Archive for November 9th, 2009

SWI : 23 Cheshvan 5770, Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9th, 2009
Meeting between Netanyahu and Obama ends after nearly 2 hours
  A meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in Washington ended after nearly two hours on Monday evening, Israel Radio reported.
Prime Minister Binyamin...
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with senators from Kentucky, Indiana, New Jersey and Arizona. Photo: AP
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region  |  World
The White House said Obama reaffirmed his country's strong commitment to Israel's security, and that the two leaders discussed Iran's nuclear ambitions and the Middle East peace process. The meeting, which was only scheduled as Netanyahu was leaving for the US capital amid questions about whether the prime minister would get a White House greeting, was closed to the press. On Tuesday, Netanyahu leaves Washington for Paris where on Wednesday he plans to meet with French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Ahead of the meeting, the prime minister told his senior advisors that Israel is willing to go "a long way" and "be generous" in negotiations with the Palestinians, but it will not compromise on "effective security arrangements" that prevent a recurrence of Gaza and south Lebanon. The lack of eagerness in the White House in arranging a meeting as is traditionally done when an Israeli PM is in town, and the fact that this one is not scheduled to include even a standard photo opportunity, kept expectations of results low. "We're ready to go a long way, and to be generous in restricting construction as a gesture to jumpstart the negotiations, and also in concessions to reach a settlement," Netanyahu said in briefings with his senior staff ahead of the meeting with Obama, according to sources close to the prime minister. "But," he added, "we won't compromise on security arrangements, and that includes preventing the entry of weapons and armaments to any area Israel will vacate. Until today, the security arrangements in Gaza and Lebanon were not effective, and weapons and armaments were smuggled in freely. In any future settlement, security arrangements must be effective," the prime minister said. Netanyahu's spokesman Nir Hefetz did radio interviews twice in the space of 24 hours, one from the plane en-route to Washington D.C. and one when the prime minister's convoy landed, in which he defended US-Israel relations and explained that the GA was the main focus of the prime minister's trip. Netanyahu, whose visit to Washington concludes Monday, spent the afternoon following his speech making a swing through Capitol Hill. Eitan Gilboa, an expert in American Israeli relations from Bar Ilan University, said the process leading up to the meeting had been awkward. "The White House accused Netanyahu of trying to impose a visit on Obama and Netanyahu argued that this was another attempt to humiliate him," said Gilboa. It is expected that when an Israeli prime minister visits the United States, he meets with the president, because the two countries have a lot to coordinate, he said. The Obama administration's decision to play games with these types of visits is one more sign of its failed Middle East policy. But former US Ambassador Dore Gold told The Jerusalem Post that Obama has changed his schedule a number of times this week, deciding for example to go to a memorial service for the slain soldiers in Fort Hood instead of attending the GA. "We may be reading things that might not be there," when it comes to lead up to this meeting as a barometer of Israeli American relations. "It is important to get beyond the questions of atmospherics. The US and Israel have a serious and an increasingly serious problem with Iran," said Gold. He added that the real question that must be answered from the meeting is how the two countries will deal with this threat. The meeting came on the heels of a trip by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Middle East in which she angered many in the Arab world by appearing to back off America's stated commitment to a total settlement freeze when she called a deal in the works for a partial halt - as a prelude to restarting peace talks - "unprecedented" on the part of Israel. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has made a total freeze a condition for peace talks resuming and recently threatened not to run for another term in upcoming elections if the US doesn't insist on a total freeze. Netanyahu was quoted by senior PMO sources as criticizing the Palestinian demand for a total settlement freeze as a precondition for negotiations. "For 16 years, there has never been a demand for a construction freeze as a precondition for starting negotiations, nor was there Israeli willingness to restrict construction before entering negotiations," he said, "so we are convinced that Israel is doing everything it must to advance peace while preserving quiet." One source close to the prime minister asked rhetorically, "What more must Israel say just to earn the start of negotiations? Bibi plans to tell Obama that he and the government are serious in preparing for peace. We mean business." Officials close to the prime minister have in the past placed the blame for introducing the demand for a total pre-negotiations settlement freeze on the Obama administration itself, but they have pulled back from this position in recent months. "We're not dealing with who is at fault for what," said one official. "There are two sides now. One is the Israeli side which is willing to start negotiations, and the other is the Palestinian side which is refusing. The onus for starting negotiations is not on the Americans, but on the Palestinians." Hilary Leila Krieger, E.B. Solomont and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
US backing away from Israel?
Most of our readers will agree that more than any other president before him, US President Barack Obama is leaning toward the Arabs in their conflict with the Jewish state. According to weekly public opinion polls, most Israelis feel the same. But Israel has always been able to count on the strong support of the US Congress to balance any dangerous initiatives by the White House. According to leading Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, however, that could be changing. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the legislature, warned that he has seen a lot of indications lately that congressional support for Israel is deteriorating. "I have a lot of concerns about what I have seen lately, about the continued desire to try to engage with Iran and about pressure being applied to Israel in terms of concessions in the name of peace," said Cantor in regards to both Obama and the currently Democrat-controlled Congress. In yet another sign of faltering relations between Jerusalem and Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to the US on Sunday, but had yet to be invited to the White House. Netanyahu was officially visiting the US to attend and address the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. But very seldom do Israeli leaders visit the US without being invited to meet with the president. It was expected that the two leaders would meet in the end, but the absence of an official invitation beforehand spoke volumes to Israelis. It is widely believed that Obama is deeply frustrated with Netanyahu for not caving to his demands that Israel meet a broad range of Arab demands in order to get peace talks moving again. In particular, Obama wants Israel to stop building homes for Jews in any areas claimed by the Palestinians.
Obama to ask Netanyahu for more time for dialogue with Iran

