Monday, 30 November 2009

Israel Matzav: Bolton on Iran's new enrichment plants

Israel Matzav: Bolton on Iran's new enrichment plants

Israel Matzav: Why the 'freeze'?

Why the 'freeze'?

I would have to guess that this is obvious to most Israelis, but for those of you abroad may find it enlightening.

One lesson Netanyahu learned from both his first term as prime minister and his time in Ariel Sharon’s government was the importance of keeping the Israeli Center behind him. He currently faces two major problems — a nonexistent peace process and a likely need to order military action against Iran — that are liable to result in widespread international condemnation, escalated anti-Israel terror, pressure for potentially dangerous concessions, and perhaps even sanctions. To withstand this, he will need solid domestic support, which means he must convince the Israeli majority that neither problem is his fault: that he truly tried to restart peace talks and thereby also spur international action on Iran, given the West’s claim that such action would be easier if peace talks were progressing.

Faced with similar circumstances — a stalled peace process, a looming Iranian threat, growing international pressure, and consequent eroding domestic support — Sharon decided to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. That achieved its goal: it got the Israeli Center behind him. But the price, in terms of both security and Israel’s image (as January’s Gaza war showed), was horrific.

The settlement freeze is a far smarter means of achieving the same goal. The only security risks it poses are those that stem from being perceived as easily pressured. Yet it is a concession no previous Israeli prime minister ever offered, and a substantial one: it even applies to settlement blocs that Israel wants to keep under any agreement and where even the moderate Left deems continued construction no impediment to peace.

Thus even if it fails to satisfy the Arabs, Europeans, and Americans, Netanyahu’s hope is that it will satisfy most Israelis: that when the world begins condemning Israel for the lack of progress toward peace and demanding additional, more dangerous concessions, the Israeli majority will not blame Netanyahu’s “intransigence” — after all, he has shown great flexibility — but rather the Palestinians’ unwillingness to respond to his gesture, and the world’s unwillingness to pressure them to do so instead of once again pressuring Israel. And it will therefore back him in refusing to make further concessions.

While I'm not happy with the 'freeze,' it's clear to me that's why Netanyahu did it, and I can only hope that it at least accomplishes its goals. The 'disengagement' from Gaza went completely wrong. Let's hope the 'freeze' (which is at least reversible) doesn't.

Israel Matzav: Why the 'freeze'?

Israel Matzav: Israel's top 10 must-have gadgets

Israel Matzav: Israel's top 10 must-have gadgets

Israel Matzav: Barack Obama and Neville Chamberlain

Israel Matzav: Barack Obama and Neville Chamberlain

Israel Matzav: Hamastan: Women banned from scooters, dancing

Hamastan: Women banned from scooters, dancing

This is not a fun time to be a woman in Gaza.

The Islamic Hamas movement banned girls last month from riding behind men on motor scooters and forbade women from dancing at the opening of a folk museum. Girls in some public schools must wear headscarves and cloaks.

Signs of Hamas’s creeping Islamization are everywhere in Gaza, the Mediterranean coastal enclave that Hamas has run by itself since 2007. Gaza is already politically divided from the West Bank, the Palestinian territory administered by the secular Fatah movement.


At the immigration office at Gaza’s border with Israel, a sign warns that alcoholic beverages, forbidden under Islam, will be poured out “in front of the owner.”

The government’s Islamic Endowment Ministry has deployed Virtue Committee members to preach at public places to warn of the dangers of immodest dress, card playing and dating.


The opening of the Palestinian Heritage Museum on Oct.7 was meant to include a rendition of the dabke, a line dance performed by girls and boys. Except that no girls were allowed.

Black-shirted men from Hamas carrying AK-47s appeared at the gates of the museum, on Gaza’s waterfront, said Jamal Salem, the curator. They said girls shouldn’t dance because it wasn’t religiously proper. Nor could they share the stage for the inaugural speeches, said Salem.

“They are trying to take Palestinian culture and make it all their own,” Salem said. “They say our traditions are against the law. Their law.”

In August, headmasters of several schools ordered girls to don white head scarves and black cloaks called jilbabs. They sent several girls in jeans home, according to Gaza press reports. The Education Ministry later said the orders were unauthorized acts of individual school officials.


“The episodes had an effect anyway,” said Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist and human rights campaigner. “What parent wants to be seen to defy Islamic rules?”

They voted for Hamas. As my mother, may she rest in peace, used to say, "you make your mess and then you have to lie in it."

Israel Matzav: Hamastan: Women banned from scooters, dancing

Israel Matzav: The magic number goes up

The magic number goes up

On Sunday, I reported that the magic number of 'Palestinian' terrorists to be exchanged for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is 980. Haaretz reports that it's actually more than that. A lot more.

The state prosecution says that both parties have committed to keeping a lid on the details as long as negotiations are underway. The new information, to the extent that there is any, relates to the number of Palestinian prisoners Israel is officially saying will be released in a deal: 980, in two stages: 450 heavy-duty prisoners whom Hamas wants freed, and another 530 terrorists whom Israel will select "as a gesture to the Palestinian people."

Throughout the negotiations, Hamas spokesmen insisted that 1,400 prisoners would be released in a swap. Has Israel gotten Hamas to fold on this demand? That's doubtful. For instance, the state's response doesn't make it clear whether the 530 prisoners include Palestinian women and youths. More prisoners may be released after the first 980. And the state's response doesn't even mention the hundreds of prisoners Israel is likely to release in the future, in a bid to furbish the image of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In other words, if the Shalit deal goes through, more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners will be released in the coming months, possibly close to 2,000.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: The magic number goes up

Israel Matzav: Hope and change Getting along

Hope and change Getting along

The 2009 Pew Global Survey of attitudes toward the United States has been published and - surprisingly to some - it's not a whole lot different than the 2008 survey.

Fouad Ajami notes:
It was the norm for American liberalism during the Bush years to brandish the Pew Global Attitudes survey that told of America's decline in the eyes of foreign nations. Foreigners were saying what the liberals wanted said.

