the venue had already hosted a film festival since it opened in June.


    Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I’ve seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

    And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring. (There was one border post on the return leg of the journey, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but the young female guard just waved me and the two Palestinians I was traveling with, through.)

    The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and I was surprised to see villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d’Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city. Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.


    A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Two weeks ago, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.

    Outsiders are beginning to take note of the turnaround too. The official PLO Wafa news agency reported last week that the 3rd quarter of 2009 witnessed near record tourism in the Palestinian Authority, with 135,939 overnight hotel stays in 89 hotels that are now open. Almost half the guests come from the U.S or Europe.

    Palestinian economic growth so far this year – in a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere – has been an impressive 7 percent according to the IMF, though Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11 percent, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.


    In Gaza too, the shops and markets are crammed with food and goods – see for example, these photos from last Friday’s Palestine Today newspaper about the Eid celebrations in Gaza. These are not the pictures you are ever likely to see on the BBC or Le Monde or The New York Times. No, Gaza is not like a “concentration camp,” nor is the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the scale of Darfur,” as British journalist Lauren Booth (who is also Tony Blair’s sister-in-law) has said.

    In June, The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert’s offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank (with three percent of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). “In the West Bank we have a good reality,” Abbas told Diehl. “The people are living a normal life,” he added with a candor he rarely employs when addressing Western journalists

    Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren’t ready to do so by themselves yet.


    The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don’t clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one. (The last time an American president – Bill Clinton in 2000 – tried to hurry things along unrealistically, it merely resulted in blowing up in everybody’s faces – literally – and set back hopes for peace by some years.)

    Israelis and Palestinians may never agree on borders that will satisfy everyone. But that doesn’t mean they won’t live in peace. Not all Germans and French agree who should control Alsace Lorraine. Poles and Russians, Slovenes and Croats, Britons and Irish, and peoples all over the world, have border disputes. But that doesn’t keep them from coexisting with one another. Nor – so long as partisan journalists and human rights groups don’t mislead Western politicians into making bad decisions – will it prevent Israelis and Palestinians from doing so.

    (Tom Gross is the former Jerusalem correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph.)

    Meer lezen... | Score: 0

    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine In Gaza, Hamas's Insults to Jews Complicate Peace (Steven Erlanger)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 30 November @ 00:31:36 GMT+1 (786 maal gelezen)

    An interesting article from April 2008.

    In Gaza, Hamas’s Insults to Jews Complicate Peace
    Published: April 1, 2008

    — In the Katib Wilayat mosque one recent Friday, the imam was discussing the wiliness of the Jew.

    Marwan M. Abu Ras, a Hamas legislator and a scholar, at a mosque in Gaza in January. He offers advice on a program broadcast on Hamas's television station.
    “Jews are a people who cannot be trusted,” Imam Yousif al-Zahar of Hamas told the faithful. “They have been traitors to all agreements — go back to history. Their fate is their vanishing. Look what they are doing to us.”

    At Al Omari mosque, the imam cursed the Jews and the “Crusaders,” or Christians, and the Danes, for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He referred to Jews as “the brothers of apes and pigs,” while the Hamas television station, Al Aksa, praises suicide bombing and holy war until Palestine is free of Jewish control.

    Its videos praise fighters and rocket-launching teams; its broadcasts insult the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, for talking to Israel and the United States; its children’s programs praise “martyrdom,” teach what it calls the perfidy of the Jews and the need to end Israeli occupation over Palestinian land, meaning any part of the state of Israel.

    Such incitement against Israel and Jews was supposed to be banned under the 1993 Oslo accords and the 2003 “road map” peace plan. While the Palestinian Authority under Fatah has made significant, if imperfect efforts to end incitement, Hamas, no party to those agreements, feels no such restraint.

    Since Hamas took over Gaza last June, routing Fatah, Hamas sermons and media reports preaching violence and hatred have become more pervasive, extreme and sophisticated, on the model of Hezbollah and its television station Al Manar, in Lebanon.

    Intended to indoctrinate the young to its brand of radical Islam, which combines politics, social work and military resistance, including acts of terrorism, the programs of Al Aksa television and radio, including crucial Friday sermons, are an indication of how far from reconciliation Israelis and many Palestinians are.

    Hamas’s grip on Gaza matters, but what may matter more in the long run is its control over propaganda and education there, breeding longer-term problems for Israel, and for peace. No matter what Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agree upon, there is concern here that the attitudes being instilled will make a sustainable peace extremely difficult.

    “If you take a sample on Friday, you’re bound to hear incitement against the Jews in the prayers and the imam’s sermon,” said Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University here. “He uses verses from the Koran to say how the Jews were the enemies of the prophet and didn’t keep their promises to the prophet 1,400 years ago.”

    Mr. Abusada is a Muslim and political independent. “You have young people, and everyone has to listen to the imam whether you believe him or not,” he said. “By saying the same thing over and over, you find a lot of people believing it, especially when he cites the Koran or hadith,” the sayings of the prophet.

    Radwan Abu Ayyash, deputy minister of culture in Ramallah, ran the Palestinian Broadcasting Company until 2005. Hamas “uses religious language to motivate simple people for political as well as religious goals,” he said. “People don’t distinguish between the two.” He said he found a lot of what Al Aksa broadcast “disgusting and unprofessional.”

    Every Palestinian thinks the situation in Gaza is ugly, he said. “But what is not fine is to build up children with a culture of hatred, of closed minds, a culture of sickness. I don’t think they always know what they are creating. People use one weapon, language, without realizing that they also use it against themselves.”

    Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli group, said Hamas took its view of Jews from what it considered the roots of Islam, then tried to make the present match the past.

    For example, in a column in the weekly Al Risalah, Sheik Yunus al-Astal, a Hamas legislator and imam, discussed a Koranic verse suggesting that “suffering by fire is the Jews’ destiny in this world and the next.”

    “The reason for the punishment of burning is that it is fitting retribution for what they have done,” Mr. Astal wrote on March 13. “But the urgent question is, is it possible that they will have the punishment of burning in this world, before the great punishment” of hell? Many religious leaders believe so, he said, adding, “Therefore we are sure that the holocaust is still to come upon the Jews.”

    At the end, Mr. Marcus points out, Mr. Astal switches from “harik,” the ordinary word for burning, to “mahraka,” normally used to connote the Holocaust.

    Some Hamas videos, like one in March 2007, promote the participation of children in “resistance,” showing them training in uniform, holding rifles. Recent shows displayed Mr. Abbas kissing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, under the slogan “Palestine doesn’t return with kisses, it returns with martyrs.”

    Programs for Children

    Another children’s program, “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” has become infamous for its puppet characters — a kind of Mickey Mouse, a bee and a rabbit — who speak, like Assud the rabbit, of conquering the Jews to the young hostess, Saraa Barhoum, 11. “We will liberate Al Aksa mosque from the Zionists’ filth,” Assud said recently. “We will liberate Jaffa and Acre,” cities now in Israel proper. “We will liberate the whole homeland.”

    In a play staged at a Gaza cultural center this month, a Palestinian farmer pulls his dead child from a house bombed by Israel.
    The mouse, Farfour, was murdered by an Israeli interrogator and replaced by Nahoul, the bee, who died “a martyr’s death” from lack of health care because of Gaza’s closed borders. He has been supplanted by Assud, the rabbit, who vows “to get rid of the Jews, God willing, and I will eat them up, God willing.”
    When Assud first made his appearance, he said to Saraa: “We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not, Saraa?” She responded: “Of course we are. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland. We will sacrifice our souls and everything we own for the homeland.”

    Along with Mr. Marcus’s group, the Middle East Media Research Institute, or Memri, also monitors the Arabic media. But no one disputes their translations, and there are numerous Palestinians in Gaza — in the hothouse atmosphere of an overcrowded, isolated territory where martyr posters and anger at Israel are widespread among Fatah, too — who are deeply upset about the hold Hamas has on their mosques and on what their children watch.

    While the Palestinian Authority of Fatah also causes some concern — its textbooks, for example, rarely recognize the state of Israel — Yigal Carmon, who runs Memri, said Hamas and its media used “the kind of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish language you don’t really hear any more from the Palestinian Authority, which hasn’t talked like that in a long time.”

    Abu Saleh, who asked that his full name not be used because of his critical views, is worried about his children. His eldest son, 13, likes to watch Al Aksa, especially the nationalist songs and military videos. “I talk to them about Hamas, but to be honest, it’s scary and you have to watch it over time,” he said. “When kids are 17 or 18, you don’t know what happens. They get enraged and can attach themselves to radical groups.”

    Excluding Reconciliation

    The Prophet Muhammad made a temporary hudna, or truce, with the Jews about 1,400 years ago, so Hamas allows the idea. But no one in Hamas says he would make a peace treaty with Israel or permanently give up any part of British Mandate Palestine.

    “They talk of hudna, not of peace or reconciliation with Israel,” said Mr. Abusada, the political scientist. “They believe over time they will be strong enough to liberate all historic Palestine.”

    Saraa, the host of “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” is the niece of Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman. Some of the language used against other Arabs upsets him, Mr. Barhoum said, but he insisted that Israel was illegitimate. “No one can deny that all this was Palestinian land and Jews occupied the land,” he said firmly. “Therefore the Hamas charter is based on what Israel has committed against our people and our understanding of Israel and its practices.”

    The charter is a deeply anti-Semitic document and cites a famous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as truth. But “our battle is not with Jews as Jews,” he said, “but those who came and occupied us and killed us.” After all, Mr. Barhoum said, “the Jews who recognized the evil of the occupation stayed outside and refused to come to Palestine as occupiers.”

    “The Jews who came, came to occupy and to kill,” he said.

    Marwan M. Abu Ras, 50, an imam who taught at Hamas’s Islamic University for 25 years, has an advice show on Al Aksa. He is proud that his show uses sign language for the deaf.

    The chairman of the Palestinian Scholars League, and a Hamas legislator, Mr. Abu Ras is popularly called “Hamas’s mufti,” because he is ready to give religious sanction to Hamas political structures.

    Last month, he criticized Egypt for closing the Gaza border at Israel’s request. He complained, “We are besieged by the sons of Arabism and Islam, as well as by the brothers of apes and pigs.”
    He tried to distinguish between religious and political language, and then said: “The Israelis can’t accept criticism. They overreact, like any guilty person.” Israel for him is an enemy. “This is an open war with Israel, with each side trying to press the other,” he said. A war? “If it’s not a war, what is it?” he asked.

    Then he spoke of his son, who tried to volunteer to fight the Israelis at 17. “I convinced him to wait, he had no weapon, until 20,” Mr. Abu Ras said. “Now he’s a member of Qassam,” the Hamas military wing, “and an example for young people.”

    Promoting an Ethos

    Mark Regev, spokesman for Mr. Olmert, called on “Arab leaders who are moderate and believe in peace to speak out more strongly against extremist elements.” He called the “incitement to hatred and violence standard Hamas operating procedure,” adding, “In Hamas education and broadcasting they turn the suicide bomber who murders the innocent into a positive role model, and they portray Jews in the most negative terms, that too often reminds us of language used in Europe in the first half of the 20th century.”

    The “serious question,” he said, “is what ethos are they promoting?”

    Hazim el-Sharawi, 30, the original host of the Farfour character on Hamas television, and known as “Uncle Hazim,” has no doubts. It was his idea to have Farfour killed by an Israeli interrogator, he said. “We wanted to send a message through this character that would fit the reality of Palestinian life.”

    Israel is the source, he insisted. “A child sees his neighbors killed, or blown up on the beach, and how do I explain this to a child that already knows? The occupation is the reason; it creates the reality. I just organize the information for him.”

    The point is simple, he said: “We want to connect the child to Palestine, to his country, so you know that your original city is Jaffa, your capital is Jerusalem and that the Jews took your land and closed your borders and are killing your friends and family.”

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Al-Quds Underground Festival: 'Peace without dialogue? Impossible' (Gil Zohar)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 12 November @ 03:21:37 GMT+1 (1234 maal gelezen)

    A cultural dialogue project where Israelis are not welcome? That sounds like one hand clapping, yet the Dutch charity organisation Cordaid and the "Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures" considered the EU money well spent on this 'dialogue project' in Jerusalem's old city.

    Peace without dialogue? ImpossibleBy GIL ZOHAR
    There aren't too many English-language journalists who have covered Arab Jerusalem as I have for In Jerusalem in recent years - reporting on everything from a home in Anata built and demolished four times and now facing a fifth demolition order, to the first shopping mall along east Jerusalem's main drag Salah a-Din Street, which received a building permit after 42 years of bureaucracy; from the al-Mamal Foundation for Contemporary Art inside the New Gate, to a conference on Palestinian refugees at al-Quds University in Abu Dis. These are all stories I have reported in an objective manner.
    Thus it was that last weekend I duly RSVP'd to a guests-only invitation to the Al-Quds Underground, touted as an unconventional festival with more than 150 small shows in private spaces in the Old City. Performances included music, storytelling, dancing, short acts and food. Locations were living rooms, a library, courtyards, gardens and more unique places. My expectation of a celebration of Jerusalem's diversity was dashed, however, when I arrived late Saturday afternoon at the Damascus Gate meeting point. Politely asked in English by Jamal Goseh, the director of the a-Nuzha Hakawati Theater near the American Colony Hotel, "Where do you live?" I responded in Arabic that I live in Jerusalem. From my accent and appearance, he discerned that I am an Israeli.

    Al-Quds Underground's artistic director Merlijn Twaalfhoven of Amsterdam then told me, along with some Israeli peace activists who had arrived, that we were not welcome. My reply that I had been invited was to no avail, nor was my guarded threat to pen an expose of their racism.

    And so here it is.

    For the sake of fairness, I met Twaalfhoven the next day to allow him an opportunity to explain… or dig himself a deeper hole. (Goseh declined my request for an interview.) "We want to bring art to the world," he began. "I sometimes break through the boundaries between art and life. That is the core of my work."

    A visionary creator of art happenings such as a dance performance at the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah and the Long Distance Call concert on the rooftops of the Turkish half of the divided Cypriot city of Nicosia, Twaalfhoven said he had vaguely heard that the Arab League had chosen Jerusalem as Al-Quds 2009 Capital of Arab Culture and that the Israeli government had banned the festival as a political event forbidden under the Oslo Accords. "I don't know the details. I thought it was a good idea to bring people together."

    Twaalfhoven then added, "The local people told me months ago that Israelis cannot go. Our team [of 12 Dutch activists and eight artists] had to promise that we would not allow peaceful Israelis to come."
    Apologetic over what had happened, he then spilled the beans. The €50,000 project was funded by the European Union through the Dutch charity Cordaid and the Alexandria-based Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures. To have said no to racism would have meant to scuttle the budget.
    Al-Quds Underground's no-Israelis rule is part of a larger policy set by the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee. This BDS movement, founded in 2005, can take credit for the cancellation of Leonard Cohen's September concert at the Ramallah Cultural Palace.

    Similarly in 2007, BDS activists succeeded in getting Canadian rock 'n' roll star Bryan Adams to pull the plug on back-to-back concerts in Jericho and Tel Aviv. Organized by the New York-based One Million Voices, the concerts were intended to promote a two-state solution to resolve the festering Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    BDS activists in Europe and elsewhere aim to isolate and discomfit Israel just as South Africa's apartheid regime was targeted in the 1980s. This rejection of normalization of relations is a historic and strategic mistake based on the false analogy between apartheid and Zionism.

    Never mind the snub I received Saturday. On a broader level, the BDS movement is missing the point that peace is best promoted at a grassroots level, person to person, Jew to Arab, and Arab to Jew.

    Those who think Israel can be pressured into coexistence are mistaken. Two states for two peoples will be embraced when enough people demand it. BDS fosters the illusion that Palestinians can achieve their goal of statehood without ever accepting Israel and Israelis.

    Boycott, divest and sanction? I respond, Embrace, invest and encourage. Peace starts among people. Anyone unprepared for honest dialogue with the other is suffering from acute xenophobia. As Black Panther activist Eldridge Cleaver once remarked, "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem."

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Elliott Abrams: U.S. and Israel Had Agreement on Settlements (The Media Line)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 02 November @ 20:00:18 GMT+1 (751 maal gelezen)


    Former Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams:
    "U.S. and Israel Had Agreement on Settlements"

    Written by Felice Friedson
    Published Sunday, November 01, 2009

    Elliott Abrams came to prominence in the Reagan Administration and later served in several national security posts under President George W. Bush. He was Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Democracy Strategy, under President Bush, during which time he also headed the Near East, North Africa desk of the National Security Council. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He spoke with Felice Friedson at The Media Line's Mideast Bureau on October 26, 2009.

    The Media Line: They say a day is like an eternity in the Middle East, and your involvement in Mideast peace making dates back a long time. First tell me, when we hear the phrase "Middle East Conflict", which specific conflict should come to mind?

    Abrams: I think people usually mean the Arab-Israeli conflict or if I can put it in a different way, the refusal since 1948. People usually mean the Arab-Israeli conflict. Another way of putting it, I think, is the conflict that results from the fact that since partition in 1948, the Arabs have refused to accept the existence of the state of Israel as a permanent fact. I think that's really what's at the root when people usually refer to the Middle East conflict. Other things in the Middle East, like the case of Iran are usually what we mean when we talk about the Middle East conflict. 
    The Media Line: Aren't other conflicts like Sunni-Shia greater? Aren't they still considered Middle East Conflicts?

    Abrams: But the world is less interested in those and more interested in the ones between Arabs and Jews. The conflicts in which Muslim kills Muslim or Arab kills Arab, Sudan as an example, just don't excite attention.

    The Media Line: Media likes to portray Israel as the maverick that's going to mount a dramatic mission over the Iranian sands, neutralizing Iran's nuclear threat. Is Israel capable of doing it?   Can it even try without a green light from the Obama White House? 

    Abrams: I think Israel can do a great deal of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. You know it's not on the level with the U.S. Air Force. Nobody's air force is on the level of the U.S. Air Force, just in terms of size and number of fighters and bombers and tankers and missiles and so forth. I do believe that Israel would set the Iranian program back some years and things can happen in those few years, like the government of Iran is in big trouble internally, it can fall. How long is that government going to last? Ten years? Five years, who knows? I think we should take seriously the fact that both the United States and Israel do have some kind of military option. The Obama administration would like to avoid the use of that option by Israel or the U.S. but so would we all. Everyone would like to avoid an Iranian nuclear weapon without any turn to violence. 
    The Media Line: The concern is that there are so many different plants throughout Iran; it would take massive armies to take them out almost simultaneously. How could Israel handle that?
    Abrams: Nobody is talking about armies and nobody is talking about invading Iran. When I hear people sometimes compare Iran with Iraq, or people say 'you know, if there's a strike on Iran, it'll be just like the Iran-Iraq war. No, no, no. Nobody is talking about anything like that. What we would be talking about is a very brief air strike on a very small number of locations. I don't agree with the view that you hear a lot in Washington and elsewhere that there are so many targets in Iran, it's now impossible to attack them all. It's true. It's impossible to attack them all. But you don't need to attack them all. There are a few critical targets like Natanz obviously, where they have something like 8,000 centrifuges. I think the Iranian regime understands full well that they could be quite vulnerable and set back for some period of time. 
    The Media Line: There are those who say Iran is an existential threat to Israel? Is that hyperbole?

    Abrams: Well if you think about the world in 2009, how many cases are there in which one nation is saying it wishes to eradicate, destroy, annihilate or end the existence of another? There is actually only one, which is the case of the government of Iran. Now, it's a rhetorical device. It's just a matter of making speeches, unless or until they get a nuclear weapon. At that point, we have this amazing combination of somebody in possession of the ability to annihilate saying I would like to annihilate another country. I think it may sound like hyperbole and rhetoric if you're sitting in Washington or London or Beijing, but if you're sitting in a place where the bombs might land, it's not going to sound quite so relaxing. 
    The Media Line: As we sit here, there are think tanks and strategists, many people, trying to figure out if sanctions or other means are going to make a difference in stopping nuclear proliferation. Do you feel that sanctions work and do you feel that there are other angles that have not been addressed?
    Abrams: I think sanctions can work. They worked in the case of South Africa. They worked in that case because they were global, they were multilateral. It's a lot tougher for unilateral American sanctions to work. In the case of Iran, I do think sanctions can still work and I would give you the Iranian offer which they may not be serious about, but the offer to remove all of their low-enriched uranium to Russia. Why would they entertain such an offer? Why would they make such an offer? What is that about? I think it's a sign of weakness on the part of the regime. I think they are desperate to avoid additional economic sanctions. The political situation inside Iran is making them very anxious. In the months since the June election, they have not eliminated opposition to the regime and the regime itself is split. The clerics are split. This is big trouble for the regime and they don't want additional economic sanctions. They will do a lot to avoid sanctions.  So if we can, we the P5-plus-1, the global community so called, if we can credibly threaten additional economic sanctions against Iran, I think it is still possible to freeze their nuclear program.

    The Media Line: What about individual sanctions?

    Abrams: Sanctions by individual countries—

    The Media Line: And targeting individuals within Iran?

    Abrams: You know, we should be doing that because it's the right thing to do, but it isn't going to be powerful enough. We, the United States, are pretty much sanctioned out. We can't alone deprive Iran, for example, of the ability to import gasoline. 40% of the gasoline they use, they need to import. If the world could agree to prevent that, their economy would freeze very quickly. I think in the current political situation, they would actually agree to a freeze on their nuclear program. I believe that. But I think the question is, whether the Russians and Chinese are going to be willing to go along and allow these kinds of sanctions.

    The Media Line: Turning to the groundswell on the ground— young people— many were surprised at how they took to the streets during the elections. Do you feel that much needs to be done to reach out to these young people who oppose what's happening right now in the current government?

    Abrams: I think we can try to do things for them. We can try, for example, to get them resources. Most importantly, we should do more broadcasting to make sure they have all the information they need. Fundamentally though, we're not going to overthrow the government of Iran. If anyone is going to change that regime, it's going to be Iranians. I think our critical contribution is to speak freely, openly, candidly and make clear to the people of Iran whose side we're on - namely theirs. My greatest fear about the negotiations that are commencing with Iran is that they legitimize that regime. And that is the thing that we have to avoid above all else— abandoning the people of Iran and giving the government of Iran the chance to say 'the world doesn't care about you.'

    The Media Line: Ralph Bunche won the first [Nobel] peace prize for his work in the Middle East back in 1950. There have been five more since. So why is the problem still not fixed?

    Abrams: Because it's extremely complicated. I tend to the view that fundamentally problems are not solved at conference tables. They are solved in the real world, and the real world changes are reflected at a conference table, at a negotiation. So what we need to concentrate more on is pragmatic, on-the-ground developments.

    The Media Line: You opposed the Oslo accords as being bound to fail. Why did they?

