Archive for April, 2009

SWI NEWS: 30 Nissan 5769, Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
'World leaders must drop 'land for peace' slogans, stop Iran' The international community has to "stop speaking in slogans" if it really wants to help the new Israeli government work toward a solution to the Palestinian conflict and help bring stability to the Middle East, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, in his first interview with an Israeli newspaper since taking the job.
Foreign Minister Avigdor...
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomes US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region  |  World
"Over the last two weeks I've had many conversations with my colleagues around the world," he said. "Just today, I saw the political adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Chinese foreign minister and the Czech prime minister. And everybody, you know, speaks with you like you're in a campaign: Occupation, settlements, settlers..." Slogans like these, and others Lieberman cited, such as "land for peace" and "two-state solution," were both overly simplistic and ignored the root causes of the ongoing conflict, he said. The fact was, said the Israel Beiteinu leader, that the Palestinian issue was "deadlocked" despite the best efforts of a series of dovish Israeli governments. "Israel has proved its good intentions, our desire for peace," he said. The path forward, he said, lay in ensuring security for Israel, an improved economy for the Palestinians, and stability for both. "Economy, security, stability," he repeated. "It's impossible to artificially impose any political solution. It will fail, for sure. You cannot start any peace process from nothing. You must create the right situation, the right focus, the right conditions." He said the government would be completing its thorough foreign policy review in the next two weeks, and that it would be made public for the first time at the scheduled May 18 White House talks between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The foreign minister spoke as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Israel on Thursday that it risks losing Arab support for combating threats from Iran if it rejects peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Clinton said Arab nations had conditioned helping Israel counter Iran on Jerusalem's commitment to the peace process. In the course of his wide-ranging interview, which will appear in full in Tuesday's Jerusalem Post Independence Day supplement, Lieberman insistently refused to rule in, or rule out, Palestinian statehood alongside Israel as the essence of a permanent accord, but emphatically endorsed Netanyahu's declared desire not to rule over a single Palestinian. Equally emphatically, he said no peace proposal that so much as entertained the notion of a "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees could serve as a basis for negotiation. "It cannot be on the table. I'm not ready to even discuss the 'right of return' of even one refugee," he said. But he also made clear that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was not a precondition for progress. "You know, we don't want to torpedo the process," he said. "But somebody who really wants a solution, somebody who really desires a real peace and a real agreement, must realize that this would be impossible to achieve without recognizing Israel as a Jewish state." Lieberman said the new government would have no dealings with Hamas, which needed to be "suffocated," and that the international community also had to maintain the long-standing Quartet preconditions for dealing with the Islamist group. The real reason for the deadlock with the Palestinians, said Lieberman, "is not occupation, not settlements and not settlers. This conflict is really a very deep conflict. It started like other national conflicts. today it's a more religious conflict. Today you have the influence of some nonrational players, like al-Qaida." And the biggest obstacle to any comprehensive solution, he said, "is not Israel. It is not the Palestinians. It's the Iranians." Lieberman said the prime responsibility for thwarting Iran's march to a nuclear capability lay with the international community, not Israel, and especially the five permanent members of the Security Council. He was confident that stringent economic sanctions could yet achieve the desired result, and said he did not even "want to think about the consequences of a crazy nuclear arms race in the region." He said it would be "impossible to resolve any problem in our region without resolving the Iranian problem." This, he said, related to Lebanon, Syria and problems with Islamic extremist terror in Egypt, the Gaza Strip and Iraq. Nonetheless, Lieberman stressed that Israel did not regard stopping Iran as a precondition for Israeli efforts to make progress with the Palestinians. Quite the reverse, he said. "No, we must start with the Palestinian issues because it's our interest to resolve this problem. But there should be no illusions. To achieve an agreement, to achieve an end of conflict, with no more bloodshed, no more terror, no more claims - that's impossible until Iran ." Noting what he called Syria's deepening ties with Iran, Lieberman said he saw no point whatsoever in resuming the indirect talks with Damascus conducted by the last government. "We don't see any good will from the Syrian side," he said. "Only the threats, like 'If you're not ready to talk, we'll retake the Golan by military action...'" Asked whether it troubled him to be perceived as an extremist in some circles, including overseas, Lieberman laughed and said, "So it's easy for me to surprise them." He said he believed his international colleagues "respect me, and that they understand that I say what I mean, and I mean every word that I say." As to whether his legal problems - he is under police investigation for alleged corruption - or other factors might lead to his ouster from the job, he said he believed this coalition would serve its full term, and that he would serve the full term as foreign minister.
Connect Gaza and West Bank now US presidential envoy George Mitchell is touring the region searching for signs of progress to report back to his boss and to move the peace process forward.
Palestinian children hold...
Palestinian children hold candles during a demonstration in Gaza City last week. Photo: AP
President Barack Obama and his aides have repeated over and over his support for the two-state solution, while the new Israeli government has refused to publicly support the Annapolis process and can't bring itself to use the three words: two-state solution. Obama also wants some quick confidence-building measures. One practical, short-term measure could be carried out quickly by the Israeli Defense Ministry without requiring any immediate political concessions. As Mitchell sets up his new office in Jerusalem with Keith Dayton as his security deputy and David Halle as his deputy for the peace talks, opening up the movement of goods and people from Gaza to the West Bank and back is something doable. The traditional US diplomatic approach has been to impress on the process part of the "peace process." On the other hand, the often repeated Arab position is that the US can press Israel to amend its policies, either through cutting off aid or cutting off political protection (in other words abstaining rather than vetoing in the Security Council) or both. Obama's impressive signals since day one in office (calling Arab leaders before European allies, appointing Mitchell and speaking on Al Arabiya TV) reflect a different approach than what has traditionally come out of Washington. In the last 30 years, US administrations have usually become deeply interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the last year of a two-term administration. So the process-only approach doesn't appear to be the thinking of the Obama administration. On the other hand, it is not clear whether Washington has the stomach for a major confrontation with the new Israeli government. While leaks coming out of the White House say that the administration is preparing for such a possibility, few observers believe that this will be how things will in fact turn out. ALTHOUGH THE main issue of difference at present is over the shape of any final outcome (two state or not), the more likely point of friction will most likely be issues that are taking place on the ground. A study of the Mitchell report (which was produced during the greatly pro-Israel Bush administration) points to settlements as the next point of confrontation. On this issue Mitchell and the US administration have been very clear even though they have not been effective. A freeze of all settlement activity which includes expansion and natural growth will certainly be the center of the focus for Mitchell and his team on the ground. Jerusalem is another on-the-ground issue that will be the litmus test of the seriousness of the Obama administration. The repeated house demolitions and provocations in east Jerusalem point to the need to confront this issue very early on. While clarity on the two-state solution would be welcomed by Palestinians, and while a true settlement freeze will send a powerful signal, the one major need for Palestinians today is somewhere else. The separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is possibly the single biggest danger confronting the long-term Palestinian national aspiration. Mitchell has repeated what president George W. Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had said, namely that a contiguous Palestinian state is in the national interest of the United States. In this respect it is imperative that peoples in both sectors of the Palestinian territories be able to travel freely, albeit with the needed security measures. Irrespective of the outcome of the internal Palestinian dialogue taking place in Cairo, Gaza and the West Bank must be reconnected. There is no excuse why Palestinians living in either part of Palestine should be barred from traveling to the other part of the occupied Palestinian territories. Despite claims by Israelis that barring the movement of people and goods from both parts of the occupied Palestinian territories is done for security reasons, the real reasons are clearly political and strategic. Under the leadership of General Dayton, the most robust security checks can be made, but there is absolutely no excuse to bar Palestinians from moving from the West Bank to Gaza and the other way around. Palestinians have high expectations from Obama and Mitchell. Connecting Gaza and the West Bank is doable and doesn't require Binyamin Netanyahu or Avigdor Lieberman to declare their support or rejection of the two-state solution. Such a connection could be the single most powerful message of hope that can be delivered in the next weeks or months. If not carried out, it is highly doubtful that a lasting peace agreement can be reached in the near or distant future. The writer is general manager of Community Media Network Radio Al Balad.

