New Year's Eve with Guy LombardoEnjoy.
For those of you who are too young to remember, sorry.
This was the year after I spent New Year's eve in Times Square. I was there on December 31, 1975/January 1, 1976 in the sleet.
Happy New Year everyone.
Ackerman: My last few questions are about the outside world. What do you want from the U.S.? What are you looking to see? Some are saying that the U.S. & its allies could place sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; others are afraid that even those sanctions would hurt the Iranian people. What do you think?The revolutionaries favor sanctions, although they'd rather not be affected by them. There's no discussion here of the nuclear program (it doesn't even come up) and no mention of Israel. Are we taking it on blind faith that the Greens won't turn around and develop a nuclear weapon?
Mr. A: It is a hard question. We are amazed by Obama’s actions. He talks of democracy, yet he sends a letter to Khamanei and wants to talk to this government.
Ackerman: So you’re disappointed by Obama’s actions?
Mr. A: Up to now, yes. But we hope that like 1978, when the democrats took power [in Iran after the fall of the Shah], the revolution succeeded. This time, it [will] happen again by persuading Russia and China not to support this regime. They still feel they will control the situation, but when Russia and China turns agains them, they’re going to think of backing off a little
Ackerman: What do you think about sanctions? My sources in the Obama administration say that they’re not having any luck talking to Iran and so now are trying to get the international community, including the United Nations, to support sanctions, particularly sanctions targeting the IRGC?
Mr. A: It is a very good move, provided that the people [aren't] affected very much by these sanctions. It’s already hard for us to send and receive packages lately, for instance. Another thing is that there have been so many arrests. Civil rights are the last thing [the regime] cares about. So besides sanctions, we need international pressures to prevent numerous arrests everyday.
Ackerman: Last question. What’s the most important message you want the outside world to know about the Green movement? Or about Iran and the regime?
Mr. A: Please help us make our democracy.
Ackerman: What do we need to do?
Mr. A: Spread the word, so your governments don’t negotiate any deal with this regime.
At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate – what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?Read the whole thing.
"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with Play-Doh in it and two pens stuck in the Play-Doh. That is `Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Duchesneau, `What would you do?' And he said, `Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, `Oh. My. God.'
"Take (Toronto's) Pearson (airport). Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic – which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, `Two days.'"
A screener at Ben Gurion has a pair of better options.
First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.
Second, all the screening areas contain `bomb boxes.' If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.
"This is a very small, simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.
Abbas believes that the international community is negotiating with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. He is fully convinced that only increased pressure on Israel, and not negotiations, will bring about a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders.There's another issue here. Abu Toameh refers to the need to return to negotiations 'before it is too late.' For the 'Palestinians,' it is never too late. They have turned down a state numerous times, and each time they turn it down, it is reoffered to them on even better terms. The only way the 'Palestinians' will come to the table is if there are consequences that derive from them not coming to the table.
And since the whole world, with the possible exception of the US Administration, “is on our side,” why bother return to the negotiating table with Israel?
The belief among the Palestinian leadership is that it is only a matter of time before Israel succumbs to the growing international pressure.
By negotiating with Abbas and his government, the Western governments are, in fact, keeping the Palestinians from resuming peace talks with Israel. Instead of negotiating with Abbas, these governments should be urging him to return to the negotiations with Israel as soon as possible and before it is too late.
But for now Abbas does not seem to be in a rush; this is why those who believe that real peace talks could be “revived” in the near future are living under an illusion. Abbas has set out his demands and conditions in a clear and straight manner and he is waiting for the international community to help him achieve all his goals.
Among his claims are that Ayatollah Khamenei has a voracious appetite for trout and caviar; is an avid hoarder of collectables from bejewelled pipes to fine horses; and that he suffers regular bouts of depression which are treated in part by audiences with a mid-ranking mullah who tells vulgar jokes.I am sure that the penultimate paragraph will be of great interest to Mr. Levey. Heh.
Claims from three intelligence officials, who have also fled Iran, have additionally documented the Khamenei family's wide-reaching business connections, including interests in European manufacturers, African mobile phone companies and international commodities markets.
But the glimpse at the imperial lifestyle of an otherwise austere theologan is groundbreaking. Ayatollah Khamenei is said to be a keen collector with a prized assembly of antique walking sticks said to number 170. The Supreme Leader was once a fanatical equestrian enthusiast and his extensive stables reportedly include more than 100 of the country's leading horses. His cloaks are said to be woven from hair of specially bred camels.