Now those surveys of 2009 bring findings from the world of Islam that confirm that the animus toward America has not been radically changed by the ascendancy of Mr. Obama. In the Palestinian territories, 15% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 82% have an unfavorable view. The Obama speech in Ankara didn't seem to help in Turkey, where the favorables are 14% and those unreconciled, 69%. In Egypt, a country that's reaped nearly 40 years of American aid, things stayed roughly the same: 27% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 70% do not. In Pakistan, a place of great consequence for American power, our standing has deteriorated: The unfavorables rose from 63% in 2008 to 68% this year.

Mr. Obama's election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism. That anti-Americanism is endemic to this region, an alibi and a scapegoat for nations, and their rulers, unwilling to break out of the grip of political autocracy and economic failure. It predated the presidency of George W. Bush and rages on during the Obama presidency.
By the way, Israel wasn't surveyed in 2008, but in 2007 it was 78% positive on America, and in 2009 it has dropped to 71%.

Ajami recounts a lengthy list of reasons why the Arab world has stopped applauding Obama. They include Iran (where he refuses to take sides), Iraq (where he has walked away in essence), Afghanistan (where he is trying to walk away), India and Pakistan (where he has walked away) and even the home front (where he refuses to acknowledge President Bush's achievement in keeping the United States safe from terror for seven years after 9/11, and where - Ajami doesn't mention this - he is creating the conditions for a new terror attack with the insistence on holding a civilian proceeding in New York for the 9/11 planners).

In the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl notes that discontent and disappointment with Obama go beyond the issues of war and peace in the Middle East:
For the reformers, a big signal came this month in a speech Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered in Marrakech, Morocco. Clinton was attending a session of the Forum for the Future, a body the Bush administration established at the height of its pro-reform campaign. The idea was to foster a dialogue between Western and Arab countries about political and social reform that would resemble the Helsinki process between the West and the Soviet bloc during the 1970s.

Clinton began her speech by referring to Obama's call in Cairo for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities around the world." She then said that after consulting with "local communities" the administration had "focused on three broad areas where we believe U.S. support can make a difference."

These turned out to be "entrepreneurship," "advancing science and technology" and education. As if citing the also-rans, Clinton added that "women's empowerment" was "a related priority" and that "the United States is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East." The word "democracy" appeared nowhere in the speech, and there was no reference at all to the Arabs who are fighting to create independent newspapers, political parties or human rights organizations.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian who is one of the best-known Arab reformers, was part of a group who met Clinton after the speech. He told me that he tried to point out to her that "the next two years are crucial" for determining the political direction of the Middle East, in part because Egypt is approaching a major transition. Parliamentary elections are scheduled in 10 months, and their results will determine whether a presidential election scheduled for 2011 will be genuinely democratic. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's 82-year-old ruler, is under pressure to retire; if he allows it, a truly competitive race to succeed him could pit his son Gamal against diplomatic heavyweights such as former foreign minister Amr Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- not to mention Ayman Nour, who was imprisoned for three years after challenging Mubarak in 2005.

Clinton, said Ibrahim, replied that democracy promotion had always been a centerpiece of U.S. diplomacy and that the Obama administration would not give it up -- "but that they have a lot of other things on their plate." For Arab liberals, the translation is easy, if painful: Regardless of what the president may have said in Cairo, Obama's vision for the Middle East doesn't include "a new beginning" in the old political order.
And Jennifer Rubin points out that disappointment with Obama goes far beyond the Middle East to other regions:
Arab liberals aren’t alone. “No new beginning” is really the message of the day in China, Iran, and Russia, too. Human rights have been downgraded. The message is clear that thuggish regimes need not clean up their acts to enjoy robust relations with the U.S. In fact, we won’t even embarrass them or challenge them when our president arrives. They can breathe easier as they proceed to imprison, censor, and brutalize their own people.
But Obama has probably made more of a mess between Israel and the 'Palestinians' than he has anyplace else. This is Ajami again:
Nor was he swayed by the fate of so many "peace plans" that have been floated over so many decades to resolve the fight between Arab and Jew over the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. Where George W. Bush offered the Palestinians the gift of clarity—statehood but only after the renunciation of terror and the break with maximalism—Mr. Obama signaled a return to the dead ways of the past: a peace process where America itself is broker and arbiter.

The Obama diplomacy had made a settlement freeze its starting point, when this was precisely the wrong place to begin. Israel has given up settlements before at the altar of peace—recall the historical accommodation with Egypt a quarter century ago. The right course would have set the question of settlements aside as it took up the broader challenge of radicalism in the region—the menace and swagger of Iran, the arsenal of Hamas and Hezbollah, the refusal of the Arab order of power to embrace in broad daylight the cause of peace with Israel.
Jennifer Rubin sums up:
It’s not exactly what starry-eyed Obama fans around the globe expected. They thought they were getting someone in Obama who’d motivate young people, cajole old regimes into reforming themselves, and tout the blessings of freedom. They thought all that hope-n-change stuff might apply to them. Instead they have a cynical crowd in the White House who imagines that its role is to be as inoffensive as possible with despotic regimes and avoid confrontation. “Getting along” is now the watchword. “Hope and change” are out.
Indeed they are. What could go wrong?
Israel Matzav: <strike>Hope and change</strike> Getting along

Israel Matzav: Derisionist history

Derisionist history

The New Republic carries a lengthy and fascinating review by Benny Morris - who has moved somewhat to the Right after being classified as a 'revisionist' historian - of a new book by Avi Shlaim, perhaps one of the most extreme anti-Israel Jewish historians. I'm going to give you three small paragraphs of the review, show you a video about who Avi Shlaim is, and then hope that whets your appetite enough to go get an education. Here are the three paragraphs I wanted you to see from the review.