Israel shocked by Obama's approval of large Turkish arms sale to Lebanon

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

April 22, 2009, 10:49 PM (GMT+02:00)

Turkish commandoes will train Lebanese troops

Turkish commandoes will train Lebanese troops

DEBKAfile quotes senior Israeli military circles as staggered by the discovery that US president Barack Obama had approved a large Turkish arms sale to the Lebanese army, including the services of Turkish military instructors. This was taken as further proof that the US president is deaf to Israel's immediate security concerns. Lebanese president Gen. Michel Suleiman has more than once threatened neighboring Israel. When he signed the arms deal in Ankara Tuesday, April 21, he once again pledged publicly to place the Lebanese army at the disposal of the Shiite terrorist Hizballah in any confrontation with Israel.

If that happened, said one Israeli source, Israel could find itself under attack not just by Hizballah as in the past, but by a Lebanese army, well trained and armed by Turkey. He noted that more than 50 percent of Lebanon's fighting manpower are Shiites loyal to Hizballah.

The conviction is growing in Jerusalem that the US president endorsed the transaction as a means of breaking up the long-standing military pact between Israel and Turkey, because it interferes with his Middle East objectives. Our sources note that neither Washington nor Ankara bothered to inform Israel of the transaction or its scope.

After meeting Turkish president Abdullah Gul, Suleiman at the head of a large Lebanese military delegation signed the contracts for the sale and declared with deep satisfaction: "We reviewed the new policies towards the region in the light of President Obama's recent visit to Turkey."

