Kerry: Some funds released under Iran deal will go to terrorism


Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran would likely use some money freed by the lifting of sanctions for terrorism, but if it does, it will be subject to separate sanctions.

“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” Kerry said Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in an interview by CNBC reported by The Associated Press. The IRGC is an acronym for the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps.

“You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented,” he said. “But I can tell you this, right now, we are not seeing the early delivery of funds going to that kind of endeavor at this point in time.”

The Obama administration lifted nuclear-related sanctions over the weekend after U.N. inspectors confirmed Iran had complied with its obligations under the nuclear roll back for sanctions relief deal achieved last year between Iran and six major powers.

Kerry said IRGC and other terrorist groups would still be subject to separate sanctions should the new money be used toward attacks.

“We have made it very clear that we use sanctions when we think they are appropriate in order to counter behavior that we believe has broken the law or has challenged the United Nations Security Council or threatened the United States and we stand by our sanctions,” he said, referring to new sanctions imposed on Iran this weekend because of its test launch of a ballistic missile.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also in Davos, vigorously opposed the deal, but has also committed himself to working with the Obama administration to make sure its safeguards are strictly implemented.

Netanyahu met at Davos with Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden, and both U.S. officials described the meetings favorably.

Biden’s office said the two leaders “discussed regional developments, including Syria, the campaign against ISIL [an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group], the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, steps to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities, and opportunities for Israel to expand energy partnerships with countries in the eastern Mediterranean to enhance regional prosperity and cooperation.”

The unending cost of killing the Iran deal


In his 2006 book, “The Accidental Empire,” Gershom Gorenberg writes of Israel’s breathtakingly subtle, yet relentlessly evolving occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan.  He points out that a then young Amoz Oz warned of the “moral destruction” and corruption that comes to the occupier of a long occupation.  But he also quotes Moshe Dayan, speaking to the Palestinian Poetess Fadwa Tuquan of Nablus:  “The situation today,” Dayan says, “resembles the complex relationship between a Bedouin man and the girl he kidnaps against her will…You Palestinians, as a nation, don’t want us today, but we’ll change your attitude by forcing our presence on you.”  He also chronicles French philosopher Raymond Aron asking then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol if he was worried about rebellion in the West Bank, “No,” Eshkol replied, “This isn’t Algeria.  We can strangle terror in the occupied territories.” 

Really?  

The robust battle in the Jewish community over the negotiated Nuclear Deal with Iran has focused almost entirely on how good or bad it will be for Israel and the likelihood of Iran going nuclear at the Deal’s end, spiced, unfortunately by inflammatory talk of the U.S. underwriting Iran’s acquisition of the bomb and ushering Israelis to the doorways of crematoriums. The anti-Deal side also focuses on Iran’s profile as both a regional and international “bad actor,” and sponsor of terrorism.  Importantly, the latter is not denied by the pro-Deal side, but unlike the anti-Deal side, the pro-Deal people are the side thinking about how to mitigate that activity. 

The anti-Deal side states the Deal could be better.  Senator Schumer says he’s against the Deal and that we should go back and negotiate a better one.  But if the Deal included, let’s say, only half of Iran’s frozen $100 billion in assets to be released let’s say, in the first five years, and a cap on Iran’s annual oil sales, and reduction of the poorer quality centrifuges from 6,000 to 1,000, we all know that Israel and their backers here in the U.S. would never sign off on it.  True, better it would be, but still not good enough, because it would not be perfect.  Only perfect will do for the anti-Deal side, and perfect is the well-known enemy of the good, and in this case, the unachievable.  Perfect cannot be achieved here.  And if good goes down here in obeisance to the perfect, the result will be an increase in bad actor activity.  You can take that to the bank. 

Israeli security exports are already on the record as saying that rather than new negotiations convening, Russia and China will move to subvert further sanctions.  Already, we read that Quds Force General and master terrorist Qassem Suleimani has been to Moscow.  Russia’s sinking economy needs foreign sales.  China is rapaciously seeking influence worldwide.  The worst of Iran’s international adventurism has been muted during negotiations.  But when the deal falls apart, what really then?  Curiously it is Israel itself that has the most close-up and historically comprehensive view of what is likely to happen.  The precursor test case for failed negotiations is the continued occupation of the Palestinian Territories and what that has wrought.   

When Israel emerged victorious from the ’67 War, it moved inexorably  – albeit under a cloud of indecision and international ambiguity – to settle and occupy the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights.  It’s stated position is that it would have returned those areas for a peace treaty, and perhaps it would have.  But that treaty, that perfect Deal, never happened, and those areas – unlike Sinai which was returned to Egypt, under a treaty that was perhaps less than a perfect but has ensured a lasting peace – well, those areas fifty years down the road have evolved into a seething miasma of intifada, terrorist activity, repeated war, and constant lone wolf mayhem, not to mention an international public relations nightmare, isolating Israel ever further.   As if that weren’t enough, the situation has bred an armed Jewish terrorism on the Right, the depth and scope of which can no longer be brushed under the rug – particularly after the recent killings.  In short, an attempt to keep a people “bottled up” has instead metastasized into an explosion of lethal chaos that cannot be strangled no matter how great the effort. 

Now let’s acknowledge that Iran is no sleepy agrarian and small-town West Bank and isolated Golan of back in the day.  No, it is an oil-rich, country of 80 million people with an army, an air force, a navy, and a nascent nuclear program and sophisticated operatives throughout the Middle East, Africa, South America, and probably everywhere else.   Iran has been under the stricture of international sanctions of one sort or another since 1979.  Before that we gave them the brutality of the Shah and his CIA-trained Savak.  They made a UN-sanctioned deal with the six “great powers” that many in Israel argue is a good deal, and if we kill it, if we try to “bottle up” and uni- or multi-laterally continue to try and “force our presence” on Iran; worse, if we bomb their nuclear facilities, what Gaza and the Occupied Territories have become, what Iran has shown itself capable of in Beirut, Buenos Aires, and Baghdad will quite likely become the world-wide future for not just Jews, but Americans and American interest everywhere. And it could (and probably will) go on for generations. 

This is what no one will talk about, particularly the war hawks beating their drums.  Iran is not Iraq.  There will be consequences for everyone, not just the men and women who go to fight and their particular families, which means, among other things, be prepared once again for the newly energized dialectic about the “Jewish Lobby,” and how it drives U.S. foreign policy.  Families that lose loved ones to a war or terror that didn’t need to happen for the perceived sake of that lobby, what will their attitude be toward their Jewish friends and neighbors, toward Jews in general, and toward Israel in particular?   

Now if you ask Benjamin Netanyahu, he will say he doesn’t care.  He’ll say this is a price that needs to be paid to save the state of Israel, despite dozens of Israeli security officials’ disagreement.  And he will tell you – in messianic, not practical context, because that’s the only way it makes sense – that the existence of the state of Israel is more important than how the world feels about Jews (and of course the Evangelical community agrees).  Will civilians rise up against Jewish targets, the way they did against Arab targets after 9/11?  Who knows?  One thing thought is certain.  An escalation of the policies of aggression and repression, and the hatred it engenders, will only and always redoubt to the detriment of Jews and Israel.  On the other hand, Israel can exist and engender good will as well if it will prove itself amenable to the reasoned argument of diplomacy and not subvert its future to apocalyptic speculation.

Mitch Paradise is a writer and producer living in Los Angeles.

IDF intercepts Iranian weapons ship bound for Gaza


The Israel Defense Forces intercepted an Iranian ship laden with weaponry and bound for terrorist organizations in Gaza.

The interception took place Wednesday morning off the Somali coast in the Red Sea. IDF intelligence showed that the weapons originated in Damascus months ago and were flown to Tehran, after which they were sent on a ship around the Persian Gulf and into the Red Sea. The ship, called the Klos-C, was a civilian vessel, and the weapons crates were hidden among commercial cargo.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Ganz ordered the special forces interception operation Tuesday night. The weaponry included advanced missiles capable of reaching Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest cities.

The Israeli Navy is now accompanying the ship to an Israeli port.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the operation and said that it reveals Iran’s violent intentions. Netanyahu has advocated increasing international pressure on Iran as Iran negotiates with Western powers over its nuclear program.

“I would like to commend the IDF, the intelligence services of the State of Israel and –- of course –- the navy commanders and personnel who carried out a perfect operation to intercept a secret Iranian weapons ship,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “At a time when it is talking to the major powers, Iran smiles and says all sorts of nice things, [and] the same Iran is sending deadly weapons to terrorist organizations.”

Tehran says U.S., not Iran, sponsors terrorism


Iran on Friday rejected a U.S. State Department report that accused Tehran of increasing its support for terrorism overseas to levels not seen for two decades, saying it is the United States that backs terrorists in the Middle East.

“Iran itself has been the victim of state-sponsored terrorism, which has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Iranian people,” said Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission.

“Iran has been actively engaged in counterterrorism activities by all possible means and is a party to many counterterrorism international legal instruments,” he said.

The State Department report on Thursday cited a series of actual and planned attacks in Europe and Asia linked to Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanon-based ally, including a July 2012 bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli citizens and a Bulgarian, and wounded 32 others.

Last July, Iran's U.N. ambassador denied his country's involvement in the Bulgaria bombing, which he accused Israel of carrying out. “We have never, and will not, engage in such a despicable attempt on … innocent people,” Ambassador Mohammed Khazaee said.

“It should be mentioned that the U.S. government has no merit to label other nations of sponsoring terrorism as it has a long … record (of) supporting terrorist groups in our region as well as Israeli state terrorism,” Miryousefi said.

