Archive for July, 2009

SWI NEWS: 6 Av 5769, Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday, July 26th, 2009
'Hamas tunneling near UN facilities' Hamas is digging tunnels next to United Nations facilities under the assumption that the IDF will not target them during a future conflict, defense officials warned on Sunday.
Gaza boy looks up from...
Gaza boy looks up from entrance of smuggling tunnel on Palestinian side of Rafah border. Photo: AP
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The officials said a tunnel Hamas had been digging adjacent to a UN school in Beit Hanun had collapsed earlier this month. According to some reports obtained by Israel, the collapse of the tunnel caused damage inside the school. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness denied the report. According to one official, the tunnel was being dug directly next to the school and likely underneath it as well. The IDF's concern, a defense official said, was that Hamas was digging tunnels adjacent to UN and other international facilities because the terror group knew that the IDF would think twice before bombing them. The official said it was certain that the digging was being done without the UN's knowledge. The idea of tunneling near the UN school, the official said, was a lesson Hamas had learned from Operation Cast Lead earlier this year, during which the IDF did its utmost to avoid targeting UN facilities. "Hamas uses civilian infrastructure to hide behind," explained the official. "This is another example of Hamas's cynical use of a school." This is not the first time Palestinian terrorists have used the Beit Hanun school. In October 2007, an IAF drone videotaped three terrorists preparing and then launching mortars from within the UN school compound in Beit Hanun.
Clinton: Israel must be patient on Iran Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday implicitly urged Israel to give US policy on Iran's nuclear ambitions a chance to work.
US Secretary of State Hillary...
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Photo: AP
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Speaking to NBC television's "Meet the Press," Clinton said Washington hoped Israel understood that American attempts to talk to Iran was a better approach than launching a military strike. The secretary of state said that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, but added that the Obama administration might still engage with the Islamic republic even though the people there "deserve better than what they're getting." "Your (Iran's) pursuit is futile," she said, while denying that the US would be betraying Iran's democratic movement by negotiating with the government over its nuclear program. "We have negotiated with many governments who we did not believe represented the will of their people. Look at all the negotiations that went on with the Soviet Union," she said. "That's what you do in diplomacy. You don't get to choose the people. That's up to the internal dynamic within a society. But, clearly, we would hope better for the Iranian people. We would hope that there is more openness, that peaceful demonstrations are respected, that press freedom is respected." When asked whether Iran was an illegitimate regime, Clinton said, "You know, that's really for the people of Iran to decide." "I have been moved by the … cries for freedom. … People that go back millennia, that have such a great culture and history, deserve better than what they're getting," added the secretary of state. Concerning North Korea, she said, "They've engaged in a lot of provocative action in the last months. … It's not going to work this time." "It's not only that North Korea has, against the international norms … proceeded with this effort, but they also are a proliferator," she added. "We know that for a fact. So it's not only the threat they pose to their neighbors, and eventually beyond, but the fact that they're trying to arm others." She said she did not believe the efforts to stop North Korea's nuclear program had failed because it was "still at the beginning stages." "They are very isolated now," she continued. "They don't have any friends left. We've seen even Burma saying that they're going to enforce the resolution of sanctions."
Gates visit to Israel marks US decision to turn up military heat on Iran

DEBKAfile Special Report

July 26, 2009, 10:00 PM (GMT+02:00)

Israeli missile boats in Suez Canal July 2009

Israeli missile boats in Suez Canal July 2009

DEBKAfile's military and Washington sources report that President Barack Obama is getting set for some military arm-twisting against Iran spearheaded by Israel. This will be the main subject of defense secretary Robert Gates talks in Israel Tuesday, July 28 and was presaged by a strong message secretary of state Hillary Clinton broadcast to Tehran Sunday, July 28, over NBC: "… if you're pursuing nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidating, or projecting your power, we are not going to let that happen," she said. "Your pursuit is futile. We believe as a matter of policy it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons."

Her statement was the clearest US warning to Iran of what is in store if it forges ahead with its military nuclear program..

