Sabbath music videoHere's Lecha Dodi, the main prayer of the welcoming the Sabbath service. The melody is by - HaAdmor Halutz, Rabbi Yeshayahu Shapira and its sung by Yonatan Razel.
Let's go to the videotape.
Shabbat Shalom everyone.
“These officials are spies for the U.S. in their countries,” Assange said, according to Qatar's Peninsula newspaper. More:At Foreign Policy, Blake Hounshell doesn't believe it.The interviewer, Ahmed Mansour, said at the start of the interview which was a continuation of last week’s interface, that Assange had even shown him the files that contained the names of some top Arab officials with alleged links with the CIA. [...]He then complained, "Washington is also projecting me as a terrorist and wants to convince the world that I am another Osama bin Laden."
Some Arab countries even have torture houses where Washington regularly sends ‘suspects’ for ‘interrogation and torture’, he said.
Observers have long speculated about the massive "insurance" file that WikiLeaks posted on the Pirate Bay, which has by now been downloaded by thousand of people all over the world. Opening the file requires an encryption key that presumably would be released upon Assange's incarceration or untimely death. I guess it's the motherlode.
I have my doubts about these new claims, though. The CIA vigorously protects the identities of its sources, and would have no reason to let any old schmo at a U.S. embassy know their names. It is also highly doubtful that the cables would talk about "torture houses" -- the United States has always denied that it (knowingly) outsources rough treatment to foreign governments. Not everyone believes this, mind you, but I'd be surprised if any embassy cables said otherwise.Hounshell is too quick to dismiss the stories of outsourcing torture. You can watch a CBS 60 Minutes report on outsourcing torture to Egypt and Jordan here, and there are reports that US was outsourcing torture of terrorists to those countries dating as far back as 2002. (To make it clear, I'm not criticizing that; I'm acknowledging the reality).
Maybe Assange and Mansour are confusing ordinary visits of Arab officials to U.S. diplomats with "spying," but it's hard to say for sure without seeing the cables themselves.
Earlier this year, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said he was considering changing terms retroactively—meaning the government could extract better terms on previously assigned leases. Noble and Israeli oil executives went on the offensive.My guess is that there will be some increase in the tax rates to bring them more in line with the practice in other Western countries. By the way, from the little I know of our tax law on this issue I don't believe we have an oil depletion allowance, which has been a fixture in the US for 50-60 years (at least). Perhaps that could be a tradeoff with the oil exploration companies.
A retroactive change would be "egregious" and "would quickly move Israel to the lowest tier of countries for investment by the energy industry," Noble's chief executive, Chuck Davidson, wrote Mr. Steinitz in April.
The company enlisted high-level negotiators, including the U.S. State Department and former President Bill Clinton, to lobby against any change.
Mr. Clinton raised the issue in a private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York in July, according to a Clinton aide. "Your country can't just tax a U.S. business retroactively because they feel like it," the aide said Mr. Clinton told Mr. Netanyahu.
Mr. Netanyahu was noncommittal, the aide said. A spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu declined to comment on the meeting.
Finance Minister Steinitz has so far ignored the pressure. Last month, he said a government-appointed committee had made preliminary recommendations to abolish tax breaks for energy firms and impose steep tax increases of 20% to 60% on windfall profits. Any tax changes are subject to approval by Israel's cabinet.
"Israel is sovereign to make its own decision and change its tax regime," Mr. Steinitz said in an interview.
On Wednesday, the frenzy got fresh fuel: Noble confirmed its earlier estimates that the field contains 16 trillion cubic feet of gas—making it the world's biggest deepwater gas find in a decade, with enough reserves to supply Israel's gas needs for 100 years.Much of that gas hasn't been found yet. Even if it is found, it's still less gas and oil than the Arab countries have, it won't make the West dependent on us the way they are dependent on the Arabs, Russia and Iran, and anti-Semitism (which still exists and likely always will) will likely temper any moves in Israel's favor.
It's still early days, and getting all that gas out of the seabed may be more difficult than it seems today. But Noble and its partners think the field could hold enough gas to transform Israel, a country precariously dependent on others for energy, into a net-energy exporter.
Such a transformation could potentially alter the geopolitical balance of the Mideast, giving Israel a new economic advantage over its enemies.
Even before Leviathan, a series of finds had put the so-called Levant Basin, stretching offshore in the Mediterranean, on the international energy map.
In March, the U.S. Geological Survey released its first assessment of the zone, estimating it contained 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of gas. That's equal to half the proven gas reserves of the U.S.
India, which imports 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Iran, took action this week barring companies from dealing with Iran through the Asian Clearing Union (ACU), a financial clearinghouse that includes the central banks of India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Iran, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.Now, if only Europe would go along, maybe some real pressure could be applied to Iran.
This clearing house allows central banks to handle payments to their countries' companies, and -- according to a Wall Street Journal article -- makes it possible to obscure which firms are doing business.
According to the WSJ, the US Treasury has regularly raised the issue with India, and that discussion on this matter accelerated after Obama's visit, when he endorsed permanent membership for India on the UN Security Council.
According to the report, the US has told New Delhi that Indian firms conducting transactions through the ACU run the risk of violating a US law signed in July banning international firms from doing business with 17 Iranian banks and much of Teheran's oil and gas sector, as well as the Revolutionary Guard. If Indian companies are found in violation, they could be banned from doing business in the US, the report said.
While India imports about 14 percent of its crude oil from Iran, down from some 16.5 percent in 2009, it is believed to provide about 40% of all the refined oil used in Iran. The UN sanctions adopted this summer neither forbade purchasing Iranian oil, nor placed a ban on selling refined oil back to Iran.