Zaim ruled Syria from March 30, 1949, to August 14, 1949, when he was deposed and executed by his colleagues. Working through American and U.N. mediators, Zaim proposed peace with Israel, and also that Syria absorb a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in exchange for Israeli cession of the eastern half of the Sea of Galilee (according to the U.N. partition resolution, the whole sea was to be within Israeli territory) and, by implication, the Israeli-owned strip of land to the east of the lake, which included Kibbutz Ein-Gev.

Israel and Syria were at the time in the middle of armistice negotiations, and Ben-Gurion suspected that Zaim’s move was a ploy to delay Syrian withdrawal from Israeli territory that it had conquered during the war, which Israel was demanding. At the same time Ben-Gurion believed that Zaim was not trustworthy. (The Syrian was apparently a CIA agent and had previously been in intermittent contact with Haganah intelligence officers.) Ben-Gurion was in any case unwilling to give up half of Israel’s major water resource, and to surrender hard-won territory in exchange for a bilateral peace agreement on which the Syrians could at any time renege. He refused to meet with Zaim until the Syrians agreed to withdraw from Israeli territory, and the Syrians rejected the Israeli proposal to negotiate at the foreign ministers level.

According to Shlaim, Zaim gave Israel “every opportunity to bury the hatchet and lay the foundations for peaceful coexistence in the long term,” but an “intransigent” Israel and a “short-sighted” Ben-Gurion “spurned” his offer and “frittered away” a “historic opportunity.” A historic opportunity? I am not so sure, and in the absence of Syrian documentation the seriousness of Zaim’s offer and his ability to carry it out remain unclear. (Itamar Rabinovich, in The Road Not Taken, highlighted Zaim’s internal problems in this respect.) Equally unclear is what would have been the fate, after Zaim’s death, of any agreement that he had signed. It is also worth asking whether a semi-arid country should give up half of its main water resource (and territory) in exchange for a peace treaty of doubtful longevity with a country that has just attacked it. Shlaim, intent on pillorying Israel, does not ask this question.

Those sound like good questions for any peace deal today, don't they?

And who is Avi Shlaim? Let's go to the videotape.

Note that CNN describes Shlaim as an Israeli. Morris would disagree.

Read the whole thing.

The picture at the top is Benny Morris. Apparently CNN doesn't think he should be interviewed anymore.


Israel Matzav: Derisionist history

Israel Matzav: Outrageous headline of the day

Outrageous headline of the day

Just in case they take it down, I'm just going to give you this one as a screen capture:

Forced? No further comment needed.
Israel Matzav: Outrageous headline of the day

Israel Matzav: Swiss surprise

Swiss surprise

Many of you outside the Middle East and Switzerland itself may not appreciate the significance of Sunday's vote in Switzerland to ban new minarets (that's a picture of one in Switzerland at left) next to mosques.

The noontime news broadcasts here in Israel played several Arab news broadcast openings each of which used the word 'surprise' to described the Swiss vote. All the polls indicated that the initiative, which was opposed by the Swiss government, would fail. The country's 300,000 - 450,000 Muslims (among a population of 7-7.5 million) has only four minarets (none of which broadcasts a call to service due to strict noise pollution laws) among its 150 mosques. And yet, the measure passed.

What are the likely results? Robin Shepherd says that the minaret measure could make the Danish cartoons riot look like a walk in the park.

The move is likely to provoke the kind of mass confrontation that followed the publication of a series of cartoons in Denmark in 2005 which linked the Prophet Mohammed to terrorism. In the months that followed, more than 100 people died in unrest across the Muslim world, Danish embassies and shops were burned to the ground and protests erupted by Muslim groups in Europe calling for the censorship of opinions considered insulting to Islam.


It is far too early to draw conclusions about today’s unfolding events in Switzerland and I will comment later when the situation becomes clearer. But it looks as though a backlash against Islam in Europe by nationalist forces energised by the failures of multiculturalist orthodoxies is now really starting to take hold.

It is just such an implosion of the centre-ground in favour of polarising groups on either side that has long been predicted by critics of politically correct, multiculturalist ideology. In other words, if mainstream parties refused to deal with the problem of intolerance and bigotry inside Muslim groups in a civilised manner, it was inevitable that fringe groups would deal with the problem in an uncivilised manner, all the while garnering ever greater support from a wider public disillusioned by the way things have been going. There’s more of this to come. You can rely on it.

We're already seeing results from this vote from Turkey, for instance.

In Turkey, where there is a broad perception that prejudice against Muslims is growing in Europe, the Swiss referendum was watched with concern.

On private television station NTV, Saim Yeprem, a former senior administrator at Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, called the outcome "a result of Islamophobia." Noting that several mosques in Europe were financed by 19th-century Ottoman sultans, he said "it is a sign for the worse that Europe, which in those days tolerated mosque-building, is unwilling today to tolerate minarets."

Turkey is negotiating to join the European Union, but since talks began in late 2005, France, Germany and several other countries have argued the predominantly Muslim country isn't sufficiently European to join. Several areas of the talks have stalled and resentment at the apparent rejection is rising in Turkey.

Cavid Aksin, an Istanbul metalworker, was angered that the referendum coincided with the end of one of the most important religious feasts in the Muslim calendar. "I think Turkey should have a referendum on whether to close down its churches," he said.

That idea is laughable, because there are Muslim countries where churches are illegal (e.g. Saudi Arabia) and many more Muslim countries where synagogues are illegal and where Jews are not allowed entry and cannot be residents or citizens. But given Turkey's attempts to enter the EU - of which Switzerland is not a member - the fact that a measure like this passed on the Continent is a stinging rebuke to Muslims all over Europe and Turkish reaction reflects the insult.

In Switzerland itself, those who pushed the referendum now want to build on their victory.

In Switzerland, People's Party leader Walter Wobman said the group will now fight to ban the burqa as well as to institute a law against forced marriage. Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf released a statement saying the government respected the vote, but emphasized it "is not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture."