Earlier this week, Clinton said in Thailand that the US would extend a "defense umbrella" over the Arab Gulf nations against an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Military and verbal pressure against Iran is one component of Obama's new Middle East approach; a second focuses on pulling Syria and its president Bashar Assad away from their tight bonds with Tehran. This goal brought Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell to Damascus for the second time this month Sunday, July 26.

Before traveling to Israel in the afternoon, Mitchell stated that Barack Obama was "determined to facilitate a truly comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace" that includes the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon and normal relations with the nations of the region. "If we are to succeed," he said, "we will need Arabs and Israelis alike to work with us. We will welcome the full cooperation of the government of the Syrian Arab Republic in this historic endeavor."

Mitchell's words opened the door for Syria to opt for cooperation with Washington instead of Tehran.

DEBKAfile's sources add that Gates on Tuesday - followed by national security adviser James Jones and Middle East adviser Dennis Ross Wednesday - are to turn over with Israeli leaders plans for harassing Tehran.

The passage earlier this month of Israeli nuclear-capable submarines escorted by missile boats through between the Mediterranean and Red Seas through the Suez Canal was a mark of US-Israeli cooperation in the pursuit of Washington's tough new posture for deterring Iran's nuclear drive.

Obama backs off Mid East peace plan and confrontation with Israel

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis

July 25, 2009, 1:23 PM (GMT+02:00)

Binyamin Netanyahu - slow to respond

Binyamin Netanyahu - slow to respond

A flock of US presidential emissaries descends on Israel this week. DEBKAfile's Washington sources report that their briefs reflect US president Barack Obama's new caution on his next Middle East steps. He has backed away from formulating a new Middle East plan which he was widely reported as preparing to unveil at the end of July and shied away from a showdown with Israel on such touchy issues as settlement expansion.

The coming week's arrivals, for which prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu prepared by convening his kitchen cabinet of six ministers Friday, will be led by defense secretary Robert Gates followed by national security adviser James Jones and presidential adviser Dennis Ross. Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell is first stopping off in Damascus Saturday, July 25, for talks set up by his Syrian deskman Fred Hof.

The visitors to Israel will be accompanied by a large party of CIA and military high-ups.

Our sources report that Obama began reassessing his Middle East initiatives last month. To complete this turnabout, he is awaiting a response from prime minister Netanyahu, who is drawing much criticism in Washington for being slow to respond. The Israeli government has allowed the public and local media columnists to believe that a crisis in US-Israel relations is ongoing and that the Obama's US administration would be the first to try and impose a peace settlement on Israel.

His envoys have tried to dispel this impression by informing Israeli leaders that the US president was not about to launch any new Middle East peace initiatives. Obama has furthermore watered down his demand for a total freeze on settlement construction and is willing to countenance expansion for accommodating natural growth. However, here too, the Israeli government is accused of holding back the figures and refusing to specify whether it covers 400 or 4,000 building starts.

Some White House sources complain that only after Netanyahu met Obama in the White House on May 18 did he affirm his acceptance of Palestinian statehood in four public statements. Had he said "two-state solution" out loud at that meeting, the relationship would have got off on a friendly footing from the start instead of appearing to go downhill.

DEBKAfile's Washington sources add that Mitchell is visiting Damascus for the second time in a month to explore the resumption of Syrian-Israel talks. The White House now appreciates that the peace process with the Palestinians is going nowhere any time soon. A high-ranking US official told our sources that this track will remain in deadlock for as long as Arab rulers like Saudi King Abdullah reject any gestures towards Israel in return for concessions and the Fatah-Hamas feud continues to keep the West Bank Gaza Strip apart under separate administrations.

President Obama has accordingly decided "to avoid a situation where he gets nothing from Arab leaders and is at odds with the Jews." This will more easily permit common ground to be broached on the Iranian nuclear issue.

