Thursday, 29 April 2010

RubinReports: Life in an American Fourth Grade: Some Good Things about America; Don't Say "Primitive"

Life in an American Fourth Grade: Some Good Things about America; Don't Say "Primitive"

By Barry Rubin

For the second time, positive things have been said about the United States in the fourth-grade class. The teacher, during a discussion of immigration which, along with racism and man-made global warming are the three topics that take up the whole class year, the teacher remarked that America is a great place to live and doesn’t classify people by class.

In music class during the singing of a Native American song (they did sing America the Beautiful once but to my best information have never learned the National Anthem, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, the Battle Hymn of the Republic, or any other patriotic song), the teacher asked the students to describe Native American music. One student used the word “primitive.” The teacher responded roughly along the following lines: “Don’t say that because that’s like saying we’re so great and they’re so primitive so let’s just say `simple.’”

RubinReports: Life in an American Fourth Grade: Some Good Things about America; Don't Say "Primitive"

RubinReports: Who's Winning So Far? Iran/Syria: 2; United States: 0

Who's Winning So Far? Iran/Syria: 2; United States: 0

By Barry Rubin

Remember Turkey? It used to hold joint military exercises with the United States and Israel. Now it holds them with Syria while refusing to hold even an air-sea rescue drill with Israel. Yet there's no real concern in the U.S. government that Turkey--or rather the neo-Islamist current government--may be changing sides or of U.S. technology becoming available to Iran and Syria in the future.

Consider this list, which is pretty undeniable in factual terms:

U.S. engagement with Iran: failure

U.S. engagement with Syria: failure

Iran/Syria engagement with Lebanon: success

Iran/Syria engagement with Turkey: success

Bottom line: The United States has failed to pull Syria away from Iran; Iran and Syria have pulled Lebanon and Turkey away from the United States.

Iran/Syria: 2; United States: 0

In Washington policy circles and to a large extent in the mass media, no one has noticed this little comparison of success.

RubinReports: Who's Winning So Far? Iran/Syria: 2; United States: 0

RubinReports: Fred Halliday: A Tribute to a Uniquely Brave Middle East Scholar

Fred Halliday: A Tribute to a Uniquely Brave Middle East Scholar

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Fred Halliday: A Tribute to a Uniquely Brave Middle East Scholar

By Barry Rubin

Fred Halliday was a unique person, a man of courage, creativity, and spirit, which is rare in anyone and especially in Middle East studies. He was a dear friend for thirty years. And although I only realized it on hearing news of his untimely death, he is the person I’ve ever known who comes closest to being like George Orwell.

In his honor, I’d like to tell a few Fred stories and talk about why he was such a significant person. In the course of doing so, I’m going to make a few mild remarks about shortcomings in his work, but nothing I didn’t say to him personally and all with deep and genuine affection.

Fred was profoundly a man of the Left, in a way so fully possible only in a British person. Given Fred’s pride in his Irish ancestry, I know he’d wince at that phrase. He was thoroughly socialist, a strong supporter of the Labour Party, a self-defined rebel, and someone who could never imagine himself holding stances other than he did.

Here’s a story Fred told me. When he was a student at university in the 1960s, inclining toward Maoism at the time, he led in the heckling of a visiting Soviet speaker. Years later, he was in Afghanistan on a Soviet military base, with no other Westerners around and surrounded by elite Soviet soldiers armed to the teeth. He was introduced to the provincial governor. Fred realized that this was the man he had shouted down years ago and wondered if the Soviet official would recognize him and have him disposed of with no witnesses.

Fred was amused that the man didn’t recognize him.

In my opinion, a pivotal event for Fred was something that happened to him during the Iranian revolution, in 1979. As a doctrinaire leftist in the 1960s and 1970s, he saw the main enemies as American and British imperialism, the main solution as Marxist revolution in the Middle East. Indeed, I teased him several times that the problem was his typewriter—that’s how far back we go—was defective and merely automatically typed the word “imperialism” each time he typed the word “American.” He laughed.

When he wrote an important book about Iran in the late 1970s, Islam wasn’t mentioned at all and the name of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini appeared once in passing.

Fred went to Iran to hang out with his leftist friends there in 1979. One day, as he visited the leftist newspaper there, run by people who supported the revolution but opposed Islamism, the new regime’s police arrived, destroyed the newspaper office and arrested all his friends, who were probably tortured in prison.

So Fred became even more of an enemy to the revolutionary Islamists. That’s why he was a firm supporter--yes, quite a contradiction but that's the Middle East for you--of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and ended up visiting that Soviet base.

You might be thinking by this point that Fred was just a stereotypical leftist ideologue. But that wouldn’t be true. He would talk to anyone, kept an open mind, and was willing to change his thinking in the face of experience. Fred was a firm supporter of freedom and an enemy of dictatorship and oppression, even if it claimed to be on the left. Like many British leftists of the Labour party old school, his hatred of class snobbery made him a passionate champion of liberty and fairness.

One of my most vivid memories of Fred was his performance at a conference on Iraq at Exeter University that was, though I hadn’t realized it before attending, paid for by the Saddam Hussein government. The time was days after Iraq had invaded Iran in 1980. The speaker before Fred was a typically lithesome (and well-known) sycophantic Middle East studies type who had given a truly disgusting speech on how great Saddam Hussein was, comparing him to Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Fred strode confidently on the stage, in front of an audience full of Iraqi agents and toadies, and began by saying that if Saddam Hussein was so much like Nasser he should resign because he was going to lose the war. He then proceeded to tear apart the Iraqi regime as a repressive, aggressive dictatorship. It was a superb performance in every way.

By the 1990s, Fred had reconsidered his attitude toward Israel and wrote a really courageous article skewering the left for its hostility. He supported peace and truly tried to understand Israel, as well as going out of his way to invite Israeli speakers. For someone on the British left what Fred did was something akin to a Mississippi professor loudly announcing his support for civil rights to anyone who would listen.

Now I must confess my puzzlement at what was pretty much his last major speech, as president of the British society of Middle East studies, which I thought pretty much an apologia and back-patting exercise at how wonderful everything was in a domain he had often criticized.

But one can only ask so much of an individual. Fred was a really brave person who despite his powerful ideological beliefs—which he struggled to ensure never blinded him--did his best to meet real scholarly values, try to engage the facts, and scorn hypocrisy or cowardice. Fred was a man you could respect even when he was an adversary. He should be a role model for today’s leftist academics, but unfortunately they have chosen far worse exemplars.

I’ll keep thinking of him on that stage at the University of Exeter.

If there were more people like Fred Halliday, Western intellectual life and Middle East studies might be tolerable today.