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

November 9, 2009, 10:24 PM (GMT+02:00)

Nothing much to discuss

Nothing much to discuss

US official sources admitted Monday, Nov. 9, that Tehran had finally blocked every compromise on the nuclear controversy offered by the Obama administration through backdoor channels. The US president Barack Obama's Iranian and Middle East peace initiatives have both run into the sand. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell informed him last week after their failed bid to persuade the Palestinians to sit down and talk peace with Israel.

Clinton found Mahmoud Abbas in Abu Dhabi with one foot out of the Palestinian Authority leadership. He was busy exploiting Obama's misplaced reliance on a total Israeli settlement construction freeze on the West Bank and in Jerusalem to strike a rejectionist pose for the sake of restoring his tattered credibility on the Palestinian street.

On that score, there is nothing much for Obama to discuss with visiting Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday, Nov. 10, although both found themselves under pressure to meet during Netanyahu's brief visit to Washington to address the General Assembly of the North American Jewish Federations.

A new Palestinian leader might find a way out of the impasse, but none is currently in the sights of the US president, the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinians. Even if a reasonable figure were to be found, it would take a newcomer to the PA leadership a couple of years to find his feet and establish himself. During that period, assuming the lid stayed clamped down on Palestinian terrorist action from the West Bank - which is far from a certainty - the peace track would be frozen solid.

The situation with Iran is much more fraught because time is running out as Iran speeds toward its nuclear and missile goals. In the summer, Netanyahu gave Obama a guarantee to hold off on a military initiative against Iran until the end of the year to give diplomatic engagement a chance.

This deadline is now only seven weeks away. DEBKAfile's Washington sources are assuming that the US president will use the Israeli prime minister's brief Washington visit to ask him to extend this deadline a while longer to permit him a last throw at cajoling Iran to accept a deal over its uranium enrichment. Our sources do not expect Netanyahu to refuse the president, both for the sake of his good standing with the Obama administration and because he too is in no hurry to cross the Rubicon for an act of war against Iran.

Procrastination in the West is Tehran's greatest boon.

This past year, the Iranians have managed to keep the diplomatic ball they are playing with the world powers up in the air and hold sanctions at bay while using the space to press forward with their military nuclear and missile programs.

Report: Hassan tried to contact al-Qaeda
  Alleged Ft. Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan tried to contact men linked to al-Qaeda, ABC News reported on Monday, quoting two officials with access to classified case papers.
A screenshot of the website...
A screenshot of the website of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki.
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region  |  World
Hasan is currently the only suspect in a deadly shooting spree at a US Army base in Fort Hood, Texas, in which thirteen people were killed and 29 wounded. The suspect was shot by civilian policewoman Kimberley Munley during the incident, and on Saturday regained consciousness at a hospital in San Antonio, Texas. A hospital spokesman says he is able to talk. One senior lawmaker told ABC News that the CIA had refused to brief the intelligence committee on any knowledge they may have had linking Hasan to al-Qaeda, but that such documents and files would now be reexamined. Senator Joe Lieberman on Sunday called for the US Army to investigate whether it had missed signs of Hasan's Islamic extremism, telling the Fox news network that "There are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and, therefore, that this was a terrorist act," Lieberman was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, the website of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born imam at Virginia mosques attended by both Hasan and three Sept. 11 hijackers, praised Hasan for being a "man of conscience" and doing "the right thing." Awlaki, who currently resides in Yemen, said on his website that any decent Muslim cannot serve in the US Army, which "is directly invading two Muslim countries and indirectly occupying the rest," unless he intends to "follow the footsteps of men like Nidal." The statement stressed that Hasan's actions had drawn attention to the dilemma of Muslims living in the US, many of whom are forced to either "betray Islam or betray their nation." "We would frequently say he was a Muslim first and an American second," a military doctor who had studied with Hasan told ABC. "And we questioned how somebody could take an oath of office … and have that type of conflict." AP contributed to this report.
US major of Palestinian origin shouted "Allahu Akbar" in Fort Hood shooting rampage

