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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pushing Jerusalem's housing envelope to the East

I have mentioned several times that I believe that Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert agreed to a building freeze within the city of Jerusalem. Olmert has denied it. A group of private entrepreneurs are about to push the envelope by building a new neighborhood in a vital strategic location that is practically in the center of the city. To give you an idea, go to this map. At the top, towards the right side you will see an area marked in blue that is shaped a bit like a tree with a brown area jutting into the middle of it. On the trunk of the tree is an area called Ma'alot Dafna. Ma'alot Dafna is a Jewish neighborhood built in an area that was no man's land until after the 1967 war. But it's on Israel's side of the 'green line.' Immediately to the right of Ma'alot Dafna (there is a four-lane major boulevard between them that runs along what was the former border) is an area called Ash Shaykh Jarrah. That's the area under discussion in this article:
The Yemin Yehuda non-profit association has begun building 200 housing units in the Shimon Hatzaddik compound, in the heart of East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarra neighborhood. In the process, the organization intends to demolish the homes of dozens of Palestinian families who live there.

This neighborhood is in a strategic location: If Yemin Yehuda completes its plan, it will cut the Old City off from the Palestinian neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem.

MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who supports building the new neighborhood, says it is designed to create a Jewish continuum surrounding the Old City, where there currently is a massive Palestinian majority.
The 'Palestinian' families are squatters. The buildings are owned by Jews - or their descendants - who were expelled from the area in 1948.
The new neighborhood is slated to cover 18 dunams next to the tomb of Shimon Hatzaddik. According to the plan submitted to the Jerusalem municipal planning commission, Palestinian buildings must be demolished to make room for 200 housing units.

The plan states that open areas will become residential, and that the construction density in the area will be increased to include five- and six-story buildings, which will require changing the Municipal Construction Plan.

Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack, who heads the local commission, says he is not familiar with the new plan, but that he seeks to "advance any construction plan, be it by Jews or Arabs."

Pollack noted that contrary to reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had ordered a halt to construction in East Jerusalem, the municipality has not been informed of any such restrictions.
This area is less than a two-minute walk from Ma'alot Dafna - a neighborhood I lived in for three years in the 90's. People walk to the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik regularly and take their sons there for their first haircut (called a Halaka in Hebrew or an Opshirin in Yiddish) at the age of 3. But note the part I highlighted. I have no doubt Pollack believes it's true. But is it?
In 2004, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski sought Housing Ministry permission to build a Jewish neighborhood adjacent to the Simon Hatzaddik tomb, "in order to strengthen the connection between the Jewish neighborhoods" in East Jerusalem.

Currently, about 40 Palestinian families live in the area, which is very close to the American Colony Hotel, one of the most important centers of Palestinian and international activity in East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the American Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz already has purchased the nearby Shepherd's Hotel, and wants to build several dozen housing units there for Jews.

Furthermore, about two months ago, Haaretz reported that the Israel Lands Administration had leased the Ateret Cohanim organization a large area known as Kerem Hamufti, opposite Shepherd's Hotel.
Recall what has been going on with Beit HaShalom in Hebron. You can bet that similar attacks will be made on any Jewish land purchases in 'East' Jerusalem.
Connecting all these dots could create a significant Jewish continuum and cut Sheikh Jarra and the Old City off from the Palestinian neighborhoods to the north.

A Jewish neighborhood had existed at the Shimon Hatzaddik compound until 1948, when the Jewish inhabitants fled during the war. The area was settled by Palestinians fleeing from West Jerusalem.

After the Six-Day War, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Ashkenazi Community Committee initiated proceedings to claim the area, on the grounds that it had belonged to them since the 19th century.

About 30 years ago, some of the Palestinian families agreed to start paying rent to the two organizations.

A few years ago, the Nahalat Shimon association received the rights from the two organizations. It is initiating the construction of the new neighborhood.

The Palestinian residents, represented by attorney Salah Abu Hussein, argued that the land belongs to a Palestinian who lives in Jerusalem. [That's likely a lie. CiJ]

The Supreme Court rejected the Palestinian's ownership claim two years ago, but refused to state who does own the land.

Abu Hussein says the Palestinian residents have been paying rent for decades under an agreement that grants them ownership after 30 years.
I wonder if anyone has told Condi yet.

Stay tuned. This should be interesting.

Polls, polls, polls: It's all in how the question is asked

The Talmud says that in the times immediately preceding the coming of the Messiah "the generation's face will be like that of a dog." Our rabbis interpret this to mean that just like a dog runs ahead and keeps looking back to make sure that its master is following, so too the 'leaders' of the generation will run ahead and keep looking back to make sure that the people are following along. It's an apt description for Israel's current leadership's relationship with Israelis. Hence our obsession with polls.

There are several polls out today about what people want to happen with the Olmert government. From reading the headline ("Polls: Olmert's popularity rising"), one would think that Israelis have thrown in the towel and decided to make due with the Olmert-Barak-Livni junta for the next two and half years. Hopefully, this is not the case. Let's look at some of the poll numbers and how the questions were skewed to try to elicit a 'supportive' response. Recall that the media wishes to protect Olmert and keep him in power.
A poll conducted by the daily Ma'ariv newspaper fount that 42 percent of those polled preferred Olmert's government to stay in power until the end of its term or an earlier date agreed upon in advance.

27%, however, thought new elections should be held as soon as possible.

Additionally, 39% of respondents said that if Olmert didn't resign, Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak should pull Labor out of the government and bring about new elections. 22% said Barak should remain in Olmert's coalition and a similar number of respondents thought Barak should remain in the coalition but only after setting a date for new elections in approximately a year's time.
Many people will never get past the Post's home page to read the full article. On the Post's home page, this is summarized as "42% support PM." But if you look at what I highlighted, that's not true. Not exactly 42% support is it? Now, here's another poll:
Israel Radio's poll also showed that 44.4% wanted Olmert to resign and to hold general elections within 6-12 months, but only 21.7% thought he should resign immediately and be replaced by someone from within Kadima ranks.

31.6% thought Olmert should remain in office.

33.7% of respondents said Barak should not leave his position as defense minister, take Labor out of the coalition and topple the government, but a close 32.2% said he should quit immediately.

Olmert's standing seemed safe but not totally out of harm's way as 37.8% thought Livni should assist him in staying in office, while a slightly lower 34.9% thought she should resign immediately and work to topple his government.
Note that 66.1% in the Israel Radio poll want Olmert to resign now or hold elections within 6-12 months. It takes three months to hold elections. And even I wouldn't want Olmert to resign now and appoint someone else from Kadima (presumably Livni) to replace him.

Comforting numbers for Olmert? Not really. But he's not going to resign willingly. The snow is melting in Jerusalem today. It's time to take to the streets.

Obama on Israel and the Jews: Actions don't match words

On Monday, I did a post in which I compared Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Hussein Obama to Jimmy Carter and suggested that the people chosen by Obama as foreign policy advisers are likely to lead him to take actions that will be to Israel's detriment. As a result, I questioned whether those who support Israel could support his candidacy.

Obama is seriously concerned about the prospect of losing the Jewish vote in the US elections. While the number of Jewish voters in the US is relatively small, Jewish Americans are characterized by a high rate of electoral participation, including both voting and contributing funds to candidates. Their concentration in large population states such as New York, Illinois, California and Florida gives their vote greater weight than would be the case if they were in smaller markets. And Jews generally vote overwhelmingly and unthinkingly Democratic in the general elections. The only thing that might put a stop to that latter trend is if Obama is seen (as I would argue that he is) as someone who is indifferent or hostile to Israel.

Obama has good reason to be concerned about losing the Jewish vote. In Florida on Tuesday, despite the fact that the State's Democrats were stripped of their delegates for holding their primary too early, large numbers of Jews turned out to vote. Those votes went 53% to Hillary Clinton (not exactly a friend of Israel either) while only 26% went for Obama (and 13% for John Edwards). Those numbers concern the Obama campaign.