India-Iranian relations go back centuries, and the US led effort to get the world on board sanctions against Iran have not been enthusiastically greeted in India, where there are both huge economic ties as well as common geopolitical interests. For instance, India and Iran have worked together in the past against the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On December 29, 2010, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated media center Global Islamic Media Front and the Dar Al-Jabha publishing house electronically published an English-language book titled The Explosives Course. Links to download the book were posted on jihadi forums such as Shumukh Al-Islam and the Ansar Al-Mujahideen English forum, with jihadist sympathizers also posting links on Facebook.What could go wrong?
In its introduction, the book states that it was compiled and written by students of Abu Khabab Al-Masri, the nom de guerre of Midhat Mursi Al-Sayid 'Umar, the Al-Qaeda chemistry and explosives expert who was killed in a drone attack in Pakistan in 2008. The book was approved for publication by Sheikh Ahmed Salim Sweidan, a senior Al-Qaeda operative killed in a 2009 drone attack in Pakistan.
The book is essentially a detailed, step-by-step guide to bomb manufacturing processes, replete with charts, illustrations, and diagrams. In the introduction, the authors state that their goal in writing the book was to provide: "(1) step by step guidance [in the] purification of common commercial chemicals – which are available in [local] markets and (2) the detailed practical observations/notes [of experts] in the preparation of these explosives." Regarding their target audience, the authors wrote: "This book is [intended] for brothers [i.e., fellow mujahideen] who have a sufficient understanding of the risks [involved] in this [i.e. the manufacture of homemade bombs] – both [of] the actual sensitive task of making explosives and of its security risks [i.e. the risk of being caught and imprisoned]. It is said that in explosives 'your first mistake is your last mistake' – and this is true for both situations."
The publication of such a book in English has important ramifications. First, it is another example of the use of the Internet to disseminate terrorist methods to individuals and cells throughout the world. More significantly, the publication of this book in English marks an escalation in Al-Qaeda's efforts to encourage jihadists living in Western countries to carry out attacks there, and to provide them with the know-how needed to do so. The recent suicide-attack attempt by Swedish citizen Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly in Stockholm and the wave of arrests of suspected terrorists in Britain and the Netherlands are all evidence of the gravity of this threat.
"We, rabbis of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, oppose interfaith marriages, but we consider professional and social contacts between us and all of Israel's citizens and residents to be positive -- regardless of race, religion or sex," the new letter, dated Wednesday, read. The letter is signed by the 40 female Reform rabbis who are part of the rabbinical council of the Israel Movement for Progressive and Reform Judaism.What's the intermarriage rate among reform and what's the intermarriage rate among Orthodox Jews? This is an American chart, but if the group above gets their way, it will - God forbid - be true among Israelis as well.
The letter came in response to a statement distributed earlier this week by Lehava, an organization dedicated to preventing intermarriage between Jews and Arabs, and signed by 27 Israeli rabbis' wives that urged Jewish women not to date or work with Arab men.
This week's Reform letter said, "Jews who are confidant in their Jewish identity do not have to fear contact with people from other nations." It went on, "Dialogue and social contact between Jews and non-Jews are the foundations of a healthy society. The way to strengthen the Jewish identity of our sons and daughters is through education, not incitement and fear. "
The 50 male Reform rabbis who are members of the council also support the statement, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the movement, told JTA.
In a report for the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs (JCPA) on the "delegitimisation" movement, published this month, Ehud Rosen has concluded that the boycott campaign against Israel and attempts to arrest Israeli politicians for war crimes are evidence that "Britain has become the main leader of an international effort to deny Israel's right to exist in its current form".I guess no one should be surprised at this given that the Prime Minister of Great Britain refers to Gaza as a prison camp and the British government continues to refuse to change its universal jurisdiction law, which subjects Israeli political and military leaders to random arrests in Britain.
Mr Rosen, who now teaches at Bar-Ilan University, found that the alliance has taken advantage of the UK's political freedoms and legal system to make London its base for its attacks on Israel.
His research into the red-green alliance was carried out while studying for a PhD at London's School of Oriental and African Studies.
He also identified how the anti-Israel movement has entered the mainstream by allying with campaigns against the security crackdown following the events of 9/11 and British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has been aided by alliances with leftist groups such as the Stop the War movement, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Socialist Workers Party and George Galloway's Respect party.
The study details how a senior group of activists from various branches of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East and North Africa allied with a younger generation of Islamists to form a powerful hub of activity centred on the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). This "stronghold of exiled Brotherhood leaders and their sons and daughters" is sometimes known in the Arab media as the London Ikhwan (the Arabic name of the Brotherhood).
The findings of the JCPA report echo those of the Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank which concluded in a report earlier this month that London had become a "Mecca of delegitimisation".
A new poll conducted jointly by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace shows that the Palestinian public opposes such a solution by a lopsided majority.Did someone forget to tell the 'Palestinians' what everyone knows? If not, why won't they just get with the program? What could go wrong?
The poll presented a package modeled on the Clinton Parameters: (1) an Israeli withdrawal from more than 97 percent of the West Bank and a land swap for the remaining 2-3 percent; (2) a Palestinian state with a “strong security force” but no army, with a multinational force to ensure security; (3) Palestinian sovereignty over land, water, and airspace, but an Israeli right to use the airspace for training purposes and to maintain two West Bank early-warning stations for 15 years; (4) a capital in East Jerusalem and sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods and the Old City (other than the Jewish Quarter and the “Wailing Wall”); and (5) a “right of return” for refugees to the new state and compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property.
The package was opposed by 58 percent of the Palestinians, with only 40 percent favoring it.
It was not a case of one or more individual elements in the package causing a problem. Each of the five elements was polled separately; not one of them commanded majority support.
Tarek Abdel-Razek, who was arrested in Syria last week for allegedly gathering intelligence for Mossad, revealed while he was undergoing investigation the identity of another alleged spy in Syria, saying he was a senior officer who was in charge of the regime's nuclear project in Damascus, reported the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm on Wednesday.And my guess and hope is that Najam is long since gone from Syria.
