2 missing Israelis found dead in New Zealand
By JPOST.COM STAFF AND REUTERS
Bodies of Ofer Levy and Gabi Ingel identified by local search and rescue crews in aftermath of Christchurch earthquake; death toll now at 154.
US weighs hit-and-run raids to disable Qaddafi's air capability
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 28, 2011, 10:52 PM (GMT+02:00)
The bodies of Ofer Levy and Gabi Ingel, missing since last week following the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, were found early on Tuesday morning and identified by local search and rescue crews.
The Foreign Ministry notified the families of the two 22-year-old backpackers from Rehovot that their loved ones had been found dead.
Netanyahu meets with parents of missing Israelis in NZ
Gallery: Rescuers try to save New Zealand quake victims
Earlier this week, local police identified the body of another Israeli killed in the Christchurch earthquake, Ofer Mizrahi.
Two more Israelis, known to be in New Zealand at the time of the earthquake, have not made contact with their families.
The death toll from last Tuesday's 6.3 magnitude quake is 154, but authorities expect it to rise to near 240.
The first funeral of a victim, a five month old infant boy, took place on Monday. Only eight bodies have been released because of the need to accurately identify the dead.
Rescuers said hope of finding survivors was running out.
"Realistically, it would be a miracle," said fire rescue chief Jim Stuart Black.
Aftershocks of up to magnitude 4.3 were rattling the area and forced more people from their homes in hillside and seaside suburbs as fears grew that a large number of houses and car-sized boulders would tumble onto houses below.
No survivors have been found since mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
The US is repositioning its naval and air forces around Libya, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan stated Monday, Feb. 28, indicating possible military steps to break the standoff between Muammar Qaddafi's army and rebel forces in the fighting for control of the towns commanding the roads to the capital Tripoli where Qaddafi is barricaded. The reported rebel capture of the key towns of Misrata and Zawiya is technically correct. In fact, they are both surrounded by Libyan troops who control their road links with Tripoli. In Misrata, the army has a valuable edge over opposition forces in its control of the local airfield.
The Pentagon spokesman's indeed remarked that there are "various contingency plans" for the North African country where Muammar Qaddafi's forces and rebels in the east "remain locked in a tense standoff."
Most military observers interpreted his remark as referring to potential US military intervention in Libya to break the stalemate. It was strengthened by the imminent redeployment off the Libyan coast of USS Enterprise from the Red Sea and the amphibious USS Kearsarge, which has a fleet of helicopters and about 1,800 Marines aboard.
This US naval movement appeared to be running ahead of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier Monday said "nothing is off the table" but added "there is no pending naval action planned against Libya."
debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that the presence of the two US warships opposite Libya gives Washington and its allies a flexible option for military intervention should Qaddafi be seen to prevail over the opposition or if the standoff lingers too long. Among the 1,800 marines aboard the Kearsarge are units especially trained for guerrilla or covert raids behind enemy lines. They would have air cover from the Enterprise to protect them from Libyan air and helicopter strikes. They primary mission would be to disable the Libyan air force and put its air fields out of commission. The rebels would not then be stalled by the Libyan ruler's ability to bring in fresh troops and drop them at any point and give them a better chance of carrying the day.
The other "contingency plan" in discussion between Washington and European allies is creating a no-fly zone to protect the people from air assault. The American UN Ambassador Susan Rice said later that Washington is discussing militlary options with its allies but a determination is premature.
On the sanctions front, the US government Monday blocked a record $30 billion in Libyan assets, the largest amount ever frozen, in line with the Obama administration's decision to impose unilateral and multilateral sanctions on Qaddafi.
USS Kearsarge to be "repositioned" off Libya
Americans: End aid to Arabs, but keep backing Israel
A telephone poll of Americans last week by the Rasmussen Reports polling agency found that a firm majority want to end all US foreign aid to the Middle East, except for the aid that goes to Israel, which they believe should continue.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said the US should stop all financial and military aid to the Arab states. This comes at a time when many Arab countries, in particular Egypt, appear to be transitioning to democratic rule.
However, many Americans feel that the wave of revolutions sweeping the region is another indication that there is no guarantee that US aid given today to a trusted leader won’t be misused tomorrow by his hostile successor.
Only 20 percent of those polled said that aid to the Arab countries should continue.
At the same time, 51 percent of Americans want US economic and military aid to Israel to continue. Thirty-two percent said the US should no longer aid Israel financially.
The numbers against aid to the Arabs and in favor of continued aid to Israel were even larger among Republicans. Seventy-six percent of GOP voters believe aid to the Arab states should cease, while 61 percent want aid to Israel to continue.
A plurality, though not a majority, of Democrats (48 percent) said aid to the Arabs should stop, and just 46 percent of Democrats wanted to keep backing Israel.
Last month, a group of Israeli experts concluded that it wouldn’t be a bad thing for the US to stop providing Israel with economic and military aid. In addition to giving the White House too much diplomatic leverage over Israel when it comes to the peace process, US financial aid is actually costing Israel.
Yarden Gazit of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies noted that the bulk of the US aid to Israel is for defense purposes, and that according to the stipulations of that aid, Israel must spend 75 percent of the money on US-made weapons and defense systems.
The American aid is also part of a bundle that includes military aid to Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, countries over which Israel must maintain a qualitative military edge. So, the US provides Israel with the funds to keep its military on top, but at the same time constantly upgrades the surrounding Arab armies to make sure Israel must continuously buy new American weapons.
Gazit explained that the $3 billion from the US is not enough to cover that expense. For example, “every dollar granted to Egypt requires Israel to spend between 1.6 and 2.1 dollars to maintain the balance of power. As a result, every dollar granted to Israel costs Israel between 1.06 and 1.39 dollars.”