RubinReports: Fred Halliday: A Tribute to a Uniquely Brave Middle East Scholar

Islamic Influence in U.S. Prisons - Jewish World - Israel News - Israel National News

Islamic Influence in U.S. Prisons - Jewish World - Israel News - Israel National News

Iran, Egypt Line Up Against US, Allies at UN Nuke Meeting - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Iran, Egypt Line Up Against US, Allies at UN Nuke Meeting - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News

Congress Outruns Obama for Israel and Sanctions against Iran - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Congress Outruns Obama for Israel and Sanctions against Iran - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Why Israeli-Arabs Don't Want to Live in a PA State - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Why Israeli-Arabs Don't Want to Live in a PA State - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News

Arab MK Tibi Forcibly Removed from Podium - Inside Israel - Israel News - Israel National News#replies

Arab MK Tibi Forcibly Removed from Podium - Inside Israel - Israel News - Israel National News#replies

In Wake of Greek Economic Crisis, Israel Coping Better Than Many - Finances & Business - Israel News - Israel National News

In Wake of Greek Economic Crisis, Israel Coping Better Than Many - Finances & Business - Israel News - Israel National News

Last Minute Efforts to Counter Netanyahu's Pressures - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News#replies

Last Minute Efforts to Counter Netanyahu's Pressures - Politics & Gov't - Israel News - Israel National News#replies



By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: Parshas EMOR, Leviticus 21:1-24:23


As discussed in Universal Torah #20 TETZAVEH, the Torah conception of the priests and their relationship with the people is radically different from the conception of the priesthood in other traditions. The Cohen of the Torah does not absolve the Israelite of his obligation to forge his own personal relationship with G-d. The Cohen is not an intermediary who performs mysterious rituals that magically guarantee that all will be well for the ignorant worshipper who stands by watching.

In many religions, the priests held or hold a monopoly on religious knowledge, often actually discouraging the pursuit of such knowledge by the masses, whose very ignorance is necessary in order for the priest to maintain his position.

By contrast, the Holy Torah was given as a fountain of truth and wisdom to Israel and to all others who want to drink its waters. The entire people of Israel is intended to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation: the goal is for each Israelite to develop, build and cultivate his or her own bond with G-d in every detail of life. How can we do this? We need to learn how to do it. For this reason, pride of place in the Torah tradition goes to the sage and teacher, because he is the one who can tell us how to do this. Even a MAMZER TALMID CHACHAM (an outstanding sage who is of illegitimate birth) takes precedence over the High Priest!

In our present parshah of EMOR, which is largely taken up with laws specifically relating to the priests, we see that Moses was commanded to instruct not only the priests themselves in these laws but also the Children of Israel. The Children of Israel are not to be excluded from all knowledge and understanding of the priesthood. On the contrary, they too are to study the laws relating to the priests. This is because the Israelites, as a kingdom of priests, have to have a model to learn from. The Cohanim are a kingdom within a kingdom. The Cohanim are to be to the Israelite what the Israelites are to be to the world.

The Temple is G-d's palace on earth: a center-point for all the world to see, in order to contemplate the profundity of the message it contains and thereby to draw closer to the King. Everything about the Temple is about coming closer to G-d, particularly the KORBAN ("sacrifice", from the Hebrew world KAROV, "close"). The entire Temple services center upon the sacrificial rites: the daily animal, grain, wine and incense offerings, the lighting of the Candelabrum, and so on. Like life in a royal court, life in the Temple was a spectacle. This was particularly so for the Israelite who brought a personal KORBAN, be it a SHLAMIM ("Peace") offering, or an OLAH and particularly a CHATAS - sin-offering.

The animal is substituted for the person to undergo the slaughter, flaying, cutting and burning the sinner really deserves. (Those who worry about the alleged cruelty to the animal should first go and complain about the millions of animals daily slaughtered all over the world, often with great cruelty, as "sacrifices" for the gratification of men's selfish lusts. To understand the meaning of the KORBONOS, we must be willing to think of the Temple as it actually was and will be, not try to adapt it to man-made moral "standards".)

The SEFER HACHINUCH (explaining the meaning of the 613 commandments) discusses the sacrificial rituals at length in Mitzvah #95: Building the Temple. The ceremony consisted of various stages: SEMICHAH (the penitent's laying on of hands on the animal's head), SHECHITAH, the slaughter of the animal, KABALAH, collecting of its blood and sprinkling it on the altar, the flaying and cutting of the carcass, salting of the meat, the burning of the altar portions and eating by the priests of their share. The SEFER HACHINUCH explains in detail how the different stages of this unsettling and even shocking ceremony all communicated an unforgettable lesson to the penitent about how man must bring his animal side under control. We are to learn how to "slaughter" and elevate our animality by devoting our energies to G-d's service and thereby burning our fat on His altar. (See also Nachmanides' commentary on Leviticus 1:8).

The priests in the Temple, who conducted these ceremonies, were actors in a drama that was calculated to awaken people and induce them think and repent rather than to hypnotize them with hocus-pocus. The role of the priest was as a facilitator, enabling people to understand the lesson for themselves.

Carrying the obligation to serve as ministers in the House and Court of G-d, the priests are a nation set apart, and are subject to an even more stringent code than the Israelites, as laid out in our parshah of EMOR. They are not allowed to defile themselves for the dead except in the case of their closest relatives. They are strictly forbidden to blemish their own bodies. They are not allowed to marry a divorcee or a woman who has been involved in a relationship tainted by immorality, etc. The Cohanim are to be a completely pure breed, fit to serve as G-d's ministers on earth. The true Cohen is to be an exemplar in his very life of the elevated purity to which every Israelite should aspire, each according to his or her level.

The ultimate exemplar is to be the COHEN GADOL ("high priest"). Although the COHEN GADOL appears in costumes that are most gorgeous by the standares of this world, he must remain completely separated from this world. This is because his task is to keep our eyes focussed upon G-d's world. Thus the COHEN GADOL is not allowed to defile himself with the dead even in the case of his closest relatives. For in G-d's world, there is no death but only life.

Everything about the Temple is designed to lift us up above the often tawdry world around us and to teach us how to draw closer to the underlying reality of G-d. For this reason, the Temple must be a place of the imposing splendor and beauty. Everything must be in the best repair. Not a flagstone must be loose nor an altar stone chipped. The vessels must be the finest gold and silver. And so too, the ministers themselves must be people of pleasing looks. Our parshah details the physical blemishes that disqualify a priest from participating in the Temple service itself (though not from eating sacrificial portions). The parshah also details the blemishes that disqualify an animal from being offered as a KORBAN. Everything offered to G-d has to be the very finest and most beautiful. So too, we must seek to beautify our offerings of prayers, our mitzvot and acts of kindness, and take care that they should not be blemished.

* * *


The calling of the COHANIM was very exalted. The separation and purity demanded of them is not required of the Israelites, who on the contrary are required to be involved in the world -- farming, manufacturing, selling and buying, raising families, etc. As discussed in the commentary on the previous parshah, KEDOSHIM, it is precisely through bringing every area of our actual lives under the wing of the Torah that we attain holiness.

Only the Cohen Gadol is to remain within the Temple precincts or in his nearby home in Jerusalem all the time. The people are to be throughout the country, going about their lives. For the Israelite, the relationship of G-d is one of "running and returning": "running" in the sense of regularly rising above the mundane to make a deeper connection with the underlying reality of G-d, but then "returning", in the sense of going back to grappling with everyday reality.

The Torah appointed a rhythm of weekly, monthly and seasonal MO'ADIM, "appointed times", whereby the Israelites rise above the mundane and restore and strengthen their connection with the divine. Our parshah is one of several in the Torah (Ex. ch. 23; Numbers ch. 23; Deut. ch. 16) that set forth the cycle of festivals and their associated practices, each with its own particular focuses.

