Eventually resigning Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert is trying to back foreign minister 'Tzipora' Livni into a corner. Olmert is attempting to negotiate an 'understanding' with 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen so as to box in his successor. But if he 'succeeds,' he will agree to divide Jeursalem and that will likely force Shas to resign from the government, precipitating the new elections that Livni so much wants to avoid. And so, Livni - who is actually even more radical and power-hungry than Olmert - doesn't want Olmert to negotiate an 'understanding' that will result in her never being Prime Minister.
Abu Mazen apparently is not willing to play along. Israel Radio reported Sunday morning on an assessment in Washington that Abu Mazen has taken uncompromising positions because he does not want to cut a deal with Olmert and Bush (although the US still doesn't understand that Abu Mazen doesn't intend to compromise on anything). And the Jerusalem Post is reporting that Olmert has denied attempting to reach an 'understanding' on a 'shelf agreement' (which YNet reports that the 'Palestinians' will not agree to anyway). The cabinet is allegedly 'furious.'
Ministers expressed their anger during Sunday's cabinet meeting at Olmert's reported plan to try and convince Abbas to sign a document outlining all the clauses in which agreements had been reached in peace talks thus far.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Olmert must not accelerate the peace process unnecessarily.
"We must not let the pressure of time cause us to make one of two grave mistakes: To try and bridge the wide gaps in a manner that will lead to a collapse, or to compromise on issues critical to Israel just to achieve results," she said.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter also criticized Olmert, saying he was negotiating with the Palestinians without the backing of ministers and without updating them.
He expressed concern over the document Olmert was seeking to sign, particularly in light of the fact that the prime minister was likely to end his term in two weeks, while Abbas may be replaced in four months.
Prior to Sunday's cabinet meeting, Labor, Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai lamented the fact that he was getting most of the details about the peace talks from the media. He also said Olmert had no legal or moral right to sign any agreement with the Palestinians.
"Olmert cannot reach an agreement in any field, particularly not those concerning Jerusalem," Yishai told Army Radio.
Nevertheless, ministers Ami Ayalon, Ghaleb Majadle, Gideon Ezra and Ze'ev Boim expressed their support for the prime minister's attempts to advance peace talks.
So why isn't Abu Mazen playing along? Because he knows that Olmert and Bush cannot deliver the goods, and because he knows that if Livni is - God forbid - elected he will get more. Much more. But Livni has to stop Olmert or she will never have the opportunity to give everything away. She has to hope that Abu Mazen keeps playing hard to get. And she has to keep accusing Olmert of 'rushing' to an agreement that will never be implemented.
I had never been to Metzudat Zev before. The building is a non-descript low building in which the Jabotinsky Museum is located (Jabotinsky was known as Zev - his full name was Binyamin Zev in Hebrew - Vladimir in Russian), with a 14-story tower above it. I was surprised at the relatively light security. No one confronted me until I got to the 14th floor conference room, at which point I had to show my identity card and my laptop case was checked. But by then I was in the press room. The building is located in an older area of Tel Aviv and is near several restaurants and used book stores. If I'd had more time, I would have explored more. But it was all I could do to make a pit stop at Dizengoff Center, a couple of blocks away and then head back to 'Zev's fortress.'
Some of you might have been wondering about the post below this one. I am going to stick a few comments in that post when I finish this post, but it is what it says it is. It's a live blog of a press conference held by Likud chairman and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu at Metzudat Zev (Likud headquarters) in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning. I was invited to attend along with Rafi G. from Life in Israel, Mother in Israel, Rivka from Coffee and Chemo and Lurker from The Muqata. The press conference dealt with education and that post speaks for itself (or will as soon as I have time to add a few annotations. I want to deal with something different in this post: Why is Bibi inviting bloggers to his press conferences? If you go to the link above, you will see that Mother in Israel is surprised we were invited. I was not. I thought someone would be. Eventually.
Israel's mainstream media is among the most biased in the world. I have discussed this many times: Go here, here, here, here and here. But in Netanyahu's case personally, the hatred is visceral and personal as was outlined by Ari Shavit in a famous Haaretz article written in 1999 called "Why we hate Bibi." (Unfortunately, I could not find the article online, but Shavit is a relatively honest leftist and he laid out in no uncertain terms in a three-part series how the media here hate Bibi in a manner that exceeds all proportions). Bibi cannot get a fair shake in the media here. Even the Left knows it.
Seeing Haaretz complain about how the Nefesh b'Nefesh conference was all 'right-wing religious bloggers,' Bibi probably figured it was worth a shot to see what we'd write. After all, American politicians do it all the time. I'm sure he would have liked to have had some Hebrew bloggers there, but while all of us have excellent Hebrew (you couldn't understand the press conference otherwise) none of us could have blogged - and I certainly could not have live-blogged - in Hebrew.
We were easily identified - five of us in a row, three of us with laptops. Someone took a picture of us, and it will be interesting to see if the MSM reacts at all. So far, Netanyahu's press conference has gotten short shrift from the JPost and Arutz Sheva, no shrift from Haaretz (whose reporter asked a couple of decent questions) and half an article from YNet which missed the key to Netanyahu's plan - that he will give the education minister the kind of backing and education cabinet that Netanyahu himself got from Arik Sharon when he was finance minister and reformed the economy. But as you can see in the next post down, there's already lots of coverage from the bloggers. I live blogged the entire conference, and I assume the other bloggers will also produce posts about it later today.
Was Bibi wise to invite us to the press conference? I believe he was. I believe that we will at least give him a fair shake. But I'm biased - I want to be invited back.
Live-blogging Bibi's press conference on education
[Read the post above this one to find out what this post is and how it came about. I will try to italicize what I add three and a half hours later. I will also correct spelling and grammar. Live blogging is hard enough - live blogging from one language to another is harder].
Opening statement starts exactly on time at 10:30. Bibi sees us with our open laptops and asks if we're bloggers. [He came over and shook a couple of hands, including mine].
Education ensures equality of opportunity. It's the best way out of economic disparities in society. [The economic disparities in our society are a constant social theme here. We allegedly have one of the most imbalanced distributions of wealth in the world. The chairman of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, has been known to quip that we can get rid of our economic disparities by getting rid of high tech]. Education is the most important social tool to reduce disparities. Bibi hopes to put education at the top of the agenda. He wants to make education cabinet like we have a security cabinet, and to sit as chairman himself and give the education minister backing like [Ariel] Sharon gave him as finance minister. He believes we can restore our educational standing in the next decade. [The education minister will] need to coordinate with other ministries - he will use [the education] cabinet for that purpose.
We [the Likud] have experience at carrying out reform - just like we [the Likud] made a revolution in the economy, we [the Likud] can make a revolution in education. Here's the program.
