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Monday, October 31, 2011

Putting one family above the nation

Did 70% or more of Israelis support the terrorists for Gilad deal? Or were some of those Israelis persuaded to put the interests of one family ahead of the nation's interests, or at least to keep their mouths shut until the deal was done?

You may recall that last week, opposition leader Tzipi Livni suddenly claimed to have been against the deal all along but to have been 'persuaded' to keep her silence until the deal went through. Were there others in prominent positions who did the same? Yes, writes Evelyn Gordon, in an article which is behind the paywall, but which she shared with me by email.
One of the most disturbing revelations of the past two weeks is that some Knesset members who opposed the ransom deal for Gilad Schalit nevertheless acceded to his family’s request to keep silent until the deal was concluded.

On October 21, for instance, former MK Tzachi Hanegbi, of Kadima, wrote the following in these pages:
A few years ago, I got a call from Zvi Schalit, Gilad’s grandfather. He was upset by a radio interview I had given that morning. At the time, I was chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and I detailed the “red lines” of the security and political establishment over a prisoner exchange with Hamas.

Zvi Schalit sought to persuade me that the state should not draft tougher principles on negotiating with terrorists until his grandson was safely returned to his family.

I couldn’t agree, but my heart went out to the grandfather’s plea. At his request, I pledged not to worsen the family’s pain by making my position public. And I kept my word.
Two days later, Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni announced that she, too, opposed the Schalit deal, believing that it undermined Israel’s deterrence and strengthened Hamas, but kept silent until it was concluded at the request of Gilad’s father, Noam.

Livni and Hanegbi are almost certainly not alone; many politicians, journalists and other public figures likely made the same choice for the same reason. And I can understand their motives, because I, too, received that heartrending phone call from Zvi Schalit, after publishing a column in this paper in 2009 opposing the deal as it stood then. It’s very hard to say “no” to a thoroughly decent man going through hell and begging you not to add to his agony. And while I couldn’t retract what I’d already published, I ended the conversation thinking that had he called before I wrote the article, I might well have decided there were enough other things to write about; I didn’t need to pour salt in the Schalit family’s wounds.

Nevertheless, Hanegbi and Livni were wrong to let their compassion overrule their judgment. Livni herself gave the best argument for why.

“The people of Israel forced the government to free Gilad Schalit,” she charged, correctly, when she finally broke her silence. But did she really expect the people to do otherwise when they were deluged, day after day, with arguments in favor of the deal, while those who opposed it largely kept silent out of compassion for the Schalits? You can’t win a battle of ideas by abandoning the field.

And while private individuals have the right to eschew the fray, MKs do not, because they have a fiduciary duty to the public: They are elected to serve the people, and they owe those they serve their best judgment. By placing the good of one family over what they themselves deemed to be the national interest, Livni and Hanegbi betrayed the people who elected them.

This dereliction of duty was compounded by the fact that they were uniquely well-poised to influence the public debate, since their positions gave them access to information the general public lacked. Hanegbi chaired the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for four and a half years of Schalit’s captivity; Livni was foreign minister during the first three years and leader of the opposition thereafter. All three positions grant their occupants access to information that isn’t in the public domain.

No official statistics, for instance, have ever been published on what percentage of freed terrorists returned to terror; the estimates I saw in the press during the years of Schalit’s captivity ranged from 13 to 80 percent – a variance so enormous the public couldn’t possibly assess the magnitude of the danger the deal posed. By virtue of their positions, Hanegbi and Livni could have demanded that the security services provide real data and then publicized it, thereby facilitating such an assessment. Instead, they chose to keep silent.

Six weeks ago, I wrote a column criticizing MKs who seem to think their job begins and ends with making public statements, rather than trying to turn their ideas into legislation. An MK who is nothing more than a pundit is useless; punditry can be done just as well from outside the Knesset.

But refraining entirely from public statements is no less problematic because, in a democracy, public opinion influences governmental decisions. Hence elected representatives have an obligation to try to shape public opinion on the burning issues of the day. That some MKs (and again, I doubt Livni and Hanegbi were alone) instead sat out the public debate on a deal they considered dangerous to the country is thus deeply troubling.

Speaking against the Schalit deal would certainly have caused the Schalits great pain. But if causing pain is a reason for silence, no public debate could ever be held. Did the Gazan settlers slated to be thrown out of their homes not feel pain when MKs lobbied for the disengagement? Did the victims of post-Oslo terror not feel pain when MKs praised Mahmoud Abbas as a “peace partner” even as Abbas lauded their loved ones’ murderers as heroes? Did Livni and Hanegbi ever seriously consider not pursuing these policies out of consideration for one particular family’s pain?

Their silence over Schalit is yet more evidence that far too many MKs seem not to understand the most basic responsibilities of their office. And then they wonder why only one-third of Israelis retain any trust in what ought to be democracy’s flagship institution.

The silence in this country on so many issues is appalling. And coincidentally (not!) it always policies that are favored by our mainstream media.

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Now that 'Palestine' has joined UNESCO


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That was fast: US cuts off UNESCO funding

That sure didn't take long. After a vote on Monday that made the non-existent state of 'Palestine' a member, the United States has announced that it has cut off funding to UNESCO (Hat Tip: Gershon D).
The United States said on Monday it had stopped funding UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, following its vote to grant the Palestinians full membership.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters the United States had no choice but to halt funding because of longstanding U.S. law, saying Washington would not make a planned $60 million transfer that was due in November.
Voice of America adds:
Washington currently is UNESCO's biggest funding source, supplying 22 percent of the agency's budget.

Earlier Monday, the Paris-based UNESCO voted to approve the Palestinian membership bid by a vote of 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions.

France voted for the motion, along with almost all Arab, African, Latin American and Asian nations, including China and India. Israel, the United States, Canada and Germany voted against it. Japan and Britain abstained. A two-thirds vote was required by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's 193 members.

The White House called UNESCO's decision “premature,” saying it undermines the international community's goal of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan. Spokesman Jay Carney said the move is a distraction from the task of restarting direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, called the vote “deeply damaging to UNESCO.”

Israel's Foreign Ministry described the move as a “unilateral Palestinian maneuver” that would further harm efforts to secure a peace agreement. The ministry thanked countries that opposed the measure and said it was “disappointing” that the European Union could not reach a unified position to prevent the decision.
They were warned.

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al-Manar announces worldwide march on Jerusalem

Remember all those Syrians and Lebanese trying to jump the border last May? It may happen again, but this time it appears to be much better organized.

Hezbullah's al-Manar reports on a planned 'worldwide march on Jerusalem' to take place on March 30 - which the Arabs here celebrate as Land Day. If you read the announcement, you will see that there is no pretense that this is about the 1967 borders. It's about 1948. They refer to 78% of 'Palestine' being occupied since 1948, and the rest since 1967.

Here's the bottom line:
As part of this movement and at the invitation of Palestinians, we decided to organize a Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) aimed at raising awareness of the mortal threat to Jerusalem and all of Palestine by the hands of Zionists and helping us move closer to the day of freedom.

On 30 March 2012, from all continents we will converge and gather along the Palestinian borders with Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, with the participation of delegations joining us from every country in the world in a peaceful march towards Palestine.