Saudi plan is death trap for Israel, warns Lieberman
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in remarks carried by the Israeli media on Wednesday that the US-backed Saudi peace initiative is a death trap for the Jewish state. Introduced in 2001, the Saudi initiative envisions a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the whole of the Arab Middle East, based on a full Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders. The plan is vague, but generally defers to the Palestinians on the demand that so-called Arab "refugees" be allowed to flood the Jewish state. Earlier this week, US President Barack Obama stated that he sees the Saudi initiative as the basis for making peace between Israel and its neighbors, and indicated that it will be part of his government's foreign policy. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has also come out in favor of launching regional negotiations based on the Saudi plan, though with some reservations. Barak and Lieberman have engaged in a heated debate over the issue, thus holding up the publication of an official peace process policy by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel marks Holocaust, warns new 'Hitler' has arrived
Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a two-minute siren blast Tuesday morning that brought the entire nation to a standstill. A malfunction in Tel Aviv caused the sirens there to last an additional four minutes. The sirens were followed by a day of solemn memorial ceremonies for the six million who perished in Nazi Germany's effort to exterminate the Jewish people. This year's Holocaust Remembrance Day focused on the 1.5 million Jewish children who died in Nazi death camps. In a letter to lawmakers around the world, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin cautioned that with the rise of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the world was again being subjected to the kind of rhetoric, propaganda and beliefs that led to the Nazi Holocaust. "Yesterday the world witnessed the return of Adolf Hitler," read Rivlin's letter, referring to Ahmadinejad's keynote address to the UN Human Rights Council anti-racism conference in Geneva, where he labeled Israel the source of all racism and violence in the world. Rivlin went on to warn that Ahmadinejad, who is seeking nuclear weapons, may be directing most of his threats at Israel presently, but eventually, like Hitler, he will threaten the entire world.
Hamas threatens to abduct more Israeli soldiers
Damascus-based overall Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Monday said his group would abduct additional Israeli soldiers to be used as bargaining chips to secure the release of all Palestinian terrorists being held in Israeli prisons. Hamas expects new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renege on the previous government's willingness to free over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists, including those who had directly murdered Israelis, in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Though former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had eventually agreed to nearly all of Hamas' prisoner swap demands, the terror group still refused to finalize a deal.

Arab Plan: 'A Recipe for Israel's Destruction'
April 22, 2009 - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman disagrees with U.S. President Barack Obama's assessment that the Arab peace plan is a "very constructive start." "We have gone out of our way to compliment the efforts of those Arab states that were involved in formulating the Arab peace initiative as a very constructive start," Obama said after a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah.
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The Arab peace initiative, first presented in 2002 by Saudi Arabia, calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in all territory that came under Israeli sovereignty in the 1967 Six Day War and the return of so-called Palestinian refugees, who left during the 1948 War of Independence, in exchange for "normalized" relations with surrounding Arab countries. "This is a dangerous plan, a recipe for Israel's destruction," Lieberman told Foreign Ministry officials Tuesday night, according to Army Radio. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, on the other hand, expressed his support for a "regional solution" to the situation. "An Israeli plan for a regional solution is a central axis of Israel's policy in the coming years and a key to ensuring Israel's future in the region," Barak said. "Israel must cooperate with the U.S. in formulating the details of the solution, which will also ensure Israel's security interests...and Israel's Jewish character, without allowing a right of return," he said. Meanwhile, Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman arrives in Israel Wednesday, his first visit since the installation of the new government. Suleiman will meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and possibly with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman ruffled the feathers of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit last month when he criticized President Hosni Mubarak for not visiting Israel in an official capacity in the past three decades. In his comments, Lieberman used the Hebrew equivalent of saying Mubarak could "get lost," which the media translated as "go to hell." Aboul-Gheit said he would not meet with Lieberman until he issued an official apology for his remarks. Topping today's agenda with Suleiman are negotiations with Hamas for the release of IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Cpl. Gilad Shalit. An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said the meetings are intended to ease the tension between Egypt and Israel. Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news

SWI NEWS: 28 Nissan 5769, Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

'Wiesel, you Zionazi!!'

Shocking footage: Ynet presents video of Iranian official verbally assaulting Elie Wiesel on eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day; member of Iran's official delegation to Geneva anti-racism forum seen screaming 'Zionazi' at Shoah survivor, Nobel laureate   Iranian disgrace in Geneva: A member of Iran's official delegation to the UN's anti-racism conference verbally assaulted Shoah survivor and Nobel Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel in Geneva, referring to him as a "Zionazi." The incident was captured on film by Sergio Wider of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The video features the Iranian official repeatedly screaming at Wiesel, who chose to remain silent and ignore the reprehensible comments.
Video: Sergio Wider, Simon Wiesenthal Center
In a conversation with Ynet, Wider said that while he was not surprised by such venomous display on the part of the Iranian delegation, the timing of the assault left those who witnessed it stunned. "We were shocked to see this assault on a Shoah survivor on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance day, and ironically also on Hitler's 120th birthday," he said. "The Iranian president's sympathizers yelled 'Zionazi' at Wiesel, who was quite speechless following the incident," Wider said. "Nobody believed it happened, especially as Wiesel is one of the most well-known Shoah survivors and is greatly appreciated for his humanitarian work."
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who was also part of the Wiesenthal Center's delegation to Geneva, said Wiesel did not respond to the verbal assault, but was deeply affected by it, as was obvious by the speech he delivered later on. "I watched many of his speeches and I never heard him speak like this…he may be a Nobel Prize laureate, but he's still a Holocaust survivor, and coming to the UN on Holocaust Remembrance Day and going through this kind of experience was almost too much for him."