In our parshah (Leviticus ch. 23) one of the main themes that runs through the account of the various festivals and their associated Temple practices is that of drawing ecological balance and agricultural blessing into the world. During the ALIYAH LE-REGEL -- the foot-pilgrimage to the Temple on Pesach, Shavuos and Succos -- the Israelites would leave the work of making a living and tilling the ground in order to participate in ceremonies whose purpose was to bless that work with G-dliness. Pesach, and Shavuos are particularly bound up with grain, which is man's staple food. The Matzahs eaten on Pesach may be made from one of the five kinds of grain. On the second day of Pesach, at the beginning of the grain harvesting season, an Omer measure is to be brought from the newly-ripened barley crop. During the coming weeks, while the wheat-harvesting is going on, the Sefirah count directs our minds forward to Shavuos, when a "new grain offering", the first wheat offering from the new crop -- two loaves of leavened bread -- was brought.

The observances of Succos are particularly bound up with the water-cycle. The four species of Esrog (citron), Lulav (palm branch), Hadass (myrtle) and Arovos (willow branches) all require ample water. Succos comes after the hot, dry summer of Eretz Israel, prior to what should be the rainy season. We take these four species in our hands and pour out our hearts like water in thanks and praise, hinting to our heavenly Father how totally depend we are on His blessings and mercy.

The chapter in our present parshah of EMOR relating to the festival cycle leads us in the direction of next week's parshah, BEHAR, which sets forth the commandments relating to the cycles of Sabbatical and Jubilee years, which are also bound up with agriculture, ecological balance and reverence for the earth.

* * *


Besides the cycles of festivals and Sabbaticals that give time its rhythm, the world is also governed by cycles that are often not apparent, because one generation does not know what happened in previous generations and therefore cannot understand how what happens today is cyclically rooted in what happened earlier.

To understand the incident of the MEGADEF ("blasphemer") in the closing section of our parshah (Leviticus 24:10ff), it is necessary to understand that "the son of the Israelite woman who was the son of an Egyptian man" was in fact the issue of an illicit relationship. Our rabbis teach that Shulamis Bas Divri was the wife of the Israelite whom Moses saw being beaten by an Egyptian the first time he went out to visit his brothers. The Egyptian would daily drive the Israelite out of his home and send him to his labors, thereafter going in to his wife. (See Rashi on Lev. 24:10 and on Exodus 2:11).

There is a deep counterpoint in the positioning of this episode in parshas EMOR, which centers on the special purity demanded of the priests. Shulamis Bas Divri is the exemplar of the opposite: immorality. While the holiness of the priesthood requires separation and the making of distinctions between pure and impure, fine and blemished, she sought to erase distinctions, greeting everyone with a naive "Peace be upon you, peace be upon you". As if friendly chatter is enough to turn evil into good. It was Shulamis Bas Divri's endeavor to erase distinctions that laid her open to the immoral relationship which led to the birth of the blasphemer. The latter, however, discovered that, whether you like it or not, this IS a world of distinctions. While the blasphemer was an Israelite through his mother, he had no tribal affiliation, since this comes only through the father. Accordingly the blasphemer had no place in the Israelite camp.

Contemporary political correctness will cry out in the voice of Shulamis Bas Divri that he should have been given a place -- isn't it unfair that he should be excluded because of a quirk of birth? Endless similar questions can be asked about other commandments in our parshah. Why should a blemished priest not be allowed to serve in the Temple? Why should a divorcee not be allowed to marry a priest? etc. etc.

Rashi brings a midrash that the blasphemer "went out" (Lev. 24:10) in the sense that he departed from the Torah: he mocked the idea that the Sanctuary Show-Bread (subject of the preceding section), which was eaten by the priests when it was nine days old, was a fitting institution in the Sanctuary of the King (Rashi ad loc.). The blasphemer could not accept G-d's Torah the way it is. He wanted to adapt the Torah fit his own personal views.

There was a way that even the blasphemer could have found his place. As quoted at the outset, even a MAMZER TALMID CHOCHOM has precedence over the High Priest. If the blasphemer had been willing to submit himself to G-d and accept the position G-d put him in, he could have been saved. But he was not willing to submit and instead he opened his mouth and poured out a torrent of abuse.

Over sixty years previous to this, when Moses saw this man's father striking Shulamis Bas Divri's husband, Moses knew that there was no potential. "And he looked here and there and he saw that there was no man [that no man would come forth from him to convert, Rashi] and he struck the Egyptian" (Ex. 2:12). The rabbis taught that Moses "struck" him by invoking the Name of HaShem. It was precisely this name that the son of the Egyptian's illicit relationship blasphemed. Prior to the Giving of the Torah, Moses inflicted instant justice on the father. However, after the Giving of the Torah, Moses was subject to the Torah like everyone else and he had to wait to hear from G-d how to deal with the blaspheming son.

The account of the punishment of the blasphemer includes related laws of punishments for killing and the damages that must be paid for inflicting injury to humans and animals. The cycles of crime and its penalties and payments revolve from generation to generation, but this is not apparent to the onlooker who sees only the here and now and does not understand what was before and what will come afterwards.

* * *

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

PO Box 50037 Jerusalem 91500 Israel

RonMossad: UNBELIEVABLE: Is the Obama Administration REALLY trying to eliminate/overthrow the Benjamin Netanyahu government?!

UNBELIEVABLE: Is the Obama Administration REALLY trying to eliminate/overthrow the Benjamin Netanyahu government?!

Welcome to regime change, Obama style:

Bibi be gone: Obama team plotting overthrow of Israel's Netanyahu

Sources in the administration and Congress asserted that the White House and State Department have sought to destabilize Netanyahu's government by forcing him to agree to an indefinite freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank and most of Jerusalem as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2012. They said the campaign sought to replace Netanyahu with opposition leader and former foreign minister Tsipi Livni.

No way.

"Bibi is extremely vulnerable to pressure," a source familiar with the White House effort said. "We know this from his first term in office and believe he will collapse this time as well."

No freaking way.

The sources said the administration's strategy aimed to de-legitimize Netanyahu in his government and right-wing constituency. They said Obama and his aides have sought to portray Netanyahu as a weak and unstable politician who will destroy relations with Washington as Israel seeks U.S. support for a military option against Iran.

What the hell!!!!!!!!

The sources said the administration's campaign has included invitations to Defense Minister Ehud Barak to the White House, where he met with Obama on April 26. Barak has been regarded as the most pro-U.S. minister in Netanyahu's Cabinet and has been lobbying ministers to accept Obama's proposals.

Read the full story at the World Tribune if you don't believe me.

Look, I'm not big on conspiracy theories - BELIEVE ME I'm not. But is it really so out of the question that this administration would try to sort of push a guy they don't like out of the way? It would certainly explain the astonishingly bizarre behavior coming out of the Obama camp, since very early on in the presidency. It would also explain why there is such a close alliance between President Obama and "just because we like Israel doesn't mean we like Likud" traitors like J Street.

And by the way...say what you will about Bibi, but "weak and unstable? Really? Take a look at this clip of Netanyahu on the Bill Maher show:

You tell me if Netanyahu is anything resembling "unstable" on a show that generally IS NOT on his country's side. This isn't Hannity, it's Bill Maher for Christ's sake. Even BILL MAHER knows better!

It's gotten to the point that in addition to retired generals feeling the need to remind Obama who his real friends are, you have several DEMOCRATIC Congressmen and women publicly speaking out against their boss.

Steve Rothman (D-NJ) recently published an article entitled: The Dividends of U.S. Support for Israel

Anthony Weiner (D-NY) chimes in with his opinion piece: Enough Already, Mr. President: Time to Start Treating Israel Like the Ally It Is

Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says Obama's "terrible" treatment of Netanyahu has to stop.