According to the report, Razek told investigators that the Syrian officer's name is Salah a-Najam, a colonel in Syria's military intelligence. He claimed that Najam seved as an agent of Mossad for many years and received a million and a half dollars from the Israelis.
Razek also said he met with Najam several times in Damascus and received information from him on the development of Syria's nuclear program, the location of nuclear facilities and sites where radioactive was was buried. The information, according to Najam, was transferred to an Israeli nuclear expert and contributed to the attack on the nuclear reactors in the Syrian desert in September 2007.
George Canawati of Radio Bethlehem was held in an office at the city's general intelligence service headquarters over the Muslim holiday of Eid last month, according to an account he has given to the Guardian. He was provided with a mattress to sleep on, and food, but was given no explanation for his continued detention beyond an initial three-hour interrogation.I wonder if his source is still among the living. Would you want to be a source for this guy? I wouldn't tell him a thing.
Asked if he believed the detention was intended to intimidate him, Canawati responded by twisting his ear between thumb and forefinger. "I didn't make a mistake [in my report]," he said. "I was professional to the true sense of the word. I will never take their pinch of ear into consideration."
Despite requests by both phone and email for confirmation and comment from the Palestinian Authority (PA), there has been no response. This report is based on Canawati's account alone.
On 15 November at around 2pm, Radio Bethlehem broadcast a short item saying that Mohamed Dahlan, a senior Fatah figure, had played a recording made on a mobile phone of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to some members of Fatah's central committee. According to Canawati's report, the recording was of Abbas saying he wanted a Palestinian state regardless of whether it was inside or outside the wall – meaning the separation barrier Israel has constructed, much of it on Palestinian land.
Canawati – who has not heard the recording himself – based his report on a source within Fatah's central committee. "I confirmed the news from a credible person and that is enough for me to publish a report," Canawati said. The source was "someone I trust", he added.
Shortly after Canawati's report was broadcast, he received a visit from the intelligence services. He was told to close down the radio station, and to accompany the official for questioning. "I was told it would be for 10 minutes. It took me five days," he said.
Canawati was questioned about the source of his story. "They treated me really good, they didn't put pressure on me. After three hours they told me to call the radio station to resume broadcasting. I was expecting to be released."
The journalist was told that his release had been delayed and that normal procedures did not apply because of the Eid holiday. His mobile phone was taken away, although he was allowed to speak to his wife, and his mother was permitted to bring him clean clothes.
He had given his interrogators all the information they needed, including the name of his source. "I told them exactly what happened, I didn't know why they were keeping me," he said. He was eventually released on 19 November.
Against congressional opposition, the administration offered a lukewarm defense of Ford’s appointment, with officials stating that it would allow Washington to get its message to Damascus more clearly. Nonsense. There are plenty of ways to transmit messages to Syria without legitimizing the fact that in the five years since the previous ambassador was withdrawn, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Assad regime has not budged on issues the US considers important—whether Lebanon, inter-Palestinian affairs, Iraq, Syrian cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah, and negotiations with Israel.I guess Young missed the part about the 'fierce moral urgency' of appointing Ford so that the US can 'engage' with Syria.
But worse, if Cousseran is right, namely that the US must not overreach by asking Syria to cut its ties to Hezbollah and Hamas, that only begs the question: What is the Obama administration entitled to ask of Syria? No explicit answer whatsoever has come out of the White House and State Department. And with uncertainty filling the thick Potomac air, what is Washington’s broader Syria strategy anyway? If Ford is a mailbox, what specific ideas will he be relaying?
There really are none. Obama has a wish list. He still hopes for a breakthrough in Arab-Israeli negotiations, and wants someone in Damascus to ease the process. But the president has done things in reverse. He should have sent Ford to Syria in exchange for a solid concession from Assad—perhaps Syrian acceptance of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, which Damascus has refused to sanction; or maybe Syrian consent to the return of direct negotiations with Israel; or at least participation in a high-profile event that would help inject life into the Syrian-Israeli talks. The problem is that neither Syria nor Israel is keen to engage in bilateral moves, because the Syrian-Israeli track is moribund. Alive or dead, it made no sense for Obama to throw away a card he should have made Syria pay for.
It is not as if the US is unaware of Syrian intentions. Last week, an American official issued a pointed warning to Syria and Saudi Arabia that they should not reach any accord over Lebanon that might undermine the tribunal formed to indentify and punish Rafik Hariri’s killers. Syria has fought tooth and nail to obstruct the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which Washington supports, and recently intensified those efforts. And yet at the same moment, Obama sends Ford to Damascus, as if to say that whatever the Assad regime does, even taking measures that America opposes, it will be rewarded.
Obama would answer that he had a small window of opportunity in which to put Ford on a flight to Syria, before Congress reconvened, so he took his shot. A laudable rationale for an important decision: Let time pressures, and sneakiness, guide your foreign policy. Here’s a wager: Ford will cool his heels in Damascus without achieving much, because Assad got what he wanted, and is now in a position to stall Washington interminably. He won’t have to forfeit anything, because Obama has not a clue about what he really expects from Syria.
Because he was appointed while the Senate is in recess, Robert Ford will not need Senate confirmation. But he can serve only until the end of the next session of Congress, which will likely be in December 2011.And of course the Syrians are thrilled.
“Ambassador Ford is a highly accomplished diplomat with many years of experience in the Middle East,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.
“His appointment represents President Obama’s commitment to use engagement to advance U.S. interests by improving communication with the Syrian government and people.”
A Syrian diplomatic source, in response to the appointment, told Ahram Online that Damascus was glad to hear that America will send an ambassador to Syria.What could go wrong? Read the whole thing. Read this one too.
“Such a move will reinforce Washington’s credibility in the region and open the door for serious cooperation between the two countries on regional and local issues,” he added.