Obama has attempted to solve his problem in two ways. One is through the liberal Jewish media, both in the US and in Israel. For example, in an editorial yesterday, Israel's Hebrew 'Palestinian' daily lambasted Israel's former ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon for daring to speak out against Obama:
Not a year has passed since Danny Ayalon completed his term as Israel's ambassador in Washington, but he has already seen fit to criticize Barack Obama, who may well be the next U.S. president or vice president. In an article published in The Jerusalem Post, Ayalon wrote that during his two meetings with Obama, he got the impression that the Democratic candidate was "not entirely forthright" regarding Israel. Similar and even worse smears can be found in abundance in American blogs and e-mail chain letters.

While Obama was taking advantage of Martin Luther King Day to speak out against anti-Semitism among blacks, Jewish spokesmen were using racist language against him, solely because his father was Muslim. Since it is hard to find so much as a single anti-Jewish statement in Obama's political record, or even support for anti-Israel policies, his defamers base their arguments on the fact that his positions on the Middle East conflict are "leftist" - solely because he rejects the right's positions, which are more acceptable to some Jewish-American leaders.
We'll come back to anti-Jewish statements in Obama's political record in a little bit, but first I want to put the second action Obama took on the table. The second thing Obama did was to hold a telephone conference with representatives of the Jewish media to explain his positions. In the telephone conference, he said all the 'right things' except on Iran.
Obama declared that he objects to a Palestinian right of return into Israel and to negotiations with Islamic group Hamas as long as it clings to its current stance, which rejects Israel's right to exist. He added that he will make sure to guarantee Israel's security should he be elected president.

"I've also repeatedly made clear that I'm committed to ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish state and that's why I've pledged my personal leadership in a process to establish two states living side by side in peace and security," he said.

Turning his attention to the Jerusalem question, Obama said that the contentious issue will be settled through talks between Israel and the Palestinians. However, Obama also noted that he supported dialogue with Iran, while charging that President Bush's Iran policy has failed.
Nearly a year ago, I questioned whether Obama's positions on Israel were deeply-held or whether they were a convenience to get him elected in Illinois. In that post, which included the picture below of Obama and his wife with the late Edward Said, I cited an article by Ed Lasky from the American Thinker and one by Ali Abunimah from the Electronic Intifada. Here's Lasky:

The positive impact of these remarks was diminished somewhat later in his remarks when he spoke well of Rabin's outreach to Israel's enemies (allowing Arafat to establish a terror empire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza (that has since become a launching pad for thousands of rockets fired into Israel). These steps were also taken on the road to peace, yet, they have also led to more terror. I found myself wondering: Were these not worthy of being mentioned as being steps towards peace that were not reciprocated by the Palestinians?


The Senator may well be testing a new tactic for his campaign, one that may well resonate with supporters of Israel: that the Iraq war has endangered Israel by empowering its major foe, Iran (and Iran's allies-Syria and Hezb'allah).

But he failed to mention that Iran's nuclear program has been going on for many years, and that it has been a supporter of Hezb'allah for years as well. All before George Bush became President.

Senator Obama also neglected to mention that Saddam Hussein had attacked Israel in the past with rockets, threatened to incinerate it, and handsomely paid for suicide attacks on Israel. He failed to note that Sunni powers, alarmed by the rise of Iran, welcomed Israel's actions against Hezb'allah, and that overtures have reportedly been made by Saudi Arabia to Israel.

These were astounding developments and should not be cast aside as inconvenient facts.


Yet his solutions about how peace can be achieved with Syria and Iran might give some pause: they consist only of stronger sanctions and negotiations.

Sanctions are fine - the stronger the better. But there are too many loopholes that permit them to be flouted. However, it has taken years for even the weak ones in place to be accepted by the United Nations. How many more years are to be spent in a fruitless quest to ensure the rest of the world deepens these sanctions and chooses to enforces them? (See the oil-for-food scandal for an example of how easily sanctions are evaded).

Negotiations have been tried in the past - by America, by European nations, and by the United Nations. They have often provided cover and time for Iran and Syria to become stronger adversaries. Many people have died during these negotiations; Iran's nuclear centrifuges have not stopped spinning while talks have gone on and on.


Although the Senator finds Hezb'allah violence against Israel worthy of being condemned he seems to ignore acts of Palestinian terrorism (merely talking of Palestinian "extremists" instead). He criticized Hezb'allah rocket attacks from Lebanon, but not Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. He notes the destruction of homes by Hezb'allah but not the destruction of lives from Palestinian suicide bombings. He condemns Holocaust denial by Iran but is silent about Palestinian indoctrination of hatred among its children.

The double standard is chilling and disquieting. The remedy of more "jaw-jaw" and the near futility of sanctions (particularly when Iran is protected by strong commercial relations with various nations) are equally unsettling.
Ali Abunimah gives us a hint of where Obama's real loyalties may lie:
The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.

As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"
And Abunimah suggests that Obama's courting of Israel supporters is insincere and just a matter of electoral convenience:
But Obama's gradual shift into the AIPAC camp had begun as early as 2002 as he planned his move from small time Illinois politics to the national scene. In 2003, Forward reported on how he had "been courting the pro-Israel constituency." He co-sponsored an amendment to the Illinois Pension Code allowing the state of Illinois to lend money to the Israeli government. Among his early backers was Penny Pritzker -- now his national campaign finance chair -- scion of the liberal but staunchly Zionist family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain. (The Hyatt Regency hotel on Mount Scopus was built on land forcibly expropriated from Palestinian owners after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967). He has also appointed several prominent pro-Israel advisors.

Obama has also been close to some prominent Arab Americans, and has received their best advice. His decisive trajectory reinforces a lesson that politically weak constituencies have learned many times: access to people with power alone does not translate into influence over policy. Money and votes, but especially money, channelled through sophisticated and coordinated networks that can "bundle" small donations into million dollar chunks are what buy influence on policy. Currently, advocates of Palestinian rights are very far from having such networks at their disposal. Unless they go out and do the hard work to build them, or to support meaningful campaign finance reform, whispering in the ears of politicians will have little impact. (For what it's worth, I did my part. I recently met with Obama's legislative aide, and wrote to Obama urging a more balanced policy towards Palestine.)

If disappointing, given his historically close relations to Palestinian-Americans, Obama's about-face is not surprising. He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power. Palestinian-Americans are in the same position as civil libertarians who watched with dismay as Obama voted to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, or immigrant rights advocates who were horrified as he voted in favor of a Republican bill to authorize the construction of a 700-mile fence on the border with Mexico.
Is Obama pro-Israel or is he looking to get elected? And if he's looking to get elected, will he have to be as pro-Israel on a national scale as he would have to be to stand a chance in the Jewish suburbs of Chicago? Clearly not.

Put together Obama's conversation with Ali Abunimah and his foreign policy advisers, and we have a real recipe for trouble for Israel.

At Commentary's Contentions blog, Eric Trager is also troubled by the combination I have just outlined, but for different reasons. Trager sees Obama overcoming his foreign policy advisers and presents a different standard by which he says that American Jews much judge Obama:

Yet one question remains legitimate: how can voters who care about the U.S.-Israel relationship be reassured that Obama’s staunchly pro-Israel declarations are not mere pandering? After all, Obama is on record as having called for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2000, just as the Palestinians commenced the Second Intifada following Camp David. According to Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, Obama’s pro-Israel epiphany occurred shortly before his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign—an about-face for which Obama apologized to Abunimah. “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front,” Obama said at the time.

Obama’s apology to Abunimah—a major proponent of the one-state “solution”— indicates an unsophisticated view of American politics, in which success requires whispering sweet Zionist nothings to satisfy the almighty, one-issue Jewish electorate. Obama’s foreign policy advisers have similarly promoted this inflated vision of Jewish power. As my contentions colleague Noah Pollak has assiduously noted, Obama adviser Samantha Power has declared that sound Middle East policy might require “alienating a domestic constituency”—guess which one. His staff further features Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has defended the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis that the U.S.-Israel relationship is the product of Jewish power politics, rather than strategic interest.