Former Democratic NYC mayor Ed Koch: Obama's Treatment of Israel is Shocking. In fact, Koch is on record telling Fox News that he has...

...been a supporter of President Obama and went to Florida for him, urged Jews all over the country to vote for him saying that he would be just as good as John McCain on the security of Israel. I don't think it's true anymore.Congresswoman Shelly Berekely (D-NV) castigates Obama for his recent public humiliation of Israel’s Prime Minister

And of course, hundreds of Democratic Senators and House Representatives all signed a letter to Hillary Clinton and Obama about their disgraceful treatment of Israel.

This is ASIDE from the Republicans who take every opportunity to bash Obama, especially on Israel and foreign policy issues. These people are ALL very liberal, anti-Bush, anti-neo-con, anti-right wing, anti-whatever-name you want to pick for why so many leftists seem to hate Israel. The fact that even they are starting to speak out against what is going on here CANNOT be a coincidence. It cannot.

So it may not be that far of a stretch to say that this Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning administration is more concerned with getting rid of Netanyahu than getting rid of Ahmedinejad. And yet there are still a majority of Jews who voted for Obama that STILL will TODAY tell you that it was the right decision for Israel.

How naive. How self-destructive. How deluded.


RonMossad: UNBELIEVABLE: Is the Obama Administration REALLY trying to eliminate/overthrow the Benjamin Netanyahu government?!

Israel Matzav: Overnight music video

Overnight music video

For those who missed the announcement earlier today, Mrs. Carl and I became grandparents again this afternoon, our first granddaughter. In honor of the occasion, Shy Guy sent me this video of what the Hasidim call a mitzva tantz (mitzva dance), which is usually done toward the end of the wedding. I don't know whose wedding this is, but the older gentleman is almost certainly the bride's grandfather. The song is sung by Avraham Fried.

Let's go to the videotape.

May we all share in our grandchildren's weddings.

Israel Matzav: Overnight music video

Israel Matzav: Video: Nir Barkat meets with Peter Roskam

Video: Nir Barkat meets with Peter Roskam

On Wednesday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat met in Washington with Representative Peter Roskam (R-Ill), the co-chairman of the GOP Israel caucus.

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Republican Jewish Coalition via Twitter).

Well, Roskam sure seems to get it.

Israel Matzav: Video: Nir Barkat meets with Peter Roskam

Israel Matzav: Thursday's internal Likud vote: An indication?

Thursday's internal Likud vote: An indication?

The Likud's Central Committee will vote on Thursday on an amendment to its charter that would allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to avoid internal party elections (for the party's central committee) for three years. The amendment is being opposed by Moshe Feiglin's Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction, which believes that if internal elections are held now, its strength within the Likud will grow. Netanyahu is arguing for the amendment because he says that he wants to add to the Likud's membership rolls before holding elections - in other words, he wants to keep Feiglin out and flood the party with 'centrists.'

I am a member of both the Likud and Manhigut. I am not a member of the Central Committee. I was invited to participate in a conference call on Wednesday night at 10:00 for guidance on soliciting votes for Thursday. Shortly after 10:00 I got an email saying that the response was so overwhelming that the conference call collapsed. The guidance was posted to Manhigut's website at 11:00 here (it's in Hebrew).

If enthusiasm is any guide, Netanyahu is going to go down to a stunning defeat on Thursday.

Israel Matzav: Thursday's internal Likud vote: An indication?

Israel Matzav: Will Obama back off Israel?

Will Obama back off Israel?

Caroline Glick reviews President Obama's failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and with the 'Palestinians' and concludes that President Obama will not back off Israel regardless of what his bullying costs him politically.

In his interview last week with Channel 2, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he has no doubt that if Obama wishes to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons he is capable of doing so. As he put it, “Barack Obama demonstrated his determination with regard to issues he felt were important, and his determination was quite impressive. I think President Obama can show that same determination with regard to Iran.”

No doubt Netanyahu is correct. Moreover, the politics of such a move would make sense for him. Whereas Obama’s decision to ram the nationalization of the US healthcare industry through Congress against the wishes of the American public caused his personal ratings and those of his party to plummet, were Obama to decide to take on Iran, he would win the overwhelming support of the American public. Indeed, a determined and successful bid by Obama to block Iran’s nuclear aspirations could potentially block what is currently looking like a midterm election catastrophe for his party in November.

But as Gates’s memo about Iran, Clinton’s announcement that the administration will go ahead with its plan to dispatch an ambassador to Damascus, Mitchell’s latest failure with the Palestinians, Jones’s newest accusation against Israel, and the US’s strategic incoherence in Iraq and Afghanistan all show, mere politics are irrelevant to Obama. It doesn’t bother him that his most loyal supporters abandoning him. It doesn’t matter that his policies have endangered the Middle East and the world as a whole.

Obama’s refusal to acknowledge his own failures make clear that his goal is different than that of his predecessors. He is here to transform America’s place in the world, not to safeguard the world. And he will move ahead with his transformative change even if it means abetting war. He will push on with his transformative change even if it means that Iran becomes a nuclear power. And he will push on even if it means that US forces are forced to leave Afghanistan and Iraq in defeat.

The bigger problem is that bullying Israel may cost Obama nothing politically. This is Ed Koch - Ed Koch! - who was ripping Obama a week ago for doing nothing about Iran. After seeing Obama's letter to Alan Solow, Ed Koch was gone silent.

I accept the letter as having been written in good faith. I cannot state that it restores my absolute good faith in the president. The unique trust that I and so many others, Christians and Jews, placed in him on the issue of supporting our close alliance with the Jewish state does not exist to the same extent, so I will look more to his actions than to his words. However, his letter is a start that I hope will be followed by concrete deeds.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Will Obama back off Israel?

Israel Matzav: Is there a building freeze in Jerusalem?

Is there a building freeze in Jerusalem?

Is there a building freeze in Jerusalem? MK Benny Begin (Likud) insists that there is not one.

Speaking to Likud members in Tel Aviv Tuesday night, Minister Binyamin Begin said that "there is no truth to the rumors that there is a quiet understanding between the Prime Minister and the United States to avoid building in Jerusalem.

"This is a false rumor with no basis in reality. Our friends the Americans know this, and it will be proven in the near future," said Begin.

So does Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose attempt to avoid internal elections in the Likud looks like it will go down to a narrow defeat on Thursday:

Speaking to Likud Central Committee members in Ashkeklon Tuesday, Netanyahu slammed Feiglin supporters ahead of an internal Likud vote saying "Such impudence! They won't to teach Bogie (Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon) and me how to protect Jerusalem." He added that US President Barack Obama and European leaders were well aware of Israel's stand on Jerusalem..

But from Washington, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is not a member of the Likud, says that there is a freeze.

But Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat admitted during a visit to Washington on Tuesday that a "temporary freeze" is in place regarding the 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo. Jerusalem city counselors meanwhile say that the city's building approval committee has not met since U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit.

Time Magazine does some investigating and also concludes that there is a freeze in effect.