Of course it is. It's at least a rejection of the Muslim community's efforts to impose its culture and mores on others, or at least of what is perceived as an attempt to do so.

Meanwhile, here in Israel, at least one MK has gotten the idea to do something about our own minarets, which are quite noisy.

The fight against the muezzins - the pre-dawn, loud, mournful calls to prayer by Islamic prayer leaders, or recordings thereof - has reached the Knesset, where MK Aryeh Bibi (Kadima) is promoting a bill to silence them.

Bibi says that the 4 a.m. call to prayer “wreaks havoc in Jerusalem,” awakening people in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. “There is no reason why they can’t do what they do in Turkey, Egypt and elsewhere,” Bibi told Arutz-7’s Hebrew newsmagazine, “and that is to have a ‘silent radio station’ which ‘awakens’ every day at 4 o'clock with the call to prayer. This way, those who want to wake up can do so; why do they have to wake up the whole world?”

Yes, they are quite noisy. As someone who goes to bed at 4:00 am from time to time, I cannot tell you how much I don't appreciate the mournful, wailing, "Allah Hu Akhbar" coming out of the minaret that's about 500 meters from my house as I'm trying to doze off for an hour or two.

But that's an issue of noise and not an issue of religious practice. We may have fears of our country being overrun by Muslims, but they are very different from European fears on the same issue.

Sunday's vote is a wake-up call to Muslims to tone it down. But Robin Shepherd is correct that it's also a wake up call to moderate groups in Europe and elsewhere: If you don't stop with the political correctness and address the issues, people who are far more extreme than you are going to address them for you and you may not like the consequences. I hope that several European governments and the Obama administration in the US have gotten the message.

Israel Matzav: Swiss surprise

Israel Matzav: Soldiers' opposition to expulsions continues

Soldiers' opposition to expulsions continues

Despite attempts by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to stop it, IDF combat soldiers continue to declare loudly and clearly that they will not take part in expelling Jews from Judea and Samaria.

Opposition by IDF soldiers to expelling civilians continues. Soldiers in the Shimshon battalion have printed service stage graduation shirts with the words "Shimshom Doesn’t Expel People From Homesh".

On the back of the shirt appeared the words "You were in Lebanon, you were in Gaza, were you in the newspaper?" The sentence appears beneath a picture of soldiers waving the sign "Shimshom Doesn’t Expel People From Homesh".

In recent days continued expressions of support for IDF soldiers who say they will refuse to expel Jews from their communities have increased. Twelfth Grade pupils recently published a letter in which they declared that they intend to join IDF infantry units, but that they did not intend to obey expulsion orders and orders to destroy Jewish communities.

The government has brought the plague of threats to refuse orders on the IDF. First, the IDF should never be used in police actions (and expelling people from their homes is a police action whether it's legitimate or not). Second, much of the IDF officer corps has relatives in Judea and Samaria. Does the government really believe that soldiers will happily expel their parents, siblings and cousins from their homes? Third, the government and the IDF have turned a blind eye to secular soldiers refusing to serve in the territories or in the IDF so long as it operates in the territories. Do they think no one notices?

Sorry, I could not find the shirt discussed so I took a different one for the graphic.

Israel Matzav: Soldiers' opposition to expulsions continues

Israel Matzav: Third Temple on its way

Third Temple on its way

According to the Vilna Gaon, construction of the Third Temple will start, God willing, on March 16, 2010, which just happens to be the first day of the Jewish month of Nissan this year.

If the 18th-century rabbinic authority the Vilna Gaon was right, on March 16, 2010, construction will begin on the third Temple. His projection states that the auspicious day will coincide with the third completion of the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter.

The great day is at hand: On March 15, the reconstructed Hurva Synagogue, considered the most important house of prayer in Jerusalem will be rededicated. It was last destroyed in the War of Independence.

Based on the rest of the article, I have to wonder what kind of hat the Messiah will wear....

A synagogue is a synagogue and not a museum. And by the way, both Rav Kook and Rav Nebenzahl are intimately connected to the National Religious community (something Haaretz would never tell you).

Israel Matzav: Third Temple on its way

Israel Matzav: Hamas drops some names

Hamas drops some names

Hamas is complaining to the media that Israel is disclosing names of terrorists it has demanded in exchange for kidnapped IDF corporal Gilad Shalit, and at the same time it is complaining about terrorists Israel refuses to discuss. Hamas accuses Israel of trying to torpedo the deal.

Hamas' public relations supervisor Osama Hamdan told the Al-Hayyat daily that sources in Israel were seeking to make the deal fail by leaking details of the negotiations, particularly with regard to the release of terrorists with "blood on their hands."

The paper quotes Hamas sources as saying that Israel is still refusing the group's demands to release senior militants Ibrahim Hamad, Abdullah Barghouti and Abbas Asayeb.

According to the report, Israel has not agreed even to raise these prisoners' names during negotiations and has rejected Hamas' offers to send them into exile following release.

The newspaper also said that Israel will not agree to release five female Palestinians inmates sentenced to life in prison or other extended terms, even though their names were on the original list of 450 "heavy" prisoners set to be exchanged.

These female inmates included Ahalam Tamimi, who was Abdullah Barghouti's right-hand woman and helped carry out the deadly suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem.

Well, it's good to see that the Israeli government may have found a little bit of spine. Ahlam Tamimi is pictured above and I have discussed her many times on this blog, most recently here. Maybe all the complaints last week about her release did some good.

Abdullah Barghouti was Hamas' chief bomb maker - he made the Sbarro bomb. Ibrahim Hamad was Hamas' military commander in Judea and Samaria during the Oslo War and has the blood of dozens of Israelis on his hands.

Maybe the trade won't happen. I can't see Hamas doing the trade without getting its own senior people out of jail.

Israel Matzav: Hamas drops some names

Israel Matzav: Govt. to High Court: Murderers to be released based on 'security and moral' justifications

Govt. to High Court: Murderers to be released based on 'security and moral' justifications

One of the reasons I didn't become a litigator is that I'm not good at lying through my teeth advocating for positions in which I don't believe. As such, I don't envy the government lawyer who has to make this argument to the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court of Justice on Monday afternoon.