This mixture of prior statements and advisory influences suggests little regarding how Obama might act towards Israel if elected. Obama has repudiated Brzezinski’s call for dialogue with Hamas, while Power’s support for ending U.S. foreign military aid to Israel probably represents too radical a departure from historic U.S. policy to be taken seriously.

Rather, Jewish concerns regarding Obama’s candidacy should focus on whether Obama and his posse view American Jewry as a stumbling block in the way of promoting U.S. interests in the Middle East. This is the insidious crux of the “Israel Lobby” thesis, and Obama’s prior statements to Abunimah—as well as the writings of Power and Brzezinski—are hardly reassuring.

I disagree with Trager's dismissal of Brzenzinski and Power. While he may have repudiated the call, I believe that Obama would push Israel to talk to Hamas - and would talk to them himself - especially if, as seems likely, Hamas retains control of Gaza and/or reaches another 'unity government' with Fatah. As to Power, the crux of her point in the article linked above was not cutting off military aid to Israel (and let's face it - that aid could be damaged without being cut off completely). Here's what she said:
I actually think in the Palestine - Israel situation, there's an abundance of information. What we don't need is some kind of early warning mechanism there, what we need is a willingness to put something on the line in helping the situation. Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import; it may more crucially mean sacrificing -- or investing, I think, more than sacrificing -- billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel's military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably take, also, to support what will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence. Because it seems to me at this stage (and this is true of actual genocides as well, and not just major human rights abuses, which were seen there), you have to go in as if you're serious, you have to put something on the line.

Unfortunately, imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. It's a terrible thing to do, it's fundamentally undemocratic. But, sadly, we don't just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide our policy, or that are meant to, anyway. It's essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to [leaders] who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people. And by that I mean what Tom Freidman has called "Sharafat." I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention, which, very much like the Rwanda scenario, that thought experiment, if we had intervened early.... Any intervention is going to come under fierce criticism. But we have to think about lesser evils, especially when the human stakes are becoming ever more pronounced.

Power continues to be a close Obama adviser. I think Trager is being too dismissive of the danger to Israel that Obama poses.

Perhaps what ought to be most troubling to the American Jewish community is something exposed by Debbie Schlussel yesterday: Obama continues to maintain ties to Louis Farrakhan's radical Nation of Islam despite having - again - said all the 'right things.'

Responding to criticism by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, Barack Obama declared his strong opposition to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan:

I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan.

Obama also went on to condemn his Church's award to Farrakhan and his minister's tight relationship with him.

But a former Obama insider says that Obama's sudden aversion to NOI and Farrakhan is belied by the fact that Obama employed and continues to employ several Farrakhan acolytes in high positions on his Illinois and U.S. Senate campaign and office staffs. I have verified that this person--who agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity--held a key position in the Obama campaign. The insider was so close to Senator Obama that they frequently personally discussed and exchanged direct e-mail messages on campaign and policy matters. This person is not connected with the Clintons and is not a disgruntled employee.

Debbie goes on to give extensive proof of Obama's continuing involvement with the Nation of Islam, and also discusses Obama's sudden 'conversion' to being 'pro-Israel.'
When Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate, he gave militant responses to the Chicago Jewish News about Israel. Obama denounced Israel's fence--which he called a "wall" and "barrier to peace"--to keep out terrorists and favored working with Yasser Arafat. When members of the Chicago Jewish community circulated his responses, Obama said that the answers were not his positions, but the work of a low-level intern. He submitted new answers. But that was a lie, the insider says. In fact, they were the work of Obama's Policy Director, Audra Wilson. Moreover, Obama told the insider that he blamed the Mideast conflict on the Jews:
Barack told me that he felt that Jewish community was too inflexible, and that was why the situation in the Mideast could not be resolved.
This is the man who says in a new campaign ad that Hillary Clinton will say anything but change nothing. Barack Obama will say anything, but change his answers.
Debbie has much more to say on this issue - read the whole thing.

Who is Barack Hussein Obama? Where does he stand on issues that are vital to the American Jewish community and to Israel? If they knew the truth, most American Jews would not like the answers.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

First post-Winograd poll

In the first post-Winograd poll, conducted by Channel 2, Israelis showed that they are not so stupid or naive. 56% think Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert should resign while 27% believe he should stay in his job.

45% believe Defense Minister Ehud Barak should leave the government and take his Labor party with him, while 41% believe he should stay in.

The fabric of Israeli society is at stake

Historian Michael Oren, who fought in the Second Lebanon War, has a comment in today's Wall Street Journal (which was written before today's final Winograd Report was issued) that should be read and re-read, especially by those who are not Israelis and who may underestimate the significance of Olmert's actions. (Hat Tip: Little Green Footballs)
In another country, perhaps, such blunders might result in the resignation of senior officers but not necessarily elected officials. In Israel, though, no one is above blame. Accountability for decision making is a tenet of the Zionist ethos on which the Jewish state is based and, unlike most nations, Israel has a citizens' army in which the great majority -- politicians included -- serve. Most uniquely, Israel confronts daily security dangers and long-term threats to its existence. Israelis can neither condone nor afford a prime minister who passes the buck to their army or shirks the onus of defense. The person who sends us into battle cannot escape responsibility for our fate.


At stake is not merely the government's future but rather the fabric of Israeli society.

Israel lacks a constitution but is bound by an unwritten social contract. Israelis defend their country with their lives and their leaders' pledge not to send them to war heedlessly. Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Menachem Begin resigned in the aftermath of disappointing wars, though both were exonerated of incompetence. By ignoring these precedents, Mr. Olmert, whose culpability began before the war, when he appointed a defense minister devoid of military experience, threatens to break the contract. Israelis will think twice before following his orders -- and perhaps those of future prime ministers -- into battle. The cohesiveness that enabled Israel to survive 60 years of conflict will unwind.

Thousands of Israelis are calling for Mr. Olmert's resignation. Rightists convinced that the prime minister cannot safeguard the country's security have joined with leftists who understand that leaders who fail at war will never succeed at peacemaking. All are united by a willingness to shoulder the burden of Israel's defense. This was the commitment that united us that last night in Lebanon, as we took up the stretchers bearing the remains of somebody's son, somebody's husband, and brought them home for burial.
This is perhaps the worst result of Olmert's self-serving behavior. Who will fight for this country in the future knowing that its political leadership won't be accountable if it causes the war effort to fail?

Pipes: Give Gaza to Egypt

Professor Dan Pipes argues that Egypt should be given responsibility for Gaza:
What might Western states now do? The border breaching, ironically, offers an opportunity to clean up a mess.

Washington and other capitals should declare the experiment in Gazan self-rule a failure and press President Husni Mubarak of Egypt to help, perhaps providing Gaza with additional land or even annexing it as a province. This would revert to the situation of 1948-67, except this time Cairo would not keep Gaza at arm's length but take responsibility for it.

Culturally, this connection is a natural: Gazans speak a colloquial Arabic identical to the Egyptians of Sinai, have more family ties to Egypt than to the West Bank, and are economically more tied to Egypt (recall the many smugglers' tunnels). Further, Hamas derives from an Egyptian organization, the Muslim Brethren. As David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen notes, calling Gazans "Palestinians" is less accurate than politically correct.

Why not formalize the Egyptian connection? Among other benefits, this would (1) end the rocket fire against Israel, (2) expose the superficiality of Palestinian nationalism, an ideology under a century old, and perhaps (3) break the Arab-Israeli logjam.

