PA Forces Discover Kassam Rocket
JERUSALEM, Israel - Palestinian Authority forces turned over a Kassam rocket discovered in an Arab village somewhere in the West Bank, Army Radio reported on Monday.
According to the report, the rocket, which had been manufactured there, was ready to be fired into central Israel.
The IDF noted increasing cooperation with PA security forces, who dismantled the rocket before it could be launched.
In a related incident on Sunday, Palestinians opened fire from a car on IDF troops responding to rocks being hurled at Israeli vehicles near the Arab village of Housan, west of Bethlehem. The driver tried unsuccessfully to run over the soldiers.
On Saturday, a similar incident occurred near Edurim close to the PA-controlled city of Hevron when a Palestinian driver opened fire and then tried to run down soldiers. The troops returned fire, injuring two Palestinians.
The soldiers were following up on a report that Palestinians were attempting to steal vehicles in the area. When the troops arrived, the would-be thieves began driving away. One of them tried to run over several soldiers.
Also on Saturday, IDF forces opened fired at Palestinian terrorists approaching the security barrier along the border with the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported.
A day earlier, troops fired on Palestinians planting explosive devices along the fence near Kibbutz Kissufim.
On Thursday, a soldier from the Golani Brigade was wounded when Palestinians remotely detonated a bomb in the same general area.
Troops later discovered more bombs along the barrier, which IDF sappers detonated in controlled explosions.
French reconsider recognizing Palestine
Sarkozy, Kouchner stress state must be established in negotiations.
'Support Israel at this crucial time'
Middle East peace talks must be restarted to avoid a “catastrophe,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Monday after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris, stepping back from the idea that the EU should recognize a Palestinian state before an agreement is signed.
“If there are no talks... we take the risk, the international community, of a third intifada,” Sarkozy said at a joint news conference with Abbas. “If we do nothing it will be a catastrophe.”
However, Sarkozy backed off of the notion of declaring a Palestinian state before borders with Israel are defined, as suggested over the weekend by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
Kouchner himself also seemed to backtrack, co-writing an op-ed Monday in Le Monde with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos in which they said that Europe would “collectively recognize a Palestinian state” at the end of the diplomatic process.
Despite US Mideast envoy George Mitchell’s efforts, the two foreign ministers wrote in the piece, which called for greater European involvement in the process, that the political process has not succeeded.
“Europe needs to step in today and give guarantees of political and financial security for Israelis and Palestinians to help overcome the ‘risks of peace,’” they wrote. Kouchner and Moratinos wrote that the indirect “proximity talks” now being discussed needed to be augmented by a timeline, and a “mechanism” that would accompany the talks and “learn from the lessons of the past.”
The two foreign ministers said that Europe could also advance bold “confidence-building measures” on the ground, and hold a peace conference that could stabilize and strengthen a positive dynamic.
Israeli diplomatic officials said it was telling that the two foreign ministers decided to come out with their program in an op-ed, and not to include it in a statement at the end of the EU foreign ministers meeting held Monday in Brussels. They opted for this path, one official said, because it would be too difficult and cumbersome for them to reach a consensus on the matter inside the EU.
Sarkozy, meanwhile, said at his press conference with Abbas, in which the two men made a strong display of solidarity, that they agreed on the ingredients needed to create a Palestinian state while guaranteeing Israeli security and border security.
“Everybody knows the terms of a definitive peace accord,” Sarkozy said. These include the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of each, a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, land exchanges and talks on the status of Palestinian refugees.
Abbas also seemed to dismiss the idea of recognition of statehood before the negotiations were concluded.
“Negotiations first, proclamation of a state later,” he said, before adding that he has not excluded reaching out to the UN Security Council if talks keep stalling.
Sarkozy said he would discuss Middle East peace negotiations with President Barack Obama during a state visit to Washington at the end of March. No firm date has been set.
In spite of differences, US Jews must defend Israelis, ambassador says.
'J'lem city wall dates back to King Solomon'
WASHINGTON – Ambassador to the US Michael Oren urged a gathering of American Jews to support Israel despite any reservations or differences of opinion regarding Israeli policy.