Education is the best way to close disparities. When education is not good enough, parents see to improving conditions if they are able to do so through private tutors and 'gray education,' which just increases the disparities. People with more education have a much lower unemployment rate and earn much more. People with 16+ years of education earn 50% more than those with 13-15 years of education.
From 1990-2002 there was a dramatic increase in spending per student on education. The big jump started with Rabin's term in office which added NIS 7 billion to the education system. But only 32% passed the IDF reading tests by 2002 (compared with 60% in 1985 - which was not great either). Even Iran did better than Israel in the last international Math competition.
We need more than to add funding. We need to raise teacher salaries but that is not enough. Australia tripled spending and it didn't help. France doubled and it didn't help. Bibi did a lot of investigating overseas and spent years looking at what successful economies did. What he discovered was things that Israel never did. The countries that are successful all do the same things, and we don't do any of them.
The most influential thing is quality of teachers. It's not just a question of teacher salaries. If you take a good teacher and bad teacher with similar students (ages 8-11), the difference between them [after four years in which they started at the 50th percentile] is 90th percentile to 37th percentile. We can't have a Russian roulette with teachers. How do successful countries recruit good teachers?
Finland, South Korea and Singapore raised the acceptance level for education in order to attract stronger students to study education. They take the top of the class and say that they are the ones who are worthy of being teachers [and no one else]. The profession's honor is dictated by the high standard that is required for acceptance. Salaries have to be raised, but the most important thing is to raise the acceptance level [so that only the best students are being trained to become teachers in the first place. Bibi argued that just as the elite units in the army aren't paid more than anyone else, but people want them because they are the hardest units to get into, so too if we make teaching the hardest profession to get into, people who are stronger academically will compete to get into it. He attributed this to the value of prestige. It's a nice idea, but in practice, I'm not sure it will work. People become doctors and lawyers and computer programmers when there are high paying jobs available and not because it's so hard to get into medical school, unless they love the profession for other reasons].
Second, once you raise the level of those accepted to the program, you have to go all out to educate the teachers in the best way possible.
Third, once you have finished being educated as a teacher, you have to have continuing education just like doctors (and lawyers in other countries CiJ) do. We have to train people constantly. In South Korea they get 100 hours per year of continuing education. In Israel, until recently it was 0. Today, [continuing education] can be done [more efficiently] online. We have to do the same things that these countries do. We have to do this for teachers currently in the system too - they have had no continuing training since they started teaching. Teacher quality is the most important thing.
Fourth, these countries concentrate on the core subjects. Here in Israel, we spend only 56.1% of our time on core subjects. In the OECD, it's 93.2%. Today, with a worldwide economy, we have to compete on a worldwide scale. We have to give students the basic tools to study professions.
We need a breakthrough - not just a few more hours and a slightly higher salary. The goal is to restore Israel's children to the top tenth within the next decade. We have to get back to the top tenth in the next decade in all international tests. This will give every child an equal chance.
The program has five steps:
1. Best educators through training, etc. including higher salaries. 2. Principals must be given independence. They have to be allowed to run the schools. There's no such thing as a good school without a good principal. In some places, principals don't have skills and you can make everyone fail. Principals have to be trained as managers as a separate profession from teaching. Have to give them responsibility on parts (at least) of their budget and make them responsible for results. When you're responsible for results, you raise your level. 3. Focus on core subjects. He includes Tanach (scriptures) and history as core subjects. [One of the results of the left-wing control of the education ministry over the past several years is that almost no Jewish heritage is taught in the public schools. As a result, kids have no idea why they are in Israel, and so they adopt the Arab narrative that labels us interlopers and colonists. CiJ] 4. In top countries, they don't allow kids to lag behind. Not every child is the same. But you can raise every child's level. These systems identify those who are falling beneath the level of the class. They don't wait for year-end tests or matriculation exams. They deal with these kids the day they identify. They watch them in real time. In Ganei Tikva [a suburb of Tel Aviv, for example], they have kids answering questions online and the teacher can see who is answering correctly and who is not [and can therefore intervene more quickly when there is a problem]. We need to do this all over. 5. Returning values to education - democracy, civic-mindedness, history, Zionism, Jewish heritage, but also discipline and respect for parents and teachers. Education is built on discipline. We are under constant attack over the legitimacy of our existence. Time after time we are attacked and now the 'naqba' is being brought into our schools! Nothing like this has ever happened in history. We will remove the 'naqba' and return Jabotinsky and Ben Gurion, who are the ones who brought Jews to Israel.
The proper approach is not to throw money at the system; the approach is to dictate the results and then to spend what's necessary to reach those results. We need a clear vision, political power, and courage in leadership. No matter what there will be criticism. The most important thing is to be able to stand up to the criticism. He plans to do this through an education cabinet.
Questions and answers:
[The first two questions both tried to push Bibi to name his education minister and other proposed staffers. He wouldn't do that]. He is not handing out offices yet. He wouldn't say who his education minister would be. New government to focus on security, economy and education. Therefore, he is setting up a system in which he will be able to give best back-up to the education minister. He wants to give the same backing that Sharon gave him in finance.
We may reach elections soon. Right now, we're not there. But Likud made tremendous change in economy that was about to collapse and today [the economy] is standing up against the economic storm in the world. That's not enough - [the economy] needs to be updated - but it shows that the Likud will stand up against popular pressure and it can and will carry out reforms.
Another question to try to get names out of him. He believes that the most important thing is that the Prime Minister has to be able to force reform through. He talked about how he forced through cancellation of foreign currency restrictions ten years ago. Backing from the Prime Minister is what enables change.
Haaretz reporter asks about cuts in education budget from 2001-05. Bibi pulls out another slide. [He anticipated the question]. The budget was more or less constant [on an inflation-adjusted basis] from 2002-05. Cutbacks were 1-2% (Bibi was finance minister until 2005). This was during a period when we were in a recession. Education was exempted from across-the-board cuts. What matters isn't the budget, but how it's used. The same thing is true across the economy.
How to measure success? Compared to current achievments of the school - see if results improve. He believes that budget decisions have to be made to encourage teachers to teach in development towns (lower socio-economic classes).
A fellow blogger asked about cheating in the classroom and about how he plans to teach Jewish heritage. Cheating will go away once you put in an expectation of discipline. Bibi thinks that they pledge allegiance every day in the US - he wants to implement the same thing here. Well, it's not quite true there either.... But he wants to teach independence but also a sense of social responsibility. Do well in school - everyone should have the same opportunity. Teach facts about our history to teach them Jewish heritage and the history of the State of Israel. The truth, which is being diluted by propaganda, will win out. Remove the 'naqba' and return Jabotinsky.