It's hard to divine what benefit American taxpayers have received for the US$65 billion they have lavished on Egypt since 1948; but Egypt's absorbing Gaza might justify their continuing to shell out $1.8 billion a year.
Egypt does not want more Islamist radicals who would oppose the Mubarak government as part of its population. They will never agree to this, although obviously they should be responsible. Pipes' idea looks nice in academia but will not happen so long as the Mubarak government is in power.

But please note the points I highlighted in the excerpts above. They ought to tell you where the blame for Gaza should be laid.

Live-blogging the Winograd Report release

The Winograd Commission's Final Report has just been handed to Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. In an hour, at 6:00 Israel time, the report will be handed to former 'defense minister' Amir Comrade Peretz and a news conference will begin at which members of the Commission will read a 10-page statement about the report. The key parts of the report will be translated into English for the foreign press by one of the committee members. Israel Radio will have an 'open broadcast' for the next four hours and I will be live blogging that broadcast much of that time. Keep checking back here!

5:13 PM

The Commission will not hold a press conference - they will not answer questions. They will read a statement. Peretz gets the report early because he was one of the people who commissioned the report. Barak today tried to shift responsibility from Olmert to the 'entire government.'
Moreover, the Labor chairman insisted, the entire government was responsible for the failures of the Second Lebanon War - not only Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel, he said, was not a presidential regime like the US, in which the president is also the supreme commander of the military.

The cabinet convened Wednesday to discuss "Israel's general security outlook," a strategic and comprehensive field which is not directly related to the lessons of the war.
Conveniently, Barak was not part of the government in the summer of 2006, while the foreign minister, Tzipi Feigele Livni, whose name is frequently mentioned as a successor from Kadima for Olmert, was part of the government.

Kadima MK's and Ministers appealed to Labor to stay in the government, knowing that if there are new elections, they may no longer be in the Knesset.
Kadima MK Yoel Hasson sent a letter to all members of the Labor faction beseeching them to remain in the coalition after the publication of the final Winograd report.

"The Labor party has no reason to quit the government today due to the fact that the Winograd Committee's conclusions are already being implemented," Hasson wrote. "The economy is better than before and even the diplomatic process has emerged from a deep freeze."

Hasson reiterated his message and told the faction members not to repeat former Labor chairman Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's "mistake" in pulling out of the coalition and causing the collapse of the Sharon government.


"The state of Israel will pay a high price if it goes to elections," Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On said at a meeting of Kadima activists in Tiberias. "The prime minister is determined on this score, and no system of pressure will make a difference. For the first time in seven years there is an attempt to create a diplomatic process, [and] the economy is growing."

Housing and Construction Minister Ze'ev Boim also expressed support for the prime minister. "Everyone is talking about accepting responsibility, and I tell you that the prime minister has indeed taken responsibility by repairing, with devotion and exactitude, the failings described in [the Winograd Committee's] interim report," Boim told Kadima activists in Haifa. "Olmert is taking responsibility for lower unemployment, for passing the budget on time and for the decline in the number of terror attacks. Both the people and the opposition know in their heart of hearts that only Olmert can lead this country to accomplishments.
The Commission members have just left Olmert's official residence to go to Binyanei HaUma at the entrance to the city, which is where they will present the report to the press in less than an hour.

A group of reserve soldiers is demonstrating outside Ehud Barak's office in Tel Aviv demanding that he fulfill his promise to take Labor out of the coalition on the report's issuance if Olmert does not resign.

It's freezing cold in Jerusalem - 2 below zero Celsius is expected tonight (colder where I live), and it's windy with more snow expected tonight. It rained today and there will be ice in the streets too. It also is raining and cold in Tel Aviv. But the political framework is hot here right now.

5:26 PM

The Labor party has canceled its ministers' meeting tomorrow morning. Ehud Barak is expected to spend tonight reading the report. Israel Radio's political analyst says that if the report is extremely harsh then Barak is likely to convene a press conference tomorrow morning resigning and if it is extremely light, Barak will also convene a press conference saying that Labor will stay in the government. Otherwise, it will take a few days.

5:32 PM

There's supposed to be an 'unclassified version' of the report on the committee's web site. I haven't found it yet.

5:34 PM

Ehud Barak will definitely hold a press conference tomorrow morning. The Likud will meet at 3:00 and its leader Binyamin Netanyahu will hold a news conference at 5:00 tomorrow.

5:37 PM

From my coverage of the Winograd Commission's interim report:
But the key question here is why: Why didn't the government respond more strongly? And for that matter, why was the government's response to this summer's war so confusing? Some of you may recall that back in July when the government was trying to win the war using only air power I said that the strategy could only work with Dresden-like bombing and I urged the government to do just that. And then when the government sent in the ground troops - and risked their lives rather than those of the Hezbullah sympathizers of Lebanon - it was too little too late. Is the government so incompetent? I believe that the answer lies in the testimony of current Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who was Minister of Health (if I recall correctly) in 2000:
In his testimony before the committee, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said the decision take a measured respond to the October 2000 kidnapping came from the desire to avoid painting a grim picture of the withdrawal from the security zone so soon after it was carried out, and to prevent the opening of a second front after the outbreak of the second intifada a month earlier.

Sneh added that another reason for the containment policy was to allow the residents of the North "breathing room" after years of living under Hizbullah bombardment.
I want that to sink in for all the Israelis - especially if any on the left of the political spectrum happen to be reading this: The government lied to us. Because they couldn't admit that the flight from Lebanon was wrong, they pursued a policy of 'containment' that was completely ineffective and led to this summer's war. Because they postponed the day of reckoning, when it came (and I don't believe it's over yet), it was much worse than it would otherwise have been. Sounds just like Gaza doesn't it? Well in fact, it is.

But it gets worse because the IDF knew this was a problem seven years ago and was unable to do anything about it. The politicians forced the policy of appeasement on the IDF:
Ahead of the withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, army chief Mofaz established a team to draft the IDF's posture along the border. The head of that team was then-OC Northern Command and current Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. The team's recommendations were brought up for discussion at meetings of the General Staff, and formed the basis for the IDF's operational stance following the withdrawal.

The essence of this stance was to deter Hizbullah by threatening the Lebanese home front in the event of an attack on Israeli civilians or on IDF positions along the border. Soon after the withdrawal, however, it became clear that implementing the plan would be difficult, as Hizbullah continued its provocations, and the IDF refrained from responding.

Ashkenazi warned about this policy as early as August 2000, in a letter to Mofaz. "Since our withdrawal from Lebanon, Hizbullah's provocations are increasing, and this is damaging our security and deterrence, and could eventually lead to a serious deterioration in the situation. There is a need to apply effective pressure on Lebanon or to change the way we react.

"If this doesn't happen the situation will crystallize and turn into a reality we cannot live with," the Winograd Committee quoted Ashkenazi as saying back then.

Former OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Udi Adam, who quit after the war, told the committee, "The containment policy was in effect Israel relinquishing its sovereignty over the border area, while allowing Hizbullah a free hand in the area." [I feel sorry for Udi Adam. I think he was the fall guy for this past summer's foul-ups - and undeservedly so. CiJ]

According to senior IDF officers, the "containment" policy's effects were becoming obvious: The next kidnapping was only a matter of time, and it was doubtful if it could be thwarted.
Israel Radio reports that the final report says that the final ground operation did not attain its goals, but does not blame Olmert specifically.

5:41 PM

The Winograd Commission did not interview Israel's UN ambassador Danny Gillerman about the timing of UN Security Council Resolution 1701's adoption. Gillerman has been refusing to answer questions from Israel Radio all week.

5:44 PM

Here's more on the report that was issued in April:
This is from JPost:
According to the final chapter of the report, which includes the committee's conclusions, Olmert is described as a passive leader who was led by the nose by the army and who did not take charge of the war he was supposed to be commanding

Peretz, who should not have accepted the Defense portfolio in the first place, did not do what he should have to make up for his lack of knowledge of security matters after he accepted the post, according to the report.