“In spite of some of the differences that sometimes divide you and in spite of the differences you may have with our decisions, respect them, for they have been made by the majority of Israelis, through one of the world’s most resilient democracies,” he said Sunday night, addressing the Jewish Council for Public Affairs annual plenum in Dallas, Texas.
In blunt words, he urged American Jews to support Israel while it is at a “crucial crossroads” in the peace process.
“Support us, too, if we decide the peace being offered us is not a real peace and does not warrant those sacrifices and risks,” he said. “Join us in fighting for Israel’s right to defend itself, in fighting for Israel’s right to exist.”
The comments, which seemed directed at the US administration’s frustration with the peace process, also come after Oren softened his view of J Street, the self-described “pro-peace, pro-Israel” lobby. The Netanyahu government has had an uneasy relationship with J Street, and this past fall Oren pointedly declined an invitation to attend the group’s kick-off policy conference in Washington.
But in a February 10 interview with the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Oren said J Street had moved “much more into the mainstream.”
“The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process. J Street has now come and supported Congressman Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone Report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream,” Oren said.
The ambassador opened his talk on Sunday by discussing another speech, given on February 8 at the University of California, Irvine, where 11 students heckled him off the stage. He returned and finished his speech, and the students were later arrested.
“Their goal was to undermine the freedom of expression and at the same time to delegitimize the Jewish state,” he said.
“Civility, the ability to hear others’ opinions and be heard, is an essential weapon in Israel’s defense. We have a case to be made,” he said.
During his talk Sunday, Oren referenced “long-simmering issues” between American and Israeli Jews.
“While Israelis turned toward the center and right,” he said, “American Jews gravitated in the other direction, casting 80 percent of their ballots for Barack Obama.”
Mentioning issues of conversion, he also focused on the “Women of the Wall” incident at the Kotel earlier this month, when 200 women wearing tallit were heckled and called Nazis by haredi men.
“There are good solutions for the issues at the Kotel,” he said during a question-and-answer session. “It will require compromise on everyone’s behalf.”
"It's the most significant construction we have from First Temple days in Israel," says archeologist Eilat Mazar.
Israel’s Newest Drone Makes Its Debut
Ancient stone fortifications that were recently uncovered outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City date back some 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era, according to archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who spoke to a group of reporters at the site on Monday.
If the age of the wall is correct, the finding would be an indication that Jerusalem was home to a strong central government that had the resources and manpower needed to build massive fortifications in the 10th century BCE.
"It's the most significant construction we have from First Temple days in Israel," Mazar said on Monday. "And it means that at that time, the 10th century, in Jerusalem there was a regime capable of carrying out such construction."
The section of the city wall revealed, which is 70 meters long and six meters high, is located in the area known as the Ophel, between the City of David and the southern wall of the Temple Mount.
An inner gatehouse for access into the royal quarter of the city was uncovered in the city wall complex, along with a royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse and a corner tower that overlooks a substantial section of the adjacent Kidron Valley.
The excavations in the Ophel area were carried out over a three-month period under the auspices of Hebrew University and with funding provided by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman, a New York couple interested in biblical archeology.
The excavations were carried out in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Company for the Development of East Jerusalem. Archeology students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as volunteer students from the Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma and hired workers all participated in the excavation work.
"The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence," Mazar said. "Its strength and form of construction indicate a high level of engineering, and the city wall is at the eastern end of the Ophel area in a high, strategic location atop the western slope of the Kidron Valley.
"A comparison of this latest finding with city walls and gates from the period of the First Temple, as well as pottery found at the site, enable us to postulate, with a great degree of assurance, that the wall that has been revealed is that which was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem in the latter part of the tenth century BCE," she continued.
"This is the first time that a structure from that time has been found that may correlate with written descriptions of Solomon's building in Jerusalem," she added.
"The Bible tells us that Solomon built - with the assistance of the Phoenicians, who were outstanding builders - the Temple and his new palace and surrounded them with a city, most probably connected to the more ancient wall of the City of David."
Mazar specifically cited the third chapter of Kings I, which includes the words "until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about."