Therefore, we ask all people of good conscience to join us.

The International Committee of the Global March towards Jerusalem
What could go wrong?

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Abu Mazen says he'll never recognize a Jewish state, kidnapping Shalit a good thing

Last week, our 'peace partner,' 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen told Dream2 TV that he will never recognize a Jewish state, that negotiations have to be accompanied by force, and that it was a good thing that Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit.

Here's a transcript.
Mahmoud Abbas: "First of all, let me make something clear about the story of the 'Jewish state.'

"They started talking to me about the 'Jewish state' only two years ago, discussing it with me at every opportunity, every forum I went to – Jewish or non-Jewish – asking: 'What do you think about the "Jewish state"?' I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a 'Jewish state.'" [...]

Interviewer: "Don't you think that it was the resistance that managed to liberate a thousand prisoners?

"Negotiations must always be accompanied by a measure of force. There can be no negotiations without resistance. This has been shown by the experience of people – in Ireland and all countries."

Mahmoud Abbas: "That's true, but our circumstances are different. We are not able to wage military resistance.

"Hamas kidnapped – or rather, captured – a soldier, and managed to keep him for five years, and that is a good thing.

"We don't deny it. On the contrary, it’s a good thing that on a small strip of land, 40 × 7 kilometers, they were able to keep him and hide him." [...]
You can watch the video here.

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Tunisia issues arrest warrant for Suha Arafat

Tunisia has issued an arrest warrant for Suha Arafat, the widow of 'Palestinian' leader Yasser Arafat. She is charged with - what else - corruption.
The allegations go back to a 2006 business deal, when Suha Arafat had a fallout with former first lady of Tunisia over the establishment of an international school in Tunis, AFP quoted Tunisian newspapers as saying.

In 2007, Suha was declared persona non grata in Tunisia and had her citizenship revoked, reportedly by presidential decree. Suha was reported to be living in Malta, at least several months a year, where she owns a home.

Since the ouster of former Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, a number of former regime officials have been charged with corruption.

Suha was raised as a Catholic in Ramallah and Nablus and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Suha met Yasser Arafat when she was on assignment in Jordan for a French newspaper. She was immediately appointed as a public relations adviser to the PLO and later as an economic consultant to her husband. The two married secretly in 1990 at Arafat's house in Tunisia and kept the wedding secret for 15 months.

She drew sharp criticism from many Palestinians when she tried to prevent senior PA officials, including PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, from visiting her husband while he was being treated in a military hospital in Paris.

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UNESCO admits the 'Palestinians'

With 107 nations voting in favor, the United States, Canada and Germany voting against, and Britain (which cannot bring itself to do anything that might be deemed pro-Israel wholeheartedly), UNESCO has decided to admit the imaginary state of 'Palestine' as a member.
The United States, Canada, Germany and Holland voted against Palestinian membership. Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa and France voted in favor. Britain and Italy abstained.

Washington is likely to cut funding to UNESCO over the vote.

"The action today will complicate our ability to support UNESCO," David T. Killion, US ambassador to UNESCO, told journalists after the vote.

"The U.S. has been clear for the need of a two-state resolution, but the only path is through direct negotiations and there are no shortcuts, and initiatives like today are counterproductive."

The vote highlighted divisions over foreign policy within the European Union, some of whose 27 members voted for and some against Palestinian membership.

Austrian UNESCO ambassador Ursula Plassnik, whose country voted in favor, said she regretted the European Union could not arrive at a common position on the Palestinian issue.

The Palestinians obtained backing from two thirds of UNESCO's members to become the 195th member of UNESCO, with status as "an observer entity". Of 173 countries that voted from a possible 185, 107 voted in favor, 14 voted against, 52 abstained and 12 were absent.


Israel called the vote a "tragedy."

"This resolution is a tragedy for UNESCO...UNESCO deals in science and not science fiction and nevertheless (UNESCO) adopted the science fiction reality," said Nimrod Barkan, Israel's ambassador to UNESCO.

Israel has said the Palestinian bid would amount to politicization of the agency that would undermine its ability to carry out its mandate.
YNet adds:
Huge cheers went up in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes were needed for approval in a hall with 173 UNESCO member delegations present.

"Long Live Palestine!" shouted one delegate, in French, at the unusually tense and dramatic meeting of UNESCO's General Conference.


Monday's vote is definitive. The membership formally takes effect when Palestine signs UNESCO's founding charter.
I'm happy about this. UNESCO has a long and rich history of anti-Israel bias, and the American law has no 'national security' out and therefore leaves Obama with no choice but to cut off funding. Let them squirm.

And by the way, what happened to the French? I thought they were going to vote against. Talk about having the courage of your convictions.


Here's video that will give you some idea of what the vote was like.

Let's go to the videotape.

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Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Monday, October 31.
1) Cease-fire?

Today the New York Times reports After Attacks, Efforts to Restore Truce Between Israel and Groups in Gaza. "Groups?" How descriptive is that? Is the New York Times incapable of using the word "terrorists?" The report includes the boilerplate:
Hamas has largely maintained the fragile cease-fire that went into effect after Israel ended its three-week military offensive in Gaza in early 2009. The smaller factions in Gaza are less committed, but are under pressure from Hamas to comply.
Earlier we learn:
The Israeli military fired on what it said was a terrorist squad in southern Gaza preparing to fire rockets at Israel on Sunday afternoon. Gaza security officials said one Palestinian militant was killed and another was seriously wounded. Both, it said, were members of the armed wing of the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Notice the qualification of the Israeli claim, "what it said." But Gaza security officials essentially confirm the Israeli account with "armed wing." The care the reporters take to make sure that Israeli statements are properly qualified but will throw in the "Hamas mostly keeping ceasefire" with no authority but their own. PM Netanyahu for his part, insists that there is no ceasefire.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was not seeking an escalation, but emphasized that anyone trying to attack Israel was taking their life in their hands. “There is no cease-fire,” Mr. Netanyahu said Sunday, adding that the military “protects the residents of the south and wipes out the rocket launchers.” “I promise that the other side will pay an even heavier price than it has up to now, until it stops firing,” he warned.
Amir Mizroch argues that this is the correct approach:
In the past few days, Israeli defense officials have been speaking in terms of cost: yes, it’s heartbreaking that an Israeli was killed, but the Islamic Jihad paid a heavy price, with 10 of its militants killed, said Ehud Barak. “They’re paying a much heavier price in Gaza,” says his deputy Matan Vilnai. Israel seems to need to change the equation regarding rocket violence: every rocket fired by a Palestinian group at Israel will cost them severely in terms of blood and damaged infrastructure. It’s not enough to chase rocket squads all day and all night [although this should obviously still be done]. Deterrence must be restored, and this can’t be done with defense, which costs a lot more than offense. In a climate of serious defense budget cuts, expect the IDF to drop heavier bombs, and drop some heavier terror chiefs. Also, all talk of a major ground offensive to take down Hamas in Gaza is now passe.
2) Turning himself in?