Ayatollah Khamenei is claimed to have accumulated a sprawling private court that stretches across six palaces, including Naviran, the former resident of the Shah in Tehran. Two of the palaces - Naviran and Valikabad - are equipped with deep, reinforced concrete nuclear bunkers said to be capable of withstanding nuclear attack. A fully functioning hospital is overseen by a former health minister.
The bodyguard was a member of a 200-strong permanent personal protection team who provide the Supreme Leader's primary security. He is currently staying at a safe house in France organised by the Green Movement's exiled leader, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a film director. The credibility of his account is enhanced by his denial of widespread rumours in Iran the Ayatollah has used opium.
Mr Makmalbaf claimed the Green Movement had gathered information about the Khamenei family's investments abroad. "If the Western governments are serious enough in putting pressure on the regime by applying economic sanctions, then they should follow these leads and find these bank accounts and confiscate their deposits to be returned to the Iranian people at a later time," he said.
Iran's embassy in London refused to comment on the allegations. "I have no comment on those things," a spokesman said.
Mohammad Ali Ardebili, director of foreign relations for the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, told Army Radio that he had not intended to send the missive to the Israel Football Association.Heh.
"It is a greeting sent to every country in the world," Ardebili said. He quickly then inquired: "Are you talking from Israel? I can't speak with you. It's a mistake, it's a mistake."
The greeting was received in Israel by the head of the Israel Football Association's legal department, Amir Navon.
"He came into my office asking me if I thought it was a mistake," said body spokesman Gil Levanoni/ "So I told him that I didn't know, but that we should send in a reply."
Levanoni and Navon said they replied to the greeting with a "happy new year to all the good people of Iran," and said: "We also added a wink."
On December 26, two days after Nigerian Omar Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to use underwear packed with plastic explosives to blow up the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight he was on, and as it became clear internally that the Administration had suffered perhaps its most embarrassing failure in the area of national security, senior Obama White House aides, including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod and new White House counsel Robert Bauer, ordered staff to begin researching similar breakdowns -- if any -- from the Bush Administration.Read the whole thing.
"The idea was that we'd show that the Bush Administration had had far worse missteps than we ever could," says a staffer in the counsel's office. "We were told that classified material involving anything related to al Qaeda operating in Yemen or Nigeria was fair game and that we'd declassify it if necessary."
The White House, according to the source, is in full defensive spin mode. Other administration sources also say a flurry of memos were generated on December 26th, 27th, and 28th, which developed talking points about how Obama's decision to effectively shut down the Homeland Security Council (it was merged earlier this year into the National Security Council, run by National Security Adviser James Jones) had nothing to do with what Obama called a "catastrophic" failure on Christmas Day.
"This White House doesn't view the Northwest [Airlines] failure as one of national security, it's a political issue," says the White House source. "That's why Axelrod and Emanuel are driving the issue."
A body scanner at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport would not necessarily have detected the explosives which the would-be syringe bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had sewn into his underwear. A Dutch military intelligence source told De Telegraaf newspaper that Al Qaeda has its own security scanners and has been practicing ways of concealing explosives.I'm shocked - just shocked. Aren't you?
Yeffet himself says that the US could use that same system, if we are willing to discard our political correctness and use the right kind of expertise on the problem.And El Al's record speaks for itself. Let's hope the US and other Western countries wise up. Otherwise, flying won't be safe for a long time to come.
“Iran Is creating a base [in Lebanon] for weapons that are used in areas adjacent to Israel with the intention of attacking Israel," according to Prime Minister Netanyahu. "The problem in Lebanon is not the border. The problem of security is Syria. The same thing is happening in Gaza. The problem is not the border with Gaza….but with the 12 kilometers (eight miles) into Sinai" adjacent to the Philadelphi smugglng route.Netanyahu specifically rejected the idea of an 'international force' doing the job for the IDF.
He declared that “agreements, signatures and texts have left us with the same problem. We will not have a situation where Judea and Samaria become a third platform for rockets from Iran." The Prime Minister explained that the smuggling of weapons into Judea and Samaria would create a problem far worse than Israel faces on the northern and southern borders.
Preventing arms from entering Judea, Samaria and Gaza is a condition for peace, Prime Minister Netanyahu continued. Without directly calling for an IDF presence in territory that might be part of future PA state, he stated, "I doubt whether anything except a real presence of the State of Israel, of Israeli forces, can accomplish [a halt to importing weapons]. The problem of demilitarization must be resolved effectively and this entails effectively blocking unauthorized entry, first and foremost from the east [of Judea and Samaria], wherever the border is defined.”