    Abrams: You know, my view of Oslo was, they should be seen in the context of a century or century and a half struggle between moderates and extremists on the Palestinian side. Once upon a time it was Haj Amin Al Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, later it was Yasser Arafat, willing, happy to kill Jews for their political ends. But there have always been Palestinians who just want to build Palestine, who just wanted a better life for the Palestinian people. That struggle goes on. It seems to me that what was wrong with Oslo was that just at the point when the extremist leadership of Arafat was really collapsing, Oslo brought them back to center stage.

    The Media Line: Israelis fondly look back on the George W. Bush years; a vast majority of them bestowing the term "Pro-Israel" on the former president. How close did President Bush come to achieving some sort of significant agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

    Abrams: President Bush was more optimistic about that than I was. I did not think that we were that close. A lot of people were saying - as they said in 1990 and 2000 – they are an inch apart the Palestinians and the Israelis, we're almost there. My sense was always that neither side wanted to go that extra inch because what it meant was a compromise that neither side really wanted. I did not think that the institutional development on the Palestinian side, like the development of the Institute of Justice, including courts and jails and a police force, was sufficient for Palestinian statehood at that moment, [or] sufficient to guarantee Israeli and Palestinian security. I didn't think we were that close. I do think that President Bush deserved the accolade of being very pro-Israel because he was. His speech to the Knesset in 2008 I think demonstrated that. He was also very pro-Palestinian. I don't think that's a contradiction. What he wanted was the best for both sides. He wanted peace, he wanted justice, he wanted a better future for both sides.

    The Media Line: President Bush allowed Israeli leaders to believe that he signed-off on the idea that there will be some changes from the 1967 borders in any final settlement. Obama came in and said the new administration had reviewed every note, every memo and every transcript from the Bush years and found no such understanding as described by the Israelis. You said you were there. Are the Israelis on firm ground in believing that some of their post-1967 communities will survive any agreement?

    Abrams: Yes, there is no question about that, and in every negotiation there has been, the Palestinians have understood in private that these major communities—the major blocs as we call them are going to stay in Israeli hands. I think that is a fact of life. I would say that in 20 years of negotiations, the Palestinian leadership has privately acknowledged that and talked about things like swaps. We did have an agreement with the Israelis with respect to settlements. It was not written down except in people's private scrawled notes. It was not a treaty. It was not a formal agreement, it was an oral agreement. We had the kind of relationship with Israel that permitted us to do important things on the basis of talking to each other. We didn't have to have treaties ratified by Congress. So the Obama officials are correct when they say 'we've reviewed all the treaties and so forth and it's not there,' but they did not recall what we told them during the transition and they were told about this, as they were told about some other things that they then conveniently forgot later with respect to Afghanistan.

    The Media Line: Is it fair to say that when President Bush entered office the focus was on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but that when he left office it was between Israel and the entire Arab world?

    Abrams: In our assessment of why President Clinton's efforts failed - and he made many powerful efforts to get an agreement - the Clinton administration believed, and we agreed, that the lack of broader Arab support for the Palestinians in the compromises they would need to make was important. So we thought, 'if we ever get around to this, after the Intifada, if there is another round of negotiations, we should try to bring the Arab states in to support the Palestinians.' And that was Condi Rice's idea with Annapolis, to bring the Arab states in early so there is a broader agreement that does involve the Arab states. The heart of it remains the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and the Arab states can't substitute for that.

    The Media Line: Is the agreement between Israel and all Arab nations a deal Israel can't refuse—or a deal Israel can't sign?

    Abrams: I would say it depends about what's in the deal. Israel can refuse if the Arab states make an offer that is simply unreal and I would say the Saudi plan was unreal in the sense that it gave no room for negotiation or compromise over '67 borders period. Later, when it was adopted by the Arab league, with all the refugees returning, or so-called refugees returning—well that's not to happen and those have never been the terms discussed in any serious negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. So the Israelis can refuse and they did. It would be much better if the Palestinians, in these negotiations, someday accept that they are going to have to make difficult compromises. It would be much better if they had the full support of the Arab states and when we get to that point, we can only hope and try to cajole them into agreeing to provide that support.

    The Media Line:    Help us understand the Middle Eastern version of negotiations without conditions. In your role as an American mediator, how do you deal with negotiators who say there are no conditions as longs as Israel stops building; the Palestinians stop firing missiles, and so on?

    Abrams: We've always tried in the United States to talk to [both] Palestinians and Israelis, Israelis and Arabs. We really do want a solution that benefits Israelis and Palestinians. What has been harder sometimes to convey is that we are not going to jam anything down the throats of the Israelis, partly because that's not how we treat allies and partly because the things that people have proposed we jam down their throats are not going to produce peace. That's the other thing. We were able to make an independent assessment of that and also make an Israeli assessment of that. The notion for example, is that the only way for peace is by a square inch by square inch return to the '67 borders. The '67 borders produced war after war after war. Why is that a good thing? I think there is a path forward but again it doesn't start on a table in Geneva or some place. It starts on the ground, particularly in the West Bank.

    The Media Line: Prime Minister Netanyahu says an economic foundation for the Palestinians is more important than setting a date for statehood; the Palestinians say he just wants to deflect progress, and Prime Minister Fayyaad set a date for statehood. Who's right?

    Abrams: I can understand the Palestinian desire to have a sense of timing in the sense of 'no this is going to take another 50 or 100 years.' I do think that setting a date is not possible [as we saw with] the Road Map. It was called a performance-based road map towards getting a Palestinian state. You can't tell me the date, sitting here today, when there will be an adequate Palestinian military police force, when there will be a court system that works, when Palestinians will be able to provide law and order fully for their own people, and so forth. So I don't understand how it's possible to pick a date out of the sky, and say 'one year, or four years, or two' - who knows? I think what we need to do is move in that direction knowing, that as we move in that direction of course, life for Palestinians is getting better, because each of these improvements is a real improvement in the economy, in mobility, in self-government, in the amount of justice available in the West Bank. That's the direction I would move in. I can understand why Palestinians want to move faster. Anyone in their situation would. I think that the last few decades have proved that efforts to move faster than the real world permits are just going to collapse.

    The Media Line: I believe you cautioned against America pushing for Palestinian elections when there was a distinct probability that Hamas would win. Another round of elections is set for January.  What would you counsel your successors in the White House to do?

    Abrams: You know, Americans believe in elections. We believed in them in Japan and in Germany after World War II. We believe in them in Iraq and Afghanistan these days. We believe it's a way to provide a legitimate government for Palestinians as well. I think the mistake we made in the Bush administration was to allow a terrorist group, Hamas, to participate in the elections and to retain all of their weaponry. I think if you go back to Oslo, terrorist groups were not supposed to participate in post-Oslo elections. I think this is a general view in Europe too that armed groups should lay down their arms, and then participate in elections. The mistake we made was that we did not say to Hamas, 'when you are willing to give up terrorism, and promote political goals by the ballot box, then and just then can you participate in elections in the Palestinian areas.' I'm not opposed to elections in Palestinian areas. I think that you should have to choose between trying to seize power by guns, and offering your program to the Palestinian people peacefully.

    The Media Line: How could any process move forward without Hamas and Fatah coming together unified in some way?

    Abrams: Well I don't think that unity between a terrorist group and Fatah is a way forward. I think all that does is it destroys efforts to create a new, more moderate, more progressive Palestinian government. You're going to get the lowest common denominator there, which is going to be a Palestinian government that contains terrorists. I don't see how that helps the Palestinian people and in this, I think the Egyptian, and other nations' efforts to force a unity government are an advantage to the Palestinian people. I think terrorism needs to be left behind, and political, economic and social reform - institution building - is the way forward. I am not in favor of anybody doing a coalition government with a terrorist group.

    The Media Line: President Abbas is not the most powerful person in the Palestinian areas today, so what can happen if there were elections and Hamas does not come into play and you're left without leadership.

    Abrams: Well, somebody is going to win the election and people have a raw memory of the legislative election. Of course, President Abbas easily won the presidential election. The Parliamentary Legislative election was quite close. It was 44% to 41%, Hamas over Fatah. Who knows why or how much of it was religious versus secular or how much of it was a rejection of the corruption of Fatah over Arafat. Some of it may have been that the leadership of Hamas had better politicians. I think it is possible for Fatah to win the elections by saying to the Palestinian people, 'look at what we are doing in the West Bank and how we are doing in the West Bank, and look at Gaza, which is not only living in poverty but is increasingly a kind of Taliban, a Wahabi-type state where Hamas is telling people what clothing to wear, not to mention what they are doing in the schools.' I don't think Palestinians, who I think have the highest literacy rate in the Arab world - I think over 90% - are going to choose to go live in a kind of Taliban-like republic. I think that if Fatah and the PA can perform for Palestinians living in the West Bank, all Palestinians are going to look at that and say, 'you know, that's the way forward.'

    The Media Line: A lot has been written about the deterioration in relations between the U.S. and Israel under the Obama administration. What's your take?

    Abrams: We achieved a level of trust and confidence and intimacy in the Bush administration, achieved partly during the Intifada, when we gave such strong support to Israel to resist and fight back against terrorism, which in the early years of the Bush administration, was suffering terribly, if you look back at some of the suicide bombings that killed over 1,000 Israelis in total. So we achieved something as yet that I think the Obama administration has not yet achieved. But I think the alliance between Israel and the United States is quite strong. I see it in Congress and I see it in the American people. I don't think people realize, for example, that the majority of American tourists who visit Israel are Christians. The support among tens of millions of Christian-Americans for Israel is really quite overwhelming and tremendous. So I think the relationship between the United States and Israel as countries is as strong as ever. I do think there has been some trouble with the Obama administration and they need to fix it.

    The Media Line: Finally, your prediction: where will the Mideast be, peace-wise, when the Obama term in office is over?

    Abrams: Well now, I'm a Republican and this raises the question of when the Obama term [will be] over. Is it a one-term presidency or a two-term presidency? Sitting here today, we don't know. It's of course very early on, too hard to judge. I am hopeful. I think that if I can put it in a non-partisan way, and say where will we be ten years from now, I think there is quite a decent chance the people of Iran will have risen up and replaced this regime which they clearly loathe with a different regime. That'll change the Middle East because a lot of the problems of the Middle East are really owed to the regime in Iran. It is plausible to think of real progress toward a Palestinian state. I don't know whether there will be a Palestinian state but I know we will be a lot closer to it because what is happening now in the West Bank seems to me to show the practical way forward. So I know there are a lot of people who say the Middle East is only on the verge of blowing up. I actually think things are going to look better five or ten years down the road than they do today.

    The Media Line: Elliot Abrams thank you very much. 

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Palestinian anger over Jerusalem is affecting Abbas (Avi Issacharoff/Amos Harel)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 02 November @ 19:43:01 GMT+1 (909 maal gelezen)

    Palestinian anger over Jerusalem is affecting Abbas
    By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    Haaretz - 30/10/2009

    The pattern repeats itself: A relatively marginal Jewish organization calls upon the public to hold prayers on the Temple Mount to mark Yom Kippur, Sukkot or, as was the case this week, "Rambam Day" (commemorating Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon's visit to the Land of Israel in the 12th century). These announcements win a great deal of attention in the Palestinian and Arab media, of course.

    Muslim clerics, Palestinian politicians and members of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel urge Muslims to flock to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to defend it from Jewish "takeover attempts." On the day of the "operation," these groups arrive at the Temple Mount, accompanied by Arab media representatives (especially the Al Jazeera TV crew). They all wait until 7:30 A.M., when the Israel Police open the Mughrabi Gate to entry by non-Muslims. The Jewish groups do not even bother to show up, but the police who enter to enable the hypothetical visit are greeted with massive stone-throwing.

    Meanwhile, Fatah members are in the mosque to express their solidarity and to prove that they aren't being directed by Israel's Arabs, but rather are leading this fight themselves. One of the most prominent figures present is the man who holds the Jerusalem portfolio for Fatah, Hatem Abdel Qader, who was arrested there this week on suspicion of incitement.

    As is the case with his fellow Fatah activists, it's doubtful that Abdel Qader really wants the escalation on the mount to spark a conflagration throughout the territories. Their main intention seems to be to make their presence felt, to let off steam and then to return to routine in the compound. But the political environment, and especially the media, pushes them to make very aggressive statements against Israel, including accusations of attempts to damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque, even though nothing has changed on the ground at the Temple Mount in recent weeks.

    On Sunday evening, the bureau of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas released a statement condemning Israel for "extremist activities at Al-Aqsa." In the extraordinarily scathing statement, the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of sending Jewish soldiers and officers to damage the mosque, and of taking provocative steps against the Arabs of Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is a red line that must not be crossed ... The Palestinian people and its national authority will defend the holy places," declared the statement.

    This was the first time Abbas' bureau had used the terms "resistance" and "battle." It also said: "Our people will continue to cling to the land of our holy city and will be victorious in resisting its Judaization, its takeover and the expulsion of its citizens."

    Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the president's spokesman, called upon the Palestinian people to overcome the disputes and "to unite in the battle to defend Jerusalem and the holy places."

    Abbas is nearly the only Palestinian leader who opposed the use of violence throughout the Al-Aqsa intifada, especially the rocket fire from Gaza. The problem is that the current mood - among the media, his rivals in Hamas and even from top Fatah officials - is contagious and affecting even the PA president's bureau.

    The most outstanding example of Fatah's new rhetoric, so reminiscent of that of Abbas' predecessor Yasser Arafat, was heard two weeks ago, when several members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council convened at the culture hall in Ramallah. On the stage sat four members of the party's central committee, at least three of whom are considered bitter enemies: Mahmoud Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, Tawfik Tirawi and the Fatah representative in Lebanon, Sultan Abu al-Aynayn. If, a year ago, a Fatah member would have been told that they would sit side by side without fighting, he would certainly have thought it was some sort of fantasy.

    It appears that Abu al-Aynan did not exactly call at that gathering for a renewal of suicide attacks, as the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi claimed, but he did praise the muqawama, the resistance, very highly. For his part, Tirawi declared, "We shall resist, we shall resist, we shall resist," and promised the resistance would last for 50 years. (In a conversation with Haaretz afterward, he claimed he said only that if Israel says it will keep negotiating for 20 years, the Palestinians will keep resisting for 50 years.)

    The problem is that members of Fatah's military wing - who dropped out of the armed struggle against Israel after Hamas' violent coup in Gaza in June 2007 - could take the talk about resistance literally, and go back to initiating attacks. By the same token, Fatah's attempts to help organize the riots on the Temple Mount are liable to exact a high price in violence. If, in the next round of clashes, an Israeli policeman feels that his life is in danger and reacts by shooting and killing Palestinian demonstrators, as has happened in the past, this is liable to lead to a conflagration, especially given the current dead end in the diplomatic realm.

    Rajoub also acknowledged in a conversation with Haaretz that the feeling of frustration and bitterness is indeed affecting the tone of Fatah leaders.

    Election speak

    In less than three months, the Palestinian territories are slated to have elections. It is doubtful they will be held if there is no reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. However, if Egypt does indeed succeed in getting that Islamic organization to agree to a compromise, the vote will be held nine months from now, in June 2010. And during an election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government still in power in neighboring Israel, it is always better to go back to Yasser Arafat's old, familiar slogans.

    The PA, whose leaders urged Israel to take stronger action against Hamas last January, played a key role in the anti-Israel campaign launched over Operation Cast Lead and the ensuing affair of the Goldstone report about the war. And Abbas' attempt to backtrack in the midst of the uproar and stop pushing that report has brought very harsh criticism from home, which apparently is motivating the top Fatah officials' belligerent stance.

    Officials from Netanyahu's bureau, the defense establishment and the Justice Ministry are still looking for a compromise to diminish the international pressure surrounding the report, reduce the chances of legal proceedings against top Israel Defense Forces officials in Europe and avoid pushing Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi to resign.

    At the end of last week, the prime minister released a trial balloon about a potential Israeli inquiry - by means of a hint to journalist Lally Weymouth of Newsweek - but he retreated in light of the angry reaction to this by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Yet, Netanyahu's close associates believe there is no way to avoid some sort of examination, even if it is done without crossing the red line - i.e., summoning officers and soldiers to testify.

    A highly placed individual at the Prime Minister's Bureau explained this week in a meeting with guests from abroad why it is so important to Israel to avoid a commission of inquiry over Operation Cast Lead. To this day, he said (clearly hinting at the disengagement from Gaza), it has been customary to think that when statesmen err and make the security situation more complicated, we can always rely on the army to rectify matters. But if we let officers get in trouble because of actions they were required to take, we cannot expect similar responsiveness next time.

    On Wednesday, Aluf Benn wrote in Haaretz, rightly, that Israel needs an investigative committee to examine fundamental questions, rather than to rebut exaggerated accusations of war crimes. Benn asked, for example, what the government ministers knew beforehand about the potential impact on Palestinian civilians of a large-scale military campaign in Gaza.

    In this regard, at least, there is no dearth of convincing evidence. Ashkenazi did not spare efforts to inform the government that entering Gaza would result in hard fighting and many civilian casualties. Similar things were said a year before the war, when GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant presented the operational plans to the cabinet. Journalists also heard pessimistic assessments from generals in the weeks preceding Cast Lead, and some even overestimated the number of casualties.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Borderline View: A self-imposed boycott (David Newman - Jerusalem Post)
    Geplaatst door abby op Tuesday 01 September @ 01:18:14 GMT+1 (1490 maal gelezen)

    Borderline View: A self-imposed boycott

    Aug. 23, 2009
    David Newman, THE JERUSALEM POST

    My colleague at Ben-Gurion University, Dr. Neve Gordon, has made headlines during the past few days as a result of an opinion piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times (reprinted in the Guardian, with excerpts at the bottom of this page) calling for an international boycott of Israel to be accompanied by disinvestment.

    It is with a sense of deja vu that I write this column. I work in the same department as Dr. Gordon and despite our close and collegial working relationship, disagree with him on this issue. This is all the stranger given the fact that I have represented Israel's universities in matters related to the attempted (but failed) boycotts by British academics for the past few years.

    I see this sort of boycott as both ineffective and unethical, regardless of whether Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is in itself unethical. "Two wrongs don't make a right," but it's a lot more than that - Israel's universities constitute the public spaces where Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and discourse take place.

    In today's world, where Israelis and Palestinians talk less with each other than at any time since the beginning of the 1993 Oslo Process, we must value every small opportunity and space where such dialogue, including the strongly felt differences, can be aired.

    ANGRY RESPONSES to Gordon's piece from North America's Israel supporters, including the Los Angeles Israeli consul, were not unexpected. The Consul's proposal to counter the critique by setting up an Institute of Zionism (at a university which offers a degree program in Israeli History and Politics and includes the Ben-Gurion Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel, the Ben Gurion Archives at Sede Boker, and from which the leading journal in the field, Israel Studies, is jointly edited) completely misses the point. This is not about advocacy and propaganda, it is about honest dialogue.

    Unfortunately, rather than respecting the degree of freedom which Israeli academics enjoy and engaging in the debate opened by the opinion piece, many of Israel's supporters in the Diaspora automatically saw this as a reason to vent their own anger by lashing out at Ben-Gurion University.

    Israeli universities include people who hold a full range of political opinions - from the far Right to the far Left. As such, they are to be congratulated, not berated, for their breadth of discourse, and contrasted with comparable institutions throughout the world which do not allow for any critique of political leadership.

    At the end of the day, threats by potential and existing donors to cease supporting BGU or any other academic institution because of the political views of one of its faculty members are, in and of themselves, the only sort of boycott threat which has any negative impact.

    It is pretty clear that the attempts to boycott Israeli institutions are, with a few minor exceptions, a lot of (unpleasant) hot air. Throughout the UK, university heads have distanced themselves from the vociferous calls on the part of a small disaffected group of union activists, most of whom have few serious academic or scientific achievements to their name.

    The British and Israeli governments have signed new academic and scientific cooperation agreements as a clear indication of the fact that, whatever the political differences concerning occupation and the rights of the Palestinians (and the differences are significant and growing), these cannot be translated into attempts to impose collective boycotts.

    There are only two groups of people who can actually cause real damage by actively implementing any form of boycott: contributors to Israeli universities who withdraw their support of scientific and social programs, and Israeli academics who mistakenly decide not to attend conferences or not to spend their sabbatical leave at European universities because of what they perceive as an unfriendly and even anti-Semitic atmosphere.

    What these institutions are unable to do beyond their declarations, Israeli academics implement by their own actions - boycotting themselves and their potential scientific contributions.

    There is, of course, a dilemma involved in an Israeli academic calling for a boycott of the institution for which he works. It is one thing to call for a boycott of the "other," quite another to suggest a boycott of the self while continuing to enjoy the benefits of that institution.

    It is the reason why many of Israel's left-wing critiques of government policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians stop short of calling for, or supporting, boycotts.

    NONE OF this detracts from the rest of the argument. The occupation continues. We are no nearer a political settlement than we were 10 years ago - perhaps we are even further away.

    Israel and the Palestinians have proved, time after time, that left alone to their own devices, they are incapable of resolving the situation.

    Gordon argues for strong international intervention, without which there will never be any conflict resolution. But strong intervention requires pressure to be exerted on both sides, each of whom has to make the sort of compromises which they are incapable of doing of their own accord - on such major issues as Jerusalem, refugees and acknowledgement of mutual guilt for having inflicted violence and suffering on the other.

    Gordon is absolutely right to worry about the future of his two children, as all of us who are residents of Israel worry. We want them to grow up in a society where the conflict is history, where there is mutual respect between peoples of differing religions and ethnicities, where land and political rights are either separated or shared but equal, where one does not rule over the other.

    But this cannot be achieved through sanctions and boycotts, at least not in the case of Israel and the Palestinians.

    It is on this point where I strongly differ with my colleague, while respecting his right to make his point publically. This is something which Israel's universities can be proud of. It is this level of democracy, pluralism, and freedom of speech which few in the world, not least many of those proposing boycotts from abroad, can share.

    The writer is professor of Political Geography at Ben-Gurion University and editor of the International Journal, Geopolitics.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine West Bank Success Story (Michael Oren - WSJ)
    Geplaatst door abby op Tuesday 01 September @ 00:58:28 GMT+1 (1008 maal gelezen)

    West Bank Success StoryThe Palestinians are flourishing economically. Unless they live in Gaza.

    Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage. Where in today's gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The West Bank.

    According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the West Bank economy is flourishing. Devastated by the violence and corruption fomented by its former leadership, the West Bank has rebounded and today represents a most promising success story. Among the improvements of the last year cited by the IMF and other financial observers are an 18% increase in the local stock exchange, a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem—generating 6,000 new jobs—and an 82% rise in trade with Israel.

    Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Where heavy fighting once raged, there are now state-of-the-art shopping malls.

    Much of this revival is due to Palestinian initiative and to the responsible fiscal policies of West Bank leaders—such as Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad—many of whom are American-educated. But few of these improvements could have happened without a vastly improved security environment.