[A reporter asked] What will Bibi do with ultra-Orthodox who have been exempted from the core studies [by a Knesset bill passed several months ago]? [Bibi says there are] Three important points. First, you have to be realistic. Better to impose core studies [standards] on 80% and succeed than try to impose it on 100% and get 0%. Second, he believes there's change in ultra-Orthodox (and Arabs) who want these subjects themselves because they need to go out to work so they need these core subjects. Therefore, you see the ultra-Orthodox studying the core subjects because they have to go to work. [From my own experience in the ultra-Orthodox community, this is correct, although it's happening more slowly than one might expect hearing Bibi. No one likes to talk about it, but I think most of the community understands that 100% of the men studying Talmud all day long is not likely to go on for another generation - there is no means of supporting it. On the other hand, that has yet to be translated into serious secular studies in most of the ultra-Orthodox schools. CiJ] Third, [core subjects] can only be [introduced into the ultra-Orthodox schools CiJ] by discussion and by negotiation and not by force.
Another blogger asked him about the teachers' union's opposition to the current reform. Bibi answered that what seems to be good will be kept. What's not good will be jettisoned. All we're looking for is a change in results. The 'naqba' will go immediately. He was in the same position when he was finance minister. But you can't reinvent the wheel on every point. Zionism and excellence - those are his themes.
In case anyone from Bibi's office is reading, there is one question I wanted to ask but did not get to ask. A year ago, Comrade Yuli publicized a letter she received objecting to Jewish kids hiking in the Golan as a 'provocation against Syria.' Does Netanyahu regard hikes that teach the kids the country's heritage as part of the 'core subjects'? And how does he plan to integrate those types of hikes into his new education program, if he believes they are important.
Money is a commodity. One dollar is the same as another. Money is what economists refer to as a "highly fungible commodity." In Thursday's JPost (my apologies for holding this for so long, but it's been kind of busy here...), Dan Kosky of NGO Monitor looks into the financing of what he calls the 'ship of fools' that sailed into Gaza City last week.
Free Gaza is a coalition of several groups, including the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). ISM has a shameful record of placing foreign nationals in danger through encouraging "direct action," most recently as a leading force in the violent protests against the security barrier at Ni'lin. In 2003, ISM's ideology was underscored when terrorists, originating from the UK, used ISM as a cover to attack the Mike's Place bar in Tel Aviv, murdering three people. As part of Free Gaza, ISM attempts to veil its extremism beneath the cause of humanitarian aid.
Less notorious although no less pernicious are the activities of ICAHD. Manipulating the language of human rights to promote a similar ideological agenda, ICAHD refers to Israel as an "apartheid" state and promotes anti-Israel boycotts. ICAHD's director, Jeff Halper has been one of Free Gaza's leading spokesmen.
WORRYINGLY, SEVERAL European governments are hoodwinked by the "humanitarian" agenda of radical NGOs, allocating them significant funds. The European Union, under its Partnership for Peace program, awarded ICAHD a two-year grant of 473,000 euros in 2005, comprising the majority of ICAHD's 2006 annual budget. Recently the Spanish government too deemed ICAHD a worthy recipient of its funds. Meanwhile, another Free Gaza member, PCHR, receives funding from the Danish, Norwegian and Irish governments.
The EU and others argue that their funds are directed to specific projects, rather than organizations in their entirety. But, European government backing affords significant legitimacy to these NGOs and their politicized agendas, in which they too are implicated. The exploits of Free Gaza, Halper and his cohorts come with a European stamp of approval. European governments have, perhaps unwittingly, placed themselves in the midst of a stunt orchestrated by extreme groups and endorsed by Hamas.
One of the ships returned to Cyprus at the end of last week, apparently with several Gazans on board.
The Palestinians on board included a father and his 16-year-old son, who hopes to be fitted with an artificial leg abroad. The activists earlier claimed they would also take with them Palestinian students who were denied exit from Gaza on security grounds. The activists assert Israel does not have the right to prevent the exit of Palestinians from the Strip.
Hawida Araf, a law professor at al-Quds University and one of activists who sailed to Gaza, told Ynet that she and her group are prepared for the possibility of Israel forcibly preventing their journey. "They have no other way to keep us from leaving here with Palestinians who have already received visas and who have been accepted into European schools. It is their right," she said.
The activists said they waited for an answer from Cypriot authorities, as some of the Palestinians do not have entry visas to the country.
For those who don't remember who Hawaida Araf is, she is a 'Palestinian' who lives in the Detroit area and is married to a despicable excuse for a Jew named Adam Shapiro. Shapiro, who had breakfast with Yasser Arafat in his surrounded Mukhata several years ago, also sought human shields to protect Hezbullah terrorists in south Lebanon in addition to founding the International Solidarity Movement along with Araf.
Republican Presidential candidate John McCain selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate on Friday. Palin, who has high approval ratings and a reputation for having cleaned up her state's government, is the first woman nominated for a national ticket by the Republican party.
"The Jewish community should be very excited that Sarah was selected. She has been very conscious of the Jewish community here in Alaska and now with the opportunity of her new position, she'll have the opportunity to look at the Jewish community globally," said Alaskan Republican Jewish Coalition member Terry Gorlick, who knows Palin well and has worked with her on several issues.
"Sarah's absolutely pro-Israel," he said, referring to conversations with her and comments she's made about Israel's security and its importance to the United States. He noted that as governor she signed a resolution honoring Israel for its 60th birthday.
Alaska¹s AIPAC chairman, David Gottstein, said that he had spoken to the governor about arranging a trip to Israel, but scheduling conflicts had kept it from happening to date.
"She has ties and interests in the Holy Land," said Gottstein, and also described her as someone who could be effective across party lines, noting that he worked well with her despite being a Democrat.
Ironically, the National Jewish Democratic Coalition rushed to attack Palin for her lack of foreign policy experience.
But the National Jewish Democratic Coalition used the fact that Palin hasn't been to Israel to attack her familiarity with the country and the crucial foreign policy issues connected to the region.
"In Governor Sarah Palin, McCain chooses a running mate with zero foreign policy experience," said NJDC executive director Ira Forman.
"For a party which claims it is trying to reach out to the Jewish community, McCain's pick is particularly strange. Prior to today's selection Palin apparently has never spoken publicly about Israel."
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! The Republican Jewish Coalition, and the local Lubavitch Rabbi (who is one of a handful of Orthodox Rabbis in Alaska) both came out strongly in favor of Palin.
"Senator Lieberman and Representative Cantor would also have been excellent choices," said RJC spokeswoman Suzanne Kurtz, but stressed that McCain¹s nominee was just as good.
"They¹ll make a great team," she said.
The RJC put out a statement on Friday saying that, "Palin has a proven track record of experienced and principled leadership. Palin has been a leader on the critical issue of energy independence and lessening our need to buy oil from nations not sharing America and Israel's foreign policy interests."