The Qaddafi family is apparently thinking of suing NATO. At the same time "part scholar, part monk, part model, part policy wonk" and international fugitive Saif al-Islam Qaddafi has apparently contacted the International Criminal Court about turning himself in.
“Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Seif,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said. “He said he is innocent and he will prove to the judges he is innocent,” he said in a brief interview with Reuters. “And then he is more concerned about what will happen after, if he is considered innocent by the court.” “We are making no deal, though we have a case against him,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo added. “But we are explaining the legal system and his right to defend himself.”
Though he maintains his innocence, if Saif turns himself in, it should make that lawsuit a lot more difficult to succeed.

3) Liberals or leftists?

In Tunisia Liberals See a Vote for Change, Not Religion David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reports:
Perhaps the most significant surprise for liberal forces here and around the region was the abrupt collapse of the party that until recently had been their standard-bearer and Ennahda’s principal rival, the Progressive Democratic Party, or P.D.P. While Ennahda had emphasized its commitment to Western-style individual rights and pledged to collaborate with secularists, the P.D.P. had concluded its campaign with blistering accusations that Ennahda was manipulating voters into supporting a hidden theocratic agenda. The attacks apparently angered voters, because the two liberal parties that succeeded had chosen to say only nice things about Ennahda. The Congress for the Republic and the ideologically similar Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties, known here by the Arabic shorthand Ettakatol, are now in talks to form a unity government.
But as Barry Rubin points out, Kirkpatrick is confusing leftists with liberals:
Who will they have to work with in the mean time? The Congress for the Republic (CPR) won 30 seats and the Ettakatol won 21 seats. (I cannot resist the temptation to remark that when the Islamists are through with it, Tunisia will definitely need CPR!) These are leftist parties and Ennahda’s coalition partners. What does this tell us? On social issues, the Islamists will have to be careful but they can find more common ground with the leftists on economic and foreign policy issues. By building the power of the state and weakening the business sector—which the leftists want—Ennahda lays the basis for its future domination of the society through controlling a strong state. On foreign policy, the left shares the Islamists’ desire to take a tougher line toward the West and against Israel. In the shorter run, they will not want to antagonize Europe or the United States. But this lays a foundation for a longer-term turn of public opinion against the West and toward other Islamist states. As we saw in Turkey, a stealth Islamist government can turn around public opinion with surprising speed using patriotism and religious fervor.
This CNN report confirms this distinction:
Some Tunisians -- mainly among the better off urban middle-class -- don't believe Ennahda's professed moderation. A series of videos released online ahead of the election (and paid for by wealthy business interests) imagines a Tunisia without tourists, where women are made to wear the veil and are scared out of the workplace, should Islamists take power. Some point to Iran's first post-revolutionary elections back in 1980 and Ayatollah Khomenei's promise that in the Islamic Republic the Majlis would not be a rubber-stamp parliament.
The "wealthy business interests" was unnecessary, but it shows that those most likely to help the Tunisian economy - real liberals - remain suspicious of the Islamists.

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What the US gets for all that aid to Israel

Every once in a while, a commenter will come on here and harangue me about how the US gives us so much money every year and gets nothing in return. I usually let the comments through, partly because I want you all to appreciate how many nasty comments I get (I reject about 10-20 comments a day that are either spam, link pimping or people whose comments I just won't let through) and because I often hope that someone will answer the attacks. I barely find time to post here when work is busy (as it is now), let alone to answer all the comments.

Robert D. Blackwill, deputy national security advisor for strategic planning in the George W. Bush administration, and Walter B. Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy in the Clinton administration, are authors of the new report "Israel: A Strategic Asset for the United States" (The Washington Institute for Near East Policy). They have written an op-ed in Monday's Los Angeles Times, which ought to put a serious dent in the arguments of those who claim that our relationship is "the US gives and Israel takes." It's not like that at all.
Today, Israeli contributions to U.S. national interests cover a broad spectrum. Through joint training, exercises and exchanges on military doctrine, the United States has benefited in the areas of counter-terrorism, intelligence and experience in urban warfare. Increasingly, U.S. homeland security and military agencies are turning to Israeli technology to solve some of their most vexing technical and strategic problems.

This support includes advice and expertise on behavioral screening techniques for airport security and acquisition of an Israeli-produced tactical radar system to enhance force protection. Israel has been a world leader in the development of unmanned aerial systems, both for intelligence collection and combat, and it has shared with the U.S. military the technology, the doctrine and its experience regarding these systems. Israel is also a global pacesetter in armored vehicle protection, defense against short-range rockets, and the techniques and procedures of robotics, all of which it has shared with the United States.

In missile defense, the United States has a broad and multifaceted partnership with Israel. Israel's national missile defenses — which include the U.S. deployment in Israel of an advanced X-band radar system and the more than 100 American military personnel who man it — will be an integral part of a larger missile defense spanning Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf to help protect U.S. forces and allies.


In sum, we believe that Israel's substantial contributions to U.S. interests are an underappreciated aspect of this relationship and deserve equal billing to shared values and historical responsibility as rationales for American support of Israel.
Read the whole thing.

Blackwill and Slocombe will be doing a live webcast on November 1, 2011, 12:30 p.m. EDT, to discuss their new study, ISRAEL: A Strategic Asset for the United States. I will not be at my computer then, so if any feels like watching and sending me a summary, I'd be happy to post it.

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Al-Reuters' moral equivalence

We Israelis get upset because the mainstream media abroad insist on referring to the 'Palestinians' who are constantly trying to murder us as 'militants' rather than terrorists. There are constantly discussions here about how the media won't use "the T word."

Reader Will sent me this link from Turkey's Today's Zaman to show me that the Turks are even worse. If you click through, you will see that the headline reads "Israel and Islamic Jihad trade fire, 10 dead."

But if you look at the byline, you'll see that this didn't come from Zaman's writers. This coarse piece of moral equivalence - replete with mistakes of fact (how many can you find?) - came from al-Reuters, one of the world's largest news agencies.

Aren't you glad you read blogs?

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How we started trading terrorists for hostages

The man in the photo is Ahmed Jibril, and he perfected the art of extracting 'Palestinian' terrorists in exchange for Israeli hostages (Hat Tip: Gershon D).
In March 1978, at the conclusion of the Litani Operation in South Lebanon, five Israeli soldiers and a civilian jumped into a car and decided to go on an outing. The group took to the road in defiance of army regulations and somehow got waived through a forward checkpoint. Moments later they found themselves surrounded by heavily armed Palestinians. Four of the five soldiers were killed instantly, while the civilian miraculously made it back to Israeli lines the next day.

The fifth soldier was taken captive by the PFLP-GC, the Palestinian terror group headed by Ahmed Jibril. Up to that point, Israel had a firm policy of trading soldiers for soldiers. Terrorists sentenced to life in prison were expected to spend life in prison. Exchanges with terror groups sometimes occurred in hostage situations, but they were rare and always premised on trading one for one.

In 1970, an Israeli farmer in the northern village of Metulla was kidnapped by Palestinians and taken to Lebanon. The Palestinians demanded the release of dozens of jailed terrorists. The Israeli government held firm, and in the end the farmer’s release was secured for just one terrorist.