He cited the recent removal from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations of the Mujahadin-e-Khalq, a dissident group that calls for the overthrow of Iran's Shi'ite Muslim clerical leadership and fought alongside the forces of Iraq's late Sunni Muslim dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

“The recent delisting of the MEK terrorist group … and also allowing it to publicly lobby in Washington is a clear indication that the U.S. government has double standards in dealing with terrorism and uses designation of others as terrorist only to serve its illegitimate political interests,” he said.

The State Department report's release comes as U.S. and European officials and intelligence agencies say Iran and Hezbollah have stepped up their military backing for the besieged government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Editing by Peter Cooney

Iranian national accused of planning attack on Israeli embassy in Nepal


Security at the Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal, detained an Iranian man believed to be planning a terror attack on the embassy and on Israeli visitors.

The man, caught scouting the building, was discovered to have a fake Israeli passport, which he acquired in Kuala Lumpur sometime after March 31 and used to enter Nepal, according to The Himalayan.

The Iranian national, identified as Mohsin Khosravian,  was arrested on April 13 after Israeli security personnel turned him over to Nepalese police and he remains in police custody, according to the news website. 

Nepal Police's Central Bureau of Investigation and Special Bureau are investigating his “frequent and suspicious visits” to the Israeli Embassy area, The Himalayan reported. He has been charged under the Public Offense Act.

Khosravian has been living in Bangkok since 2004 and has been married to a Thai woman for five years.

Israel has accused Iran of being involved in coordinated attacks on Israeli missions in New Delhi, India and Tbilisi, Georgia on Feb. 13, 2012.

Iran says Israel will regret Syria air strike


Iran told Israel on Monday it would regret its air strike against Syria last week, without spelling out whether Iran or its ally planned any military response.

“They will regret this recent aggression,” Saeed Jalili, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told a news conference in Damascus a day after holding talks there with President Bashar al-Assad.

Jalili likened Israel's attack on a military compound north-west of Damascus on Wednesday to previous conflicts including its 34-day war with Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah in 2006, all battles that he said Israel had lived to regret.

“Today, too, both the people and the government of Syria are serious regarding the issue. And also the Islamic community is supporting Syria,” he said.

Jalili said Iran, in its current role as head of the Non-Aligned Movement, would work on Syria's behalf on the international stage in response to the attack.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday the attack on a Syrian arms complex showed Israel was serious about preventing the flow of heavy weapons into Lebanon, appearing to acknowledge for the first time that Israel had carried out the strike.

Diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources say Israeli jets bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah.

Reporting by Dominic Evans in Beirut and Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Syria warns of ‘surprise’ response to Israel attack


Syria warned on Thursday of a possible “surprise” response to Israel's attack on its territory and Russia condemned the air strike as an unprovoked violation of international law.

Damascus could take “a surprise decision to respond to the aggression of the Israeli warplanes”, Syrian ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karim Ali said a day after Israel struck against Syria.

“Syria is engaged in defending its sovereignty and its land,” Ali told a website of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Syria and Israel have fought several wars and in 2007 Israeli jets bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site, without a military response from Damascus.

Diplomats, Syrian rebels and regional security sources said on Wednesday that Israeli jets had bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah. Syria denied the reports, saying the target had been a military research center northwest of Damascus.

Hezbollah, which has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he battles an armed uprising in which 60,000 people have been killed, said Israel was trying to thwart Arab military power and vowed to stand by its ally.

“Hezbollah expresses its full solidarity with Syria's leadership, army and people,” said the group which fought an inconclusive 34-day war with Israel in 2006.

Israel has remained silent on the attack and there has been little reaction from its Western backers, but Syria's allies in Moscow and Tehran were quick to denounce the strike.

Russia, which has blocked Western efforts to put pressure on Syria at the United Nations, said that any Israeli air strike would amount to unacceptable military interference.

“If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the U.N. Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian said the attack “demonstrates the shared goals of terrorists and the Zionist regime”, Fars news agency reported. Assad portrays the rebels fighting him as foreign-backed, Islamist terrorists, with the same agenda as Israel.

“It is necessary for the sides which take tough stances on Syria to now take serious steps and decisive stances against this aggression by Tel Aviv and uphold criteria for security in the region,” Abdullahian said.

An aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Iran would consider any attack on Syria as an attack on itself, but Abdullahian made no mention of retaliation.

Hezbollah said the attack showed that the conflict in Syria was part of a scheme “to destroy Syria and its army and foil its pivotal role in the resistance front (against Israel)”.

BLASTS SHOOK DISTRICT

Details of Wednesday's strike remain sketchy and, in parts, contradictory. Syria said Israeli warplanes, flying low to avoid detection by radar, crossed into its airspace from Lebanon and struck the Jamraya military research centre.

But the diplomats and rebels said the jets hit a weapons convoy heading from Syria to Lebanon, apparently destined for Assad's ally Hezbollah, and the rebels said they – not Israel – hit Jamraya with mortars.

The force of the dawn attack shook the ground, waking nearby residents from their slumber with up to a dozen blasts, two sources in the area said.

“We were sleeping. Then we started hearing rockets hitting the complex and the ground started shaking and we ran into the basement,” said a woman who lives adjacent to the Jamraya site.

The resident, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity over Israel's reported strike on Wednesday morning, said she could not tell whether the explosions which woke her were the result of an aerial strike.

Another source who has a relative working inside Jamraya reported that a building inside the complex had been cordoned off after the attack and that flames were seen rising from the area after the attack.

“It appears that there were about a dozen rockets that appeared to hit one building in the complex,” the source, who also asked not to be identified, told Reuters. “The facility is closed today.”

Israeli newspapers quoted foreign media on Thursday for reports on the attack. Journalists in Israel are required to submit articles on security and military issues to the censor, which has the power to block any publication of material it deems could compromise state security.

Syrian state television said two people were killed in the raid on Jamraya, which lies in the 25-km (15-mile) strip between Damascus and the Lebanese border. It described it as a scientific research centre “aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense”.

Diplomatic sources from three countries told Reuters that chemical weapons were believed to be stored at Jamraya, and that it was possible that the convoy was near the large site when it came under attack. However, there was no suggestion that the vehicles themselves had been carrying chemical weapons.

“The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon,” said one Western diplomat, echoing others who said the convoy's load may have included anti-aircraft missiles or long-range rockets.

The raid followed warnings from Israel that it was ready to act to prevent the revolt against Assad leading to Syria's chemical weapons and modern rockets reaching either his Hezbollah allies or his Islamist enemies.

A regional security source said Israel's target was weaponry given by Assad's military to fellow Iranian ally Hezbollah.

“This episode boils down to a warning by Israel to Syria and Hezbollah not to engage in the transfer of sensitive weapons,” the source said. “Assad knows his survival depends on his military capabilities and he would not want those capabilities neutralized by Israel – so the message is this kind of transfer is simply not worth it, neither for him nor Hezbollah.”

Such a strike or strikes would fit Israel's policy of pre-emptive covert and overt action to curb Hezbollah and does not necessarily indicate a major escalation of the war in Syria. It does, however, indicate how the erosion of the Assad family's rule after 42 years is seen by Israel as posing a threat.

Israel this week echoed concerns in the United States about Syrian chemical weapons, but its officials say a more immediate worry is that the civil war could see weapons that are capable of denting its massive superiority in airpower and tanks reaching Hezbollah; the group fought Israel in 2006 and remains a more pressing threat than its Syrian and Iranian sponsors.

Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow and Marcus George in Dubai; editing by David Stamp

Iranian diplomat in Brazil: Soon there will be no place for Zionists


A Brazilian newspaper has published an opinion article by an Iranian diplomat asserting that “there will soon be no place for Zionists in the Middle East.”

Ali Mohaghegh, first secretary of the Iranian embassy in Brasilia, made the asertion in article published last month in the newspaper Folha de S. Paolo. “This [Israeli] regime that once sought to dominate the land between Nile and the Euphrates, now needs to hide behind a wall,” Mohaghegh wrote. He added: “The Zionist regime of Israel is the foremost reason for international terrorism.”

CONIB, the representative body of Brazilian Jewish communities, condemned the opinion piece published as “unacceptable.”

Several responses to Mohaghegh have appeared in Brazilian media, including in Folha.

Flavio Morgenstern, a translator and writer for the commentary site Papo de Homem, accused the paper of “ceding inches to anti-Semitism.”

Writing in O Globo, another major Brazilian daily, Osias Wurman, Israel’s honorary consul in Rio de Janeiro, accused Iran of state terrorism.

Netanyahu on deadly Bulgaria bombing: ‘All signs point to Iran’


A Black Sea coast town in Bulgaria became the scene of carnage when a bus carrying Israeli tourists exploded, killing at least five people and injuring at least 33. Nine people reportedly were missing.

The explosion Wednesday at Sarafovo International Airport in Burgas hit one of three tour buses carrying Israelis, Israel’s Channel 1 reported. Some news reports said a suicide bomber boarded the bus as it was taking the Israeli tourists to the terminal. Others quoted Burgas Mayor Dimitar Nikolov as saying that explosives were in the luggage area of the bus.

A video on Ynet showed black smoke billowing upward. Sirens at the scene could be heard.

The attack, which Israel’s government is blaming on Iran, comes on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead. Israel, Argentina and many other governments blame Iranian agents for that incident; Tehran denies the allegations.

“All signs point to Iran,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “In just the past few months we’ve seen Iran try to target Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Cyprus and more. The murderous Iranian terror continues to target innocent people. This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react forcefully to it.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak added, “This is clearly a terrorist attack initiated probably by Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad or another group under the terror auspices of either Iran or other radical Islamic groups. We are in a continual fight against them. We are determined to identify who sent them, who perpetrated [the attack], and to settle the account.”

The Lebanese-based Hezbollah, which is armed by Iran, denied responsibility for the attack, according to the website Novinite.com.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said his government “strongly condemns this aggression and terrorism.”