Israeli army chief Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi participating in a Holocaust memorial ceremony at Auschwitz. (IDF)

Israelis Remember the Holocaust - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israelis throughout the country stood in silence at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday as the siren sounded in memory of the six million Jews who perished at the hands of Germany's Third Reich, led by Adolph Hitler. Traffic came to a standstill. People stood next to their vehicles, heads bowed. Many contemplated the immensity of what had taken place when whole communities of European Jews were rounded up, loaded on cattle cars and shipped off to death camps, where some were shot to death, others gassed and tens of thousands perish from starvation and cold.
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At Jerusalem's Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial, the day's ceremonies began as the two-minute air raid siren wound down. Among the dignitaries at Yad VaShem were the president, prime minister, Knesset speaker, IDF (Israel Defense Forces) chief of staff, and the Supreme Court president. Following the wreath-laying ceremonies, Israeli citizens read out the names of the victims, a tradition arising from the "Unto Every Person There is a Name" project, which has sought to document the names of every person who perished. At the Knesset, the names of victims were also read out, a tradition now in its 20th year. The theme of this year's memorial is the 1.5 million children who died at the hands of their Nazi captors. At last night's opening ceremonies, broadcast live on radio and television, the six memorial torches, each representing 1 million Jews, were ignited by Israelis who survived the Holocaust as children. Each one, including twin sisters, shared his or her story briefly. Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post
Will top Israeli officials face Norwegian charges?

Norway lawyers to charge Olmert with war crimes

Attorneys seek to charge top officials, accuse Israel of 'massive terror attacks' in Gaza  
Welcomed by Switzerland - Ahmadinejad

The neutrality of evil

Hanoch Daum writes open letter to Swiss president in wake of meeting with Ahmadinejad   Greetings to the president of Switzerland:On this important day, we wanted to thank you, all of us, for bothering to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, and for choosing to share in our sorrow on this difficult day. Your countrymen were generous people during the war, and they are also generous today. During the Holocaust, very few Jews managed to escape from Switzerland. In principle, you agreed to take in almost no refugee (being a neutral country and all,) and almost everyone who managed to get in was transferred to detention camps. With your generosity, and with your famous neutrality, you stood at border crossings and attempted to capture anyone who arrived there, an act that constituted a death sentence. There were also children who made it to your country, mostly from France. You were so nice to them that you put them in camps. You did not integrate them and you did not take care of them, but rather, you closed them off at camps, as if they haven't had enough of that. Another facet of your kind character, Mr. President, manifested itself through the fact that Hitler's Mein Kampf was a popular book in your country at the time, often offered as a wedding gift (if I'm not mistaken, the book on display at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum is from Switzerland.) You were so charming and neutral that assets from the Reich - Jewish assets of course, worth plenty of money - were deposited at your banks. Some of it, including securities and Judaica, are there to this very day. You are certainly adorable and peace-loving people, Mr. President. For that reason, we were not surprised by the lovely gesture you organized for us Monday. The oh-so-creative idea to invite Iranian President Ahmadinejad to your country and grant him such respectable platform on Holocaust Memorial Day, in order to prove to the world that anti-Semitism has been eliminated, is a wonderful and original idea It was truly wonderful to see how, using a clever ploy, you tempted this hateful person to come to Switzerland, just so you can tell the world in a clear voice: "A Holocaust can happen again and there are some people who have not yet given up on the idea of exterminating the people of Israel. There are still states that deny history." Yet what we failed to understand, Mr. President, is where this practical joke ends. That is, we saw your special meeting with that short and dangerous man, and we saw that Swiss representatives did not walk out when he spoke at the UN conference, and we wondered: When do you in fact intend to tell Iran's president that he is not really a respected guest in your country? When do you plan to tell him that he is part of a sophisticated public relations conspiracy that aimed to expose his real face to the world? Please keep us updated on this matter, so that we don't miss out on the happy ending.

Iran could produce first nuke in 60 days with 7,000 centrifuges working 24/7 – Western experts

DEBKAfile Special Report

April 21, 2009, 12:17 PM (GMT+02:00)

Iranian uranium enrichment leaps ahead

Iranian uranium enrichment leaps ahead

DEBKAfile's military sources cite some Western intelligence and nuclear weapons experts as predicting that Iran could turn out nuclear weapons some time in the next 12 months.

This estimate is based on Tehran's announcement that 7,000 centrifuges are in operation to enrich uranium. If all those machines were to work at top speed day and night, seven days a week, they could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a bomb in 60 days, say some intelligence sources. According to American experts, given the current rate of the program's development, Iran will be in a position to manufacture as many as 60 nuclear bombs and warheads in 12 to 18 months.