Hamas rulers have staged a mock attack by Israel to commemorate Israel's 2008 Gaza offensive.The 'Palestinians' are experts at staging fake attacks, aren't they?
The re-enactment included loud booms, clouds of smoke, fake blood and rubble. Only the rubble was real. About 40 actors put on the show Thursday at an apartment tower heavily damaged in the war.
An Israeli soldier was attacked and wounded by a group of Arabs at the entrance to the Judean city of Kiryat Arba on Thursday evening. The Arabs reportedly hit the soldier with various objects and threw a glass bottle at him, injuring him in the head.YNet adds:
The assailants were arrested and turned over to Israel Police for further investigation.
IDF soldiers arrested a Palestinian who tried to stab one of them during a chase after 20 Palestinian stone-throwers in Hebron.How civilized....
After two years of relative quiet since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Israel's southern border with Gaza is again becoming volatile.But it's not true that 'no one' was hurt.
Last week, Gazans fired a rocket into Israel that landed close to a kindergarten in a kibbutz near Ashkelon just as parents were dropping off their children. Although no one was hurt, nothing like that had happened since the war.
A Kassam rocket landed near a kindergarten in a kibbutz near Ashkelon on Tuesday morning, injuring a 14-year-old girl. Four more Israelis were treated for shock.So why the cover-up?
And here is a screenshot of “Understanding the Goldstone Report,” a project spearheaded by Richard Landes of Pallywood fame, where more than a dozen journalists and bloggers (myself included) picked apart the report paragraph by paragraph and often sentence by sentence. I’ve unscrolled the “Case Study” category on the menu bar to show where some of the distinct accusations — “the contents of the report” — were dealt with specifically.As some of you know, I am also one of the bloggers who contributed to Understanding the Goldstone Report.
There are also pages documenting the broad procedural flaws of the investigation, the caliber of individual witnesses, the importance of concealed evidence, the role of anti-Israel mediators, the dynamics of human-shield accusations, plus about 30 other issues. Yet another section, maintained by Daled Amos, served as a clearinghouse for criticisms posted on related blogs, like Elder of Ziyon, which alone had more than 25 Goldstone-related posts digging through the text of the report.
In size and scope, the site rivals the IDF’s comprehensive Goldstone rebuttal — another document that, by the by, directly rebutted “the contents of the report.” It has so much material and is so on-point, in fact, that it’s the top result on Google for “goldstone report.” It ranks higher than the .pdf of the actual Goldstone Report, which continues to be the focus of an international anti-Israel feeding frenzy. SEO tricks might give a site a slight advantage on Google, but nothing can push irrelevant content to the very top of a very crowded field.
Pogrebin, a founding editor of the original Ms. and a friend and ally of Gloria Steinem, feels she has been "forced" to choose between her feminism and her Zionism, between the preservation of her own feminist legacy and her pro-Israel and pro-Jewish principles.Hmmm.
The AJCongress is a liberal Jewish organization that - finally feeling desperate enough about all the defamatory anti-Israel propaganda - was willing to pay Ms. to run a neo-feminist pro-Israel ad featuring three powerful Israeli women over the headline: "This is Israel." Ms. decided not to run it, at which point the AJCongress held a press conference that challenged Ms.'s decision.
(Full disclosure: I was one of the speakers and letter-writers whose words and ideas Pogrebin characterizes in her column as "hysterical rants." The others include Blu Greenberg, Susannah Heschel, Francine Klagsbrun and Cynthia Ozick.)
Subsequently, The Nation - a far-left, relentlessly anti-Zionist publication - accepted the ad.
In her new Moment column, "The Ad War: American Jewish Congress vs. Ms. Magazine," Pogrebin concludes that "Ms. was right to reject the ad not just because it was nationalistic but because it violated truth in advertising."
In his 2006 book The Wicked Son, playwright David Mamet analyzed not only the opportunism and cowardice but the religious hunger gone awry that may account for the ways in which many progressive secular Jewish men savagely critique - or at least spurn - too close an association with Israel or with religious Judaism. He likened this syndrome to that of the "wicked son" at the Passover seder who does not think that the story of Jewish slavery and redemption has anything to do with him.
Pogrebin does not fit that mold. She is far from being a self-hating Jew. Her leftward shift, both in general and in her column, is therefore even more troubling - it is certainly more heartbreaking to me. Pogrebin may not believe that her current ideological point of view has deadened her to certain "Jewish Sorrows." But based on her column, one can fairly conclude that Israel's life-and-death struggle has little resonance with her. She magnifies serious social inequalities in Israel (which exist everywhere, even more so in Muslim countries) and minimizes Israel's unique existential struggle for survival.
Pogrebin focuses mainly on the suffering of Israel's women at the hands of Israeli and Jewish patriarchy. The women are suffering. Pogrebin is not wrong about this. But I despair when her emphasis suggests that only such evils are worthy of her deepest concern. To her, there is no "larger" jihadic war that has targeted Israel, Jews and the West, there is only the war against women waged mainly by - men? Jewish and Israeli men? American, Republican, warmongering men?
Pogrebin speaks for many American Jewish feminists who wish to escape the burden of being associated with an increasingly defamed Israel - with an Israel that has, in their eyes, failed to hear the cries of its most vulnerable female citizens.
Such Jewish left-feminists are reluctant to criticize the far greater barbarisms of the Islamic world, including its system of gender and religious apartheid, lest they be viewed as "racists." But if Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and al Qaeda have their way, the secular feminists of Haifa and Tel Aviv will be blown to smithereens together with their haredi and right-wing opponents.
To Pogrebin I say: Let us agree to balance our feminist criticism of Israel with similar criticism of other countries - and to never forget that such criticism will invariably be used against Israel.