Take Plan number 12705 for the new Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, which would demolish 40 low-rise Palestinian homes built in traditional local stone to make way for modern apartment blocks up to 18 stories high, containing 200 residential units for Israelis. There have been weekly demonstrations at the site since the landowners, Nahalat Shimon International, began evicting the Palestinians who had been living in the area when it was captured by Israeli forces in the war of 1967. Despite U.S. demands that Israel halt construction on territory occupied in 1967 in order to restart peace talks, Shimon HaTzadik Plan 12705 was approved by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior on March 2, and forwarded to the Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee.

But while nobody's admitting that Plan 12705 is under some sort of political freeze, it appears to have been stalled by bureaucratic inertia. The Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee has met several times since March 2, but Plan 12705 hasn't been on its agenda. Likewise with other plans for residential development in East Jerusalem. Over at the Interior Ministry, the District Planning Committee has not convened since the visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden, during which Israel-U.S. ties were plunged into a crisis by the announcement of a plan to build 1,600 new housing units on occupied land. Meir Margalit, an opposition member of the Jerusalem City Council, tells TIME that an unofficial freeze is already in effect, despite the official denials.

"Since Vice-President Biden was here, they refuse even to bring to the committee projects for Jewish buildings in East Jerusalem," says Margalit.

"The committee told them wait for better timing. De-facto, not one project of settlers in East Jerusalem has been approved or come for approval to the committee," he says. "Just to give the possibility to start negotiations, the government and municipality must stop building. It's very important to do it because peace is more important than houses."

Margalit says a major religious housing project slated for the north of the city neighboring Ramallah, was recently canceled after U.S. intervention.

Read the whole thing.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Is there a building freeze in Jerusalem?

Israel Matzav: Good news: Hamas digging 'kidnapping tunnels' in Gaza

Good news: Hamas digging 'kidnapping tunnels' in Gaza

Hamas would like to kidnap more Israelis.

As part of its effort to kidnap an Israeli, Hamas has dug a series of tunnels near the border fence with Israel. These tunnels have been dug by troops who serve in Hamas’s regional battalions, each battalion in its own sector. The opening of the tunnel is in close proximity to Israel, but inside Gaza territory, and is designed to facilitate the capture of IDF troops crossing the border into the Gaza Strip in the course of operational activity. The idea is for the tunnel to serve as a trap, inside of which Hamas terrorists are lying in wait. One group of terrorists is supposed to provoke an Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip, so that the terrorists waiting in the tunnels can capture one of the soldiers and transport him via the tunnels deep into Gaza.

These specially-dug tunnels are designed to facilitate kidnappings only, and are not suited for smuggling goods. There are three other more familiar types of tunnels that have been in use in Gaza up until now. The first type are the smuggling tunnels that run beneath Philadelphi Road, and which are geared to facilitate the smuggling of military equipment, goods and people into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. The second type are attack tunnels, which are dug out of the Gaza Strip into Israel; these tunnels are geared to facilitate an attack, including kidnapping, by terrorists inside Israel. The third type are command and mobility tunnels, which span tens of miles beneath the urban expanses of the Gaza Strip; these tunnels allow for commanders and troops to move beneath the ground from one sector to another, and to send in reinforcements and equipment.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Good news: Hamas digging 'kidnapping tunnels' in Gaza

Israel Matzav: The Bible appeals to secular youth too

The Bible appeals to secular youth too

This is slightly off the original fare, so bear with me. I've been thinking of raising this topic for the last week, but I needed to confirm one last fact which fell into place when I saw the article I am about to quote.

The Prime Minister's 15-year old son Avner placed third in the International Bible Contest held on Independence Day. I want you to appreciate what an achievement that was. You see, unlike every other kid who has participated in the contest for as long as I can remember, Avner Netanyahu is not religious.

Almost a week has passed since Avner Netanyahu came in third in the International Bible Contest, and at the prime minister's house, his parents are still excited. His mother, Sara Netanyahu, spoke with Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu on Sunday, and told him that her son's achievement brought much pride to her and her husband, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rabbi Eliyahu said Netanyahu thanked him for the open letter, published on Ynet, in which he praised her for her parenting skills, which led to her son's successful participation in the quiz.

She told the rabbi that investing in the children's education paid off, and that its results were evident, but added that in this case, credit also goes to her father, 96-year-old Shmuel Ben Artzi and her brother, Hagai, who encouraged Avner and helped him study for the competition.

Netanyahu added that the fact that third place was won by a 15-year-old secular boy who goes to high school near the university in Jerusalem, and whose hobbies are sports and theater, proves that the Bible also appeals to non-religious youth, who do not study in yeshivot or seminaries.

She added this has also increased awareness for bible studies among the secular youth.

Read the whole thing. I am actually quite impressed with Avner Netanyahu, and especially with his mother, who unfortunately has been abused by Israel's Leftist media. I suppose it would be too much to expect the media to apologize to Mrs. Netanyahu.

I heard in a Torah class by Rabbi Asher Weiss, who heard from Rabbi Yehuda Cooperman, who heard from Rabbi Yakaov Herzog, that Rabbi Herzog asked Ben Gurion why he allowed religious education in Israel at all, since Ben Gurion and most of the State's founders were rabidly secular. Ben Gurion said, "They won't need it for more than another generation anyway. Their children won't be interested in this kind of schooling. So I decided to make them happy for now." Sixty years later, "this kind of schooling" - religious education - is severely lacking in many quarters in Israel, and it's a lack that we all feel.

As I have mentioned several times, I recently finished reading Daniel Gordis' Saving Israel. Gordis writes that Ben Gurion's removal of Jewish content from the secular education system in Israel was a serious mistake. As a result, many kids today have no idea why we are here and why we belong here. They're what could be called Hebrew-speaking goyim (non-Jews).

I hope that Avner Netanyahu - who is so visible because he is the Prime Minister's son - starts a trend among secular Israelis to learn Tanach (the Bible) and share in our heritage. It's their heritage too.

Israel Matzav: The Bible appeals to secular youth too

Israel Matzav: Jerusalem to be divided on Jerusalem Day?

Jerusalem to be divided on Jerusalem Day?

Jerusalem Day, the 28th day of the Jewish month of Iyar, celebrates the anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem and the Holy sites in 1967. For the previous 19 years, Jews were not able to pray anywhere in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. This year, Jerusalem Day falls on May 12.

Jerusalem Day is celebrated with a flag displaying parade throughout the city (pictured), and with an all night march from the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in the city's Kiryat Moshe neighborhood to the Kotel (Western Wall) via the Damascus Gate (Sha'ar Shchem - one of the articles I am going to link calls it Nablus Gates, which is the correct translation, but which is not how the gate is known).

For those who have forgotten, let's go to the videotape - 28 Iyar 5727, June 7, 1967.

Unfortunately, the Netanyahu government has decided that it is more important to please the Obumbler in Washington than to allow the Jews to celebrate the reunification of their capital city. This year, for the first time, police will prevent yeshiva students from entering the Old City in the wee hours of the morning through the Damascus Gate (the shortest and flattest walk to the Western Wall - I wonder whether they will do the same thing on Shavuoth the following week).

Jerusalem Police announced that it will not allow an annual march held on Jerusalem Day through Nablus Gate in the Old City to the Western Wall, claiming that the march will likely increase tensions in the area and even cause riots.

Thousands of yeshiva students in the city partake in the march every year. The organization Am K'Lavie, which organizes the event, was outraged by the decision.

The flag parade will not even be allowed to march past the Damascus Gate, which is on the northern end of the Old City, about two blocks from the American consulate.