In a live interview broadcast on the Islamic Republic's national television station sometime within the last two weeks, Ayatollah Mehyaddin Haeri Shirazi described a Communist protest movement from the early years of the Islamic Republic, noting how it was effectively crushed by the authorities. The government targeted opposition activists, he said, "arrested them in the afternoon and the same night announced the names of 30 people killed or executed by the government forces."And the world sits silent. Imagine how much more quiet it would be if the victims were Jews....
In reaction to the arrests and killings, Shirazi continued, "nothing happened. Why? Because they killed them."
Expanding on what he sees as the lesson from those events, the ayatollah said,"The more of them [the opposition] are killed, the more beneficial [to the people]. If the armed forces kill some of them, it is to our benefit."
On the other hand, Shirazi continued, "When they are arrested, it is bad [for public opinion], when they are captured [it is bad for public opinion]. Do not make victims out of them."
Killing the opposition protesters, the ayatollah insists, "is sanctioned by obedience to Allah and the prophet and is handed down to the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei]. When it is sanctioned by such a power, there is no need to go through the government powers."
Shirazi warned the opposition forces, "Do not look upon the Supreme Leader [simply] as a person with a soft turban on his head, and that you can beat him. His support comes from the Hidden Imam Mahdi, he [Khamenei] is made of iron. It will come back down to break your own heads."
According to the B'Tselem advocacy organization, there are still 59 kilometers of roads in the West Bank that are off limits to Palestinian traffic. Most notably are the roads that link the Palestinian village of Hawara with the settlement of Elon Moreh, the road that connects the Palestinian town of Salfit with Road 5 and the Kedar road near Ma'aleh Adumim.I don't think the government has a shot in hell of getting the 'Supreme Court' to approve keeping those roads closed. Consider the arguments for keeping Route 443 closed that none of these other roads has.
Officials said that the Defense Ministry's legal department was preparing defenses for expected petitions by human rights and advocacy organizations against the closure of these roads to Palestinian Authority traffic.
The road was closed to such traffic in 2002 following a spate of terror attacks along the road that killed six people. Until then, the road had served as many as 55,000 Palestinians living in several villages along the length of the highway, including Beit Sira, Safa, Beit Ur a-Tahta and Khirbet el-Misbah.Fortunately, in the Israeli system, you don't need a constitutional amendment to overrule the 'Supreme Court.' The answer to this ruling is legislative and not more judicial proceedings.
The court gave the IDF five months to make preparations to open a 14-kilometer section of Road 443 that is between two checkpoints - one called Maccabim near Modi'in, and the other on the opposite side near Jerusalem. To ensure the safety of Israeli drivers, the IDF will likely increase its presence on the highway and erect additional watchtowers to deter and spot potential attackers.
"This is a matter of strategic importance since this is one of only two highways that connects Jerusalem with the center of the country," one IDF source said Wednesday. "We need to make sure that it is safe and open at all times."
In addition to potential shooting attacks on the road, the IDF is also concerned with the possibility that Palestinian terrorists will plant improvised explosive devices near the highway. Two weeks ago, security forces discovered the remains of an IED - made of a gas balloon and firecrackers - that had gone off along the road.
Right-wing MKs sprang into action in the wake of the High Court decision, with MK Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu) proposing a private member's bill that would annex "the road known as 443 into the authority of the State of Israel as was done with the annexation of the Golan Heights."The Knesset is currently controlled by mostly sane people. The Knesset should do whatever needs to be done to keep this decision from ever being implemented. Before someone - God forbid - gets killed out there.
At that point, 443 would not be considered by Israel to be part of the West Bank, and thus Israel would not be obligated to allow Palestinians without Israeli identity cards to drive on the road, he said.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) also tried to find a legislative solution to the Supreme Court ruling, by calling on the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to meet to discuss the implications "and to find a suitable solution."
If the committee does not hold an urgent hearing on the subject, Danon threatened that he, too, would submit legislation that would allow a security or diplomatic body to bypass the High Court on the decision.
Lieberman, in an interview published Wednesday in the Russian-language newspaper Vesti, said that the ministry's deputy director general for strategic affairs, Alon Bar, was suspended after the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) found him responsible for a leak that Lieberman said had "created tension" with the US.Why would a 'top foreign ministry official' do something so foolish? Here's a clue:
He mentioned neither the subject of the alleged leak, nor where it appeared.
The Strategic Affairs department is focused primarily on Iran and on non-proliferation issues.