And with regards to Halutz, the report said that the former IDF chief of general staff did not take Hizbullah's missile attacks against the northern part of the country seriously and at no time came up with a plan to address the threat.

Olmert will meet with members of the Kadima faction on Monday at 6:45 p.m. in order to discuss the findings of the Winograd interim report which was given to him at 4 p.m., one hour prior to its release to the public.
Neither buffoon is expected to resign
Peretz eventually did have the decency to resign.

5:46 PM

Winograd Commission determines that decision to undertake the ground operation was 'reasonable under the political and military circumstances.' That could leave Olmert as Prime Minister. A lot of analysts will disagree. The key here is that it doesn't accuse Olmert of undertaking the operation to save his image.

5:50 PM

Pensioners' party leader Raphi Eitan - a former general (and Jonathan Pollard's handler) is now on the radio saying that UNIFIL would not enter any area in Lebanon that the IDF had not conquered first. He claims that's why they undertook the operation. The Israel Radio broadcaster is saying that the operation never had enough time to succeed in the first place, and Eitan is arguing. The IDF needed at least 96 hours to attain its goals. It was given 60-66.

5:53 PM

Olmert's office says the report is a 'relief.' Decisions reasonable or better.

5:57 PM

Operation was undertaken so that Israel could stay in the field until UNIFIL took over.

6:00 PM

Commission entering room.

Channel 10 and 2 (television) both say serious defects. Announcement starting.

6:01 PM

Winograd speaking.

Version released to public not complete - they had to keep certain things confidential out of national security considerations.

They even left out confidential matter that has already been published in the media.

No personal conclusions or recommendations in the final report. Restraint from personal liability does not determine that there was none. No difference between political and military echelons. Announcement to point out principle points of report and not to summarize entire report.

Final report principally deals with period after the interim report, but events took place in the shadow of initial decision to go to war.

The two parts of the report (interim and final) should be seen as one.

There was a huge and severe missed opportunity. Israel did not have a clear military victory. Israel had total air superiority and did not take advantage of it. Much of the North sat in shelters. Final ground operation had no military achievements and did not attain its goals. Even during the period from July 18 - August 14, 2006, there were troubling facts. Severe problems in manner of decision making. Failures in IDF high command - mainly in ground forces which were not prepared and did not efficiently carry out orders. No strategic planning in political or military echelons. Defective protection of home front. Weakness based in part on weakness in planning that goes long before the war's outbreak.

After decision to go to war, only two options: short, sharp, painful hit on Hezbullah or changing the face of Lebanon through temporary conquest and clearing out Hezbullah. The way in which decision was made - without first determining which of these options to adopt - was responsibility of both political and military echelons.

Even afterwards, this hesitation continued. Hesitation was bad for Israel. But no orderly discussion of this for weeks. Until first week of August, IDF not ready for ground operation. Israel forced into ground operation after diplomatic process made it impossible - blames both political and military echelon for this.

Poor execution by ground forces. They weren't ready. Israel did not make effective use of its military power despite initiating the war in a limited theater. It relied upon a diplomatic arrangement that allowed stopping the war without a final determination. IDF failed to provide proper military achievement for political echelon but political echelon's coordination with IDF also responsible for that.

Praises reserve soldiers for showing up to war, brave soldiers. IAF had impressive achievements. Even so, political and military echelon had false hope that IAF could win war itself.

Regards UNSCR 1701's unanimous adoption as a diplomatic achievement even if not all implemented and that could be seen from the outset. Even so, no orderly process for planning diplomatic negotiations.

Foreign Ministry worked quickly and orderly to attain UN resolution but was not sufficiently aware of integration of military and diplomatic activities.

Ground operation did not achieve military goals but contribution to diplomatic achievements not clear. Not clear how it influenced Lebanon or Hezbullah in cease fire negotiations. Have to evaluate based on what they saw at the time they undertook the operation - not with hindsight. Cannot evaluate the ground operation as part of failed management of war. Against this determine that original decision to undertake ground operation on August 9 subject to Olmert and Peretz was almost required. This gave Israel military and diplomatic flexibility. Decision to start operation was within professional considerations based on what was before them. Goals were legitimate. No failure in decision itself despite limited achievements and high price. Decision had professional support. There were public political considerations but Olmert and Peretz acted in light of what seemed necessary to them for Israel's interest. The political echelon had to make these decisions and the only evaluation is public and political.

Even so, no serious consideration by political or military echelons whether it was reasonable to expect that there would be real achievements in sixty hours. No control over details of fighting or stopping fighting after UNSCR 1701 adopted. No consideration of why extra time was attained and then the operation was stopped.

Only by examining failures will Israel emerge from this failure. This is how we will do better the next time. Will we be more ready and able the next time?

Recommendations include significant change to political and military coordination in ordinary and wartime conditions. Specifically for this reason have to warn of possible pitfalls: fear of criticism in the event of failure will prevent decisive action. Don't prepare for past wars. Don't correct failures only for appearances. Important to remember that enemy also draws conclusions.

War raised issues that Israel wanted to forget. We won't survive unless we have strong political and military leadership and a strong society. These truths are not dependent on one political approach or another. Have to seek peace and make required compromises, but have to come from military strength and ability and readiness to fight for country. These were central questions that the war presented and they are existential. We hope our conclusions will be a push to correct defects and bring a renewed contention with Israel's long term goals. We thank the public for the trust shown in us. If we cause defects to be corrected, that is our reward.

End - 6:31 PM

6:33 PM

(Filling in from the radio what I didn't get down in live translation)

Winograd said that Olmert reluctant to execute ground operation and Peretz convinced him.

6:35 PM

Interviewing Eitan Cabel of Labor. Cabel refuses to say that Barak will stay in government and points out that interim report is part of final report and places blame on Olmert. Cabel says that the entire war was a failure of the political echelon. Cabel says Olmert told him that entire UNSCR was dependent on ground operation and that's why they agreed to it. Cabel still thinks that Olmert should resign and that Barak may leave the government. He was surprised at the tone, thought it would be much less serious.

6:40 PM

Likud: Olmert should take responsibility and resign. Barak promised to leave coalition.

Tzachi HaNegbi (Kadima, head of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee): No reason for Barak to resign. Commission was not tempted to follow the nasty publicity that followed Olmert for the last year and a half and offered Olmert an acquittal. Commission rejected signs all over the country that say that Olmert sacrificed 33 lives for 'spin.' It was reasonable and logical.

6:57 PM

Olmert called Peretz today and told him that the Winograd Report 'rehabilitated' him. Excuse me while I puke.

Barak concluding that report 'reasonable and balanced' and not an earthquake. Conclusion from that obvious.

7:34 PM

IDF reaction to report: The IDF views the report as an indictment of the IDF despite the fact that it has already conducted its own investigation and implemented changes over the past year and a half. The report includes severe criticism of the IDF. The bottom line is that the report says that the army did not provide what it was supposed to provide.

The full unclassified version of the report is now online. It's a 617-page pdf document and I am having some problems getting it open.

Israel Radio just read some of the descriptions of the confusion at Bint Jbeil. It's appalling. As far as I am concerned the political echelon bears most of the blame for Bint Jbeil: They were too afraid of causing civilian casualties.

Ehud Barak has announced that he will react to the report "in the coming days." No press conference tomorrow. Amir Peretz will hold a press conference tomorrow to claim that the report exonerates him.

7:53 PM

Israel Radio reports that Olmert and his supporters drank a toast of champagne after the report was released. I'm sick.

8:10 PM

Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yechezkel is denying the champagne report and denying any other 'expressions of joy' in Olmert's office.

Who will control the Gaza - Egypt border?