UN troops can stop Israeli cows, but not Lebanese infiltrators They may do little to stop either Lebanese civilians or terrorists from infiltrating northern Israel, but the UN troops that make up the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon are going out of their way to make sure Israeli cows stop entering Lebanon. A Lebanese website reported at the weekend that UNIFIL has offered to build a fence around a pond that sits just over the border and which Israeli cows often visit to get a drink while grazing in nearby Israeli fields. Israelis were somewhat surprised by the story, considering that the same UNIFIL troops did absolutely nothing last week to stop 15 Lebanese civilians from crossing into northern Israel, where they planted Lebanese and Hizballah flags. UNIFIL has also come under heavy criticism in Israel for failing to prevent the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which began when a Hizballah force entered northern Israel and ambushed an Israeli army patrol, all within view of UNIFIL lookouts.
Gaza inches closer to Sharia Law
The Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is inching ever closer to being ruled by Sharia Law, much like Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban prior to the US-led invasion of that country. London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Sunday that representatives of several Hamas government ministries, as well as senior Gaza police officials, had recently gotten together and formulated a "General Moral List" that is expected to be authorized and implemented in phases. The effects of that decision were seen earlier this month when a Gaza court ruled that female lawyers must wear traditional head coverings and dresses when practicing law. That ruling followed independent reports over the past few months that Muslim morality squads had increased their activity in Gaza, particularly on the beaches, where they were forcing female bathers to cover their heads. The same squads have also been inspecting vehicles to make sure unmarried couples are not traveling alone together. When Gaza seized control of Gaza in 2007, its leaders promised they would not impose the group's strict Islamic views on the residents of the coastal strip.
Right-wing rally planned in Jerusalem To protest the United States' demand for a settlement freeze and to take a stand in favor of a unified Jerusalem, right-wing activists and settler leaders plan to rally Monday evening in Paris Square on the capital's Rehov Agron. The rally, which will be held under the banner "Yes to Israeli Independence, No to American Demands," is timed to coincide with a visit by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who arrived in the country on Sunday. Earlier in the day, activists plan to head to the hilltops in Judea and Samaria to begin construction on 11 new outpost sites. The two-day event, organized by the Land of Israel Faithful, is the latest in a two-year campaign to expand Jewish holdings in Judea and Samaria. Activists have already broken ground at eight outpost sites in the past two years. The new sites will be located next to the settlements of Elon Moreh, Alon Shvut, Har Bracha, Kiryat Arba, Avnei Hefetz and the Adei Ad outpost. Activists have managed to maintain a foothold in these sites, but have not been able to develop them into full-fledged outposts