In the Vesti interview, Lieberman said Bar, who he characterized as "one of our brilliant diplomats," could no longer serve in "such an important position."As I have noted previously, the foreign ministry's bureaucracy is rife with Leftists who are holdovers from the reigns of Shimon Peres, Shlomo Ben Ami, Sylvan Shalom (before he realized that a Left-leaner has no chance of advancing in the Likud) and Tzipi Livni. The last time we had a Foreign Minister who leaned anywhere near as Rightward as Lieberman was when David Levy was Foreign Minister under Yitzchak Shamir (1990-92).
Prior to this position, Bar - considered a talented young diplomat with a bright future - served as former minister Tzipi Livni's diplomatic adviser.
The Committee of Residents in Binyamin, a region in central and northern Samaria, plans a massive building program next week to challenge the construction freeze imposed by the Netanyahu government. The projects are to implement principled approved at a conference in the community of Ofrah a month ago.How many places can the building inspectors be at the same time? Heh.
The plan calls for every Jewish community in the region to at least one building for residents, such as expanding a synagogue, storeroom, or house, all of which are allowed under the freeze. However, several communities are to begin construction n new houses, a move specifically prohibited by the government for 10 months as of a month and a half ago.
In retrospect, that patina of cosmopolitanism in President Obama's background concealed the isolationism of the liberal coalition that brought him to power. The tide had turned in the congressional elections of 2006. American liberalism was done with its own antecedents—the outlook of Woodrow Wilson and FDR and Harry Truman and John Kennedy. It wasn't quite "Come home, America," but close to it. This was now the foreign policy of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. There was in the land a "liberal orientalism," if you will, a dismissive attitude about the ability of other nations to partake of liberty. It had started with belittling the Iraqis' aptitude for freedom. But there was implicit in it a broader assault on the very idea of freedom's possibilities in distant places. East was East, and West was West, and never the twain shall meet.Read the whole thing.
We're weary, the disillusioned liberalism maintains, and we're broke, and there are those millions of Americans aching for health care and an economic lifeline. We can't care for both Ohio and the Anbar, Peoria and Peshawar. It is either those embattled people in Iran or a rescue package for Chrysler.
The joke is on the enthralled crowds in Cairo, Ankara, Berlin and Oslo. The new American president they had fallen for had no genuine calling or attachments abroad. In their enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, and their eagerness to proclaim themselves at one with the postracial meaning of his election, they had missed his aloofness from the genuine struggles in the foreign world.
It was easy, that delirium with Mr. Obama: It made no moral demands on those eager to partake of it. It was also false, in many lands.
What a difference three or four years make. The despots have waited out that burst of American power and optimism. No despot fears Mr. Obama, and no blogger in Cairo or Damascus or Tehran, no demonstrator in those cruel Iranian streets, expects Mr. Obama to ride to the rescue. To be sure, it was in the past understood that we can't bear all burdens abroad, or come to the defense of everyone braving tyranny. But there was always that American assertion that when things are in the balance we would always be on freedom's side.
We hadn't ridden to the rescue of Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s, but we had saved the Bosnians and the Kosovars. We didn't have the power to undo the colossus of Chinese tyranny when the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, but the brave dissidents knew that we were on their side, that we were appalled by the cruelty of official power.
It is different today, there is a cold-bloodedness to American foreign policy. "Ideology is so yesterday," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed not long ago, giving voice to the new sentiment.
History and its furies have their logic, and they have not bent to Mr. Obama's will. He had declared a unilateral end to the "war on terror," but the jihadists and their mentors are yet to call their war to a halt. From Yemen to Fort Hood and Detroit, the terror continues.
But to go by the utterances of the Obama administration and its devotees, one would have thought that our enemies were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, not the preachers and masterminds of terror. The president and his lieutenants spent more time denigrating "rendition" and the Patriot Act than they did tracking down the terror trail and the latest front it had opened at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. Our own leaders spoke poorly of our prerogatives and ways, and they were heard the world over.
Under Mr. Obama, we have pulled back from the foreign world. We're smaller for accepting that false choice between burdens at home and burdens abroad, and the world beyond our shores is more hazardous and cynical for our retrenchment and our self-flagellation.
The Transportation Security Administration is going after bloggers who wrote about a directive to increase security after the incident.At Boing Boing, Xeni Jardin has a lot more details and says that the directive was non-classified.
TSA special agents served subpoenas to travel bloggers Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott, demanding that they reveal who leaked the security directive to them. The government says the directive was not supposed to be disclosed to the public.
