Jeremy Corbyn says he regrets support for Hamas, Hezbollah


Britain opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said he regrets supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, and that comments by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone asserting that Hitler supported Zionism were “wrong.”

Corbyn testified on Monday before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on rising anti-Semitism.

Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who in 2009 called Hezbollah and Hamas activists “friends” after inviting representatives from both terrorist groups to visit the British Parliament as his guests, is accused of encouraging vitriol against Israel and Jews by not distancing himself from groups such as Hamas.

“It was inclusive language I used which, with hindsight, I would rather not have used,” he said of using the term “friends” to describe Hezbollah and Hamas activists. “I regret using those words. I have done so on many occasions.”

Corbyn was asked about remarks that Livingstone made in April during a radio interview, in which he asserted that Hitler’s policy when he was elected in 1932 that Jews should be moved out of Europe and be moved to Israel was  “supporting Zionism.” Livingstone was suspended from the party for the remark.

“Ken Livingstone made remarks that are wholly unacceptable and wrong,” Corbyn said.

Corbyn rejected a question about whether he was fostering an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the Labor Party that he heads.

“That is unfair. I want a party that is open for all,” Corbyn asserted. “A long time ago there were sometimes anti-Semitic remarks made, when I first joined the party and later on. In recent years, no, and in my constituency not at all.”

He rejected reports saying that he compared Israel to the Islamic State in a speech against anti-Semitism delivered last week.

It is reported to be the first time that an opposition leader has given testimony to a select committee hearing.

Martians attack ISIS: A Chanukah story


At first, ISIS commanders in Syria assumed the weird-looking jets came from America, the Great Satan. They’d never seen jets like that before — spherical and very agile. They could stop on a dime, explode at crazy speeds and release laser-like bombs that vaporize several targets at once. The ISIS weapons and the ferocity of its fighters were useless against this new strike force.

“Allahu Akbar!” became a desperate cry for help.

Via Twitter, ISIS commanders learned that this new force was focusing on the Middle East and attacking other countries in the region — Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and, yes, even the Little Satan, Israel. Word spread that Israel might have figured out a way to respond to this otherworldly threat with weapons of its own. The prime minister of Israel called a press conference for later that day, Sept. 12, 2025.

“We are aware of this new threat,” the prime minister said. “It comes from Mars. Our Interstellar Intelligence Division has been tracking them for years. We kept it under wraps so as not to alarm the planet.”

Thanks to its intelligence gathering, Israel had already developed innovative weaponry that could combat the Martian threat. The problem was, it didn’t have enough of these weapons. So, a program had to start immediately to replenish them on a scale grand enough to thwart the new enemy. America agreed to build them. Israel estimated that if the new weapons were ready within 60 days, they could keep the Martian forces at bay until then.

Secret meetings were held among Israeli commanders and leaders of major terrorist groups, including ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas. Within a few days, it was decided to convene a major summit of Middle Eastern leaders in Jerusalem to hear more about Israel’s strategy for warding off this violent and mysterious new enemy.

Meanwhile, the Martians were pummeling Arab villages, cities and terrorist bases throughout the region. The Pyramids were laser-bombed into rubble. At the summit, the king of Saudi Arabia expressed alarm at the possibility that the Grand Mosque in Mecca would be destroyed.

“This is a holy site we must protect at all costs,” the king said. “If Mecca goes down, it would be as if our prophet were murdered, God forbid.”

“We must protect people first,” the Israeli commander responded. “But Israel will do what it can to protect your holiest sites. No promises. We are in crisis mode.”

As Israel’s defense systems were mobilized throughout the region, the tide began to turn. Terror groups were enlisted in the effort, primarily to keep peace in the streets and help feed the people. Israeli weapons destroyed three Martian jets over Iran. It was decided early on that nuclear devices would be useless because the collateral damage would kill millions of humans. Israel’s new weaponry was specifically designed to target Martian forces.

On the streets of the Middle East, word got out about Israel’s role. Arab media reported that Israeli forces were leading the fight against this “Green Satan,” as people were calling the Martian army.

Inside the surviving mosques, the imams’ sermons began to change. Fearful the Green Satan would demolish more holy sites, Muslim preachers prayed for the success of the Israeli forces. Millions of devout Muslims throughout the world joined in the prayers.

Then one Friday, the holiest day of the Muslim week, Martian forces launched an all-out assault on Mecca. Israel was prepared. Its intelligence had already alerted the IDF, giving Israeli commandos enough time to set up a 360-degree perimeter defense to thwart the attack. News spread around the world that the Jews of Israel had saved Mecca. A billion Muslims poured into the streets in cries of joy and gratitude. 

By now, America had mobilized the additional weapons and joined Israel in the fight. This helped secure the victory. The Great Satan and the Little Satan had joined forces to destroy the Green Satan. The last Martian jet could be seen fleeing planet Earth on the first night of Chanukah, prompting the whole world to embrace the Jewish holiday of light.

In the general euphoria, U.S. President LeBron James, after lighting a giant Chanukah menorah at the White House, announced that Middle East peace talks would finally resume. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority released a statement insisting that Israel return to the 1967 lines and stop building in the settlements.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Hamas calls on Hezbollah to unite fight against Israel


A letter purported to be from Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas's armed wing, on Thursday appealed to the Lebanese Hezbollah group to unite with Hamas in battling Israel.

The letter, posted on the website of Hezbollah-run Al-Manar TV, suggests the Palestinian Hamas and Hezbollah were patching up a rift over the Syrian war.

Hamas has been hostile toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has been fighting against the rebels trying to topple him.

“The true enemy of the nation is the Zionist enemy and all rifles must be directed against it,” said the letter, which carried Deif's signature. “All forces of resistance must direct their coming battle as one.”

Deif was targeted in an Israeli bombing in last summer's Gaza war.

The letter offered Hamas's condolences to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah over the killing of six of its fighters in an Israeli air strike on Sunday in Syria near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel says Deif was behind the deaths of dozens of people in suicide bombings in its cities and has tried to assassinate him several times, including one attempt in August during the 50-day Gaza war. The shadowy leader, whose health condition is unknown, has been in hiding for years.

Hamas, in political and financial isolation, has been anxious to revitalize old alliances and restore its battered funding. In December, it said it had restored its ties with Iran, which had been angered by Hamas' stance against Assad.

Teheran has long been a major supplier of military and financial aid to the group.

L.A.’s Iranian Jews must launch new Iran advocacy campaign


Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to speak to a Southern California Christian group about the significant human rights violations that the Iranian regime has waged against the Christians, Jews and other religious minorities living in Iran today. While this congregation was sympathetic and very receptive to my brief discussion, they were completely in the dark regarding the plight of minorities, women, journalists and even average Muslim-Iranians facing tremendous hardships at the hands of Iran’s mullahs. 

Likewise, many average non-Jewish groups I have come across have by and large been totally unaware of the substantial role Iran has played in arming, funding and fanning the fires of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon against Israel. Today the majority of Iranian Jews living in America very clearly see Iran’s significant role in destabilizing the entire Middle East, funding and arming terrorist groups, as well as calling for another Holocaust against Jews with their daily chants of “Death to Israel.” We as Iranian Jews not only understand the Farsi language declarations of genocide repeated by Iran’s ayatollahs, but the majority of us have experienced the evils of the Iranian regime firsthand. 

Nevertheless, the Iranian-Jewish community in Los Angeles has never undertaken its own serious, comprehensive and relentless public advocacy campaign to educate the larger non-Iranian American community about the very real and emerging dangers of Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime to the Middle East and the entire world. This education of the greater public about who the Iranian regime consists of and its objectives is essential in transforming the U.S. government’s approach to Iran’s threats against non-Shiite Muslims throughout the world. In my humble opinion, now is the time for L.A.’s Iranian Jews to stand up and undertake such a critical grassroots advocacy campaign to educate every other community in America about the rising threat of Iran’s regime.

For more than 30 years, I have witnessed my community of Iranian Jews in Southern California growing and prospering after establishing new roots here. They have flourished in America and also generously given back to the larger Jewish and non-Jewish communities. Iranian Jews in Los Angeles have even established their own nonprofit groups, such as the Iranian American Jewish Federation, Magbit, the Hope Foundation and 30 Years After, to advance our community issues and to help Israel. While Iranian-American Jews have also been involved with other organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee about raising public awareness of Iran’s nuclear threat, they have never launched their own initiative to educate the Latino, African-American, Asian, labor union, LGBTQ and other communities about the horrific human-rights abuses and spread of global terrorism carried out by Iran’s clerics and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). So who better than Iranian Jews, who experienced firsthand anti-Semitism, random arrests, unceasing tortures and imprisonments at the hands of this Iranian regime, to speak out today about the evil nature of the regime? Who else but Iranian Jews, who have had family members randomly executed by the Iranian regime, to educate the public about the regime’s unmerciful thugs? Who else but Iranian Jews, who have witnessed their Christian, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Sunni and other religious minority countrymen experience unspeakable abuse and murders at the hands of the Iranian regime’s secret police, to speak out? Who better than Iranian Jews to educate the larger American public about how Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other regime strongmen are very openly calling for the elimination of all people who do not follow their radical form of Shia Islam? While in recent years, individual Jewish-Iranian activists in Los Angeles have indeed spoken out about the cancerous spread of the Iranian regime’s evil among its own people in Iran and the entire Middle East, much more of this type of public advocacy must be done on a larger scale by local Iranian Jews. Additionally, while the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has attempted to put on a happy and nicer face for the Iranian regime with his public relations campaigns, we as Iranian Jews have a duty to remove the smiling mask from Rouhani and his minions in order to expose their true nature and evil actions to the American public.

More importantly, as Israel wages a war to defend innocent civilians from the terrorism of Hamas, Iranian Jews, who listen to Farsi language news broadcasts from Iranian state-run media, must make all Americans aware of what the regime’s leaders are saying about their role in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For example, this past July, on Iranian-state run television, Khamenei called for all those who “love Palestine” to send arms to the West Bank and turn it into another Gaza. He also issued a religious edict for the IRGC and its subordinate Basij militia to send arms and fighters to the area. Likewise in July, the Iranian Islamic Assembly spokesman boasted on state-run television about the Iranian regime’s role in providing Hamas with rocket technology. The chairman of the Parliament of Iran, Ali Larijani, has repeatedly said on Iranian state-run news programs that Iran originally provided Hamas with the know-how to produce its own homemade rockets. Mohsen Rezai, the secretary of the Iranian regime’s Expediency Discernment Council, a high official in the regime, has recently called for more kidnappings of hundreds of Israelis and making them human shields in Gaza. Rezai has promised more arms and more financial support to Hamas until “all of Palestine is free of the Jews.” This information is very rarely reported by Western news media for whatever reason, but we as Iranian Jews have a duty to name and shame every single member of the Iranian regime who is calling for a perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and glorifying the genocide of Jews in Israel. 

So as Iranian Jews, we must venture out of our enclaves in Beverly Hills, Pico-Robertson, Encino, Brentwood and Tarzana in order to reach out to every local group in Los Angeles. Whether it is speaking to the Christian-Korean community in Koreatown to discuss the Iranian regime’s abuse of Christians, or reaching out to the LGBTQ community in West Hollywood about how gays are forced to have gender reassignment surgeries and face executions in Iran, a new public advocacy program about the evils of the Iranian regime is imperative today. Without the larger public knowing what crimes against humanity the Iranian regime is committing, no one will raise a voice to our elected officials to ratchet up the pressure on the Iranian regime. No one will demand that the current U.S. administration take a tougher stance on Iran’s heinous human-rights records if we as Iranian-American Jews do not educate others about this regime. Just as American Jews proudly launched a very vocal and public campaign against the former Soviet Union for its mistreatment of Jews and human-rights activists in Russia during the 1960s and 1970s, so must we as Iranian Jews in America today launch the same type of campaign against the Iranian regime. In the end, as the first victims of the Iranian regime’s reign of terror and murder, it is incumbent on us to educate the American public and the larger world about the tsunami of evil Iran’s regime is seeking to unleash on the Middle East as well as the free world. If we continue to remain silent about the human-rights crimes carried out by the Iranian regime against all Iranians and the terrorism it sponsors against non-Iranians, we have committed an even greater crime.