Marking one of the sharpest exchanges of diplomatic barbs between the two countries since the U.S. President Barack Obama came into office, the State Department confirmed on Wednesday night that it had withdrawn the visa granted to Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez.Add to this the fact that Venezuela is allowing Iran to place missiles that can reach the US on Venezuelan soil, and there is quite a potential for problems here.
At a press briefing this week State Department spokesman Mark Toner had warned that while the U.S. regretted the Venezuelan government’s decision to withdraw “agrément,” or formal approval, for Ambassador Designate Palmer, the move “affects our ability to carry out normal diplomatic relations, and… there could be consequences for that action...”
The trouble began when Mr. Palmer, to the chagrin of the Chavez administration, made comments to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about low morale in the Venezuelan military and concerns regarding Colombian FARC rebels finding refuge on Venezuelan soil. In August Mr. Chavez announced that he would not be willing accept Mr. Palmer’s appointment.
On December 21 the Caracas U.S. embassy Chargé, Darnall Steuart, received a diplomatic note from Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, which formally withdrew permission for Mr. Palmer to function as Ambassador to Venezuela.
Describing Mr. Palmer’s remarks about Venezuela as “blatantly disrespectful,” Mr. Chavez earlier said in a statement, “If the [U.S.] government is going to expel our Ambassador there, let them do it… If they are going to cut diplomatic relations, let them do it.”
In fact, Washington was involved in a long-standing and frequently behind-the-scenes diplomatic tussle with the shah over the purpose of his nuclear program. Recently declassified documents from the Carter and Ford presidential libraries; the departments of defense, energy, and state; and the National Security Council (NSC) show that every element of today's impasse between the U.S. government and the Islamic Republic was also present in the negotiations with the shah. These range from Iran's insistence on its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) right to a "full fuel cycle," its complaint that the United States was singling it out for guarantees no other country was required to give, and finally the U.S. offer to make Iran part of an international consortium to enrich uranium outside Iran, the so-called "Russian solution." The shah repeatedly insisted that at least he did not want a nuclear bomb -- yet he was adamant that Iran not be treated as a second-class citizen. These negotiations, details of which have not been published before now, don't just expose the regime's lies about the alleged U.S. double standard, they also offer a useful guide for Western negotiators in navigating the waters of Iranian nationalism, both real and feigned.Sounds familiar doesn't it? Except for the last paragraph, he's spot on. With respect to the last paragraph, I'd like to see more evidence of Iranian democrats eschewing nuclear weapons. From what I've seen so far, they're pretty coy about the subject.
Iran's nuclear program began in 1959 with a small reactor given by the United States to Tehran University as part of the "Atoms for Peace" program announced by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in December 1953. But that only whetted the Iranian monarch's appetite: With his increased oil revenues, and with his new vision of Iran as the hegemonic force in the region, a nuclear program became for Shah Pahlavi the symbol of progress and power. He summoned Akbar Etemad, a trained nuclear physicist, to the royal court in 1973, told him of his desire to launch a nuclear program, and asked Etemad to develop a master plan.
Two weeks later, the shah met with Etemad again. He quickly read the 13-page draft document Etemad had prepared, then turned to the prime minister and ordered him to fund what turned out be one of the most expensive projects undertaken by his regime. There was no prior discussion in the Majlis, where the constitutional power of the purse lay, or in any other governmental body or council. Like every major policy decision in those days, it was a one-man act. Thus was launched Iran's nuclear program.
The shah's plans called for a "full-fledged nuclear power industry" with the capacity to produce 23,000 megawatts of electricity. By 1977, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) had more than 1,500 employees (who were, on the shah's orders, allowed to become the highest-paid government employees). Pahlavi had arranged for the training of Iranian nuclear experts around the world (including a $20 million endowment at MIT), engaged in an intensive search for uranium mines in Iran and all over the planet, and launched several nuclear research centers across the country. AEOI was in those days one of the most heavily funded programs in the country. In 1976, its budget was $1.3 billion, making it, after the country's oil company, the single biggest public economic institution in the country.
While Germany and France showed immediate eagerness to sell Iran its desired reactors, the United States was initially reluctant to sell any, "without conditions limiting [the shah's] freedom of action," according to the text of a U.S. governmental memo. The German company Kraftwerk signed the first agreement to build the now-famous Bushehr reactor with an initial completion date of 1981 and an estimated cost of $3 billion. As Bushehr was located in a dangerous zone that was prone to frequent and strong seismic activity, extra funds were set aside to protect the site against the dangers of an earthquake. It was said at the time that the German government was so eager to find a foothold in the Iranian market that it guaranteed Kraftwerk's investment against any loss. U.S. companies, on the other hand, were barred from these contracts until Washington's concerns about the shah's intentions were addressed.
The shah was adamant that Iran should enjoy its "full rights," as he put it at the time, within the NPT -- an agreement Iran had immediately signed upon its formulation and that calls for non-nuclear states to forfeit the search for a nuclear bomb in return for easy access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. But Iran not only insisted on the right to have the full fuel cycle, it also was interested in processing plutonium -- a faster way to a nuclear bomb than enriched uranium.
A document released by Wikileaks Wednesday says that the U.S. has been using its embassy in Turkey to gather intelligence on Iran. According to the cable released from the U.S. embassy in Turkey, the information was gathered through Iranian citizens living in Turkey.I haven't seen any reaction to this from Turkey yet.
The Iranians who were contacted by the Americans were threatened by Iranian agents not to have contact with American diplomats, the cable said, and the information was gathered in clandestine ways to ensure their safety.
From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report — which concluded that during the 2008-2009 Gaza war, Israel (as well as Hamas) may have committed war crimes — Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it.The contents of the Goldstone Report have been discussed at great length on this blog, on many other blogs, and in many other media. Links to much of the published material substantively attacking the Goldstone Report may be found here.