“Such a horrible act committed on the territory of a sovereign country, a member of the EU, is a provocation at the efforts of the democratic society towards world peace,”  Borisov said, according to the FOCUS News Agency. “I guarantee that we will investigate this incident so as to punish the perpetrators with the entire severeness of the law. I am convinced that the Bulgarian and the Israeli nations will get stronger and more united after this tragedy.”

The mayor of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, home to nearly 5,000 Jews, ordered stepped-up police patrols of areas linked to the Jewish community, according to reports.

Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Chief, ordered the Home Front Command, the Israel Air Force and the Medical Corps to send a team to Bulgaria Wednesday night to provide medical care and to assist those injured as they return to Israel. The team is led by a senior IDF officer and includes doctors specializing in trauma, orthopedics, intensive care, surgery, burns and pediatrics.

Likewise, the Israel-based ZAKA Rescue and Recovery Organization told JTA that it hired a private jet to fly to Burgas. The plane, which is scheduled to land in Bulgaria at about 11 p.m. local time, is carrying seven volunteers, a doctor and a paramedic, as well as medical equipment and equipment to help identify the Israelis who were killed.

President Obama condemned the “barbaric terrorist attack,” according to The Associated Press. “As Israel has tragically once more been a target of terrorism, the United States reaffirms our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people.”

Immediately after the explosion, Ben Gurion International Airport was closed, delaying 11 flights. However, the airport reopened between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. to allow the flights to proceed.

Novinite.com reported that Bulgarian authorities foiled a bomb attack in January on a charter bus for Israeli tourists heading from the Turkish border to a Bulgarian ski resort. A bomb was found on the bus.

Bus blast in Bulgaria kills 7, injures more than 30 — Israel blames Iran


At least seven Israeli tourists were killed on Wednesday in an explosion on a bus outside a Bulgarian airport that Israel blamed on Tehran, promising a strong response to “Iranian terror.”

The explosion comes on the 18th anniversary of a 1994 bomb attack on the headquarters of Argentina’s main Jewish organization by an Iranian-backed Hezbollah suicide bomber, which killed 85 people.

The windows of the double-decker bus were blown out and surrounded by scorch marks. Mangled metal hung from its torn-back roof and clouds of dense black smoke billowed above the airport.

The mayor of Burgas, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, said the bus was carrying Israeli tourists, but police could not immediately confirm their nationality. Several other buses at the site were damaged.

“I do not know what it was, but it was a very powerful blast, and I think it was something placed on purpose in the bus, which carried 47 Israeli tourists,” Burgas mayor Dimitar Nikolov told BTV television, adding 33 people were injured.

An Israeli witness told Israeli army radio that the explosion was probably caused by a suicide bomber at the entrance of the bus.

Bulgaria raised security at all airports, bus and railway stations after the explosion, which happened in a parking lot outside the airport. Stunned travelers hugged one another in shock at the carnage and passengers were kept away from the scene with a police cordon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the Wednesday’s blast and said Israel would respond.

“All the signs lead to Iran. Only in the past few months we have seen Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“Eighteen years exactly after the blast at the Jewish community centre in Argentina, murderous Iranian terror continues to hit innocent people. This is an Iranian terror attack that is spreading throughout the entire world. Israel will react powerfully against Iranian terror,” he said.

The incident was not reported by Iranian media and there was no immediate Iranian reaction to the Israeli accusation.

VULNERABLE

Israeli officials had previously said that Bulgaria, a popular holiday destination for Israeli tourists, was vulnerable to attack by Islamist militants who could infiltrate via nearby Turkey.

Burgas is Bulgaria’s fourth largest city and lies on the Black Sea coast some 40 miles from the border with Turkey. It is at the center of a string of seaside resorts which are popular for their sunshine and low cost compared with many parts of the Mediterranean.

With a population of about 200,000, it is also an important industrial centre and has Bulgaria’s sole oil refinery.

Burgas has become an increasingly popular destination for Israelis in the past couple of years due to Israel’s worsening relationship with Turkey, according to Israeli travel agent Adi Amram, who is based in Ramat Gan, in Israel. Since the deadly flotilla incident of 2010 – during which nine passengers were killed in a raid by Israeli commandos when they boarded the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza – Israelis have increasingly been vacationing in Burgas instead of Turkey, said Amram, who works for Sphera Tours, a travel agency based in Ramat Gan and Los Angeles.

“It’s actually very political, because Israelis didn’t want to go to Turkey after what happened with the Marmara, so they’re trying to find some other location, some other resort country.” Until today’s tragedy, he said, “Burgas actually became what was Turkey for Israelis about two years ago,” with its nice hotels, water sports, pubs, shopping and cafes, Amram said.

Israeli diplomats have been targeted in several countries in recent months by bombers who Israel said struck on behalf of Iran.

Though Tehran has denied involvement, some analysts believe it is trying to avenge the assassinations of several scientists from its controversial nuclear program, which the Iranians have blamed on Israel and its Western allies.

Israel has threatened air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities if diplomatic efforts fail to stop Tehran getting nuclear weapons, which it denies it is seeking.

Washington was still trying to make sure of the facts, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“I don’t have information yet on anything specific to the incident itself, if in fact it was terrorism and who was responsible for it,” Carney said.

Burgas airport was closed after the incident and flights were redirected to the airport of Varna, police said. Dozens of tourists were stranded at the airport as it was checked for other explosive devices, Focus news agency reported.

El Al cancelled its flight from Tel Aviv to Sofia that was due to leave at 1600 GMT and consequently the turnaround flight, a spokeswoman told Reuters. Nothing has been decided about Thursday’s flights.

Israeli rescue services were planning to send a plane to Burgas with medical staff to treat the injured and take bodies home, the Israeli ambulance service Magen David Adom said.

Additional reporting by Ryan Torok in Los Angeles, Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Sam Cage; Editing by Alison Williams

Attention, politicians: Pandering won’t fly


Over the last few weeks of the presidential campaign, the media reported on embarrassing attempts at pandering directed to the Jewish community. While these kinds of efforts are nothing new, and many of the panderers will renege on their pledges once in office — politicians have been promising to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem for a generation — they tell us something important about ourselves.

Why do politicians think that these predictable panders will win our votes? Have they been given bad political advice, or have we, unwittingly, sent the wrong message?

This election cycle the panders were especially blatant, if only because they were so heavy-handed. Usually, there is some restraint in the effort to woo Jewish voters; certain things are just not done, even though they might strike a resonant chord with some Jewish constituencies.

This year, however, many politicians — especially in the Republican camp — threw caution to the wind and said whatever they thought would be effective to garner Jewish voters in the swing states. Notably, the false suggestions that Barack Obama is a Muslim, pals around with terrorists, is hostile to Israel and even that his election might lead to a second Holocaust.

Throughout the campaign a coarse effort was made to push Jews’ nervous buttons on Israel, anti-Semitism, terror and the Holocaust in shameful attempts to exploit fear and, too often, ignorance.

What these efforts should provoke is serious introspection by us. We should ask ourselves why we come to be perceived as susceptible to such inaccurate, superficial and incendiary blandishments by those who run for office. Why is it assumed that the Jewish community will find such wild, unsubstantiated allegations to be worthy of consideration and further dissemination? What have we done to allow the purveyors of the falsehoods and mischaracterizations to think they will find a sympathetic audience?

I have been involved in the organized Jewish community for more than 30 years, both as a professional with the Anti-Defamation League and as a lay leader with several diverse Jewish organizations.

I have hosted and witnessed a boatload of politicians and community leaders who have sought to connect with their Jewish audiences by touching upon issues they thought would resonate. Invariably, the topics of choice were Israel, anti-Semitism and, to a lesser degree, hate crimes and terrorism.

Almost always, the presentations adhered to a predictable arc: accolades for the person who reaffirmed the views that were overwhelmingly held by the audience. Rarely were the elected called upon to propose more than applause-earning platitudes. We settled for facile analyses and the painless intoning of set pieces about a predictable list of priorities, which was all we seemed to demand.

This ritual dance has sent politicians the wrong message. We are widely perceived as virtually single-issue in outlook, lacking nuance on complex matters and easily pleased. “Throw them a few bones, and they’ll be happy,” seems to be the operative assessment among the politicians who do the Jewish circuit.

Exacerbating the problem is the effort — most pronounced in recent years — to enforce a conservative orthodoxy when it comes to the Middle East. The most rigid elements of the Jewish community now tend to define the parameters of legitimate debate. To argue against their positions is to risk being termed naïve, ignorant or even disloyal. For most elected officials, taking the status quo line is much easier than arguing for risk-taking and innovation, even though those same positions may be considered tame in the Israeli Knesset.

Incidentally, having an agenda set by the most fearful in a minority community is strikingly similar to what prevails among other ethnic/racial groups. The most fearful often set the terms of debate in the African American and Latino communities, too. To buck the conventional wisdom is itself an act of courage.

The risk in what we have wrought — settling for pabulum and superficiality instead of honest and serious analysis, while also avoiding spirited internal discussion of those issues — is that the community is perceived as easy and vulnerable to thoughtless appeals to our basest fears.

We must demand more of others and of ourselves.

We shouldn’t settle for platitudinous sermons when we invite political leaders to speak — it does neither them nor us any good. We should tolerate, indeed encourage, vigorous and spirited discussions of tough issues relating to our community here and in Israel; it will do us and our children good.

The results of the 2008 presidential election indicate that the base appeals to our “tribal” instincts didn’t work very well. We can take some comfort in that. But we must, by our actions, demonstrate that intelligent, substantive discussions of issues of concern will be welcome in the future. It’s time to tell the politicians: superficial appeals to simplistic and false notions of our priorities just won’t fly. The world is too complex for that, and we know it.

David A. Lehrer is president of Community Advocates Inc., a Los Angeles-based human relations organization headed by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan.