This judgment was confirmed by Israel's military intelligence (AMAN) chief, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin in his latest briefing to the cabinet Monday, April 20. He reported that Iran is going all-out for enriched uranium from overseas to shorten the process.

Japanese sources recently reported that a North Korean boat shipped a large quantity to Iran earlier this year. According to the big-circulation The Nikkei, the North Korean vessel's hold carried a secret cargo of uranium highly-enriched to 50-60 percent. The ship set out for Iran in December, moving moved at a leisurely pace so as not to call attention from Western spy satellites, surveillance vessels and warships. Earlier this year, the illegal consignment was dropped at an Iranian port for transport to a facility near Tehran, according to the Japanese paper.

Yadlin noted that extreme economic crisis has not delayed Tehran's headlong nuclear progress or curtailed its designs on other Middle East countries – Hizballah's subversive activities in Egypt are not a lone instance. Inflation is officially put at 30 percent but is probably closer to 50 percent, while unemployment is deepening, yet Tehran upped the 2009 appropriation for its nuclear program by 15 percent.

Rather than translating the crisis into leverage for persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear objectives, the Israeli intelligence chief noted that the Obama administration has opened the door to dialogue with all the extremists of the Middle East, including Iran, albeit "with open eyes."

Iran, for its part, is accelerating its nuclear program, taking full advantage of the undercover communications with Washington which are aimed at gaining Tehran's cooperation for the US war effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama's charm offensive for radical rulers abandons Israel to Iranian threat

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis

April 18, 2009

The new US president's dramatic global policy steps have easily dwarfed the knotty Israeli-Palestinian peace issue handed down from one US president to the next over decades. Barack Obama's outstretched hand to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Iran's best friend in the Americas, on April 17, at the summit of American leaders in Port of Prince, made the talk surrounding Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell's mission to Jerusalem and Ramallah this week sound eerily like voices from the past.

After talking to Mitchell, Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak tried the usual bromides: They protested that Jerusalem's ties with Washington and Jerusalem were as strong as ever and they would work together toward an agreed solution for the Palestinian problem.

But those words were lost in the black Iranian cloud hanging over the relations.

Barack Obama has set his sights and heart on friendship with the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran and their radical allies. The name and policies of the occupant of the prime minister's office in Jerusalem do not matter - any more than Tehran's determination to complete its nuclear weapons program in defiance of the world, or even its first A-bomb test in a year or two, for which intelligence sources report Tehran is already getting set.

Obama's Washington believes America can live with a nuclear-armed Iran – a decision probably taken first under the Bush presidency. But Israel cannot, and may have no option but to part ways with the Obama administration on this point. As a nuclear power, Iran will be able to bend Jerusalem to the will of its enemies, make it unconditionally give Syria the Golan plus extra pieces of territory, tamely accept a Hamas-dominated Palestinian West Bank louring over its heartland and let the Lebanese Hizballah terrorize Galilee in the north at will. All three would make hay under Iran's nuclear shield, while Tehran lords it over the region in the role of regional power conferred by Obama's grace and favor.

In no time, Israel would be stripped of most of its defenses.

Israel is not the only nervous country in the region. But Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is the only Middle East leader brave enough to stick his neck out, albeit with Saudi backing, and stand up to the Iranian peril, direct and through Hizballah.

He has also outspokenly criticized Washington's courtship of the revolutionary Islamic republic.

Cairo's Al Ahram Saturday, April 18, accused Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizballah, Hamas, al Jazeera TV of a conspiracy to overthrow Egyptian government.

But the US president is not daunted by the radicalism or enmity of his new friends or the loss of old ones. At the Summit of All Americas, Obama greeted Hugo Chavez 24 hours after the Venezuelan ruler said: "The United States Empire is on its way down and will be finished in the near future, inshallah!"

Using the Muslim blessing to underline the wish for America's downfall was no bar to the smile and handshake; neither was Venezuela's recent severance of its ties with Israel for no provocation or its willingness to host a delegation of Hizballah (internationally branded a terrorist organization) in Caracas.

What is relevant to Obama is Hugo Chavez's role as co-architect of the joint Russian-Iranian campaign to displace American influence in the southern hemisphere. The US president has opted for winning America's enemies over with smiles and embraces rather than punishing them like George W. Bush.

Obama continues to woo Bashar Assad apace despite his blunt refusal to loosen his strategic ties with Tehran or stop supporting the Lebanese Shiite group because Hizballah is dedicated to fighting Israel, - as he is quoted as saying in the pro-Hizballah Lebanese publication al Akhbar on April 17.

For the first time in years, the administration this week sent a high-ranking delegation to Syria's independence day celebrations at Washington's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, headed by Jeffrey Feltman, former ambassador and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs.

The thaw in relations has gone so far that some Washington wags are calling Assad's capital "Syria on the Potomac."

The American storm besetting the Middle East leaves Israel's most vital interests way behind. The condition Netanyahu put before Mitchell for progress in peacemaking - that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state, which was instantly rejected by Palestinian Authority leaders – aroused scant attention in Washington or anywhere else.