Karmel Melamed is an attorney and award-winning journalist based in Southern California. His blog “Iranian American Jews” can be found at: jewishjournal.com/iranianamericanjews/

In the new Middle East, an embarrassment of evils


One of the crazy things about following the Middle East is trying to keep track of all the bad guys. Remember when Iran was the big bad Islamic wolf? Or al-Qaida? Or Hezbollah? Or the Muslim Brotherhood? Or Hamas?

Now, as if in a flash, along comes ISIS to become the evil flavor of the month. Seriously, how much evil can one region generate?

A screenwriter couldn’t make up such a cocktail of hatred. Just for starters, you have Shias against Sunnis, Persians against Arabs, Arabs against Turks, Turks against Persians, Iraqis against insurgents, Syrians against insurgents, insurgents against insurgents, Lebanese against Syrians, Egyptians against Qataris, Saudis against Iran — and everyone against the Jews.

I’ll leave it to the scholars to explain how each shade of evil differs from the next. I know that a lot of people these days are into the “Who’s worse? Hamas or ISIS?” game, but from where I sit, whether you chop people’s heads off or hide behind children to murder other children, evil is evil.

Even that old standby, “the enemy of your enemy is my friend,” doesn’t really hold up anymore. Just look at ISIS and Syria.

One of the sworn enemies of ISIS just happens to be … yeah, the biggest murderer of the new century, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who’s responsible for the deaths of nearly 200,000 of his own people.

I know ISIS is the height of evil, but can I really cheer for that Syrian butcher against anybody?

Same with the Jew-hating Holocaust deniers in Iran – they also hate ISIS. Aside from the fact that we belong to the same species, do I really want to have anything in common with the nuclear mullahs of Persia—even if it’s a common enemy?

It’s hard to fathom that one of the nastiest, Jew-hating threats to Israel – Hezbollah – could now be fighting in Syria against one of the nastiest, Jew-hating threats to Israel—ISIS.

Consider also Saudi Arabia, presumably in the “moderate” camp of the Mideast jungle. We’re now supposed to be buddy-buddies with the Saudi royalty because they’re the enemies of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. But wait. Guess who for years has been funding the most violent strains of Islam in the region? That’s right, the Ferrari-driving House of Saud.

Those turkeys are surely coming home to roost.

The craziness is everywhere. Remember when the Muslim Brotherhood was running the show in Egypt and helping smuggle lethal weaponry to their Hamas brothers in Gaza? Well, the Brotherhood became so hated in Egypt that most of them are now in jail. So, guess who’s now Egypt’s sworn enemy? That’s right, Hamas, the sworn enemy of Israel.

Of course, the Egyptian people are not exactly crowding into Tahrir Square to cheer on the Zionist army as it fights Hamas. But cheering privately? Highly likely.

We saw another example of the new Middle East craziness a few weeks ago when Egypt first tried to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

On one side you had Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and (yes!) Israel—all sworn enemies of Hamas– and on the other side you had Turkey, Qatar and (yes!) the United States. Why would the U.S. be on the “wrong” side?

The best analysis I’ve read is that President Obama is obsessed with closing a nuclear deal with Iran, and since the Egyptian-led coalition is strongly opposed to Iran, Obama was reluctant to poke Iran in the eye by empowering the anti-Iran coalition on any issue.

In any event, now that ISIS has crossed the line by beheading an American journalist, Obama is facing some serious cognitive dissonance: Should he align with the evil mullahs of Iran or the butcher of Damascus against the evil killers of ISIS, at least covertly? Good luck with that one.

I knew things were getting hairy when I asked my daughter in Tel Aviv how she was holding up with all the latest Hamas rockets, and she replied: “We’re worried about ISIS now.”

This is what the new Middle East has come down to– an embarrassment of evils. ISIS may be a new brand of evil, but when I look at longtime murderous entities like Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran or Syria, all I can think is: Pick your poison, folks.

If a sinister game designer wanted to create a new video game to capture what’s going on right now in the Middle East jungle, that’s a good name right there: “Pick your poison.”

There wouldn’t be any good guys in this game– just an orgy of bad guys. The whole fun would be in deciding who the baddest guy is at any moment, and knocking down as many of these guys as possible.

The ultimate goal would be to take down the baddest “bad guy” of them all, the one the whole world really hates: Israel.

Despite Syria rift, Hezbollah pledges full support to Hamas


Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah pledged full support on Friday to the Palestinian group Hamas in its conflict with Israel despite a deep rift between the two militant organizations over the civil war in Syria.

“We in Hezbollah will be unstinting in all forms of support, assistance and aid that we are able to provide,” Nasrallah said.

“We feel we are true partners with this resistance, a partnership of jihad, brotherhood, hope, pain, sacrifice and fate, because their victory is all our victory, and their defeat is all our defeat,” he said.

Nasrallah delivered his speech in public in Hezbollah's stronghold of south Beirut, a rare event for the militant Shi'ite Lebanese leader who has lived in hiding, fearing for his security, after Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel.

That inconclusive 34-day conflict won Hezbollah sweeping support around the Arab world for standing up to Israel's military superiority. But its more recent military action in neighboring Syria has eroded that regional backing.

Shi'ite Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces, helping turn the tide against overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim rebels.

But the Hamas leadership, once based in Damascus, refused to support Assad as he confronted with force peaceful protests which broke out in 2011 and descended into an insurgency and civil war. Since then 160,000 people have been killed.

“We call for all differences and sensitivities on other issues to be put to one side,” Nasrallah said in reference to the rift over Syria. “Gaza is above all considerations”

His speeches are usually delivered via video-link from an undisclosed location, but in a sign of confidence the Hezbollah leader spoke on Friday for an hour in front of hundreds of supporters at Hezbollah's Martyr's Compound in the south of the Lebanese capital.

“We say to our brothers in Gaza: We are with you, by your side, trusting in your strength and your victory. We will do all that we believe to be our duty, on all fronts,” he said.

Nasrallah did not specify what support would be given, but he pointedly said that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in the past had supplied “all factions of the Palestinian resistance, financially, materially, politically…with weapons, logistical help and training.”

Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza exceeds 2012 assault


The Israeli military reportedly has hit more targets in Gaza in the first day and a half of a bombing campaign to curb rocket fire than during its entire eight-day operation in November 2012.

The Jerusalem Post quoted an anonymous senior Israeli security source on Wednesday but did not quantify the number of targets hit in the current operation, which the Israel Defense Forces has dubbed Protective Edge.

“Hamas has been surprised by Israel’s response. We systematically struck operational infrastructure, where Hamas commanders operate,” the source said, according to the Post. “There’s not a single Hamas brigade commander that has a home to go back to.”

The source said the IDF has used 400 tons of explosives against targets in Gaza.

Meanwhile, some 72 rockets fired from Gaza struck Israel on Wednesday, the second day since the launch of the IDF campaign in Gaza. Three of the rockets were fired at Dimona, the site of Israel’s nuclear plant; one was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and the other two fell in open areas.

The farthest-reaching rocket so far landed in the vicinity of Zichron Yakov, an Israeli town situated about 80 miles north of Gaza, just south of Haifa.

Haifa, which came under heavy rocket fire from the north during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, announced Wednesday that it was reopening its bomb shelters.

Gaza rocket crews also have targeted Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s airport, where incoming flights have changed their usual landing routes as a safety precaution. El Al, Israel’s national airline, said Wednesday that it would allow travelers with bookings to Israel through July 18 to cancel or reschedule their trips at no extra charge.

An armed scuba diver from Gaza was killed and a second is being pursued after they attempted to infiltrate Israel by the sea for the second time in two nights on Wednesday night. Five infiltrators from Gaza were killed by Israeli troops the previous evening.

Though Israel’s Cabinet authorized the call-up on Tuesday of up to 40,000 reserve troops, the IDF has yet to mobilize significant numbers of reservists.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Palestinian terrorists would pay a “heavy price” for their rocket fire against Israel and said he is prepared to “further intensify attacks on Hamas.” President Shimon Peres said an Israeli ground offensive could happen in Gaza “quite soon.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the IDF’s “killing of entire families is genocide by Israel against our Palestinian people,” the French news agency AFP reported.

So far, about 40 Palestinians in Gaza have been reported killed in the operation. Israel has not reported any deaths.

The hostilities between Israel and Gaza come in the wake of the murder of three Israeli teenagers abducted last month from a hitchhiking post in the West Bank, and the subsequent murder by Jewish extremists of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. The Palestinian’s murder was followed by Palestinian rioting and rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel has arrested six suspects in the case of the murdered Palestinian teen. Suspects in the murder of the Israeli teens have yet to be apprehended; Israel said members of Hamas are responsible for the slayings.

Iran, Syria central in U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue


U.S. and Israeli officials addressed the potential for an Iranian nuclear weapon as well as turmoil in Syria in their periodic strategic dialogue.

“Both sides reiterated their determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said a U.S. State Department statement released Wednesday after the two teams had met.

William Burns, a U.S. deputy secretary of state, and Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, led the teams.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear its concern in recent weeks that renewed talks between Iran and the major powers could lead to an easing of sanctions on Iran before it effectively ends its suspected nuclear weapons program.

“The two delegations reviewed developments in Syria, including efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapon program, as well as threats to regional stability from terrorist groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas,” the statement said.

The sides meet about twice a year.

Test of David’s Sling missile defense system deemed success


Israel successfully tested its newest missile defense system, called David's Sling.

The Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency on Sunday announced that David's Sling, also known as Magic Wand, intercepted a mid-range missile during a test-firing of the system.

The system is being jointly developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in Israel and the Raytheon Co. in the United States. It is designed to intercept missiles and rockets with a range of up to nearly 200 miles, especially rockets fired by Hezbollah from Lebanon, according to reports.

Iron Dome, which successfully intercepted between 80 percent and 90 percent of rockets fired from Gaza at Israel during the recent Operation Pillar of Defense, is designed to intercept short-range rockets.

David's Sling is scheduled for deployment in 2014.

Israel-Gaza conflict: Low expectations


No one knows for sure why the Gaza hostilities began. 

We know that there had been weeks of intensifying rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, rockets fired by various Palestinian groups that were tolerated, even encouraged by the governing Hamas. And we know that the Israeli government had reached its limit of tolerance for such attacks, possibly, though not primarily, because elections are coming up, and the Israeli public wanted something done. We also know that what ignited the final escalation of this cycle of violence was Israel’s assassination of Hamas’ military chief on Nov. 14. We know that, following every such action, a barrage of rockets can be expected. We know, as well, that such a barrage is invitation for even more retaliation, and so on and so forth. 

Israelis got a glimpse last week of the damage Hamas can inflict on Israel; they discovered that Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are, indeed, within the reach of rockets from Gaza. That Hamas’ threats are no joke. But Israelis still don’t know why it all began. What was the calculus behind Hamas’ decision to allow and abet this growing harassment of Israeli civilians? What was the logic behind it, assuming there is some such logic? What was Hamas trying to achieve?

Not knowing Hamas’ goals is a problem for all those trying to assess Hamas’ ability to actually meet those goals. As this article was being written, attempts at negotiations were taking place to reach an agreement that would put an end to the fighting. Israelis will be happy if such agreement can end the barrage of rockets on its territory. Israeli leaders believe the country demonstrated last week that its citizens are willing to temporarily increase their own suffering in hope of getting a better long-term deal. And they also demonstrated the ability of Israel’s defensive tool — the Iron Dome — to dramatically decrease damage to Israel’s citizens in case of war. And that is an important message not just for Hamas, but also for all other potential attackers, such as Hezbollah and Iran. 