And she received praise from other Jewish quarters, including from Anchorage Chabad Rabbi Yosef Greenberg. He recalled Palin's support for a Jewish museum he is building there and her hora lessons at the annual Jewish gala she has attended the last two years.
He also spoke of her reaction to giving birth to a child with special needs.
"She said, God doesn¹t give you something you can't handle," he said. "It was straight out of the Lubavitch book."
Finally, I received the following in an email just before the Sabbath yesterday from a friend who is the country coordinator for Israel for the McCain campaign:
The Chicago Tribune and Seattle Times report that Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska has been selected as the GOP running mate, and has departed Juneau in a private jet for announcement in Akron, Ohio later today with McCain.
"Sarah Baraccuda" was born in Idaho, but moved to Alaska as a young child. Her father taught science and math in High Schools. She was the star point guard on the state womens basketball championship team, earning her nickname to this day, hitting the winning shot with a broken bone but refusing to leave the championship game. She returned to the Lower 48 for college, graduating in Political Science and Journalism from University of Idaho.
She is a first term Governor. She met her husband, a native Inuit (eskimo in non-PC parlance) while spending the summer as a commercial fisherman. She claims to have broken three fingers that summer on the boat, but pulled in her Big Fish by summer's end. Husband continues as an Alaskan commercial fisherman to this day. The Palins have five children, eldest son serving in Iraq. Palin is a founding member of Feminists for Life. When informed by her OBY/GYN that her fifth child was going to be Down's Syndrome she refused to abort, and regularly quips "so he has an extra chromosome. Who is to define what is perfect and correct but God?"
Palin has proven a true maverick in cleaning up Alaskan environmental issues, often at the expense of major corporations. Like McCain, she is considered part of the West Coast political leadership within the GOP and Washington, as opposed to Clinton and Obama, considered very Eastern Ivy League. Both GOP candidates have sons on active duty in Iraq.
The editorial comments are my friend's and not the campaign's.
Shavua tov - a good week to everyone. I'm starting a bit more after the Sabbath than usual because in Ashkenazi communities the bride's family usually makes the Sheva Brachot celebration on the Sabbath, and our daughter-in-law's family lives out of Jerusalem. We just returned home from a lovely Sabbath.
We do not take it for granted that both candidates define themselves as friends of Israel - yet friendship has to be backed by substance.
• On Iran, Obama says he does not want Israel to feel as if its "back is against the wall," and wants America "to act much more forcefully." Yet he would also try to talk the mullahs into being better global citizens. What specific steps on Iran would an Obama-Biden administration take in its first six weeks?
• On borders and settlements, this is what Obama told the Post in a July interview here: "Israel may seek '67-plus' and justify it in terms of the buffer that they need for security purposes. They've got to consider whether getting that buffer is worth the antagonism of the other party."
Biden once warned premier Menachem Begin that if Israel did not cease settlement in Judea and Samaria, the US would have to cut economic aid to Israel.
Do Obama and Biden think it is possible to be "pro-Israel" in 2008 while being sanguine over an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice Lines? Where does the campaign stand on strategic settlement blocs and a Jewish presence in such Jerusalem neighborhoods as Gilo, East Talpiot and Har Homa?
• On Palestinian refugees, Mahmoud Abbas has called for the "right of return" to Israel proper for the refugees and their descendents. What's the campaign's position?
IT MAY be unrealistic for Israelis to expect that an administration taking office in January 2009 will empathize with Israel the way a 1969 Humphrey White House might have.
But what the Obama-Biden ticket needs to demonstrate is that backing for a secure Israel living within defensible boundaries is as integral to Democrats today as it was when Hubert Humphrey was their standard-bearer.
The government of Bashar al-Assad is trying to egg the Russians into another cold war with the United States and its allies. But according to both Meir Javedanfar and Guy Bechor, the Russians have responded to Syria's war-mongering with a strong rebuke. Russia's economy is too intertwined with the West.
Despite his efforts, it is unlikely that Assad can get the Cold War revival that he seeks. First and foremost, Russia of 2008 is far more different than Russia of 1988. Its economy is far more intertwined and dependent on Western capital and trade. This was demonstrated recently when foreign investors pulled their money out of Russia in the wake of the Georgia conflict at the fastest rate since the 1998 ruble crisis. According to the Financial Times, Russian foreign currency reserves dropped by $16.4 billion in the fist week of the conflict with Georgia. This was one of the largest absolute weekly drops in ten years, which put pressure on the ruble and on foreign confidence in the Russian economy.
These days, thanks to trade with the West and high energy prices, Russians are used to the good life. “If the Georgians were smart, instead of attacking South Ossetia, all they needed to do was to threaten to bomb the Gucci shop in Moscow,” quipped a Russian businessman I know, who travels regularly between Israel and Russia. “Russians would have agreed to their annexation of South Ossetia in no time.”
Joking aside, Russia’s leadership is all too aware that economic misery could cost them votes and popularity at home. This is why they will not allow their relations with the EU and the U.S. to deteriorate too drastically by entering into another Cold War.
Unfortunately for Assad, the same goes for Russia’s relations with Israel. Level of trade and diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel, compared to the days of the USSR, have increased astronomically. Russia now hosts hundreds of thousands of its citizens who lived in Israel, have Israeli passports, and are now back living in their land of birth. Many more of its citizens live in Israel. Israeli companies have offices and have invested in the Russian economy,. They have also been instrumental in the high tech and jewelery industry. Today, Russians visit Israel in record numbers. The level of bilateral trade between them is estimated to stand at more than $2 billion — and is rising. Russia would have very little to gain by supporting Syria, at the cost of making Israel into its enemy. Furthermore, with the emergence of China as a superpower, maintaining relations with as many sides as possible is considered crucial to Moscow’s foreign policy.
The Syrian leader was stunned when the Russians slapped him in the face. Putin and Medvedev’s answer to his request was “not interested.” They have no interest in embarking on a new cold war. The slap was even worse because the Russians refused to sell advanced missiles to the Syrians, and added a few conditions: Firstly, they will be selling Syria defensive weapons only, rather than offensive ones. Secondly, they will not be selling Syria arms that would change the status quo of full Israeli supremacy over Syria. Thirdly, everything they sell will be paid for in cash, in advance.
The Russians know very well that Syria’s economy is unstable. They know that the Iranians help the Syrians with payments, but they also know that Iran itself is facing great difficulties. Assad swallowed the insult and returned to Damascus.
Why was there no chance for Assad’s “golden package” to begin with? Because Russia is not the Soviet Union. What Assad’s generals failed to grasp is that by invading Georgia Russia caused itself economic and political damage that would take years to repair. Russia is a capitalistic country that relies on its economy, and the economy responded with immense anxiety to the Georgia events.