As Netanyahu will find when he meets Obama in Washington early next month, Israel is no longer a prime factor in US global policy, because America has fundamentally reshuffled its Middle East allegiances and alliances. Even Tzipi Livni at the helm in Jerusalem would not divert Obama from his détente with Ahmadinejad, Assad and Chavez.

To gain points with his new friends, Obama's White House is not above nudging Israel to please them. This week, his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told Jewish leaders whom he met in Washington that if Israel wants America's help for thwarting Iran's nuclear program, it must first start evacuating West Bank settlements.

This was of course cynical claptrap.

Even if every single settlement were to be removed and Israel lined up with Obama's quest for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the US president would not drop Tehran or help Israel strike Iran's nuclear facilities. He has already ceded Tehran's uranium enrichment program (and therefore its drive for nuclear arms), and would forcefully oppose any Israeli military action. US defense secretary Robert Gates indicated as much this week when he went to almost absurd lengths to play down the Iranian nuclear threat and Israel's ability to handle it.

So what options are left to Israel at this juncture?

1. To bow under the Obama tempest until it blows over in keeping with the old proverb which says that trees bowing in the wind remain standing. This would entail going along with US acceptance of Iran as a nuclear power. The question is will Israel's trees still be standing when the storm has passed and, if so, in what strategic environment?

2. To follow the example set by Likud's first prime minister Menahem Begin in 1981. He stood up to Ronald Reagan's fierce objections and sent the Israeli Air force to smash the Iraqi nuclear reactor before it was operational. Saddam Hussein never rebuilt the facility. By following in Begin's footsteps before it is too late, Netanyahu would change the rules of the game regionally and globally.

(The London Times reported from Jerusalem Saturday that the Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran's nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government. Two civil defense drills have been scheduled to prepare the population for missiles that could fall on any part of the country without warning.)

3. Israel could go for a more modest target, one of Iran's faithful surrogates – Syria or Hizballah – to warn Washington that a larger operation is in store for their boss. If the Gaza offensive against Hamas last January was meant to send this message, it failed. Hamas is still the dominant Palestinian power and Barack Obama was not swayed from forging ahead with his policies of rapprochement with Iran and other radical world leaders.


Hanoch Daum

Published:  04.21.09, 17:43 / Israel Opinion

  srael's former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top officials could face legal action in Norway over the Gaza offensive after six Norwegian lawyers said Tuesday they would accuse them of war crimes. The lawyers, who plan to file their complaint with Norway's chief prosecutor on Wednesday, said they will call for the arrest and extradition of Olmert as well as former Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and seven senior Israeli army officers.

Under the Norwegian penal code, courts may hear cases involving war crimes and other major violations of human rights. The lawyers released a statement accusing Israel of "massive terrorist attacks" in the Gaza Strip from December 27 last year to January 25, killing civilians, illegally using weapons against civilian targets and deliberately attacking hospitals and medical staff. "There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions," the lawyers' statement said. It also said the lawyers were representing a number of people living in Norway. "It involves three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack," one of the lawyers, Kjell Brygfjeld, told AFP. When questioned on the chances of the case reaching court, fellow lawyer Harald Stabell said: "If we do nothing, it is more likely that a similar attack will happen again in the future."
"In our eyes, the political aspect is less important than the preventive aspect," he added when asked if the move could hinder Norwegian diplomacy in the region. Israel's embassy in Oslo said they were unaware of the lawyers' attempt to bring the war crimes charges and couldn't immediately comment

Yael Levy

SWI NEWS: 8 Nissan 5769, Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
Teen killed in West Bank terror attack Terrorist carrying axe attacks and kills 13-year-old youth in settlement of Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion Thursday noon; seven-year-old child sustains moderate injuries. Terrorist flees scene, IDF launches manhunt. Palestinian Authority security official tells Ynet terrorist apparently working on his own  
Sixteen-year-old Shlomo Nativ was killed and a seven-year-old boy was moderately injured in an attack carried out by a terrorist carrying an axe in the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin Thursday noon.   According to the police, the terrorist managed to flee the scene. The IDF launched a hunt for the terrorist, set up roadblocks and boosted security throughout the communities in the area.   Palestinian sources reported that IDF forces were surrounding a house in the nearby village of Khirbet Safa where they suspected the attacker may be hiding.    A Magen David Adom rescue team tried to resuscitate the teen, who they said ran into a house after being attacked, but he died of his injuries. Ozer Zilbershlad, a ZAKA rescue service volunteer at the scene told Ynet, "You could see a trail of blood where the deceased ran."   Nativ's funeral will be held at the Kfar Etzion Cemetery at 5 pm. ZAKA team in house where teen died (Photo: ZAKA spokesperson)   Another team evacuated the wounded child to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem. A hospital spokesperson reported that the seven-year-old suffered from a fractured skull and will soon undergo an operation. The child is currently in moderate condition.   The police said that according to eyewitness reports, the terrorist fled the scene after running wild and attacking passersby. Residents alerted the security forces to the scene.   The mayor of Gush Etzion Regional Council said that Bat Ayin's local security watch squad shot at the terrorist who carried out the attack, but that the terrorist managed to get away.   "The terrorist came in with an axe and injured two boys from Bat Ayin," said Mayor Shaul Goldstein.    The mayor noted that no Palestinian workers are employed in the town: "It is clear that the terrorist came in with the intention of murdering and terrorizing. The only way he could have come in was through infiltration."   Security forces alerted to scene (Photo: Efrat Weiss)   Residents of the area were asked to stay indoors as the IDF searched for the attacker. Yona Bitkober, a resident of Bat Ayin, told Ynet: "There are a lot of ambulances and police and military vehicles here at the entrance to the community. We were told to stay indoors."  