There’s a Hebrew word for what these people did to Richard Goldstone: They put him in cherem, meaning he was not just persona non grata in the eyes of our religious arbiters, he was totally cut off from the Jewish community. From the moment the report was released, he was treated like a leper — shunned, defamed, disowned — and the worst was yet to come.And that cherem was well-deserved. Goldstone is a mortal danger to Israel and to the six million Jews who live here. His report was so obviously biased that after having it torn to shreds once in public, he has refused to subject it to any meaningful debate. The biased manner in which Goldstone ignored any facts that did not fit with his narrative show that this evil man's true goal was to advance his own career (he aspires to be Secretary General of the United Nations) by endangering the lives of millions of his brethren.
The most Jewishly observant and educated of Goldstone’s attackers surely knew that speaking ill of another human being (“hate speech” in current parlance) violates one of Judaism’s most sacrosanct laws, the prohibition against lashon hara (the Evil Tongue — i.e., gossip), which Maimonides deﬁned as any utterance (true or not!) that might cause a person physical or monetary damage, or shame, humiliation, an-guish or fear.I seriously doubt that Pogrebin has ever opened the Chafetz Chaim, the seminal book on the laws of Lashon Hara written by R. Yisrael Meir Kagan about 120 years ago. If she had, she would have discovered that the laws do not prohibit us from responding to the likes of Goldstone, especially where the context of his words could endanger hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives. (I'm oversimplifying, but I am oversimplifying far less than Pogrebin did).
Letty Cottin Pogrebin is a founding editor of Ms. Magazine and the author of nine books. This essay is adapted from her chapter in “The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict,” to be published January 11 by Nation Books.Given the editors of that book, it's not likely to be an unbiased examination of Goldstone either.
Israel, however, is far from laying down the welcome mat.Every Western country faces the issue of what to do about illegal immigration. Israel is no different than any other country in this respect - including the United States. We have every right to control who enters our country and how long they stay. Of course, given that the Obama administration backs Mexico challenging Arizona's immigration law, that position is not likely to get a whole lot of sympathy in Washington or on NPR. But that shouldn't stop us from doing what needs to be done to protect the Jewish majority in the World's only Jewish country. In fact, I would be in favor of making the same offer to the 'Palestinians' that was made to those illegal immigrants.
Sigal Rosen is an organizer at the Hotline for Migrant Workers, an advocacy group for refugees, in Tel Aviv. She says that though Israel signed the Geneva Convention relating to refugees, it regularly violates it.
"During the last years, Israel is sending a very clear message to all asylum seekers: Beware. We are not interested in your presence here. We will do whatever is in our power to prevent you from being here, even if the price is violating our legal commitments," Rosen says.
On Nov. 22, the same day that work began on the fence along the Egyptian border, Yishai presented his four-part plan to make Israel a less desirable locale for refugees.
In addition to the fence, Israel is building a detention center that will operate as a yet undefined "open facility" for any would-be refugee who decides to remain in Israel.
The third step in Yishai's plan is to punish any employer who hires African migrants or supports their employment.
The last step is the repatriation of refugees who are already in Israel. Israel took that step for the first time — last week — when it removed 150 southern Sudanese who agreed to leave voluntarily in exchange for some pocket money and a flight home in time to vote in the upcoming referendum on the region's independence.
Olivier, however, questions just how voluntary their removal was.
"They've been pushed in the corner. They've been put in the situation where that one was the only solution for them," he says.
At the Hotline for Migrant Workers, Rosen says she knows many more who would consider leaving Israel if they were given a similar deal. Most of them, she says, have become fed up.
The new application allows users to watch the Western Wall Plaza live on their phones at anytime, take a virtual tour of the Western Wall tunnels, and send a note to the Kotel through the iPhone. The application even features a compass which is pointed towards Jerusalem, a particularly useful tool for worshippers.Sorry folks, but watching it on your iPhone is a poor substitute for being here.
The Western Wall rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, welcomed the initiative and said: “The Western Wall has been in the heart of every Jew in the world for 2,000 years. It is only natural that in the technological age there will be ways to express the love and devotion of the Jewish people to the Western Wall and to Jerusalem. We hope that the new application will strengthen the younger generation’s bond to the Kotel.”
The application is available in Hebrew, English, and Russian, and may be downloaded free of charge from the iTunes store.
A diplomatic cable from the UK embassy in Tel Aviv, dated May 4, 1980, warned "the situation in the region is deteriorating and with it Israel's dangerous mood of isolation and defiance will grow. If they are to be destroyed they will go down fighting this time. They will be ready to use their atomic weapon. Because they cannot sustain a long war, they would have to use it early."I wonder if any Israeli Prime Minister other than Begin has ever laid claim to Judea and Samaria based upon the bible. I cannot recall one who did that.
Documents released from the British National Archives also show then prime minister Margaret Thatcher's frustration with her Israeli counterpart at the time, Menachem Begin.
Thatcher said of Begin that she "had never had a more difficult man to deal with."
When she told Begin that his West Bank settlement building policy was "unrealistic" and "absurd" his reply had been "Judea and Samaria had been Jewish in biblical times and that they should therefore be so today."
Thatcher relayed the conversation with Begin to then French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
Though pundits and foreign-policy experts focus on the question of settlements or the current temperature of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, UNRWA’s institutionalization of refugee-cum-military camps is, in my view, the principal obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The chances of achieving peace and security in the Middle East will continue to be remote as long as UNRWA is, in effect, underwriting a self-destructive Palestinian cycle of violence, internecine warfare, and a perpetual war against Israel.Read the whole thing.
The core issue is a phenomenon we can call “refugeeism.” For 60 years, UNRWA has been paying four generations of Palestinians to remain refugees, reproduce refugees, and live in refugee camps. It is UNRWA that put them in refugee cages and watched the number of inhabitants grow. The Palestinian refugee population in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza has exploded from 726,000 in 1950 to 4.8 million in 2010. About 95 percent live under UNRWA care. The unprecedented nature of this guardianship is rooted in the unusual nature of this institution. UNRWA is a supranational welfare state that pays its residents not to build their own nation-state, for, were they to do so, they would forfeit their refugee status and its entitlements of cash, housing, health care, education, credit, and other largesse.