The six-meter-high gatehouse of the uncovered city wall complex is built in a style typical of those from the period of the First Temple, like Megiddo, Beersheba and Ashdod. It has a symmetrical plan of four identical small rooms, two on each side of the main passageway.
A large, adjacent tower also stood at the site, covering an area of 24 by 18 meters, where it served as a watchtower to protect entry to the city. Today the tower is located under the nearby road and still needs to be excavated.
Pottery shards discovered within the fill of the lowest floor of the royal building near the gatehouse also testify to the 10th-century-BCE dating of the complex. On the floor, excavators found remnants of large storage jars that survived destruction by fire and that were found in rooms that apparently served as storage areas on the ground floor of the building. One of the jars shows a partial inscription in ancient Hebrew indicating it belonged to a high-level government official.
"The jars that were found are the largest ever found in Jerusalem," said Mazar, adding that "the inscription found on one of them shows that it belonged to a government official, apparently the person responsible for overseeing the provision of baked goods to the royal court."
In addition to the pottery shards, cult figurines were also found in the area, as were seal impressions on jar handles with the word "to the king," testifying to their usage within the monarchy. Also found were seal impressions (bullae) with Hebrew names, indicating the royal nature of the structure.
Nonetheless, other archeologists posit that the biblical narrative reflecting the existence of a powerful monarchy in Jerusalem is largely mythical and that there was no strong government to speak of in that era.
Aren Maeir, an archeology professor at Bar Ilan University, said he has yet to see evidence that the fortifications are as old as Mazar claims. There are remains from the 10th century in Jerusalem, he said, but proof of a strong, centralized kingdom at that time remains "tenuous."
While some see the biblical account of the kingdoms of David and Solomon as accurate and others reject it entirely, Maeir said the truth was likely somewhere in the middle.
"There's a kernel of historicity in the story of the kingdom of David," he said.
AP contributed to this report
TEL NOF BASE – The Israel Air Force introduced its newest UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone) on Sunday. The Heron TP, nicknamed Eitan, can fly up to 20 hours nonstop at altitudes as high as 40,000 feet, putting Iran within its range.
“The air force has marked another important milestone in the development of UAVs,” said OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan at the Tel Nof Air Force Base on Sunday.
IAF Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin, head of the base from which the new drone will operate, called the Eitan “a technological and operational breakthrough.”
Manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, the huge aircraft, with a wingspan of 86 feet, is size of a Boeing 737 passenger jet.
It is powered by a 1,200 HP engine and can carry very large cargoes.
Eitan is also equipped with satellite communications capabilities.
“To my knowledge, this is the most advanced UAV of its kind in the world, and it is especially well-suited for IAF missions,” said Lt. Col Eyal, lead officer of the Eitan project.
“It can complete a very wide range of missions and adds specialized intelligence capabilities to the IAF. Very few UAVs in the world can reach its capabilities,” he said.
Arabs riot over Jewish history in Hebron
Report: Netanyahu authorized assassination of Hamas man
Arabs Begin to Blame Their Own Leaders for ’Refugee' Status
(IsraelNN.com) Arabs who left Israel in the 1948 are are beginning to blame Arab countries for leaving them stateless after promising a quick return to “Palestine.” "They said, 'A week, two weeks, approximately, and you'll return to Palestine,'" Sadek Mufid, formerly of Akko (Acre) and now living in Lebanon, recently told Palestinian Authority television.
His comments were translated by Palestinian Media Watch
Saudi Arabia has led an Arab world demand that normalization of ties with Israel and the establishment of the PA as a state be conditioned on Israel's allowing the immigration of approximately five million Arabs. Most of them are descendants of Arabs who claim they used to live in Israel.
The United Nations has classified them as “refugees” and placed them in villages, known as “camps,” in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and Arab countries. The Arab designation of “refugees” is maintained today by the refusal of Arab countries to allow them citizenship, voting rights, or the ability to move into better housing, in order to preserve their “unique status.”
Mufid’s testimony represents a new trend of Arab leaders, writers and former Israeli Arab residents who have begun to speak out and openly blame the Arab leadership for the creation of their situation.