'Terrorist operated alone'

A Palestinian security official told Ynet an initial PA investigation into the attack showed that the terrorist apparently was not sent by any organization but was working on his own.   The injured boy, Yair Gamliel, is the son of Ofer Gamliel, who, along with the two other members of the "Bat Ayin Underground," was convicted of attempting to bomb a Palestinian girls' school in East Jerusalem in 2002.    The Imad Mughniyah Brigades, part of Fatah's military arm, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, took responsibility for the attack. However, the security official said that this is not credible.   Terror organizations have attempted a number of attacks recently. Some two weeks ago, a bomb containing 50 kilograms of explosives was found at a Haifa mall.   The mall was evacuated, and the device was detonated. Police said the bomb was discovered by chance, and a major attack was only just avoided.   Last month, two police officers were shot dead in an attack near the community of Massua in the Jordan Valley, after stopping for the shooters who had staged a flat tire.  
Some three months ago an Israeli was very seriously wounded from gunshots fried from a Palestinians vehicle near the West Bank settlement of Kokhav HaShahar. The victim was evacuated to hospital by helicopter and police searched for the attackers.   Ronen Medzini, Yael Levy and Ali Waked contributed to this report

'I saw the lust to kill in his eyes' A terrorist attack which left 13-year-old Shlomo Nativ dead and a 7-year-old boy wounded ended Thursday after a Bat Ayin resident who saw the younger boy running from the terrorist stepped in and disarmed the man.
BAt Ayin resident Avinoam...
BAt Ayin resident Avinoam Maimon. Photo: Channel 2
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"I saw a boy, aged 7 or 8, running past my house, and then I saw a 20-year-old man running after him," Avinoam Maimon told Channel 10. "I approached him, and he turned to me and tried to attack me with the axe." "I grabbed his hand, we struggled, and I yelled for people to call for help and the police," he continued. "At a certain point, I managed to wrest the axe from his hand," Avinoam said. "I was on the ground, and that was when the man managed to escape." "I heard a little later that somebody tried to shoot him but missed," he said. "I saw in his eyes the lust to kill. I didn't see what happened before I got outside, but I saw the wounded boy screaming, yelling to his mother that he was hurt." The terrorist was still at large, as security forces set up a series of roadblocks around the West Bank.  

Assad: We’ll free Golan through peace or war

Syrian president tells Qatari paper al-Sharq, ' All Israeli governments are the same: Ariel Sharon carried out a massacre in Palestine, and Barak aided the war in Gaza, so there is no difference between Right and Left in Israel'  
"There is no escaping the fact that the day will come when we will free the Golan, through peace or through war," Syrian President Bashar Assad said Thursday. "When a citizen loses hope – he will turn to the path of resistance, in one from or the other." 
In an interview with Qatari-based newspaper al-Sharq, Assad added, "All Israeli governments are the same: Ariel Sharon carried out a massacre in Palestine, and Barak aided the war in Gaza such that there is no difference between Right and Left in Israel."  He added: "We have our principles, and whoever abides by them will not constitute a problem for us."  According to Assad, "From the war of Palestine (in 1948) to the occupation of the Golan (in the Six Day War – R.N.) people are becoming more hostile towards Israel. There may come a generation that is unwilling to talk peace. 

'Resistance in Arabs' interest'  

"There is now a resurgence of the idea of resistance. Israel is advancing in a direction that goes against its interests, and eventually all people are moving towards resistance, which is certainly in the interest of the Arabs."  Asked why there was no "resistance" in the Golan Heights, the Syrian president replied: "We have special, objective reasons in the Golan, which is mostly unpopulated. Its residents have undergone a transfer in 1967 and so there are very little inhabitants there, while the resistance requires large forces." 
Meanwhile, Jordan is also monitoring the political developments in Israel. According to Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad, Jordan's Prime Minister Nader al-Dahabi said Wednesday that "any Israeli government is the product of the Israelis' will."  Following a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in Baabda, he added: "We will regard any Israeli government according to its inclination towards the peace process and the steps it takes. Peace is the best solution for the people of the region."