Of course, it is possible that Hamas had just miscalculated its way into this week of skirmishes; it is possible that its leaders did not quite understand that Israel had reached the boiling point. Back in 2006, when Ehud Olmert abruptly launched the second Lebanon war, it was widely assumed — even publicly admitted — by Hezbollah leaders that the other side didn’t see it coming. That Hassan Nasrallah believed he could kidnap Israeli soldiers and get away with it. So it’s possible that the leaders of Hamas are guilty of a similar misperception; it’s possible they didn’t expect the harsh response they got.

However, other possibilities must also be considered. Maybe Hamas needed the fight. Maybe it needed to reassert its presence as a player that can make things complicated for all parties just as the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Mahmoud Abbas, was going to the United Nations to get the coveted seat of an almost official member. Maybe Hamas was trying to send a message to a disappointing Egyptian government that had not yet proven itself to be the ally Hamas expected it to be. 

The raging events around Gaza are a distraction from more urgent matters engulfing the Middle East and threatening to turn 2013 into a year much more challenging and dramatic than the year that is about to end. Lost behind the Gaza headlines is the recent report that the Iranians have completed yet another step in building their nuclear program. Pushed aside from attention are the much more bloody — but repetitious — events in Syria. 

The nature of small wars such as the one involving Gaza is that the context is always overwhelmed by the details. Another siren, another rocket, another Israeli attack from the air, more reservists join the troops, more injured, and dead; the hours pass, the days pass, but after a while, it all becomes blurred and seems cyclical. Each rocket fired matters only the moment it hits, or, in most cases, misses. Each siren matters only for the couple of minutes until the danger is over. Most of the occurrences of the past week — which I write abut with the caveat of a Nov. 19 press time — were quickly forgotten, negligible in their impact on the larger scheme of things. 

The final outcome of the battle is what matters, and, strangely, while no one can quite explain why the war started, everyone has known from the outset how it is supposed to end: a cease fire, the return to the status quo. No more rockets fired at Israel; no attacks from the Israeli side. Until the next round. The Gaza pressure cooker had to let some steam off before returning to normal (which is hardly what people in most other countries would call “normal”).

There have been many complaints as the operation continued, related to the lack of “strategy” on the part of Israel (for some reason — maybe lack of expectations? — fewer such complaints were aimed at Hamas). These complaints have come mostly in two forms: 1.) that Israel should not fight a war against Hamas without coupling its effort with a parallel effort at advancing the peace process with the PA; and 2.) that it is time for Israel to abandon its policy of non-negotiation with Hamas and acknowledge reality — Hamas is here to stay.

These two alternative policies are both worthy of discussion, as long as one realizes that they contradict one another. If Israel negotiates with Hamas, it undermines the PA, the only partner Israel might have for a peace process. If Israel advances peace negotiations with the PA, it is likely to draw even more opposition from Hamas. Nevertheless, some serious people believe that at least one of the two options should be vigorously pursued by Israel, and some even believe that Israel can attempt to try both in parallel. At the bottom of these alternative policy paths, though, lie two assumptions that Israel doesn’t seem to accept, and hence doesn’t seem inclined to follow: 1.) that there’s no problem without solution, and 2.) that action is always preferable to inaction.

If one accepts these two assumptions, it is reasonable to be puzzled, even dismayed by Israel’s lack of “strategy.” It is clear, and not just in regard to the 2012 Gaza operation, that Israel operates under the supposition that no solution is currently available for the problem of Gaza and Hamas, and that inaction — in the larger sense — is indeed preferable to action. Israel believes that Hamas is an enemy with whom no negotiation can lead to resolution, and that this is a component of the larger problem of a Palestinian society that isn’t yet ready for peace. When Palestinians are ready — when they are ready not just to negotiate with Israel, but also to confront the radical factions within their own society — that will be the right time for an attempt at a resolution that demands action. But until then, Israel defies both above-mentioned assumptions: It believes that there’s no present agreement that will put an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and that the lack of a possible agreement makes a tense but quiet status quo the only thing it can hope to achieve. 

Hence, an operation with no “strategy.” A war of low intensity, but also of low expectations. An operation aimed at restoring a status quo that is far from satisfying to both Palestinians and Israelis. An operation that outsiders perceive with a measure of dismay: All this violence just to go back to what we had two months ago? All this violence, and no attempt to leverage it to achieve larger goals? 

The answer, sadly, is a resounding yes. The dead, the injured, the terrified, the heart-wrenching scenes, the scared innocents, the crying children, the wasted days, the sleepless nights, the constant worry, the shattered windows, the wasted resources, the sad realization that there’s no end — all this with no purpose other than to restore the status quo. That is what Israel wants for now. And as for Hamas: As I warned at the outset of this article, we have a problem with Hamas, beginning with the fact that we don’t quite understand what they want.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor.

IDF official: Nuclear Iran may curb Israeli border wars


A nuclear-armed Iran could deter Israel from going to war against Tehran’s guerrilla allies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli general said on Tuesday.

The Jewish state sees the makings of a mortal threat in Iran’s uranium enrichment and missile programs, and has lobbied world powers to roll them back through sanctions while hinting it could resort to pre-emptive military strikes.

Major-General Amir Eshel, head of strategic planning for the armed forces, echoed Israeli government leaders who argue that Iran, which denies wrongdoing but rejects international censure over its secretive projects, could create a “global nuclear jungle” and fuel arms races in an already volatile Middle East.

Eshel made clear that Israel – widely reputed to have the region’s only atomic arsenal – worries that Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as well as Palestinian Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza could one day find reassurance in an Iranian bomb.

“They will be more aggressive. They will dare to do things that right now they would not dare to do,” he said in a briefing to foreign journalists and diplomats.

“So this is going to create a dramatic change in Israel’s strategic posture, because if we are forced to do things in Gaza or Lebanon under an Iranian nuclear umbrella , it might be different.”

Eshel, who spoke at the conservative Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs think-tank, quoted an unnamed Indian officer who, he said, had described the Asian power’s friction with nuclear-armed rival and neighbour Pakistan in terms of self-restraint.

“When the other side has a nuclear capability and are willing to use it, you think twice,” Eshel said. “You are more restrained because you don’t want to get into that ball game.”

Israel waged offensives in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in 2006 and 2008-2009, coming under short-range rocket attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which are supported by Iran.

Eshel said there are now some 100,000 rockets and missiles that could be fired at Israel by the guerrillas, Iran and its ally Syria.

Despite seeing its resources strained by a 10-month-old popular uprising, Syria’s government has invested $2 billion in air defences over the last two years, and more on counter-measures against any ground invasion, Eshel said, linking both efforts to Syrian wariness of Israel.

He declined to be drawn on whether Israel might try to attack Iran’s distant, dispersed and well-defended nuclear facilities alone – or, conversely, whether it could decide to accept a nuclear-armed Iran as an inevitability to be contained through superior firepower and fortifications.

Those decisions, Eshel said, were up to the government and the armed forces would provide it with a “tool box” of options.

“We have the ability to hit very, very hard, any adversary,” said Eshel, a former senior air force officer and fighter pilot. But he cautioned against expecting any decisive “knock-out” blow against Israel’s enemies.

Writing by Dan Williams

Senate letter urges Obama to keep talks going


A letter is circulating among U.S. senators urging President Obama to keep the Israelis and Palestinians at the negotiating table.

The letter, initiated by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), thanks Obama for restarting direct peace talks and notes the threat to their success from what it calls “enemies of peace” Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.

The letter praises Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for sticking with the talks after Hamas terrorists killed four Israelis in the West Bank as the talks were about to be launched on Aug. 31.

“We also agree with you that it is critical that all sides stay at the table,” the letter says. “Neither side should make threats to leave just as the sides are getting started.”

The letter is dated Sept. 24, meaning it is to be sent two days before Netanyahu’s temporary freeze on some settlement building is due to expire.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to bolt the talks if the freeze is not extended. Netanyahu wants the Obama administration to press Abbas to stay.

Hezbollah leader praises Hamas for West Bank shooting attacks


Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah praised Hamas on Friday for the West Bank shooting attacks which left four Israelis dead and two injured on two consecutive days, saying “this is the way to free Jerusalem and Palestine.”

Four Israelis were killed and two injured this past week in separate shooting attacks in the West Bank. The armed wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, took responsibly for both attacks and vowed that there would be more, just as U.S.-sponsored direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were officially launched in Washington.

Speaking at a rally held in honor of Jerusalem day, in a neighborhood south of Beirut, Nasrallah criticized the Palestinian Authority for agreeing to direct negotiations with Israel.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

In the Mideast, Israel is the opium of the people


“Why aren’t you as an Arab lady writing about Gaza?”

“Where are your columns about Gaza?”

“Say the Israelis are wrong!”

The messages started to arrive soon after Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed close to 300 Palestinians. Implicit was the pressure to toe the party line: Hamas is good; Israel is bad. Say it, say it! Or else you’re not Arab enough; you’re not Muslim enough; you’re not enough.

But what to say about a conflict that for more than 60 years now has fed Arab and Israeli senses of victimhood and their respective demands to stop everything else we’re doing and pay attention to their fights, because what’s the slaughter of anyone else — be they in Darfur, Congo or anywhere else — compared to their often avoidable bloodletting?

Hasn’t it all been said before? Has nothing been learned?

And then the suicide cyclist in Iraq made me snap, and I had to write — not to take sides but to lament the moral bankruptcy that is born from the amnesia rife in the Middle East.

On Sunday, a man on a bicycle blew himself up in the middle of an anti-Israel demonstration in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The technique legitimized and blessed by clerics throughout the Arab world as a weapon against Israel had gone haywire and was used against Arabs protesting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

That twisted and morbid full circle completed on the streets of Mosul can be captured only by paraphrasing Karl Marx — Israel is the opium of the people.

What else explains the collective amnesia on display last weekend in the Middle East?

Has Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni forgotten already that just last year she was close to ousting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his handling of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, which was launched under very similar circumstances to those that preceded the bombardment of Gaza? And yet there she was making the rounds of U.S. Sunday news shows to explain why Israel had to act against the Muslim militant Hamas movement in power in Gaza.

Does Israel want to make heroes of Hamas in the way it did Hezbollah? What has been achieved from the blockade of Gaza except for the suffering of civilians, whose leaders care for them as little as Israel does?

Talking about Hezbollah and unwise leaders, has Hassan Nasrallah forgotten that while he rails against Egypt for aiding the blockade of Gaza, he lives in a country — Lebanon — that keeps generations of Palestinian refugees in camps that serve as virtual jails?

And the demonstrators in Jordan and Lebanon? Who reminds them that in 1970, Jordan killed tens of thousands as it tried to control Palestinian groups based there, forcing the Palestine Liberation Army into Lebanon, where in 1982, the Phalangist Christian Lebanese militiamen slaughtered 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps?

Not a single Phalangist has been held accountable for that massacre. An Israeli state inquiry in 1983 found Ariel Sharon, then defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killings at the refugee camps during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But don’t hold your breath for an Arab inquiry. It is Israel that gives sense to our victimhood. The horrors we visit upon each other are irrelevant.

It is difficult to criticize Palestinians when so many have died this weekend, but the Hamas rulers of Gaza are just the latest of their leaders to fail them. For those of us who long to separate religion from politics, Hamas has given the truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people. The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel.

Where was the anger when two Palestinian schoolgirls were killed in Gaza when Hamas rockets meant for Israel misfired, just a day before Israel’s bombardment?

As for the country of my birth, Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, in power for more than 27 years, has presided over a disastrous policy that on the one hand maintains a 1979 peace treaty his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, signed with Israel and on the other unleashes state-owned media fury at Israel that has fanned a near-hysterical hatred for the country among ordinary Egyptians.

Yes, Israel’s occupation of Arab land angers Egyptians, but there is absolutely no space in Egyptian media, culture or intellectual circles for discussing Israel as anything but an enemy. And neither is there an attempt to forge it.

And now Mubarak, old, tired and out of new ideas, is reaping a policy that plays all sides against each other in an attempt to make his regime indispensable.