It is these perverse incentives above all that have undermined efforts to improve the lot of the Palestinian people, such as those measures aimed at fostering economic development in the West Bank undertaken by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Israeli government. If the international community truly wishes to serve the needs of the Palestinians and improve their lot, its first task would be the abolition of UNRWA.
UNRWA has been one of the most inhuman experiments in human history. Since UNRWA creates incentives for war and disincentives for peace, conditions for Palestinian misery and disincentives for economic development, it cannot be reformed and must be removed. The change in the Palestinian incentive structure is necessary for both peace and statehood. Palestinian sovereignty will only be achieved by liberation from UNRWA and, like peace, cannot be truly achieved without this liberation. The first order of business, then, is to dismantle the UNRWA welfare-warfare state. If this were to be done, the future Palestinian state, or at least the West Bank, would be able to join the family of prosperous nation-states. To juxtapose President Carter and the last canto of Dante’s Inferno, open the cage and enter the world.
But given the intractable nature of the problem and the strong support this destructive program retains in the international community, how can this end be achieved? One possible first step is to merge it with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. Such a measure could allow UNRWA to be abolished immediately. If the new, merged agency adopted UNHCR’s program of short-term emergency relief, it would signal the beginning of the end of the world body’s support for continuance of the Palestinians’ agony. Alternatively, UNRWA could be held in place and phased out gradually, say, over three years.
The process is not important. What is important is the change in mission. The new mandate should be resettlement, integration, and naturalization—or at least the former two or the latter two, with integration being a central and necessary component. The task is, in short, to transform 4.8 million people from dependent refugees into productive citizens.
Another option is for UNRWA funding to be converted into international subsidies earmarked exclusively for resettlement, integration, and naturalization. The funds could be applied in the countries of current residence (reimbursing, too, those countries’ expenses), in Palestinian jurisdictions, or in whatever country would admit refugees on an individual basis. Israel is obviously unsuitable as a country of resettlement because integration there is not feasible, and such a plan would defeat the whole purpose of the scheme.
Most important, the transfer of UNRWA funding to the Palestinian Authority and local authorities would dispose of the very institution of the refugee camps. They would become regular neighborhoods and dwellings once their refugee status is removed. Integration would also become easier once the refugee stigma is removed from these neighborhoods. UNRWA schools, medical facilities, financial institutions, and all social services could be given outright to the Palestinian Authority, which would enhance its status, scope, and power as a sovereign government of a new nation-state, and to local governments elsewhere.
In fact, the dismantling of UNRWA would, by itself, facilitate and accelerate the task of resettlement, integration, and naturalization. This process has been forestalled in many places by the very existence of UNRWA and its refugee designation of the Palestinians.
Former president Moshe Katsav was charged with raping former Tourism Minsitry worker "Aleph," in the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday morning.Apparently, he is not innocent. 'Israel's first religious President' (it was he who had a synagogue built on the premises of the President's residence) is nothing but a sexual predator - and a desecration of God's name. He is a disgrace.
"The event in the accused's office happened," the judges said. "Aleph said no - she expressed dissent. This is not sexual harassment, this is rape."
The judges said that just because Aleph complained years after the event, does not mean that she is lying.
"Aleph is honest and speaking the truth, while Katsav's testimony is full of lies," the judges determined.
Judge George Kara quoted Aleph as saying: "I knocked on the door, and he was wearing just a shirt, and came close to me. I told him 'enough, stop,' but he continued for ten minutes."
Katsav was also charged with sexually assault of Heh, who worked at Beit Hanassi and sexual harassment of Lamed Yod, then an 18-year-old National Service volunteer at Beit Hanassi.
Lamed Yod complained that Katsav made sexual comments and kissed her on her neck without permission, but later changed her testimony. However, her father testified that Lamed Yod came home from her service upset because of the way the former president treated her, and a driver at Beit Hanassi also saw her leave the president's office upset.
The court said Aleph's testimony is backed up by evidence.
Katsav's sons, in the courtroom, shouted "it's not true, it's not true!"
The court said that Katsav and Aleph did not have an affair or any romantic connection, and that the former president did not have an alibi or witnesses to support his claims.
The judges said that the women accusing Katsav said that the former president forced them to write him love letters, thus fabricating evidence that would show he did not rape them.
In addition, Katsav was charged with obstruction of justice.
A key moment in the affair took place in August 2008, when Katsav reneged on a plea bargain signed with the State Attorney’s Office in order to have the chance to prove his innocence in court.
The deal, which would have seen Katsav plead guilty to two charges of sexual harassment – but not the rape charges – sent 20,000 people out into the streets of Tel Aviv in protest.
In March 2009, then attorney-general Menachem Mazuz filed the indictment against Katsav. It graphically described the former president’s alleged crimes and painted him as a sexual predator. His trial began in May last year.
“I am here today by choice; I depart today on a long, difficult, journey to battle for my innocence. Here it is no longer a mock trial, here they won’t determine my case without seeing me, without hearing me, without reading all the investigation materials… I am embarking on a long and difficult battle to clear my name, and I promise once again that I will emerge innocent,” said Katsav at the start of his trial.
Washington is particularly concerned that Tehran might deploy a new generation of centrifuges to enrich uranium, a process that can yield nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material.Hmmm. Is there another Stuxnet worm in the making to cope with this?
Since such devices are three times faster than the centrifuges Iran relies on now, officials say they would reduce the “dash time” needed to develop a nuclear weapon.
“If they were to deploy large numbers of these second-generation machines then it could dramatically reduce dash time,” said an administration official.