    More than 2,100 members of the Palestinian security forces, graduates of an innovative program led by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, are patrolling seven major West Bank cities. Another 500-man battalion will soon be deployed. Encouraged by the restoration of law and order, the local population is streaming to the new malls and movie theaters. Shipments of designer furniture are arriving from China and Indonesia, and car imports are up more than 40% since 2008.

    Israel, too, has contributed to the West Bank's financial boom. Tony Blair recently stated that Israel had not been given sufficient credit for efforts such as removing dozens of checkpoints and road blocks, withdrawing Israeli troops from population centers, and facilitating transportation into both Israel and Jordan. Long prohibited by terrorist threats from entering the West Bank, Israeli Arabs are now allowed to shop in most Palestinian cities.

    Further, several Israeli-Palestinian committees have achieved fruitful cooperation in the areas of construction and agriculture. Such measures have stimulated the Palestinian economy since 2008 resulting, for example, in a 200% increase in agricultural exports and a nearly 1,000% increase in the number of trucks importing produce into the West Bank from Israel.

    The West Bank's economic improvements contrast with the lack of diplomatic progress on the creation of a Palestinian state. Negotiators focus on the "top down" issues, grappling with legal and territorial problems. But the West Bank's population is building sovereignty from the bottom-up, forging the law-enforcement, civil, and financial institutions that form the underpinnings of any modern polity. The seeds of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called "economic peace" are, in fact, already blossoming in the commercial skyline of Ramallah.

    The vitality of the West Bank also accentuates the backwardness and despair prevailing in Gaza. In place of economic initiatives that might relieve the nearly 40% unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the radical Hamas government has imposed draconian controls subject to Shariah law. Instead of investing in new shopping centers and restaurants, Hamas has spent millions of dollars restocking its supply of rockets and mortar shells. Rather than forge a framework for peace, Hamas has wrought war and brought economic hardship to civilians on both sides of the borders.

    The people of Gaza will have to take notice of their West Bank counterparts and wonder why they, too, cannot enjoy the same economic benefits and opportunities. At the same time, Arab states that have pledged to assist the Palestinian economy in the past, but which have yet to fulfill those promises, may be persuaded of the prudence of investing in the West Bank. Israel, for its part, will continue to remove obstacles to Palestinian development. If the West Bank can serve as a model of prosperity, it may also become a prototype of peace.

    Mr. Oren is Israel's ambassador to the United States.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Is a crushed Israel in America's best interest? (Ari Shavit, Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Wednesday 08 July @ 01:43:11 GMT+1 (874 maal gelezen)

    Last update - 04:44 02/07/2009 
    Is a crushed Israel in America's best interest? 
    By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Correspondent 

    Seven months after Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election, it is still not clear what the United States' new strategic goal is: halting Iran's nuclear program, or learning to live with a nuclear Iran? It is also not clear what the new U.S. vision for the Middle East is: a partial but realistic peace, or a full but fictitious peace? It is not clear whether Obama's United States plans to isolate Middle Eastern extremists or encourage them. It is not clear what its attitude toward Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran will be. Nor is it clear whether it will leave Iraq victorious or defeated. But, on one issue, there is no doubt. In everything related to Israel, Obama's United States has adopted a tough-love strategy.

    "Tough love" is a loaded phrase. It has educational, emotional and sometimes even sexual connotations. It encompasses the paternalistic belief that the educator knows what's better for the pupil's welfare than the pupil does. Therefore, it has traditionally been associated with reform schools and patronizing conservatism.

    Recently, however, "tough love" has become the rage in liberal circles in Washington and New York. Democratic opinion leaders - many of them Jewish - have begun to speak with shining eyes about the need to administer a dose of tough love to Israel: to train it, wean it, set boundaries for it. To force it against its will to do what is good for it.

    Israel, for its part, has done quite a bit to bolster the tough-love advocates. The pampered Israeli-American princess abused its status as the apple of Uncle Sam's eye. For years, it made a mockery of the U.S. administration and embarked on a spree of settlements, checkpoints and illegal outposts. With reckless abandon, it threw off every yoke and waved a red flag at the good and the great in America's capital.

    Therefore, when Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel entered the White House, many people advised them to tame the rebel. And the president and his chief of staff received the advice enthusiastically. To the two tough guys from Chicago, the idea of loving Israel in a strong, painful manner sounded cool.

    The results can be seen almost every day on television screens throughout the world: an American policy taken straight out of a British public school. A diplomacy comprised of public reprimands. The new United States is trying to wean Israel from its bad habits by means of the teacher's ruler. Even as it bows and scrapes to Saudi Arabia and is scrupulously careful of Iran's honor, it humiliates Israel. The president's feet on the table were a message. The goal is a well-trained, obedient Israel.

    The United States is a superpower. If the United States wants a broken, battered Israel, it will get a broken, battered Israel. This is a collision between a tank and an ATV, between a stealth bomber and a glider. But the question the White House ought to be asking itself is whether riding roughshod over Israel serves its goals - whether a crushed Israel is an American interest.

    The answer is unequivocal: no. Already, Israel's public humiliation is hurting America. It is making even moderate Arabs unwilling to contribute anything to advancing the diplomatic process. And without a significant Arab contribution, there will be no diplomatic process.

    But a continued tough love policy toward Israel is liable to do damage that is far more serious - and irreversible. Without a strong Israel, a Middle East peace can neither be established nor survive. Without a strong Israel, the Middle East will go up in flames.

    Therefore, instead of playing games taken out of a basic training manual, Americans and Israelis must work in harmony. They must think outside the box and come up with a creative solution, based on listening to each other and mutual respect. They must jointly advance a genuine regional peace.

    The hour is late. Both Obama's government and Benjamin Netanyahu's government have made serious mistakes the last few months. But ultimately, both Obama and Netanyahu are worthy leaders who want to do the right thing. Therefore, the two must stop the dangerous game they are playing. The time has come to replace tough love with sensible, grown-up love.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Lieberman has become irrelevant (Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Wednesday 08 July @ 01:25:27 GMT+1 (1151 maal gelezen)

    Lieberman has become irrelevant
    By Barak Ravid - Haaretz
    It's been 100 days since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government was sworn-in, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's impact on foreign policy has been negligible. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been handling ties with the U.S.; President Shimon Peres has been in charge of dealing with the Arab world and Lieberman and his office have faded into irrelevance.

    Whereas, in the coalition agreement, Lieberman demanded to be made responsible for ties with the U.S., Barak is in fact in charge of negotiations over construction in West Bank settlements. Meanwhile, there's no end in sight to Egypt's and Jordan's boycott of Lieberman. In an effort to fill the void, Peres will travel to Jordan's capital Amman to meet with King Abdullah on Tuesday. And Lieberman? In two weeks' time he will tour Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Colombia to counter Iran's influence in Latin America.

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy's critical remarks about Israel's hawkish foreign minister, during his recent meeting with Netanyahu, are just the tip of the iceberg. Many diplomats who have met Lieberman got the feeling that there was no one to talk to and that he has no influence over the Israeli decision-making process.

    The fact that Lieberman has left a bad impression is evident from a story he himself told Moscow's Jewish community about his meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Lieberman told his counterpart that the "natural growth" of West Bank settlements required continued construction, citing the shortage of kindergartens in his hometown of Nokdim as an example. Kouchner cynically retorted that faced with a shortage, the children of Nokdim could always attend Palestinian kindergartens. "I'm not sure they have kindergartens," was what Lieberman told his Moscow audience he replied. "And even if they did, our kids wouldn't make it back alive."

    The French foreign minister was not amused.

    Lieberman's visit to Washington constitutes further evidence of his problematic image. Ahead of his arrival, Israeli diplomats had tried to present him as someone pragmatic and reasonable. When he arrived in the U.S. capital, he was not given an audience with U.S. President Barack Obama - even though Peres, Barak and Netanyahu, who had visited before him, had met with the president. Lieberman's aides said in response that they had not asked to meet with Obama.

    But the worst was still to come. His meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was described as a disaster. Clinton was reportedly offended by Lieberman's comments during the press conference and when she later accidently fell and hurt her hand, Washington diplomatic circles joked that "she was pushed down the stairs by Yvet," according to a senior U.S. official, who referred to Lieberman by his nickname.

    Surprisingly, none other than Barak has come to Lieberman's aid. He tells every foreign leader he meets that he has to run any policy issue past the foreign minister.

    Meanwhile, Lieberman's vision of closer cooperation with Moscow is at an impasse. The Kremlin isn't particularly enthused by the idea and Russia's policies toward Israel have stiffened.

    Foreign Ministry officials are trying their utmost to protect Lieberman and say every foreign policy decision is made jointly by him, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and the ministry's director general, Yossi Gal. "It's all coordinated," Lieberman's office insists. "Any attempt to portray a different picture is false."

    Other Foreign Ministry officials believe Lieberman isn't interested in being involved in every decision the way former foreign minister Tzipi Livni was. "Foreign policy issues just aren't his flesh and blood," they say. "Perhaps he doesn't want the responsibility of making decisions on such charged political issues as the settlements."

    The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman keeps saying the Foreign Ministry needs to return to its roots and focus on advocacy. But what exactly does that mean? Last week Lieberman told a joke to Israeli diplomats being sent abroad - it sheds light on his idea of diplomacy. "A tourist went to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and saw a lamb and a wolf together in a cage," Lieberman said. "He asked the zoo keeper, 'How do you get a lamb and a wolf to live together peacefully?' The zoo keeper responded: 'We put a new lamb in the cage every morning.'"

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Olmert's Lament: reining in settlements (Newsweek)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 02 July @ 23:50:21 GMT+1 (816 maal gelezen)


    Olmert's Lament

    Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is proof of the perils of reining in settlements. He's also proof of why Washington should try.
    Kevin Peraino
    From the magazine issue dated Jun 22, 2009
    As the sun rose over New York City on Thursday, June 4, Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister of Israel, lay anesthetized on a Manhattan operating table. A cancerous tumor on his prostate had recently grown in size. His doctors had "all kinds of suspicions" about it, Olmert explained when we met at his house outside Jerusalem shortly before the surgery. Olmert, 63, looked terrible. He told me he hadn't been working out lately. He had put on a paunch, his eyes had a glassy quality and he had a persistent cough. I asked whether he was feeling any symptoms. "I sometimes feel tired," he said. "But there are so many reasons for being tired." Olmert explained that he had settled on a new, robotic-assisted surgery designed to avoid damaging key nerves. An aide later said that the goal was to limit the risk that the operation would harm Olmert's ability to "function as a man."

    At the very same moment that doctors were removing Olmert's prostate, Barack Obama was standing before a raucous crowd of Egyptians across the Atlantic Ocean. Obama's speech at Cairo University was wide-ranging, but officials in Israel zeroed in on the president's stern criticisms of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. Obama warned that ongoing construction undermined the peace process-and, by implication, U.S. interests. "It is time for these settlements to stop," he declared. After Israeli officials protested that they had reached secret agreements with the Bush White House allowing for some "natural growth" in existing settlements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shot back that there was "no memorialization" of any backroom deals, infuriating her Israeli counterparts.

    Following the debate from his recovery bed, Olmert must have felt betrayed. In recent years the former prime minister had tried to cast himself as a reformed hawk, a onetime expansionist who had turned against the "Greater Israel" settlement movement. One of Olmert's few political assets as prime minister was the perception that he could effectively manage the critical relationship with the United States. Now the Americans seemed to be challenging his policies, too. In two lengthy interviews for this story-Olmert's first since he left office in March-the former prime minister was defiant and sometimes combative, but also seemed exhausted and slightly desperate. "I'm not dead," he told me at one point, banging a finger on his desk. He almost seemed to be trying to convince himself. "I'm not in power, but my ideas are in power. And my ideas will prevail."

    In a strange way, Olmert is right: his legacy depends in part on whether Obama can finish what Olmert and Ariel Sharon began when they evacuated settlements from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in the summer of 2005. And Obama's success or failure in forging Middle East peace will turn on whether he can avoid the snares that tripped up Olmert along the way. As the former prime minister recalled his time in office, he sometimes appeared haunted, even a little paranoid. "There were certain people who were out to get me," he told me. "I know who those people were. They exist, believe me. They know that I know. They spent millions of dollars in order to try to get rid of me. I'm happy they lost most of their money." Of course, if Olmert is right, Obama will be up against many of the same enemies.

    And yet the U.S. president is right to take a harder line on settlements. For all his moderate rhetoric, Olmert's policies were deeply flawed. During the last full year of his term, construction tenders for new structures increased dramatically-by a multiple of 38 in East Jerusalem, according to one study. He failed even to remove many of the hardest-core outposts deep in the West Bank, which seven in 10 Israelis are eager to abandon. Part of his trouble was rooted in the nature of Israel's coalition system, a kaleidoscope of small parties that each hold the power to topple the government. Hobbled by corruption allegations and a failed war in Lebanon, Olmert had nowhere near the political capital to tame enemies on his right flank. At one low point during his tenure, a poll showed support for the prime minister hovering around 3 percent.
    The politics of the settlements, however, are more complicated than simple coalition arithmetic. In truth, Olmert never intended to completely halt construction the way Obama is now demanding. A slim majority of Israelis-52 percent-favor a settlement freeze, according to a recent survey by Israel's Dahaf Institute. Yet, when pressed, most also favor allowing continued "natural growth" in the existing blocs encircling Jerusalem, which Israel intends to keep in any peace deal with the Palestinians. For all the bad blood between Olmert and his hawkish successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, the two are probably not as far apart as is commonly believed on this point.

    Olmert thinks it's folly for Obama to publicly confront Netanyahu on the settlement issue now. It's a mistake, he insists, "to lean on him and start a concerted effort to squeeze him." One of Olmert's top aides, who asked not to be identified so he could speak more frankly, insisted that anyone who demands a total settlement freeze "doesn't know what they're talking about. They're making an issue out of something the government of Israel can't control. They won't be able to enforce it, so what's the use?" The Americans, he concluded, "will look like fools."

    Israelis of nearly all political stripes tend to exaggerate the risks of freezing or removing settlements. The Olmert camp's practical objections-that private-property laws make bans on natural growth in the major blocs impossible to enforce, for instance-are also unconvincing. Experience shows that even the most fraught confrontations with the settlers can succeed. For months before the Gaza withdrawal, Israeli politicians-including Olmert-warned that the operation would fracture the Jewish state. Some worried that religious soldiers would refuse to carry out orders, or that large-scale violence would erupt in the West Bank. In the end, the evacuation went remarkably smoothly. Today a small fringe of hard-core ideological settlers still manages to make trouble, but as a mainstream movement they are largely a spent force.

    For Olmert, the Gaza withdrawal was a personal turning point. He was born into a family that was once considered a pillar of the Israeli right. Olmert's father, an electrical engineer, emigrated from China to Israel in 1933. He later became the head of settlements for the Herut party, a Likud forerunner inspired by the revisionist Zionism of Zeev Jabotinsky. Herut's founding identity was wrapped up in the idea of settling what would later be called Greater Israel. When Olmert was a boy, the party's emblem was an image of the two banks of the Jordan River. "For us," Olmert told me one day several years ago, "settlements were the purest expression of the Zionist ethos. What did we do? We settled. We built settlements."

    As mayor of Jerusalem in the 1990s, Olmert supported settlement building in the Arab eastern half of the city. Yet as the second intifada intensified, he also began warning that without evacuating farther-flung settlements, Israel as a Jewish state would be swept away by a tide of demography. "When you fight for the impossible," he told me in the summer of 2005, "sometimes you lose everything." Olmert's father died before he could witness the disengagement from Gaza, but Olmert once told me, somewhat melodramatically, that he believed the withdrawal would have involved a "major emotional breakdown" for his father.

    The Hebrew word for "disengagement"-hitnatkut-was coined by one of Olmert and Sharon's spin doctors to soften the blow of the pullout. Yet another word used frequently to describe later withdrawals, hitkansut-"convergence" or "realignment"-is more accurate. Sharon pledged that Israel would uproot outposts deep in Gaza and the West Bank. Yet at the same time, Israel would quietly consolidate its hold on the clover-shaped ring of settlements abutting Jerusalem. An Israeli source close to Olmert told me that the strategy was a practical step to placate the settlers. "We felt we needed to give them something in order to keep them disciplined," he explained. The Americans, the source continued, were uneasily onboard.

    In 2003, a team of Israelis from the prime minister's office held a series of secret meetings with their counterparts in the U.S. National Security Council in both Washington and Jerusalem, according to the Olmert aide. The talks were designed to discuss formulas for continued building within the existing blocs. The Olmert aide said the group agreed that in return there would be no new settlements built, no expropriation of additional Palestinian land, no construction beyond the "built-up line" and no economic incentives from Israel to the settlers. The exact details were kept secret to avoid antagonizing the settlers or the Palestinians. "We did it quietly, and it worked for eight years," said the Israeli source. He was incensed at Clinton's recent comments. "I wrote protocols for all the meetings," the Olmert aide told me. "I have records." A former Bush administration official involved in the talks confirmed the Israeli account.

    Israeli officials have been struck by how coordinated the new line out of Washington has been. Even many ordinarily pro-Israel members of Congress read Netanyahu the riot act when he visited the United States recently. By contrast, during the Olmert years, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would sometimes play a kind of good cop-bad cop routine, with Rice pushing back against settlement growth and Bush trying to stay above the fray. "We had some arguments about what was perceived by them as continued building in the territories," Olmert told me of his dealings with Rice. Olmert said that Bush would ask, "Tell me, does she irritate you?"

    At the end of Olmert's term he tried one last maneuver in an effort to secure a legacy. Olmert told me he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008 and unfurled a map of Israel and the Palestinian territories. He says he offered Abbas 93.5 to 93.7 percent of the Palestinian territories, along with a land swap of 5.8 percent and a safe-passage corridor from Gaza to the West Bank that he says would make up the rest. The Holy Basin of Jerusalem would be under no sovereignty at all and administered by a consortium of Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans. Regarding refugees, Olmert says he rejected the right of return and instead offered, as a "humanitarian gesture," a small number of returnees, although "smaller than the Palestinians wanted-a very, very limited number."

    Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, confirmed that Olmert had made the offer. "It's very sad," Erekat said. "He was serious, I have to say." Erekat said that he and Abbas studied the materials and began to formulate a response, coordinating with the Americans. But time eventually ran out. A few months after Olmert presented his offer, war erupted in Gaza. Shortly after that, Olmert was out of power.

    Erekat insists that Israel's continued settlement building is ultimately what "poisoned the atmosphere" at the talks. He told me that 60 percent of his conversations with his Israeli counterparts during the Annapolis process were devoted to arguments over the settlements. In the end, the Palestinian negotiator said, Olmert "was not committed to stopping settlement activity. I'm not going to say he was lying. But he was playing games with us." The complaint comes off as a little disingenuous, a conven-ient way to shift blame and avoid discussing difficult issues like Jerusalem, security and refugees. Yet that is exactly why a settlement freeze-with no exceptions for natural growth-is so important. A freeze may be a symbolic gesture, but it also removes an excuse.

    Olmert and his team never seemed to master the art of diplomatic symbolism. When I met with one of the former prime minister's deputies at a cafť in Tel Aviv recently, I asked him to respond to Erekat's complaints. The Olmert aide lifted a hand and silently extended his middle finger.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Gaza war crime investigation: Where is the context? (Abraham Rabinovich)
    Geplaatst door abby op Wednesday 01 July @ 00:17:36 GMT+1 (1118 maal gelezen)

    [ Zie ook: Gaza Oorlog ]

    Guest Columnist: Where is the context?

    Jun. 18, 2009

    "All you'll get there is justice," said the grizzled character in an old Western movie, warning away a gunslinger from a gallows-prone town. "And lots of it."

    Israel has received more than its fair share of frontier justice from international bodies since Operation Cast Lead in Gaza five months ago and is now the subject of a new UN investigation led by the distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone. Jerusalem says it will not cooperate with the latest probe despite Goldstone's stature. This reaction comes in the wake of a lopsided UN inquiry commission report a month ago and the behavior of UN officials in Gaza during the war itself.

    The inquiry commission threw the book at Israel for alleged misdeeds during the three weeks of fighting. Entirely missing from the report was context. Without context, the destruction of Dresden and Hamburg by the Allied air forces in World War II, not to mention Hiroshima, were acts of cold-blooded mass murder.

    The context for any examination of Operation Cast Lead includes the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians but also the thousands of rockets fired into Israel; the repeated warnings by Israel that it would strike if rocketing continued; Hamas's decision to fight the war from civilian areas; and preparation by Hamas leaders of shelters for themselves while leaving the civilian population unsheltered against the furies of a war the leaders had provoked.

    Context also includes the steps taken by Israel, unprecedented in warfare, to warn the Palestinian population of danger during the fighting, including thousands of telephoned warnings to Gaza families before air strikes on their buildings, and the firing of small rockets at the corners of roofs to spur evacuations before the bombs hit.

    THE CENTRAL INCIDENT examined by the inquiry commission concerned an UNRWA school in Jabalya. On January 6, IDF mortar shells were reported by Palestinian organizations to have struck the clearly marked school, killing more than 40 civilians sheltering there and wounding scores more. The claim was supported by a UN entity in Gaza, the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Headlines around the world duly trumpeted a "massacre." It seemed for a while that Israel might have to call off its incursion because of international outrage.

    Presuming the report true, Israeli spokesmen initially said the shells were directed at Hamas mortarmen firing from inside the school grounds. The IDF spokesman tried to fob off a year-old video clip of Palestinians firing from the school as fresh, a foolish "error" which was soon exposed.

    A few days after the war, journalist Patrick Martin of the Toronto Globe and Mail visited the area and learned that no one had been killed in the school and that no shells had hit the school. Three shells had hit an adjacent road where fatalities occurred. Only after Martin's revelation, three weeks after the incident itself, did OCHA acknowledge that the school had not been hit.

    John Ging, director of Gaza operations for UNRWA, the main UN agency in the strip, never claimed that shells struck the school. However, in numerous media interviews during the fighting he neglected to refute the charge and sometimes left the distinct impression that it was correct. In an interview with IslamiContent shown on YouTube, for example, Ging spoke of "42 Palestinians killed and over 100 injured at the UN school being used as a shelter for 1,600 people driven out of their homes." Not "near the school" but "at" the school.

    In an interview with journalist Martin after the war, Ging said, "I know that no one was killed in the school, but 41 innocent people were killed in the street outside the school. The State of Israel has to answer for that." Ging was undoubtedly well-intentioned but he was compromising the credibility of UN officials everywhere.

    UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness resorted to similar disingenuousness. In an interview with Democracy Now, an American radio/television news program, a day after the incident, Gunness said that the fatality figure in the Jabalya attack had grown to 40. "The people in the compound... had been told by the Israeli army to leave their houses and move to a safe place... They were coming to what they thought was a neutral United Nations shelter, and then the rest is history - 40 people killed." He did not actually say that shells hit the school but the viewer is left with that clear understanding.

    In its own investigation after the war, the IDF, basing itself on Palestinian sources, concluded that 12 Palestinians had been killed outside the school, not 40 or more, when mortars responded to Palestinian mortar fire. Nine of the 12, it said, were militants known by name and Palestinian identity number.