But my question to Egyptians and others across the region incensed at Israel is where is their anger at the human rights violations, torture and oppression in their respective countries? If such large crowds turned out onto Arab capitals every week, they could’ve toppled their dictators years ago.

It is the ultimate dishonor to the memory of Palestinians killed last weekend to call for more violence. It has failed to deliver for 60 years.

We honor the dead by smashing through the region’s amnesia until we break through to the taboos and continue to smash.

Talking to Hamas? Israel should do it if it will end the violence. Focusing on internal issues in each Arab country and ignoring the opium that is Israel? Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians, et al, should do it before their respective states fail for the sake of Palestine.

Palestinians still have no state. What a shame it would be for one Arab state after the other to fail in the name of Palestine.

Mona Eltahawy is a columnist for Egypt’s Al Masry Al Youm and Qatar’s Al Arab. She is based in New York.

Israel facing grim threat assessment for 2009


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Delivering a grim threat assessment for 2009, the Israeli National Security Council (NSC) said that Israel in 2009 may well find itself alone, facing Iran on the threshold of nuclear power, fighting rocket attacks on two fronts and without a Palestinian partner for a two-state solution.

The assessment, which will be presented next month to the Israeli Cabinet, makes some far-reaching preemptive recommendations: developing a credible military option against Iran, making peace with Syria and preventing Palestinian elections, even at the cost of a collision with the United States.

The NSC foresees two possible Iran-related diplomatic developments that could hurt Israel: a U.S.-initiated dialogue leading to rapprochement between Iran, the United States and the Arab world, or the United States building a wide international coalition against Iran — for which Israel might be forced to pay a price.

To preempt these developments, the NSC urges the Israeli government to work closely with the incoming U.S. administration to mobilize the international community against Iran and to prevent an American deal with Tehran that undermines Israeli interests.

However, Israel’s various intelligence agencies appear to have differences of opinion on the Iran issue.

Military intelligence seems to have more faith in President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to stop Iran from going nuclear by using diplomacy backed by the threat of stiffer economic sanctions. Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin argues that Iran is now more vulnerable to sanctions as a result of the plummeting price of oil.

After conducting a bona fide dialogue with Tehran, Yadlin says, Obama will be in a position to build a strong international coalition for tighter sanctions if the Iranians refuse to drop their nuclear plans.

The NSC, however, is skeptical. Its members believe the only way to stop Iran will be through the threat or use of force. It maintains that Israel only has a small window of opportunity for action and urges the government to work discreetly on contingency plans, while building a realistic military option. In the NSC’s view, a nuclear Iran would constitute by far the biggest threat to Israel’s existence.

But Israel is seriously threatened, as well, by massive rocket buildups in southern Lebanon and, to a lesser extent, in the Gaza Strip. According to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Hezbollah now has approximately 42,000 rockets in Lebanon — more than three times the number it had during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Hamas, too, apparently has been using its truce with Israel to smuggle in huge quantities of weaponry into Gaza from Egypt. The NSC suggests that in the event of a provocation from Lebanon or Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces at all costs should avoid being sucked into a long war of attrition. If the IDF fails to contain the trouble quickly, it should consider launching a wide-scale operation, hitting the other side hard and bringing the fighting to an abrupt end, with as clear cut a result as possible.

The NSC sees in peace with Syria a major strategic advantage in the battle against Iran and its proxies, because peace with Syria likely would lead to peace with Lebanon and significantly weaken the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis.

For this gain, Israel should be prepared to pay the heavy price of returning the Golan Heights to Syria, the NSC says. Israel also should try to harness the incoming U.S. administration to this end, because Syria would be unlikely to come aboard without U.S. economic and diplomatic assurances. The intelligence agencies seem to be in accord on Syria, although there are differences of nuance here, too.

Yadlin says there are encouraging signs that Syrian President Bashar Assad really wants a deal with Israel, but that it would have to be on his terms: getting back the Golan and receiving the same kind of significant U.S. investment in Syria as Egypt received after it made peace with Israel in 1979.

The NSC believes that the price is worthwhile for both Israel and the United States, as long as Syria detaches itself from the Iranian axis. Yadlin, however, is not sure whether Syria really would cut its ties with Iran and pro-Iranian terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

To shore up its position against Shiite-run Iran, the NSC says Israel should strengthen its ties with moderate Sunni Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia. Israel also should stabilize and strengthen its ties with Jordan. But the NSC does not say how this or strengthening the Saudi connection could be achieved.

One of the bleaker scenarios the NSC posits for 2009 is the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is insisting on new elections for the Palestinian presidency and Parliament in January; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants to extend his term for another year without new elections.

The NSC fears that Abbas might retire from public life if he fails to get his way, possibly leading to the disintegration of the Palestinian Authority. Alternatively, Abbas could compete in the elections and lose to the fundamentalist Hamas.

Either way, chances for a negotiated two-state solution would evaporate if Abbas’ moderate-led Palestinian Authority were replaced with Hamas. Israel would be left in the West Bank without a partner to negotiate an end to the occupation.

To keep Abbas in power and the two-state solution alive, the NSC recommends that Israel prevent Palestinian elections, even at the cost of a showdown with the United States and the international community.

Whatever happens, the NSC says, Israel must continue to pressure and weaken Hamas. If the current Hamas-Israel truce in Gaza breaks down, the NSC recommends that Israel launch a wide-ranging operation to topple Hamas in Gaza. Whether that would mean reoccupying Gaza, and if so, for how long, the NSC does not say.

The NSC’s thinking is based on the assumption that Israel can do business with Abbas and moderate Palestinians but not with Hamas. But the assessment fails to address the question of whether the moderates can deliver on Israel’s security needs and whether the moderate Palestinian leadership has the grass-roots support to stay in power over time.

The NSC analysis and recommendations may not win universal Cabinet approval when presented next month, but they do show very clearly just how complex and dangerous the security issues Israel faces in 2009 will be.

Compounding the uncertainty, the big decisions of ’09 will be taken by new and untried governments in both Jerusalem and Washington.

It’s time for words to lead the peace process


It is now clear that no peace agreement, not even on principles, will be signed by the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating team before some time in 2009, after the
new American administration takes charge, the Israeli election runs its course and the fate of Mahmoud Abbas’ presidency is decided.

Analysts who have been urging the two sides to expedite matters for all the many reasons that made the window of opportunities narrower by the day are now urging them to “keep the momentum going,” lest the window, which I doubt ever existed, becomes too narrow to re-open.

But how do you keep momentum going when the two sides are locked in a fundamentally immobile stalemate?

Israel is physically unable to accommodate a sovereign neighbor a rocket range away from its vital airports, one whose youngsters openly vow to destroy it. And Palestinians, on their part, cannot change their youngsters’ vows after having nourished them for decades, especially under occupation, while Iran is promising to turn those vows into reality.

Yet there is a way. If we cannot move on the ground, we should move above it — in the metaphysical sphere of words, metaphors and paradigms — to create a movement that not only would maintain the perception of “keeping the momentum going,” but could actually be the key to any future movement on the ground.

Let us be frank: The current stalemate is ideological, not physical, and it hangs on two major contentions: “historical right” and “justice,” which must be wrestled with in words before we can expect any substantive movement on the ground.

Starting with “historical right,” we recall that a year ago, the Annapolis process was on the verge of collapse on account of two words: “Jewish state.”

In the week preceding Annapolis, Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat proclaimed, “The PA would never acknowledge Israel’s Jewish identity,” to which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reacted angrily with: “We won’t hold negotiations on our existence as a Jewish state…. Whoever does not accept this cannot hold any negotiations with me.”

Clearly, to the secular Israeli society, the insistence on a Jewish state has nothing to do with kosher food or wearing yarmulkes; it has to do with historical claims of co-ownership and legitimacy, which are prerequisites for any lasting peace, regardless of its shape. Olmert’s reaction, which is shared by the vast majority of Israelis, translates into: “Whoever refuses to tell his children that Jews are here by moral and historical imperative has no intention of honoring his agreements in the long run.”

In other words, recognizing Israel as a “Jewish state” is seen by Israelis as a litmus test for Arabs’ intentions to take peace agreements as permanent. Unfortunately, for the Arabs, the words “Jewish state” signal the legitimization of a theocratic society and the exclusion of non-Jews from co-ownership in the state.

Can these two views be reconciled?

Of course they can. If the PA agrees to recognize Israel’s “historical right” to exist (instead of just “right to exist” or “exist as a Jewish state”) fears connected with religious exclusion will not be awakened, and Israel’s demand for a proof of intention will simultaneously be satisfied: You do not teach your children of your neighbor’s “historical right” unless you intend to make the final status agreement truly final — education is an irreversible investment.

But would the PA ever agree to grant Israel such recognition?

This brings us to the second magical word: “justice.” One of the main impediments to Palestinians’ recognition of Israel’s “right to exist,” be it historical or de-facto, is their fear that such recognition would delegitimize the Arabs’ struggle against the Zionist program throughout the first half of the 20th century, thus contextualizing the entire conflict as a whimsical Arab aggression and weakening their claims to the “right of return.”

All analysts agree that Palestinians would never agree to give up, tarnish or weaken this right. They might, however, accept a symbolic recognition that would satisfy, neutralize and, perhaps, even substitute for the literal right of return.

Palestinian columnist Daoud Kuttab wrote in the Washington Post (May 12): “The basic demand is not the physical return of all refugees but for Israel to take responsibility for causing this decades-long tragedy.”

Similar to Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Palestinian refugees demand their place in history through recognition that their suffering was not a senseless dust storm but part of a man-made historical process, to which someone bears responsibility and is prepared to amend the injustice.

Journalist Uri Avnery, an Israeli peace activist and former member of the Knesset, believes that this deep sense of injustice can be satisfied through an open and frank Israeli apology.

“I believe that peace between us and the Palestinian people — a real peace, based on real conciliation — starts with an apology” he wrote in Arabic Media Internet Network, June 14 (www.amin.org).

“In my mind’s eye,” he writes, “I see the president of the state or the prime minister addressing an extraordinary session of the Knesset and making an historic speech of apology:

‘Madam Speaker, honorable Knesset,

‘On behalf of the State of Israel and all its citizens, I address today the sons and daughters of the Palestinian people, wherever they are.

‘We recognize the fact that we have committed against you a historic injustice, and we humbly ask your forgiveness.

‘The burning desire of the founding fathers of the Zionist movement was to save the Jews of Europe, where the dark clouds of hatred for the Jews were gathering. In Eastern Europe, pogroms were raging, and all over Europe there were signs of the process that would eventually lead to the terrible Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews perished.

‘All this does not justify what happened afterwards. The creation of the Jewish national home in this country has involved a profound injustice to you, the people who lived here for generations.

‘We cannot ignore anymore the fact that in the war of 1948 — which is the War of Independence for us and the Naqba for you — some 750,000 Palestinians were compelled to leave their homes and lands. As for the precise circumstances of this tragedy, I propose the establishment of a Committee for Truth and Reconciliation composed of experts from your and from our side, whose conclusions will from then on be incorporated in the schoolbooks, yours and ours.'”

Is Israeli society ready to make such an apology and assume such responsibility? Not a chance.

For an Israeli, admitting guilt for creating the refugee problem is tantamount to embedding Israel’s birth in sin, thus undermining the legitimacy of its existence and encouraging those who threaten that existence. The dominant attitude is: They started the war; wars have painful consequences; they fled on their own, despite our official calls to stay put. We are clean.

Can this attitude be reconciled with Palestinians’ demands for official recognition of their suffering? I believe it can.

Whereas Israelis refuse to assume full responsibility for the consequences of the 1948 war, they are certainly prepared to assume part of that responsibility. After all, Israelis are not unaware of stories about field commanders in the 1948 war who initiated private campaigns to scare Arab villagers and, on some occasions, to force them out.