With this in mind, a team was assembled in Jerusalem in 1978 to negotiate the release of the soldier. A terrorism expert named Ariel Merari, circulated a memo that concluded the captured Israeli had “no market value.” Accordingly, he advised the government to set a low value and stick to it. Above all, he urged political leaders not to meet with the soldier’s family. Both pieces of advice were ignored. The family of the soldier first met with Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann. Merari later remembered that “Weizmann had a hard time standing up to the pressure, he folded, he promised and he declared that they had an open line to him whenever they wanted.” The same thing happened when the family met with Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

The initial offer from the Jibril camp was to swap the soldier for 19 Palestinians captured during the Litani Operation plus another six or seven in Israeli jails. It was deemed a reasonable offer. The 19 captured in the field were combatants, not terrorists, and the six or seven were all low value prisoners that were either sick or wounded.

Merari advised going slow. This was, after all, the way it worked in the Arab souk (market place). You showed little interest for what the other side was offering and then slowly negotiated your way to the finish line. Were Israel to accept the first offer, it would send the message that it would pay more. The general placed in charge of the negotiations wanted to wrap up the talks quickly and ignored this advice as well. With that, Merari tendered his resignation.

A year later, Merari was asked to return. Every dark prophecy of his had come true. The price from Jibril had climbed to the original 19 Palestinians captured in the field plus 76 terrorists held in Israeli jails, many of whom were murderers. Merari couldn’t believe his ears. He advised walking from the negotiating table, breaking off all contact. His advice was ignored once again. In the end, Jerusalem released the 19 combatants together with the 76 terrorists. Merari later calculated that the freed Palestinians had combined sentences remaining of over 2,800 years.

Ahmed Jibril had learned a valuable lesson. You didn’t need to hijack an airplane to free jailed terrorists. In fact, not only was it unnecessary, it was undesirable. When the Palestinians held large numbers of hostages, the Israelis sent in commandos to free them. When they held a single soldier, the Israelis refrained from any heroics because of the inevitable loss of life. The Israelis took four killed to free 106 hostages in Entebbe. But they wouldn’t take four killed to free just one soldier. Instead they gave in.
Read the whole thing.

The real question is how to put a stop to the madness. I have seen no suggestions for that other than 'just say no.' And it's been rare that suggestion has actually been implemented. I have been in this country for twenty years and I have only once seen Israel refuse to negotiate for a hostage's release: The Nachshon Wachsman kidnapping.

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Repeal Oslo now!

The time has come for Prime Minister Netanyahu to propose, and for the Knesset to ratify, the repeal of the 'Oslo Accords.' It's time for Israel to stop with the charade that they have any meaning left to them and to adapt its policies accordingly. It's time to acknowledge the reality that the 'Palestinians' do not deem themselves bound by them, and that we should not deem ourselves bound by them either. (Hat Tip: Ashley R).
ANYONE PAYING attention knows that Oslo has been over for quite some time. The second intifada defamed it, disengagement exposed it, Annapolis was in spite of it and now Abbas has renounced it.

Inevitably, the reality Oslo hoped to create could not keep up with onthe- ground realities. What makes Abbas’s repudiation of Oslo so significant is that he did the one thing that cannot be reversed – he went public. Why would the “moderate” Abbas/Fayyad administration take the step that Arafat would not? An answer can be found in Arafat’s 1974 negotiation strategy, known as the “piece plan.” It was a tactic to grab whatever he could through dubious diplomacy. More famously known as the “phased plan,” it continues to be embraced, engraved momentously in the PLO Covenant, which to this day has not been revoked. This scheme states plainly its aim to “adopt a political solution of establishing a National Authority over any territory from which the occupation withdraws,” buttressed with a negotiation to extract as much as possible by simply taking “the ceiling of the last negotiation as the floor for the next.

It is no wonder that Abbas’s declaration makes no concrete reference to actual borders, resources and neighbors. The reason is now obvious; the Palestinians are not interested in compromise with Israel because they want to supplant Israel. They intend to do this through refugees, demanding indefensible borders and perpetuating attrition-styled conflict on Israel’s population. If the current bid at the UN should fail, we can presume that the strategy will continue with the “Quartet” to try to get a large international power to impose Palestinian terms on Israel. Whatever the outcome of this gambit, the breach of Oslo is irreversible, trust severed and the bilateral framework no longer a viable option.

DESPITE THIS, many of Israel’s brightest thinkers cling warily to the two-state solution, neglecting an clear reality that exposes the absence of a credible negotiating partner. Israel, schooled in the art of pragmatism since its inception, has sustained a Palestinian status quo undeserving of being so dutifully propped up. Even Netanyahu continues to operate as if what happened at the UN created just another stalemate.

For Israel to adopt policies that are consistent with reality, Netanyahu is obligated to reframe the national conversation under the assumption that the Palestinians still refuse to recognize basic Jewish sovereignty on its historic land. Moreover, it is incumbent upon Netanyahu to take the commensurate step to repeal Oslo – and subsequent agreements ratified by the Knesset. Repealing Oslo is not only strategically sound, it is now a matter of principle for the government he represents, which has acted throughout in good faith only to be humiliated, cheated and bamboozled by the Palestinians.

For Netanyahu to continue at the helm of Likud – a party that wrestled with Oslo from the beginning – this repeal is a political opportunity he cannot afford to forsake. He must act on his UN speech, which maintained that Israel would no longer be the party always expected to recognize the rights of others. Instead, the Jewish state’s rights must be recognized.

Those that do not will be identified publicly. Repealing Oslo is the first step in shifting this process to a more leveled diplomatic exchange between Israel and its neighbors and toward a new era in international relations.

Israel should expect some considerable international backlash, in repealing this defunct accord.

However, this official act is the only one that can provide the sort of closure the people of Israel desperately need. Here Netanyahu should not follow the Palestinians in squandering opportunities. By closing this chapter, there is the promise of a new one.
Read it all.

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Especially when the world's only superpower is trying to 'lead from behind,' there are advantages to at least giving the appearance of having junk. Sometimes, if you appear to have the junk to take action on your own, you'll force that superpower to step up and do what it should have done months ago. That may now be happening.

The United States has been unwilling to put real pressure on Russia and China to support - or at least not to veto - sanctions that bite Iran. That may now be changing according to a report in Monday's Yedioth Aharonoth, which is picked up by its sister site at YNet.
A senior US State Department official said there is growing fear among Obama administration officials ahead of an IAEA report indicating considerable progress in Tehran's development of its military nuclear program which is set to be published in November.

The US is concerned that the report may trigger Israeli actions against the Islamic Republic which may not necessarily be in line with US interests in the region.

The official said that Washington's reevaluation of an Israeli strike in Iran is based on various maneuvers Israel has performed in the past few years.

The US administration is now bent on exercising more pressure on Tehran in order to dissuade Israel from this path, the source said.

Washington is therefore pressing China and Russia who are currently opposed to the publication of the IAEA report. The report may cause embarrassment to both countries who are strongly against harsher sanctions on Iran.

According to the US official, it is possible that the report, coupled with the exposure of the US evaluation of Israeli potential to strike Iran, will encourage Russia and China to support the US initiative to aggravate penal measures against Tehran.
Make no mistake about it: If the United States did not perceive Israel as having both the ability and the willingness to do something about Iran, it would do nothing. Stronger sanctions could push Iran back into a revolution against the Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad. At the least, it could help ensure that Iran will be somewhat weakened by the time a confrontation takes place. And it could even push the US into a position where it realizes that it must confront Iran.