The US would look at the next quarterly report of the UN nuclear watchdog to see if Iran was making progress with the new centrifuges, he said.
The previous such report, in November, indicated Iran planned to deploy several hundred new centrifuges for “research and development” at its once-secret nuclear site near Qom.
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis) in Washington said: “The next crisis will probably be over the question of deployment of these advanced centrifuges.”
Iran has been working for years to build a new generation of centrifuges. But they have yet to be deployed in significant numbers in spite of announcements by Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the president, that the effort had succeeded.
The Obama administration says it would take Iran one to two years between reaching a decision to make a bomb and producing enough highly enriched uranium for one weapon. That would leave plenty of time for detection by UN inspectors – unless the centrifuges are at a secret site.
Some outside commentators say far less time would be needed – about six months, according to Isis. Iran says its nuclear programme is purely peaceful.
Commentators agree the calculations would change greatly if Iran deployed more efficient centrifuges.
1. September: J Street's Soros Ties/Lies ExposedRead it all. I wonder why he left Jan Schakowsky off the list. Hmmm.
2. January: 54 U.S. House Democrats Urge Obama to Seek Reversal of Measures Instituted to Prevent Rocket Attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza
3. March: 'Yes, we can' snub our Israeli friends
4. June: Helen Thomas flames out
In the past three years, however, some have turned to Palestinian engineers and programmers. They are cheaper, ambitious, work in the same time zone, and — surprisingly to many Israelis — are remarkably similar to them.So the companies are profitable, the shareholders are happy, but less Israelis are employed.
"The cultural gap is much smaller than we would think," said Gai Anbar, chief executive of Comply, an Israeli start-up in this central Israeli town that develops software for global pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Teva.
At a previous job, he worked with engineers in India and eastern Europe, but found communication difficult. So in 2007, when he was looking to outsource work at his new start-up, he turned to Palestinian engineers. He said they speak like Israelis do — they are direct and uninhibited. Today, Comply employs four Palestinians.
Palestinian engineers have also warmed up to the idea. "I doubt you would find a company who says, 'I am closed for business'" to Israelis, said Ala Alaeddin, chairman of the Palestinian Information Technology Association.
If there is hesitation, it's in marketing Israeli products under a Palestinian name to tap into larger Arab markets off-limits to them. "We're looking for a partnership ... not one side benefits from the other side," Alaeddin said.
"We have a window of opportunity to demonstrate our skills," said Murad Tahboub, CEO of Asal Technologies, a Palestinian outsourcing company that works with Comply and a handful of other Israeli-based companies. "The more people know about us ... the more comfortable they will be in doing business with us."
This is easier said than done. Comply's office in Hod Hasharon is only about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Asal Technologies in the West Bank city of Ramallah — but they are worlds apart.
Anbar says working with Palestinians is "doing something good for the world we are living in," but says the real reason he outsources to the West Bank is financial: He pays the outsourcing company about $4,000 a month per engineer, half the cost of outsourcing to an Israeli company.
While Indians or Chinese engineers cost even less, he said Palestinians are more loyal to his company than workers from distant countries — and have a dogged work ethic. Many gained experience working abroad, and stiff competition for coveted engineering jobs in the West Bank pushes those who have work to prove themselves, Tahboub said.
About 10 Israeli start-ups and international companies with centers in Israel have been outsourcing to the West Bank in the past three years, said Tova Scherr of Mercy Corps, an international aid group working to encourage these ventures. Scherr said visits by Israeli businessmen to Ramallah — with Israeli military permission — are becoming more common.
Networking giant Cisco says it was the first international corporation with research and development centers in Israel to begin outsourcing work to the West Bank. Israeli branches of Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have followed Cisco's example and begun to outsource to the Palestinian territories this year, according to Mercy Corps.
The largest reserve of natural gas, over 16 trillion cubic feet, has been discovered off the coast of Israel, and is estimated to be worth more than $95 billion, U.S. company Noble Energy Inc. announced on Wednesday.This was the lead story on all of the nightly newscasts. It's very significant for us economically. It should lower energy costs and make us energy independent for many years to come.
Noble Energy owns 39.66% of the prospective discovery, alongside Israeli partners Delek Group Ltd. units Avner Oil and Gas LP and Delek Drilling LP (22.67% each), and Ratio Oil Exploration (1992) LP with 15%.
The reserve, Leviathon, is the largest amount of natural gas discovered in the world in the last decade and is located in approximately 5,400 feet (1,645 meters) of water, about 130 kilometers offshore of Haifa and 29 miles (47 kilometers) southwest of the Tamar discovery.
Last year, Israeli company Isramco announced that reserves of natural gas have been discovered at its Tamar 1 offshore drill site 90 kilometers west of Haifa, making it the largest ever discovered in Israel until now - three times bigger than that of the "Yam Thetis" consortium and worth $15 billion.
Noble Energy CEO Charles Davidson said, "Leviathan is the latest major discovery for Noble Energy and is easily the largest exploration discovery in our history."
CEO of Delek Group Yoram Turbowitz said "it is a sense of success mixed with worry and concern, that we will not be able to utilize the huge discovery in our hands to its limits.
He added: "I hope that the strategic advantage and the enormous accomplishment that we have made here due to large financial and professional knowledge invested will be utilized to its fullest."
"Obviously we need to produce something from the Leviathon reserve, but it will demand enormous investments in infrastructure," he said, adding that "the state will need to assist with regulations, planning and accompanying what will become the largest infrastructure project in the country."
Noble Energy president and COO David L. Stover said, "This discovery has the potential to position Israel as a natural gas exporting nation. For nearly a year now, we have had a team evaluating market possibilities, which includes various pipeline and LNG options. It's our belief that the natural gas resources at Leviathan are sufficient to support one or more of the options being studied. We are excited to be leading the exploration and development in this new basin and look forward to determining the best development option."