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.

Threats from Hezbollah lead to new war fears


A Pyrrhic victory for Hamas?


The Hamas coup in Gaza last week might seem like a victory for Iran and its followers, who now have a foothold on Israel’s doorstep. But if Israel plays its cards wisely, it might
turn things around.

Since the 1979 Israel-Egypt Camp David accords, Israel has been on a quest to end its responsibility over the Palestinian population. This quest is rooted in the need to preserve the delicate balance among four of Zionism’s basic values and visions: individual and collective security for Jews; humanism, liberalism and democracy; the Jewishness of the State of Israel and the Jewish majority in it; and the desire for sovereignty in the areas where Hebrew civilization was conceived.

The Six-Day War destabilized Zionism as Israel assumed responsibility for millions of Palestinians. Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian political process may be framed as a painful journey to restore Zionist equilibrium through territorial compromise.

Many strategies to do so have been tested since 1979. They include the “Jordanian Option,” “Interim Agreements,” “Permanent-Status Agreement,” “Self-Governing Palestinian Authority” and “Unilateral Disengagement.” Every prime minister since Yitzhak Shamir has taken a significant step in this direction: Shamir’s Madrid Summit of 1991, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres’ Oslo accords of 1993-1995, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Wye River Memorandum of 1998, Ehud Barak’s Camp David of 2000 and Ariel Sharon’s Gaza Disengagement of 2005.

Against this backdrop, the current Israeli government intended to bring this process to a close by “converging” from the West Bank. However, these plans were aborted due to the election of Hamas in January 2006, the Second Lebanon War last summer and the constant firing of Qassam rockets from Gaza to Israel.

Hence, it has been nearly 18 months that Israel has been at a political impasse facing a double-headed Palestinian entity. Hamas controlled the Palestinian Legislative Council and therefore the government of the Palestinian Authority. Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas was its chairman. The Palestinian ideological and political stalemate was compounded by a constitutional and structural deadlock. No one could move.

Israel has not been able to come up with an adequate response. We were not able to fight Hamas properly because of Fatah, nor were we able to engage Fatah politically because of Hamas. We have been at a standstill with no agenda to serve our own existential interests.

Last week we were suddenly unstuck. Whereas our military dilemma has not changed, we now face a Hamas-controlled Gaza and a Fatah-dominated — or so we hope — West Bank.

On the military side, the dilemma surrounding an Israeli ground operation in Gaza has not changed. The military logic is to stop Qassams and prevent Hamas’ military buildup by seizing territory and engaging its armed forces. But Israel’s national security logic is to never again assume responsibility for the 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza.

This is a clash of logics that has no resolution. So far the latter national security logic has been “winning” and Israel has been avoiding a large-scale military operation. At the moment, Hamas’ victory doesn’t change that fundamental equation.

But what should be the new political logic? The answer is rooted in our fundamental interest in ending our control over the Palestinians. However, in the new reality, Gaza and the West Bank merit separate approaches.

While the Hamas victory is a potential setback for this goal, in certain respects, if forced to face the Islamic fundamentalist group, Israel now has it where it wants it.

First, Hamas for the first time assumes full control and responsibility over the Palestinian population in Gaza. Finally it is fully exposed to the tensions between its ideology and the needs of the population, with no Fatah to blame for its failures, although Israel is always there to serve as a scapegoat.

Second, being associated with the Egyptian opposition movement of Islamic Brotherhood and under sponsorship of Iran, Hamas is now more clearly an adversary of Egypt and not just of Israel. Hence, incentives for Egypt to act decisively against the smuggling of weapons have dramatically increased.

Third, the slow process of international recognition of Hamas now will be frozen.

Finally, Israel now has solid political and legal ground to further disassociate itself from Gaza. The new Gaza situation calls for further decisive actions such as cutting off any formal or practical ties except for acute humanitarian needs. This should include the dismantling of the shared customs role and a freeze on the trafficking of goods to and from Israel.

At the same time, we can now re-engage Fatah in the West Bank. The new Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is the most moderate for which one could ask. Alleviating the economic and political boycott and fostering negotiations may open the way for Israel to end our responsibility over the Palestinian population in the West Bank, as well.

Concerns that the West Bank may become a platform for military activity against Israel are valid. No one and nothing can guarantee that this will not happen. But there are a few noteworthy differences from Gaza.

For one, Jordan has consistently been more aggressive than Egypt in fighting Islamic terrorism in all its forms. Also, Fatah is stronger in the West Bank. Finally, the West Bank is simply different in its demographic, economic and social makeup.

Therefore, our policy should be to empower Abbas and the new Palestinian government, to transfer to them attributes of statehood and to stabilize their economy. We now have the opportunity to engage them in a political process with the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state in provisional borders or to agree on terms of reference for a permanent status.

In this context, one should keep in mind that the infrastructure for separation between Israel and the West Bank Palestinians, i.e. the security fence, is inching its way to completion. At that point, more than 95 percent of the settlers will live west of the fence and a similar percentage of Palestinians will live on its eastern side. This is a piece of real estate that constitutes transformative politics.

Israel’s challenges have not been made easier by last week’s developments in Gaza. But its flexibility to serve its interests has increased dramatically. The Hamas victory can be turned into a Pyrrhic one.

Article courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Gidi Grinstein is founder and president of the Re’ut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based think tank.

Briefs: Koufax and SLO power-hitter named draft IBL picks; Iran top terror sponsor



Sandy Koufax on the mound. Click the BIG ARROWKoufax chosen in Israel Baseball League’s (IBL) first-ever draft

Power-hitting California outfielder Aaron Levin was the first player selected in the Israel Baseball League’s inaugural draft.The Modi’in Miracles made Levin, 22, from Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo, the first pick in the draft, held Thursday night in New York City.

With the final pick of the draft the Miracles chose Sandy Koufax, the former Los Angeles Dodger left-hander and Hall of Famer, who famously refused to pitch in a World Series game that fell on Yom Kippur.It’s unclear whether Koufax would actually suit up for the Miracles.

“His selection is a tribute to the esteem with which he is held by everyone associated with this league,” the team’s manager, former big leaguer Art Shamsky, told The Associated Press. “It’s been 41 years between starts for him. If he’s rested and ready to take the mound again, we want him on our team.”

The IBL will play a 42-game schedule starting June 24. Players from around the world were drafted, but roughly half the league will be made up of Jews, league founders said.

Iran ‘Most Active’ Terror Sponsor

Iran is the “most active” state sponsor of terrorism, and its proxy, Hezbollah, is the “most technically capable terrorist group,” a U.S. report says. Syria also was named as a state sponsor of terrorism in the U.S. State Department’s country reports on terrorism released Monday, although the report implied that Damascus was more responsive to pressure than Iran.

“[Iran’s] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] and Ministry of Intelligence and Security [MOIS] were directly involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts and continued to exhort a variety of groups, especially Palestinian groups with leadership cadres in Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah, to use terrorism in pursuit of their goals.”

Syria, it said, had ties to the same groups, but added, “Syria’s public support for the Palestinian groups varied, depending on its national interests and international pressure.”
The report praised Sudan as a “strong partner in the War on Terror” and said it “aggressively pursued terrorist operations directly involving threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan.”

It noted that the Sudanese government welcomed officials of Hamas, the terrorist group that heads the Palestinian Authority government, but added that it “limited their activities to fundraising.”

Assessing terrorist groups, the report described Lebanon’s Hezbollah as “the most technically capable terrorist group in the world,” based in part on its performance against Israel in last summer’s war. It noted past Hezbollah attacks on Americans and compared them to Hamas, which “has not directly targeted U.S. interests, although the group makes little or no effort to avoid targets frequented by foreigners,” the report said. In its summary, the report said that “the Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains a source of terrorist motivation.”

Rabbinical Assembly Opens Convention

Arnold Eisen twice brought a room of Conservative rabbis to their feet in his inaugural address to the movement’s rabbinical association Monday. Speaking at the annual Rabbinical Assembly convention in Boston, the chancellor-elect of the Jewish Theological Seminary called for a wide discussion of the idea of mitzvah, a contentious subject for a movement dedicated to a careful balance of tradition and modernity.

“I think we’ve largely dropped the ball when it comes to message,” said Eisen, who urged the movement to build tight communities and fill them with enriching content.

The R.A. convention comes at a time of unease in the Conservative movement, whose legal authorities recently voted to permit gay and lesbian clergy, in a move that some feared would cause an irrevocable split. Along with resolutions on the Iraq war and Darfur, there’s an effort to have the convention discuss a resolution calling on all the movement’s rabbinical schools to accept gay and lesbian students.

Vatican Polls on Anti-Semitism

The Vatican is conducting a survey among Roman Catholic bishops on anti-Semitism and interfaith dialogue. The questions, published last week in advance of an international bishops conference in Rome in October 2008, ask the clergy if they think biblical texts are being used to foment anti-Semitism and whether they are working to foster dialogue with Jews.

The questionnaire expresses concern that too few Catholics know enough about the Old Testament.

Hebrew U. Co-Sponsors Learning at Einstein Home

An Israeli university and a German forum are teaming to use Albert Einstein’s former summer home as an educational site. Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which inherited the home in Caputh, near Berlin, signed an agreement April 25 with the Potsdam-based Einstein Forum launching joint educational programs at the site. A fellowship at its guest house is to begin May 1.

Einstein was on Hebrew University’s first board of governors. He used Caputh as a retreat from 1929 to 1933, then immigrated to the United States when the Nazis took power. The Einstein Forum raised funds to renovate the site from the Cornelsen Culture Foundation and the federal commissioner for culture and media. In 2005 it was reopened, 50 years after Einstein’s death.

Reform Divests From Sudan

The Reform movement became the latest Jewish group to divest from Sudan over the genocide in Darfur.