November 2012 is approaching. What could go wrong?

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Who's invited and who's not

The circus Knesset opens in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon after its long summer vacation, and some outsiders have been invited. The Shalit family will be there, as will the poor little rich girl from Kfar Shmaryahu. But there won't be any terror victims or their families there, and that's got MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), whom one blogger calls Israel's Saracuda, quite upset.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said on Sunday that, while she respects the Schalit family, Rivlin should have also invited "bereaved families, in which those who murdered their loved ones were released in the deal [to release Schalit]."

"The difficult side of the deal should be expressed, as well," she explained. "It was a complex moment, while many were happy that Schalit was released, it cannot be denied that many families were hurt because terrorists were set free."
Hotovely is right. The government of Israel should be ashamed of the way in which it has treated terror victims. This reminds me of Yitzchak Rabin's dismissing them in 1994-95 as 'sacrifices for peace.' I'd expect better from Binyamin Netanyahu, Ruby Rivlin (the Knesset speaker who controls invitations) and the Likud. It's disgraceful.

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Almagor to publish online database

The Almagor terror victims' organization is publishing an online database which it hopes will deter future trades like the terrorists for Gilad trade.
The database, called “Justice for Terror Victims,” will collect information that is available to the public, such as arrests and court transcripts, and compile it in a searchable database.

The Foreign Ministry and some private bloggers have partial lists, but this is the first initiative to have a comprehensive center of information.

More than a dozen volunteers working around the clock in shifts of three have already compiled full entries for 270 terrorists released as part of the Gilad Schalit deal.

It will be uploaded later this week onto the organization’s website, al-magor.com.

The prisoner list released ahead of the Schalit swap by the Prisons Service had dry descriptions for each of those released such as “involvement in unknown terror organization” and “assisted in murder.”

Indor believes that more specific descriptions, such as “the driver who brought the suicide bomber to Sbarro,” will resonate with the public on a deeper level and encourage more of an outcry against future swaps, which was fairly muted in the Schalit deal.

“Personalization works,” said Indor, noting that one reason the Schalit campaign was so successful was that it created an image of Schalit the average Israeli could relate to as a son and a soldier.

He added that the database, which will start with the terrorists released as part of the Schalit swap, will be updated if there are future swaps or if a terrorist is rearrested for committing similar crimes.
There are two other related issues that I hope Almagor can overcome. One is that Arabic names are transliterated into English (and Hebrew for that matter) with multiple spellings that make searches difficult. And a second is that Arabic names have honorariums that are sometimes used and sometimes not used.

For example, after the terrorists for Gilad list was announced, I got an email from a columnist whose name many of you would recognize, who asked me how I knew that Abed Alaziz Salaha, the terrorist whose bloody hands were photographed at the Ramallah lynch in 2000, was being released. His name, wrote the columnist, did not appear on the list. Well, it did. But to find it, you had to know what sentence he was serving, when he was born and when he was arrested. His name appeared as Abd al-Aziz Yussuf Mustafa Salehi.

But it sounds like a great idea, and it's something a lot of bloggers have been seeking. I just hope they can do it in a way that's user friendly.

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Where Israel stands

Just a reminder of how Israel looks as compared with the Arab world.

Hat Tip: IRIS.

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Overnight music video

Here's Michoel Pruzansky singing You're Watching Me, which is a song (in English) about September 11. Unfortunately, there's a lot of background noise.

Let's go to the videotape.

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Tibi visits Barghouti, calls him a 'freedom fighter'

Former Arafat political adviser and current Knesset member (yes, really) Ahmed Tibi visited 'Palestinian' terrorist Marwan Barghouti in jail on Sunday, called him a 'freedom fighter' and urged his release.
"He is struggling for the sake of the Palestinian people and his place is among the Palestinian political leadership and not behind bars," the Knesset member said. "His natural place is out of prison and not in it. All peace and liberty champions should endorse his release."
I wouldn't bet on that. Even Israel isn't that dumb.

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IAF to escalate rocket response

With 'Palestinian' terrorists continuing to launch rockets into Israel all evening long, the IAF is finally going to initiate a more proactive response.
The IDF approved a series of operations aimed at widening the scope of its responses to ongoing Islamic Jihad rocket attacks from Gaza on Sunday, as Egypt tried to mediate a second cease-fire after the first attempt at a truce lasted only several hours.

The planning for an intensified Israeli response, which was overseen by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, took place in the command and control room of the IDF’s Southern Command in Beersheba, and in Tel Aviv.

As senior defense chiefs spent Sunday preparing for a further escalation, they treated reports of a new cease-fire with skepticism, after Gazans shattered a brief calm by attempting to fire a rocket into Israel around 3 p.m.

The terrorist cell that prepared the rocket for launch was struck successfully by an air force aircraft, thwarting the attack. The cell reportedly belonged to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. One terrorist was killed and another was seriously wounded.

Following the preemptive strike, two projectiles were fired from Gaza at the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council, south of Ashkelon, on Sunday evening, triggering air raid sirens. The rockets struck in open areas and failed to cause injuries or damage. A third rocket targeted the same area on Sunday night.

“We’re not waiting for any decision by Islamic Jihad,” IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said, referring to reports of a cease-fire.

He said Gantz had ordered the army to prepare a number of responses that had been approved by the government to intensify Israeli efforts to stem the rocket fire.

“There are pinpoint plans to strike terrorist infrastructure – and more than that,” Mordechai said. “Until now, the IDF has harmed the Islamic Jihad’s rocket manufacturing and firing infrastructure, including a senior member who was responsible for these things,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders “not to test our abilities,” following a meeting with security and intelligence chiefs.

Islamic Jihad continued to threaten strikes deeper into Israel following the air force’s attack on the rocket launching crew in Gaza.

“Our response will be a clear message,” said Daud Shihab, an Islamic Jihad spokesman. “We will widen the circle of fire and include new settlements and cities deep in Israel.”

The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad is one of the most heavily armed organizations in Gaza, and is believed to have many rockets.
What could go wrong?

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So much for the 'cease fire' - rockets continue

Israel Radio reports that the rocket fire continues, with four rockets hitting within the last hour in the Eshkol and Ashkelon regions (and not three as the last-linked article says).

The IDF has also attacked terrorist positions in the southern Gaza Strip, although that has not yet been officially confirmed.

Is Cast Lead II on its way?

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Sunday, October 30, 2011


Hat Tip: Elder of Ziyon.

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How Italy sold out its Jews

No, this is not about Italian collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. Giulio Meotti documents how the Italian government has collaborated with the 'Palestinians' since the 1970's.
In Rome’s “ghetto”, the Jewish quarter, the memory is still fresh of an attack on the synagogue in October 1982, when Palestinians threw grenades and opened fire on worshippers.

It was Sheminì Azeret, the day after Sukkot, and the synagogue was full of children. A 3-year-old boy, Stefano Gay Tachè, became the first Jewish victim in Italy since 1945, when most of Rome’s Jews were burned in Auschwitz’s crematoriums.

The Jewish community distributed a placard in the ghetto, blaming the attack on “the Italian politicians who flirted with Yasser Arafat”, “the newspapers which compared Zionism to Nazism” and “the labour unions which threatened to ‘burn the Zionist dens’”.