The state prosecutor responded that Israel is weighing the option of freeing 450 prisoners in the initial stage of the deal, "based on security and moral justifications." The unilateral release of 530 more prisoners, to be selected by Israel, is being planned for a later date as a gesture to the Palestinian people. Drafting the criteria for the second stage has yet to begin, nor has a potential list of inmates been compiled.

'Security and moral justification' for releasing 450 murderers? You've got to be kidding. Criteria not yet drafted? Don't believe it. I'd bet that they have an exact count of who those 530 terrorists are and how many of them meet the current criteria for not having blood on their hands.

As for the government agreeing with Hamas to keep the list secret in a bid to quell dissent over the lopsided trade, that's simply beneath contempt.

By the way, remember that last week I reported that the military censor was preventing details of the 'exchange' from being disclosed and that the censor's actions were out of place? The government speaks to that issue too.

The response also noted that the military censor is entitled to prohibit the publication of any piece of information it believes "will significantly damage the possibility of returning Shalit alive and healthy," or alternatively, if it believes publication will compromise national security.

Moreover, it said, it is virtually impossible to hold public negotiations with a "bitter enemy," a terrorist organization holding a soldier captive and seeking the highest possible price in return for his release.

The state prosecutor wrote that ambiguity is essential to Israel's very existence, and that without it, "it is impossible to hold effective negotiations and reach the goal of returning the abducted soldier to Israel."

This reminds me of President Nixon's argument during the Watergate scandal that he was entitled to withhold evidence of his own criminal activity under 'executive privilege' because he had determined that its disclosure would damage 'national security.' The differences are that in America there is a Bill of Rights (we don't have one - if anyone tells you that there is free speech in Israel, they are lying) and 35 years ago the US Supreme Court was far less politicized.

Look for the Supreme Court to throw the petition out by tomorrow morning without requiring that names be released and without requiring the disclosure of the Shamgar Commission recommendations.

The country is in good hands. What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Govt. to High Court: Murderers to be released based on 'security and moral' justifications

Israel Matzav: 'Palestinian' siege on its way?

Palestinian' siege on its way?

Arutz Sheva reports that the 'Palestinians' are planning to besiege Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as part of a third 'intifada.'

The Palestinian Authority is planning to besiege Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, according to recent reports in Arab media. A member of the central committee of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction was quoted by Al-Arab on November 20th as saying that the movement decided during the 6th Fatah convention to ignite a third intifada in the area in response to "Israel's intransigence" and the failure of diplomatic talks.

He said that while it won't use live arms fire, the new campaign will have a grass-roots style, including the surrounding of Jewish communities by thousands of Arabs. An Arutz Sheva reporter notes other senior members of the PA and Fatah have escalated their words about other options, including armed struggle.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: 'Palestinian' siege on its way?

Israel Matzav: What the....

What the....

Given that the Russians voted in favor of the resolution condemning Iran's nuclear program at the IAEA board meeting last week, you would think that they would not be helping that same nuclear program along. You'd be wrong - at least if the Iranian media is correct.

Russia's energy minister pledged on Sunday a quick completion of Iran's first nuclear power station, Iran's state broadcaster IRIB reported, weeks after Moscow announced the latest delay to the Bushehr plant.

The reported statement, which did not give a specific time for the launch of Bushehr, came as Iran's government announced plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants, in a major expansion of its disputed nuclear program. Russia said in mid-November that technical issues would prevent its engineers from starting up the reactor at Bushehr by the end of the year as previously planned.

Maybe if there are a few more exploding trains, the Russians will get the hint.

Heh. (No, I don't think Israel did it, but Iran might have).
Israel Matzav: What the....

Love of the Land: Already there reaches the inspectors with their caravan

Already there reaches the inspectors with their caravan

30 November 09

An officer of the government ticketing Jews for building in Judea. As is to be expected, also accompanied by the camp followers.

Love of the Land: Already there reaches the inspectors with their caravan

Love of the Land: Military aid tops Sleiman agenda during Washington visit

Military aid tops Sleiman agenda during Washington visit

By Elias Sakr
Daily Star staff
Monday, November 30, 2009

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman is expected to make a three-day visit to the US on December 12, for talks with President Barack Obama. The pair are slated to discuss Lebanese-American bilateral ties, Lebanon’s outlook on the Middle East peace process and a potential increase in US military aid to the Lebanese Army.

The president is also expected to hold talks with several top US officials, address the American Congress and meet delegations of Lebanese expatriates.

(Full article)

Anybody awake there in Washington?

Nasrallah calls for ending political sectarianism, national defense strategy of Lebanese army alongside Resistance
30 November 09

"He (Nasrallah) mapped out his party’s policy on a national defense strategy, saying that Lebanon needs to confront Israeli threats with a popular resistance supported by the people and a national army that ensures the country’s stability and security. “Adopting the choice of the Resistance allowed Lebanon to achieve real independence and safeguard its sovereignty,” he added."

Love of the Land: Military aid tops Sleiman agenda during Washington visit

Love of the Land: For One Man, Israel's Big Gas Find Is Bittersweet Victory

For One Man, Israel's Big Gas Find Is Bittersweet Victory

Charles Levinson
Wall Street Journal
30 November 09

HERZLIYA, Israel -- Two natural-gas fields in Israel's Mediterranean waters were found in January to contain enough resources to meet Israel's energy needs for 20 years -- a huge find after more than half a century of lackluster carbon exploration here.

But for Yossi Langotsky, who for 10 years has been the driving force behind the project, the gusher was a bittersweet victory. He has been drilling holes in the Promised Land for nearly four decades, in a mostly futile search for energy. A month before drilling started on what would become the largest find in Israeli history, his financial backer pulled out. That forced him to relinquish his stake -- today valued at an estimated $350 million.