SWI NEWS: 4 Av 5769, Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24th, 2009
Israel: America needs to keep its word By Stan Goodenough July 21, 2009 Israel will not be able to trust American "guarantees" in future if the Obama administration does not keep to the agreements made by its predecessors. This was the message conveyed to foreign journalists Tuesday by Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor. According to The Jerusalem Post, Meridor insisted that Israel and the United States had a clear agreement dating back six years permitting Israel to build within the construction lines of existing settlements. "It is of great importance to us that what the American administration agreed to is not overlooked, not because of the contents of that agreement, because of contents of agreements in the future," Meridor said. "We never had an agreement with the previous administration," he clarified. "We had an agreement with America. "The agreement we had with the Americans is binding on us and them ... They should keep to the agreement." Meridor's statement was the latest in an intensifying war of words between Israel and the nation that insists it is Israel's strongest friend and ally even as it continues to undermine Israeli interests, interfere in Israeli politics and work to weaken Israel in the face of the relentless and increasing threat to its existence. The State Department at the weekend summoned Israel's new ambassador to the Us, Michael Oren, to demand that a Jewish millionaire stop construction on his own property in part of Jerusalem coveted by the Palestinian Arabs as capital of a state they have never had but are resolved to get at Israel's expense. "Israeli building in eastern Jerusalem is no different than building at West Bank settlements and must stop," Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley then told journalists. On Tuesday Russia, France and Germany demanded the same thing. "The settlement should be stopped immediately," AFP quoted Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko as saying, while French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner summoned the Israeli ambassador in Paris to demand the building be stopped. A political ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Israel it was committing "political suicide." The European Union's Swedish presidency said Israel should refrain from what it called "provocative actions" which "are illegal under international law." But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fired back at Washington, saying Sunday that "United Jerusalem is Israel's unassailable capital and Jews have the right to live and buy in all its neighborhoods." According to Israel National News, Netanyahu implied that the US request was racist. “Imagine what would happen if Jews were forbidden to live or to buy apartments in certain parts of London, New York, Paris or Rome. There would be an international outcry. All the more, we cannot to a decree like this regarding Jerusalem.” Jerusalem "is not up for debate," he said. Other Israeli officials have voiced their rejection of the world's demands: Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Israel has the "indisputable" right to build anywhere in Jerusalem. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai declared that "Israel's government is not a subsidiary of any other world government free to build anywhere in Israel, certainly after having obtained all the relevant permits by law."
Dore Gold: J'lem sovereignty obviously not up for discussion Amid tensions with the US over east Jerusalem construction, former Israeli ambassador to Washington Dore Gold said Friday that "Israel's sovereignty of the Old City and the rest of Jerusalem is obviously not up for discussion."
Dore Gold, one of Netanyahu's...
Dore Gold, one of Netanyahu's top foreign policy advisers. Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
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"Our hope is that we can lower tensions between Israel and the US created by headlines and various comments," he said in an interview with Israel Radio. Gold, one of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's top foreign policy advisers, said there were currently important joint interests between Jerusalem and Washington, particularly the Iranian threat, and also stressed the importance of pursuing partnerships with Arab countries that felt threatened by the Islamic republic's nuclear aspirations. Gold was circumspect regarding peace talks with Syria and expressed his opposition to withdrawing from the Golan Heights "We don't know if Syria has decided to leave the terror axis," he said. "Syria doesn't only give refuge to Hamas and Hizbullah, but for many years, it has also given support to Al-Qaida-linked groups in Iraq acting against US and British forces." "I believe the Golan is Israel's line of defense in the North and must be preserved," he added. Gold emphasized that he was speaking in his own name, not that of the government.
Arrow II fails takeoff in Pacific test - setback for Israel's missile race with Iran

DEBKAfile Special Report

July 23, 2009, 7:32 AM (GMT+02:00)

The Arrow declines to take off

The Arrow declines to take off

DEBKAfile's military sources report a serious setback in Israel's defenses against Iranian ballistic missiles. Thursday, July 23, the newly upgraded Arrow II missile defense system, poised for its first long-range test at the US Pacific range off the central California coast, could not be launched because of "interceptor problems."

This left Israel's key defense system, designed to intercept long-range Iranian or Syrian missiles 1,000 kilometers from their launch point, unproven.

The Israeli defense establishment said the problems preventing the launch came from "malfunctions in the communications system."

The Pentagon statement puts it differently: In a test involving three US missile interceptors [Patriot, Thaad and Aegis], Arrow tracked a target missile dropped from a C-17 aircraft. The Israeli system also exchanged data on the target in real time with elements of the US missile defense system.

"Not all test conditions to launch the Arrow Interceptor were met and it was not launched," the Pentagon said. Other objectives were achieved and the results are being analyzed.

Military sources told DEBKAfile that Israel without the Arrow system - unless proven otherwise - is partly exposed to attack from Iran's Shehab 3 and Sejil-2 ballistic missiles, especially the latter which are more accurate and powered by solid fuel for instantaneous launching from deep inside Iran.

The failure of the Arrow test will be a morale booster for Iran's Islamic rulers at a critical moment for their regime. It will also shadow the important high-level talks American officials, defense secretary Robert Gates and national security adviser James Jones, are to hold in Israel next week.

The missile test was supposed to be conducted over the weekend but was cancelled at the last minute due to bad weather. The test was then postponed to Monday night but again cancelled.