A few days ago, the president of the Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, attacked the Italian authorities: “Why did the Italian government never insisted on the extradition of the terrorist? Why didn'the Italian police patrol the synagogue that day?”.

The Jewish building was mysteriously left unprotected the day of the attack. The brother of the victim, Gadiel Taché, now says that “Italy has drawn a veil of embarassed silence on the massacre” and his father, Joseph Taché, declares that “the story of the attack has been buried under sand”.Link

Now that Muammar Qaddafi (who protected Abu Nidal’ terrorist group responsible for the massacre) has been killed in Lybia, many voices are asking Silvio Berlusconi’s government to reveal the secrets of the Italian appeasement to anti-Jewish terrorism and to proceed with the extradition of Abdel Al Zomar, the only terrorist convicted for the attack who is living as a free citizen in Tripoli.

“We must reopen the investigation”, says the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno.
As some of you may recall, 'Palestinian' terrorists were allowed to roam freely in Italy in the 1970's and 1980's. Read the whole thing.

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Abu Mazen: Arabs made a mistake by rejecting 1947 partition plan

In an interview shown on Israel's Channel 2 on Friday night, 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen admitted that the Arabs made a mistake by not accepting the 1947 partition plan from the United Nations.
The Palestinian and Arab refusal to accept a UN plan to partition the then-British-controlled mandate of Palestine sparked widespread fighting, then Arab military intervention after Israel declared independence the following year. The Arabs lost the war.

"It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Channel 2 TV in a rare interview to the Israeli media. "But do they (the Israelis) punish us for this mistake for 64 years?"
Three words Abu: Actions have consequences. You can't keep asking for 'do-overs' until the end of time.
Abbas also contended that he and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were "very, very close" to reaching a peace agreement in 2008, before the Israeli leader left office under a cloud of corruption allegations.

"It was a very good opportunity," he said. "If he stayed two, three months, I believe that time we could have concluded an agreement."

He confirmed Olmert's account that the Israeli leader was prepared to withdraw from 93.5 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians, Abbas added, responded by offering to let Israel retain 1.9 percent of the West Bank.
But the 'Palestinians' then walked away and decided to wait for Obama to get them a better offer - which is unlikely.

You can watch the full interview here beginning at the 14:00 mark. The interview is mostly in English although the narrative that goes with it is in Hebrew. The interview ends around the 25:00 mark, and then there's more analysis in Hebrew until past the 30:00 mark.

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The most daring video you've seen in a long time

Here's a video from Britain's Channel 4 made by reporters Ramita Navai and Wael Dabbous, who went undercover to document the anti-Assad revolution in Syria.

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Dan F. via Harry's Place).

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Jewish MP threatened by Muslims in London

British MP Mike Freer was threatened by 'peaceful' Muslims on Friday as he tried to meet constituents in a North Finchley mosque.
Mr Freer said about 12 people forced their way inside, with one of them calling him a "Jewish homosexual pig".

The trouble began after messages on the Muslims Against Crusades website urged supporters to target him, he said.

Mr Freer said a message posted ahead of the incident on the group's website made reference to Labour MP Stephen Timms, who was stabbed while holding a surgery in east London last year.

It warned the attack on Mr Timms should serve as a "piercing reminder" to politicians that "their presence is no longer welcome in any Muslim area".

The Finchley and Golders Green MP, a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, said there was a vocal demonstration outside the mosque as he began his surgery, but then a second group of people arrived and forced their way inside.
Read the whole thing.

And the bottom line is - surprise - there were no arrests. What could go wrong?

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Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Sunday, October 30.
1) Hamas: committed to the ceasefire

Yesterday, there was renewed rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. This time there were injuries and a fatality. Israel retaliated killing five of the terrorists. There are numerous aspects of this news that can be manipulated in reporting. The New York Times adds a different distortion in Israeli Drone Strike Kills Militants in Southern Gaza by Fares Akram and Isabel Kershner. Repeating an unsupported assertion mentioned earlier in the article, Akram and Kershner conclude:
Hamas is largely committed to the fragile cease-fire that first came into effect after Israel’s three-week military offensive in Gaza that ended in January 2009. Smaller groups like Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees are not.
I'm not sure what "largely committed" means, but I'll assume that it means that according the reporters, more often than not Hamas will prevent rockets from being fired into Israel. Of course, that begs the question as to what happens when Hamas is not committed to the ceasefire. Is it intentional or not. We know, for example, that Hamas taxes goods that are smuggled in. So my guess is that Hamas has a pretty good idea of the material that Islamic Jihad and other smaller terrorist groups obtain. My guess, too, is that the manufacture of the rockets require a number of people and of course facilities. The logistics of manufacturing the rockets should make identifying "factories" and technicians pretty easy to trace. In other words the manufacturing of rockets is something that Hamas should be able to identify and stop, if it wants to. It's probably fair to say that Hamas observes the ceasefire when it wants to. Claiming, with no evidence, that Hamas is "largely committed" to the ceasefire grants Hamas goodwill to which it is not entitled. This just in - after starting the latest violence Islamic Jihad is offering a ceasefire. I guess they were hit pretty hard and are looking for a face saving way of protecting itself from further damage. Just noted: Islamic Jihad didn't really want a ceasefire.

2) His poor kids

Despite reports that its leadership is increasingly viewed as keeping the wealth for themselves, Hamas has been paying for the lavish treatment of the prisoners - many of them terrorists - who have been freed from Israeli jails in exchange for Gilad Shalit. How popular these expenditures will be with the residents of Gaza who don't benefit from the organization's largesse remains to be seen. One of the hotel residents is Mustafa Maslamani. Here's how he's described in In Gaza, former prisoners pampered in luxury hotel in the Washington Post.
Mustafa Maslamani, 47, another former prisoner who is staying at the hotel, said he feels so out of place that he hasn’t managed to sleep on the sprawling bed with white cotton sheets in his room. “In prison, you share a cell with eight people,” he said while chain-smoking on the hotel’s patio on a recent night as waves crashed nearby. “Here, I have not slept on a bed. I’m sleeping on the floor. I don’t want to forget where I came from.” Maslamani, who had been imprisoned since he fatally shot two Jewish settlers in 2001, said his punishment won’t fully end until he is allowed to return to Tubas, his native town in the West Bank, where his three sons and three daughters await. Until then, he said, he’s going to enjoy the view and cuisine.
The two "Jewish settlers" no doubt have family, who will never see their relatives again. It's hard to work up much sympathy for Maslamani or his children. It's fortunate for Maslamani that he didn't kill two Moroccans.
Prosecutors had accused Adel al-Othmani of dressing like a tourist and planting the bomb in the Argana cafe, before setting it off with his mobile phone. He was convicted of premeditated murder and building explosives, among other charges. The April 28 blast killed eight French tourists in addition to British, Swiss, Moroccan and Portuguese victims. The court handed down a life prison term for al-Othmani’s associate, Hakim Dah, and gave four-year terms for four other defendants charged with having knowledge of the crime. Three were given two-year prison terms.
al-Othmani was sentenced to death.