“Divestment is a tactic to use in specific and appropriate situations,” Reform’s Religious Action Center said in a statement Thursday. “It is now time we apply this additional economic tool, along with our other strategies, to seek an end to this tragic violence in Darfur.”

Government-allied terrorist groups have massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians in the region of western Sudan. President Bush has introduced sanctions and pledged to expand them, and said he would consider imposing a no-fly zone unless Sudan allows in more peacekeepers and observes a truce. Other Jewish groups divesting from companies that deal with Sudan include the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the National Council of Jewish Women.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Persia held hostage, film at 11


Time for Jewish leaders to end their silence on Iraq


“One who is able to protest against a wrong that is being done in his family, his city, his nation or the world and doesn’t do so is held accountable for that wrong being done.” (Talmud Bavli Tractate Shabbat 54b)

There is no longer any doubt that the invasion of Iraq is an utter catastrophe. Former Vice President Al Gore has called it “the worst strategic mistake in the entire history of
the United States.”

The Bush/Cheney war, launched on the basis of false premises, selective intelligence and outright lies against a country that posed no threat to the United States and which (as all government intelligence agencies concur) had no connection to the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, has caused the deaths of more than 3,000 American soldiers and injured 47,000.

At least several hundred thousand Iraqi civilians have died as a direct result of the war (according the most respected medical journal in Great Britain, The Lancet, the figure is more than 600,000), more than 2 million refugees have fled the country and there are 1.5 million displaced people within the country.

All 16 government intelligence agencies recently concluded in a national intelligence estimate that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has strengthened Al Qaeda and increased the threat of terrorism in this country. It has strengthened Iran, inspired hatred of the United States across the globe and has already cost more than $400 billion (the ultimate cost will be more than a trillion dollars).

According to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), that $400 billion could have provided health care coverage for all of the uninsured children in America for the entire duration of the war, new affordable housing units for 500,000 needy families, all the needed port security requirements to keep America safe or complete funding for No Child Left Behind program.

Many leading generals (whose pensions are protected in retirement) have strongly criticized the war and called for a gradual U.S. withdrawal, and almost 1,000 active-duty soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, rank-and-file enlistees, noncommissioned officers, along with high-ranking officers, have submitted a petition to Congress (which they call an Appeal for Redress) demanding that the troops be brought home.

According to all available polls, a large majority of Americans want to bring our involvement in Iraq to an end, and an overwhelming majority of Iraqis themselves are opposed to the continued American occupation of their country.

Given these facts, it is difficult to understand the organized Jewish community’s silence. Our country is mired in a catastrophic, immensely unpopular war, a sectarian conflict that has caused untold damage to our country’s security and exacted an extremely high price in blood and treasure, and the great majority of American Jews are opposed to the war (87 percent of the Jewish community voted for Democratic candidates in the last elections) and yet little is heard from prominent rabbis, teachers and important lay leaders.

Prominent Jewish figures played an important role in protesting against the Vietnam War, supporting the struggle for civil rights in the South and in other important causes but have stayed on the sidelines in the face of the current calamity.

This silence is particularly mysterious, given the damage that the war has done to Israel’s interests (as many scholars, military officers and political leaders there have pointed out) by creating the conditions for the emergence of a radical, fundamentalist Shiite state among the ruins of Iraq; eliminating a counterweight to Iran, and increasing the strength and influence of that country, Israel’s most dangerous enemy.

Whether the reticence of Jewish communal leadership can be attributed to anxiety in the face of serious threats from Iran, an unwillingness to enter the public fray on a controversial issue or the uncomfortable fact that important Jewish organizations lent their support to war in Iraq before it began, the time for silence is over. It is time for our community’s rabbis, teachers and lay leaders to acknowledge that we were lied to, our politicians failed us in their oversight responsibilities and we have been timid in voicing our opposition.

The Talmud teaches that silence is akin to assent. We now need to proclaim our opposition to the current administration’s disastrous policies: Bring the troops home. Stop the cycle of killing and being killed. Apologize to the American people and the Iraqis for the invasion. Let the Iraqis heal Iraq. And let us protest a wrong that is being done in our name.

Adam Rubin is assistant professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Aryeh Cohen is associate professor of rabbinic literature at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles

Ignoring the lessons of the past


Why would Syria, Iran and the terror groups they jointly sponsor so utterly deride the notion that the West will ever unite to effectively deter them? An early case in point is the small
matter of Nezar Hindawi and the Syrian bid to bomb El Al.

In a London courtroom 20 years ago this winter, a naive Irish woman who had recently given birth to a daughter screamed abuse from the witness stand at the child’s father, an impassive Arab man who was sitting across from her in the dock.

“You bastard,” Ann Murphy shouted hysterically at Nezar Hindawi. “How could you do this to me?”

And then, being the well-raised, polite woman that she was, Murphy, who had hitherto maintained her composure through a day and a half of harrowing testimony, immediately turned to the judge to apologize for her lapse.

Moments later, though, she lost control again.

“I hate you. I hate you,” she wailed at Hindawi, whose dispassionate expression still didn’t crack.

Ann Murphy was the “human time bomb” who had been viciously primed by Hindawi to unwittingly carry a bomb on board an El Al plane from London’s Heathrow Airport to Tel Aviv earlier that year.

In what the prosecution described, truly without hyperbole, as “one of the most callous acts of all time,” the Jordanian-born Hindawi had befriended and ultimately proposed marriage to Murphy, bought her a ticket to Tel Aviv 10 days after she accepted his professions of everlasting love, and told her that while his work commitments meant he’d have to fly in via a different route, he’d meet her in the Holy Land for their wedding.

Instead, he had been intending to send her, their unborn child and the 380 other innocents aboard that April 17, 1986, flight to their deaths. He had placed a slab of plastic explosives in the false bottom of the travel bag he had purchased for her, and then helped her pack her holiday clothes on top of it. In a taxi en route to the airport, he had fiddled with the calculator he had asked her to take out as a present for a friend, Murphy testified; in fact, he was setting the bomb timer. The device had been programmed to detonate when the El Al jumbo was at 39,000 feet, above Austria. It would have ripped the plane apart.

Mr. “A.,” an El Al security agent on check-in duty at Heathrow, discovered the bomb. Giving evidence at the trial from behind a screen to protect his identity, he testified that he became suspicious of what seemed an inordinately heavy bag and, having emptied out its contents, discovered the false compartment.

It is likely, too, that El Al’s well-honed routine screening procedures had already identified Murphy as worthy of particular attention: She had only just got her passport, the ticket was newly purchased and she was five months pregnant and traveling alone. The most rudimentary questioning, revealing the Arab fiancé who was purportedly flying out separately, must have instantly set the alarm bells ringing.

On Oct. 24, 1986, after the jury had unanimously found him guilty, Nezar Hindawi was sent to jail for 45 years — the longest prison sentence in British legal history.

That same day, Britain severed its diplomatic relations with Syria, giving ambassador Loutouf al-Haydar seven days to close up his embassy and leave.

Syria was comprehensively tied to the failed bombing of El Al flight 016.

Hindawi was arrested in possession of a Damascus-issued “Syrian service passport” — the kind used for “official government business,” the court heard. He told police under questioning that he had been dispatched on his bombing mission by the head of Syrian Air Force intelligence, Muhammad al-Khouli, one of president Hafez Assad’s closest advisers, having been motivated by the combination of hatred for Israel and the promise of a $250,000 reward. The bomb, he went on, had been smuggled into the United Kingdom by Syrian officials in a Syrian diplomatic bag on a Syrian Arab Airlines (SAA) plane. He had been taught how to handle it and how to set the timer by another senior Syrian intelligence official, Haithan Said, a deputy of al-Khouli’s.

Having abandoned Murphy and her fellow passengers to their intended fate at Heathrow, Hindawi went back to his hotel and collected his bags, planning on returning to the airport for an SAA flight to Paris. But hearing news that the bomb had been discovered, he went instead to the Syrian embassy, where he met with ambassador Haydar, a senior diplomat who was also very close to the late Assad. Haydar called Damascus for guidance; Syrian embassy officials were instructed to take Hindawi in an embassy car to have his hair cut and dyed, presumably in preparation for smuggling him out of the country.

But realizing, belatedly, that the Syrian government might not be planning to accord the gentlest treatment to a failed bomber who could implicate some of its most senior personnel in a horrific attempt at state-sponsored terrorism, Hindawi gave the Syrians the slip. He was taken into police custody the following day.

Under questioning, Hindawi sang like a bird about Syria’s terror tentacles. He tied Damascus to a terror attack at Rome airport in 1985 and to another at a Paris newspaper office in 1982. He directed police to two weapons caches outside London, detailed how SAA crew members regularly brought explosives and arms into the UK and provided information on terror cells in the UK, Italy and Germany.

According to some reports, British intelligence had been tracking Hindawi for two months before the bomb plot was thwarted, having intercepted and decoded communications between the Syrian embassy and Damascus. Britain’s MI5 reportedly witnessed Hindawi meeting with embassy officials and received rare official permission to bug the embassy. True or not, the fact is that Britain’s foreign secretary at the time, Sir Geoffrey Howe, told Parliament immediately after Hindawi had been convicted that Britain had incontrovertible proof of the Syrian government’s deep involvement in the “monstrous and inhumane crime.”

“We have independent evidence that the Syrian ambassador was personally involved … in securing for Hindawi the sponsorship of the Syrian intelligence authorities,” Howe told his colleagues in the House of Commons. “The whole house will be outraged by the Syrian role in this case…. We have therefore decided to break diplomatic relations with Syria.”

Enforce cease-fire terms for peaceful New Year


The Jewish people have a tradition of reflecting on the past as a tool to move forward. Never is this custom more significant than at the start of each New Year.