At least six months are required for preparing the complicated Arrow anti-missile missile system for testing. The Pentagon and Israeli statements did not cite a new date for a Pacific test.

Tehran: Israel's "200 nuclear warheads" must first be part of Middle East disarmament

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

July 20, 2009, 4:17 PM (GMT+02:00)

Tehran: Dismantle Israel's nukes, we have no weapon program

Tehran: Dismantle Israel's nukes, we have no weapon program

Iran has posted a new package of "proposals" to the West in response to its offer of engagement on Tehran's nuclear activities. Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said the "comprehensive and updated" package aims to prepare the ground for more "fluid interaction" with the West. "But we cannot speak of a Middle East without nuclear weapons without discussing the more than 200 nuclear warheads of the Zionist regime Israel," he said. This is "based on an international approach."

DEBKAfile's Iranian sources report that the point of the new package, whose contents have been transferred piecemeal to Washington and some European capitals, is for Tehran to retain the whip hand in any forthcoming negotiations by posting demands but no concessions.

Qashqavi's words were the corollary to first statement made by the new head of the Iranian nuclear energy commission Ali Akbar Salehi after his appointment Saturday, July 18. He said the time had come to end six years of animosity between Tehran and the West and start building bridges of trust. But he also said: "legal and technical discussions about Iran's nuclear case have finished and there is no room left to keep this case open."

Qashqavi's statement is the Islamic Republic's typical way of launching a hardball game with the West by a demand to dismantle Israel's never-confirmed nuclear arsenal without making any promises about Iran's nuclear program, or even the uranium enrichment activities banned by the UN Security Council. In fact, he persisted in denying that Tehran had any plan to develop nuclear weaponry.

The foreign ministry spokesman also mentioned another price for dialogue with the West: "Iran's proposed package will suggest solutions to the economic crisis based on the principles of the Islamic economy," he said.

Russia builds key naval HQ in Syria: Missile presence worries Israel

DEBKAfile Special Report

July 21, 2009, 11:26 AM (GMT+02:00)

Russian warships will use Syria's Tartus as main naval HQ for four seas

Russian warships will use Syria's Tartus as main naval HQ for four seas

A high-ranking Russian navy source reported July 21 that the Soviet-era naval maintenance base near Tartus in Syria is to be expanded and modernized to become "fully operational." DEBKAfile's military sources report that Russian is building the facility up as its main sea base for operations in four seas: The Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The upgrade of Russian port facilities at Tartus, its only foothold in the Mediterranean, will automatically enhance Moscow's strategic interests in Syria and Bashar Assad's regime.

The Russian source said that the 50 naval personnel and three berthing floats currently deployed at Tartus with accommodation for up a dozen warships will be beefed up with a new berthing float delivered by two tugboats from the Black Sea Fleet. DEBKAfile's sources disclose that those warships will include large vessels such as the nuclear-armed guided missile cruiser Peter the Great and the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which called in at Tartus in January.

In September 2008, DEBKAfile first disclosed that the Russian Navy commander Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky and his Syrian counterpart Gen. Taleb al-Barri, had signed contracts for converting Tartus into one of Russia's most highly-developed naval infrastructures outside its territory. Its warships based there will capable of reaching the Red Sea through the Suez Canal and the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar in a matter of days. For original disclosures click HERE and HERE.

Israel is deeply concerned, according to our military sources, by the sophisticated air-defense S-300PMU-2 and Iskander-E missile systems the Russians propose to hand Syria on the pretext of installing a shield to defend the facility against air or missile attack. Moscow claims they will remain under the control of Russian crews but, according to information reaching Israel, they will be quietly and gradually handedover to the Syrian army; the Russian teams are in fact instructors.

Russia justifies this, according to DEBKAfile's Moscow sources, by the deployment of the highly sophisticated American FBX-T missile-interception radar systems at the Israeli Negev base of Nevatim.