3) The unreasonableness of a reasonable argument

Over at the Atlantic, activist Zvika Krieger is attempting to explain how peace can be made between Israel and the Palestinians. In the first part of four, Krieger writes:
In 1988, The Palestine Liberation Organization officially accepted a two-state solution to the conflict and relinquished its demand for control over all of historical Palestine; settling instead on a state within the 1967 lines -- one that would constitute only 22 percent of the land. Palestinians view this as their "historic compromise." Thus, Palestinians refuse to accept a state that would comprise less than 22 percent of historical Palestine. If you had to boil down the Palestinian negotiation position on borders, it would be this: A Palestinian state MUST comprise the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They demand, in other words, 100 percent of their 22 percent. Israelis also believe they have a legitimate claim to the entirety of the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. Many Israelis do not consider the 1967 lines as a basis for drawing a border. They view the 1967 lines as arbitrary armistice lines that separated the Israeli and Arab troops in 1949. Additionally, they ask, why should Israel have to return territory that it won in a defensive war? Some Israelis also argue that borders based on the 1967 lines are not defensible -- despite the fact that they were the borders from which Israel successfully won the 1967 war. This issue is addressed in more depth in the Security chapter of this presentation.
While the tone of these paragraphs - as well as the whole article - is so measured, so reasonable soudning, there are many problems here. But let me focus on just one. Note how Krieger accepts the Palestinian argument about "historic Palestine" without reservation. However, "historic Palestine" is hardly an indisputable concept. However when it comes to the Israeli claim about the 1967 borders not being defensible, he cites the results of the Six Day War as proof that the assertion is wrong. The Six Day War was miraculous, nothing anyone reasonable would want to count on. But by taking the Palestinian claim uncritically and challenging the Israeli claim, Krieger signals his agenda: it's up to Israel alone to make peace. Aside from this the general focus of the article misses one very important aspect of the "land for peace" equation. Totally absent from Krieger's formulation is any discussion of peace. Sure he can delineate specifically which Israeli withdrawals (at least on paper) are necessary for peace. But none of the four chapters of Krieger's argument are about peace. "Security" might, at least, pretend to address Israeli concerns, but judging how blithely Krieger dismisses the "indefensible borders" argument, I suspect that his "security" argument won't be serious. The recent return of 477 prisoners, many with blood on their hands, illustrates this problem. Everyone in authority - whether from Hamas or from Fatah - welcomed them back as heroes. But their heroism wasn't having survived in Israeli prisons, but for attacking and killing Jews. How stable is peace going to be with a population that celebrates the destruction of the other side? Did a single Palestinian leader welcome any prisoner back with - "We're glad your home, but we rejected terrorism in 1993 and your actions violated that solemn commitment?" Here's a statement from Mahmoud Abbas:
Abbas promised the prisoners that they will see the results of their struggle and sacrifices in the independent Palestinian state. “Your cause was and is still in our heart and minds. We see some of you out, and the rest will follow soon if God wills,” he told the released prisoners. Abbas referred to the prominent Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the ill Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine secretary-general Ahmad Sadaat, and Hamas military commander in the West Bank Ibrahim Hamed, who were left out of the deal, expressing hope they will be released soon.
That sounds like approval. And demanding the release of Barghouti and Sadaat who were jailed for post-Oslo terror, emphasizes that Abbas doesn't take the renunciation of terror seriously. And finally there's a matter of history. At the end of 1995 Israel completed its withdrawal from seven major Palestinians cities, meaning that 90% of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria was no longer under occupation. Two months later a series of suicide bombings killed nearly 60 Israelis and injured many more. Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 strengthened Hezbollah, which escalated its attacks against Israel until 2006 when Israel was forced to go to war to defend its north. The "disengagement" from Gaza in 2005 strengthened Hamas and finally in 2008, Israel was forced to defend its south with Operation Cast Lead. The short history of the past 18 years of the "peace process" is that Israel cannot trust its defense to its enemies, even ones who claim to have changed. Simply put "land for peace" won't work unless the other side is committed to peace. Unless Krieger admits this, his work must be dismissed as arguments for forcing Israel to make more concessions with no expectation of peace in return. He may say this nicely, and he may sound wise but his work is shallow and predictable.

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Got another one - maybe two

It's now been confirmed that one 'Palestinian' was killed and another was seriously wounded when they were hit by IAF fire as they were about to launch a rocket into Israel from southern Gaza. The terrorists were from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of 'Palestine.'


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Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Friday, October 28 (sorry - I missed this earlier).