This Yom Kippur, we have a lot to bear in mind. At the end of summer a year ago, just before the beginning of 5766, Israel had faced what at the time seemed to be its most difficult summer with the disengagement from Gaza. A rift was created within Israeli society, one that the people of Israel were still dealing with until just before this summer began.

The thriving economy and booming tourist industry seemed a promising end to a trying year and hopeful beginning of the coming year. Unprecedented numbers of Hollywood celebrities were calling Tel Aviv their summer hotspot, and Israeli teens were trampling all over each other to buy tickets for some of the biggest acts in the world — performing in Israel.

School was out and summer camp was in. The pools had been properly chlorinated, and everyone was ready to show off their brand new bathing suits. For the kids all over Israel, this was the moment they’d been waiting for since September.

Following the deaths of 10 Israeli soldiers in two terrorist attacks, which resulted in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit on June 25 as well as Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev on July 12, Israel set aside its summer plans and prepared to face once again what we have faced so many times in the past — war.

By mid-July the residents of northern Israel were being bombarded on a daily basis by deadly Katyusha missiles fired by Hezbollah. Innocent civilians were being targeted and killed. Hezbollah was exhibiting a new ruthlessness, placing ball bearings in the missile heads with the sole purpose of inflicting maximum injury and suffering on anyone within its reach of one mile.

Northern Israel took a harsh beating, bustling Israeli landmark cities like Haifa, Tzfat, Nahariya, Kiriyat Shmona and Tiberias were nearly deserted. Buildings were destroyed, the lush green landscape was in flames, and many lives were lost. With more than a third of Israel’s population in the line of fire, residents either fled south or huddled together in bomb shelters, transforming the animated north into a ghost town.

By the time a cease-fire was reached, 160 Israelis had been killed by Hezbollah terrorists. More than 4,000 missiles landed in Israel during the war, hitting 6,000 homes, leaving 300,000 Israeli’s displaced and forcing more than a million to live in bomb shelters.
Had the United Nations implemented Security Council Resolution 1559, the war would probably have been averted. Now, with the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1701, the international community has been given a second chance to make things right.

Resolution 1701 brought an end to the military struggle, but while the bombs have stopped falling and the focus is to regroup and rebuild northern Israel, we must remain cautious and guarded.

The clear agenda of the president of Iran, a fundamentalist regime that gives financial support and operational directives to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, has not changed. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to sponsor terrorism and strives to achieve nuclear capabilities, while at the same time reiterating his call for the destruction of the Israel and denying the Holocaust.

Iran and Syria remain the driving force behind Hezbollah, a fact that strengthens the argument that the arms embargo addressed in Resolution 1701 must be enforced.
The culture of hatred that has grown strong in the unstable region surrounding Israel affects the Jewish people worldwide. Today, however, the Jewish people are stronger than they have ever been. That strength stems, among other things, from Eretz Israel, the one country in the world every Jew is free to call their home.

This summer, as Israel was under fire, the Jews of the world spoke together and stood together. It is well known that as Jews we band together in times of hardship. Never was that more true than during this past summer. Jews in Israel and around the world understood the stakes and made standing with Israel their first priority.

In accepting Resolution 1701, Israel has once again shown its commitment to peace by giving diplomacy a chance to succeed. It is now essential that this commitment to peace be echoed by the international community, starting first and foremost with the implementation of this important resolution.

As we continue the battle to free our abducted soldiers and secure our borders, Israel remains strong. Looking forward to a new year, we are strengthened by the lessons of our past. The Jewish people have overcome countless obstacles since the beginning of our history 5767 years ago, and we will continue to prevail against all odds and all enemies for a long time to come.

With this year ending and a new one beginning, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Jewish community for its undying support of Israel.

I pray that God continues to give us all the strength to face the many challenges that lie ahead.

I wish all of you a healthy, happy, peaceful New Year and may all of your hearts’ desires be fulfilled.

Am Yisrael Chai!

The people of Israel will live for eternity.

Chag Samech, Shana Tova and Gmar Chatima Tova.

Ehud Danoch is Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles.

Salman Rushdie Q & A: there’s a fascination with death among suicide bombers


Salman Rushdie, 59, has spent many years thinking and writing about terrorism. In this interview with political author Erich Follath, which appeared last month in Der Spiegel and is reprinted here with permission, Rushdie reflects on why apparently normal young men turn to terror, the dangers of religion and whether the United States has turned into an authoritarian state. Rushdie divides his time between New York, London and Mumbai; he appears in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, as keynote speaker at the American Jewish Congress’ event, “Profiles in Courage: Voices of Muslim Reformers in the Modern World.”

Erich Follath: Mr. Rushdie, as an expert on terrorism you….
Salman Rushdie: What gives me that honor? I don’t see myself as such at all.

EF: Your book, “Fury,” with its description of an America threatened by terrorism and published in spring 2001, was seen by many as prophetic — as more or less anticipating 9/11. Your most recent novel, “Shalimar the Clown,” describes how a circus performer from Kashmir is transformed into a terrorist. And for almost a decade, your life was threatened by Iranian fanatics, with a price of $4 million on your head.

SR: If you think that’s enough to qualify me as an expert on terrorism….

EF: While researching your books — and especially now after the recent near miss in London — you must be asking yourself: What makes apparently normal young men decide to blow themselves up?

SR: There are many reasons, and many different reasons, for the worldwide phenomenon of terrorism. In Kashmir, some people are joining the so-called resistance movements because they give them warm clothes and a meal. In London, last year’s attacks were still carried out by young Muslim men whose integration into society appeared to have failed. But now we are dealing with would-be terrorists from the middle of society. Young Muslims who have even enjoyed many aspects of the freedom that Western society offers them. It seems as though social discrimination no longer plays any role — it’s as though anyone could turn into a terrorist.

EF: Leading British Muslims have written a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair claiming that the growing willingness to engage in terrorism is due to [President] Bush’s and Blair’s policies in Iraq and in Lebanon. Are they completely wrong? Don’t the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and the cynicism of Guantanamo contribute to extremism?

SR: I’m no friend of Tony Blair’s, and I consider the Middle East policies of the United States and the U.K. fatal. There are always reasons for criticism, also for outrage. But there’s one thing we must all be clear about: Terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate goals by some sort of illegitimate means. Whatever the murderers may be trying to achieve, creating a better world certainly isn’t one of their goals. Instead they are out to murder innocent people. If the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, were to be miraculously solved from one day to the next, I believe we wouldn’t see any fewer attacks.

EF: And yet there must be reasons, or at least triggers, for this terrible willingness to wipe out the lives of others — and of oneself.

SR: Lenin once described terrorism as bourgeois adventurism. I think there, for once, he got things right. That’s exactly it. One must not negate the basic tenet of all morality — that individuals are themselves responsible for their actions. And the triggers seem to be individual, too.

Upbringing certainly plays a major role there, imparting a misconceived sense of mission, which pushes people toward “actions.” Added to that there is a herd mentality once you have become integrated in a group, and everyone continues to drive everyone else on and on into a forced situation. There’s the type of person who believes his action will make mankind listen to him and turn him into a historic figure. Then there’s the type who simply feels attracted to violence. And yes, I think glamour plays a role, too.

EF: Do you seriously mean that terrorism is glamorous?

SR: Yes. Terror is glamour — not only, but also. I am firmly convinced that there’s something like a fascination with death among suicide bombers. Many are influenced by the misdirected image of a kind of magic that is inherent in these insane acts. The suicide bomber’s imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other peoples’ lives. There’s one thing you mustn’t forget here: The victims terrorized by radical Muslims are mostly other Muslims.

EF: Of course there can be no justification for terrorism. But nevertheless, there are various different starting points. There is the violence of groups who are pursuing nationalist, one might say comprehensible, goals using every means at their disposal….

SR: …. And there are others, like Al Qaeda, which have taken up the cause of destroying the West and our entire way of life. This form of terrorism wraps itself up in the wrongs of this world in order to conceal its true motives — an attack on everything that ought to be sacred to us. It is not possible to discuss things with Osama bin Laden and his successors. You cannot conclude a peace treaty with them. They have to be fought with every available means.

EF: And with the other ones, the “nationalist terrorists,” should we engage in dialogue with them?

SR: That depends on whether they are prepared to renounce their terrorist struggle under a certain set of conditions. That appears to be showing at least initial signs of working with the Basques of ETA. I think we have Bin Laden to thank for that to no small extent — the Basque leaders didn’t want to be like him. And with the IRA, it was the loss of credibility among their own people, who no longer saw any point in fighting violently in the underground.
Remolding former terrorist organizations into political parties in the long term is at least not hopeless. It might work with those groups that are not primarily characterized by religious fanaticism — the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, for example, a group which virtually invented suicide bombings, have no religious background at all. They have clear objectives: an independent state.

EF: Should such a state be granted to a minority just because they are particularly ruthless? What about Shalimar, the hero of your latest novel, who murders for Kashmir? Should he determine the region’s future?

Ex-Iran President’s U.S. Visit Is Slap in the Face


The issuance of a U.S. visa to Mohammad Khatami, former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran until he was succeeded by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Khatami’s presence this week on
U.S. soil, is an insult to the American people, a slap in the face to Iran’s pro-democracy movement, a mockery of the immigration and anti-terrorism laws and a continuation of the schizophrenic nonpolicy of the U.S. State Department.

Let me explain.

Khatami was the president of Iran between 1997 and 2004. The State Department listed Iran as the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism during those years.

During the Khatami era, Iran sheltered Imad Mughaniyeh; gave refuge to Al Qaeda terrorists who fled to Iran, including Saad bin Ladin; continued to support Hamas and Hezbollah; and refused to hand over to the United States the Iranian intelligence officials who supervised the attack on Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the deaths of many fine American soldiers. Khatami continues to support Hezbollah and Hamas and has called for the destruction of Israel.