Netanyahu schedules April trips to Cairo, Amman, Washington, Moscow

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

April 2, 2009, 9:55 AM (GMT+02:00)

Binyamin Netanyahu launches diplomatic whirl

Binyamin Netanyahu launches diplomatic whirl

DEBKAfile's political sources reveal Binyamin Netanyahu's planned launch of his second term as prime minister with a flurry of diplomacy. Thursday, April 2, the day after his government's inception, trips to Cairo and Jordan had already been scheduled for talks with president Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II, followed by a visit to Washington to meet President Barack Obama and to Moscow for talks with prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Netanyahu is considering becoming the first Israeli prime minister to visit the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

This goodwill visit, if approved by the security authorities, would denote the new government's recognition of the PA and its willingness to cooperate in strengthening the Palestinian administration politically and economically in accordance with the Middle East road map – though not the Annapolis formula of two states for the two peoples.

According to our sources, Netanyahu held long discussions before deciding on the gestures or "concessions" he would offer his Egyptian and Jordanian hosts.

The Israeli prime minister has become convinced that he and the Egyptian president have many mutually profitable fields of strategic cooperation to discuss. He was apparently won over by defense minister Ehud Barak's proposition, followed during his service with the Olmert government, whereby strategic cooperation with Cairo, pursued discreetly and at the highest levels, must be the linchpin of Israel's Arab relations.

In Amman, DEBKAfile's sources reveal, Netanyahu will promise to prevent West Bank Palestinians swarming across the border into the kingdom. As a special gesture for the king, he will undertake to maintain the freeze on Israeli construction in the sensitive E1 sector connecting Jerusalem to the town of Maale Adummim.

The prime minister's immediate travel plans demonstrate the high priority he assigns to establishing the credibility of his government and leadership in the international community and mending the damage wrought to Israel's image in recent years. He has put this mission ahead even of an urgent overhaul of the economy.

Netanyahu started the ball rolling Wednesday, April 1, when Obama phoned to congratulate him from London after he arrived for the G20 summit. They spoke for half an hour. The White House spokesman said they talked about Iran and the Israel-Arab peace process. The prime minister's spokesman said the conversation was friendly and warm and ended in agreement to meet soon.

According to our Jerusalem and Washington sources, Netanyahu plans to fly to Washington at the end of April. In early May, he will be in Moscow for meetings with the Russian prime minister and possibly President Dmitry Medvedev, which are being arranged by the new foreign minister, the Russian-speaking Avigdor Lieberman.

Netanyahu gov't wants peace, not deceit
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday refuted global accusations that he and his boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, don't want peace with the Palestinians, but insisted that it had to be real peace. In an interview with Ha'aretz, Lieberman said that the new government will engage the Palestinians in peace negotiations, but unlike its predecessors, will not hand out concessions for free. "Israel undertook obligations regarding the [US-authored] road map peace initiative and it will honor them, but there must be reciprocity," said Lieberman. At the handover ceremony at the Foreign Ministry earlier in the day, Lieberman declared that Israel was not bound by the conclusions reached at the Annapolis peace summit held in 2007 so long as its partners in the Palestinian Authority failed to comply with their obligations. Lieberman suggested that true peace won't come before at least one more round of war.
Palestinian Authority forbids selling land to Jews
In a declaration reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the chief justice of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday issued a warning reminding Palestinians that selling land to Jews is "high treason." In remarks carried by The Jerusalem Post, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi said that any Palestinian who sells land to Jews will be given the death penalty. The warning came in response to a report that Jewish businessmen had purchased a large tract of land on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem from its previous Arab owner. The Palestinian Authority, despite being involved in a peace process with Israel, continues to enforce a decades-old Jordanian law that made it a capital crime to sell land to Jews. Tamimi took that law a step further in his latest warning, forbidding Palestinians to even rent out property to Jews because they spread moral corruption.

New Israeli FM disavows Annapolis process, US official reaffirms two-state solution

April 1, 2009, 10:14 PM (GMT+02:00)

Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli foreign minister

Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli foreign minister

A senior US official accompanying president Barack Obama to the G20 summit in London made this remark Wednesday April 1, in response to a statement from Avigdor Lieberman on his first day as foreign minister. Lieberman stressed that the incoming Netanyahu government was not bound by commitments made at the US-sponsored 2007 Annapolis conference for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was committed only to the Middle East road map.

The US official said: "It remains our view that a two-state solution… is in our interests and the region's interests," and went on to say: "We look forward to working with the new Israeli government and understand we will have frank discussions."

President Obama earlier called Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday with congratulations on his first day in office and reaffirmed the steadfast US commitment to Israel and its security. In their half-hour conversation, Obama said he looked forward to working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government to address issues of mutual concern, including Iran and Arab-Israeli peace," said the White House.

In his call to the new Israeli prime minister, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin stressed his desire to strengthen ties with Israel and the importance of advancing peace and stability in the Middle East. He invited Netanyahu to visit Moscow.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Netanyahu said: The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. Diplomacy and sanctions might work, he said, but if they don't Israel might be forced to resort to a military strike on the Islamic republic's nuclear installations.

Roee Nahmias

Published:  04.02.09, 10:30 / Israel News

Efrat Weiss

Latest Update:  04.02.09, 14:58 / Israel News