Organizers of the “Rikud Degalim” parade, in which youths parade through the streets of the city on Jerusalem Day with Israeli flags, were shocked to discover that police are preventing them from marching past the Damascus Gate in the Old City. Organizers, who have been conducting the march for the past 20 years, have expressed great distress at the orders.

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) called on police to allow the parade to continue as in the past. “On a national holiday, we must proudly display our flag everywhere, and not try to hide it.” MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said that it was clear that “the Likud is dividing Jerusalem. Even former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert allowed the parade to go on,” he said.

And police are now considering closing off the Damascus and Lions Gates altogether during the parade.

The police are considering closing off the Shechem and Lions Gates of the Old City gates to Jews during the annual Jerusalem Day parade in two weeks. Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch told National Union Knesset Member Uri Ariel Tuesday a final decision will be made after assessing the situation.

The annual parade features a “flag dance,” which is scheduled to pass through the gates

The Lions Gate, which is located on the eastern side of the Old City, is the gate through which IDF troops entered the Old City in 1967.

Is the Netanyahu government trying to get us used to the idea of a divided city of Jerusalem? If these decisions are not changed, it will be difficult to draw any other conclusion.

Israel Matzav: Jerusalem to be divided on Jerusalem Day?

Israel Matzav: Obama uses Roger Cohen to threaten Netanyahu

Obama uses Roger Cohen to threaten Netanyahu

Just when you thought that the Obama administration's handling of diplomacy could not be any more amateurish....

If New York Times columnist Roger Cohen is telling the truth, in effect, the Obama administration asked him to issue a warning threat to the Netanyahu government.

Last week, a letter from President Barack Obama was conveyed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. In it, I understand, Obama spoke of his very strong commitment — unprecedented commitment — to a two-state peace and said that if Israel seriously undermines trust between the two parties, the United States will not stand in the way of a United Nations resolution condemning that.

No American definition of what such trust-undermining acts might be was offered, which is why Erekat pressed Mitchell in their meeting last Friday on what would constitute “provocative actions” by Israel.

But it seems clear that any reprise of the Ramat Shlomo debacle, which infuriated Obama, would meet American criteria. The bottom line to Israel is: Hold the building, hold the tenders and hold any other provocations while Mitchell shuttles.

But there's no indication that this was discussed with or conveyed to Israel until they read it in the New York Times, just like you and me. Once again, the Obama administration is treating one of its most important allies like a third-rate thugocracy.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Obama uses Roger Cohen to threaten Netanyahu

Israel Matzav: The retreat of nuclear America

The retreat of nuclear America

In the Washington Times, former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton discusses the folding up of the US's nuclear umbrella and its implications for American's allies. Curiously, Bolton does not discuss Israel or Iran. Perhaps there is no need to discuss it. Europe and Japan, and several other countries in the Far East, are only now waking up to the implications that we started feeling here in Israel months ago. For if the START treaty made it clear that Obama was going to abandon Europe to its own devices, it's been clear to us here in Israel that we would be abandoned to our own devices almost from Day One under this administration. Obama has no sense of the urgency of stopping Iran. He apparently believes that even if Iran does - God forbid - go nuclear, he, the great talker, will convince them not to use the weapons.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: The retreat of nuclear America

Israel Matzav: Don't know much about history

Don't know much about history

Whenever my kids ask for help with their homework, the first part of this song is my response.

Let's go to the videotape.

Perhaps 'don't know much about history' is Barack Obama's problem too. (Sam Cooke kind of looks like Obama, doesn't he?) This is Mort Zuckerman in the Wall Street Journal (Hat Tip: Memeorandum), available here for those of you who don't have Journal subscriptions.

Jerusalem is not just another piece of territory on a political chessboard: It is integral to the identity and faith of the Jewish people. Since the city was founded by King David some 3,500 years ago, Jews have lived there, worked there, and prayed there. During the First and Second Temple periods, Jews from across the kingdom would travel to Jerusalem three times a year for the Jewish holy days, until the Roman Empire destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D. That ended Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem for the next 2,000 years, but the Jews never relinquished their bond.

Jerusalem is much less embedded in Muslim culture. When Muslims pray, they face Mecca, not Jerusalem. The Old Testament mentions Jerusalem, or its alternative name Zion, a total of 457 times. The Koran does not mention Jerusalem once. Muhammad, who founded Islam in 622 A.D., was born and raised in what is now Saudi Arabia; he never set foot in Jerusalem. And in the 1,300 years that various Islamic dynasties ruled Jerusalem, not one Islamic dynasty ever made the city its capital. Indeed, even the National Covenant of the PLO, written in 1964, never mentions Jerusalem. It was only added after Israel regained control of the city in 1967.

The reality today is that in the area referred to as East Jerusalem— that is, an area north, south and east of the city’s 1967 borders—there are roughly a half a million Jews and Arabs living in intertwined neighborhoods. The idea of a purely Jewish West Jerusalem or a purely Palestinian East Jerusalem is a myth: Building in particular neighborhoods in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.

Ramat Shlomo, the center of the most recent row, is a thriving community of over 100,000 Jews located between two larger Jewish communities called Ramat and French Hill. Its growth would in no way interfere with the contiguity of new Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. And in every peace agreement that has ever been discussed, these areas would remain a part of Israel.

No wonder the Israelis reacted so strongly when Mr. Obama called this neighborhood “a settlement.” For over 43 years, there has been a tacit agreement that construction here did not constitute an obstacle to negotiations. Thus, the new policy was seen as an Obama administration effort to force Israel to accept the division of Jerusalem, taking yet another negotiating card off the table for the Israelis.

But what the world never remembers is what the Israelis can never forget. When Jordan controlled the eastern part of the city, including the Old City and the Western Wall (a retaining wall of the ancient Temple), it permitted reasonably free access to Christian holy places. But the Jews were denied any access to the Jewish holy places. This was a fundamental departure from the tradition of freedom of religious worship in the holy land, which had evolved over centuries, not to speak of a violation of the undertaking given by Jordan in the Armistice Agreement concluded with Israel in 1949. Nobody should expect the Jews to risk that again.

No one should but Obama does. The question is why, and the answer is quite simple: Obama doesn't get all that history.

We saw that in his Cairo speech and we saw it again at Buchenwald the next day. Obama doesn't get the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. From his perspective, the Jewish state may as well have been in Uganda (at which point it would have been justifiable for them to force us to split it). Perhaps he doesn't get it because he doesn't want to get it, because he'd prefer to see Israel as a sop to the Jews after the Holocaust at the expense of people of color, as his friends Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright see it and as Victor Davis Hanson has posited. Or perhaps, he's just tone deaf.

Either way, the sooner Obama is replaced, the better off Israel will be.

Israel Matzav: Don't know much about history

Israel Matzav: An improvement?

An improvement?

Jamie Fly argues that the Obama administration should get behind Mohamed ElBaradei's candidacy to be President of Egypt.

Despite this benign neglect by the Obama administration, Egypt faces its best chance for reform because of an unlikely character. Mohamed El Baradei, the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), returned to Egypt in February and has since been feted by opposition groups. It is not clear that El Baradei will run for President in 2011 -- he has smartly demanded that before he decides, he wants the system to be reformed. This rightly has caused many Egyptians to question why, under current Egyptian law, a leading international figure and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize cannot run for President just because he is not a member of a government-approved political party.