DEBKAfile Special Report

November 5, 2009, 2:00 PM (GMT+02:00)

US Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan in two guises

US Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan in two guises

Speculation is rife in the US media about whether Army Major Malik Nadal Hasan's massacre of 13 servicemen at America's biggest army base, Fort Hood in Texas Thursday, Nov. 5 was motivated by terrorist ideology.

US officials are tightlipped on the question, saying only the investigation will establish the facts. Witnesses among the 28 injured reported that while firing two handguns, he shouted "Alahu Akbar!" before he was felled himself by four bullets fired by wounded female police officer Sgt. Kimberley Munlay.

That morning, he went shopping in Muslim dress.

Friday, Nov. 6, US terrorism task force agents interviewed his relatives, searched his home and seized his computer. US president Obama promised updates as the inquiry develops and ordered White House and federal buildings to fly flags at half-staff. Capitol Hill observed a minute's silence 24 hours after the tragedy.

Born in Virginia to Palestinian parents from Jordan, Major Hasan, 39, is a psychiatrist whom the army put through medical training. Before Fort Hood, he was posted for six years at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington D.C. He went on his shooting rampage shortly after being informed he would be deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Faizul Khan, a former imam at a mosque he attended at Silver Spring Md. said the major was a lifelong Muslim. "I got the impression he was a committed soldier," he said.

On a form filled out by Muslims seeking spouses through the mosque, Hasan listed his nationality as Palestinian although he was born in Virginia.

According to neighbors, Hasan handed round Qurans and his furniture that morning and had taken to wearing "Arab clothing" in recent weeks.

Retired Army Col. Terry Lee, who had worked with the major, told reporters that Hasan had hoped President Barack Obama would pull the army out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Lee said he often got into arguments with soldiers who supported the wars and had tried hard to get his pending deployment cancelled.

The major came to the attention of law enforcement authorities six months ago on suspicion of posting Internet messages equating suicide bombers with soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades. No formal investigation had been opened before the shooting.

President said Thursday night it was hard enough for "our soldiers to die in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, but horrifying for them to come under fire at an army base on American soil."

Fort Hood shooter is Palestinian Muslim
An American soldier who opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas last week killing 13 fellow soldiers and wounding 30 others is now known to be an Arab Muslim of Palestinian decent. While Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was born and raised in the US, his parents came from the currently Palestinian-controlled areas of the so-called "West Bank." Hasan was described as a devout Muslim who on several occasions in recent years passed out Korans and tried to share the message of Islam with other soldiers. He is also suspected of having participated in several online discussions praising the use of terrorism against America and American soldiers, despite being one himself. It is interesting to note that while they receive more aid per capita from the US than any other people group (roughly half a billion dollars ever year), the Palestinians perhaps more than any other group in the Middle East nurture a strong hatred for the US. For example, when Muslim terrorists devastated the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, Palestinians rejoiced en masse in the streets of their cities, and even in Jerusalem. That despite the fact that for the previous eight years former US President Bill Clinton had been pumping money into the Palestinian economy and extracting far-reaching concessions from Israel.
Congressional probe to say if Fort Hood shooting was worst post-9/11 terror attack in US

DEBKAfile Special Report

November 9, 2009, 7:22 PM (GMT+02:00)

Sen. Joe Lieberman: Independent probe essential

Sen. Joe Lieberman: Independent probe essential

As pressure builds on the Obama administration and law enforcement authorities to break their silence on the Nov. 5 shootings at the Ford Hood base, Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent who heads the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, announced he was launching a congressional investigation to find out whether the attack which claimed 13 lives and injured 30 was preventable. Army commanders will be asked to explain how for two years they missed warning signs that army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had turned to radical Islam.