Debbie Hill for the Wall Street Journal

Yossi Langotsky was forced to relinquish his stake in a natural-gas project shortly before drilling started on the largest find in Israeli history.

"After 60 years of no success in oil exploration here in Israel, a miracle took place, and I lost out 30 days before it happened," says Mr. Langotsky, 75 years old.

The pivotal role played by Mr. Langotsky in the historic discovery is undisputed. The two fields are named for his daughter, Dalit, and granddaughter, Tamar.

The fields, which won't start producing gas until 2014, are relatively modest by Mideast standards. But they have already triggered a frenzy in the country's quiet energy industry.

Since January, Israeli oil companies' stocks have soared, some rising as much as tenfold. In 2009, oil companies have invested between five and 10 times as much in Israel exploration as at any point in the country's history, says Yaakov Mimron, head of Israel's Petroleum Commission.

In recent weeks, two international companies, including Houston-based Noble Energy Inc., which led the team that made the gas find in January, separately began extensive and costly 3D seismic surveys of more offshore prospects. A Noble spokesman said they expect to drill new wells next year.

In the past 60 years, oil companies have drilled about 450 wells, but choked out just 20 million barrels of oil, less than Saudi Arabia churns out in three days.

Israel's dearth of oil in a region awash in it became a national joke. "My closest friends laughed at me," says Mr. Langotsky.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: For One Man, Israel's Big Gas Find Is Bittersweet Victory

Love of the Land: Derisionist History

Derisionist History

Benny Morris
The New Republic
28 November 09

(This review of Avi Shlaim's book by Benny Morris, is loaded with insights into the distorted world of Post-Zionist historians, their judgments, and their conclusions. While not for everyone, if you follow Benny Morris, this is a good piece.)

Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations

By Avi Shlaim

(Verso, 392 pp., $34.95)

Avi Shlaim burst upon the scene of Middle Eastern history in 1988, with the publication of Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. Before that, as a young lecturer at Reading University in England, he had produced two books, British Foreign Secretaries Since 1945 (1977) and The United States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948–1949 (1983), and several revealing essays on modern Middle Eastern historical issues in academic journals. But it was Collusion Across the Jordan, with its 676 pages of solid and well-written research, that thrust him into the academic limelight.

Shlaim’s book traced the thirty-year relationship between the Jewish Agency for Palestine and, later, the government of Israel and Prince Abdullah (later King) of Transjordan (later Jordan), focusing on their secret friendly ties and mutual interests--the “collusion” of the title--during the 1948 war, and their unsuccessful secret peace negotiations, which were suspended just before Abdullah’s assassination by a Palestinian gunman in July 1951. Shlaim argued that Abdullah and the leadership of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine/Israel, were united in their fear and their hatred of Haj Amin Al Husseini, the leader of the Palestinian national movement, and also in coveting the territory of Palestine; and so they agreed, in the run-up to the 1948 war, to “collude” to prevent the Palestinians from establishing a state.

Bowing to the realities of power, Shlaim contended, the Hashemite king and the Zionists agreed to divide the territory between themselves. As it turned out, and despite fierce Israeli-Jordanian clashes in and around Jerusalem, this is exactly what happened in the course of the war, the Jordanians occupying and eventually annexing the West Bank--the core of the area allotted by the United Nations partition resolution of November 1947 for a Palestinian Arab state--and the Jews establishing the state of Israel on the remainder (minus the Gaza Strip, also allotted to the Palestinians, which Egypt occupied in the course of the war and held until 1967). And following the war, the two countries embarked on peace negotiations, but failed to conclude a deal. Shlaim argues that it was an unconciliatory Israel that was largely responsible for the diplomatic failure--as it was, also, for the failure to explore properly the options for peace with Syria and Egypt that opened up, in his view, in those immediate postwar years.

Much of Shlaim’s spadework, especially relating to Zionist-Arab diplomacy before, during, and after the war, was original, but his thesis itself, about the nature of Jordanian-Israeli relations before and during 1948, was not. Israel Ber--who had served as an important officer on the General Staff of the Haganah, the Yishuv’s main pre-state militia that changed its name later to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and on the General Staff of the IDF in 1949–1950 (before his resignation, he headed its Planning and Operations Department)--had suggested the “collusion” thesis in his book Israel’s Security: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, published posthumously in 1966. And Dan Schueftan and Uri Bar-Joseph had presented and analyzed it in their learned and well-argued works, A Jordanian Option (1986) and The Best of Enemies (1987).

But Ber’s was an unannotated political essay by a discredited man--he was jailed in 1961 as a Soviet spy--and it appeared only in Hebrew. Schueftan’s work also appeared only in Hebrew, and Bar-Joseph’s drew little attention. Shlaim certainly did his work more thoroughly, and he wrote with verve and elegance. Though one or two critics suggested that Shlaim had given too much weight to oral testimony elicited decades after the events described, Collusion Across the Jordan enjoyed wide acclaim. Some of that, without a doubt, was owed to what was seen as the book’s anti-Israeli slant.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Derisionist History

Love of the Land: Wooing the Israeli Center

Wooing the Israeli Center

Evelyn Gordon
30 November 09

(Interesting insights and well written, as can be expected from Evelyn Gordon. She also shares many of the doubts and worries as the rest of us. Time will tell)

The 10-month settlement freeze announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week entails obvious risks, from the danger of being perceived as vulnerable to pressure to the time bomb of what happens when the 10 months end. And if the goal is to placate the Palestinians, Arab states, Europe, or the U.S., it also entails few rewards: all have already declared it insufficient (though some deemed it a “positive” first step).

But the freeze, like Netanyahu’s speech last June outlining his principles for a two-state solution, is probably aimed first and foremost at a domestic audience. And on this level, it may be sound tactics.