In the waning months of his time at the IAEA, El Baradei reportedly worked closely with the Obama administration. President Obama even spoke to him on the phone several times as the United States tried to get Iran to agree to a nuclear fuel swap. Now, however, the administration has been mum on Mr. El Baradei's potential electoral ambitions.

Outside Egypt, El Baradei has been treated rather poorly. Ilan Berman wrote an article on Foreign Policy's website criticizing him for meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood and stating that he might become the "savior of Egypt's Islamist opposition." An article in The Weekly Standard noted his poor stewardship of the IAEA and his failure to halt Iran's race toward a nuclear weapon.

The continued popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood is indeed cause for concern but one meeting should not be construed to imply that the secular El Baradei is a closest Islamist. The Brotherhood is a major political force in Egypt, winning 20% of the seats in parliament in 2005. It is also not a monolith and if El Baradei decides to run, he will have to try to win over some of its moderate elements.

It is true that under El Baradei, especially after the invasion of Iraq and the U.S. failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the IAEA became increasingly anti-American. El Baradei went out of his way to go easy on the Iranians despite evidence that Iran continued to flout its international commitments. However, El Baradei is contemplating a run for the Presidency of Egypt, not of the United States. His credentials as an independent minded international civil servant make it clear that this is not some democratic reformer being foisted on the Egyptian people by Washington.

These commentators are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. El Baradei represents the best chance for democratic reform in Egypt that we may see for some time. It is time for the Obama administration to take a stand on Egypt's upcoming elections and make clear to the geriatric Mubarak that his departure from the political scene is not cause for the elevation of his son Gamal to the presidency.

Is this really a question of some reform being better than no reform? Or is it a question of replacing an uncooperative regime with an openly hostile and uncooperative regime? In general, I'm all in favor of democracy. The problem is that in places like Egypt and the 'Palestinian Authority,' true open democracy means that the Islamists would take over. What the Arab world really needs is what Germany and Japan got after World War II: De-Nazification followed by elections. And that's not likely to happen.

How much influence does the US have? Short of threatening the aid money (which I wouldn't mind seeing happen for other reasons), very little.

In any event, I'm not convinced ElBaradei is the answer.

Israel Matzav: An improvement?

Israel Matzav: Obama trying to promote Barak to replace Netanyahu?

Obama trying to promote Barak to replace Netanyahu?

Ben Smith passes on these analyses of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's meeting with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

A plugged in source footnotes:

Maybe. But simultaneously puts US much closer to Bibi's opposition, as Barak is the head of Labor. So can be seen as another move by this administration to sideline Israel's PM.

UPDATE: Another smart source differs:

Barak is not in the opposition – he’s in Bibi’s govt and he and Bibi are working extremely well together and everyone knows that. Many Israelis these days say “Bibi and Barak are joined at the hip”.

The opposition is Kadima and Livni – if the Obami wanted to mess with Bibi’s coalition they’d send signals in that direction and they are not.

Rolling out the red carper at DOD for Barak is all about the lovefest we are in the midst of.

I'd say it's a bit of both. Ehud Barak would love to be Prime Minister again, and the Obami would find him more pliable than Netanyahu, although not as pliable as Livni. And in this country there are no friends when it comes to politics - Netanyahu and Barak have run against each other before and would run against each other again given the opportunity. And I'm sure that the Obama administration realizes that.

Israel Matzav: Obama trying to promote Barak to replace Netanyahu?

Israel Matzav: The Islamists' worst nightmare

The Islamists' worst nightmare

The attempt to spread Islam all over the World has come up against its worst nightmare. It is the Zionist Hindu Crusader alliance, featuring Israel, India (with the third largest Muslim population in the World) and the United States. The alliance threatens to undermine Islamic radicalism by making people focus on something much more pleasurable: Making money.

This “Zionist Hindu Crusader” alliance is a nightmare scenario for radicals and terrorists in the Islamic world. The emergence of closer relations between the American global superpower, the regional Israeli military, and technological superpower, and the rising superpower of India is a basic challenge to the worldview of the extremists. The radicals have imagined a world in which the west and especially America is in decline, Israel faces a deep crisis, and a resurgent Islamic world is emerging as a new world-historical power.

Suppose none of that is happening. Suppose instead that both the United States and Israel are going to prosper and grow, based in part on their economic relationship with India. Suppose that Israel’s extraordinary culture of high-tech innovation will be energized by the relationship with India so that Israel’s technological and scientific lead over its neighbors continues to grow over time. Suppose that Indian power will be returning to the Gulf and East Africa, and that not only Pakistan but the Arab world will be increasingly focused on accommodating the rise of a new regional, and ultimately global, superpower. Add to this that immense natural gas discoveries off Israel’s coastline are revolutionizing the country’s long term economic position and security strategy.

In that kind of world the arguments and the ideas of religious radicals won’t make much sense to most people. On the other hand, the economic dynamism created by the explosive growth of the Indian economy (assuming of course that the trend toward double-digit GDP growth continues) will offer the Arab world (and Pakistan) new opportunities for rapid economic development of their own. At the same time, the growing diplomatic and political influence that a rising India will have in the region will add new weight to American efforts to help the region move toward peace and reconciliation. In this kind of world, Islamic radicalism can’t deliver and its basic assumptions look shallow and unconvincing.

Israel Matzav: The Islamists' worst nightmare

Israel Matzav: Iran buying uranium from Zimbabwe

Iran buying uranium from Zimbabwe

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad traveled to Zimbabwe last week, and apparently concluded a deal with that country's thuggish President, Robert Mugabe, under which Iran would trade oil for something it wants even more. Uranium.

This isn't all bad news, reports Ryan Mauro at Pajamas Media. The fact that Iran is seeking to buy uranium from Zimbabwe shows that it is short on uncontaminated uranium, and gives credibility to claims that it may be another year before an unimpeded Iran is able to develop nuclear weapons. Mauro reviews some of the efforts Iran has undertaken to obtain uranium, and its continuing problems with nuclear scientists being killed or defecting, and observes that it is apparent that Iran is having problems with enriching enough uranium to make an atomic weapon. Most intriguing, he posits some of the efforts that have been undertaken to sabotage Iran's nuclear program:

There are other reasons that the Iranian nuclear program has slowed down besides the need for more uranium. The use of the black market to provide the Iranians with faulty equipment is only the beginning of the covert efforts. Israel’s Mossad is suspected of being behind the deaths of numerous nuclear scientists. Israel has also used cyber warfare, possibly including the insertion of viruses into computer systems or even remotely causing explosions. When Iran executed a man it believe acted as an Israeli spy in providing them communications equipment that had been tampered with, it said he had “led to the defeat of the project with irreversible damage.”

Read the whole thing.

I doubt that all the ways that Israel has sabotaged the Iran nuclear program will ever come out. In fact, I hope they don't.

Israel Matzav: Iran buying uranium from Zimbabwe

Israel Matzav: El Al takes care of its own

El Al takes care of its own

Were you stranded in Europe by the volcano eruption last week? If you were and you had been trying to get to Israel, you could have gotten here from just about any point in Europe. How? El Al, Israel's national carrier, took all those planes that normally would have been flying to destinations all over Europe and sent them to the few European airports that were still open: Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Munich. Why? Because they wanted to enable as many Israelis as possible to get home for Independence Day last Tuesday. One of those who made it home was Noam Bedein, the director of the Sderot Media Center. He wrote about his experience for YNet.