    The inquiry commission rebuked Israel for not expressing "adequate" regret over its initial false allegation about Palestinians firing from the school. But the commission had nothing to say about the incendiary claims that Israel deliberately shelled a school filled with refugees, claims to which UN officials in Gaza lent credence. The commission faulted Israel for firing too close to the school but did not rebuke Hamas for positioning mortars there, saying "it was unable to reach any conclusion" about whether there were mortars.

    The commission repeatedly faults Israel for damage caused to UN facilities by direct hits or near misses. It voices no criticism of Hamas for storing its armaments in civilian areas, including the proximity of UN facilities, triggering those attacks.

    The commission makes reference to the "traumatization" of Palestinian children during the incursion, but there is no mention of the trauma caused Israeli children during eight years of rocketing.

    There may be room for exploring whether Israel used excessive firepower in the Gaza operation - there was a lively debate over this within Israel at the war's conclusion - as long as there is context, which in this case should include a look at other wars such as the allied operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    In examining with a magnifying glass every nick and casualty on UN premises that Israel was allegedly responsible for, while ignoring Palestinian responsibility for igniting the war, the inquiry commission was acting not like a dispenser of justice, even frontier justice, but like a dodgy ambulance chaser trying to make a case.

    It was only the maturity of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who effectively pigeonholed the report, that permitted the UN to emerge from this sorry affair with a measure of its dignity intact.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Will Netanyahu say the seven-word formula? (Ari Shavit - Haaretz)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 13 June @ 00:35:19 GMT+1 (876 maal gelezen)


    The seven-word formula
    Haaretz - 11/06/2009
    By Ari Shavit

    Benjamin Netanyahu cannot say no to Obama. If he does, instead of leading to American-Israeli cooperation on the Iran issue, he would be ensnarled in an Israeli-American confrontation on the Palestine issue.

    If he says no, he would be playing into the hands of those who want Obama to deal with the settlements rather than with the centrifuges. If he says no, Netanyahu will come to the moment of truth with the Americans when the U.S. president is at the height of his power and the Israeli prime minister is at his weakest point. If he says no to Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu could end up with his own bones broken and his government and country crushed.

    But Netanyahu cannot say yes to Obama, either. If he says yes, the United States could start up immediately a powerful bulldozer to push Israel to the June 4, 1967 borders. If he says yes, Israel would not be able to ensure its vital security interests in the West Bank. If he says yes, an armed Palestinian state, whose missile batteries would prevent the Israel Air Force from launching its planes, would be declared in a short time. If Netanyahu says yes, the American left, European left and Israeli left would push Israel into a hopeless, risky undertaking that would undermine its stability. President Obama and his partners would endanger Israel's future, not from malice but from pure, noble intentions.

    Some people propose that Netanyahu evade the dilemma by adopting the road map. Netanyahu must indeed ratify the road map. Its importance is that it seeks to establish the Palestinian state in a gradual, controlled process rather than in an immediate, reckless move. But ultimately the road map is a gray, punctilious, not very successful paper. It has a lot of conniving and little substance. It does not make a statement that adequately defines the two-state vision.

    Netanyahu must make a grand statement on Sunday. He must say words of substance and truth. He must present principles for which the nation is willing to make sacrifices and even go to war. On the one hand, the prime minister must accept the two-state idea. There is no other way. On the other hand, he must remove its inherent dangers. Netanyahu must summarize this complexity in one brief phrase that everyone can understand and that will clearly reinforce the Israeli peace concept.

    This is the phrase: a two nation-state solution. In detail: a demilitarized Palestine alongside a Jewish Israel. No more than seven words. But seven words that encompass everything. Seven words that transfer the onus from Israel to the Palestinians. Seven words that shift the burden of proof from Benjamin Netanyahu to Barack Obama. Anyone who accepts these seven words is saying that he intends to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a responsible manner. Anyone who rejects them reveals he is hostile to Israel and is not really committed to its security and existence.

    The greatest diplomatic error that Kadima's leaders - Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni - made was to agree to establish a Palestinian state without qualifying their consent. They took it for granted that the future Palestine would be demilitarized and Israel would be Jewish. But in affairs of state nothing should be taken for granted. The three-word formula, which speaks of the two-state solution without defining them and setting their limits, is dangerous. In certain circumstances it could even be fatal.

    Thus Netanyahu's role is to replace it with the seven-word formula. Only this alternative formula will enable him to fix what his predecessors spoiled. Only the alternative formula will restore Israel's moral high ground.

    If our neighbors reject the proposal to set up two nation states, we would all know what we're killing and being killed for. But if they accept the seven-word formula, it would pave the way for real peace. A peace between the demilitarized Palestinian state and the Jewish Israeli state.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Tensions between Obama and Israel? Cool it! (Jerusalem Post)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 08 June @ 04:25:35 GMT+1 (1353 maal gelezen)


    Cool it!

    Jun. 2, 2009

    To illustrate the nadir to which America-Israel relations have sunk, one Hebrew-language tabloid revealed that when IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi travelled to Washington several weeks back to meet with US decision-makers about the worrisome speed with which Iran is moving toward a nuclear bomb, neither Secretary of Defense Robert Gates nor Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would make time to see him.

    The trip, said the paper, ended in failure.

    Shocking story - but not true. Ashkenazi's visit didn't take place weeks ago, but months ago. The general chose to cut his visit short to participate in urgent cabinet deliberations about Gilad Schalit. And he wasn't in the US on official business, but to attend a Friends of the IDF fund-raiser.

    Then there was The New York Times report about Washington toying with letting Israel fend for itself against the UN's built-in Muslim and Arab majority, to pressure for a settlement freeze. On Tuesday, administration sources denied the story.

    There are those in America and Israel who, albeit for differing reasons, think talking-up tension in the US-Israel relationship is a good idea.

    For those who want to create a political environment conducive to forcing Israeli concessions, it makes sense to spotlight differences over settlements; which is also a convenient way to dissociate the pro-Israel community in America from Israeli government policies, since support for the settlement enterprise is hardly widespread.

    That's why Monday's loutish behavior by the "hilltop youth" in Samaria who attacked Palestinians, torched fields and burned tires was a godsend to proponents of a settlement freeze. Such images strengthen the myth that all settlers are wild-eyed religious fanatics to whom violence is second nature.

    Meanwhile, dovish American Jews, hankering for Obama to impose "peace," are promoting a story that has White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel purportedly telling an unnamed Jewish leader that no matter what, a Palestinian state will emerge in the next four years; and that if Israel wants action on Iran, it will have to withdraw from West Bank territory.

    This account portrays the savvy Emanuel as not only petulant, but naive - as if the Palestinians have no role to play, and Israel alone will bear the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran.

    Playing up tensions with the Obama administration also serves the interests of Netanyahu's domestic opponents. One pundit wrote Tuesday that the US and Israel aren't heading for a collision - they've already crashed. Implication: All would be well if Tzipi Livni was premier.

    Paradoxically, commentators on the Right are saying exactly the same thing: that Washington has launched an all-out diplomatic and media assault against Israel that's "worse than a crisis."

    We ask them: What useful purpose does it serve to demonize so popular a president, or claim his policies are motivated by animus, when it's hard to discern where they differ substantively from those of his predecessors?

    GOING into his Thursday reconciliation speech in Cairo addressed to the Arab and Muslim world, Obama has been signaling that he expects gestures from them to encourage Israeli reciprocity. To interviewers reveling in the perceived chasm between Israel and Washington, the president is saying that unlike the 24/7 news cycle, which feeds on crises, diplomacy requires patience. And as The New York Times reported yesterday, he wants to play down differences over settlements.

    Obama is reportedly planning a major Washington policy address next month detailing his approach to Arab-Israel peacemaking. Those who want to manipulate the environment to Israel's detriment will continue to foster an ambiance of crisis. But those who want what's best for Israel should be working in the opposite direction.

    Our government can create a better atmosphere by permanently dismantling unauthorized outposts; reiterating Israel's "no new settlements" policy, and rethinking the wisdom of refusing to endorse previous Israeli governments' policy on the two-state solution.

    Can we ask Obama to honor understandings about settlement blocs reached by Israel with his predecessor when we are not honoring agreements his predecessor reached with us?

    Once we have taken these steps, we can feel more comfortable about disagreeing with other Obama policies without seeming to be disagreeable.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Groups silent in face of Obama calls for settlement freeze (JTA)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 08 June @ 04:13:50 GMT+1 (738 maal gelezen)

    Groups silent in face of Obama calls for settlement freeze

    Eric Fingerhut
    Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
    June 2, 2009 - 12:00am

    Even as it publicly stakes out a hard-line position against Israeli settlement expansion, the Obama administration is avoiding serious criticism from most U.S. Jewish groups and pro-Israel Democratic lawmakers.

    Key pro-Israel Jewish Democrats have backed the president on the importance of an Israeli settlement freeze while also suggesting there is room for a compromise between the Netanyahu government and the White House.

    Meanwhile, the major Jewish centrist organizations -- including the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and AIPAC -- have refrained from issuing statements criticizing the Obama administration on the issue.

    Some Jewish leaders said that while worries had been growing in recent days, the community wanted to wait until after President Obama's speech Thursday in Cairo to fully assess the situation.

    Their concern spiked after what they saw as “stark” comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week in which she said that “with respect to settlements, the president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here: He wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions.”

    In subsequent interviews, Obama has reiterated the call for a settlement freeze, but also stressed that “it's still early in the conversation” and that “patience is needed.” The president also has stressed the White House’s continuing commitment to Israel’s security, isolating Hamas and fighting to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

    While the Bush administration also called for a settlement freeze, observers said the Obama administration's tone and seeming willingness to follow up marks a significant change from the previous White House. The key flashpoint surrounds the issue of “natural growth,” which often is understood to encompass any kind of building and construction to accommodate growing families -- from building an extra room to a house to additional schools, community services and synagogues in growing neighborhoods.

    Last month, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams publicly confirmed the existence of an unwritten agreement that then-President George W. Bush and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reached in 2004, stating that Israel could continue to build in large Israeli settlements in the West Bank that the Jewish state was likely to keep in any final peace deal.

    The Obama administration reportedly has backed away from that understanding -- but, as some observers and unnamed U.S. officials have pointed out, only after Netanyahu refused to echo his predecessors’ endorsement of a two-state solution.

    “There would usually be a great deal of deference if he did his part,” said the Middle East Forum's Steve Rosen, formerly the longtime foreign policy director at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But without such an affirmation for a two-state solution by Netanyahu, “it weakened his ability to play that card.”

    Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, said the organized Jewish community was still treading cautiously, not wanting to “push any buttons and exacerbate the situation” in order to see what the president says in his speech to the Muslim world this week.
    “It's a crisis in formation” -- but not yet a crisis, said Foxman.
    “Everybody is holding their breath until after Thursday,” he said.
    The chairman of the Conference of Presidents, Alan Solow, also said it was "too early to come to any conclusion" on how the settlement discussions will play out.

    "I'm watching very carefully to see that the American leadershp and the Israeli leadership have a candid exchange of views," said Solow, an early Obama supporter during the campaign.

    While Jewish lawmakers and centrist Jewish organizations have steered clear from directly critcizing the Obama administration, more than 75 percent of the members of the House of Representatives have signed on to an AIPAC-backed letter to the president stating, among other things, that the United States should seek to settle its disputes with Israel in private.

    Some Jewish leaders have expressed puzzlement at the administration's willingness to bring the argument out in the open so quickly.
    “It's not clear what's to be gained by this public exchange on settlements, especially because there's not much likelihood of a deal at this point” and “a private channel exists,” said an official at one Jewish organization who did not want to be identified.

    Even Republican Jews, who attacked Obama throughout the presidential campaign for his positions on Israel, have been relatively quiet in recent days.

    Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said his organization was waiting until after the Cairo speech to make a formal statement in order to have a “full sense of what's going on,” although he said the group was “deeply concerned about the path this administration is taking.”

    Left-wing pro-Israel groups, which have been encouraging Obama to press for a settlement freeze since his inauguration, were pleased that the White House appears to be sticking to its demands.
    Americans for Peace Now spokesman Ori Nir said the shift is “sweeping, if in fact the administration will stand behind its words and enforce these positions.”

    The Zionist Organization of America criticized the settlement freeze proposal immediately after last month's Obama-Netanyahu meeting, saying "it simply penalizes Jews, because they are Jews, from living in the ancestral heartland of the Jewish people."

    Late Tuesday, the Orthodox Union weighed in with a letter to Obama, saying it was "deeply troubled" by his approach to settlements because his typical "nuanced approach" was "glaringly absent."
    "To the contrary, this policy has, to date, reflected a blunderbuss, one-size-fits-all attitude toward everything from building a new house on an empty lot in the midst of the city of Ma'ale Adumim, to erecting new houses on an empty hilltop in Samaria," wrote leaders of the Orthodox Union, which has increasingly aligned itself publicly with the settler movement in recent years.

    According to multiple reports, Netanyahu and his aides were shocked to discover in a meeting last month with Jewish members of Congress the degree to which they sided with Obama. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) said it was the first time during such a meeting that he recalled an Israeli prime minister being pressed on the settlement issue in his 13 years in the House.

    “Those people who have been some of Israel's staunchest and most vocal supporters in the past and would be in the future are advocating this policy and supporting the president because it is a policy in best interests of the United States and Israel,” said Wexler, an early supporter and outspoken Jewish surrogate for Obama during the presidential campaign. “I'm convinced Netanyahu feels the same way. He just has to figure out the dynamic that will support it and we have to give him the time and room to do that.”

    Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) said he still wanted the Obama administration to more clearly define what exactly it meant by “natural growth,” but generally backed the idea of stopping settlements.
    “We're not talking about dismantling settlements, we're talking about a settlement freeze,” said Ackerman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. “Settlements have proven to be one of the things that have been problematic.”
    Ackerman said he still wanted to hear specifically whether the administration's definition of natural growth was all about buildings, or also included people.

    “I don't know how you can tell families they can't have children,” he said, but expanding the “footprint” of a settlement through building or other construction was problematic.
    “I think there is room for compromise,” he said.

    Wexler offered his own idea for a compromise, suggesting that the Jewish state offer to freeze all natural growth of settlements on the Palestinian side of the security fence as a “credible first step.” He said Israel needed to make some sort of movement on the settlement issue as a way to test whether the Arab world is serious about peace with Israel.
    “American Jews or Israel should not be concerned” by the recent tension over settlements, he said.

    “All of this is within the context of empowering the president of the United States to extract from the Arab world normalization measures that the Arab world has never contemplated before,” Wexler said.
    Two of the more hard-line Jewish Democrats in Congress, Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Shelly Berkley (D-Nev.), did voice some concerns this week.

    “My concern is that we are applying pressure to the wrong party in this dispute,” Berkley said in an interview with Politico. “I think it would serve America’s interest better if we were pressuring the Iranians to eliminate the potential of a nuclear threat from Iran, and less time pressuring our allies and the only democracy in the Middle East to stop the natural growth of their settlements.

    “When Congress gets back into session," she added, "the administration is going to hear from many more members than just me.”

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Will the US follow its laws and suspend funding to Abbas? (Marcus & Crook)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 28 May @ 02:29:13 GMT+1 (948 maal gelezen)

    Will the US follow its laws and suspend funding to Abbas?
    As US President Barack Obama prepares to welcome Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington this week, and US lawmakers debate the proposed $900 million aid package to the PA, it is once again using its money to proclaim that killing Israeli woman and children is heroic.

    The PA chose to name its latest computer center "after the martyr Dalal Mughrabi," who led the most deadly terror attack in the country's history. Her 1978 bus hijacking killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, including American photographer Gail Rubin. The new center is funded by Abbas's office, which is bolstered by Western aid money. (Al-Ayyam, May 5).

    US law prohibits the funding of Palestinian structures that use any portion of their budget to promote terror or honor terrorists. But $200 million of the US's proposed $900m. aid package is earmarked to go directly to the Abbas government, which regularly uses its budget to honor terrorists. In fact, this latest veneration of Mughrabi is not an isolated case, but part of a continuing pattern of honoring terrorists that targets children in particular.

    Last summer the PA sponsored "the Dalal Mughrabi football championship" for kids, and a "summer camp named for martyr Dalal Mughrabi... out of honor and admiration for the martyr." It also held a party to honor exemplary students, also named "for the martyr Dalal Mughrabi," under the auspices of Abbas and at which Abbas's representative "reviewed the heroic life of the martyr [Mughrabi] (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, July 23, 24 and August 8, 2008). All these PA-funded activities were to teach kids that a killer of women and children is a role model.

    TWO MONTHS AGO, 31 years to the day after the Mughrabi murders, PA TV broadcast a special program celebrating the terror attack, calling the killing of 37 civilians "one of the most important and most prominent special operations... carried out by a team of heroes and led by the heroic fighter Dalal Mughrabi" (PA TV March 11). And its not just Mughrabi who is a Palestinian hero. Despite professions in English by Abbas and other PA leaders that they reject terror, the PA has a long and odious history in Arabic of celebrating terrorists as role models and heroes, often involving US money.

    USAID spent $400,000 in 2004 to build the Salakh Khalaf soccer field. After Palestinian Media Watch reported that Khalaf was the head of the Palestinian terror group that murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and two American diplomats in Sudan, USAID publicly apologized and said it would demand that the PA change the name. The name was never changed.

    In 2002, US money funded renovations of the "Dalal Mughrabi school for girls." After PMW alerted the US State Department to Mughrabi's terrorist past, the funding was cancelled. Within 24 hours, the PA said the name would be changed, and the American money was reinstated. Once the work was completed, however, the school was renamed for the terrorist. It bears Mughrabi's name to this day.

    AT A RECENT hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged: "We will work only with a Palestinian Authority government that unambiguously and explicitly accepts the Quartet's principles, [including] a commitment to nonviolence." And it's not just Clinton's pledge. US law interprets nonviolence to include not honoring terrorists: "None of the [US]... assistance under the West Bank and Gaza program may be made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit, or have committed acts of terrorism" (2008 Foreign Operations Bill Sec. 657.B - C.1). This latest glorification of the terrorist Mughrabi, coming as Congress considers the administration's latest request to fund Abbas, imposes a profound responsibility on Congress. But it also creates a unique opportunity.

    Will the US follow its own laws, and insist that the PA stop turning killers of women and children into heroes and role models before it receives another cent of US money? Congress and Obama can send a message to the PA that the US will not fund the PA, or any part of its budget, until it proves that it has ceased promoting terrorist murderers as heroes and role models. It can demand a statement from Abbas - in public, in Arabic and in the PA media - that murdering Israelis is terror, that terrorists are neither heroes nor holy martyrs and that they will no longer be honored.

    Or they can send a different message to Abbas: that raising another generation of Palestinian children to the values of hate, murder and martyrdom is acceptable to the US - so acceptable that the US is even willing to fund it.

    Itamar Marcus is founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch. Barbara Crook is PMW's associate director.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine The Beleaguered Christians in Bethlehem (Khaled Abu Toameh)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 16 May @ 20:59:26 GMT+1 (814 maal gelezen)

    The Beleaguered Christians in Bethlehem
    Khaled Abu Toameh - May 12, 2009

    Christian families have long been complaining of intimidation and land theft by Muslims, especially those working for the Palestinian Authority.

    Many Christians in Bethlehem and the nearby [Christian] towns of Bet Sahour and Bet Jalla have repeatedly complained that Muslims have been seizing their lands either by force or through forged documents.

    In recent years, not only has the number of Christians continued to dwindle, but Bethlehem and its surroundings also became hotbeds for Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters and members.

    Moreover, several Christian women living in these areas have complained about verbal and sexual assaults by Muslim men.
    Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they could no longer afford to pay "protection" money to local Muslim gangs.

    While it is true that the Palestinian Authority does not have an official policy of persecution against Christians, it is also true that this authority has not done enough to provide the Christian population with a sense of security and stability.

    In addition, Christians continue to complain about discrimination when it comes to employment in the public sector. Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority 15 years ago, for example, not a single Christian was ever appointed to a senior security post. Although Bethlehem has a Christian mayor, the governor, who is more senior than him, remains a Muslim.

    As a Muslim journalist, I am always disgusted and ashamed when I hear from Christians living in the West Bank and Jerusalem about the challenges, threats and assaults that many of them have long been facing.

    The reason why I feel like this is because those behind the assaults and threats are almost always Muslims.
    For decades, the delicate and complicated issue of relations between Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land was treated by Palestinians as a taboo. Most Palestinians chose to live in denial, ignoring the fact that relations between the Muslim majority and the tiny Christian minority [about 10%] have been witnessing a setback, particularly over the past 15 years.

    On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land, a Christian merchant told me jokingly: "The next time a pope comes to visit the Holy Land, he will have to bring his own priest with him pray in a church because most Christians would have left by then."
    Indeed, the number of Christians leaving Bethlehem and other towns and cities appears to be on the rise, according to representatives of the Christian community in Jerusalem.

    Today, Christians in Bethlehem constitute less than 15% of the population. Five or six decades ago, the Christians living in the birthplace of Jesus made up more than 70% of the population.

    True, Israel's security measures in the West Bank have made living conditions more difficult for all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike. But to say that these measures are the main and sole reason for the Christian exodus from the Holy Land is misleading.

    If the security fence and the occupation were the main reason, the Palestinian territories should by have been empty of both Muslims and Christians. These measures, after all, do not distinguish between Christians and Muslims.

    On the other hand, it is also incorrect to assume that the Christians are leaving only because they are afraid of their Muslim neighbors. Christians are leaving because of the poor economy, and because they no longer feel secure in their homes. But they are also leaving because most of them, if not all, find it easier to merge into Christian-dominated societies in the US, Canada, EU and Latin America, where many of them already have relatives and friends.

    In fact, Christians began leaving the Holy Land long before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. But the number of those moving to the US and Canada has sharply increased ever since the Palestinian Authority took control over Bethlehem and other Palestinian villages and cities. When the second intifada erupted in September 2000, Christian leaders said they were "terrified" by the large number of Christians who were leaving the country.

    Ironically, leaders of the Palestinian Christians are also to blame for the ongoing plight of their people because they refuse to see the reality as it is. And the reality is that many Christians feel insecure and intimidated because of what we Muslims are doing to them and not only because of the bad economy.

    When they go on the record, these leaders always insist that Israel and the occupation are the only reason behind the plight of their constituents. They stubbornly refuse to admit that many Christians are being targeted by Muslims. By not talking openly about the problem, the Christian leaders are encouraging the perpetrators to continue their harassment and assaults against Christian families.

    And then the day will really come when the pope, on his next visit to the Holy Land, will not find any Christian to welcome him.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Tony Blair: We've reached 'moment of truth' (Jerusalem Post)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 16 May @ 20:36:53 GMT+1 (1987 maal gelezen)

    Blair: We've reached 'moment of truth'
    May. 10, 2009
    David Horovitz , THE JERUSALEM POST

    Early in his interview with The Jerusalem Post last Thursday, the international Quartet's envoy Tony Blair observed that "you'd be nuts if you were naively optimistic" regarding the chances of a peacemaking breakthrough "after all we've been through over the years."