Furthermore, Moscow will have its rejoinder for the disputed US deployment of missile interceptors in Eastern Europe. As we reported last September, the Russian Black Sea fleet and new Mediterranean-based warships will coordinate their operations under a single command. They are designed as counter-deployments to the post-Georgian-war US and NATO naval presence in the Black Sea as well as its fleets in other parts of the Mediterranean including Israel's shores.

LONDON - In the first half of 2009, anti-Semitic attacks in Britain have risen at an unprecedented rate, the Community Security Trust (CST) reported on Friday.

Through the end of June, 609 recorded incidents ranged from verbal abuse to physical assaults, compared with 276 during the same period last year.

CST, an organization that alerts Britain's Jewish population about such incidents, said the 2009 figures were the highest since 1984, when it began keeping records.

The attacks escalated in January during Israel's military offensive against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

"British Jews are facing even higher levels of racist attack and intimidation," CST official Mark Gardner said.

"There is no excuse for anti-Semitism, racism and bias, and it is totally unacceptable hat overseas conflicts should be impacting here in this way," he said.

Out of 77 attacks recorded in January, two were categorized as "extreme violence," meaning serious physical injuries that could result in death.

British parliamentarian Denis McShane said anti-Semitism in the country was "once more a very real problem."

"This is warning to all of our society, a warning that the damaging forces of extremism and scapegoating are again on the march," McShane said.

Foreign Minister Ivan Lewis also expressed concern over the statistics.

"I am deeply concerned by the rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents as reported by the CST today," Lewis said.

"The UK's Jewish community is an integral part of the rich fabric that makes up modern Britain and must be able to live their lives free of fear of verbal or physical attack," he said.

Three hundred thousand Jews live in Great Britain.

Source: Ynet news

IDF nabs wanted Aksa terrorist in Nablus An Aksa Martyrs Brigade terrorist wanted for a string of attacks was arrested by IDF special forces overnight Thursday in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus, the army said.
IDF troops arrest terror...
IDF troops arrest terror suspects in West Bank . Photo: AP
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Mahmoud Rashad Abu Kishak, whose arrest came in a joint IDF-Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) operation, had been wanted by security forces over attacks he perpetrated both in recent years and during the Second Intifada, said the military. The IDF said that the attacks included a March 2001 shooting in Yitzhar, which seriously wounded Samaria Council security officer Gilad Zar (who was killed in another shooting attack outside Kedumim in May that year.) The army added that Abu Kishak also perpetrated numerous shooting attacks on IDF troops in Nablus over the last few years, and killed a resident of the West Bank town who was suspected of collaborating with Israel. The army said that more recently, Abu Kishak was involved in arms dealing and forged ties with other terrorists who plotted attacks on soldiers and who have subsequently been arrested. In other military activity in the West Bank overnight Thursday, troops arrested a Palestinian terror suspect near Ramallah.