By forcing Israel to buy most of its military equipment in the US, Washington is also saddling the Israeli defense industry with an annual loss of $750 million. And because Israel doesn’t buy the systems made by its own defense industry, that hurts the ability of those Israeli contractors to sell their wares abroad.
Mideast Panel: Is Israel Becoming More Isolated?
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told CBN News why he believes Israelis are more on edge than ever before.
"My fear is that the United States policy on Israel has so dramatically shifted," Huckabee said. "This is a policy that is inexplicable, very dangerous, very naïve and it has the Israelis quite unnerved."
"I've been going there since 1973 and I've never seen the mood quite like it is," he said. "They feel that thanks to the Obama administration, they are completely on their own."
Is Israel becoming more isolated in the world? CBN News' roundtable of experts - including Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell, Senior Reporter John Waage, and Middle East Expert Dr. David Meyer - discuss the threats posed to Israel in light of recent unrest in the Middle East, on CBN News Channel Midday News, Feb. 28.
Americans: War is Coming, Cut Off Aid to Arabs
by Gil Ronen
Most Americans think that the political upheaval spreading throughout the Arab world may wind up drawing the United States into a new large-scale war, a Rasmussen Reports poll found. The poll also found most Americans favor cutting off aid to Arab countries.
A new national telephone survey found that 58% of American adults believe the unrest in the Middle East will lead to a major war involving the US, with 26% saying it is "very likely."
Thirty-one percent see such a scenario as "unlikely," but that number includes only four percent who say it is "not at all likely."
Seventy-seven percent of Americans are "concerned that radical Islamic terrorists may try to exploit the unrest in these countries to further their violent aims," versus 18% who do not share that concern, Rasmussen Reports said. These numbers include 53% who are "very concerned" and only 4% who are "not at all concerned."
Just 29% of adults believe a change of government in any of the Arab countries undergoing upheavals will be good for the United States. However, the poll also shows that 67% of Americans say the US should "stay out of the situation over there."
Sixty percent of Americans think it is "more important for the United States to be allies with any country that best protects our own national security than it is to be allies only with countries that have freely elected governments." But 76% of voters also feel it’s "generally good for America" when dictators in other countries are replaced with leaders who are elected in free and fair elections.
'Stop aid to Arabs'
Rasmussen Reports also found that most Americans want to end US aid to all Arab nations in the Middle East. Just over half favor continuing aid to Israel, however.
Only 20% of American adults think the US should continue providing foreign aid to Arab countries in the Middle East, while 58% say that aid should come to an end. Twenty-one percent are not sure.
Fifty-one percent of Americans, on the other hand, favor continued foreign aid to Israel. One-in-three adults (32%) oppose further aid for Israel, and 17% are undecided.
"New Republican Senator Rand Paul has called for an end to all foreign aid, including the $3 billion the United States gives annually to Israel, as part of a package of deep spending cuts he is proposing," the polling firm explained. "But given Israel’s strong bipartisan support in Congress, Paul’s proposal isn’t likely to gain ground. Egypt has been receiving slightly less than $2 billion in aid annually, with several other Arab countries in the region getting a smattering of millions."
Seventy-six percent of Republicans believe America should end all foreign aid to Arab countries in the Middle East, as does a plurality (48%) of Democrats and 50% of adults not affiliated with either major party.
Similarly, 61% of Republicans support a continuation of foreign aid to Israel. But Democrats and unaffiliateds agree by a much narrower 46% to 34% margin
Rasmussen's analysis explained that "Americans have consistently said in surveys for years that Israel is one of the top U.S. allies. The Jewish state is also one of only five countries worldwide that most Americans think the United States should help defend militarily if it is attacked."
"By contrast, just 40% of Americans regard Egypt as an ally of the United States, and it’s by far the Arab country that Americans have the highest opinion of."
PM rebuffs faction’s calls to build new settlements
By TOVAH LAZAROFF AND REBECCA ANN STOIL
"We are currently in a very difficult international situation," Netanyahu tells Likud members in response to settler complaints
Governmental efforts in Judea and Samaria must go toward maintaining settlement building currently taking place rather than new tenders, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Likud parliamentarians during Monday’s faction meeting.
He spoke in response to complaints by settler leaders that the larger West Bank Jewish communities had used up their permits and, as such, no new building can be undertaken.
Settlers arrested, injured in violent clash in Gilad Farm
In recent weeks a number of high-level ministers have made statements calling for new construction in settlements such as Beitar Illit, Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Efrat.
“I am the prime minister and I have responsibility for the country. We could beat our heads against the wall, but I don’t act like that,” Netanyahu said.
“There is building in Judea and Samaria,” he went on. “It is true that in some places there are no tenders, and that is being looked-into. We are currently investing efforts in maintaining existing building.
We are currently in a very difficult international situation, and the American veto in the Security Council was only achieved with great effort. We could ignore everything and say ‘no problem,’ but as a prime minister who is responsible for this country I have general responsibility.”
Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said that former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir would not have responded that way.
“At a time when Israel must show its continued resolve against Palestinian blackmail, where the Palestinians continuously refuse to come to the negotiating table unless Israel gives in to their demands, the prime minister seems to be playing directly into their hands with statements like these,” Dayan said. “We are therefore deeply concerned that the government will once again succumb to the pressures of the international community led by the Obama administration, and try to again freeze our families’ natural rights to build and grow.”
Naftali Bennett, the council’s director general, said “It is about time we realized that by making continuous unwarranted concessions to the international community, we do not gain sympathy and respect, but rather its scorn and contempt.”