Witnesses described him as calmly shooting more than 100 rounds at his comrades, some already lying wounded on the floor.

Lieberman, the first high-ranking US lawmaker to speak out on the tragedy, said to the media Sunday night, Nov. 8: "We don't know enough to say now, but there are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan has become an Islamist extremist and therefore this was a terrorist act." Indirectly criticizing official silence, the senator said that if the news reports were true, "the murder of these 13 people was… the most destructive terrorist act committed on American soil since 9/11."

He also called on the Pentagon to conduct an independent inquiry.

Hasan's classmates at military courses in 2007-2008 quoted the US-born major of Palestinian parents as quite openly justifying suicide bombing and telling classmates that Islamic law trumped the US Constitution. One said students had complained to their professors but no action was taken. Others reported that the Fort Hood killer had complained to at least five officers and two civilian lecturers - and written a letter to the Pentagon - saying that the American army was wrong to prevent an intellectual debate on Muslim ideology.

Witnesses of the shootings agreed that he shouted Allahu Akbar while firing.

There is also evidence that he worshipped at the same Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Great Falls, Virginia as two of the 9/11 hijackers and was an admirer of its imam Anwar al-Awlaki their mentor.

The army's commander, Gen. George Casey, was finally obliged to say an act of terrorism could not be ruled out. But he cautioned against speculation. "We must let the investigation take its course," he said, while expressing concern that speculation could result in a "backlash" against Muslim soldiers.

DEBKAfile's Washington sources report growing impatience in the army and country over what is seen as official hedging. The "speculation" which has filled the vacuum left by the absence of official information leads inescapably to tough conclusions. An independent congressional probe may well raise hard questions about how nine years after the September 2001 atrocity, the army missed red flags and failed to apply to itself the lessons learned from fighting two wars against Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and Iraq.

US commander-in-chief President Barack Obama is already taking some heat for refusing to address any of these sensitive issues until the federal and military inquiries end.

The investigation is said to be held up by the alleged killer's medical condition. Earlier reported in a coma, he was disconnected from the ventilator Sunday, which means Maj. Hasan may soon be well enough to give his own version of his deeds and stand trial.

A confession would put an end to the controversy developing in the US, as conservatives, independents and some military rank and file accuse the Obama administration and its supporters of equivocating on the Islamist factor of the Fort Hood crime in a way that could encourage radical Muslim Americans in and outside the army to emulate Maj. Hasan's act.

In anticipation of efforts to suppress the findings of the official investigations by a news blackout or other means and conduct the trial or court martial behind closed doors, Lieberman has acted to make sure the entire episode and its ramifications see the light of day in an open congressional inquiry. Hence also his demand for an independent probe to be launched by the Department of Defense.