The investors who lifted the Russian economy are simply running away now: $12 billion were taken out of Russia in the past two weeks. The Russian stock exchange’s RTS index declined by 32%, and the Russian Ruble was depreciated. Russia had no ability to continue this conflict.
Moreover, at this time Russia is closely associated with Israel no less so and possibly more so than with Syria. A million and a half former Russians reside in Israel, and Israel’s high-tech industry is highly important for the Russian economy. The world in the era of globalization (a word that Syria is still unfamiliar with) will not go back to being black and white, and no Russia babushka will be waiting for Assad with a magic solution.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Unfortunately, Javedanfar reports what goes for Syria doesn't necessarily go for Iran.
Russia’s cold shoulder to Syria’s hopes for a new Cold War should not worry Iran too much. Its case is different than that of Damascus. Tehran has much larger gas and oil reserves. For now, its economic situations is not dire as Syria’s is. Furthermore, China supports Russia’s stance in the UN vis a vis the Iranian nuclear program. This means that Russia does not have to make any dramatic changes in its relations with Tehran. Even though they would prefer it, Iran’s leadership can live without a Cold War between Russia and the West. For Syria’s leader, it will be much more difficult.
Maybe. On the other hand, I wonder what would happen if Russia were threatened with expulsion from the G8 unless it plays along with sanctions on Iran. Hmmm. Maybe that's why Assad is laughing?
The Hebrew daily Maariv is reporting today that Israel's cabinet has reached a 'strategic decision' not to let Iran go nuclear.
According to the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, whether the United States and Western countries will succeed in toppling the ayatollah regime diplomatically, through sanctions, or whether an American strike on Iran will eventually be decided upon, Jerusalem has put preparations for a separate, independent military strike by Israel in high gear.
So far, Israel has not received American authorization to use US-controlled Iraqi airspace, nor has the defense establishment been successful in securing the purchase of advanced US-made warplanes which could facilitate an Israeli strike.
The Americans have offered Israel permission to use a global early warning radar system, implying that the US is pushing Israel to settle for defensive measures only.
Because of Israel's lack of strategic depth, Jerusalem has consistently warned over the past years it will not settle for a 'wait and see' approach and retaliate in case of attack, but rather use preemption to prevent any risk of being hit in the first place.
I wonder how serious this 'strategic decision' is, although I am sure it is one nearly all Israelis would support. First, I question whether this cabinet and this government are capable of making any kind of 'strategic decisions,' let alone sticking to them. Second, any plan that the defense establishment develops would have to assume that we will get no American support. The Bush administration has all but told the government that they expect it to absorb a first-strike before going after Iran. That would be a catastrophe that Israel cannot afford. The fact that the IDF carried out an exercise in June in which it practiced flying the full distance to Iran and back indicates to me that the IDF is planning for an eventuality in which it has to confront Iran without American support. But I question whether this government has what it takes to pull the trigger, particularly as we may be embroiled in an election campaign during what I still regard as the window of opportunity - November 5, 2008 - January 19, 2009. In the meantime, Israel is still going through the motions of pretending that sanctions can resolve the problem. And perhaps they could have an effect - if certain countries were to agree to effectively implement them.
Ephraim Sneh a veteran Labor MK which has left the party recently, has sent a document to both US presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama. The eight-point document states that "there is no government in Jerusalem that would ever reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran. When it is clear Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, an Israeli military strike to prevent this will be seriously considered."
According to Ma'ariv, Sneh offered the two candidates the "sane, cheap and the only option that does not necessitate bloodshed." To prevent Iran's nuclear aspirations, Sneh wrote, "real" sanctions applied in concert by the US and Europe is necessary. A total embargo in spare parts for the oil industry and a total boycott of Iranian banks will topple, within a short time, the regime which is already pressured by a sloping economy and would be toppled by the Iranian people if they would have outside assistance.
The window of opportunity Sneh suggests is a year and a half to two years, until 2010.
Sneh also visited Switzerland and Austria last week in an attempt to lobby those two states. Both countries have announced massive long-term investments in Iranian gas and oil fields for the next decade.
"Talk of the Jewish Holocaust and Israel's security doesn't impress these guys," Sneh said wryly.
Hearing his hosts speak of their future investments, Sneh replied quietly "it's a shame, because Ido will light all this up." He was referring to Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, the recently appointed commander of the Israeli Air Force and the man most likely to be the one to orchestrate Israel's attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, should this become the necessity.
"Investing in Iran in 2008," Sneh told his Austrian hosts, "is like investing in Krups Steelworks in 1938, it's a high risk investment." The Austrians, according to Sneh, turned pale.
Talk of a Jewish holocaust doesn't impress the British either. A survey recently found that only 39% of British respondents had 'negative feelings' about Iran. That compares with 64% of Germans who have negative feelings about Iran and 87% of Americans who regard Iran as a 'threat.'
"Americans, the British and the Germans worry about the direct threat to Israel from Iran and fear Iran's potential to share nuclear technology with terrorist groups," said Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. "All countries want diplomacy over military action to address this threat. The Germans oppose military action for historical and cultural reasons and the British do not want another Iraq. Yet the Americans are more open to military action, especially if a diplomatic solution fails to become a reality."
In fact, 62% of Americans still think sanctions could help. But 63% of Americans are willing to see Israel take action against Iran if 'diplomacy fails,' and 55% would be willing to see the US itself strike selected targets in Iran.
About 87% of those polled said a nuclear Iran will pose a threat to the US and 96% believe it would be of imminent threat to Israel.
Furthermore, 90% said that should Iran possess nuclear weapons it may sell them, or their technology to terror organizations. An additional 80% said they did not believe Iran was pursuing nuclear technology for sheer ability and that Tehran is likely to make use of it.
When asked what should or could be done to stop the Iranian nuclear program in its tracks, a majority of those polled said the supported a military strike against the Islamic Republic, should all diplomatic efforts fail.
Some 81% said they believed the international community must find a way to stop Iran's pursuit after nuclear technology; but 62% said they believed the world can still find a diplomatic solution which would make Iran halt its nuclear endeavors.
And the best news of all from this survey?
As for the US' role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, 69% of the survey's participants said they believed the US administrations must side with Israel.
And the foreign ministry is worried about branding?
Bottom line: If Israel chooses to take action, the US will back us (and protect us from the UN's wrath) at least so long as the current administration is in power provided that 'sanctions' have run their course. The timing may be tricky, but I would err on the side of hitting Iran 'too soon' rather than too late. What will happen if - God forbid - there is an Obama administration come January is anyone's guess.
No, I did not disappear off the face of the earth. Our eldest son, Avraham Yaakov, got married tonight to Meira. It's 1:30 AM here and I am totally wasted, but I will hopefully post more in the morning (I did update my profile so it is accurate).
Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet on Sunday amid growing signs that the Israeli leader is trying to complete the outline for a new Arab state before he leaves office. PA sources said they will discuss the status of Jerusalem and the PA "right of return" demand that involves allowing millions of foreign Arabs to immigrate. Water resources also will be discussed.
American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hinted a deal is in the works during her visit to Israel this week. At her meeting with Abbas in Ramallah, she "proposed new ideas related to the peace process," Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rdneh said. "The coming weeks will be very decisive," he added.
Prime Minister Olmert is taking advantage of the summer vacation, when most Israelis are vacationing, the Knesset is out of session and he is free to act without worrying about keeping his coalition government together. The Prime Minister already has said he will step down from office after the Kadima party chooses a new leader in primary elections next month.
He recently said that negotiations with the PA must be kept secret and not in the eye of the media.
The entire country is on vacation this week. School starts on Monday. The Knesset is out of session until after the Jewish holidays in late October (yes, this is the consequence of allowing the Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai government to survive the last session), but can be brought back into special session at the request of thirty members.
Hafith Barghouthi, the chief editor of the daily Hayat Al-Jadidah, wrote on Wednesday, "It seems a political 'meal' is being cooked on fire behind the scenes…. The fact that Rice met with both negotiation teams separately, then together proves what she said in the press conference about both sides abstaining from negotiating in front of the media. All this indicates that the negotiations are serious," he wrote.
And the fact that the Israeli media didn't notice or didn't report it makes it all the more likely that the Israeli media are covering up so that Olmert can work behind the scenes.
Putting an agreement in writing, regardless of its being impractical to carry out today, would be significant, a PA negotiator told WorldNetDaily reporter Aaron Klein this week. The negotiator said, "Papers are very important. It puts limits on the new prime minister…. Olmert told us his goal is to reach an agreement on paper."
The next prime minister is not likely to be as pliable as Olmert - unless Livni wins.
Some of you may be wondering about Olmert's motivations given that it is now clear (well, maybe) that his political career is over. I can sum his motivations up for you in one word: Vindictiveness.
Infrastructure ministry seizes 85 tons of natural gas heading for Gaza
Inspectors from Israel's infrastructure ministry seized 1700 tanks (85 tons) of illegally manufactured natural gas from an unfortified warehouse in Ashkelon Wednesday night. The natural gas was headed for Gaza where the empty tanks would have been used to manufacture Kassam rockets.
"The tanks were in a huge warehouse that is not suited for gas storage; it was filled with wooden platforms and had no fire extinguishing system in place. It posed a very grave threat to local residents," said Shimon Ben-Shlomo, a senior inspector with the ministry. Ben-Shlomo added that this is the largest amount of gas ever seized in Israel.
According to the ministry, there is a pirate network of gas tank distribution in Israel. Most of the tanks are stolen. In this case, said Ben-Shlomo, the gas was intended to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
"The demand for these tanks wasn't just about the gas, but mostly because these are iron tanks – a metal that can be easily used in the manufacturing or weaponry, rocket and mortar shells," he said.
A particularly worrying risk was that of rockets from Gaza. Several have hit the industrial zone in which the warehouse was located. Ben-Shlomo pointed out that the warehouse was not fortified, and a direct hit from a Kassam or artillery piece could have caused a chain reaction of exploding gas tanks.
Note that these gas tanks came from a 'pirate network.' That means that they likely came from within 'Israel proper' and were prepared by profiteering Israeli Jews. Penny wise and pound foolish.
"You don’t make peace with your friends, but with your enemies," said Raymond Johansen, state secretary in Norway’s Foreign Ministry and deputy foreign minister, on Wednesday.
Johansen told the website for newspaper Dagsavisen Wednesday afternoon that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also called for reconciliation among the various groups in Afghanistan. That would include Osama bin Laden's followers.
"We support that," Johansen said. "Engagement and dialogue have a lot going for them." He also stressed that "negotiations are not the same as weakness."
Yes, except that even Johansen acknowledges that there is nothing to discuss.
Johansen, who also was the first high-ranking Western official to meet with Hamas leaders last year, didn’t reject her call. He noted, though, that he has no illusions that bin Laden would sit down for negotiations.
"I don't think Osama bin Laden or the forces around al-Qaida want dialogue," Johansen said. "They prefer rather to take the lives of infidels."
But good news from Norway may be on the horizon. The country's most right-wing party - the Progress party - is currently leading in all the polls with 31.9% of the voters. It is siphoning votes from the three leftist parties that are in the current governing coalition. And if the Progress party gains power, its leader, Siv Jensen, has said that she will move Norway's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (Hat Tip: Skjoldungen via Maverick News Media). Jensen is apparently willing to back it up - in February of this year, she was caught in a rocket attack in Sderot.
I will move the Norwegian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as fortress as possible.Hvorfor skal resten av verden bøye seg for det massive arabiske presset og la være å legge ambassadene til hovedstaden i landet? Why should the rest of the world bøye seg for the massive Arab pressure and la be å legge ambassadene to the capital in the country?Det er jo ingen andre land der det skjer. It is of course no other country that the skjer.Vi må våge å stå oppreist for Israel, sa Siv Jensen til de rundt hundre fremmøtte. We have to monitor river stand oppreist for Israel, sa Siv Jensen to the round hundre fremmøtte.
Hun gikk også sterkt ut mot den norske midtøstenpolitikken som hun mener er urealistisk og israelfiendtlig. She gikk also sterkt ut mot the Norwegian midtøstenpolitikken which she believes is unrealistic and israelfiendtlig.
(Sorry, the original was in Danish and Google did not do a full translation. If anyone speaks Danish and wishes to send me a real translation, please feel free).
Is Jensen's party's growth a backlash from the natives against the growth of Islam in Europe? Maybe.
Let me get this straight: Obama goes to Europe, does a garish outdoor extravaganza before thousands, returns to find himself dubbed a publicity-seeking celebrity, analogous to Paris Hilton—and abruptly begins a tailspin in the polls. And now in reaction, at the greatest moment of his life, he transfers his acceptance speech to an open-air stadium to handle tens of thousands of frenzied fans, replete with Greek temple (Olympian Zeus or Parthenon?) as the backdrop stage, and outspoken rock stars?
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Hezbullah terrorist organization now has a 'presence' in Venezuela. Given the warm relations between Hezbullah patron Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Thuggo Chavez, I guess that shouldn't be all too surprising. But Western intelligence agencies are not pleased with Hezbullah's new base of operations.
The Bush administration, Israel and other governments worry that Venezuela is emerging as a base for anti-U.S. militant groups and spy services, including Hezbollah and its Iranian allies.
"It's becoming a strategic partnership between Iran and Venezuela," said a Western anti-terrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the issue's sensitivity.