This is why Khatami’s admission to the United States and his current lecture tour should be considered an insult to the American people.

During the Khatami era, freedom of press and assembly was relaxed by the Iranian intelligence and security apparatus to lull the reformists and true democrats into a false sense of security. Thousands and thousands of students, journalists, women and clerics started to express their opinions freely. Those people are now either dead or are languishing in prisons.

During the Khatami era, dissidents were killed, women were stoned and Jews, journalists, Kurds and others were sent to prison. Khatami was president during the biggest crackdown on the media since the beginning of the Iranian revolution.

Khatami was president when Jews were sent to prison on charges of espionage. Khatami was president when Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi was killed, and Khatami was president when thousands of university students were arrested after the 1999 student riots.

While Khatami is feasting in the banquets being thrown in his honor by Muslim organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ahmad Batebi, the hero of the 1999 student movement, faces another day of torture and beatings in solitary confinement.

This is why Khatami’s presence in the United States is a slap in the face to Iran’s pro-democracy movement.

The issuance of a visa to Khatami has made a mockery of the immigration and anti-terrorism laws of the United States. Under the laws of the United States, it is a federal crime to aid and abet terrorist organizations. As a supporter of terrorism, Khatami was inadmissible under U.S. immigration laws and should not have been allowed entry.

It is shocking that the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security zealously investigates and federal prosecutors zealously prosecute Iranian Americans who help Iranian dissidents flee to safety and seek refuge but turn a blind eye to what a mockery Khatami’s presence in the United States is.

The State Department, by issuing a visa to Khatami, and the Department of Homeland Security, by admitting Khatami into the country, have not just made a mockery of our laws but should be looked at as co-conspirators of Khatami.
In 1999, I met my first State department official. His name was Chris Stevens, and he was an Iran desk officer. On the door of his office was a cartoon. The cartoon depicted an executioner holding a bloody chainsaw, while wearing a smiley face. The caption read: “Khatami’s Iran.”

Chris told me that was his view of Khatami’s Iran. I asked why was it that the State Department did not do something about Iran. I was told that the Clinton administration was distracted by other issues, but that one day, the schizophrenic approach toward Iran would end. Sadly it has not.

It is heartbreaking to see Khatami speak at the Washington National Cathedral days before the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11. The American people have experienced and learned a lot since that historic day about who they are and what America stands for. The State Department has not.

Pooya Dayanim is president of the Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee and past foreign affairs director of the Iran Referendum Movement. He can be reached at

Israel, U.S. Act on Request for Renewable Energy


Israel and the United States will pool their scientific brainpower to find and develop alternative energy sources under a bill passed by the House and now wending its way through the Senate.

Under the proposed U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, scientists and engineers from both countries would focus on research, development and commercial use of renewable energy from solar, wind, hydrogen and biofuel sources.

The act would appropriate $20 million annually through 2012 for grants to researchers at universities and business enterprises, awarded by a newly established International Energy Advisory Board in the U.S. Department of Energy.

All the funds are to come from the United States.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, the energy act was introduced by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Rep. John Shadegg (R-Phoenix), and approved by an overwhelming voice vote in the House last month.

Essentially the same bill has been sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and 14 of his colleagues. Although the bill faces the usual committee and appropriations hurdles, Smith’s spokesman, R.C. Hammond, expressed confidence that the measure would pass the full Senate by the end of the current session.

The act received a boost from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his May 24 address to a joint session of Congress, when he stressed America and Israel’s common “desire for energy security” and praised the pending legislation.

Ron Dermer, minister of economic affairs at the Israeli embassy in Washington, said that the act would build on previous collaboration through the U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation.

Dermer also pointed to the large pool of Israeli scientific talent, such as at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and its ability to tackle new research fields.

Similarly, Sherman noted past technological collaboration between the two countries, as in the development of the Arrow missile, and Israeli pioneer work in developing more efficient batteries, solar energy and fuel cells.

In the language of the bill, he and Shadegg stressed that energy independence was “in the highest national security interest of the United States,” and warned that the U.S. now imports from foreign countries 58 percent of its oil.

Such dependence will increase by 33 percent over the next 20 years, the legislators projected, with some of the exporting countries using their profits to fund terrorism and hostile propaganda.

In a phone interview, Sherman said that when he introduced a similar measure last year, it died in committee hearing, contrasted to the overwhelming support this year.

He paid special tribute to the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress), which has been lobbying for effective energy legislation for many years and has mobilized public support for the House measure.

Gary P. Ratner, AJCongress western regional executive director, said that his national organization had sent e-mails to some 25,000 members in support of the House bill. He urged that voters now contact their senators to advocate passage of Senate Bill 1862.

AJCongress National Executive Director Neil B. Goldstein said he was optimistic that the legislation would be passed by the Senate and signed by President Bush, noting that Senate majority leaders Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) had expressed interest in presenting the bill to the full Senate for an early vote.In a related development, American and Israeli business, academic and financial leaders will meet in Tel Aviv on Nov. 8 for a high-level Alternative and Renewable Energy Conference, according to Shai Aizin, Israel West Coast consul for economic affairs.

For information on the conference, call (323) 658-7924, or e-mail losangeles@moital.gov.il. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Anchors Let Slip Plaintiff’s Name

Two Israeli radio disc jockeys were suspended for broadcasting the first name of a woman who alleges that President Moshe Katsav sexually assaulted her. Shai Goldstein and Dror Raphael, irreverent anchors on Tel Aviv Radio, were suspended for a week following a recent surprise phone call they made on air to the former Katsav aide, who previously had been identified in the media only by her first initial “A” due to the sensitivity of the case. Before she hung up on the duo, they used her full first name. The radio station apologized for the indiscretion but noted that the name is so common in Israel that the chance that the woman had been unmasked was slim. Shai and Dror, as they are popularly known, are famous for their broadcast pranks, which have included making crank calls to Israeli leaders and even enemy countries like Iran and Iraq.

Olmert Limits Inquiry Into War

Ehud Olmert announced that his government would conduct a limited inquiry into Israel’s handling of the Lebanon war. The prime minister said Monday that a former Mossad chief, Nahum Admoni, would lead the government-appointed commission to investigate whether the military and political echelons mishandled the 34-day offensive against Hezbollah. Olmert’s decision fell short of the independent judicial commission that his opponents had called for, and which might have had the power to recommend the prime minister’s resignation. Olmert said such a probe would take too long and would neglect the need to rehabilitate Israel’s defense apparatus ahead of possible future conflicts with Hezbollah or its patron, Iran.

Poll: Israelis Want Olmert Resignation

Sixty-three percent of Israelis want Ehud Olmert to resign, according to a new poll. Results of the Yediot Achronot poll, released Friday, showed for the first time that a majority of Israelis favor the resignation of the prime minister, elected in March, because of his handling of Israel’s war with Hezbollah. The poll showed 45 percent backing Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister who heads the Likud Party.

New Orleans Shul Dedicates New Torah

A New Orleans synagogue that lost its Torah scrolls to flooding dedicated a new scroll for the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. On Sunday, Congregation Beth Israel dedicated a scroll donated by the Los Angeles Jewish community through a fundraising drive by 16-year-old Hayley Fields of Hancock Park, who raised $18,000 to buy the Torah. Seven ruined Torah scrolls were recovered and buried after last year’s flood. National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox umbrella body, facilitated the dedication.

Argentine Jews Complain Over Blocked Protest

Argentine Jewish leaders met with the country’s interior minister after left-wing activists prevented Jews from holding a demonstration against Iran.Luis Grynwald, president of the community’s central AMIA institution, and Jorge Kirszenbaum, president of the DAIA political umbrella group, talked with Anibal Fernandez for more than an hour Friday morning about an incident Thursday in which the Quebracho group blocked a street where Jews were to demonstrate. Many saw the move as anti-Semitic.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Letters to the Editor


AMIT

Uriel Heilman’s recent article, “Sderot’s Kids Living in Fear” (June 30), accurately portrays the situation in this Israeli city and the role AMIT is playing in helping the children of Sderot to continue their education under these difficult circumstances.

AMIT recently launched a special campaign for Sderot. Readers wishing to learn more about AMIT, can call our Los Angeles office at (310) 859-4885 or visit www.amitchildren.org.

Barbara Goldberg
AMIT Director of Communications
New York, N.Y.

Right Call

While visiting from Israel, I was interested to read Rob Eshman’s “The Right Call” in the July 14 issue, in which he described his conversation with a friend who thinks Israel is doing “terrible” things.

I would add the following: The great challenge for Eshman’s friend is to decide whether she can support Israel, when Israel must choose the best of bad options. By and large, Israelis do not want their soldiers in Lebanon and Gaza inflicting civilian casualties and destroying infrastructure, while searching for 10,000 missiles hidden amongst several million people.

However, it’s not serious to think that turning the other cheek is a policy that will stop the shelling. In fact, the alternative to the bad choices is something far worse: surrendering to the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Israel will defend itself and its citizens from attack. Israelis will be able to walk outside their homes without rockets slamming into the ground. And, I sincerely hope that Eshman’s friend will change her mind and support us in our hour of need.

Nathan Wirtschafter
Rehovot, Israel

Chinese-American Jews

Your cover story in the July 14 issue on “A Generation of Chinese-American Jews Comes of Age” moved me to tears. Especially poignant to me were the writings of Susan Freudenheim (Journal managing editor) and her daughter, Rachel Core.Rachel speaks of her friend, Willow, also born in China and adopted by her mother. Willow is one of my granddaughter Esther’s best friends. She, too, is a lovely child.