    But he then proceeded to sound at least cautiously optimistic about the prospects of precisely such progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front. The new American government was committed from the get-go. Israel had a stable coalition sensibly determined to work "bottom up" as well as "top down." Moves were ongoing to improve the Palestinian economy and security capacity. The ideological gulfs were bridgeable. And Hamas had some hard choices to make.

    As he said, given "all we've been through over the years," such assessments might sound risibly rosy. But Blair does have his feet on the ground: The central characteristic of his mission has been to concentrate on detail - the advocacy of specific projects to improve day-to-day life in the West Bank, the focus on specific Israeli security concerns.

    Now, he insisted, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "certainly can play the role of peacemaker." And the Palestinians were ready "to push ahead on security and capacity."

    Why might the current constellation of players succeed where Annapolis had failed? Because the region was changing, he said, and the choice, given the rise of Iran, was getting starker - the choice, as he put it, between modernizing or living in the past. The way Blair sees it, we've reached "the moment of truth."


    We have a new government here and we're hearing about a determination to build from the bottom up with the Palestinians, including assurances that economic projects that had been stymied will now be advanced. There's also a new American presidency that is trying to invigorate the process, and talk of possible new Arab League thinking - though it's not clear how true that is. In contrast to Annapolis, which did not lead to any breakthrough, do you have the sense that there is genuinely a chance now of something substantial changing for the better?

    The short answer is yes, I do. You'd be nuts if you were naively optimistic after all we've been through over the years. But I do think this is a moment of opportunity. A moment of truth. After many months of semi-paralysis, frankly, for all sorts of reasons, we now have a new American administration that, from the outset, is determined to focus on [this]. We've got a new Israeli government that, at least for the time being, is secure with an empowered prime minister. And I think the Palestinian side of the politics are a little clearer too, in a way.

    There is a consensus that you have to build from the bottom up as well as negotiate from the top down. That is absolutely the right thing.

    It's also a moment of decision because once you take the three "headings" - politics, economics and security - you have to put substance into that... Each of these things take decisions... Over the next few months it will become apparent, one way or another, whether the Israelis are really prepared to build from the bottom up, and whether the Palestinians are really prepared to understand that the only state that Israel will tolerate as a Palestinian state is one that is a stable and secure neighbor, and that requires, obviously, decision-making on their part too.

    I don't know what will come out of the next few weeks, but it seems to me that people are reflecting from the beginning on their policy... I'm confident that people will take the decisions with the right will and intention, that we can move it forward.

    What do you see as having become clearer on the Palestinian side?

    For the moment, at any rate, people are going to carry on working with Prime Minister Fayad... I feel the Palestinians themselves are ready now to push ahead on security and capacity. There is a whole set of proposals now on the rule of law for the Palestinians, supported by various parts of the donor community, for things like courts and prisons and the judiciary and the prosecution service and so on, along with further training with [US] Gen. Dayton of the [PA] security forces. So all that is moving along.

    People are saying to Hamas, "You've got a decision to make." If you want to change and get on board with a two-state solution, that's your decision. If you decide that you won't, that's also your decision, but we want to move ahead. I see the next few weeks as when we try and devise a framework that then takes us forward at least to the end of the year.

    I don't see the faintest prospect that Hamas is going to accept Israel. Therefore, what's going to happen to Gaza in this kind of framework?

    It can't be put to one side. We've got to do what we can to help the people there. I am sure from all the contacts I have in Gaza - I mean habitually non-Hamas contacts; people in business and civil society - that if people think there is a serious momentum moving this whole thing forward, the majority of the people in Gaza will want to be part of it. I don't have a doubt about that. So the most important thing is for us to concentrate on getting this thing moving forward.

    The Israeli government has practical objections to Palestinian statehood. The Israeli prime minister is saying, 'The way the world works, statehood gives you the right to do things that, in the Palestinian case, we would feel threatened by: if they aligned with Iran, if they start importing weaponry...' How serious a problem do you think that is? And on the other side, there's the Palestinian refusal to define Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Are these red herrings, that can be left aside, that won't interfere with an effort to change things, or are these issues that have to be tackled, real problems?

    If everything is moving forward, these are resolvable issues to the satisfaction of both parties... I always get out a map now when I'm talking about this issue to people in Europe or in America. You get out a map showing the Israel-Palestinian territory. Then you get out a map showing the position of this plot of land amongst the broader region. And you educate people to the fact that, for Israel, you can't contemplate a Palestinian state that is not stable and secure. That's just the way it is. Now, likewise for the Palestinians, they can't contemplate a state if it's separated and broken into little bits, or even big bits.

    So there is a reality check that you can give people that makes it very obvious that these types of questions, in the end, can be resolved if everything else is moving forward, because the world will be there to resolve it. And actually they're not that hard to repair.

    Settlement-wise, is it too late for a two-state solution?

    No, but I do think it's important for Israeli opinion to be sensitive to how seriously people take this issue. People want to be kind of understanding of it on one level, but the fact is that if you're going to negotiate the parameters of statehood in the end, you don't want, on either side, for there to be a situation where the facts on the ground just make it impossible. Now, again, I happen to believe there are ways through that as well...

    Can you elaborate a little?

    Provided people understand what the problem is with the settlement issue: It is where the Palestinians see not just the issue of settlements - the concept of land swaps is already there - it's where they see it as effectively breaking up the Palestinian territory. In particular where you've got outposts and so on that then have to be guarded. For example, as I saw when I was down in Hebron recently, it's hard, impossible sometimes, for the Palestinians to develop their own land, whilst they see land being developed around them, actually in contravention sometimes of Israeli law.

    This will be something to be discussed over the next few weeks and it's probably not sensible to get into all the details, but I personally believe that, again, there are ways around this issue. The answer to your question is no, I don't think it's gone so far that we cannot still have a Palestinian state. But it is important that people are alive to the sensitivity of this, because it will be one major issue that has to be tackled at some point.

    You met with Netanyahu [on Wednesday]. What's your sense of the degree of sensitivity on settlements? How is he going to reconcile his own ideology, coalition constraints, international interests, the position on the ground and so on?

    My view is that he most certainly can play the role of peacemaker. He understands that this is going to be a very tough challenge internally and externally. His big preoccupation is the security of Israel. He's very focused, obviously, on the issue of Iran.

    He also understands - and this is certainly something that I stress constantly to people in Israel, including him - that people like myself are completely sympathetic to the security question. We also believe it is possible, consistent with that and provided the Palestinians adhere to their responsibilities, to give the Palestinians control of their own territory and a state.

    My view is that he understands that. But, you know, we're at the beginning of this journey. It's for him to speak for himself. The policy review of the Israelis will come out, I assume, in advance of the visit to Washington.

    I think the bottom-up approach [being advocated by Netanyahu] is absolutely sensible, simultaneous with a political negotiation top-down. You need the two things together... It was actually at my request several years back that the predecessor to Gen. Dayton was first appointed, precisely because after the [Ariel Sharon Temple Mount] visit [in 2000] and after the [second] intifada had broken out, and all the troubles and so on, and particularly what I saw in and around the disengagement from Gaza, I suddenly understand what the Israel problem was. It wasn't actually about a negotiation over territory per se, it was really about a fear over the nature of the state that would be created.

    From that moment on, I really focused on [trying improve the security] capacity of the Palestinian side and economic development of the Palestinian side - giving people a stake in the future, but also understanding that in this small territory you simply cannot have a situation where you've got gangs of militia and allies of Iran in charge. You can't. You can't. I wouldn't stand for that if I was Israel.

    There is a way of Israel making its case, which is both to explain their genuine security concern and how the nature of a Palestinian state dramatically affects that concern, provided that at the same time, they are prepared to help the Palestinians and empower the ones who really do want to take the right decisions and make progress.

    Will there be more money now for the Dayton program of training Palestinian security forces?

    Yes. It's not a problem getting money either for the European support on [building institutions for the Palestinian] rule of law, or for Gen. Dayton's mission. It's important that Prime Minister Fayad is there, but there's little doubt in my mind that the Americans will support this...

    Israel had a government that pushed for an accord and couldn't reach it. What lessons should be learned from the failure of Annapolis?

    On Annapolis, they did get into the detail, and they did get further than people think. But if you put all your eggs in the top-down basket, it won't work.

    What is required for an agreement to happen? The agreement must pass a minimum credibility threshold on the ground. In other words, if Israel cannot see that the Palestinians could possibly handle their security, Israel is not going to agree. Whatever the detail of why they don't agree, they're not going to agree.

    Likewise, if the Palestinians think, here we are, we're going to be asked to make serious compromises on things like refugees - which goes back a long way into their history - if the facts on the ground make them think that the occupation, as they see it, is not going to end, they're not going to make these concessions.

    My point all the way through is that you've got to have the top-down and the bottom-up going together. The problem has been that the relationship between those two things has not been properly understood. In particular, we have not understood the essential nature of capacity building on the Palestinian side.

    The key to understanding a state is that states are not about maps. States are about institutions. They're about governing capacity. They're about what actually happens within that defined territory. You can have a map with a border that isn't what I would recognize as a state in any functioning sense.

    That's my reason why I don't think [Annapolis] worked in the end.

    I'm prepared to really give the new [Israeli] government a chance on this [because]... I've found people now willing in the new government to sit down. I mean, the prime minister [on Wednesday] announced this committee [that Netanyahu is heading to develop the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life in the PA]. That's what I want...

    People have been saying to me in the last year, why are you bothered about such and such a checkpoint or whether there's a bit of agri-industrial thing around Jericho. And I say, because it matters. The detail on the ground really matters. Just supposing you've [created the conditions] in the Jericho area to exploit the [tourism] potential it has got. You're creating a whole set of stake-holders who, when it comes to those difficult concessions, are going to say, "We want the state." They are then believing in a reality, not a shibboleth...

    And yet there are ideological positions that couldn't be reconciled last time. Do you think these current players - Abbas and Fayad, and Netanyahu and his coalition - can reconcile the ideological gulfs?

    Yes I do. The world is different. There is another issue that is the focus of attention: not just Iran, but the whole [question] of does this region modernize or does this region stay in the past? Not staying in the past, one part of that, is two peoples living together here in this small bit of territory, when if they did live together in peace they could make it into, obviously, a highly successful and vibrant part of the world.

    The state of Israel is an extraordinary creation in a way. The way that Israelis did that - created and built it - is not a bad model in many ways.

    Israel says you have to stop Iran. Hillary Clinton says you have to move forward on the Palestinian track. How should this tie together?

    It's all part of one issue, which is: Do we move forward in peaceful coexistence? Different cultures, different faiths. That's the only way the modern world works, given the power of globalization. It's important that Israel gets its security, that the Palestinians get the justice of statehood, and it's important that Iran does not get a nuclear weapons capability. We're going to have to move on all fronts.

    And how much time is there left on Iran?

    It's difficult to judge. We are far more likely to avoid confrontation if we are absolutely clear and plain right from the beginning, with no ambiguity, that they cannot have a nuclear weapons capability.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Hamas Racism: 'Jews are evil' (PMW)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 27 April @ 20:03:31 GMT+1 (1484 maal gelezen)

    Apr. 19, 2009Palestinian Media Watch

    Hamas Racism: Jews are evil -  "Their children will be exterminated."

    Imam who participated in "Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace" calls for extermination of Jews

    by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

    A Hamas cleric who once participated in an international conference of "Imams and Rabbis for Peace" -- whose delegates vowed to "condemn any negative representation" of each other's religions -- has wholeheartedly espoused Hamas's racist ideology in a recent Friday sermon on Hamas TV.

    Ironically, this latest profession of Hamas's genocidal racism was preached and broadcast at the start of the month in which the UN is meeting in the "Durban II" conference in Geneva to condemn Israel as being "racist."
    According to the Hamas interpretation of Islam, the Jews are inherently evil, seek to rule the world, and are a threat to Muslims and all of humanity. Therefore they are destined to extermination. In the words of Hamas religious leader Ziad Abu Alhaj, "Hatred for Muhammad and Islam is in their [Jews'] souls, they are naturally disposed to it..."

    He asserts that because of the Jews' inherent evil, the Jewish state, "Israel ... is a cancer that wants to rule the world." One can find the details of the Jews' plan in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which he jokingly refers to as "The Protocols of the Imbeciles of Zion" (a play on words in Arabic). He concludes that the Jews are destined to be annihilated:

    "The time will come, by Allah's will, when their property will be destroyed and their children will be exterminated, and no Jew or Zionist will be left on the face of this earth." 
    [Hamas (Al-Aqsa) TV, April 3, 2009]

    He also claims that the Jews wanted to murder Muhammad.

    This imam, who is preaching the genocide of Jews, participated in the Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in 2006, which also featured many prominent rabbis from Israel. The final statement from the Seville conference included the pronouncement,  ". . . We condemn any negative representation of these [religious beliefs and symbols], let alone any desecration, Heaven forbid. Similarly, we condemn any incitement against a faith or people, let alone any call for their elimination, and we urge authorities to do likewise."

    Click here to view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzK114-Q8zg

    The following is the text of the Hamas sermon calling for the extermination of Jews:

    "Who is it that is leading the world today in the vicious, all-encompassing war against Islam and Muslims? The answer is clear: it is the Jewish nation. It is the Jews who today are leading the all-encompassing war against Muslims...

    We, the Muslims, know the nature of Jews the best, because the Holy Quran taught us. The prophetic traditions explained at length to Muslims the true nature of Jews... Their war and their hatred for Muhammad and Islam is in their souls, they are naturally disposed to it.

    Israel today lives in the heart of Arab-Muslim territory, and it is a cancer that wants to rule the world. Know, my brothers! The Jews' expansion today brings the dissemination of an ancient thinking...

    They argued with Allah's prophet Moses; they wanted to kill Allah's prophet Jesus, and wanted to murder Allah's prophet Muhammad... 

    The Jews want to destroy every inch ... Perhaps their famous book, which they deny [its authenticity] - known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but we call it, "The Protocols of the imbeciles of Zion" - in this book, my brothers, the Jews set down their plan to besiege the entire world by land, by air, and by sea - conceptually, economically, and its communications, as is happening today...

    The Jews' grandeur today, and their ascent to the world's throne, is because America, with all of its power, is ruled by the Senate, I won't say 'American' but rather 'Jewish' [Senate] ... The time will come, by the will of Allah, when their property will be destroyed and their children will be exterminated, and no Jew or Zionist will be left on the face of this earth."

    Contact Palestinian Media Watch:

    p:+972 2 625 4140e: pmw@pmw.org.il
    f: +972 2 624 2803w: www.pmw.org.il

    PMW | King George 59 | Jerusalem | Israel


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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Conclusion of Investigations into Central Claims in Operation Cast Lead (IDF)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 23 April @ 23:54:36 GMT+1 (1171 maal gelezen)

    IDF investigations refute major claims of wrongdoing http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2009/04/idf-investigations-refute-major-claims.html

    IDF Spokesperson April 22nd, 2009

    Conclusion of Investigations into Central Claims and Issues in Operation Cast Lead

    The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi recently approved and authorized the publication of the conclusions of five investigative teams assigned to investigate events relating to the conduct of IDF soldiers during Operation Cast Lead.

    The teams, headed by officers of the rank of Colonel, were composed of officers who were not a direct part of the chain of command in the operations in question and were appointed by Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi to thoroughly investigate a number of issues which were brought to general attention (by, amongst others, international organizations and the international and Israeli media).

    The five investigative teams dealt with the following five issues:

    1. Claims regarding incidents where UN and international facilities were fired upon and Damaged during Operation Cast Lead. The investigation was conducted by Col. Itzik Turgeman.

    2. Incidents involving shooting at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles and crews. The investigation was conducted by Col.Erez Katz.

    3. Claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed. The investigation was conducted by Col. Tamir Yedai.

    4. The use of weaponry containing phosphorous. The investigation was conducted by Col. Shai Alkalai.

    5. Damage to infrastructure and destruction of buildings by ground forces. The investigation was conducted by Col. Adam Zusman.

    The IDF Spokesperson's Unit emphasizes that these experts' investigations are not a replacement for the central operational IDF investigation of the entire operation which is continuing at various levels and which will be concluded by June. Additional issues are also undergoing a process of verification or investigation at various levels within the IDF.

    The decision of the Chief of the General Staff to appoint the five investigative teams emanates from the IDF's professional, moral and legal obligations to thoroughly a number of claims which were made in relation to the conduct of the warfare. The process of examination involved a series of operational investigations, which are the accepted procedure in the IDF and other western militaries. These were carried out by three expert investigators of the rank of Colonel who had no direct involvement with the incidents in question.

    In accordance with accepted IDF protocol for professional investigations, the investigators operated independently and were provided with access to all relevant materials and the freedom to question any of the relevant personnel. They were given the complaints that reached the IDF and other Israeli authorities, interviewed many soldiers and officers, and gathered relevant documents and other materials. It should be noted that each soldier whose testimony was requested was required to cooperate with the investigation, and the investigators received full cooperation.

    The investigations showed that throughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with international law. The IDF maintained a high professional and moral level while facing an enemy that aimed to terrorize Israeli civilians whilst taking cover amidst uninvolved civilians in the Gaza strip and using them as human shields. Notwithstanding this, the investigations revealed a very small number of incidents in which intelligence or operational errors took place during the fighting. These unfortunate incidents were unavoidable and occur in all combat situations, in particular of the type which Hamas forced on the IDF, by choosing to fight from within the civilian population.

    The government of Israel ordered the IDF to embark on Operation Cast Lead as part of its duty to protect its citizens following eight years of rocket fire on Israeli communities in southern Israel. This fire was especially difficult during the three years since the "disengagement" when Israel withdrew from Gaza, and during two months prior to the operation when 160 rockets and mortars where fired at Israel. During these years, hundreds of thousands of Israeli children, women and men were terrorized by endless attacks executed by Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of rockets and mortars were fired at schools, kindergartens and residential neighborhoods. No other choice was left other than to act against these continuous acts of terrorism whose cost was many killed and injured, in body and soul, and which disturbed any attempt to live a normal life in the cities and communities of Israel's south.

    The fighting in Gaza took place in a complex battlefield against an enemy who chose, as a conscious part of its doctrine, to locate itself in the midst of the civilian population. The enemy booby trapped its houses with explosives, fired from the schools attended by its own children and used its own people as human shields while cynically abusing the IDF's legal and ethical commitment to avoid injuring uninvolved civilians. In order to ensure compliance with the IDF's obligations under international law, the IDF invested an enormous effort and huge resources to warn civilians in the Gaza Strip away from harm. The IDF dropped more than 2,250,000 leaflets during the fighting, used Palestinian radio, made personal telephone warnings to more than 165,000 Gaza residents and carried out a special warning shot procedure ("A knock on the roof"), in order to ensure that Palestinian civilians could avoid harm. Additionally, the IDF made extensive use of accurate munitions, wherever and whenever possible, to minimize harm to civilians. In addition, during the operation the IDF authorized humanitarian convoys to enter the Gaza and employed a humanitarian recess for several hours a day.

    The IDF operated in accordance with moral values and international laws of war, trained its soldiers to act in accordance with the values and norms which bind the IDF, and made an enormous effort to focus its fire only against the terrorists whilst doing the utmost to avoid harming uninvolved civilians. Like other militaries that are forced to fight a terrorist enemy that hides and operates under a civilian cover, the IDF had to face difficult moral dilemmas as a result of the illegitimate approach of Hamas.
    This approach turned Gaza's urban areas into a battle field and intentionally made use of uninvolved civilians, civilian buildings and sensitive humanitarian facilities (i.e. hospitals, religious and educational institutions and facilities associated with the UN and other international organizations). The investigations clearly showed that the IDF operated in accordance with international law. The IDF's legal commitments were implemented in the operational plans, the training the forces received prior to the operation and the orders that were given during the operation. In some of the incidents the IDF even placed more limits on its actions than required under international law, and acted with restraint in order to avoid harming civilians.

    The IDF achieved the aims and objectives that were set and struck a heavy blow to the terror organizations lead by the Hamas, by targeting terrorists, military infrastructure and weapons manufacturing facilities. The complex operation involved cooperation between air, naval and ground forces together with different intelligence agencies, including both reserve and regular forces. Prior to the operation, careful planning and preparations were undertaken in order to ensure that the units were and command centres were trained and ready for any challenge.

    The investigation process was lengthy due to the extent of the fighting, the complex and thorough work of the investigators, the time required to gather information from the various units involved in the operation, and comprehensive cross-checking. With regard to some of the investigations presented here, some specific additional issues are still being checked, and additional allegations are now being investigated.

    In accordance with usual practice, a summary of each investigation will also be presented to the Military Advocate General, who is entitled to decide whether additional checks need to be done or if there is the basis for opening another type of investigation. His decision is entirely independent and he is subject only to the law.

    Due to their significance, the conclusions of the investigations and the opinion of the Military advocate will be presented for review to the Attorney General.

    Annex A:
    Claims against Incidents where UN and international facilities were fired upon and damaged during Operation Cast Lead

    The investigation was conducted by Col. Itzik Turgeman with the objective of thoroughly examining claims regarding 13 incidents in which facilities, structures and vehicles associated with the United Nations (UN) or other international organizations were damaged.
    The majority of the incidents that were investigated were detailed in the complaints submitted to the IDF by the UN during Operation Cast Lead and thereafter, while other incidents were discovered during the process of investigating.

    The investigation showed that the IDF took numerous measures to avoid hitting facilities and vehicles affiliated with the UN, Red Cross and other international organizations. These facilities were marked on IDF maps in advance according to the information provided by the international organizations. Clear orders were given stating that the hitting of facilities and vehicles of this sort must be avoided. Coordination between the IDF and the UN, the Red Cross and the international organizations was done via a special Civil Administration situation room and a center for humanitarian coordination that was established in order to allow day to day humanitarian aid coordination.
    Investigation shows that Hamas and the other terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip placed the facilities used by the UN and other international organizations in substantial danger. With the knowledge that the IDF limits its operations in the vicinity of such facilities, the terror organizations intentionally launched rockets and mortar shells adjacent to them. Similarly, Hamas and other terrorist organizations located headquarters, bases, weapon storage facilities and other terrorist infrastructure close to the sensitive facilities of the UN, Red Cross and other international organizations.

    Below are the findings of the investigation with regard to some of the prominent incidents that were investigated:

    A. Claims about the Incident at the UNRWA school in Jabaliya ("Fahoura" School)

    The incident occurred near the UNRWA school ("Fahoura" School) in Jabaliya on January 6th, 2009. Hamas operatives used a site located only 80 meters away from the school to launch mortar shells at IDF forces. The shells exploded next to an IDF force operating in the area, and represented a grave threat to the soldiers. The previous day thirty IDF soldiers were wounded by Hamas mortar fire. The mortar fire presented a very significant threat to the lives of IDF forces.