Several joint Venezuelan-Iranian business operations have been set up in Venezuela, including tractor, cement and auto factories. In addition, the two countries have formed a $2-billion program to fund social projects in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America.
Those deepening ties worry U.S. officials because Iranian spies around the world have been known to work with Hezbollah operatives, sometimes using Iranian embassies as cover, Western intelligence experts say.
In June, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon said Iran "has a history of terror in this hemisphere, and its linkages to the bombings in Buenos Aires are pretty well established."
"One of our broader concerns is what Iran is doing elsewhere in this hemisphere and what it could do if we were to find ourselves in some kind of confrontation with Iran," Shannon said.
But Hezbullah's presence in Venezuela is really nothing new.
Although the Bush administration is embroiled in political conflict with the Chavez government, allegations that Hezbollah and Iranian spies operate in Venezuela date to the 1990s, before Chavez took office.
The most concrete allegations of a Hezbollah presence in Venezuela involve money-raising. In June, the U.S. Treasury Department designated two Venezuelan citizens as Hezbollah supporters and froze their U.S. assets.
But if you're a Jew - and especially if you're an Israeli - Hezbullah's presence in Venezuela may cause you to think twice about visiting Latin America.
Agents of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah have allegedly set up a special force to attempt to kidnap Jewish businesspeople in Latin America and spirit them away to Lebanon, according to the Western anti-terrorism official. Iranian and Hezbollah operatives traveling in and out of Venezuela have recruited Venezuelan informants working at the Caracas airport to gather intelligence on Jewish travelers as potential targets for abduction, the Western anti-terrorism official said.
The allegations were reinforced by a statement last week by the Israeli government, issuing an alert to citizens warning that Hezbollah plans to kidnap Israelis around the world to retaliate for the Mughniyah assassination.
Venezuela is also too close for comfort to the US. One can only hope that as Americans become aware of the gathering threat to their south, they will tighten entry into the United States to keep the terrorists out. Unfortunately, so far, there has been no sign of any tightening on America's borders.
At Commentary, John Podhoretz posts an excerpt from a 1992 JPost article in which Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joseph Biden threatened to cut off aid to Israel over 'settlements.' The confrontation between Biden and then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin occurred during the 1982 Operation Peace for Galilee (the 'First Lebanon War').
In a conversation with Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, after a sharp confrontation in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject of the settlements, Begin defined himself as “a proud Jew who does not tremble with fear” when speaking with foreign statesmen.
During that committee hearing, at the height of the Lebanon War, Sen. John Biden (Delaware) had attacked Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria and threatened that if Israel did not immediately cease this activity, the US would have to cut economic aid to Israel.
When the senator raised his voice and banged twice on the table with his fist, Begin commented to him: “This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats. Take note: we do not want a single soldier of yours to die for us.”
After the meeting, Sen. Moynihan approached Begin and praised him for his cutting reply. To which Begin answered with thanks, defining his stand against threats.
It's a pity that there is no one on either side of Israel's political spectrum today who can match Begin's courage, dignity and honesty. He was a true leader.
As to Biden, it appears he'll fit right in with Obama.
Amid the growing animosity between the Fatah and Hamas organizations, the conflict is now spreading to the internet. On Tuesday, Fatah hackers brought down a website belonging to Hamas's military wing, precisely two months after the site was breached by an Israeli group called Fanat Al Radical. The hackers planted several messages on the Hamas site including one warning Hamas not to attribute the vandalism to Israeli intelligence services. "This is only Fatah youth and the hackers of Palestine. Our commander is Abu Mazen and we will not accept anyone but him," the message read.
Let's go to the videotape.
I'm amazed anyone from Fatah has the computer skills to do this. After all, they're supposed to be so impoverished....
Haj Jamil Salah, 51, a top Hezbollah operative who was in charge of the construction of underground bunkers in south Lebanese villages fell to his death on Monday while standing on the rooftop of a building in the village of Yaroun, close to the Israeli border. He was reportedly discussing with his men how far inside Israeli territory the rockets installed at the launch pads in the village could reach, when he fell. The Qatari newspaper al-Arab reported that Salah died in a mysterious manner.
Salah was responsible for the construction of vast networks of deep underground tunnels leading to reinforced concrete bunkers located in over 150 villages south of the Litani River, an area that Hezbollah is supposedly barred from operating in. The bunkers are built underneath houses in the villages, their reinforced rooms are large enough to hold personnel as well as stockpiles of missiles and vast supplies of food.
While the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 called for the disarming of the Hezbollah and barred it from operating in southern Lebanon, reality on the ground shows a different story. UNIFIL chooses to turn a blind eye and the Lebanese Army appears to be incapable of confronting Hizbullah operatives. It is for this very reason that Israel continues its air force forays over southern Lebanon.
Let's go to the videotape and then I will have a few comments.
I want to emphasize two points. First, note that the bunkers are being and have been built "underneath houses in the villages." This means that although Israel is permitted to do so under the Geneva Convention, which does not protect the civilians behind whom terrorists are hiding, in the event that Israel goes after those bunkers and tries to take out the terrorists, there will almost certainly be civilian casualties and Israel will certainly be condemned - unjustly - for 'endangering civilians.' If you add the possibility that because the bunkers are made from reinforced concrete, Israel would need to use 'bunker busters' or other specialized weaponry, you raise the possibility that Israel would endanger future weapons supplies of this nature - principally from the United States.
Second, as I am sure you all noticed, the first three paragraphs of this post were a direct quote from the reporter on the video. I want to take issue with the following statement: "UNIFIL chooses to turn a blind eye and the Lebanese Army appears to be incapable of confronting Hizbullah operatives." UNIFIL doesn't choose to turn a blind eye (although given the opportunity, it would). Under the toothless Resolution 1701, UNIFIL cannot act unless the Lebanese Army invites it to act. We have our incompetent foreign minister to thank for that. As to the Lebanese Army, it is not unable to act. It largely consists of Hezbullah and its sympathizers, and therefore whether it is able to act is irrelevant: It will not act no matter what.
UPDATE THURSDAY 10:38 AM
DEBKA reports on where this 'accident' took place.
Jamal Amin Salah, 51, a Hizballah operations executive, stood on the rooftop of a building at the Lebanese Yaroun village, less than half a kilometer from the Israeli border. He was discussing with his men how far inside Israeli territory the rockets installed at the launch pads in the village could reach, when he fell to his death.
Didn't 'Tzipora' say we had pushed Hezbullah back from the border?
Former New York Mayor and Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani ripped Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama's ambiguity on Israel in an interview with the New York Post in Denver on Tuesday (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
"There's no question he's ambiguous about" his stand on Israel, Giuliani said, citing specifically that Obama said months ago before a Jewish political group that he supported an undivided Jerusalem, and later aides clarified it.