On Friday, December 25, following the incident in which a Nigerian man attempted to blow up a US-bound flight, the TSA issued an urgent, non-classified security directive to thousands of contacts around the world—airlines, airports, and so on. On Saturday, December 26, airlines and airports around the world further circulated that emailed document and began implementing the procedures described. On Sunday December 27, two bloggers published the content of the TSA directive online (some portions had already been showing up on airline websites). And on Tuesday, December 29, Special Agents from the TSA's Office of Inspection showed up at the homes of bloggers Steven Frischling and Christopher Elliott, and interrogated each on where they obtained the document. Both bloggers received civil subpoenas.Can you say 'chilling effect'? Read the whole thing.
A senior Hamas official said that Israel had recruited a number of officers who used to serve in the Fatah-dominated security forces before the Islamist movement seized control of the entire Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.Sorry, but Fatah 'collaborators' helping Israel is just too convenient for Hamas. I don't buy this story. I believe Israel knows where Shalit is anyway, but the family has convinced the IDF not to try to mount a rescue attempt.
Abu Abdullah, who serves with Hamas's Internal Security Service, said that the officers had been entrusted with the mission of locating the place where Schalit was being held by his captors.
"The Shabak is very interested in obtaining any information about the whereabouts of Schalit through various methods," Abu Abdullah said, referring to Israel's Security Agency (Shin Bet). "One of these methods was the last war [Operation Cast Lead], whose goal was to break Hamas and obtain information about the location of Schalit to rescue him."
The Hamas security official revealed that his men arrested "a number of collaborators" who had rented an apartment and vehicles in the eastern area of the Gaza Strip.
He claimed that the "collaborators" were planning to kidnap a senior member of Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, and hand him over to Israel for interrogation about the location of Schalit.
Abu Abdullah did not name the top operative who was supposed to be abducted. However, he told a Hamas-affiliated Web site that his men managed to foil the alleged scheme in the last minute.
“Obviously Israel does not respond to language of diplomacy, which has encouraged the lifting of the blockade and so what I am suggesting is that it has to be reinforced by a threat of adverse economic consequences for Israel,” Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, told UN Radio.For the record, Falk is a 9/11 truther who has been barred from entering Israel at all. And aid allowed into Gaza by the IDF has increased by 900% in 2009 as compared with 2008. But that doesn't fit with the narrative that the UN wants to perpetuate about Gaza. According to the UN, Gaza is starving. Decide for yourselves.
“That probably is something that is politically unlikely to happen, but unless it happens, it really does suggest that the United States and the Quartet and the EU [European Union] don’t take these calls for lifting the blockade very seriously and are unaffected by Israel’s continuing defiance of those calls,” he said, referring to the diplomatic Quartet of the UN, EU, Russia and US, which have been calling for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), the main UN body tending to the needs of some 4 million Palestinian refugees, said today Gaza had been “bombed back, not to the Stone Age, but to the mud age,” because UNRWA was reduced to building houses out of mud after the 22-day offensive Israel said it launched to end rocket attacks against it.
“The Israeli blockade has meant that almost no reconstruction materials have been allowed to move into Gaza even though 60,000 homes were either damaged or completely destroyed. So we in UNRWA have been saying ‘let's lift this senseless blockage,’” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told UN Radio.
“We are the United Nations and we always hope that diplomacy will prevail, and it will prevail above the rationale of warfare. But if you look at what is going on in Gaza, and if you look at the continued blockade and the fact that that blockade is radicalizing a population there, then one has to have one’s doubts.”
Terrorists can always adapt to new restrictions. After 9/11, knives and sharp metal objects were banned from carry-on luggage, so Richard Reid attempted to detonate a shoe bomb. Thereafter everyone's shoes were checked, so the 2006 Heathrow plotters planned to use liquid-based explosives. Now liquids are strictly limited, so Abdulmutallab smuggled PETN, an explosive powder, in his underwear. There is no physical constraint that determined jihadists cannot find a way to circumvent. Yet US airport security remains obstinately reactive -- focused on intercepting dangerous things, instead of intercepting dangerous people. Unwilling to incorporate ethnic and religious profiling in our air-travel security procedures, we have saddled ourselves with a mediocre security system that inconveniences everyone while protecting no one.How quickly we forget. Read the whole thing and remember.