    Following a confirmed and cross-referenced identification of the source of the fire, the soldiers under attack responded with minimal and proportionate retaliatory fire, using the most precise weapon available to them, with the purpose of stopping the Hamas fire. The return fire hit the Hamas operatives who were firing the mortars and stopped their fire. All of the shells fired by the force landed outside of the school grounds (contrary to claims made by Hamas). Sadly, due to the fact that Hamas was firing from a populated area, the return fire also resulted in unintentional harm to civilians in the vicinity.

    Despite the fact that the incident took place outside the UNRWA school grounds, Hamas was quick to accuse Israel of intentionally hitting the UN Facility. The investigation showed unequivocally that those claims were false. This was reinforced by the UN in a press release published subsequent to the operation. Additionally, the investigation showed that a cell of five terror operatives and seven civilians outside of the school grounds were hit, contrary to the 42 deaths that were reported by Hamas inside the school grounds.

    B. Claims made Regarding Damage to the UNRWA Headquarters and to a Building which turned out to be a Red Cross Pharmaceutical Storage facility in Tel El-Hawa

    Two incidents were investigated that took place on January 15th 2009 during fierce fighting in the Hamas' stronghold in the Tel El-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza city. Hamas deployed anti-tank squads near sensitive facilities in the neighborhood, intending to deliver a strategic blow to the IDF (e.g. by hitting an IDF tank).

    Damage to a structure that turned out to be a pharmaceutical storage facility– The investigation showed that during the battle, IDF forces came under fire from both anti-tank and small arms fire by terrorists located next to a structure that was later discovered to contain a Red Cross pharmaceutical storage facility.

    The IDF returned fire towards the source of fire only after an IDF armored bulldozer suffered a direct hit from anti-tank fire. During the ensuing exchange of fire, which included the IDF's responsive firing, it appears that the structure containing the storage facility was hit. The IDF was not provided with the location of the storage facility in question by the Red Cross prior to the operation and therefore was not marked on the IDF's maps, unlike other Red Cross facilities. No one was injured during the incident.

    Damage to the storage facility in the UNRWA headquarters compound – Concurrently, in the same general area, the IDF deployed a smoke screen in order to protect a tank force operating in the neighborhood from Hamas anti-tank crews who had positioned themselves adjacent to the UNRWA headquarters. The smoke screen was intended to block the terrorists' field of view. Information received by the IDF shows that the smoke screen did assist in protecting the force and prevented precise anti-tank fire against IDF forces. The smoke projectiles were fired at an area a considerable distance from the UNRWA headquarters, and were not intended to cause damage to either person or property. However, it appears that fragments of the smoke projectiles did hit a warehouse located in the headquarters, causing it to catch fire.

    During the incident, claims were also made that an explosive shell or shrapnel hit the UNRWA headquarters. The investigation showed that these were shells, or shell fragments that were fired at military targets within the battle zone.

    The damage caused to the UNRWA headquarters during the fighting in the Tel El-Hawwa neighborhood is the unfortunate result of the type of warfare that Hamas forced upon the IDF, involving combat in the Gaza Strip's urban spaces and adjacent to facilities associated with international organizations. These results could not be predicted.
    Nevertheless, it is clear that the forces did not intend, at any stage, to hit a UN facility. Following UN complaints that an explosive shell had hit the headquarters, the forces were ordered to cease firing explosive shells in the region in question. Following the receipt of reports about the fire in the warehouse, all firing in the area was stopped.  The entry of fire-fighting trucks to the area was coordinated with the IDF in order to assist in extinguishing the fire.

    C. Terrorist Use of UN Vehicles

    The investigation also looked into a complaint that an UNRWA vehicle was fired on in the Tel El Hawa neighborhood on January 14th 2009. The investigation reached the conclusion that during the incident a vehicle was fired upon, which it was later claimed belonged to the UN, but the vehicle did not bear UN markings. The vehicle was traveling in an area that international organizations had been clearly informed was forbidden for the movement of vehicles. The vehicle was carrying a Palestinian anti-tank squad. It was fired upon only after it had unloaded the terrorist squad and advanced towards the forces in a manner creating a genuine concern that it was a Hamas car bomb.

    D. IDF-UN Coordination

    During the operation, the IDF constantly coordinated with the UN and other international organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. Coordination included the movement of 500 vehicles and convoys and the transfer of a continuous supply of food and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.  Many other problems were efficiently solved in real time. However, despite the thorough coordination, the investigation showed that during certain incidents there were failures in coordination.
    In one instance, an IDF force fired upon a UN truck, which did not bear UN markings, on a journey that had not been coordinated ahead of time with the IDF. The investigation showed that closer coordination of the movement of UN vehicles is required, with an emphasis on precise routes and schedules.

    The investigation concluded that the IDF did not, at any time, fire with the deliberate intention to hit a UN vehicle or facility in any of the 13 incidents investigated. In one instance the IDF targeted a group of people who were present in a UN-affiliated school late at night, at a time in which there were no classes taking place in the school, following specific intelligence and relying on the suspicion that led to the conclusion that they were participating in terrorist operations. In another incident, IDF forces attacked a UN vehicle which was being used for terrorist operations.

    The IDF made sure not to hit facilities and vehicles associated with the UN and other international organizations and operated with extreme caution in order not to harm more than 1800 sensitive facilities located in the Gaza Strip. The IDF also coordinated almost 500 different vehicle movements during the fighting. However, as noted, in a very small number of incidents facilities and vehicles were unintentionally hit.
    In relation to the scale of fighting and the threat posed by Hamas, the damage caused to UN facilities and vehicles was relatively limited as a result of the various precautionary measures taken by the IDF. The small number of incidents where damage was unfortunately caused occurred first and foremost as a result of Hamas' doctrine.  Hamas as well as other terrorist organizations chose to fight under the cover of sensitive humanitarian facilities.

    It should be noted that in one incident where it was found that a UN vehicle was fired upon in a breach of the IDF's rules of engagement, the soldier in question was court-martialed.

    The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was presented with the conclusions of the investigation. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also emphasized the importance of avoiding harm to UN and other international facilities. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi emphasized how important it is that IDF forces on all levels are familiarized with the locations of sensitive facilities within their assigned combat zone. He ordered that the regulations regarding safety-distances from sensitive facilities be highlighted, specifically with regard to the use of artillery. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also ordered that steps be taken to improve the coordination between the IDF and UN organizations working in the field, in the areas where it was lacking.

    It should be noted that the incidents which were investigated by the IDF were also examined by the UN Board of Inquiry appointed by the UN Secretary General for the investigation of damage caused to UN facilities in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Despite the fact that the investigation by the IDF was initiated prior to the decision by the Secretary General to set up a UN committee of investigation, Israel cooperated with the UN committee and presented it with the findings of its investigation.
    Annex B:
    Primary Conclusions:
    Claims regarding incidents involving shooting at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles and crews

    The investigation was conducted by Col. Erez Katz, and looked into claims that the IDF fired on or attacked medical crews, facilities, structures and vehicles. Some of these claims were described in a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court during the operation. During the investigation, additional claims were identified and the investigation was expanded to also include these incidents.

    The investigation showed that the Hamas systematically used medical facilities, vehicles and uniforms as cover for terrorist operations. This included the extensive use of ambulances to transport terror operatives and weaponry; the use of ambulances to "evacuate" terrorists from the battlefield and the use of hospitals and medical infrastructure as headquarters, situation-rooms, command centers, and hiding places.
    For example, Ismail Haniyeh decided to place his central command center in one of the Shifa Hospital units, while the senior leaders (both military and political) stationed themselves in another unit.  On the ground floor of the hospital's main building, an entire wing was closed off and was solely used by Hamas terror operatives.  At the wing's entrance, terror operatives prevented entrance to all uninvolved civilians.

    In other instances, Hamas terror operatives seized control sections of Al-Shafa Hospital.  Hamas also took control of a Red Crescent medical clinic in Khan Yunis, converting it into a prisoner detention facility.
    In testimony by an ambulance driver published in the Italian newspaper Corriere de la Serra the driver claimed that he was forced by Hamas to extract terror operatives from the fighting zone, with the knowledge that he could coordinate with the IDF to temporarily hold fire so that he could safely evacuate the wounded.  Several instances were reported in which ambulances were witnessed carrying armed Hamas terror operatives alongside the medical crews.

    This illegitimate and illegal use of medial facilities sometimes resulted in damage being caused to them.

    After investigating the incidents it became clear that of the seven casualties reported during the incidents in question, five were Hamas operatives. In addition, it was determined that in some of the incidents in which medical vehicles were damaged, the vehicles were driven in a suspicious manner, without prior coordination with IDF forces and in some cases without being clearly marked (such as using flashing lights) . This caused, in some cases, the vehicle to be incorrectly identified, and aroused the suspicions of the forces that the vehicle might be used for a suicide attack.

    In one example an IDF force sheltering in a structure in the Gaza Strip received a concrete warning that terrorist elements intend to execute an attack against the force. Following the warning, the force identified an ambulance driving speedily towards the structure, bypassing a roadblock. The force took a number of warning measures (including the firing of warning shots in the air) which failed to bring the ambulance to a halt. The ambulance continued to progress towards the structure and reached the threatening distance of 50 meters from the structure, at which point the force fire in towards it. Only then did the vehicle turn around and drive off in the other direction.

    In a separate incident, an ambulance was identified driving towards a shelter occupied by IDF forces, late at night, without any prior coordination, clear markings or flashing lights, raising suspicion that it was a car bomb. The force fired warning shots into the air, followed by warning shots near the vehicle. When the vehicle was only 100 meters away from the force, constituting a serious threat to the force, the force opened fire on it. In this incident as well, only then did the vehicle halt, turn around and drive away in the other direction.

    In two of the incidents investigated (which were both mentioned in the Supreme Court appeal), it turned out that members of the medical crew who were supposedly "hit" in the incident – are alive and well. With regards to other incidents, the investigation could not find any evidence that they took place (likewise, at the time of some of the alleged incidents the, IDF was not operating at the location in question).

    The investigation looked into an incident in which a building containing a mother-and-child clinic was attacked by the IDF. It became clear that Hamas used the same building as a weapons storage facility. The attack was aimed against the weapons storage facility. The investigation further showed that the clinic was not signposted in a way that made it possible to identify that building contained a medical facility. Nevertheless, the investigation clarified that the residents of the building were given a warning prior to the attack. Given that the IDF was not aware that there was a clinic located there, there was no intention to hit it.

    The investigation also showed that IDF forces at all levels were directed to take extra caution to avoid harming medical crews and facilities, and in many cases ceased to operate when there was a medical vehicle or medical staff present in their area of operation. The forces took extraordinary care, as obliged by international law and in some incidents even refrained from attacking "medical vehicles" even when it was clear that they were in fact being used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the fighting.  The investigation clearly showed that the forces were well aware of, and respected the special status given to medical crews, vehicles, structures and facilities. In addition, the orders relating to the use of force near medical vehicles were strengthened during the operation, making the IDF regulations stricter than those obliged by international law.

    In addition, the investigation noted that the IDF operated a medical situation room in the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison, which coordinated the evacuation of bodies, the wounded and trapped civilians from the combat zone. During the operation, the medical situation room coordinated 150 different requests.

    The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, accepted the recommendations made by the Head of the investigation, stating that the awareness of the importance of preventing harm to medical crews, facilities and vehicles must be preserved. These issues should be practiced by all forces in "incidents and responses" drills. Finally, the Chief of the General Staff ordered an examination of the operation of the humanitarian corridor which was opened for the benefit of the local population during the fighting.

    Towards the conclusion of the investigation, the IDF received additional claims relating to allegations of firing upon medical facilities and vehicles. These claims are currently being investigated.
    Annex C:
    Claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed

    The investigation was conducted by Col. Tamir Yidai and looked into seven incidents in which it was claimed, civilians were harmed by the IDF. This is a highly sensitive matter, for any loss of human life is unfortunate.  This is especially true for the IDF, an ethical army that emphasizes the values of human life and the purity of arms. The investigation reached the conclusion that that in all of the incidents which were examined, IDF forces did not intentionally attack civilians who were not involved in the fighting.

    In circumstances where there existed the risk of unintentionally harming uninvolved civilians, the IDF took many measures to minimize this risk, including the use of precise intelligence and providing warnings prior to the attack.

    During the incidents in question, IDF operations did cause harm to uninvolved civilians. However, the results of this investigation make it clear that this was not intentional, but the result of circumstances beyond the control of the forces or due to unexpected operational mistakes. A significant proportion of the incidents occurred as a result of Hamas' illegitimate use of its own civilians. The Hamas took cover amongst the civilian population and used civilians facilities and structures as part of its terrorist operation against Israel.

    The incidents which were investigated:

    • The attack on the house of senior Hamas operative Nazar Ri'an (January 4th, 2009) - The investigation showed that Ri'an's house was attacked due to its use by Hamas for storing large quantities of sophisticated weapons. Prior to the attack, the forces took a long series of measures to avoid harming uninvolved civilians (It must be stressed that Ri'an could have been considered a legitimate military target due to his central role in the planning and executing terror attacks, was not the target of the attack. The target was the weapons storage facility located in his home). These measures included a phone call notifying of the planned attack, the firing of preliminary warning shots using light weapons, waiting a sufficient period of time to allow the residents of the house to evacuate, and the identification of a group of people exiting the house. Only at that point, after all indications led to the conclusion that the building was empty, was the house targeted. It was later discovered that for unknown reasons, Ri'an and his family stayed in the building in spite of the many warnings and lengthy period of time allowed for their evacuation. Secondary explosions were clearly visible following the attack, proving that the building was used as for weapons storage.

    • The attack on the house of Dr. Abu el Eish (January 17th, 2009) – The investigation showed that an IDF force identified suspicious figures on the third floor of the building, raising suspicions that the figures were observing IDF forces in order to direct sniper fire from another building. This was a method of action used by Hamas throughout the operation. Prior to firing at the snipers and the spotters, the regional commander took a series of measures to ensure that the suspicious figures were gunmen and that no civilians would be endangered by the attack. Accordingly, the commander waited 20 minutes before ordering the attack. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts made, four women who were in the same house as the spotters were hit.

    It should be noted that Israeli security forces urged Dr. Abu el Eish to leave his house and the combat zone in the days prior to the incident, but he chose to remain in his house in spite of the clear risk.

    • Truck apparently carrying oxygen tanks (December 29th, 2008) – the truck was targeted after the accumulation of information which indicated convincingly that it was carrying rockets between a known Hamas rocket manufacturing facility to a known rocket launching site. The attack was carried out near a known Hamas rocket manufacturing site and after a launch. It was only later discovered that the truck was carrying oxygen tanks (similar in appearance to Grad Missiles) and not rockets. The strike killed four Hamas operatives and four uninvolved civilians. It is important to note that the oxygen tanks being carried in the truck were likely to be used by Hamas for rocket manufacturing.

    • The Al-Daia family residence in the Zeitoun neighborhood in the city of Gaza (January 6th, 2009) – the incident in question was a result of an operational error with unfortunate consequences. The investigation concluded that the IDF intended to attack a weapons storage facility that was located in the building next to the Al-Daia family residence. It appears that following an error, the structure that was planned to be attacked was the Al-Daia residence rather than the building containing the weapons. The house that was actually attacked (the Al-Daia residence) did receive a number of warnings beforehand, including the preliminary firing of ammunition which causes little damage and the use of the "Knock on the Roof" special warning method. However, due to the mistake in identifying the building, the warning phone call was received prior the attack by the residents of the building containing the weapons storage, not the Al-Daia residence. This may have been the reason that the Al Daia family did not leave the house before it was mistakenly hit it. This is a highly unfortunate event with severe consequences. It was ultimately caused by a professional mistake of the type that can take place during intensive fighting in a crowded environment against an enemy that uses civilians as cover for its operations.

    In addition to the abovementioned incidents, the head of the investigation looked into two incidents in which it was claimed that attacks directed at mosques lead to the deaths of uninvolved civilians. With regard to the first incident, relating to a strike against the "Maqadme" mosque in Beit-Lehiya on January 3rd, 2009, it was discovered that as opposed to the claims, the mosque was not attacked at all. Furthermore, it was found that the supposed uninvolved civilians who were the casualties of the attack were in fact Hamas operatives killed while fighting against the IDF. The second incident, regarding a supposed strike that hit the "Rabat" mosque in Bet Lehiya on January 9th, 2009 – no testimony of any IDF forces operating in the area was found. The mosque is still standing unharmed.

    In all of the incidents investigated, there were no breaches of international law, and in some of them it was clear that the actions of the IDF were in fact stricter than those demanded under international law. As in any combat situation, and specifically when fighting a terrorist organization that uses its own people as human shields, the investigation discovered isolated failures, some of which lead to the harming of civilians.

    The IDF Chief of the General Staff determined that even in those unfortunate incidents in which the investigation showed that the IDF operated in a way that caused harm to uninvolved civilians, the harm was not intentional and was caused despite measures that were taken to prevent it. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered that clear regulations and orders be made on the basis of the conclusions of the investigation.
    It must be added that the IDF is currently looking into a series of additional claims that were made against it. Upon the completion of an initial inquiry into these events, it will be decided whether they will be further investigated, in accordance with the facts and IDF investigations policy.
    Annex D:
    The use of weaponry containing phosphorous components

    This investigation, which was conducted by Col. Shai Alkalai, focused on the use of munitions containing phosphorous components in Operation Cast Lead throughout the duration of the operation.
    The investigation found that IDF forces used two different types of munitions containing white phosphorous.

    It was found that during the operation, a very limited amount of the first type was used by ground and naval forces. The munitions included mortar shells fired by ground forces (not artillery shells) and 76mm rounds fired from naval vessels. These munitions contained phosphorous as the active ingredient and are not intended to create smoke screens.

    The use of such munitions is legal under international law subject to certain limitations derived from their incendiary capabilities. The investigation showed that use of these munitions was done so in accordance with these limitations – they were only fired at open areas and were used for marking and range-finding rather than in an anti-personnel capacity. In one single incident, in an open uninhabited area, ammunition containing phosphorous was used to uncover tunnel entrances.

    Let it be reemphasized that no phosphorus munitions were used on built-up areas or for anti-personnel purposes.

    As a precautionary measure, even though international law does not prohibit the use of such means, as of January 7th 2009, it was decided that in order to further minimize the risk to civilians from munitions containing phosphorous, the IDF would cease to use the munitions containing larger quantities of phosphorous (i.e. those not used for smoke screening). All IDF forces were directed to act accordingly.

    The investigation discovered that phosphorous munitions which contained phosphorous intended for purposes other than smoke screening were used after January 7th 2009 on two occasions, by ground forces and the Israel Navy respectively, for marking purposes. These two exceptions were looked into during the investigation, which found that on both the incidents there was no breach of any of the rules of international law.

    It must be stressed that the ammunition containing phosphorous used by the IDF is standard, legal and is used by other western militaries worldwide, including states who are signatories of the Third Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The investigation showed that the use of white phosphorous made by the IDF was in accordance with Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law and more specifically, the obligations with regard to munitions with incendiary characteristics.

    Most of the munitions containing phosphorus which were used during the operation were of a second type, and contained pieces of felt dipped in phosphorous in a manner that is not intended to cause injuries and which are non-incendiary, and are used exclusively to create smoke screens. Moreover, these are munitions which conform in full, with international law. In addition, the limitations under international law on the use of "incendiary munitions" do not apply to this type of munitions.

    In this context is should be emphasized that the Third Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which defines specific limitations on the use of "incendiary munitions", clearly states that smoke obscurants are not considered "incendiary munitions". Israel is not a party to the Third Protocol, but it should be noted that even states that are a party to the Protocol make use of smoke shells which contain a small quantity of phosphorous for the purpose of smoke obscuration.

    The use made by the IDF of obscurant smoke shells was for military requirements only (e.g. camouflaging armored forces from anti-tank squads deployed by Hamas in Gaza's urban areas). This use was in accordance with international law, while balancing between operational and humanitarian considerations. The use of smoke obscurants proved to be a very effective means and in many cases prevented the need to use explosive munitions whose impact would have been considerably more dangerous.

    After having being presented with the conclusions of the investigation, the Chief of the General Staff emphasized the importance of a clear doctrine and commands on the issue of various munitions which contain phosphorous. In addition, Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered that any use of phosphorous for purposes other than smoke obscuration be treated as exceptional.

    Annex E:
    Primary Conclusions:
    Damage to infrastructure and destruction of buildings by ground forces

    This investigation, carried out by Col. Adam Zusman, focused on issues relating to the infrastructure operations and the demolishing of structures by the IDF forces during the ground operations phase of Operation Cast Lead. During the investigation the commanders of the forces that participated in the operation were questioned in relation to the issues being investigated. In addition, the investigation gathering data from relevant institutions and examined the relevant military orders.

    The investigation showed that Hamas based its main line of defense on civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (i.e. buildings, infrastructure, agricultural lands etc.), and specifically on booby trapped structures (mostly residential), the digging of explosive tunnels and tunnels intended for the moving of people and weaponry. This created an above ground and underground deployment in the Gaza Strip's urban areas by Hamas. During the operation, IDF forces were forced not only to fight the gunmen themselves, but to also deal with the physical terrorist infrastructure prepared by the Hamas and other terrorist organizations in advance. As part of this challenge, the forces demolished structures that threatened the forces and had to be removed – houses which were used by the enemy; other structures used by the enemy for terrorist activity; structures that prevented the forces from moving from one area to another (given that many of the roads were booby trapped); structures that were used to protect Israeli soldiers; agricultural elements used as cover for enemy tunnels and infrastructure; and infrastructure next to the security fence used by Hamas for operations against IDF forces or for digging tunnels into Israeli territory.

    IDF operations which were intended to demolish booby trapped or structures rigged with explosives (and other similar operations) successfully prevented the enemy from detonating these structures while IDF forces were in them, despite the enormous efforts made by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, who rigged a substantial number of buildings to explode in the areas where the IDF operated.
    The investigation shows that in all the areas of operation, the decision to authorize the demolishing of houses was only made by high ranking officers. In addition, the destruction of buildings was only initiated after it was determined by the forces that they were vacant. As a result, as far as the investigation was able to determine, no uninvolved civilians were harmed during the demolition of infrastructure and buildings by IDF forces.

    The investigation showed that in many cases, the preparations made by Hamas and other terrorist organizations were responsible for the significant damage caused to houses. This was due to the secondary explosions caused by the detonation of explosive devices or weaponry placed by Hamas within the structures. This was illustrated by an incident which was investigated, in which a building in one of Gaza's northern neighborhoods was fired upon, resulting in the unexpected detonation of a chain of explosive devices planted by Hamas, damaging many other buildings in the neighborhood.