I was left stranded in Holland, but after hearing that El Al had promised to send more Israeli jets to Europe to collect stranded Israelis, I found myself traveling to Rome, halfway across the European continent by train.

After 27 hours of a nerve-racking trip, I remained doggedly determined to join the rest of the people of Israel in celebration of Israel Independence Day. I finally arrived at Terminal 5 in Rome at 23:30.

Much to my amazement, I found a nearly empty terminal, deserted of passengers, aircrafts, and airline employees. Only one ticket counter had a long line of people and that was of course El Al. Exhausted Israelis from all corners of Europe had arrived to board the jumbo plane decked with Israeli flags. El Al specifically sent the plane to gather Israeli travelers and bring them back home to celebrate Independence Day with their families. It was a sort of in gathering of the exiles sponsored and facilitated by El Al.

El Al, Israel's largest airline, privatized in 2003, serves as the national airline of Israel. It was one of the first if not the only airline that was able to adjust to a state of emergency in less than 24 hours when airports across Europe were forced to shut down.

It is amazing how every time there is a national disaster or international crisis, Israel, somehow, is always among the first countries to act and lend a hand. As such a tiny country, which since its establishment has existed under constant terror and threat, Israel is constantly in a state of preparedness as well.


El Al sent 15 additional jets to transport 20,000 Israelis stuck across Europe in places including Munich, Madrid, Barcelona and Rome. El Al also ensured that the same ticket could be used regardless of the country from which travelers were scheduled to fly from in Europe, even if the flight from that particular country had been cancelled to Israel.

In addition, the El-Al crews did an amazing job, working over 20 hours non-stop to provide the best quality of services in this time of emergency.

The flight from Rome to Tel Aviv on April 20, 2010, was the best way to begin celebrating 62 years to the state of Israel. During the soft landing in Ben Gurion Airport at 7 am, I felt that there was something Biblical in the operation, something like "the wings of eagles."

Passengers on other airlines are still stranded across Europe and elsewhere. When the airports re-opened, the other airlines decided that if you had a ticket for today, you flew today, but if you had a ticket for a week ago, you either waited until a seat at the same fare opened up or you bought a new ticket (and hoped you could get some money back for the old one). Not El Al.

Now, if only they'd do something to improve their frequent flier program....

Israel Matzav: El Al takes care of its own

Israel Matzav: Israel to renege on commitment to demolish 'outposts'

Israel to renege on commitment to demolish 'outposts'

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. With the Obama administration disavowing a 2004 letter from George W. Bush that promised that Israel would be able to retain 'settlement blocs,' reports the Jerusalem Post, the Netanyahu government has decided that it is not bound by one of the commitments that Ariel Sharon undertook in return for that letter: A commitment to dismantle 23-26 'illegal outposts' that were built after March 2001. Instead, each 'outpost' will be evaluated individually, and if it was built on state land (as opposed to land privately owned by 'Palestinians') it will apparently be allowed to stay.

In part, this is because the promise to dismantle the outposts was made in the framework of wider understandings with the Bush administration that provided for continued home-building at settlements Israel is likely to retain under a permanent accord with the Palestinians. Since, under the Obama administration, those wider understandings gave way to a demand, accepted by Netanyahu in November, for a moratorium on all new home-building throughout the settlements, the Post was told by one senior official, Israel no longer regards itself as having to go through with the outpost demolitions on the basis of that pledge to the US.

The official’s comments confirm a remark made to the Post during an Independence Day interview with Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Ya’alon recalled that Netanyahu, soon after becoming prime minister, reiterated the promise previously made by prime ministers Sharon and Olmert to demolish the 23 hilltop communities, which are peppered all over the West Bank.

"He [Netanyahu] said we accept our commitment regarding dismantling 23 outposts that were defined by the Sharon government as illegal,” said Ya’alon.

But that changed, Ya’alon said, after a dispute broke out with the Obama administration regarding the significance and validity of Sharon’s understandings with the Bush administration about settlement growth.

“He [Netanyahu] accepted that [commitment to demolish the outposts], until it became clear that the US administration does not accept the commitments of the previous administrations.”


Likud Minister Yuli Edelstein added on Tuesday that the issue of which – if any – outposts would be razed would now be determined on the basis of the legal status of the land in each specific case, and the completion of all the necessary legal procedures, not on the basis of Israel’s pledge to the US.

Added Edelstein, the minister of information and Diaspora affairs: “There were all kinds of understandings that the other side [the US] no longer views as valuable. As a result we do not have to blindly fulfill everything. There are legal procedures in this country and we have to follow them.”

A third government official explained that Israel had three choices regarding the outposts: dismantle them right away, legalize them retroactively, or, when challenged by left-wing groups over the issue in petitions to the High Court of Justice, “buy time” by taking steps to assess their status. It is that third course that the state has been following when challenged in the courts, the official said.

The 23 outposts were all established during the Sharon prime ministership – hence his willingness, in discussions with the US, to offer the pledge to take them down. Only the status of the largest of the 23, Migron [pictured above. CiJ], home to 46 families in the Binyamin region, has been determined; because it is built on private Palestinian land, it is to be relocated to the nearby Adam settlement.

The status of some of the 80 other outposts, which were set up in the 1990s, is being challenged in the courts by left-wing groups as well.

I can't wait to hear what the State Department has to say about this. Well, you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you won't honor your commitments to us, we won't honor ours to you.

Now, if only the government takes the same tack regarding its commitments to the 'Palestinians.'

Israel Matzav: Israel to renege on commitment to demolish 'outposts'

Israel Matzav: Nir Barkat blasts Obama

Nir Barkat blasts Obama

This is a small country. If in the rest of the World they say that there are no more than six degrees of separation, in Israel there are no more than two. And so, it's inevitable that there are several people in my social circle who know Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, even though I don't know him personally. I have managed to miss at least two visits to my sons' school by him this year.

The longtime client/friend who knows him best served with Nir in the IDF and raves about him. According to my friend, Nir is scrupulously honest (a major problem with Israeli politicians these days, as you may have heard), loyal to his friends and to the men who served under him in the paratroopers, and a successful venture capitalist to boot (unfortunately, not a client of mine). Although Nir was elected Mayor under Kadima's aegis, he was up front from the start about where he stood on Jerusalem, and his positions about the goings-on in the city have been far closer to Prime Minister Netanyahu's than to those of Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. Therefore, it's not surprising to hear that Mr. Barkat has gone to Washington and has blasted the Obama administration from Capitol Hill.

Barkat's talking points, an aide told POLITICO: The U.S. would not ask certain religions or races to stop building in a city, so it should not demand the same of Israelis in East Jerusalem.

The Obama administration's demands that Israel halt construction in East Jerusalem as a precondition for negotiations, is “setting an obstacle for peace,” the aide said.

Stephan Miller, a spokesman to the mayor, said asking for a freeze is “an illegal demand in the United States, and illegal in the state of Israel” and “Jerusalem will continue to expand and grow for the benefit of all residents equally.”

Perhaps a starker preview of his message to Capitol Hill lawmakers came on Fox News Monday, when Neil Cavuto asked if the Obama administration was anti-Israel.

"I dont know," he said. "I dont know, we have yet to see. I will tell you in the next few months, in the next few years."


Israel Matzav: Nir Barkat blasts Obama
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