SWI NEWS: 2 Av 5769, Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
PM: We'll keep security fence in place Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered what sounded like a foreign policy address on Wednesday when he was summoned to the Knesset floor by opposition members to respond to allegations that he had no set policies, but rather "zigzagged" under pressure. In his speech answering the claims, Netanyahu emphasized the continued importance of the West Bank security barrier, as well as the success of the government's strategy against Hamas and advances in the strengthening of international pressure against Iran. "Our policy is that we are not prepared to accept rocket and missile fire on Israeli territory," he told the Knesset. "For every rocket, before the elections there may not have been a response, but that has not been the case since the elections. This was and will remain our policy. "The public can judge the results in the month before the elections compared with the three months after. This is the correct policy, we just cannot tolerate rocket fire on Israeli cities. "I met with many world leaders, and they said they could not understand how the situation arose, and many said if they were attacked, they would have responded immediately." The Islamic republic's isolation was fully revealed by the post-election mayhem there, the prime minister said. "Something very important happened. We saw that almost no one supported this regime, apart from Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah," he said. "We want to recruit an international coalition against Iran, to bolster the sanctions and preserve Israeli interests." "We're not only facing an Iranian threat from afar, but also up close," he said, citing Hamas and Hizbullah rocket fire, which Israel would not tolerate on any level. "We cannot accept even a trickle of rockets and missiles, because this will then deteriorate until a situation where you are forced to undergo a wide-scale operation." He also spoke of the steps Israel had taken to ease the Palestinians' lives. "We have removed checkpoints, dirt roadblocks, and increased the operating hours at the Allenby Bridge, all in consultation with the defense establishment, to ease the transfer of people and goods," he said. "It's praiseworthy, and the impressive economic results are there for all to see, although the Palestinian economic growth potential has not been fully realized." "Our policies are an immediate response to rockets, dealing with the Iranian threat, keeping the West Bank security fence, but also easing Palestinian movement," Netanyahu continued. The Palestinian Authority had turned to the Americans, demanding that, in addition to stopping construction in settlements and in east Jerusalem, it dismantle the security barrier, citing the drop in terrorism originating in the West Bank over the last two years. "The security barrier won't be dismantled," he stressed. "I hear people saying that since there is quiet, the fence can be torn down. My friends, the opposite is true. Because we have the fence, there is quiet. And that is of course in addition to IDF operations, and I must cautiously add, there is also a degree of improvement in the operations of the Palestinian security apparatuses, and we commend this." The prime minister again spoke of the "national coalition" he had formed for his Middle East peace plan, and added that the vast majority of international players were on board. "The most important component is that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, meaning the refugee problem will not have a solution within our borders," he said. "And furthermore, when a peace deal is signed, there will be no more demands on Israel, not about refugees or land. An end to the conflict means an end to demands." "And then there's the security aspect. We don't want to repeat the mistakes of Gaza, we don't want another Hamastan or Hizbullahstan. Therefore, we are seeking effective demilitarization . "These are basic principles, and the overwhelming majority, almost all MKs, back them," he said. "Without these things, there won't be peace." The most vocal opposition to Netanyahu's speech undoubtedly came from the Arab lawmakers, who called out throughout his remarks. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin ordered ushers to remove MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), who broke loose and attempted to return to the floor for one last comment - and was grabbed and removed once again. After him, MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta'al) was also removed, at which point the other Arab legislators rose and left the chamber. Opposition leaders were also incredulous of Netanyahu's list of achievements, with Kadima's faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik, MK Yohanan Plessner and opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni among those who took the stand to blast the prime minister's first 113 days in office. Itzik accused Netanyahu of causing economic, security and diplomatic damage to the State of Israel. "You inherited a beaten Hamas, bruised and frightened as the result of Operation Cast Lead, and quiet in the South. You inherited a quiet northern border... a diplomatic process which even if you didn't accept its principles, its very existence and the lack of Palestinian terror created the conditions for a process... And most important of all, we passed on to you the most dear asset of all, close, intimate and exceptionally cooperative relations with the United States of America," she said. In a response speech to Netanyahu's address, Livni said his first 100 days had brought "despair" and that the prime minister had made preelection promises he never intended to keep. "The saddest thing is that the government and its leader have no vision, way or direction. Nothing," she said. "You, the prime minister, represent a consensus of fear, while we represent a consensus of hope. "On the diplomatic level, the people want a final-status solution, and you want to avoid one," she said. "And don't blame your coalition partners. Don't say in English, or in French, behind closed doors, that 'it's not me, it's them,' as you have been doing."