One lesson Netanyahu learned from both his first term as prime minister and his time in Ariel Sharon’s government was the importance of keeping the Israeli Center behind him. He currently faces two major problems — a nonexistent peace process and a likely need to order military action against Iran — that are liable to result in widespread international condemnation, escalated anti-Israel terror, pressure for potentially dangerous concessions, and perhaps even sanctions. To withstand this, he will need solid domestic support, which means he must convince the Israeli majority that neither problem is his fault: that he truly tried to restart peace talks and thereby also spur international action on Iran, given the West’s claim that such action would be easier if peace talks were progressing.

Faced with similar circumstances — a stalled peace process, a looming Iranian threat, growing international pressure, and consequent eroding domestic support — Sharon decided to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. That achieved its goal: it got the Israeli Center behind him. But the price, in terms of both security and Israel’s image (as January’s Gaza war showed), was horrific.

(Continue article)

Love of the Land: Wooing the Israeli Center

Love of the Land: A classic Big Lie

A classic Big Lie
29 November 09

How many times have you heard something like this:

Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are illegal and an obstacle to peace.

The statement is misleading or false in at least three ways:

First, there is no such thing as ‘Palestinian land’ unless you mean land owned by individual Palestinians, and most Israeli ’settlements’ in Judea and Samaria are built on state land or land purchased by Jews.

The original Palestine Mandate (and the Anglo-American Convention of 1924) specified only that there would be a ‘Jewish National Home’ within its borders; it did not specify that all of it would constitute this home. But it also did not specify that any particular part of it would be a Palestinian Arab state. One might add that in 1922, Britain split off the better part of the Palestine Mandate and gave it to the Hashemites to create an Arab state of Transjordan, which could well be considered a partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab parts.

The 1947 General Assembly partition resolution did call for a division the land into Jewish and Arab states. But this was not accepted by the Arabs, and was not implemented as a result of the invasion by the Arab states in 1948. The Jordanian military aggression and annexation of this area was therefore illegal; in principle, it belonged to the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs.

The actual boundaries that define what the Jordanians decided to call “the West Bank”, which prior to 1950 was called “Judea and Samaria”, were entirely accidental, being the cease-fire lines of 1949. There is no treaty, Security Council resolution, or other basis in international law to say that the cease-fire lines define an Arab state. Indeed, the famous Security Council Resolution 242, as everyone knows, calls for

(Continue reading...)

Love of the Land: A classic Big Lie

Love of the Land: Parsi's Precedent

Parsi's Precedent

Backspin/Honest reporting
30 November 09

At the Huffington Post, Trita Parsi argues that the US can and should stop Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. He even cites this precedent:

On August 2, 1990, almost a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Iron Curtain divide, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within months, the George H. W. Bush administration carefully assembled a coalition of states under the UN flag and defeated the Iraqi army and restored Kuwait's ruling family, the House of Sabah. The Bush senior administration saw particular value in ensuring that the international coalition contained numerous Arab states. But to get the Arab's to join a war alongside the US and against another Arab power, Israel needed to be kept out of the coalition.

This turned out to be a tricky issue, particularly when Saddam Hussein hurled thirty-four Scud missiles at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, in an obvious attempt to lure Israel into the war . . . .

Just as Israeli retaliation against Iraq in 1991 would have been devastating for the US, an Israeli preventive attack against Iran today would spell disaster for US national security.

The Israeli debate over deterrence vs. undermining coalition forces was as anguished as Parsi goes on to describe. There was the added uncertainty -- which Parsi doesn't acknowledge -- of Saddam's Scuds being outfitted with chemical or biological warheads. Fortunately, Saddam Hussein didn't raise the stakes with a non-conventional attack.

Parsi expresses no concern for the threat Iranian nukes pose to Israeli national security (and Palestinian national security, for that matter).

We've seen that the Israeli public is remarkably resilient in the face of Iraqi Scuds, Palestinian Qassams and Hezbollah Katyushas. But Parsi's then-and-now comparison breaks down because air strikes on Iran would be to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Love of the Land: Parsi's Precedent

Love of the Land: Manipulating the marketplace of ideas

Manipulating the marketplace of ideas

Gerald M. Steinberg
NGO Monitor
27 November 09

For over a decade, European governments have been major sources of funding for dozens of Israeli and Palestinian organizations claiming to promote human rights and similar moral causes. While these groups are known as "nongovernmental organizations," or NGOs, they are, in fact, selected and nurtured by foreign governments. And as seen in research to be discussed in a Knesset conference on December 1, their agendas are more political than moral.

This often hidden support helps pay for expensive newspaper advertisements, such as those recently announcing B'Tselem's 20th anniversary; the salaries of lawyers involved in dozens of High Court cases about the security barrier, treatment of Palestinian terrorists, etc.; the Geneva Initiative's conferences and booklets; and a flood of statements submitted to the United Nations condemning Israeli policies. Recipient NGOs have a major influence on many issues in our lives, and on the decisions of our democratically elected government.

Although foreign funding for Israeli NGOs is labeled as support for "civil society," this is false advertising. Organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, B'Tselem, Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, and many more, cannot claim to be rooted in Israeli civil society when they are funded both directly by the Swedish government, and indirectly through budgets provided by the same government to the Diakonia church organization. This process is repeated by another 15 governments (including Norway and Switzerland), as well as the European Commission, which between them fund more than 50 similar organizations.

The nature and scale of European influence is unique - in no other case do democratic countries use taxpayer money to support opposition groups in other democracies. Imagine the French response to U.S. government financing for radical NGO anti-abortion campaigns in Paris, or for promoting Corsican separatists under the guise of human rights. Would Spain tolerate foreign government funding of NGO campaigns involving the violent Basque conflict? But here, as in other areas, Israel is singled out and subject to different rules.

(Continue reading...)

Love of the Land: Manipulating the marketplace of ideas

Love of the Land: 500,000 Iranian Centrifuges

500,000 Iranian Centrifuges

Tehran ups the ante again as diplomacy goes nowhere.