So, how do we find words to express reciprocal responsibility? Here I take author’s liberty and, following Avnery, appeal to my mind’s eye and envision the continuation of that extraordinary Knesset session at the end of the Israeli president’s speech.

I see Abbas waiting for the applause to subside, stepping to the podium and saying:

“Madam Speaker, honorable Knesset,

“On behalf of the Palestinian people and the future state of Palestine, I address today the sons and daughters of the Jewish nation, wherever they are.

“We recognize the fact that we have committed against you a historic injustice, and we humbly ask your forgiveness.

“The burning desire of the founding fathers of the Palestinian national movement was to liberate Palestine from colonial powers, first the Ottoman empire and then the British Mandate Authorities. In their zeal to achieve independence, they have treated the creation of a Jewish national home in this country as a form of colonial occupation, rather than a homecoming endeavor of a potentially friendly neighbor, a partner to liberation, whose historical attachment to this landscape was not weaker than ours.

“We cannot ignore anymore the fact that the Great Arab Revolt of 1936-1939 has resulted in the British White Paper, which prevented thousands, if not millions, of European Jews from escaping the Nazi extermination plan. Nor can we ignore the fact that when survivors of Nazi concentration camps sought refuge in Palestine, we were instrumental in denying them safety and, when they finally established their historical homeland, we called the armies of our Arab brethren to wipe out their newly created state.

“Subsequently, for the past 60 years, in our zeal to rectify the injustice done to us, we have taught our children that only your demise can bring about the justice and liberty they so badly deserve. They took our teachings rather seriously, and some of them resorted to terror wars that killed, maimed and injured thousands of your citizens.”

Admittedly, this scenario is utopian. The idea of Palestinians apologizing to Israel is so heretical in prevailing political consciousness that only six Google entries mention such a gesture, compared with 615 entries citing “Israel must apologize.”

Yet, peace begins with ideas, and ideas are shaped by words. And the utopian scenario I painted above gives a feasible frame to reciprocal words that must be said, in one form or another, for a lasting peace to set in.

And if not now, when? Recall, we must keep the momentum going.

Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearl.org) named after his son. He and his wife, Ruth, are editors of “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl” (Jewish Lights, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Quiet ends in Sderot as rocket attacks resume


SDEROT, ISRAEL (JTA) –Elior Levy was trying to get some rest Monday night.

Living in Sderot, the working-class town on the front line of Israel’s battle with rockets from Gaza, Levy is no stranger to having his sleep interrupted by middle-of-the-night Qassam salvos. Usually a Code Red alert gives residents a 15-second warning to find shelter, but at 5 o’clock Tuesday morning, Levy heard a big crash — and this time there was no warning.

Fortunately, the rocket was not close and caused little damage. So Levy, 17, said he took a sip of water and went back to sleep. Some, particularly the town’s younger children, do not return to slumber so easily.

Residents of the hard-hit Mem-Shalosh neighborhood, on the city’s south side, had been sleeping better the last six months, due to the cease-fire with Hamas.

Until about two weeks ago, that is, when the Israeli army blew up a tunnel that Hamas was building. The army believes the tunnel was to carry out another kidnapping operation of the kind that captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still missing.

Since the army operation, the region has been hit by a daily barrage of rockets — about a dozen Monday, more than 30 the day before. Sixty have fallen on Sderot alone so far this month, according to the town’s security officer. The situation essentially is returning to what it had been for much of the past eight years.

The residents of Sderot aren’t happy, but they’re also not surprised.

“We knew it would happen,” said Hadas Nir, who lives in nearby Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and attends Sapir Academy. That’s just what life is like in this area, she said.

“We wake in the morning with Qassams,” Nir said, “and we go to bed at night with Qassams.”

The situation is frightening, but she will deal with it.

“I don’t feel I want to leave the area,” she said. “We have to stay here.”

Rotem Yagel agreed. “If we leave, it is a prize for them,” he said, referring to the Hamas terrorists.

Yagel, 28, originally from Beersheba, is living in the Ayalim student village at Yahini, a moshav a few miles south of Sderot. It is a volunteer work-study program run by the Jewish Agency for Israel that also aims to populate the Negev and Galilee regions.

Itay Avinathan, his roommate in one of the caravans erected by the student volunteers, is staying put, too, even though he said the security risk “is always there.” Avinathan, 24, of Haifa said he wouldn’t have changed his mind about joining the program this fall, even if he had known the rocket fire would resume.

But it is the effect of the rockets on the area’s young children that concerns most people. That is why many of the aid programs for Sderot, funded by the Israel Emergency Campaign of the United Jewish Communities (UJC), are aimed at the youth.

Children like Tal Schneior, a 10-year-old with two sisters and a cat, “likes living in Sderot,” she said in Hebrew, “but there are too many Qassams and Code Reds.”

Others are not taking the situation with such equanimity. A 16-year-old named Ligmor told a visiting group of UJC leaders Tuesday about a close friend whose house was once struck by a rocket. Now every time a Code Red goes off at school, the friend cries inconsolably until her father reassures her by phone that everyone in the family is fine.

David Bouskila, who was elected Sderot’s mayor last week, frets that every child born in the town during the past eight years “doesn’t know any other life than this reality.”

During the past six months of relative quiet, “everything starts to be so nice,” he said. But now that calm has been shattered.

Bouskila, who takes office Dec. 2, is critical of how the government, headed by his own Kadima Party, is handling the situation.

“In the case of security, we have no government in Israel,” he said.

The government has initiated a program to fortify houses in Sderot, beginning with one-story structures. There are 1,048 of them, and just 200 have been completed, Bouskila said, adding that he expects the entire project will be completed in two to three years.

Meanwhile, a host of social services, funded partly by businesses and partly by U.S. federation dollars, have sprung up to make the best of a difficult situation. For example, some 5,000 children in Sderot take part in the Jewish Agency’s Enrichment Fund programs, which provide extracurricular activities during the school day. Parents in Sderot want to see their children return safely home immediately after school, so activities after school are not an option.

There is also the Net@ program, a unique partnership with Cisco, a U.S. company, and Tapuach, an Israeli computer firm, to train promising high school students to be computer network technicians. Upon completion of the rigorous and competitive program, they receive certification from Cisco that makes them marketable for high-tech jobs.

The residents of Sderot deeply appreciate the support — both moral and financial — that they receive from outsiders. But they do not want to be pitied or thought of as impoverished.

“We are not a city of poor people,” Bouskila told the visiting UJC delegation that had come from the group’s General Assembly taking place this week in Jerusalem. “We are a proud people that live in terrible stress.”

Tzipi Livni wins Kadima contest — now the real work begins


JERUSALEM (JTA) – With her decisive win in the Kadima party primary on Wednesday, Tzipi Livni’s next major task will be assembling a coalition government so she can become prime minister.

Then all she’ll have on her plate is figuring out how to arrest the threat to Israel from Iran, resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a historic peace deal, neutralize the threat on Israel’s northern border from Hezbollah and run the country.

If she ever gets to it.

The immediate challenge faced by Livni, until now the foreign minister, is piecing together a coalition that will hold without pulling her government in too many different directions. If she fails, Israel will be headed for new general elections.

In Wednesday’s vote at 114 polling stations around the country, about 50 percent of Kadima’s 74,000 members voted for party leader – relatively low turnout by Israeli standards. Even so, Livni complained of “congestion” at polling stations and argued for an extension of voting time by an hour. In a compromise, Kadima decided to extend voting by 30 minutes.

Exit polls showed Livni won about 48 percent of the vote, beating out her primary rival, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, by at least 10 points and avoiding a runoff by surpassing the 40 percent threshold. The two other contenders in the primary, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, garnered an estimated 7 percent each.

Livni’s victory is historic in several respects. She won the first-ever primary held by Kadima, the three-year old political party founded by Ariel Sharon. Her election also brings an end to the Olmert era, though Ehud Olmert will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a coalition is assembled.

And once she puts together a coalition, Livni will become Israel’s second female prime minister, following Golda Meir.

Livni will have 42 days to form a government. She has made it clear that she wants to base her new government on the existing coalition – Kadima, Labor, Shas and the Pensioners party — with the possible addition of other parties like Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu on the right, Meretz from the left and the fervently Orthodox Torah Judaism party.

Livni wants to limit the current transition period, which she sees as a potentially unhealthy period of two-headed government. Olmert will continue as acting prime minister until Livni forms a new government.

Kadima leaders argue that there already is a functioning government and there is no reason it shouldn’t continue its work. They maintain that all the Labor party asked Kadima to do was change its leader, and, now that Kadima has done that, continuing with the present coalition shouldn’t be a problem.

But Livni’s main coalition partners have no intention of giving her an easy ride. Labor argues that a prime minister effectively elected by only 18,000-20,000 Israelis has no legitimacy and that the Israeli people as a whole should be allowed to have their say in new elections.

Shas is also threatening new elections unless Livni meets its demands for more generous child allowances and a pledge to keep Jerusalem off the negotiating agenda with the Palestinians.

If Livni fails to form a coalition, there could be an election as early as next spring. If she succeeds, she could govern for a year or two before going into a new election with the incumbency advantage.

During the campaign, Livni gave a slew of interviews in which she spelled out her priorities:

  • Moving ahead on the Palestinian track: Over the past few months, she and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia have been drafting a full-fledged Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Both sides say that although they have made progress, closing the wide gaps that still exist will take time.

    Once Livni is installed as prime minister, one key issue will become more difficult to resolve: refugees. Livni has repeatedly said that she will not agree to any resettlement in Israel proper of Palestinian refugees, because allowing just one Palestinian refugee in would chip away at Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state.

    Livni might ease conditions on the ground by dismantling illegal settler outposts in the West Bank, which successive Israeli prime ministers have failed to do. She argues that any government she heads will assert the rule of law.

    As for Gaza, Livni warns that she will consider a large-scale ground offensive if Hamas uses the current truce to smuggle in huge quantities of arms.

  • Ascertaining the seriousness of the Syrian track: Ever since Israel and Syria started conducting new peace feelers through Turkish auspices in January 2007, Livni has not been in the loop. She has argued that by going public with the talks, Israel has given Syria a degree of international legitimacy without getting very much in return.

    Livni will want to see for herself whether Syrian President Bashar Asad is ready for a peace with Israel that entails a significant downgrading of his relations with Iran.

  • Dealing quietly with the Iranian nuclear threat: Livni says as far as Israel is concerned “all options are on the table” and that to say any more would be irresponsible. But she has intimated in the past that Israel could live with a nuclear Iran by establishing a very clear deterrent balance.
  • Introducing a new style of cleaner government: Livni, who won the leadership race at least partly because of her squeaky clean image, will want to signal early on that she intends to introduce a new style of governing. Livni will want to clean up party politics by breaking the power of the Kadima vote contractors who drafted people en masse to vote for a particular candidate. One idea is to set a minimum membership period — say, 18 months — before party members get voting rights.

By electing Livni, Kadima voters seemed to be saying enough of the generals at the top, and enough of wheeler-dealer politics. Livni, dubbed Mrs. Clean, is seen as a straight-thinking, scandal-free civilian clearly out to promote Israel’s best interests.

She has a full agenda, a chance to change the tenor of Israel politics and to make historic moves vis-a-vis the Palestinians and Syria.

But first she will have to put together a viable coalition.

Get out of jail free


Lebanon prisoner swap deal — morale issue forces a hard choice


The existential reality of an Israeli context, where governmental decisions often have a life and death valence, has been brought home to millions of people these past fewweeks, as the Israeli Cabinet made the agonizing decision to authorize the release of the murderer Samir Kuntar, four other live Lebanese prisoners and the bodies of dozens of Arab infiltrators and terrorists to Hezbollah in exchange for the bodies of abducted Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

The weight of responsibility placed upon the government and Cabinet in this instance — as in so many others — was surely awesome. While many have conceded that the decision of the Israeli government to allow this exchange was immeasurably painful, albeit necessary, others have been extremely critical of the governmental judgment to go ahead with this terribly imbalanced swap.