    The investigation showed that the orders and directions given with regard to damage to property during the operation, at all levels, emphasized that all demolition operations should be carried out in a manner which would minimize to the greatest extent possible the damage caused to any property not used by Hamas and other terror organizations in the fighting. During the investigation it was apparent that that this issue was not stressed sufficiently in the written plans for the operation. However, the investigation clearly showed that the forces in the field understood in which circumstances structures or infrastructure could be demolished as well as the limitations relating to demolitions.

    The investigations did not identify any instances of intentional harm done to civilian infrastructure and with the exception of a single incident (which was immediately halted by the relevant Brigade Commander, and was dealt with using disciplinary measures) it didn't find any incidents in which structures or property were damaged as "punishment" or without an operational justification. In all of the areas in which the IDF operated, the level of damage to the infrastructure was proportional, and did not deviate from that which was required to fulfill the operational requirements.

    Overall, the extent of damage caused to buildings was a direct result of the extensive use by Hamas of those same buildings for terrorist purposes and targeting IDF forces.

    The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi accepted the recommendation made by the head of the investigation to create clear regulations and orders with regard to the issue of demolition of infrastructure and structures as well as a clear combat doctrine. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also accepted the recommendation that the combat doctrine should include a definition of relevant "incidents and responses" to be distributed amongst all combat forces. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also accepted the recommendation to create a clear procedure of documentation and reporting for such operations. The conclusion that the extent of the demolished infrastructure and building was proportionate, in light of the operational requirements, was also approved by the IDF Chief of the General Staff.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine When Avigdor Lieberman Takes Your Idea (Yossi Alpher)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 18 April @ 01:14:59 GMT+1 (781 maal gelezen)

    When Avigdor Lieberman Takes Your Idea
    The Strategic Interest
    By Yossi Alpher
    Published March 25, 2009, issue of April 03, 2009.

    I’m no fan of Avigdor Lieberman. I find his gutter rhetoric and talk of loyalty oaths repugnant. Still, I confess that there is one aspect of the criticism of Lieberman from which I dissent: his proposal to adjust the 1967 Green Line border within the framework of a two-state solution so that certain Israeli Arab villages and towns become part of a future Palestinian state. After all, I first proposed the idea.

    I did so back in 1994, in a study published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies on borders and settlements in final-status negotiations. The compromise two-state solution map I drew then (which does not deal with Jerusalem) attaches the major West Bank settlement blocs that are near the Green Line to Israel. That concept has been the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations ever since, just as it dictates the current route of the West Bank security fence.

    Moving the Green Line to encompass the settlement blocs raises the question of compensating the Palestinians territorially. Even in 1994, before final-status talks had begun, it was clear that the Palestine Liberation Organization would not budge from its narrative that sanctifies the pre-1967 borders as the basis for any agreement. Thus, if we want an agreement, any West Bank land annexed by Israel would have to be balanced by appropriate compensation, probably in the form of land from within pre-1967 Israel. I suggested Israeli lands in the Wadi Ara and Triangle regions, all adjacent to the Green Line and populated overwhelmingly by Arab citizens of Israel, as one of several swap options.

    My reasoning predated Lieberman’s: Israeli Arabs increasingly reject Israel’s identity as a Jewish state and insist on a Palestinian national identity; Israel has a right and an obligation to protect its Jewish identity at the demographic level (as Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola argued on these pages last week). Interestingly, the Israeli areas in question were only attached to Israel toward the conclusion of armistice talks with Jordan in 1948 and 1949. At the time, Israel threatened to renew the fighting unless Jordan ceded the lands, with their Arab population, because they sat on high ground that guarded the coastal strip and linked it with the Galilee. Back in 1948, geography was the dominant strategic consideration. Today it is increasingly demography: Israel would have no problem defending itself against a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank, no matter where the border is fixed.

    Border alterations that change the nationality of a slice of territory and its population were done all the time in Europe after its wars: Alsace-Lorraine and Transylvania come to mind. This is not the justifiably maligned “transfer” concept, in which a population is uprooted and forced to migrate (also a postwar European solution, e.g., the Germans expelled from Poland and Czechoslovakia). This is attaching ethnic Palestinians, with their land and homes, to the Palestinian state.

    There is, however, one likely problem, as I quickly realized after proposing the idea and as Lieberman — a West Bank settler who, to his credit, supports a two-state solution — prefers to ignore. While a sizable minority of Israel’s Arab citizens supports the idea of becoming Palestinian citizens, the majority opposes it vehemently. Some sincerely prefer Israeli democracy and the Israeli standard of living to taking their chances in a sovereign Palestinian state. Others perhaps insist on remaining Israelis living in Israel in the hope that, over the long term, they will contribute to the demographic overwhelming of Jews by Arabs. Whatever their reasons, they would undoubtedly appeal a decision to move the border and “Palestinize” them to Israel’s High Court of Justice.

    And the High Court, in this age of collective and individual human rights, would almost certainly rule that no citizen of Israel can be deprived of his or her citizenship by an arbitrary act of state. This is entirely fitting. This is what makes Israel an enlightened country. (Lieberman, by the way, would prefer to neutralize precisely these review powers of the High Court; this is perhaps his most dangerous design.)

    Still, there are ways in which a two-state solution can be used to alleviate the Arab demographic threat to Israel without violating fundamental human rights. Certainly Israeli Arabs can be given the option of adopting Palestinian citizenship and renouncing Israeli citizenship even if they choose to live out their days in Israel. As DellaPergola pointed out, the 250,000 Arabs of East Jerusalem, who in any case are not for the most part Israeli citizens, would be removed from the demographic balance by a mere restoration of the 1967 border. And the Green Line border can be moved in the Wadi Ara and Triangle areas, while allowing area residents to keep their citizenship, conceivably with provisions that those who do not exercise their right to move back into Israel but insist on retaining Israeli citizenship cannot pass it on to children born in Palestine.

    These are promising ideas. Let’s not let Lieberman give them a bad name.

    Yossi Alpher is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. He currently co-edits the bitterlemons.org family of Internet publications.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Gilad Shalit - My Word: Blame and shame (Liat Collins)
    Geplaatst door abby op Wednesday 25 March @ 04:55:20 GMT+1 (1142 maal gelezen)

    My Word: Blame and shame

    Mar. 22, 2009
    Liat Collins , THE JERUSALEM POST

    At a No. 18 bus stop earlier this month I overheard an only-in-Jerusalem conversation. Two elderly men were discussing the best way to get to a certain address. "Get off at the stop where there was the pitzutz," one advised the other.

    The bus stop was plastered with announcements of annual memorials of the victims of bus bombings carried out on two consecutive weeks in 1996. I couldn't help myself. "Where wasn't there an explosion?" I asked, thinking of at least six sites on the route where there are plaques commemorating terror attacks.

    The men looked at me and laughed. "You're too young to remember," said the senior one. "I'm not talking about the piguim [suicide attacks], I'm talking about the bombing from the old days."

    I should just have accepted the compliment. Instead I found myself in a detailed discussion of the history of terror attacks in Jerusalem. This is about as psychologically sound as reading a history of airplane crashes just before you board a Jumbo, but it passed the time until the No. 18 arrived.

    Living in Jerusalem is a special experience. Being given directions according to the locations of various terror attacks, however, is one of the experiences we could all happily live without.

    It was a sentiment heightened when, as Post political reporter Herb Keinon noted, the government decided to pull the public opinion rug out from under Hamas and release the names of the terrorists it wanted freed in return for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.

    The names of the terrorists didn't mean that much. But the attacks they were responsible for did. I could even put faces to some of the victims - many of them the faces of forever-young dead. On the list was the terrorist responsible for the two 1996 Jerusalem bus attacks in which 44 people died. Also listed were the masterminds of the attacks in which 100 people lost their lives, including the Sbarro restaurant bombing and the attacks on Moment cafe and the Hebrew University cafeteria.

    There was the terrorist behind the attacks that killed 82 people, among them 11 victims in Jerusalem's Zion Square in 2001. And the name behind, among other outrages, the 1997 suicide bombing in Mahaneh Yehuda market which killed 18 and the 1997 Ben-Yehuda Street bombing that killed eight. I looked over the list and realized that by nearly every attack I could write: been there, done that. And that is just a partial list for the capital. Others presumably had a similar reaction as they read of the possibly soon-to-be-released terrorists behind bombings in, among other places, Netanya, Tel Aviv and Hadera.

    IT WAS PART of the typical Israeli roller-coaster style, in which the Hebrew press spent half of the week pushing Schalit's cause for all it was worth - and it was worth a lot as tabloid tearjerkers inevitably are - and the second half of the week examining whether the media coverage itself was to blame for the one indisputable fact in this tragic saga: Schalit is still not back home.

    Blame for his continued incarceration was thrown in all directions. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert blamed Hamas; Hamas blamed Israel. Some blamed politicians, politicians blamed the media, the media blamed themselves. The Left blamed the Right, which focused on the possible future loss of life if all the terrorists that Hamas was demanding were released. The Right accused the Left of being willing to trade anything for the release of one soldier: What would be next? Would Hamas demand all the Negev and Hizbullah the Golan Heights?

    "I don't know what we should do about Schalit," said one friend, "but I think maybe we should give soldiers cyanide capsules in the future so that we don't get into this situation." She was only half joking. After all, the country was clearly being held hostage along with Schalit, and it isn't clear how we can safely get out of it.

    One of the most disturbing aspects of the tragic affair is the way that the Israeli public wasn't sure whom to believe: Hamas or Olmert. Also jarring is the feeling that the media heightened its coverage not just for the ratings. The perception is that if Schalit is not returned before the end of Olmert's term, he won't make it home at all. Binyamin Netanyahu, according to this line of thought, will not be able to secure Schalit's release.

    "We don't want Schalit to turn into a second Ron Arad," explained one supporter after another, referring to the IAF navigator who went missing in Lebanon in 1986.

    Actually, Arad is not the first. There are still three soldiers missing from the Battle of Sultan Yakoub in 1982. And when you consider that few Israelis have heard of them and even fewer can name them - Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Tzvi Feldman - you can't blame the Schalit family for doing everything possible to keep Gilad's fate in the media's limelight.

    THINGS WERE DIFFERENT in "the old days." It was taken for granted that the state would do everything to get POWs back. And in those days, politicians held photo-op visits to the families after the release of the soldiers, not before. I remember Yitzhak Rabin being photographed greeting a POW I knew as he returned from Syria, raising some controversy in the staunch Likudnik family and community in which he lived. Even then there were charges that the release - or at least the media coverage - was exploited for electoral purposes.

    Watching Defense Minister Ehud Barak visiting the Schalits' protest tent outside the Prime Minister's Residence one has to wonder just what government he thinks he's been sitting in. Israeli politicians feel the permanent need to campaign because elections are never that far away. And this does not bode well for the decision-making process.

    "We have red lines and we won't cross them," said Olmert, struggling to make some sense out of the last three years in office in which so many lines went red with embarrassment.

    The final push itself is damaging - giving out multi-messages of negativity: Olmert struggling to finish his term with some significant achievement; the hint that Netanyahu will not negotiate - as feared by those who stress the "process" above the peace.

    Hamas saw not only the media festival centered around the Schalits' protest tent but also an outgoing prime minister who, despite his best intentions, barely deserves the description of "leader" and an incoming premier struggling to put together a coalition while eyeing threats across the border.

    It is easy to say what is best for Schalit and much harder to determine what is best for the country. But one thing is certain: turning the fate of a prisoner of war into a political issue is not good for anyone this side of Gaza.


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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Puzzled in Gaza (Yvonne Green)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 05 March @ 23:14:46 GMT+1 (962 maal gelezen)

    Mar 2, 2009 20:58 | Updated Mar 3, 2009 12:51
    Puzzled in Gaza

    I'm a poet, an English Jew and a frequent visitor to Israel. Deeply disturbed by the reports of wanton slaughter and destruction during Operation Cast Lead, I felt I had to see for myself. I flew to Tel Aviv and on Wednesday, January 28, using my press card to cross the Erez checkpoint, I walked across the border into Gaza where I was met by my guide, a Palestinian journalist. He asked if I wanted to meet with Hamas officials. I explained that I'd come to bear witness to the damage and civilian suffering, not to talk politics. 

    What I saw was that there had been precision attacks made on all of Hamas' infrastructure. Does UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticize the surgical destruction of the explosives cache in the Imad Akhel Mosque, of the National Forces compound, of the Shi Jaya police station, of the Ministry of Prisoners? The Gazans I met weren't mourning the police state. Neither were they radicalized. As Hamas blackshirts menaced the street corners, I witnessed how passersby ignored them.

    THERE WERE empty beds at Shifa Hospital and a threatening atmosphere. Hamas is reduced to wielding its unchallengeable authority from extensive air raid shelters which, together with the hospital, were built by Israel 30 years ago. Terrorized Gazans used doublespeak when they told me most of the alleged 5,500 wounded were being treated in Egypt and Jordan. They want it known that the figure is a lie, and showed me that the wounded weren't in Gaza. No evidence exists of their presence in foreign hospitals, or of how they might have gotten there.

    From the mansions of the Abu Ayida family at Jebala Rayes to Tallel Howa (Gaza City's densest residential area), Gazans contradicted allegations that Israel had murderously attacked civilians. They told me again and again that both civilians and Hamas fighters had evacuated safely from areas of Hamas activity in response to Israeli telephone calls, leaflets and megaphone warnings.

    Seeing Al-Fakhora made it impossible to understand how UN and press reports could ever have alleged that the UNWRA school had been hit by Israeli shells. The school, like most of Gaza, was visibly intact. I was shown where Hamas had been firing from nearby, and the Israeli missile's marks on the road outside the school were unmistakeable. When I met Mona al-Ashkor, one of the 40 people injured running toward Al-Fakhora - rather than inside it as widely and persistently reported - I was told that Israel had warned people not to take shelter in the school because Hamas was operating in the area, and that some people had ignored the warning because UNWRA previously told them that the school would be safe. Press reports that fatalities numbered 40 were denied.

    I WAS TOLD stories at Samouni Street which contradicted each other, what I saw and later media accounts. Examples of these inconsistencies are that 24, 31, 34 or more members of the Fatah Samouni family had died. That all the deaths occurred when Israel bombed the safe building it had told 160 family members to shelter in; the safe building was pointed out to me but looked externally intact and washing was still hanging on a line on one of its balconies. That some left the safe building and were shot in another house. That one was shot when outside collecting firewood. That there was no resistance - but the top right hand window of the safe building (which appears in a BBC Panorama film Out of the Ruins" aired February 8) has a black mark above it - a sign I was shown all day of weaponry having been fired from inside. That victims were left bleeding for two or three days.

    I saw large scoured craters and a buckled container which appeared to have been damaged by an internal impact (its external surfaces were undamaged). Media accounts of Samouni Street don't mention these possible indications of explosive caches (although the container is visible on media footage). The Samouni family's elder told me during a taped interview that he had a CD film of the killings. As far as I'm aware, no such film has been made public. He also told me that there are members of his family who have still not been found.

    The media have manufactured and examined allegations that Israel committed a war crime against the Samounis without mentioning that the family are Fatah and that some of its members are still missing. They have not considered what might flow from those facts: that Hamas might have been active not only in the Samouni killings but in the exertion of force on the Samounis to accuse Israel.

    THE GAZA I saw was societally intact. There were no homeless, walking wounded, hungry or underdressed people. The streets were busy, shops were hung with embroidered dresses and gigantic cooking pots, the markets were full of fresh meat and beautiful produce - the red radishes were bigger than grapefruits. Mothers accompanied by a 13-year-old boy told me they were bored of leaving home to sit on rubble all day to tell the press how they'd survived. Women graduates I met in Shijaya spoke of education as power as old men watched over them.
    No one praised their government as they showed me the sites of tunnels where fighters had melted away. No one declared Hamas victorious for creating a forced civilian front line as they showed me the remains of booby trapped homes and schools.

    From what I saw and was told in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead pinpointed a totalitarian regime's power bases and largely neutralized Hamas's plans to make Israel its tool for the sacrifice of civilian life.

    Corroboration of my account may be found in tardy and piecemeal retractions of claims concerning the UNWRA school at Al-Fakhora; an isolated acknowledgment that Gaza is substantially intact by The New York Times; Internet media watch corrections; and the unresolved discrepancy between the alleged wounded and their unreported whereabouts.


    The writer is a poet and freelance writer who lives in London. Her collection Boukhara was a 2008 Smith/Doorstop prize winner. She also translates the poetry of Semyon Lipkin, the Russian World War II poet.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Clinton in Israel: Got something new, Madam Secretary? (Yoel Marcus)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 05 March @ 22:57:04 GMT+1 (950 maal gelezen)

    Last update - 08:15 03/03/2009
    Yoel Marcus / Got something new, Madam Secretary?
    By Yoel Marcus

    Eleven years ago, White House spokesmen leaped into action to deny a slip of the tongue by Hillary Clinton in which she expressed support for establishing an independent Palestinian state. For the wife of a president to speak out on such a complex political issue is a rare event. Even more unusual, however, was the official statement issued by the White House: that Hillary's remark reflected her personal opinion, not that of the administration. But the Monica Lewinsky affair erupted at around that time, and this "slip of the tongue" may have been an outgrowth of the tension between the president and his furious wife.

    On her current visit to Israel, Hillary is not just Bill Clinton's wife, but rather what people used to call Golda Meir: the "only man" in Barack Obama's administration. She is a strong-minded woman who was within touching distance of the presidency, but did manage - thanks to Obama's smartest move thus far - to land the most important job in the administration, as the president's long arm overseas.

    It is not clear whether what she said 11 years ago reflects her opinions today. It should not be forgotten that as a senator from New York, she visited Jewish centers and organizations, which supported her election and her tenure. But on her first visit as secretary of state, she must be received with the maximum respect. All the signs say she will be the most influential person in the Middle Eastern mishmash.
    As prime minister, Ehud Barak got into a fight with then U.S. secretary of defense William Cohen, who opposed Israel's sale of Phalcon jets to China. Barak's response was, "I'll settle this with President Clinton." Following that conversation, not only did we not sell the Phalcon to China, but the defense secretary refused to meet with Barak ever again.

    Why does all this matter? Because we need to understand that Hillary has enormous influence, and it would be a mistake to circumvent her via the president or Congress and the Jewish lobby. It is vital to treat what she says as if it came from the president's mouth, to avoid getting into fights with her, and to make sure we keep our promises.

    As of her current visit, it is still not clear what kind of government will be established in Israel. She will have to treat Ehud Olmert as prime minister, even if he is a lame duck, and do the same with both Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - since, though her party received the most votes in the election, it is still not clear whether she will be in the government or the opposition - and Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been tasked with forming a government, and has not yet decided whether it will be national or nationalist. Will she be able to figure out where Israel is heading?

    The most important element in the relationship between the Obama administration and whoever winds up leading Israel is an agreement in principle that each country refrain from surprising the other, according to Danny Halperin, an expert on the United States. In other words, neither they nor we should surprise each other with plans, initiatives or actions to which both parties have not consented. A sort of "no surprises pact," under which neither side takes any action without giving the other a chance to have its say.

    Hillary will not be here long enough to find out what kind of government we will ultimately have. But as an observer from the sidelines, it seems that Livni's opposition to joining a Netanyahu government is both firm and justified. Speaking in a closed forum, Livni said she is not willing to cheat her voters in order to secure a cabinet job for herself, as Ehud Barak is trying to do. Shaul Mofaz and Dalia Itzik do not worry her much. In the worst-case scenario, would it not be preferable to build a strong opposition comprising 55 MKs after so many years of governments that have operated virtually as one-man shows?

    Netanyahu's offer to Livni is like a man who tells a woman, "first let's get married, and then we'll decide whether or not we're in love." The gulf between Livni's diplomatic worldview and Netanyahu's nationalist worldview is a surefire recipe for chaos. Livni says she does not intend to fall into the trap Netanyahu is laying for her. He will mutter something about two states and two peoples, but without a rotation agreement, she says, the last word will be that of Avigdor Lieberman.

    Livni's rigid stance is correct. She is following the right instincts when she says she must not participate in a nationalist government that may pay lip service to two states for two peoples, but will never make it happen. The U.S. secretary of state is coming with the same mantra. But for now, it's not working, neither with us nor with the Palestinians. Don't you have anything new to offer, Hillary?

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Knesset Elections 2009: Israeli Arabs are voting less (Jerusalem Post)
    Geplaatst door abby op Saturday 07 February @ 20:19:06 GMT+1 (1174 maal gelezen)

    The Jerusalem Post
    Feb 4, 2009 22:01 | Updated Feb 5, 2009 10:07
    Israeli Arabs are voting less

    There is evidence of a gradual decline in the participation rate of the Arab public in elections in recent years. Between 1996 and 2006, there was a 21 percent drop in election participation, from 77% to 56%, the lowest participation rate ever recorded for Arab voters in Knesset elections.

    There are many different reasons for this retreat from the voting booths: disappointment with the achievements of Arab MKs; mistrust of the parliamentary political process or its effectiveness; ideological, religious or Islamist ban on participation; protest against the government establishment; a stronger orientation toward NGOs as an alternative to parliamentary politics.

    The succession of events in the past three years, since elections were last held, portends a continued rise in abstention from voting. From the perspective of internal Arab politics, the first critical event, and especially notable, was the publication of four "Future Vision" documents in late 2006 and early 2007. These documents, which were the first attempt of their kind to formulate a coherent ideological conceptualization of the status of the Arab minority, proposed an ideological-political alternative to the current system. While the Future Vision documents contain no explicit ban on Knesset elections, their call to establish a consensual democracy (a binational state) certainly does little to encourage Arabs to cast their ballot in this year's elections.

    In terms of external influences, the Second Lebanon War of 2006 and Operation Cast Lead of early 2009 sharply accentuated the issue of the national identity of Arabs in Israel. The incompatibility between the Israeli-civic element of their identity and the national-Arab-Palestinian element intensified, resulting in a reinforced sense of national Arab belonging. In addition, the war in Gaza caused deep wounds that are not expected to heal quickly: The Arabs accused Israel of committing "war crimes" and "genocide" in Gaza. This adversarial position further discourages Arabs from performing their civic duty of participating in the upcoming democratic election process.

    Finally, there has been no significant improvement in the relations between the Arab community and the establishment since the previous elections. True, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recognized the continued discrimination of the Arab population on several public occasions in the last year, and has frequently spoken of the need for a change. Still, there is a difference between words and actions. In practice, little has changed.

    THE COMBINED EFFECT of these developments is the growing polarization in Jewish-Arab relations. In recent years, mutual alienation and distrust have grown substantially. The eruption of violence in Acre in early October of last year is the latest indication of the fragility of these relations, and of their volatility.

    The radical Jewish right-wing grows stronger as Avigdor Lieberman's anti-Arab propaganda gathers steam. Balad and United Arab List-Ta'al were temporarily disqualified by the Central Election Committee. Together with the aggressive and emotional response of Arab MKs to the war in Gaza and to government policy, these developments promise to feed the vicious cycle in which Arab-Jewish relations are trapped: As the ouroboros of Greek symbolism, the head swallows the tail in desperate symbiosis.