The response of the PA has been unequivocal support and backing for the terrorists. Since Friday, the leadership of the PA, the heads of Fatah, the heads of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and the PA-controlled media have continuously portrayed the killers as Palestinian heroes and Shahids -- holy Martyrs -- while describing Israel's killing of the three terrorists as "murder in cold blood" and "assassination."Read the whole thing.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared the killers "Shahids" (holy Martyrs) and sent his personal emissary to visit the families:"Secretary General of the Presidents Bureau, Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim, conveyed condolences on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas to the residents of Nablus and to the families of the three Shahids [Martyrs] for the Martyrdom of their sons, who were assassinated by Israeli occupation forces yesterday morning. He conveyed to the fighting families letters of condolences from the President [Abbas] and updated them as to [Abbas's] decision to declare them as Shahids [Martyrs] of the Palestinian revolution..."PA Prime Minster Salam Fayyad [the Western-looking 'moderate' CiJ] went even further, personally visiting the families of the terrorists along with other senior PA officials.
Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim: "Without doubt, what the [Israeli] occupation authorities have carried out is a wild and barbaric act and a deliberate, malicious assassination in cold blood."
[PA TV (Fatah) News, Dec. 27, 2009]"Prime Minister visits Nablus and conveys condolences to the families of the Shahids (Martyrs). Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad today visited the city of Nablus in the wake of the Israeli military operation, and presented condolences to the families of the three Martyrs who were murdered by the occupation forces.
Dr. Fayyad was accompanied by Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Said Abu Ali, leaders of the security agencies, and Police Director-General Major General Hazem Atallah, and they visited the house of mourning, which was held in the Trade Unions compound in the city... The Prime Minister condemned the Israeli military operation in the city."
[WAFA news agency, Dec. 26, 2009]
Now, in what may be a difficult balancing act, officials say the administration wants to carefully target sanctions to avoid alienating the Iranian public -- while keeping the door ajar to a resolution of the struggle over Iran's nuclear program. The aim of any sanctions is to force the Tehran government to the negotiating table, rather than to punish it for either its apparent push to develop a nuclear weapon or its treatment of its people.Did anyone ask the Iranian people how they feel about sanctions against their country? Everything I have seen indicates that the Iranian people want the government and the Revolutionary Guard hit and hit hard. The Iranian people, according to every report I have seen, are willing to suffer under a sanctions regimen if it will overthrow the government. But of course Obama, who is still convinced that someday - someday - Ali Khameni will invite him for dinner and a conversation, is unwilling to do anything that would bring about regime change in Iran.
"We have never been attracted to the idea of trying to get the whole world to cordon off their economy," said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation -- whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame."
As a result, top officials show little apparent interest in legislation racing through Congress that would punish companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran. "Sanctions would not be an alternative to engagement," another senior official said. "Our intention is to keep the door open."
In an opinion filed Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler complained that the Obama administration was "particularly unhelpful" and the State Department "mealy-mouthed" in refusing to provide official guidance on the complex foreign policy issues involved in the case. Kessler was attempting to decide whether the Palestinian Authority should be granted a trial it recently sought or forced to pay a default judgment because of past decisions not to defend itself against the lawsuit. Gilmore's family claims the PLO's Tanzim branch was responsible for his death in the shooting outside an Israeli government office in East Jerusalem.If the 'Palestinian Authority' goes broke, the Obumbler will just have to create a new one with which to torment Israel's existence. So just like he did in Congress, he continues to vote 'present.' But the President of the United States cannot vote 'present.' The buck stops here.
"The Executive Branch of the United States has been particularly unhelpful in resolving this difficult Motion," Kessler wrote. "The Court requested that the State Department file a Statement of Interest in order to understand the international ramifications of any order it might enter, and to be apprised of our Government’s position about such ramifications. In this case, as in Knox v. The Palestinian Liberation Organization. ... the State Department declined to do so. Instead it filed the identical mealy-mouthed Notice there as it did in this case. That Notice, for all practical purposes, said nothing and certainly provided no substantive guidance whatsoever to the Court regarding the Government’s position or concerns about any impact a decision might have on the delicate situation in the Middle East."
The U.S. government's two-page filing last month in the Gilmore case is, indeed, vague. After explicitly declining to take a formal position, the government lawyers said this: "The United States supports just compensation for victims of terrorism from those responsible for their losses and has encouraged all parties to resolve these cases to their mutual benefit. At the same time, the United States remains concerned about the potentially significant impact that these default cases may have on the defendants’ financial and political viability."