This decision involved no easy choice. However, as so many of us struggle with our thoughts and feelings as we reflect upon the action that Israel took in this episode, it is instructive to remember that this is not the first time Israel has unfortunately confronted this issue.

In 1985, the Jewish state faced the same heartbreaking and excruciating question. Israel had to decide whether to return 1,150 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners for the release of three Israeli soldiers. While the exchange never took place and the fate of the three Israeli POWs is still unknown, two prominent Israeli rabbis — Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Haim David Halevi — addressed the issue directly at that time. Their words then have resonance and meaning today, as they provide important perspectives for reflecting upon the policy position the Israeli government adopted on this painful matter involving life and death.

Goren served as chief Ashkenazic rabbi of Israel and was formerly chief rabbi of the IDF, while Halevi was the chief Sephardic rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Goren, in an article written on May 31, 1985, was straightforward in his response to this question. He stated that Jewish law absolutely forbade the Israeli government from redeeming “our captive soldiers in exchange for 1,150 terrorists” and based his ruling on a talmudic passage in Gittin 45a that stated, “Captives should not be redeemed for more than their value.” Goren emphasized his great distress at the personal plight of these captives — they were surely in “mortal danger.”

However, he still insisted that the state should not redeem them as such redemption in exchange for the release of known terrorists bent on the destruction of Israel and its Jewish population would surely imperil all Israeli citizenry and only fuel Arab attempts to capture more Jews in the future. The price exacted from Israel through the release of these terrorists was simply too steep for the state to afford.

Halevi responded to Goren soon after the article appeared. He was sympathetic to the position his Ashkenazic colleague had advanced in his piece. However, Halevi disagreed about the relevance of applying the Gittin passage to the contemporary situation.

In his view, the conditions that existed in a modern Jewish state were completely different from those that confronted the Jewish community in premodern times. The Jewish people were now sovereign in their land, and the “political-national” aims that motivated the terrorists “to wreak havoc among the Jewish people” would continue, regardless of whether their prisoners were released in exchange for Israeli soldiers. Indeed, these terrorists would persist in their cruel efforts until a solution to the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict was achieved.

The “impossible choice” before the government was whether to “strengthen the power of the terrorists through the release of their comrades or to strengthen the morale of IDF soldiers should there be future wars.” Faced with these two options, Halevi felt that priority had to be assigned the latter one — the Israeli government should do all in its power to uphold the morale of the IDF soldiers.

If a soldier knew that the government would spare no effort or expense to liberate a captured soldier, then the soldier might well fight more fearlessly in battle. On the other hand, if the soldier knew that his release from captivity did not possess the highest governmental priority and that the government would not act upon that priority, then the soldier might well retreat at a crucial wartime moment so as to avoid risking capture as a prisoner of war. In a moral universe where alternatives were limited, Halevi felt this choice was the wisest one the government could make.

In responding in this way to the existential reality of life and death choices faced by the State of Israel then, Halevi enunciated a position that provides the rationale for the decision the government of the State of Israel has made on the issue of prisoner exchange.

It is surely a policy fraught with danger. At the same time, it appears to be one that continues to legitimately guide Israel as the Jewish state continues to support its citizen-soldiers as they all too often confront an enemy bent on its destruction.

Rabbi David Ellenson is president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.<BR>

Candles in the wind


Obama sounds both hawkish and dovish themes in Israel, Jordan


SDEROT, Israel (JTA)—During his stops in Jordan and Israel, presidential contender Barack Obama stressed both his backing for tough Israeli security measures and his commitment to advancing the peace process.

In meetings with several Israeli leaders Wednesday, Obama reaffirmed his commitment to Israel’s struggle against terrorism and other violent threats, including Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“I don’t think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on its citizens,” Obama said during a stop Wednesday at the police station in Sderot, the Israeli city that has been deluged by rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

“If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it, and I encourage Israel to do same,” addded the U.S. senator from Illinois, speaking in front of shelves filled with mangled Kassam rockets fired by Palestinian militants.

Obama’s trip comes as his presidential campaign has stepped up its outreach efforts to Jewish voters, and as it tries to shore up the presumptive Democratic candidate’s image with the general public as a potential commander in chief.

Over the past few weeks the Obama campaign has set up Jewish outreach committees in various cities, many with the help of Jewish lawmakers who either backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for president or stayed neutral in the Democratic primary campaign.

This week’s trip also presented Palestinian officials and several Israeli politicians who aspire to succeed Ehud Olmert as prime minister with an opportunity to forge a relationship with a possible future U.S. president—not a small thing in a country where voters place a high premium on strong ties with the United States.

In addition to discussing security issues in his meetings with Israeli leaders, Obama also talked about negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. On Tuesday in Jordan, Obama said that as president he would begin working on an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal from his first day in office.

“There’s a tendency for each side to focus on the faults of the other rather than look in the mirror,” Obama told reporters in Amman before heading to Israel and the West Bank. “The Israeli government is unsettled, the Palestinians are divided between Fatah and Hamas, and so it’s difficult for either side to make the bold move that would bring about peace.

“My goal is to make sure that we work, starting from the minute I’m sworn into office, to try to find some breakthroughs,” he said.

In Jerusalem the next day, Obama met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he donned a white kipah and penned an entry in the visitors’ book.

“At a time of great peril and torment, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world,” Obama wrote.

The Democratic candidate then went to Ramallah to meet with Palestinain Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. P.A. officials said Abbas briefed Obama on progress in the peace process. Obama was slated to meet later in the day with Olmert.

Israeli sources said Obama’s discussions with Barak turned to the recent launch of Turkish-mediated negotiations between Israel and Syria.

Obama, according to one source, described the efforts to achieve peace as important, but said that as president “he would never put pressure on Israel to take steps that could put its security at risk.”

The senator apparently was referring to Syria’s demand for a full return of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed.

As for Iran, Obama described the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program as “the most important challenge facing the international community right now,” Israeli sources said, adding that it would top the agenda of Obama’s meetings later this week with the leaders of Germany, France and Britain.

Obama drew criticism from the Republican Jewish Coalition and some conservative bloggers over some of the comments he made in Jordan.

Terrorism, Obama said, is “counterproductive, as well as being immoral, because it makes, I believe, the Israelis want to dig in and simply think about their own security regardless of what’s going on beyond their borders.”

Obama immediately added that “the same would be true of any people when these kinds of things happen and innocent people are injured.”

“On the other hand, I think that the Palestinians have to feel some sense of progress in terms of their economic situation, you know, whether it’s on the West Bank or Gaza, if people continually feel pressed, where they can’t get to their job or they can’t make a living, they get frustrated,” Obama said. “It’s hard for them if they see no glimmer of hope to then want to take a leap in order to make impressions.”

In response to the comments, the RJC issued a statement criticizing Obama for what the organization described as “asking Israelis and the American Jewish community to put terrorism in context.”

Ira Forman, the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, responded with his own criticism of the RJC.

“I can only imagine that the head of the RJC put on one of those hats with horns on it that Shamans might wear,” Forman said. “Then they must have proceeded to whip themselves into a fury dancing around a fire pit stoked with acacia wood. Then by pouring the blood of a red newt over the Obama statement and reading the statement by the light of the acacia fire, they could somehow divine an anti-Israel message out of what appears, to everybody else, to be a pro-Israel statement.”

Obama press conference in Sderot

 

U.S. Jews mourn soldiers, pledge to fight for Shalit’s return


NEW YORK (JTA) — At the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School here, Rabbi Dov Linzer decided Wednesday that it would be inappropriate to start the day like any other given the news that the two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah in July 2006 were returned to Israel deceased.

Instead, Linzer passed around several media reports about the return of Israeli reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, effected in exchange for five Lebanese and the remains of some 200 Arab fighters.

The morning’s discussion eventually turned to the ethics of the exchange — a debate that has raged in Israel in recent weeks as the country has wrestled with the appropriateness of trading live terrorists for dead Israelis.

“Everybody really was struggling with it,” Linzer told JTA. “It wasn’t a black-and-white issue, even if people came out on one side or the other.”

The plight of Israel’s captive soldiers has galvanized the American Jewish community in ways that few Israel-related issues have in recent years. While the merits of the exchange were debated passionately at Chovevei and elsewhere Wednesday, Jewish groups that had worked for the soldiers’ release made no mention of the controversy surrounding their return.

Instead they expressed sympathy for the pain of the families, recognition of Israel’s difficult moral choices and a commitment to work toward the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in the summer of 2006 just a few days before Hezbollah’s attack.

“As we mourn Ehud and Eldad, let us redouble our efforts to seek the safe return of Gilad Shalit to his family,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, the executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, wrote in an e-mail message. “The blue bracelet with the names of all three soldiers will stay on my wrist until that blessed day comes. And let us keep all the other captive soldiers — Guy Hever, Zachary Baumel, Tzvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz, Ron Arad, Majdy Halabi — in our thoughts and prayers.”

Since their capture in cross-border raids two years ago, Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev have inspired broad action by American Jews. More than a dozen groups dedicated to securing their release were created on the popular social networking Web site Facebook, a rally for their release was held at the United Nations and a petition sent to the U.N. secretary-general garnered 150,000 signatures.

Concern for the three MIAs reached the highest echelons of the U.S. Congress, where House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) emerged as arguably the most vocal Washington lawmaker on the issue.



Last September, when I

Video headlines from Israel: 2008-07-11 — Did Olmert double-bill? Shalit talks continue


Video headlines from Israel: 2008-07-11—Did Olmert double-bill? Shalit talks continue

Briefs: Some West Bank settlers would agree to leave, Israel OKs Palestinian police stations


Some West Bank Settlers Would Leave If Offered Government Support, Poll Finds

Approximately one in five Israelis living east of the West Bank security fence would leave if offered government support, a poll found. According to an internal government study, whose results were leaked Tuesday to Yediot Achronot, approximately 15,000 of the 70,000 settlers whose communities are not taken in by the fence would accept voluntary relocation packages.

The poll was conducted at the behest of Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon and Minister Ami Ayalon, who want Israel to group settlers within the fence on the assumption that it will serve as the de facto border with a future Palestinian state. The newspaper did not provide details on how many people were polled or the margin of error.

Israel’s failure to satisfactorily rehabilitate many of the 8,000 Jews it removed from the Gaza Strip in 2005 has raised speculation that West Bank settlers would think twice about accepting government relocation offers.

Israel OKs Reopening of 20 Palestinian Police Stations in West Bank

Israel will allow the reopening of 20 West Bank police stations under Palestinian control. The stations will have a staff of approximately 500 and are located in a zone under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control. This is the first time Israel has permitted such a move since 2001. It is part of commitments made last week by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to ease the lives of ordinary Palestinians.

“This aims to enhance security and impose law and order under the Abbas security plan,” Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Ministry, told Reuters.

Al Qaeda Assails Hamas’ Purported Willingness to Support Peace Accord

Al Qaeda came out against Hamas’ purported willingness to support a future Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued a statement on the Internet Tuesday attacking the Palestinian Islamist group after its leaders told former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that they could support a future peace accord if it passes a Palestinian referendum.

“As for peace agreements with Israel, they spoke of putting it to a referendum, despite considering it a breach of shariah,” Zawahiri said, referring to Muslim law. “How can they put a matter that violates shariah to a referendum?”

Hamas has made clear, however, that it would continue in its refusal to recognize the Jewish state, no matter what peace terms Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reaches with the Israelis. The referendum demanded by Hamas also would have to include millions of “exiled” Palestinians, many of them radicalized refugees, making it a nonstarter in terms of logistics and of the possibility of endorsing a vision of two-state coexistence.

Rising Anti-Semitism in Muslim Countries Fueling Hostility to Israel, Study Finds

Official anti-Semitism is on the rise in Muslim countries of the Middle East, fueling long-term hostility to Israel, a study found. Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center published a study this week arguing that in Iran and Arab states — even those that have recognized the Jewish state — officially sanctioned statements of anti-Semitism with a Muslim slant are increasing, often as a means of diverting internal dissent from the government.