There's a new bone of contention between Fatah and Hamas as Fatah is now vying for control of the access points in what will eventually be the reconstituted apartheid wall running down the middle of the city of Rafah in southern Gaza. To recapitulate the history of control of that border for the past two years, originally Israel insisted on controlling Rafah, and the entire Philadelphi corridor (that dirt path at left in the top picture) in which it sits, as a means of controlling weapons smuggling into Gaza. The 'Palestinians' would not accept Israeli control and as a result, in November 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice negotiated rammed an agreement down Israel's throat, pursuant to which the Egyptians would control the border crossing and the corridor, with European monitors observing from the Egyptian side of the border. That deal was a disaster for Israel from the get-go:
In March 2006, I blogged a WorldNetDaily article:
A senior Israel security official involved in the investigation of possible al-Qaida operatives in Gaza told WND last week he fears the global group can still make its way from Sinai into the Gaza Strip due to major security lapses at the Rafah crossing following a deal brokered in November by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A recent WorldNetDaily probe found Rice's international border agreement, which called for European monitors at the Rafah crossing, is allowing terrorists to infiltrate the Gaza Strip, where they are poised to attack Israel. WND also found the deal allows Gaza-based terrorists freedom to travel into Sinai, where they can meet with regional jihadists.

Rice's agreement, which Israel accepted reportedly after intense American pressure, restricted the Jewish state to monitor the area by camera, called for a European presence at the border station and offered the Palestinians some veto power on vehicles and persons entering Gaza.

New border rules stipulate Israel cannot restrict who leaves Gaza, but it can ask the European monitors to delay for several hours anyone crossing the border if Israel provides information indicating an entrant may be a security threat.

Israeli security officials told WND the cameras at the border are not sufficient to identify entrants, and they said the Palestinians have been failing to supply accurate and timely lists of individuals crossing into Gaza. They charged the Palestinians have tampered with the names of entrants, accusing Palestinian border workers of deliberately disguising the personal information of terrorists crossing the border.

"The result," one security officials said, "is that the border between Gaza and Egypt is nonexistent."
The European monitors fled after Hamas took control of Gaza last summer, and Egypt sealed the border, except for the weapons smuggling tunnels, through which it helped Hamas smuggle weapons, ammunition and cash into Gaza. From time to time, Israel has threatened to retake control of the border, but it has never done so. Last week, Hamas broke through the wall, possibly with the complicity of the Egyptians. Whether the Egyptians were complicit in last month's break or whether they simply blundered in ignoring Hamas' preparations to break down the wall, they apparently want to seal the border and have someone on the 'Palestinian' side enforce some sort of reasonable border regimen with them. Fatah would like to be that party, but the Egyptians are talking to Hamas. Fatah is not pleased.
The Palestinian Authority has warned the Egyptians against striking a deal with Hamas over controlling the Rafah border crossing separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt, a senior PA official in Ramallah said Monday.


PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is scheduled to visit Cairo Wednesday, will reiterate his opposition to giving Hamas any role at the Rafah terminal, the official said.

"Our position is very clear with regards to the border," the official added. "Hamas must not have any representation at the border. There is only one Palestinian Authority that is headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas can't be a legitimate party to any deal because it seized power [in the Gaza Strip] through a violent coup."


PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said Monday that there was an "international and Arab consensus" that the PA should be in control of the border. He also warned Hamas against intervening in this issue, adding that the PA was the only party authorized to run the Rafah border crossing.
Captain Ed pointed out yesterday that giving Fatah control of the border is absurd from the Israelis' perspective:

This had to be a red-letter day for Egypt and its security forces. Hamas gunmen fire in the air, and all Egypt can do is hit reverse? I know Americans complain about the poor border control along the Rio Grande, but this is ridiculous.

A gang of terrorists faced down Egypt, and now they want a more moderate terrorist to do in Rafah what he couldn't do in the rest of Gaza. Abbas lost control of the territory last year when Hamas conducted an armed revolt against the Palestinian Authority. It only took Hamas five days to seize Gaza from a clearly unprepared Abbas. What makes the US, Egypt, and the Arab world think that Abbas can hold Rafah with poor lines of communication, no strategic position, against an enemy that just chased Egypt off of the border crossing?

Israel has essentially shrugged at the suggestion. Supposedly the West and Egypt will backstop Abbas, but if they couldn't backstop Egypt, Abbas won't fare much better. Either way, it's moot for Israel, which has to see this as a disaster through which everyone must pass before anyone gets serious about dealing with Hamas. Let Abbas give it a try -- and when that fails spectacularly, maybe the Hamas problem will get real attention.

But Hamas has a lot of support in the Arab world for gaining control over the border. And the Egyptians are playing both sides of the issue:
Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is reported to have won the backing of Saudi Arabia for including Hamas in any deal on the border, sources close to Hamas said. Mashaal arrived in Riyadh Sunday, where he met with a number of senior government officials on the latest crisis.


Earlier this week, Fayad visited Cairo where he received assurances from the Egyptians that Hamas would not be given any role at the border. However, the PA is worried that the Egyptians would eventually succumb to pressure from Hamas and its supporters in Egypt and the Arab world to allow the Islamist movement to assume control over the border.

A number of Hamas leaders are expected to arrive in Cairo later this week in a bid to persuade the Egyptians not to strike a separate deal with Abbas and his loyalists regarding the border crossing. On Monday Hamas reiterated its opposition to Abbas's demand to redeploy members of his Presidential Guard force at the border with Egypt. Abbas's men lost control over the terminal when Hamas defeated the PA security forces in the Gaza Strip last June.

Egypt said Monday it was working toward reviving a 2005 agreement that regulated the administration of the border crossings in the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Cairo was working to control its border with the Gaza Strip gradually and restore the situation there to an acceptable condition.

"Egypt is holding contacts with all parties concerned to activate a 2005 agreement that regulates the administration of the border crossings, including the Rafah checkpoint," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement.

He said Aboul Gheit had contacted a number of European foreign ministers, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, European Union (EU) External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana regarding the handling of the crossing point.

The US-brokered agreement gave Abbas and his Fatah party control over the Rafah border crossing. But it also saw EU monitors stationed there.

Aboul Gheit called on Israel to cooperate in running the border crossings and to facilitate the deployment of Abbas's loyalists there.

However, Taher al-Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, said his movement remained strongly opposed to the agreement. He also voiced strong opposition to the return of the EU monitors or any other third party to the Rafah border crossing.

The spokesman accused Abbas of seeking to serve Israel's interests by agreeing to the deployment of EU monitors at the border crossing. "The border should be controlled only by Palestinians and Egyptians," he said. "We won't accept the presence of a third party there."
Other than trying to blame Israel for the situation in Gaza, it's not clear to me what the Egyptians and the other Arab parties are trying to accomplish here by even pretending to back Hamas. Are they trying to give Hamas bargaining chips for an eventual reconciliation with Fatah? Are they trying to bring about the creation of two 'Palestinian' states reichlets? Are they trying to keep Fatah and Hamas at each other's throats so that it can be blamed on Israel and the 'Arab street' will remain quiet? It's hard to say right now.

What is clear is that going back to the 2005 arrangement ought to be no more acceptable to Israel than having Egypt and the 'Palestinians' running the border. Israel needs to have a real presence in the Philadelphi corridor - not just cameras - with which it can monitor and intercept terrorists' shipments of weapons, ammunition and cash. It's too bad that Israel's 'leaders' are so preoccupied with saving their own corrupt rear ends that they remain silent in this matter, which is critical to the Negev's security. Yet another reason why the Olmert-Barak-Livni junta must go.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What it's like when the Kassams fall

This is the nightly news report from Sderot on the night of January 17, a day when forty Kassams fell. Would you want to live like this? I wouldn't.

So much for global warming: Blizzard expected in Jerusalem

It's just starting to snow here now, although it's been very windy all day and it's in the 30's. Temperatures are expected to drop during the night and tomorrow with the heaviest snow coming during the day tomorrow. They are saying at least 15-20 centimeters - about 6-8 inches. But at least the city has assured that the Winograd Report can come out tomorrow on schedule:
Snow began to fall in the capital early Tuesday evening after the city's municipality completed its preparations ahead of expected change in weather.