"I think that his position in dealing with the issues that are important to Israel, like they are important to me in America, is -- (the) best and kindest thing you can say is, ambiguity," he said, clearly referring to security.
Giuliani added it's "of grave concern. It either comes from deeply held views that he has or lack of experience, one or the other. But in either case he's too close to the presidency not to have formed views about this that don't require having to explain it two or three different times."
Ambiguity is a charitable way of putting it. As on many other issues, Obama has flip-flopped so many times that it's hard to tell what he believes and what he's saying to get himself elected. But with Israel, there are more grounds for suspicion. Obama's stream of anti-Israel advisers makes it difficult to believe that he is truly committed to Israel's security.
Here's a video report on the deployment of X-Band Radar in Israel, which appears likely to happen by early 2009.
As part of extensive, bilateral preparations against the growing threat from Iran, the Pentagon wants to deploy one of its powerful X-Band radars in Israel, along with personnel from U.S. European Command to operate the long-range early warning system.
Once deployed and fully integrated, the combined U.S. and Israeli system is expected to double or even triple the range at which Israel can detect, track and ultimately defend against Iranian missiles such as the long range Shihab- and Ashura-class ballistic missiles.
According to a recent Defense News report, the basic plan was approved last month, first by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and then by the two countries' civilian defense leaders.
Let's go to the videotape.
You will note that this report does not discuss who will control the radar, a topic that was the subject of the extensive post linked above. Caroline Glick points to a Haaretz article that claims that the American control of the radar was meant to restrain Israel from attacking Iran. Based on an interview with Congressman Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is largely responsible for bringing the radar to Israel, Caroline says that there is no restriction on Israel's ability to attack Iran. The claim that government's hands are tied is a trick by the Israeli government to try to convince Israelis that there is no way to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons so the government will have an excuse for its own inaction.
The US's willingness to deploy the system is largely the consequence of ardent lobbying efforts by US Congressman Mark Kirk. Kirk's successful push for the deployment of the X-Band system in Israel is a great boon for the country's defensive capabilities. The X-Band system can detect incoming missiles from 500-600 miles. Currently, Israel's early warning system is only able to detect missiles from 100 miles out. The earlier detection capacity means that in the event of an Iranian attack, Israel's Arrow missiles will be able to intercept and destroy incoming missiles before they reach Israeli territory and so even their debris will fall outside the country.
BUT ACCORDING to unnamed Israeli "defense officials" who spoke with Ha'aretz, the price that Israel will be forced to pay for this increased defensive capacity is prohibitive. Those "defense officials" claim that the US forced Israel to agree that in exchange for the X-Band system, Israel will not attack Iran either preemptively or retroactively without US permission, because were Israel to attack Iran, the three American guys and their trailer could become a target for an Iranian missile.
If Ha'aretz and the "defense officials" are right, then that means that Defense Minister Ehud Barak - who concluded the deal with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates during his visit to Washington last month - agreed to concede Israel's right to take whatever action it deems necessary to prevent its national destruction. Barak conceded Israel's right to prevent its own annihilation in exchange for three guys and a trailer and the capacity to live with a greater sense of security under Iranian nuclear threat. This sense of security will last for as long as Iran doesn't develop satellite-based warheads or for as long as Iran doesn't prove the X-Band radar or the Arrow 3 missiles incapable of actually intercepting incoming nuclear warheads.
Since Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and all their colleagues in the government have been silent on the deal, it can be assumed that they back Barak's move. So again, acting on the authority of the entire Kadima-Labor-Shas government, according to "defense officials," and Ha'aretz, Barak just agreed to give up Israel's right to attack Iran's nuclear installations. And the Americans made him do it.
THE HA'ARETZ report did not include any mention of attempts to verify the "defense officials" claims with the Americans. And in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night, Kirk vociferously denied their allegations.
"There is no quid pro quo," he said.
"You mean that the US did not say that in exchange for deploying the X-Band system Israel needs to receive US permission to attack Iran?"
"No, the US made no such demand," Kirk said.
"The basic idea is that a US ally getting nuked is a bad thing. The X-Band system increases the likelihood that such an attack would fail," he continued.
Moreover, far from sending a message that the US would work to block an Israeli preemptive attack against Iran, Kirk argued that the deployment of the X-Band system manned by a US crew "will send a message to Iran, that Israel has powerful political support from its ally against any Iranian threat."
Kirk also argued that the US will support a decision by Israel's government to attack Iran. As he put it, "If the Israeli government makes the difficult decision [that it must launch a preemptive attack against Iran], that is when Israel will need its allies the most. And that is when the US will be called in to show what it means to have us as an ally."
So if Kirk - the US official most responsible for the X-Band deal - flatly denies that the US is using the X-Band deployment to prevent Israel from attacking Iran, what were those unidentified "defense officials" who spoke with Ha'aretz trying to achieve by making false allegations against the US? And why did Ha'aretz's reporters not bother to call Kirk or the Pentagon to verify their amazing claims?
At Townhall.com, Amanda Carpenter unearthed a video in which New York civil rights activist Percy Sutton, who was Manhattan Borough President when I was in college in New York City, claims that he was introduced to Barack Hussein Obama by Khalid al-Mansour and asked to get Mansour into Harvard Law School. What's more interesting is that Sutton implies that Obama has received moneys from a man to whom Mansour serves as an adviser - HRH Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal.
Let's go to the videotape. A partial transcript will follow and then I will discuss who Mansour and Talal are and why if Sutton is correct this relationship is so significant.
"I was introduced to him by a friend who was raising money for him and the friends name was Dr. Khalid al Mansour from Texas. He is the principle adviser to one of the world's richest men. He told me about Obama. He wrote to me about him and his introduction was 'there is a young man that has applied to Harvard and I know that you have a few friends left there becasue you used to go up there to speak, would you please write a letter in support of him?'...I wrote a letter in support of him to my friends at Harvard saying ot them I thought there was a genius that was going to be available and I sure hoped they would treat him kindly."
So who is Mansour? Amanda Carpenter has three videos of Mansour (one of which runs more than an hour and a half) together with her comment. Mansour is a virulent hater of Jews and Christians and whites generally, and I urge all of you to watch the videos of this man who introduced Obama to Percy Sutton. Here's a brief biography of Mansour:
Dr. Khalid Al-Mansour, Senior Advisor, HRH Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal
Dr. Al-Mansour is an international attorney and businessman and is renowned as an intellectual, activist, author, and teacher. He co-founded the law firm of Al-Waleed, Al-Talal, and Al-Mansour and has served as a director of the Saudi African Bank and the United Bank of Africa among others.
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-five years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 12 to 32 years and seven grandchildren. Three of our children are married! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com