One salient example is Holocaust denial twinned with allegations that Israel is practicing a “real” holocaust against the Palestinians. Anti-Semitism tends to rise in parallel to progress in diplomatic rapprochement between Arab regimes and Israel, calling into question the long-term efficacy of such accords.

The study singled out Iran as a country whose anti-Semitism poses a potential threat to Israel’s existence, given Tehran’s supposed nuclear program.

“Anti-Semitism supported by a state, which publicly adheres to a policy of genocide and is making efforts to arm itself with nonconventional weapons which will enable it to carry out that policy, is unprecedented since Nazi Germany,” the study said.

IDF Investigating Cameraman’s Death

Israel announced an investigation into the killing of a Reuters cameraman by its forces in the Gaza Strip. Following calls for a probe by Reuters and international watchdog groups, the Israeli military said Sunday it was gathering information to determine the circumstances behind the death of Fadel Shana.

Shana was killed while filming a central Gaza combat zone, and film from his camera showed an Israeli tank firing in his direction. An autopsy revealed that he had been hit by a kind of dart used in Israeli shells.

Some critics have suggested the tank crew targeted Shana, although it knew he was a journalist. The Israeli military rejected this.

“The IDF wishes to emphasize that unlike terrorist organizations, not only does it not deliberately target uninvolved civilians, it also uses means to avoid such incidents,” the IDF said in a statement. “Reports claiming the opposite are false and misleading.”

Israel Foils Two Hamas Border Attacks

Israeli forces foiled a massive Palestinian assault on a key Gaza Strip border crossing. Using an armored car and two explosives-laden jeeps painted to resemble Israeli military vehicles, Hamas terrorists rammed the Kerem Shalom border terminal before dawn last Saturday. Israeli soldiers at first responded with small-arms fire, but took cover as the jeeps were blown up by their drivers.

In parallel, another Hamas armored car tried to smash through the Gaza-Israel border fence north of Kerem Shalom but was destroyed by tank fire. Thirteen soldiers were wounded in the Kerem Shalom incident, and four Hamas gunmen were killed.

Israel’s top brass said Hamas had been denied its objective of killing a large number of troops and abducting others in a blow to the Jewish state’s morale on Passover eve. Six Hamas gunmen and another Palestinian were killed in later Israeli air strikes in Gaza.

Israel Upgrades Dress Code for Official Meetings

A more formal dress code is being adopted in the halls of Israel’s government. Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel sent ministers and other top Israeli officials an advisory that following the Passover vacation, they will be expected to dress formally at government-level meetings, Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday.

Israel’s new reality


The death of Ronnie Yahia, 47, an instructor at the Sapir College for Liberal Arts in Ashkelon and a father of four, was a bitter reminder of the threat Israel is facing on its 60th anniversary.

It is the same reminder the Israeli army faced in Southern Lebanon in July 2006 during the tragic Second Lebanon War. And perhaps the same one it first identified in January 2002, when Karine-A, a ship loaded with 50 tons of bullets, missiles and mines, was caught in the Red Sea, consolidating the long-suspected link between the (Shiite) Islamic Republic of Iran and (Sunni) terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian Authority. The lesson has become clear: Israel is no longer dealing with a localized Palestinian threat seeking to plant bombs in the heart of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is immersed in a larger battle against fundamentalist Islam, which ironically bridges inter-Islamic differences in an effort to destroy the Jewish State.

The agenda linking Hassan Nasrallah, the Shiite leader of Lebanese Hezbollah; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Shiite Iranian president; and Ismail Heniyeh, the Sunni leader of Hamas and the de facto prime minister of the Gaza Strip is simple: remove the “cancerous cell” called the State of Israel from the Middle East. Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah have reiterated this message out loud; Heniyeh’s Hamas Constitution explicitly calls for this objective. The goal is self-evident. As for the means, anything is legitimate.

From Israel’s perspective, the implications are defending itself at any price, as costly and as tragic as it may be. The reality Israelis face today is unheard of according to any Western standards. In the northern front, 1 million Israelis were displaced in the Second Lebanon War from Haifa and above, due to an incessant rain of missiles emerging from Hezbollah outposts in Southern Lebanon. With an average of 150 missiles a day falling on its citizens for more than a month, Israel had no choice but to target the very villages in which Hezbollah was hiding, taking refuge among civilians. In the Southern front, the citizens of Sderot and the Western Negev have been living under the Qassam missile attacks for the past seven years. The Qassams, coming from the heart of the Gaza Strip, have forced the Israeli government to be brutal again and target the leaders of Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the Strip. How would you have reacted if San Francisco and Boston were being hit on a daily basis with an average of 50 missiles a day?

As an Israeli citizen and an ex-soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, the Second Lebanon war opened my eyes to the new reality Israel is facing. The reality of fundamentalist Islam, in the heart of which the Jewish state is physically located, has several implications. Whereas the Israeli government has not yet formally acknowledged these implications, I believe the day will soon come when it does. The major implication is that the days of the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” are over. Questions such as the refugee right of return and the fate of Jerusalem have lost, in my view, their immediate relevance to the Israeli security problem. As we say in the Israeli intelligence community, it is not that these questions are not important; they are simply less urgent. Resolving the Palestinian conflict by withdrawing from the West Bank, for example, seems a negligible issue compared with the other threats Israel is facing. Terminating the “occupation” of the West Bank (as Israel did in Gaza in 2005) is not going to change the magnitude of the threat we are dealing with, neither on the Sunni nor on the Shiite front. I contend that the Palestinian issue has long ceased being the “fuel” of the conflict; the Sunni Wahabis and the Shiite revolutionaries will not suffice with the end of the “Palestinian occupation.” They will not suffice until they see the end of Israel itself.

Israel has acknowledged its need to withdraw from Arab territory. Its possession of Arab territory has never been out of sheer pleasure or entertainment, but out of cost-efficient security considerations. Its withdrawal from the 20-mile “Security Belt” in Southern Lebanon in May 2000 proved counter-productive. It brought Hezbollah 20 miles closer to our northern borders. Its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 was fatal. With long-range missiles, neither the residents of Sderot, not Ashkelon, nor my parents in Tel Aviv, can sleep peacefully at night.

The threat on the State of Israel (which is smaller in size than New Jersey) will continue to grow as countries like Syria and Iran increase their missile capabilities. Israel is not going to respond by asking for anyone’s help. Out of no-choice, it will rely on itself, and solely on itself. The price is going to be high on both sides. The solutions for the new threats are no longer so clear.

Shira Kaplan is a Harvard student. She is currently completing her thesis on Iran’s crisis behavior in the post-revolutionary era. She served in the Israel Defense Forces for two years before coming to Harvard.

Israel booming but helicopters may be an omen of trouble ahead


On a recent morning, as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ratcheted up warnings that Israel was preparing to launch a major operation in the Gaza Strip, I stand on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) lookout a few hundred yards from Gaza, as two dark Apache helicopters swoop down and fire on a nearby hill.

The helicopters let loose an intense barrage, dispatch their flares, bank sharply and return to attack again. Lt. Col. David Benjamin, the former IDF legal adviser in Gaza, suggests we leave the lookout and move behind a nearby rock. Meanwhile, IDF jeeps race across the path alongside the border fence in front of us.

Benjamin explains that these actions occur on a daily basis up and down the border. Just as the IDF works constantly to keep a small patch within Gaza clear of terrorists, so, too, Hamas makes efforts every day to get through, over or under the fence — and to engage the IDF. Hamas’ success rate has been minimal, he says, and their casualties significant, “but they’re still coming, still trying, every day.”

The key issue, Benjamin emphasizes, is Gaza’s border with Egypt.

“We patrol our land border, and our Navy patrols the sea border,” he says, “but the Hamas weapons are smuggled in under the border with Egypt.”

Benjamin notes that he drafted some of the legal paperwork that effected the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza two summers ago. “I told my commander when I handed him the documents that we were making history. He said, ‘Don’t be so sure — we might be back.'”

Nearby in Sderot, kids play outside during a teachers strike, even though Qassam rockets strike in or near the city every day. As Sderot suffers from the barrage and the flight of thousands of residents, Vice Mayor Aron Malka tells me that crime is at an all-time low and going down.

The community coming together in time of stress, I ask?

“No,” he says, “the Bedouins have disappeared” because of the Qassams.

Living in Sderot is “like being in a prison of life,” Malka says.

He smiles just a bit when told that artwork from the traumatized children of Sderot is touring venues in Los Angeles.

“That gives us hope,” he says. “The Jews will learn of Sderot, and it will give us the strength to stay.” Malka was born in Sderot 42 years ago, and he and his family are clearly staying, despite not having a shelter in their house.

Up north, white U.N. helicopters patrol what is supposed to be the Hezbollah-free area north of the Israeli border to the Litani River. Retired Col. Kobi Marom, former commander of IDF forces in the north, points to a helicopter hovering over a Lebanese road that his convoy used to transit regularly.

“Once a man stopped at my truck,” he says. “I was going to check him out, but before I could open the door, he exploded on my truck.” Marmon and his reinforced command vehicle survived; an officer in the vehicle behind him died.

Metulla, which sits as close to Lebanon as West Hollywood sits to Beverly Hills, reflects none of the scars of last year’s battle. The main streets and malls of Kiryat Shmona, likewise, have been repaired, and everyday life has returned. When I visited this area during the war last summer, I heard the pounding of IDF ordnance flying into Lebanon; this year I hear the sounds of commerce and traffic.

Yet Marom points north and shakes his head.

“They will try attacking IDF patrols again, soon,” he says of Hezbollah. “Nothing is more important to them than showing that they can fight Israel.”

On the outskirts of Kiryat Shmona, we stop at a memorial to 73 soldiers killed in the crash of two troop transport helicopters 10 years ago.

“I was the commanding officer, and I was here within five minutes,” Marom says, “but there was no one to save.”

My driver, Roni, looks at the memorial and does a double-take.

“My son was born the night of the crash,” he explains. “We celebrated his birth, and then one hour later news of the helicopter crash came on the TV. I saw the name ‘Shai’ twice — there were two soldiers named ‘Shai.’ It just clicked — we named our son Noam Shai.”

After a while, Roni looks at me.

“There’s so much meaning here,” he reflects. “Or maybe you just create meaning to keep yourself here.”

Israel is booming. Ben-Gurion Airport is on track for a record year. Entrepreneurs and foreign investment are flooding the zone. Hotel rooms are a precious commodity. On my recent visit I saw more construction cranes (more investment) and fewer shomerim at restaurants (less fear of suicide bombers) than ever before. And yet I flew home with the feeling that, one day soon, helicopters will again create meaning in Israel.



Jack Weiss is a member of the Los Angeles City Council.

Danoch makes historic TV outreach to Iranians in Iran


Los Angeles’ Israeli Consul-General Ehud Danoch made history on Sunday, Sept. 2, by becoming the first Israeli official in more than 25 years to directly address the people of Iran via live television.

Danoch appeared on “Roundtable With You,” a Persian-language call-in program that features interviews with newsmakers and personalities in the news. The show is broadcast by the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, D.C. It airs nightly to an audience of about 20 million to 25 million viewers in Iran and worldwide.

“By having this interview with the Voice of America by satellite, which no one can stop, maybe the moderate people in Iran will understand that we extend our hand in peace to all of our neighbors and them in Iran,” Danoch said, in an interview. “I wanted to make it clear that we in Israel distinguish between the people of Iran and the regime’s leaders.”

The program featuring Danoch was also simulcast on VOA’s Persian-language satellite radio program and on its Web site through streaming video.

The VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news and educational programming every week to more than 115 million people worldwide in various languages. VOA broadcasts six hours of Persian television each day, and among international broadcasters, it has the largest combined radio and television audience.

“Roundtable” host Bijan Farhoodi said he was impressed with the tremendous response from Iranian viewers generated by Danoch’s appearance.