'US, Israel rift on settlement issue to be resolved soon' Israel's Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said that the disagreement between America and Israel on the settlement issue would be resolved soon.
Israeli Ambassador to Israel...
Israeli Ambassador to Israel Michael Oren. Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
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In an interview with Israel radio Wednesday, Oren claimed that there was no confrontation and no tension between the two countries. This was Oren's first interview since he presented his credentials on Monday to US President Barack Obama. At the presentation ceremony, Oren said he told Obama, "as a grandson of European immigrants who found refuge in America in the 1920s, as a son of a fighter who fought in World War II, as someone who was educated in American universities, I am grateful to represent Israel, a country dear to me, to the country of my birth, the United States." Oren continued "as a historian, I have researched the long history of the US-Israel relationship and the history of the idea of Zionism vis-a-vis the US, I told the president that he represents a continuation of the long line of US presidents from John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and, of course, Harry Truman who supported the idea of the Jewish State. I would be happy to be of service to President Obama in the continuation of this legacy." Of the recent rift between the two countries on the settlement issue, Oren said "I researched the history of the relationship between Israel and the US and I know that there were many disagreements, that there were tensions, for example the Suez crisis in the 1956 when Eisenhower threatened Israel with sanctions, in the 80s with Reagan on the sale of AWAC planes to Saudi Arabia, with Bush Sr. on loan guarantees on to build Jewish settlements. So there were disagreements." "Here, we are talking about a very specific disagreement. There is a willingness on the part of the administration to resolve this. And I know as ambassador that the spectrum of constant contact is massive. We do not feel tension. There is no breakdown in the relationship," said Oren. "We are dealing with this on all levels and we will reach an agreement with camaraderie and cooperation. We have no ally like the United States. It is a strong bond and I'm sure it will be resolved." On a future Obama visit to Israel, Oren said "Obama was quoted as saying to Jewish leaders that he intends to visit Israel soon. There is no specific date."
Clinton indicates US reconciled to nuclear-armed Iran
Israeli officials were furious on Wednesday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that her government has reconciled itself to the idea of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and shifted its focus to minimizing the damage caused by such a reality. Speaking to reporters in Bangkok on Tuesday, Clinton said that Iran needs to "calculate what I think is a fair assessment: that if the United States extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to develop the military capacity of those (allies) in the Gulf, it is unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer" even if it has nuclear weapons. Israeli Minister of Intelligence Dan Meridor said in an interview with Army Radio that speaking of deterring a nuclear Iran with a defensive umbrella while it is still possible to prevent Iran from getting nukes in the first place is unacceptable. "I heard, unenthusiastically, the Americans' statement that they will defend their allies in the event that Iran arms itself with an atomic bomb, as if they have already reconciled with this possibility, and this is a mistake," Meridor said. "Now, we don't need to deal with the assumption that Iran will attain nuclear weapons but to prevent this." Israelis have feared since November of last year that the election of US President Barack Obama signaled that without a direct and unsupported Israeli military strike, Iran would indeed obtain nuclear weapons.
Israeli troops briefly enter Gaza, knock down building
A small Israeli incursion force entered the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and demolished a building used as cover by terrorists before withdrawing into southern Israel. The Israelis encountered sporadic resistance and returned fire on their attackers. Army officials said the operation was a response to several small-scale attacks by Hamas forces on Israel over the past week. They said the demolished building was used as cover in a number of those attacks. The most recent attack occurred just hours before the incursion on Tuesday morning, when Hamas gunmen opened fire on an Israeli patrol. On Sunday, Palestinian terrorists fired a number of mortar shells and anti-tank missiles at Israeli troops stationed near a kibbutz in southern Israel. Last Thursday, a rocket fired from Gaza landed just outside a small town in southern Israel, causing no damage or injuries.
Israeli Arabs riot as authorities pull down illegal building
Insisting that they need not comply with the laws of the land, dozens of Israeli Arabs rioted Tuesday night as Israeli authorities demolished an illegally built structure in the northern town of Umm el-Fahm. The owners of the building, which was being used as a market, received repeated written warnings that they had built it without proper permits, and were thus at risk of facing a demolition order. The warnings went unheeded, and so Interior Ministry bulldozers, backed by hundreds of police officers, moved in. As the authorities arrived, dozens of residents parked their cars in front of the illegal building, and some tried to use their bodies to prevent the bulldozers from approaching. When it became clear that they could not prevent the demolition itself, dozens of local Arab youth massed along nearby Highway 65, a major thoroughfare through northern Israel, and began hurling stones at passing vehicles. Two people were arrested and another 17 were detained for questioning.
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