    The Arab parties, whose future is paradoxically contingent on voters' participation in Knesset elections, are investing supreme efforts to ensure that their voters cast a ballot. Their zeal is understandable: Once again, the Arab parties failed to form a united Arab bloc that might have won enough votes to meet minimum representation requirements with relative ease, and to establish a substantial Arab presence in the Knesset. As a result, the parties and lists are now fighting individually for their political future, by demonstrating their loyalty to the Palestinian-Arab cause (or "national-Islamist" cause in the case of UAL-Ta'al), forcefully rejecting the Zionist worldview, harshly criticizing government policy and conducting a campaign aimed to punish the Zionist parties competing for the Arab vote.

    In view of the current situation, there is little chance that their attempt will succeed, although the Arab parties may manage to transform the upcoming elections into a mass protest of the Arab public. If, as surveys predict, the participation rate of Arabs in the elections does indeed continue to drop, representation of Arabs in the Knesset will also shrink, and the public debate on alternatives to parliamentary politics can be expected to focus intensely on three potential levels: developing the concept of an all-Arab parliament, reinforcing civil society organizations and increasing support for the Islamist stream that advocates the establishment of independent institutions.

    The author is director of the Adenauer Program at Tel Aviv University and is currently the Crown Visiting Chair in Middle East Studies at Northwestern University.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery (Steven Erlanger)
    Geplaatst door abby op Monday 12 January @ 23:39:18 GMT+1 (2454 maal gelezen)

    A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery

    Published: January 10, 2009

    JERUSALEM — The grinding urban battle unfolding in the densely populated Gaza Strip is a war of new tactics, quick adaptation and lethal tricks.

    Hamas, with training from Iran and Hezbollah, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership’s war room is a bunker beneath Gaza’s largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say.
    Unwilling to take Israel’s bait and come into the open, Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms. The militants emerge from tunnels to shoot automatic weapons or antitank missiles, then disappear back inside, hoping to lure the Israeli soldiers with their fire.

    In one apartment building in Zeitoun, in northern Gaza, Hamas set an inventive, deadly trap. According to an Israeli journalist embedded with Israeli troops, the militants placed a mannequin in a hallway off the building’s main entrance. They hoped to draw fire from Israeli soldiers who might, through the blur of night vision goggles and split-second decisions, mistake the figure for a fighter. The mannequin was rigged to explode and bring down the building.

    In an interview, the reporter, Ron Ben-Yishai, a senior military correspondent for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, said soldiers also found a pile of weapons with a grenade launcher on top. When they moved the launcher, “they saw a detonator light up, but somehow it didn’t go off.”

    The Israeli Army has also come prepared for a battle both sides knew was inevitable. Every soldier, Israeli officials say, is outfitted with a ceramic vest and a helmet. Every unit has dogs trained to sniff out explosives and people hidden in tunnels, as well as combat engineers trained to defuse hidden bombs.

    To avoid booby traps, the Israelis say, they enter buildings by breaking through side walls, rather than going in the front. Once inside, they move from room to room, battering holes in interior walls to avoid exposure to snipers and suicide bombers dressed as civilians, with explosive belts hidden beneath winter coats.

    The Israelis say they are also using new weapons, like a small-diameter smart bomb, the GBU-39, which Israel bought last fall from Washington. The bomb, which is very accurate, has a small explosive, as little as 60 to 80 pounds, to minimize collateral damage in an urban area. But it can also penetrate the earth to hit bunkers or tunnels.
    And the Israelis, too, are resorting to tricks.

    Israeli intelligence officers are telephoning Gazans and, in good Arabic, pretending to be sympathetic Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians or Libyans, Gazans say and Israel has confirmed. After expressing horror at the Israeli war and asking about the family, the callers ask about local conditions, whether the family supports Hamas and if there are fighters in the building or the neighborhood.

    Karim Abu Shaban, 21, of Gaza City said he and his neighbors all had gotten such calls. His first caller had an Egyptian accent. “Oh, God help you, God be with you,” the caller began.

    “It started very supportive,” Mr. Shaban said, then the questions started. The next call came in five minutes later. That caller had an Algerian accent and asked if he had reached Gaza. Mr. Shaban said he answered, “No, Tel Aviv,” and hung up.

    Interviews last week with senior Israeli intelligence and military officers, both active and retired, as well as with military experts and residents of Gaza itself, made it clear that the battle, waged among civilians and between enemies who had long prepared for this fight, is now a slow, nasty business of asymmetrical urban warfare. Gaza’s civilians, who cannot flee because the borders are closed, are “the meat in the sandwich,” as one United Nations worker said, requesting anonymity.
    It is also clear that both sides are evolving tactics to the new battlefield, then adjusting them quickly.

    To that end, Israeli intelligence is detaining large numbers of young Gazan men to interrogate them for local knowledge and Hamas tactics. Last week, Israel captured a hand-drawn Hamas map in a house in Al Atatra, near Beit Lahiya, which showed planned defensive positions for the neighborhood, mine and booby trap placements, including a rigged gasoline station, and directions for snipers to shoot next to a mosque. Numerous tunnels were marked.

    A new Israeli weapon, meanwhile, is tailored to the Hamas tactic of asking civilians to stand on the roofs of buildings so Israeli pilots will not bomb. The Israelis are countering with a missile designed, paradoxically, not to explode. They aim the missiles at empty areas of the roofs to frighten residents into leaving the buildings, a tactic called “a knock on the roof.”

    But the most important strategic decision the Israelis have made so far, according to senior military officers and analysts, is to approach their incursion as a war, not a police operation.

    Civilians are warned by leaflets, loudspeakers and telephone calls to evacuate battle areas. But troops are instructed to protect themselves first and civilians second.

    Officers say that means Israeli infantry units are going in “heavy.” If they draw fire, they return it with heavy firepower. If they are told to reach an objective, they first call in artillery or airpower and use tank fire. Then they move, but only behind tanks and armored bulldozers, riding in armored personnel carriers, spending as little time in the open as possible

    As the commander of the army’s elite combat engineering unit, Yahalom, told the Israeli press on Wednesday: “We are very violent. We do not balk at any means to protect the lives of our soldiers.” His name cannot be published under censorship rules.

    “Urban warfare is the most difficult battlefield, where Hamas and Islamic Jihad have a relative advantage, with local knowledge and prepared positions,” said Jonathan Fighel of Israel’s International Institute for Counterterrorism. “Hamas has a doctrine; this is not a gang of Rambos,” he said. “The Israeli military has to find the stitches to unpick, how to counterbalance and surprise.”

    Israeli troops are moving slowly and, they hope, unpredictably, trying not to stay in one place for long to entice Hamas fighters “to come out and confront them,” Mr. Fighel said.

    Today, he said, “the mind-set from top to bottom is fight and fight cruel; this is a war, not another pinpoint operation.”

    Israeli officials say that they are obeying the rules of war and trying hard not to hurt noncombatants but that Hamas is using civilians as human shields in the expectation that Israel will try to avoid killing them.

    Israeli press officers call the tactics of Hamas cynical, illegal and inhumane; even Israel’s critics agree that Hamas’s regular use of rockets to fire at civilians in Israel, and its use of civilians as shields in Gaza, are also violations of the rules of war. Israeli military men and analysts say that its urban guerrilla tactics, including the widespread use of civilian structures and tunnels, are deliberate and come from the Iranian Army’s tactical training and the lessons of the 2006 war between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    Hamas rocket and weapons caches, including rocket launchers, have been discovered in and under mosques, schools and civilian homes, the army says. The Israeli intelligence chief, Yuval Diskin, in a report to the Israeli cabinet, said that the Gaza-based leadership of Hamas was in underground housing beneath the No. 2 building of Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza. That allegation cannot be confirmed.

    While The New York Times and some other news organizations have local or Gaza-based Palestinian correspondents, any Israeli citizen or Israeli with dual citizenship has been banned for more than two years from entering Gaza, and any foreign correspondent who did not enter the territory before a six-month cease-fire with Hamas ended last month has not been allowed in.

    Israel has also managed to block cellphone bandwidth, so very few amateur cellphone photographs are getting out of Gaza.

    But Israeli tactics have caused civilian casualties that have created an international uproar, both in the Arab world and the West. In one widely reported episode, 43 people died when the Israelis shelled a street next to a United Nations school in northern Jabaliya where refugees were taking shelter. The United Nations says no militants were in the school.

    The Israelis said they returned fire in response to mortar shells fired at Israeli troops. Such an action is legal, but there are questions about whether the force used was proportional under the laws of war, given the danger to noncombatants.

    The backlash from the school attack is another potent example of the risks in an urban-war strategy: Israel may in fact be able to dismantle Hamas’s military structure even while losing the battle for world opinion and leaving Hamas politically still in charge of Gaza.

    Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Hamas Exploitation of Civilians as Human Shields (IICC)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 08 January @ 20:40:48 GMT+1 (2366 maal gelezen)

    Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
    at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)
    January 2009

    Hamas Exploitation of Civilians as Human Shields 

    Section I: Overview

    1. This study examines how Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip make extensive use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. It shows how the terrorist organizations constructed a vast military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including a large arsenal of rocket and mortar shells used to target the southern Israeli population (in 2001-2008 more than 8,000 rockets and mortar shell were fired into populated Israeli areas). The terrorists' military infrastructure was hidden in and around civilian homes and dispersed to locations scattered around the Gaza Strip, home to an estimated more than 1.4 million people, one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

    2. The calculated, cynical use of the civilian population as human shields is intended to decrease the vulnerability of Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations by affording them a kind of immunity from the IDF's counterterrorism activities, since they are aware that Israel avoids harming the civilian population insofar as is possible. It is also intended to make it possible for Hamas and the other terrorist organizations to make political-propaganda gains in the battle for hearts and minds by representing Israel as operating against innocent civilians. The terrorist organizations' doctrine of using human shields was inspired by Hezbollah's tactics in Lebanon and by the lessons they learned from the terrorist campaign they have been waging against Israel since 2000.

    3. Today Hamas and the other terrorist organizations have approximately 20,000 arms-bearing operatives in the Gaza Strip with varying degrees of skills. They have light arms, anti-tank weapons, powerful explosive devices, and rockets and mortar shells. Their military infrastructure is situated in urban population locations (with Gaza City serving as the nerve center) and eight densely populated refugee camps throughout the Gaza Strip .

    4. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations copied and developed Hezbollah's warfare doctrine, which is based on exploiting the civilian population as human shields. They adapted it to the unique conditions of the Gazan arena, which are topographically easier than those in south Lebanon . Using civilians as human shields is a war crime, a grave breach of the laws of armed conflict and a crime against humanity. Rockets and mortar shells are routinely fired from built up, densely populated areas and near structures and facilities (including educational institutions and mosques) provided special protection by the Geneva Conventions. In the scenario of an IDF incursion into the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organizations will use those urban and refugee camp settings as the focal points from which they fight.

    5. This study (completed during the first week of Operation Cast Lead) provides many examples of how Gazan civilians are used as human shields during terrorist attacks against Israel and combat against the IDF. The examples are based on Israel 's accumulated experience in its combating terrorism from the Gaza Strip, including the first week of the Operation. The main findings are the following:

    i) Military and security personnel, facilities and installations are situated within dense population concentrations (including residential dwellings and public institutions, such as schools, mosques and hospitals) : The military infrastructure attacked massively attacked by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, includes terrorist operatives, weapons, and the facilities and installations themselves: headquarters, bases, offices, arsenals, tunnel and underground networks, lathes, workshops and bunkers. Constructing a vast security-military infrastructure within the civilian population exposes it to frequent “work accidents” and puts it on the front line in the fighting when the Israeli security forces carry out counterterrorism activities or when there are violent internal Palestinian conflicts.

    ii) Rockets and mortar shells are fired at Israeli population centers from inside or close to private Palestinian residences and sometimes from educational institutions or mosques. The rocket launching squads deliberately situate their launchers near houses to camouflage themselves and to protect themselves from the IDF. The attacks carried out by the terrorists often disrupt the daily lives of the Palestinian population and endanger them. Sometimes rockets explode as they are being prepared for firing, and in some instances homemade Qassam rockets (whose technical quality is low) fall in the Gaza Strip instead of Israel and kill and wound local civilians.

    iii) The terrorists fight against the IDF from within residences and public institutions, and use ambulances to evacuate terrorist operatives from the battlefield : In Operation Cast Lead, terrorist operatives found refuge in facilities such as hospitals, educational institutions and mosques. In IDF operations carried out in recent years, including Operation Hot Winter in March 2008 and Operation Autumn Clouds in October 2006, the IDF often faced terrorist operatives fighting from within private residences and receiving support from civilians, including women and children, who patrolled and carried out intelligence missions. In some instances the terrorist operatives wore civilian clothing, making it difficult to distinguish between them and genuine civilians. During Operation Hot Winter the IDF found weapons hidden in a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp. During battles in the Al-Zeitun neighborhood in 2004, the terrorists used UNRWA ambulances to evacuate a wounded Palestinian and terrorist operatives. All are grave breaches of the laws of war and an exploitation of the special protection afforded to places of worship and medical installations and vehicles.

    iv) Civilians, including women and children, are deliberately used as human shields to protect terrorist operatives whose houses the organizations fear may be attacked by the IDF : During Operation Cast Lead and in many instances in the past, the terrorist organizations have exploited IDF warnings to civilians to evacuate their residences before attacks to send children and adolescents to the relevant locations, knowing the IDF will not deliberately attack civilians. Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya and many other Hamas leaders (such as Nizar Rayyan, killed in Operation Cast Lead) have openly boasted about their use of their human shield tactics.

    v) The terrorists hold military training, exercises and shows of fighting , important for improving their fighting skills and raising morale, in the midst of population concentrations (where the terrorists feel more secure than in exposed settings). They endanger the civilians' lives, disrupt their daily routines, expose them to various types of work accidents (random gunfire, explosions) as well as to IDF counterterrorism activities. The Gazans have often appealed to the terrorist organizations to stop such activities, but without success. Exercises and shows of fighting increased during the six month lull arrangement prior to Operation Cast Lead.

    vi) Women and children are used as human shields : The terrorist organizations sent 200 women to rescue dozens of operatives from the Nasser mosque in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip during an IDF action in November 2006. The terrorists mingled with the women, exploiting the fact that the IDF would not fire indiscriminately at a large group of women, and escaped from the combat area. Moreover, during IDF combat in the Gaza Strip in the past, the IDF often found terrorist operatives shooting at them while surrounded by children and adolescents , sometimes on their own initiative and sometimes prompted by the terrorists (incidents well documented and presented below). Women and children are also used in logistic operations and to carry out terrorist attacks (collecting intelligence, smuggling weapons, suicide bombing attacks). Such tactics may be repeated during Operation Cast Lead.

    6. The civilian Gazan population pays a high price both with regard to personal injury and death (this study documents heavy civilian casualties caused by terrorist activity) and the severe disruption of their daily routines . Beyond the issue of using civilians as human shields, the entire Gazan population pays a heavy price for Hamas's policy, because when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, it turned its more than 1.4 million Gazans into hostages of its radical Islamic ideology and attendant strategy. Hamas forced them into a situation of unending combat with Israel , a harsh confrontation with the Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, the deterioration of relations with Egypt and other Arab states, and isolation from the international community.

    7. The fundamental contradiction between the needs of the civilian population and Hamas's policies is clearly manifested by the continuing attacks made by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations on the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the lifelines for the Gazans, and by the difficulties imposed by Hamas on their operation. Although for years Hamas has tried to falsely represent the situation in the Gaza Strip as a humanitarian crisis and even a “holocaust,” in effect it prefers carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel to caring for the basic interests of the Gazans. For the past few years the Kerem Shalom, Sufa, Karni, Nahal Oz and Erez crossings, through which fuel and other vital supplies are delivered to the Gaza Strip, have been repeatedly attacked with rocket and mortar shell fire as well as attempted mass-casualty and suicide bombing attacks. The rocket and mortar shell fire at the crossings continued during the six months the lull arrangement was in force. In addition, the terrorist organizations have publicly targeted the Ashqelon power plant, which provides the Gaza Strip with 65% of its electricity.

    8. In the past, Hamas's use of civilians as human shields and its cynical and malicious disregard for their basic interests have led to harsh criticism from the residents of the Gaza Strip (even though Hamas makes an effort to minimize it in the media it controls), as well as the Palestinian Authority and Egypt . Hamas has ignored the internal and external criticism, refuses to change its policies and frequently exploits the shortages, poverty and suffering in the Gaza Strip as fodder for media campaigns attacking Israel , Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

    9. During Operation Cast Lead , which began on December 27, 2008 , the IDF has carried out precise attacks on the military infrastructure established in the midst of the civilian population. The Israeli air strikes from the air and sea against Hamas (and other terrorist organization) targets situated in civilian locations are acceptable according to international law. They have been carried out because of the State of Israel's need to afford security to its civilians and to ensure their welfare and basic right to life and safety in accordance with the principles of armed combat. For eight years Israeli citizens have been exposed to continual rocket and mortar shell fire, as well as other forms of terrorism, all originating with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations which control the Gaza Strip and operate from it .

    10. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations, for their part, carry out war crimes and crimes against humanity, both by the deliberate, indiscriminate firing of massive rocket barrages at civilian targets to sow terror, death and destruction, and by using the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as human shields. All of the above violate the basic principle of the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, which is one of the cornerstones of the laws of armed warfare. It is up to the international community to deal with the terrorist organizations and the countries which sponsor and support them (especially Iran and Syria ) with all the political and legal means they have at their disposal.

    11. The composition of this study began in the middle of 2008 and was completed at the end of the first week of Operation Cast Lead, with the beginning of the IDF land incursion into the Gaza Strip. The analysis of the use of civilians as humans shields and the many examples presented here are based on Israel's experience in fighting against Hamas and other terrorist organizations controlling and operating in the Gaza Strip. It includes examples from the first week of Operation Cast Lead, but without a doubt it will have to be updated when the operation in the Gaza Strip ends.

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    News & Comments about Israel & Palestine Why the Israeli people have finally had enough (Ian O'Doherty)
    Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 08 January @ 20:26:48 GMT+1 (2021 maal gelezen)

    Why the Israeli people have finally had enough

    Enough is enough: An Israeli man stands on the scene after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza landed near the town of Sderot

    By Ian O'Doherty

    Monday January 05 2009

    So, it's genocide now, is it? Or is it actually another holocaust, something which one typically restrained Palestinian analyst described as "worse than Hitler's war against the Jews"?

    Are we watching the ethnic cleansing of an entire people? Are we witnessing the deliberate eradication of a race?

    Well, no actually, we're not.

    Yet the conventional dinner party wisdom which we've had to put up with in the media, both here in Ireland and generally across Britain, is that somehow Israel is the aggressor in the rapidly worsening situation in Gaza.

    Footage of air strikes with the ensuing photogenic explosions and dramatic plumes of smoke, quickly followed by clips of collapsed buildings and enraged mourners, makes far better copy than actually looking at the reasons why Israel has done what it's done.

    Anyone who devotes only a cursory glance at the news, both print and television, would be forgiven for thinking that, out of spite, might and malice, Israel has decided to destroy the Palestinian people.

    The problem with that conclusion -- and it's not something you're going to learn from the BBC and most other outlets -- is that, contrary to the currently popular belief, Israel is actually acting with a ridiculous degree of restraint.

    Over the last couple of years, thousands of rockets have been landing on Israeli soil and, finally, they have had enough.

    But behind that statistic there is a human dimension which tends to be rather ignored.

    I know many people in the southern Israeli town of Sderot and what is remarkable about their stories is not the number or make of rockets which have fallen on them on a daily basis for years, but the psychological carnage this wreaked upon them.

    One woman freely admitted to me that she hasn't had a proper night's sleep in more than two years as she and her family now basically live in their bomb shelter and it's hard to tell who she hates more -- the Muslim terrorists of Hamas or the Israeli government which she thinks has abandoned them.

    It's a common feeling amongst residents of southern Israeli towns who have been the silent victims of a long campaign of violence, intimidation and murder carried out by Hamas. And now, finally, that the Israelis have said that enough is enough, they are somehow meant to be the aggressors?

    There are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, but one of the main problems in this debate lies in the cowardly tendency of the Western media to apply equivalence to both sides.

    Thus, Hamas is seen to be as legitimate a government as the Israelis, and its rocket attacks across the border from Gaza are seen as being part of a yet another, intractable, interminable Middle Eastern dispute.

    There's just one problem with that approach -- it's completely wrong.

    Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic organisation intent on the eradication of the state of Israel and all its citizens; a violent fascist regime that allows honour killings and the execution of homosexuals to continue in its sphere of influence. Bankrolled by Iran, it manages to make even Hezbollah look like a moderate organisation.

    But Hamas is clever.

    As a friend of mine from Sderot pointed out, one of its favourite tactics is to launch Qassams from Palestinian schoolyards -- while the schools are still in session.

    Hamas does this, you see, knowing that the IDF can't immediately strike back (they can vector a rocket launch site within 90 seconds) because the last thing the Israelis need is footage of a devastated Palestinian school with dead kids.

    And, over the last week, we have seen carefully manipulated footage of dead civilians, with the fact that they were effectively used as human shields conveniently ignored. When Israel pulled out of Gaza -- ironically, the last battalion of IDF troops to leave Gaza contained some people from Sderot -- they were acceding to international and internal pressure. The doves on the Left said it was to prove to Palestinians that they wanted to give Palestinians independence, the hawks on the Right -- and there are some truly scary right-wingers in Israel, even as ardent a supporter of the country as I am will freely admit that -- prophesied that it would lead to carnage.

    And, lo and behold, virtually as soon as the last jeep left Gaza the rockets started. And then the blockade began, and the whole damn mess started all over again.

    But there's a bigger picture here, something which Israelis have been trying to broadcast to the world, but which, thanks to their spectacular inability to accurately and sympathetically portray their point of view, has not been properly transmitted. It's this -- Israel is the front line of the war between democracy and Islamic fascism.

    Would you rather live in a society with a free press, equal rights for women -- and anyone who knows an Israeli woman will know that they're not easily suppressed, anyway -- equal rights for gay people and a proud and stubborn belief in the right of the individual to lead their life in the way that they see fit or would you rather exist in a society where women who dare to speak their mind are executed, where gay people are not just shunned but murdered and where having a dissenting thought marks you out for death?

    The civilian deaths in Gaza are to be mourned, and anyone who says otherwise is reprehensible. But in a sick and twisted irony, they are mourned more by Israelis than by Hamas, who know that every dead Palestinian kid is worth another piece of propaganda.

    Here in the West, where we share the same values as Israel, we need to start standing shoulder with this tiny oasis of democracy in a vast desert of savagery.

    To do otherwise is moral cowardice of the most repugnant kind.

    Meer lezen... | Score: 0

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