The double lives of Jewish converts in IsraelIlana has been living a double life in Israel. Though her first visit was as a Catholic, she ultimately decided to convert to Judaism, and following her conversion in Italy in 2006, she moved to Israel. Incredibly, despite the fact that the (Orthodox) Chief Rabbinate certifies her conversion, the civil organs of the State of Israel continue to deny her basic rights as a citizen.
The Jerusalem Rabbinate.
The Jerusalem Rabbinate. Photo: Knesset Channel
Scandalously, Ilana lives without medical insurance, is unable to work, and has been waiting for more than two years for her case for citizenship to make it to the Supreme Court. In every other Jewish community in the world, Ilana is Jewish. Not here. This is because the Interior Ministry has taken it upon itself to review conversions that were performed worldwide in terms of its own bureaucratic criteria. THE AUTHORS of this article have little in common. One is an Orthodox rabbi who directs ITIM, a nonprofit organization that helps Israelis and new immigrants navigate Israel's rabbinic bureaucracy. The other is a social historian and ordained Reform rabbi who directs AJC Jerusalem, the local office of the American Jewish Committee, which seeks to strengthen the Israel-Diaspora connection. What binds the two of us together is a passion for the Jewish people. Today, together, we are issuing a call to the Diaspora Jewish community to speak up on behalf of a vulnerable group among us - converts to the Jewish people. Since the Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that all conversions performed abroad are recognized by the State of Israel for purposes of aliya, thousands of new immigrants who underwent conversion have come here. They contribute greatly to this country. Since 2002, however, the State of Israel has taken a step backward, refusing immediate recognition of conversion certificates issued by recognized communities in the Diaspora. Today, if someone converts in a Diaspora community, it will take at least a year before the State of Israel recognizes that person as Jewish. Though the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that all converts should immediately be allowed to emigrate under the Law of Return - a law that has become sacrosanct in Israel-Diaspora relations - the Justice and Interior ministries continue to insist on draconian "citizenship tests" for converts that horrify each of us, from our different perspectives. Most recently, the Justice Ministry issued new protocols, already being implemented by the Jewish Agency, that demand an 18-month residency and a formal curriculum of study for converts abroad who want to come live here. These protocols demand that rabbis overseas ask certain specific questions of converts, that the process be reported in detail to the Israeli authorities and that converts adhere to strict bureaucratic procedures if they want their conversions to be accepted by Israeli civil authorities. In a word, civil bureaucrats are seeking to impose their will and standards on Diaspora Jewry, challenging the autonomy of Diaspora communities. As Zionists and as individuals who believe in the sanctity of Klal Yisrael, we cannot stand by while Israeli law is ignored and the delicate relationship between the Diaspora and Israeli communities challenged. This is not only an internal crisis; it affects Jewish communities everywhere. According to the National Jewish Population Survey, more than 70 percent of North American Jews have a non-Jew or a convert in their family. Research by AJC's Koppelman Institute shows that by numerous social measures, conversion to Judaism is the single best outcome to a mixed marriage, certainly in terms of Jewish continuity. Clearly, encouraging conversion is a key factor in ensuring the future of Diaspora Jewry, and a posture of intransigence taken by the government - refusal to accept converts as full members of the Jewish people - threatens the Jewish future. When the "Who is a Jew" issue reared its ugly head in the 1980s, Diaspora Jewish leaders organized rabbinic missions to Israel to convince its leadership to recognize the hegemony of the local Jewish communities. With that precedent in mind, we call upon Jews all over the world to speak up on behalf of converts. Write letters to the prime minister asking why civil authorities are not treating converts as full Jews; make conversion part of the Jewish communal agenda. In doing the right thing for converts, we also hope to reestablish the appropriate balance between Israel and the Diaspora. Rabbi Dr. Ed Rettig is acting director of the American Jewish Committee's Israel Office, and Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber is founder and director of ITIM: the Jewish Life Information Center.
Turkish PM suggests Israeli Jews are genocidal
Tensions between Israel and Turkey ratcheted up again on Sunday when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan suggested the Jews of Israel are the only genocidal group in the Middle East, while coming to the defense of wanted Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir. Speaking to members of his party, Erdogan insisted there is no genocide happening in Sudan's Darfur region, where over 300,000 people have been slaughtered by government-backed militias over the past six years. According to Erdogan, Bashir may have mismanaged the situation, but the international warrant for his arrest is a mistake. "A Muslim can never commit genocide," Erdogan decalred. "It's not possible." That is why the Turkish prime minister said he would have no problem meeting with Bashir, which he was scheduled to do this week before the Sudanese leader's trip was cancelled for fear of his arrest en route. By contrast, Erdogan said he would have a very hard time sitting down for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau. Erdogan has very publicly accused Israel of widespread war crimes and even genocidal intentions in the Gaza Strip and other Palestinian-controlled areas, severely straining relations between the two nations, which were previously regional allies. Turkish officials have confirmed that the souring of relations between Israel and Turkey has a lot to do with Ankara's desire to strengthen ties to Iran.
J'lem Mayor Receives Bi-Partisan Support in U.S.

JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's vision of a united Jerusalem was exceptionally well-received by U.S. congressmen from across the political spectrum in Washington, D.C., last week.

Barkat presented his vision of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the Jewish state, open to people of all faiths to enjoy, to 15 members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and other key government officials.

Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the U.S., accompanied the mayor during his 24-hour stay in Washington, which was a part of a 10-day tour to the U.S.and Canada.

The mayor also met with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).

Sen. Lieberman said six senators had submitted a bill to bypass the requirement for presidential confirmation to implement the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was passed by both the House and Senate in 1995.

The bill states that "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.

Successive U.S. administrations have blocked implementation of the law, citing "security concerns."

"We will continue to work together to bring the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, which I believe will be the first step in bringing additional embassies to the capital, as is the case with all other capitals around the world," Barkat said.

Later, the mayor addressed a standing-room only crowd at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.

"Jerusalem has many friends in Washington," the mayor stated in a press release. "Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, stand as one in their support for Jerusalem as the united capital of the State of Israel," Barkat said.