The name "West Bank" was first used in 1950 by the Jordanians when they annexed the land to differentiate it from the rest of the country, which is on the east bank of the river Jordan. The boundaries of this territory were set only one year before during the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan that ended the war that began in 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish State. It was at Jordan's insistence that the 1949 armistice line became not a recognized international border but only a line separating armies. The Armistice Agreement specifically stated: "No provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either Party hereto in the peaceful settlement of the Palestine questions, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations." (Italics added.) This boundary became the famous "Green Line," so named because the military officials during the armistice talks used a green pen to draw the line on the map.Read the whole thing.
After the Six Day War, when once again Arab armies sought to destroy Israel and the Jewish state subsequently captured the West Bank and other territory, the United Nations sought to create an enduring solution to the conflict. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 is probably one of the most misunderstood documents in the international arena. While many, especially the Palestinians, push the idea that the document demands that Israel return everything captured over the Green Line, nothing could be further from the truth. The resolution calls for "peace within secure and recognized boundaries," but nowhere does it mention where those boundaries should be.
It is best to understand the intentions of the drafters of the resolution before considering other interpretations. Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in 1967 and a drafter of the resolution, stated in 1990: "Security Council Resolution 242 and (subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution) 338... rest on two principles, Israel may administer the territory until its Arab neighbors make peace; and when peace is made, Israel should withdraw to "secure and recognized borders," which need not be the same as the Armistice Demarcation Lines of 194."
Lord Caradon, the British U.N. Ambassador at the time and the resolution's main drafter who introduced it to the Council, said in 1974 unequivocally that, "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial."
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, made the issue even clearer when he stated in 1973 that, "the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal." This would encompass "less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel's prior frontiers had proven to be notably insecure."
Even the Soviet delegate to the U.N., Vasily Kuznetsov, who fought against the final text, conceded that the resolution gave Israel the right to "withdraw its forces only to those lines it considers appropriate."
The government of Egypt offered Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rare praise following a meeting on Tuesday at Cairo’s Presidential Palace. After the Israeli premier met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other senior Egyptian officials, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit praised Netanyahu, claiming that Israel is prepared to withdraw to its 1967 borders.I guess it would be an offense to Gheit's honor to admit that he didn't manage to talk Netanyahu into anything.
"There is a certain perception in Israeli society that what we are financing in Israel and in this region is unique, and that these are programs aimed at influencing public policy in Israel," Andrew Standley said. "The reality is that these are global programs, and the kind of actions that we are supporting in Israel can and are just as easily funded in places like China, India, Indonesia and even the US."I don't buy this. And neither does NGO Monitor's Gerald Steinberg.
Standley, a self-defined "committed European with a British passport" who took over his duties in October, said the organizations funded deal with global issues, "whether the rights of women, minorities or support for democracy. These are global programs, so there are organizations in this part of the world that submit proposals and they receive funding just as organizations do in Peru, Pakistan and wherever."
The EU ambassador's comments came amid efforts by some politicians and groups to either curb or make more transparent the funding that NGOs receive from abroad. A conference on the impact and transparency of European funding to Israeli NGOs was held in the Knesset earlier this month.
Gerald Steinberg, the executive director of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, said the fundamental problem with European funding of these organizations was it's lack of transparency.Indeed.
"If EU officials like the ambassador believe that the funding is based on global principles, and Israel is not being treated differently, why is Israel not provided documentation to verify this? It is all done in secret," Steinberg said, referring to a 1999 protocol that showed an Israeli NGO was funded in order to convince Shas voters to vote for the left wing.
When Steinberg was reminded that this happened 10 years ago, he replied that the problem was that the protocols and minutes of meetings where these types of decisions are made were not made public.
"The ambassador, like other EU officials, makes broad claims about the basis of the funding, but the evidence we have, which is limited, doesn't support that the criteria are global. We don't know how the process works, it is all done in secret, and no evaluations are published [as to] why certain groups get funded year after year," Steinberg said.
It must be stated plainly: Israel does not have independent strike capability against Iran - not in the broad sense of the term. The air force is capable of delivering a certain amount of explosives to a given target and bringing most of its aircraft back home intact. But it is doubtful whether Israel can allow itself to act against the wishes of the United States - to stand alone against an Iranian response and begin an open-ended operation against a nation of 70 million people.My gut reaction is that if Iran is getting close to the bomb and if no one else is acting (can anyone out there really see Obama going after Iran militarily?), Israel will have no choice but to act. So we will have to give it our best shot and pray for a miracle. We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.
An attack must be the last resort, not just another option placed on the table. It is best to disabuse ourselves of illusions about our ability to dictate a new Mideast order. That is the lesson learned, in blood, by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon in Lebanon in 1982 and by George W. Bush in Iraq in 2003.