Mufid describes a mass departure to Lebanon from Israel, which led to the creation of "11 or 15 refugee camps." He does not place the blame on Israel. As Palestinian Media Watch has previously reported, other recent accounts also describe a deliberate exit from Israel under orders from Arab leaders, as the Israeli government has always claimed, which contradicts the Palestinian leadership's charge that the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who left in 1948 were expelled by Israel.
Mufid, who left the village of Dir Al-Qasi near Akko in 1948, told the PA TV's weekly program Returning, "We headed first from Dir al-Qasi to Rmaich , considering what they said at the time: 'By Allah, in a week or two, you will return to Palestine.'
“The Arab armies entered Palestine, along with the Arab Liberation Army. We left - we and those who fled with us - and we all headed for Lebanon. Some people came to Rmaich and others came to the villages on the border, such as Ein Ibl and also to Bnit Jibil. People scattered. And we have about 11 or 15 camps in Lebanon."
In another PA television interview, an elderly Arab recalled how his family left Ein Kerem, in eastern Jerusalem. “The radio stations of the Arab regimes kept repeating to us. ‘Get away from the battle lines. It's a matter of 10 days or two weeks at the most, and we'll bring you back to Ein Kerem.’
“And we said to ourselves, 'That's a very long time. What is this? Two weeks? That's a lot!' That's what we thought . And now 50 years have gone by."
Two years ago, Jordanian-based Aryan journalist Jawad Al Bashiti wrote in Al-Ayyam
, “The reasons for the Palestinian Catastrophe are the same reasons that have produced and are still producing our catastrophes today... The first war between Arabs and Israel had started and the ‘Arab Salvation Army’ told the Palestinians, ‘We have come to you in order to liquidate the Zionists and their state. Leave your houses and villages, you will return to them in a few days safely. Leave them so we can fulfill our mission in the best way and so you won't be hurt.' It became clear already then, when it was too late, that the support of the Arab states was a big illusion.
According to an unnamed source cited by London's Sunday Times
, Israel was in fact behind last months assassination of a top Hamas operative in Dubai, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally authorized the hit.
The Israeli source told the newspaper that Netanyahu visited Mossad headquarters in early January and was told of a plan to take out Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh shortly after he checked into his hotel in Dubai. According to the report, Netanyahu wished the best of luck to Mossad chief Meir Dagan and several of the agents who were to take part in the hit.
A day earlier, Dubai police officials claimed they were in possession of evidence that firmly linked Israel's Mossad spy agency to the assassination, and would publicize that information shortly.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon responded by saying there was no such evidence because Israel was not involved.
Dubai police have already released security camera footage and passport photos of the suspected 11-man hit squad. Nearly all of the suspects are clearly of Middle Eastern descent, though all were carrying European passports.
Most of the names on the passports were of Israelis who had immigrated from those European nations years earlier. Several of those named later appeared on Israeli television shocked and confused, and clearly not the same people as those shown in the photographs.
Israeli commentators continue to note that it is highly unlikely the Mossad would have stolen the identities of average Israelis as cover for is agents. More likely is that a Middle East regime that was both interested in eliminated a top Hamas operative and in smearing Israel is responsible. The top suspect for those who follow this thinking is the Palestinian Authority.
A mob of Palestinian Arabs threatened the small Jewish community living in the Judean town of Hebron on Monday in response to the Israeli government's decision a day earlier to recognize the local Cave of the Patriarchs as a national heritage site.
During the disruption, the Arabs hurled stones, burning tires and firebombs at Jewish civilians and Israeli soldiers. One soldier was lightly wounded.
The Cave of the Patriarchs, or Cave of Machpelah in Hebrew, is the traditional burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah. The Arabs, who claim descent from Abraham, also revere the site and have an area of the cave set apart as a mosque.
The burial place of Jacob's other wife, Rachel, on the outskirts of Bethlehem also received heritage status in the government decision.
The two sites were not originally on the list of newly-recognized heritage sites due to their location in Palestinian-controlled areas, but were added following heavy pressure from right-wing factions in the government.
The Jews of Hebron praised the decision, and urged the government to continue to standing up to Arab and international efforts to sever the Jews' historical ties to the land.