1) A brief history of prisoner releases

While the trade of 1047 Palestinian prisoners wasn't, strictly speaking, a prisoner release, Ethan Bronner of the New York Times wrote, when he reported that a deal had been reached:
He said he had told his negotiators to hold the talks “under the guidelines important to Israel: the need to bring Gilad home and the need to keep Israel’s citizens safe.” For Palestinians, the plight of thousands of their sons in Israeli prisons has been equally traumatic, and the possibility of their release drew enormous attention.
First of all the equivalence between Shalit and the Palestinians released is outrageous. Among other things the Palestinians currently in Israeli jails were convicted of crimes, of varying severity up to multiple counts of murder. Still Bronner asserted that the incarceration Palestinian prisoners in Israel was "traumatic," so the question is how did this "plight" come to be. In Annex VII of the Israeli Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo II) the conditions for prisoner releases were specified.
2. The following categories of detainees and/or prisoners will be included in the abovementioned releases:
a. all female detainees and prisoners shall be released in the first stage of release; b. persons who have served more than two thirds of their sentence; c. detainees and/or prisoners charged with or imprisoned for security offenses not involving fatality or serious injury; d. detainees and/or prisoners charged with or convicted of non-security criminal offenses; and e. citizens of Arab countries being held in Israel pending implementation of orders for their deportation.
3. Detainees and prisoners from among the categories detailed in this paragraph, who meet the criteria set out in paragraph 2 above, are being considered by Israel to be eligible for release:
a. prisoners and/or detainees aged 50 years and above; b. prisoners and/or detainees under 18 years of age; c. prisoners who have been imprisoned for 10 years or more; and d. sick and unhealthy prisoners and/or detainees.
Note especially items 2b) and 2c). In 1995, Israel had only recently declared the PLO not to be a terrorist organization since Arafat had made a declaration (albeit an insincere one) renouncing terrorism as a tactic. There were still people in jail who had been arrested for belonging to Fatah. It was mainly these people that prisoner releases were meant to free. So what happened a few years later when then (and now, current) Prime Minister Netanyahu followed these terms to the letter? Arafat incited riots against Israel!
With every day, until the relative calm of today, the unrest has gained momentum, threatening the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. In response to the violence, the Israelis have frozen the land-for-security plan, and it appears increasingly unlikely that they will carry out the second of three withdrawals from the West Bank as scheduled by Dec. 18. And with every day, the prisoner issue has assumed greater importance. Some youths are referring to the riots as ''the prisoners' intifada,'' evoking the Palestinian uprising of 1987-1993. The anniversary of that uprising's outbreak will be celebrated on Wednesday. Israeli officials have seized on the label to paint the unrest as a breakdown of the peace effort.
Further reporting showed little outrage over this violence. Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post reported:
When Israel released the first batch of 250 last month, the Palestinians were outraged that they included 150 common criminals. The deal, said Arafat and his aides, was for political prisoners to be freed. Surely they did not bargain for days at Wye for the liberation of car thieves, said Ahmed Tibi, a Palestinian spokesman. Not so, said Netanyahu, and the State Department concurred: Nowhere in the agreement does it specify that the freed detainees be political prisoners. But the American stance has done nothing to defuse the anger among Palestinians, for whom the issue of prisoners is visceral. This weekend, it burst into the open with demonstrations throughout the West Bank, which were put down by Israeli troops firing lethal rubber-coated bullets and tear gas. The scenes of the wounded being carted off, bloodied and grimacing in pain, were reminiscent of the Palestinian uprising that ended six years ago. At the same time, hundreds of the prisoners began a hunger strike that was joined by some of their families.
The LA Times reported:
Arafat, in a meeting this week, asked Clinton to resolve the dispute, according to Ahmed Tibi, a senior advisor to Arafat. Tibi accused the Israeli government of misleading the Palestinians on the releases and of deceptively padding the release rosters with car thieves and other common criminals. Of about 2,100 Palestinian "political prisoners," Tibi said, about 300 killed Israelis and an additional 1,000 are members of Hamas or similar militant Islamic organizations and not eligible for release. That would leave at least 700 supporters of Fatah and other pro-Arafat organizations who Tibi said should be freed. "These are the soldiers of Yasser Arafat," Tibi said. The Israeli government disputes those figures, however, saying that only 200 or so inmates meet the criteria for release.
Note that neither report includes the important detail that Arafat was changing the deal from what was written in Oslo. Two weeks later in an op-ed Peter Edelman of Americans for Peace Now complained:
Why is the latest peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in danger when both sides started off largely meeting the terms of their commitments? As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to delay implementation of the Wye memorandum for the umpteenth time, it's clear that mere compliance with the letter of the accord is not enough. The agreement is threatened because the deep distrust that evolved between the two sides over the past few years did not dissipate when Netanyahu and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat signed the deal. Almost from the moment he returned to Israel from the Wye summit, Netanyahu has antagonized the Palestinians as well as his American allies. Until the Israeli government changes its attitude, it will be difficult to resolve issues that have evolved outside the text of the agreement, much less move forward to productive final status negotiations.
Later on Edelman apportions blame to Arafat too, but of course his main target was Netanyahu. Charles Krauthammer, as usual, observed something important:
The administration did, in the famous "Note for the Record" requiring the Palestinians to end anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement, to change the Palestinian charter to eliminate clauses rejecting Israel's existence, to reduce the size of the Palestinian police, etc. Every single one of these promises remained a dead letter. How do we know? Because they reappear--as Palestinian commitments--in the Wye accord negotiated 21 months later. This time, said the State Department, we really mean it: Israel will get these reciprocal gestures--in return for another 13 percent of the land. Indeed, the U.S. proposed a three-stage deal so that Israel would not be stiffed again. Rather than withdrawing in one chunk--as it did in Hebron, then finding that the Palestinians, land in hand, simply ignored their obligations--Israel would give up 2 percent first, then wait for Palestinian compliance; then another 5 percent, with a pause for Palestinian compliance; then a final 6 percent.
Contrary to Edelman's false charge (later in the op-ed) that Netanyahu had delayed withdrawals outside of the framework of Wye, Krauthammer points out that the stages were an essential part of Wye. What's important about this incident is how it demonstrated a trend of Palestinian demands becoming etched in stone - regardless of what was actually agreed to. Netanyahu once again found himself cast as the bad guy for insisting the agreements meant something. One footnote to this prisoner story is this report, a month later: Arafat Releases Prisoners to Mark Holiday; Israel Protests
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat released 54 jailed prisoners, including members of the Islamic militant group Hamas and other opposition organizations, to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A Palestinian police spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those freed included both criminals and political detainees, among them some low-level members of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Leading Hamas figure Abdel Aziz Rantissi and Islamic Jihad leader Abdullah Shami were not among those released. ... Israel called the move a "violation" of agreements.
The prisoner release was a pretty clear violation of Arafat's commitment at Wye to fight terror, and the LA Times puts violation in scare quotes! The Israel Project has a list of prisoner releases that Israel has undertaken as of 2008.

2) $110,000 a month

The New York Times offers a rofile of one of the released prisoners, Making the Uneasy Transition From Prisoner to Celebrity
Mr. Taqatqa, 38, was among the first group of 477 Palestinian prisoners freed in return for an Israeli tank soldier, Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, captured five years ago when Hamas militants crossed through a tunnel to raid an Israeli military base. Mr. Taqatqa had served 18 years of a life sentence in an Israeli prison, with a lot of time spent in solitary. While Sergeant Shalit has remained largely out of public view, Mr. Taqatqa and many of the other freed Palestinian prisoners are living in the full glare of near constant publicity. The transition and unceasing attention have made Mr. Taqatqa a bit uneasy as he tries to learn to deal not only with freedom but also with the unfamiliar trappings of modern life, like cellphones and laptop computers. “He still feels that he is in prison; he does not believe that he is out,” a sister, Zeinab, said during one evening visit to a family friend’s house. She has come to Gaza to help him find a wife.
The profile shows a man who may really want to do something with his life, other than terrorism. There was a fascinating detail in the article.
He is among 60 former prisoners living at Gaza’s newest hotel, Al Mashtal, which looks out over the Mediterranean seafront. Featuring marble floors, palm trees and a swimming pool, it would not look out of place anywhere along the Mediterranean and usually charges $140 a night. Hamas is paying $110,000 per month to house the prisoners until they find homes.
For an impoverished government in an impoverished region, $110,000 sounds like quite a lot. And of course, Taqatqa has a computer and a cellphone. Gaza is not, apparently, the portrait of poverty that many like to paint. But if Mohammed Musa Taqatqa is interested in moving beyond the violence, other recently released terrorists are not so inclined. http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/3156.htm
Muhammad Abu Ataya: I was arrested for being a member of the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, and for killing traitors and spies, and killing traitors and spies, as well as going after the herd of settlers and the Israeli army. Interviewer: Brother Muhammad, as you regain your freedom, you carry the gun of the rebel, the gun of the fighter, and you wear the fatigues of the Al-Qassam Brigades, even though Netanyahu warned that any released prisoner rejoining the resistance would be severely punished. Muhammad Abu Ataya: He can make as many warning as he likes. His warning and threats will not deter us from continuing the journey of resistance, on which we embarked decades ago.
and http://www.memri.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/815/3157.htm
Interviewer: If you could go back in time, would you carry out such a large-scale attack? Ahlam Tamimi: Of course. I do not regret what happened. Absolutely not. This is the path. I dedicated myself to Jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success. You know how many casualties there were [in the 2001 attack on the Sbarro pizzeria]. This was made possible by Allah. Do you want me to denounce what I did? That's out of the question. I would do it again today, and in the same manner.
As I wrote yesterday, these terrorists are honored not for the time spent in Israeli jails but for their efforts to kill Jews. And it's not just Hamas that supports these efforts, the "moderate" Abbas does too. There will be no peace until terrorism is no longer rewarded by the Palestinians.

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