Wall Street Journal
30 November 09

Mohamed ElBaradei caps his contentious and ultimately failed 12-year stint as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency today, having spent many years enabling Iran's nuclear bids only to condemn them in his final days in office. Mr. ElBaradei combined his rebuke of Iran with his familiar calls for more negotiation, but we'll take his belated realism about Iran as his tacit admission that Dick Cheney and John Bolton have been right all along. Let's hope the education of the Obama Administration doesn't take as long.

As if to underscore the point, yesterday the Iranian government ordered up 10 additional uranium enrichment plants on the scale of its already operational facility in Natanz, which has a planned capacity of 54,000 centrifuges. That could mean an eventual total of more than 500,000 centrifuges, or enough to enrich about 160 bombs worth of uranium each year. Whether it can ever do that is an open question, but it does give a sense of the scale of the regime's ambitions.

The decision is also a reminder of how unchastened Iran has been by President Obama's revelation in September that Iran had been building a secret 3,000 centrifuge facility near the city of Qom. The IAEA's governing board finally got around on Friday to rebuking Iran for that deception, a vote the Administration trumpeted because both Russia and China voted with the United States. But perhaps only within the Obama Administration can a symbolic gesture by the IAEA be considered a diplomatic triumph.

(Full article)

Love of the Land: 500,000 Iranian Centrifuges

Love of the Land: Just Say No

Just Say No

Marc Prowisor
Yesha Views
29 November 09

The Israeli media is flooded with Bibi’s “10 month Settlement Freeze”. Jackals from every side of the political spectrum are racing towards this fresh road kill to get whatever piece of flesh they can before the carcass is picked clean.

The Left is discreetly declaring a victory, making sure their shouts of joy are not over heard by too many, less it endanger Bibi and cause him to bare his soul. Barak has rarely smiled as much, and now is seeking a small army to enforce his will of destruction against the residents of Yehuda and Shomron. Like vultures, they hover, waiting for opportunity to gorge and fill themselves on others misery.

The Right on the other hand is in a frenzy, bolting every which way attempting to find the proper tool to dislodge this boulder that has fallen, blocking the highway of continued presence in our heartland.

Each side has been making emergency meetings, drawing new lines of confrontation as Bibi and his minstrals take a breather and enjoy the confusion they have caused in the political arena in Israel, the Obama administration, and lets not forget, our “not peace” partners, the Palestinian Authority.

I question Bibi’s loyalty to Israel, who is he serving? There is nobody benefitting from this latest “effort” to restart the negotiations with the Arabs.

Bibi was elected to serve Israel’s interest, and Israel’s interest alone. I don’t recall seeing his name on any US electoral list. While we do not see what goes on behind the closed doors of the White House, we can be sure that Israel’s well being is no longer on the US agenda. There latest requests prove this, among them, releasing more terrorists, passing over more key security points to Dayton’s Army, sorry, I meant to say the Palestinian Security Force, and of course more “Land for Peace” with Jerusalem as the main course. I understand this, as the US President believes his future and the US wellbeing lies in the Arab and Muslim world. It is his job to look out for the US as best as he can and to his best understanding. The fact that this present administration in the US will probably cause more damage to the US and it’s citizens will only be realized in the soon to be future, but that is another subject.

Bibi is hurting us, and us alone. He claims his intentions are noble, yet forgive me as I must join the others from all sides condemning him, his strategy, and his lack of strength when confronting the world. Many Jews around the world took pride in his words during some of his past speeches, of course many understood that this was just empty rhetoric, something needed to fill dead air, a pity, maybe his speech writers should be members of the Knesset.

(Continue reading...)

Love of the Land: Just Say No

Love of the Land: Bibi Versus The Iceman

Bibi Versus The Iceman

Obama and Bibi Netanyahu as battling SuperHeros : Dry Bones cartoon.

I thought that I'd draw Obama and Bibi Netanyahu as battling SuperHeroes, but they came out looking like a pair of phony costumed TV wrestlers putting on a show!

* * *

The Arab-Israeli conflict will end when the Arab states accept the existence of a Jewish State in the region as natural. Political correctness requires that we ignore this obvious truth and pretend that the problem is simply a border dispute between "Palestinians" and Israelis.

Love of the Land: Bibi Versus The Iceman

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #34

Shir Ha-Ma'alot #34


"Let the loving couple be very happy, just as You made Your creation happy in the Garden of Eden."
From where do we know that Adam and Chava were happy in the Garden of Eden on their wedding? There is no explicit verse. They explain in yeshivot that there is no need for a verse, since it is logical. Why do I need a verse? It is a logical deduction! There was only one woman in the world, there was therefore no possibility of comparing, and the first man and woman were thus extremely happy. From the moment that a man is married, he should not look at another woman, think about another woman, compare with another woman, and then he will be joyous.
The truth is that one should act this way even before the marriage. It once happened that it was the custom in a particular place for the groom to give his bride a gift after the Chuppah. One groom did not give anything, because he was terribly poor, and he saved a small amount to pay for the wedding. The bride’s friends asked her where her gift was and they mocked her, the bride turned to her groom in tears: where is my gift? He responded to her: my gift is that you are the first woman in my life, the first woman that I look at and think about, talk with and laugh with, whom I love and dream about. Do not consider this a cheap gift. It was very costly for me, it was all the days of my youth. I am not sorry. This is my gift.
Why does the sixth of the ‘sheva brachot’ end with "Who makes the groom and bride happy" as opposed to the wording in the final blessing: "Who make the groom happy together with the bride"? Rashi explained that in our blessing, we give thanks to Hashem who causes the rejoicing of the groom and the bride, each of them on their own, that He will not withhold any good from them. But in the next blessing, we give thanks to Hashem "'Who created a wedding, joining of a man together with a woman with happiness and delight,' as a result it ends ‘Who makes the groom happy together with the bride’ which means the happiness of a man together with a woman" (Ketubot 8a).
Originally posted by Torat HaRav Aviner
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