Bruce Schneier, a security expert who has been critical of the technology, said the latest incident had not changed his mind.In other words, the money should be spent looking for terrorists and not for the things they carry with them. That's correct. Now all you need to add to it is profiling once they get to the airport as the final precaution.
“If there are a hundred tactics and I protect against two of them, I’m not making you safer,” he said. “If we use full-body scanning, they’re going to do something else.”
The millions of dollars being spent on new equipment, he said, would be better invested in investigation and intelligence work to detect bombers before they get to any airport.
In an earlier statement, Hamdan hinted at Hamas' intention to kidnap additional Israeli soldiers if Israel doesn't accept the group's demands.And 'our friends the Egyptians' are trying to goad Hamas into holding out for more.
Al-Arabiya claims that a high-ranking Hamas political official was the source of the station's report. The source reportedly said consent to the Israeli proposal would ultimately damage Hamas' standing.
On Tuesday immediately following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt?s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said Egypt does not support the expulsion of prisoners or Israel?s refusal to release other prisoners.Peace anyone?
The foreign minister was seen as trying to embarrass Hamas into rejecting the Israeli offer, which is not viewed favorably by the Egyptians because completion of the deal would strengthen Hamas.
Four months ago a German-based Iraqi journalist tipped off the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq in Israel that plans were afoot to build a mosque on the site of the shrine of the Jewish prophet Ezekiel at al-Kifl, this was first reported on the "Point of No Return" news blog. The rumours were investigated by a philo-Semitic Iraqi Shi'a, Dr. Jabbar Jamal al-Din, a lecturer in Jewish Thought at the Kufa University. They were denied by the shrine's director. Now a report by Ur News revives fears that in the absence of Jews on the ground, nothing, not even UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), stands in the way of politically-motivated plans to erase all Jewish traces of this ancient holy site.Read the whole thing. It's disgraceful, but unfortunately not all that surprising. Building mosques on sites that are holy to other religion is a Muslim modus operandi going back a long time. Think "Temple Mount."
Drastic changes taking place currently at the tomb of Ezekiel will change its character and prompt UNESCO to delete it as a protected site on the World Heritage List, similar to what happened to the historic city of Babylon, where old buildings were demolished and new layers of construction added.
Prof. Shmuel Moreh, the Chairman of the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraqi, Israel Prize Laureate in Arabic Literature and emeritus Professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has indicted that the Arabic news stories have tipped him that the Archeological Authority in Iraq has started a campaign to erase the Jewish aspects of the tomb of the prophet Ezekiel and the original inlay Hebrew inscriptions have been destroyed and covered by new Arabic inscriptions and Islamic symbols.
Sen. John Kerry has filed a formal request to visit Iran, Iranian news agencies reported Tuesday -- news made public in the middle of the government's bloody crackdown on dissidents that has left more than a dozen dead.Calling him tone deaf seems too kind. He has all the tact of a bull in a china shop.
While representatives for Kerry have so far not confirmed whether he intends to travel to Tehran, a spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry said the country's parliament is already considering the Massachusetts Democrat's official overture.
We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirementsand the Israeli goal of a Jewish state .Rick finds that wording troubling.
Letters of assurance have previously played an important part in the peace process. In 1997, Secretary of State Christopher wrote to Israel to assure it that the U.S. supported “defensible borders” for Israel as the conclusion of the peace process. In 2004, President Bush reassured Israel of the “steadfast commitment” of the U.S. to defensible borders. In his “Let Me Be Clear” address to AIPAC in 2008, Barack Obama stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders,” reflecting the longstanding U.S. commitment.I find a lot of other things about Clinton's statement troubling, but I am not troubled by all the same things that trouble Rick. Let's go through it line by line. There's some good news here as well.
The absence of any reference to “defensible borders” in Secretary Clinton’s statement is thus both conspicuous and troubling, particularly because the administration has repeatedly refused this year to answer whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter. Even the reference to “secure and recognized” borders is expressed in Clinton’s statement simply as an Israeli “goal” rather than as a U.S. commitment.
There is a significant difference between the prior letters given to Israel and the new “letter of guarantees” that may be given to the Palestinians. The letters to Israel were provided in exchange for tangible concessions: withdrawals from significant territories in Hebron and Gaza. They were parts of negotiated deals; they were not mere statements of policy subject to change. The possible “letter of guarantee” for the Palestinians, on the other hand, is simply for an agreement to resume negotiations, with no Palestinian concession on any issue – and on a basis that omits any reference to defensible borders.