“I think Mr. Danoch came across very professionally, and his message of peace coming from an Israeli official really resonated with the viewers in Iran, who called and e-mailed in positive things about Israel,” said Farhoodi, a 27-year veteran journalist.

During the hourlong broadcast, Farhoodi covered a wide range of topics, including Iran’s support for the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups, Holocaust denial statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as the Iranian government’s escalating calls for Israel’s destruction.

Several viewers’ e-mails read on the air expressed sympathy for Israelis, as well as concern over the Iranian government’s efforts to provoke Israel and the United States into war.

Danoch also fielded hostile questions, with one pro-Ahmadinejad caller asking why “Germany and Europe have not given land to the Jews for causing the Holocaust.”

“We make our show very objective and cover all sides of the issues, because our viewers in Iran really rely on us to give fair news, since the other Persian-language satellite programs in the U.S. are only spouting hate for the regime,” Farhoodi said. “You also have to realize that some people in Iran are terrified to openly speak in favor of Israel for fear of [what] the government might do to them.”

Danoch’s appearance on the VOA program is part of an ongoing strategy by the Israeli consulate to reach local and U.S.-based Iranian Muslim-owned, Persian-language news outlets that broadcast to Iran. The consulate’s goal is to help change the hearts and minds of average Iranians who are being indoctrinated with hate for Israel through anti-Israel propaganda put out by Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime, Danoch said.

“My message to the people of Iran was that we want to live in peace and prosperity with them,” he said. “I cannot comprehend how such good and talented people, such a civilization, is being held hostage by a regime which is completely the opposite of these people.”

The Israeli consulate has held a series of informational meetings and press conferences since August 2006 for local Persian-language media outlets to educate its journalists about Israel. The consulate is also hoping to learn more about the current sentiments of the Iranian people.

The L.A. consulate has not been alone in its efforts to win support for Israel among Iranians worldwide. In July, the Israeli Foreign Ministry officially launched its Persian-language Web site, Hamdami. The site provides news of Iranian government activities and educates Iranians about Israel.

In addition, the site allows for an interactive dialogue between average Iranians in Iran and Israeli officials, as well as information on the Shoah in response to Ahmadinejad’s repeated statements denying the Holocaust.

Last month, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman answered questions from listeners in Iran during a live broadcast by Israel Radio’s Persian-language news segment. The show has become a popular satellite radio program for Iranians living in Iran who seek more objective news.

While his term in Los Angeles ends next month, Danoch said his successor most likely will continue outreach to local Persian-language news outlets.

Bush flirts with peace talks but won’t commit to Palestinians


The rug that Syrian President Bashar pulled out from under his widely reported but vaguely defined peace offensive last week was a Persian weave.

He had been talking for months about unconditionally resuming negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights, and it seemed like Israel, under American pressure, was the disinterested party. Then roles were quickly reversed in a week filled with feints and false starts, but so far there’s been more motion than movement.

President George W. Bush kicked off the week by reaffirming his vision of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it was widely seen as an attempt to divert attention from his debacle in Iraq rather than a commitment to sustained diplomacy.

That view was reinforced by a White House mailing to Jewish leaders recommending an article by historian Michael Oren quoting Israeli officials as satisfied “there were no changes in Bush’s policies.”

White House aides also quickly shot down any notion that the “international meeting” Bush announced would be a peace conference. Just a meeting, they said, chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Bush may not even show up. And don’t look for many Arab leaders to be there, either. The price of admission will be recognition of Israel, Bush said. That leaves out all those who should be there, like Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Iraq.

That’s right, Iraq. Bush’s icon of Arab democracy where leaders have repeatedly denounced the Zionist enemy and have no more interest in peace than that other benefactor of Bush’s democracy crusade — Hamas.

Assad’s shift hardly seemed coincidental, coming on the eve of a visit by his Iranian benefactor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to a London-based Arabic newspaper, Ahmadinejad signed a strategic agreement with Syria promising increased military, political and economic assistance conditioned on a refusal to make peace with Israel.

To press his point, Ahmadinejad also met in Damascus with leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups, encouraging them to unite in armed struggle against Israel, and he pledged Iran’s support.

Reversing his recent rhetoric, Assad announced he would resume talks with Israel only through a third party and only with advance written Israeli “guarantees” to meet all his demands, including a full return of the Golan Heights.

That came on the heels of a tactical shift by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who after months of dodging Assad’s probes, told Al-Arabiya television last week that he is ready for direct talks without preconditions.

Olmert had been under pressure from Washington to rebuff Assad’s peace feelers on the assumption the Syrian leader was just trying to deflect American pressure to stop aiding the Iraqi insurgents. As a condition for talks, Olmert had demanded Assad withdraw his backing for Hezbollah, Hamas and other anti-Israel Islamic extremist groups prior to any talks.

American sanctions have had little impact on Assad’s behavior, and the Syrian dictator apparently concluded threats of military action were a bluff in light of American problems in Iraq and Israel’s poor performance against Hezbollah in Lebanon last year.

Iran, according to Israeli analysts, has been trying to raise regional tensions by telling Assad that Israel is planning a war against Syria to block Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon and to erase last year’s failures. Ahmadinejad’s real goal may be to discourage American or Israeli attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, they say.

The other prominent visitor to the region this week, with a totally opposite agenda, is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the new Middle East envoy for the Quartet (United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia). His assignment is to help the Palestinians rebuild their institutions and economy, but he’d like to expand that and be an active peace negotiator as well.

That’s not what President Bush had in mind when he outsourced Middle East diplomacy to his old friend and loyal Iraq war partner. Blair has been a longtime advocate of accelerating the peace process and has the backing of three quarters of the Quartet.

His greatest obstacle might be Rice, who doesn’t want him treading on her turf. She’s made it clear that he should stick to his official mandate. That’s the way Ehud Olmert wants it, too; he’s no more ready than the Americans for the final status negotiations that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants.

But it’s more than just territorial for Rice; her boss likes to talk about peace but has been unwilling to do the heavy lifting needed to get negotiations off the ground.

Initially he didn’t want to be seen following the failed footsteps of his predecessors –Poppy and Bill Clinton — but Iraq overtook that. Bush paid lip service to Middle East peace because the Arabs, his allies and the Baker-Hamilton Commission said showing movement on that front was essential to convincing others to help rescue him from his Iraq morass.

Bush will hear that again this week when Jordanian King Abdullah II comes to the White House to tell him he’s not moving aggressively enough on the Palestinian front. The president will assure his royal visitor of his sincere desire for peace, but the reality is Bush’s desire to be the father of Palestinian statehood hasn’t gone beyond the flirtation stage. Wishes don’t beget results.

From Damascus to Jerusalem to Ramallah to Washington, these days of summer sizzle are looking like a time of peace fizzle.

Douglas M. Bloomfield, a former staff member of AIPAC, writes about the Mideast and politics of Jewish life in America.

Iran pulling strings to create Mideast turmoil


What do all the current threats facing the Middle East — the Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah’s bid for power in Lebanon, political turmoil in Iraq and imminent nu- clear weapons in the hands of a radical dictatorship — all have in common? Answer: Iran.

While these issues all have their local roots, they are also linked by Tehran’s drive for regional hegemony. Iran’s strategy has basically been in place since the 1979 Islamist revolution, but it has only recently begun to pay off. The often-stated goal of the revolution was to turn Iran into a utopian Islamist society and then to spread this revolution throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world in general.

While all Iranian leaders voice basic support for this program, the country has often been cautious in pursuing it, especially given the long war with Iraq in the 1980s and the possibility of Western opposition. But now a number of events have given the regime renewed confidence, and the extreme line taken by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also produced more daring and, thus, both reckless and violent behavior.

Iran tries to extend its influence in three ways: through propaganda and incitement, by promoting client groups and projecting the state’s own power. Today, Iran sponsors radical Islamist groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and among the Palestinians, as well as in other countries. Its two most important clients are Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian group Hamas.

While this is not to suggest that these organizations are totally controlled by Tehran and have their every move dictated by it, Iran largely finances these groups, provides weapons and training, encourages them to launch attacks and shapes their ideology. Without Iran’s backing, they would lack most of their power.

The evidence indicates that Iran has been urging them to be more aggressive and to launch terrorist attacks and more general offensives.

Take Lebanon, for example. Hezbollah, the large Shi’a Muslim group, closely follows Iran’s line. The organization’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, is also the official representative in Lebanon of Iran’s “spiritual guide” or supreme leader — that country’s most powerful official.

In 2006, it launched attacks on Israel that led to a major war, steps it would never dared have taken unless Hezbollah’s leadership knew that Iran wanted such actions. Indeed, in an April interview on Al-Kawthar TV, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem told his interviewer that “Hezbollah, when it comes to matters of jurisprudence pertaining to its general direction, as well as to its jihad direction, bases itself on the decisions of the ‘spiritual guide’ [Iran’s supreme leader]…. With regard to all the other details — whenever we need jurisprudent clarifications regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden on the jihad front, we ask, receive general answers and implement them.”

Since the end of the summer 2006 war, Hezbollah’s emphasis has been to seek control over Lebanon, though it has simultaneously rebuilt its military power. On a number of occasions, Iran has been caught smuggling arms to Hezbollah, through both Syria and Turkey. Iranian Revolutionary Guards act as military advisers to Hezbollah.

Opponents of an Iranian-Syrian takeover in Lebanon, both politicians and journalists, have been systematically murdered in terrorist attacks. Clearly, as many Lebanese have noted, Iran is seeking to turn Lebanon into a satellite state.

The same tactics are employed with the Palestinians. Hamas and the even more extremist Palestinian Islamic Jihad follow Iran’s line. Tehran has publicly urged these organizations to carry out terrorist attacks and, in addition to training and arms, provides them with examples of openly anti-Semitic rhetoric duplicated in their propaganda.

This June was a turning point in Palestinian history. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, expelled its nationalist Fatah rivals, executed many people because of their political views or activities and made clear its intention of transforming the Gaza Strip into an Islamist state, basically following Iran’s example.

Many Palestinians and other Arabs publicly state their fear and resentment at the idea that Hamas represented an Iranian effort to seize control of their land and cause. On June 20, Yasser Abed Rabbo, senior member of Fatah’s PLO executive committee, said in a press statement that “Iran helped Hamas to lead a military coup against the legitimate Palestinian leadership and to control the Gaza Strip.”

“Iran supports those hostile powers in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories in order to serve its regional interests on the expense of the peoples and nations of the region,” Abed Rabbo said.

Similarly, in a recent speech, Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit asserted that Iranian aid to Hamas activities in Gaza posed a threat to Egyptian national security.

Two of the Arab world’s top journalists have also spoken out on this issue. Tariq al-Humayd, editor of the popular Arabic daily, Asharq Alawsat, wrote, “The source of the funds is obviously Iran. Today, no one has control over Hamas … except Iran, its economic patron, and Syria,” Iran’s ally and the place where Hamas has its headquarters.

Ahmad Al-Jarallah, editor of Kuwait’s Al-Siyassa, noted: “By means of Hamas’ takeover in Gaza, the Iran-Syria axis has managed … to sabotage the Israeli-Palestinian peace” and become the main arbiter of regional politics.

Make no mistake — this is only the beginning. On the horizon looms Iran’s nuclear arsenal. If Tehran gets this ultimate weapon of mass destruction, it will rally far larger numbers of radical and terrorist forces in attacking the West and more moderate Arabs, as well as Israel.

Hiding behind its nuclear umbrella, Iran and its allies will also be able to openly engage in attacks on Western interests without fear of Western retribution. Finally, if Iran gets the upper hand, it will block any chance for peace and push the region into decades of more bloodshed.

This is why the details of events in Iraq, Lebanon and among the Palestinians do not detract from, but indeed reinforce, the need to contain Iran and especially to ensure that it does not obtain nuclear weapons.

Ehud Danoch is consul general of Israel to the Southwestern United States and served previously as chief of staff to Israel’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.