Nearly one hundred snow plows dispersed 34 tons of salt on the city's streets while tractors headed to emergency centers around Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Snow began to fall Tuesday afternoon in the north of the country, in places that are higher than 700 meters above sea level. Later on, the snow spread to hilly regions above 500 meters.

The snow is expected to spread to other hilly regions in the center of the country sometime during the night. According to the forecast snowfall will continue throughout Wednesday and taper off Thursday.

While it was not yet known whether schools would open on Wednesday morning, the Education Ministry clarified that the authority to call off studies was in the hands of local municipalities, and emphasized that parents should contact their local municipality first.

The ministry added that it would open a special hotline that will operate 24 hours a day. The number of the hotline is 12-12-222-666, and it will provide information on the activity of schools around the country.


In related news, members of the Winograd Committee contacted the Prime Minister's Office and the Jerusalem mayor's office on Monday and requested that they ensure that roads to the PMO and to the city's International Convention Center remain open on Wednesday so as not to delay submission of the report.

The municipality announced that it would do the the utmost to keep roads open and said that it would also provide snowcat rides to the convention center to two of the committee members who live in Jerusalem. Ironically, since the convention center is near the entrance to the city access to it would presumably be easier for those arriving from outside the capital.
And Mrs. Carl and I have to go to Tel Aviv tonight....

Israel's folly

Hugh Fitzgerald gets what Israel's 'leaders' willfully ignore: That the Muslim world will never accept an infidel Jewish state of any size smack in the middle of Dar-El-Islam. How to get this through to enough Israelis to depose the current government may become slightly easier to determine tomorrow with the release of the Winograd Report. In the meantime, here's part of a post that is simply a must-read. (Hat Tip: Ted B.):

And in that same meanwhile, the unbearable Tzipi Livni speaks again and again about the necessity, as she idiotically sees it, of "dividing the land." By this she means that Israel, tiny Israel, which now exists on less than one-one thousandth of the total land area possessed by the Arabs, must relinquish part of the one-one thousandth to those Arabs. After all, the Arabs everywhere behave as if all of the Middle East, all of North Africa, belongs to Islam and to Arabs. The Copts, the Maronites, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Berbers, and of course, above all, the Jews, are entitled to nothing: not to a state, not to autonomy, not to equal treatment with Muslim Arabs. No, it all belongs to them, by Divine Right -- as does, in the texts and tenets and attitudes of Islam, the Middle East, North Africa, and indeed the entire world.

Livni's Great Idea, and that of Olmert, is that Israel must "maintain its Jewish character." And the only way that these people can think of doing this is to slice off successive bits of Israel where the Arabs now have a majority. No doubt they will have to keep on slicing bit after bit, as the salami-slicing demands will never let up, and the Muslim Arabs will never -- ever -- acquiesce in the permanent existence of an Infidel nation-state on land once part, as they see it, of Dar al-Islam. The livnis and olmerts of this world do not understand this. They do not want to think about it. They put it out of their minds in a bit of promised-land podsnappery. And certainly they haven't thought deeply about the Arabs who remain, overbreeding, inside whatever part of Israel is left once the olmert-livni "solution" has taken place.


In Israel, the olmerts and livnis have allowed themselves to complacently believe that refusing to make Israel's legal, moral, and historic case is the best way to peace. Or perhaps they simply do not possess the facts of that case themselves, or are unable to articulate it properly, so used are they to having accepted the language, the phrases, of the enemy, including the parroting of that phrase "the Palestinian people." They think that identifying thoroughly with your enemy, seeing "his side," is the key to peace -- while being careful, again, to view the conflict exactly as it is presented by Muslims and Arabs for Western consumption, as a matter of "legitimate rights" and "nationalist struggle." In fact, it is entirely a war to weaken, and then eliminate, the Jewish state of Israel, and the Jewish commonwealth which took almost 2000 years to astonishingly rebuild. And if it is lost again, there will be no second chance, with all that that implies for the history, and moral and mental stability, of the civilization of the West.

They, those olmerts and those livnis (suitably egged on by the assorted landaus who control so much of the Israeli press) do not at this point want to learn about Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. They want to negotiate with, "make deals" with the Dar al-Islam by giving away Israeli rights and lands to Muslims, but always, without ever thinking through the nature of Islam. They hope, they wish, they dream -- but they will not spend a month, a week, a day, an hour, considering carefully the nature of Islam, of taking its texts and tenets seriously. Long ago, when the Mandate for Palestine was young, the Jews saw all of Eastern Palestine (east of the Jordan River) lopped off by the British in 1921. This was done, in a fit of temporary and misguided Realpolitik, to curry favor with the local Arab rulers. The British unilaterally removed the application of the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine to all of its intended territory east of the river Jordan -- that is, all of Eastern Palestine, as it had always been defined, and instead incorporated Eastern Palestine into a hastily concocted Emirate of Transjordan (in 1946 promoted to the status of Arab Kingdom). This they gave to Abdullah, the oldest Hashemite son -- a move made necessary, the British felt, because his younger brother Faisal had been "given" the kingdom of Iraq, and a kingdom-less Abdullah might, miffed, have tried to claim Syria as his kingdom, thereby causing trouble with France, the possessor of the League of Nations' Mandate for Syria.

And having lost all of Eastern Palestine, the Jews of Israel, fighting for their lives when attacked in May 1948 by the regular armies of five Arab states, managed to survive. But Ben-Gurion stopped the fighting before that part of Judea and Samaria (toponyms in constant and wide use for 200 years, not least by, inter alios, Jesus) that was later renamed by Jordan as "the West Bank" could be wrested from the Arabs. And the same hesitation left Gaza, also part of Mandatory Palestine, a mandate set up for the express and sole purpose of the establishment of the Jewish National Home, in Arab, in this case Egyptian, hands.

Later, after Israel's astounding victory in June 1967, those assorted Peace Plans -- Rogers, Kissinger, you name it -- became, after Saint Sadat went through his premeditated crowd-pleasing performance, a vague but apparently endless "Peace Process." It meant, in reality, only one thing: acceptance by, parroting by, promotion by, Israel's representatives, of the very terms that the Arabs and Muslims had wished to be used, in refashioning for Western consumption what had always been, and remained, and remains, a Lesser Jihad against Israel. Thus it was that the Israelis expressed their deep belief in, and even sympathy for, the "Palestinians" (even if, in Israel itself, the word "aravim" -- "the Arabs" --was still used). The Israelis adopted this neologism without any seeming understanding of how important it was to resist this refashioning of the language used to describe the actual conflict. This went along with a kind of amnesia about Israel's legal, moral, and historic claims, or in some cases a reluctance, a calamitous diffidence, about asserting, intelligently and repeatedly, the broad outlines, and then the details, of such an overwhelming claim -- as if Israel had lost the ability to recognize that it was in the right, and it was Israel, always and everywhere, that was under permanent assault.

All that peace-processing consisted of was, on the Israeli side, giving up that most precious and tangible of assets, land, for the most intangible and worthless of assets: Muslim Arab "promises" in a treaty made with an Infidel enemy, when as every educated Muslim knows, the model for all such treaties is that made by Muhammad with the Meccans in 628 A.D., at Al-Hudaibiyya, a model that stands for the immutable proposition not, as in the West, of "Pacta Sunt Servanda" (treaties are to be obeyed) but for a temporary truce only. So for this Israel surrendered the Sinai, not once but twice: in 1956, and again under those miserably-negotiated "Camp David Accords" -- with Sadat not only supported by, but egged on to ever-greater demands by the sweetly-vicious Jimmy Carter. They surrendered it for promises promptly dishonored, as they did when they destroyed and abandoned Jewish villages in Gaza, some of which long pre-dated the establishment of the state of Israel, handed over valuable greenhouses in working order, and much else, and then left Gaza -- with the results, for Israeli security, we all see.


But Olmert and Livni and Haim Ramon are not only willfully unaware of Islam. They are also, in their narrowness, willfully unaware of how attitudes, in the larger Western world, are changing toward Islam because of the behavior of Muslims themselves. And failing to recognize that, and to factor it into their policies, they are in danger of plucking, yet again, a defeat from a conceivable victory, of wounding Israel, yet again, and giving up in peace-processing and political clumsiness and mental paralysis what the people of Israel won by feat of arms, feat of national resolve. And this time, so terrible are they, and so willing to surrender, that the self-inflicted wound will be akin in one way to that wound suffered by Philoctetes that made it impossible for him to fulfill his religious rites. For no doubt the shallow, implacable animus of Israeli leftists, eager to see further surrenders, quick to be outraged by religious Jews, are far less outraged, apparently, by the denial of Jewish historic and legal rights to the state of Israel, and far more exercised by this or that rabbi than by the “moderate” Abbas, that Holocaust-denier, who along with his corrupt cronies in the Jizyah-supported Fatah of Slow Jihadists, contemplates an Israel reduced in size and power by degrees, becoming a dhimmi state that will exist not by right but by Muslim sufferance. And then, by further degrees, it will be reduced until it ultimately disappears, and the Dar al-Islam is cleansed of that intolerable mental affront, the existence of an Infidel nation-state (and still worse, one run by Jews, always regarded as weak and helpless, a people, especially among Arab Muslims, to be despised) smack in the middle of a now-uninterruptible Muslim land mass. Then all will again be right, as Islam continues to expand, in western Europe and elsewhere, the lands within its domain, the ever-expanding -- with a little help from those whom Muslims would wish to reduce to dhimmitude or destroy -- Dar al-Islam.

Read it all.

UN Watch calls Arbour for endorsing Arab Human Rights Charter

UN Watch has demanded that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour (pictured, top left) clarify her January 24 endorsement of the 'Arab Charter of Human Rights,' which rejects all forms of 'racism and Zionism.'
We commend you for your statement of January 27, 2008, recognizing the current dangers of racism and anti-Semitism. We are concerned, however, by your statement of a few days earlier, dated January 24, 2008, welcoming the entry into force of the Arab Charter on Human Rights. We trust that you were not aware of the blatantly anti-Semitic statements contained in that charter, as described below. We urge you to issue a clarification on this matter. We also urge you to hold accountable any members of your Office who were or should have been aware of, but failed to call your attention to, these racist provisions.

“Rejecting all forms of racism and Zionism, which constitute a violation of human rights and a threat to international peace and security,” forms part of the opening preamble of the Arab Charter of Human Rights. Article 2 goes further and calls for the outright elimination of Zionism: “All forms of racism, Zionism and foreign occupation and domination constitute an impediment to human dignity and a major barrier to the exercise of the fundamental rights of peoples; all such practices must be condemned and efforts must be deployed for their elimination.”

As you know, Zionism is the movement for Jewish self-determination and asserts the inherent and internationally-acknowledged right of Israel to exist. A text that equates Zionism with racism, describes it as a threat to world peace, as an enemy of human rights and human dignity, and then urges its elimination, is blatantly anti-Semitic.
The call for her to hold people in her office accountable for her endorsing the Charter is a nice idea, but consider that they go on to state the following:
We note that the odious language of the preamble is published on your Office’s website. We also note that a newsletter published by your Office on March 15, 2004 expressly recognized “the language in the Charter related to Zionism” as a “contentious issue.” Consequently, it appears that one or more members of your Office may have been aware of the anti-Semitic language in the text, but failed to call this to your attention prior to your statement.
Yes, but given the UN Human Rights Council's and Arbour's past record, I would be shocked if she really didn't know exactly what she was endorsing.

Arbour is a big fan of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Remember this picture?

More on Arbour here and here.

More on the 'Human Rights Council' here, here, here, here, here, and here.

A great video on a past battle between UN Watch's Hillel Neuer and the 'Human Rights Council' is here.

Given Arbour's and the 'Human Rights Council's past record, does anyone really believe that Arbour made this endorsement because she didn't know what the Arab Human Rights Charter says? I don't think so.

If we blow them all away, is it still a trap?

It's beginning to look increasingly likely that Israel is going to have to hit Iran sooner rather than later. Here's what former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said about that prospect last week at the Herzliya Conference:
"... the pre-emptive use of force ... has to come before they get the (nuclear) weapon. ... in the next year the use of force by the United States is highly unlikely ... That increases the pressure on Israel ... if it feels Iran is on the verge of acquiring (nuclear) capability, it brings the decision point home to use force." (emphasis added)
Last week at Davos, Defense Minister Ehud Barak had a conversation about Iran with the Washington Post's Lally Weymouth.
Q. You were critical of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

A. Our interpretation is that clearly the Iranians are aiming at nuclear capability. It's probably true that . . . they may have slowed down the weapons group in 2003, because it was the height of American militarism. . . . We think that they are quite advanced, much beyond the level of the Manhattan Project. We suspect they are probably already working on warheads for ground-to-ground missiles . . . [and] that probably they have another clandestine enrichment operation beyond the one in Natanz.

What kind?

The dots that we see . . . cannot be easily connected in a way that does not lead to a nuclear program. . . . The leading intelligence communities should concentrate on finding whether there is . . . a clandestine enrichment operation and a weapons group working on the weapons technology.


Does Israel have the ability to conduct a military raid on Iran alone?

I am not going to talk about this.


There is a rumor that Pakistan is helping Saudi Arabia build a nuclear program.

I don't want to . . . I have no information.

It's clear that the real risk with Iran turning nuclear is that it will be the end of the non-proliferation regime because it will open the door on active proliferation. We already had a wake-up call from the case of A.Q. Khan, who was ready to sell to anyone, especially if he was a good Muslim. It's very dangerous that we will end up in 10 to 15 years with a nuclear device in the hands of terrorists.

You think in 10 years?

It's possible.
It sure sounds like Barak could have been the 'senior' security official who - commenting on Bolton's remarks at Herzliya - said "One should listen very closely to what Bolton has to say." (Although Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz - a former Defense Minister and Army Chief of Staff like Barak - was quoted similarly, Mofaz is not currently technically a 'senior security official').

All of this leads James Lewis to fear that Israel - and the US - may fall into a 'trap' laid by Iran and the Russians.
In a very odd move, the Syrians are now rebuilding that mysterious concrete cube in exactly the same location --- even though the whole world knows about it now. Why should they spend vast amounts of money doing that, if it would only become another fat target?

One possibility is that it's a trap for IAF jets. Surround the concrete cube with enough new Russian anti-aircraft missiles, back it up with radars based on Russian ships that just happen to be doing the biggest naval exercise in years right now in the Mediterranean, and provoke another attack by announcing another nuclear breakthrough. It could be a baited ambush.

The whole thing smells like an Ahmadi-Nejad shell game, with Russian help: put your nuclear materials under a dozen different giant concrete shelters, and dare the enemy to attack all of them, without knowing which one has nuke materials. All of the sites would be heavily defended with state-of-the-art Russian anti-aircraft missiles. Not just one trap for attacking aircraft, but a dozen or more.
Lewis underestimates the IAF. It's inconceivable to me that the IAF will fly into a trap, especially given that it has already proven that it is capable of disabling the Russians' most advanced anti-aircraft missile, the Pantsyr. And one way to play a shell game would be to hit all the shells simultaneously, so that even if some of the shells are empty underneath, the ones that have the nukes would also be hit.

I have a different fear. I fear that Israel won't take action due to either Olmert's inability or fear of making the decision to attack or because the country will be too busy with elections when the time comes. All of which is an argument for pushing for elections now and not in March 2009 as Labor's Ehud Barak hinted he might want to do. We need a real government with a real Prime Minister to be in charge now and not just a year from now.