And Esther, my fantastic, charismatic, beautiful granddaughter who is named after my mother, also was adopted. Esther, too, will be bat mitzvahed in about two years at Temple Israel of Hollywood. And her sister, Dani, named after our son, David, who was also adopted, was bat mitzvahed at Temple Emmanuel in Beverly Hills and now will be a sophomore at the Marlborough School. Both Esther and Dani also went through the mikvah ceremony at theUniversity of Judaism.

Thank you for the cover story. It was beautiful.

George Epstein
Los Angeles

Rabbi Pressman

It’s one thing to disagree on the administration of kashrut in this state and city; it’s another to besmirch the reputation of one the great pioneering rabbis of Los Angeles.

When referring to the dearth of kosher establishments in the 1960s (“Kosher,” Letters, July 7), Howard Weiss forgets the demographics of the Jewish community of the 1950s and 1960s, a preponderance of World War II GIs and their brides new to Los Angeles, with few ties to the Jewish community or observance. It was in this context, that Rabbi Jacob Pressman’s accomplishments were extraordinary.As president of the Board of Rabbis, he was instrumental in installing the first kosher kitchen of the Jewish Community Council (the precursor to The Federation), creating a kosher kitchen at Mt. Sinai Hospital (the Sinai of Cedars-Sinai) and collaborating to create the first Va-ad HaKashrut under full Community Council auspices.

As a rabbi and educator, he inspired and still inspires generations to make kashrut and the observance of mitzvot a part of their lives.

Fran Grossman
Los Angeles

Silence on Gaza

Did I understand Ron Kampeas (“Is U.S. Silence on Gaza Sign of Friendship or Weakness?” July 14) correctly, that he wants our government to show neutrality by currying favor with the Arab governments and criticizing Israel’s self-defense?

The former would return us to a failed policy of the traditional State Department Arabists: It benefited undeserving autocratic, anti-Semitic regimes. The latter would be a dagger in the back of our most loyal ally, the only democracy in the Middle East and the first line of defense against the Islamo-fascists. There is no justification for neutrality between good and evil, friend and foe.

Councilman Dennis Zine and Rep. Darrell Issa, have risked the support of their natural political base by declaring that Israel has the right of self-defense and Lebanon is responsible for the conflict; a far more just position than Kampeas’. I applaud their honesty and political courage.

Louis Richter
Encino

Correction

A photo accompanying the July 14 cover story, “Dual Identity, Double the Questions,” incorrectly identified the woman examining the Torah with Lily Ling Goldstein. She is Deborah Kreingel, Lily’s Hebrew tutor.

The Right Call

In his July 14 column (“The Right Call”), Rob Eshman describes recent Israeli actions in Gaza as a “harsh and bloody incursion” and as “unnecessarily cruel and destructive.” By doing so, according to Eshman, Israel has “squandered the vast sums of moral capital Israel has accrued in dealing with Hamas.”

Eshman evidently believes that a war against an enemy — Hamas and Hezbollah and other religion of peace organizations and their sponsors in Iran and Syria — that wishes to destroy your country and slaughter or expel its Jewish citizens can be fought as gently as a badminton match.

As for the “vast sums of moral capital” Israel accrued, the withdrawal from Gaza got Israel about five minutes of favorable press coverage in countries that wish it would just disappear.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Your editorial (“The Right Call”) counseling Israel to show restraint is misguided for following reasons:

  1. Israel is that inevitable exception to the sound rule that nations should always try to avoid and restrain their military (even defensive) actions, because both Hezbollah and Hamas are Hitler wannabes as to Israel and its Jews, and like all their ilk, they will deem and spin any restraints by Israel as great “inspirational victories” for their evil means and goals (e.g. Israel’s leaving southern Lebanon inspired the second intifada, and leaving Gaza led to the daily rocket attacks and the invasion/kidnapping of Gilad Shalit);
  2. The fundamental goal in the propaganda war (supporting their military and terrorist wars), Hezbollah, Hamas, their allies, patrons, leaders, supporters and followers have been successfully waging for more than 60 years has been to depict Israel either as the true fomenter or the overaggressive defender in all Israel’s wars for survival.

    Advising Israel to show restraint when it has been attacked by Hamas, Hezbollah and their supporting nations unwittingly reinforces that 60-year libel campaign against Israel.

  3. Despite Israel having faced a war for survival through its entire history, its excellent humanitarian record of military restraints in its 60-year war for survival is unmatched by any other modern nation. Obviously, your editorial writer chose to ignore that noble record.

Ben Kagan
Hollywood

Rob Eshman’s casual assertion that Israel’s response to last week’s kidnappings and rocket attacks was unnecessarily cruel and destructive, squandering the vast sums of moral capital [it] has accrued in dealing with Hamas, misses the point. Consider what apparently prompted the attacks — acts of concession. Israel’s withdrawing from Gaza and its planned withdrawal from most of the West Bank.The sad reality is that good will gestures by Israel are a practical impossibility. Abandoning settlements, granting territory, releasing prisoners or easing security restrictions have never enhanced our image in the eyes of our enemies, including the Palestinians. Rather, such actions are taken as proof that the repulsive Jews are weakening.

As former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon put it, concessions by Israel are viewed by its neighbors as a sign that it is a wounded animal, ripe for the kill. And history, both past and present, seems to affirm this.

As difficult as this may be for many of us to accept, we have seen it before. No good will gesture would have been appreciated, let alone spared the Jews of Nazi Germany. If Israel is to survive, it has no choice but to demonstrate its readiness to strike disproportionately, a nightmare burden it cannot avoid.

Mark Ellman
Los Angeles

Dangerous Moves

To all those Neville Chamberlains who have supported giving our Arab enemies land for peace, have you noticed something? Since Israel gave her enemies the Gaza, she has been attacked by the Muslim terrorists more fiercely than ever.Sharon shouldn’t have even considered giving land to Israel’s enemies any more than Begin should have given Egypt the Sinai. Both moves were misguided, naive and dangerous. Last time I looked at a map, the Arabs have so much land they don’t know what to do with it. Yet the Neville Chamberlains (Jews and non-Jews) want Israel to keep chopping away at its borders.

Anonymous
North Hollywood

Middle-Class Squeeze

Leonard Solomon’s discussion of the “Middle-Class Squeeze,” regarding supplementary schools (Letters, June 23), brings many issues to light. Yes, more middle-class families could opt for the supplementary school if it were in any way possible for the part-time schools to deliver a semblance of the intensity and comprehensive study of our rich heritage that day schools do provide. In part, this is the underlying reason for the day school success.

The culprit is not the Bureau of Jewish Education’s standards as suggested by Mr. Solomon. The bureau offers much to enrich the supplementary programs and assists with school tuitions. However, on the contrary, the greatest challenge to the supplementary schools is the lack of professional personnel ready and able to make a part-time commitment to the institution and the program.

During the glory days of supplementary education, a very different dynamic was operative. Professional teachers in the public schools sought additional income to supplement their low salaries. They invested their energy and expertise in the part-time endeavor.

We knew it was incumbent upon us to educate our children. We brought excitement, innovation, knowledge and professionalism to classrooms overflowing with children eager to be challenged, and we were professionally trained to do just that.

Today, those professionals interested in Jewish education can find satisfying careers in the full-time day schools. It is rare to find professionals serving in both types of schools, but there are some. It is clear that the supplementary schools are bereft of adequate leadership and pedagogically well-trained professionals. Therefore, the question remains: Where and how to find well trained, certified teachers for a part-time program?

Those at the helm do all that is possible with the limited time allotment and untrained staff of willing, warm bodies manning the classrooms.

Could you envision surgery being performed by lay people? Why then do we accept less than well-trained, adequate professionals in our schools attempting to educate our children?

All who desire a meaningful, intensive Jewish education coming from committed homes should be able to find education assistance for whatever their choice.This must become our community’s No. 1 responsibility and priority. How else to ensure the continuity of our people?

Sandra Radoff-Bernstein
Board Member
Bureau of Jewish Education
Los Angeles

The New York Times

Rob Eshman’s defense of The New York Times (“A Different War,” July 7) and stereotypical attack on the Bush administration is uncalled for. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times published classified information, even though the administration asked them not to (The Wall Street Journal – a very pro-Israel publication heard that The New York Times was coming out with the story and unfortunately followed suit).

It is not a defense to say The Times weighed a “speculative risk against the public interest.” The Times should not be speculating on what risks are worthy of taking when it comes to the lives of Americans.

Contrary to what Eshman states, the “burden of proof” in showing the danger of revealing government secrets cannot be dismissed by simply claiming The Times disagrees. The administration thought there was a danger and the editor of The Times took it upon himself to conclude otherwise.

While the administration talked in general terms about the tracking of terrorist money, it gave no details how this would be done and our enemies did not know the specifics until provided by The Times.

It is simply reprehensible for Eshman to say that “when the conservative base” goes after The New York Times, he senses the attack is wrapped up with notions of “Jewish” and “liberals.” Many Democrats, including former Clinton advisers, say that great harm was done to a program that was effective in fighting terrorism.

This administration’s conservative base is in fact very pro-Israel and not in the slightest anti-Jewish. No other president in history has surrounded himself with as many Jewish advisers and Israel supporters as has President Bush.Overwhelming public opinion condemns The New York Times for its disclosure and supports all legal methods for punishment of those that leak classified material and those who publish it.

By condemning The Times, it is not the administration that takes its “eye off the ball,” as Eshman claims. The president is vigorously pursuing the policies that he believes best protect America, regardless of what the liberal media believes.

It is too bad that the editor of The Jewish Journal echoes The New York Times, one of the most liberal and anti-administration publications in the country.

Mitchell W. Egers
Los Angeles

Rob Eshman’s near miracle of defending the indefensible, i.e., The New York Times’ disclosure of the tracking details by the U.S. of Al Qaeda’s complex international transactions, is explainable only as one editor blindly defending another in the name of the religion of journalism.

The Wall Street Journal, unlike the New York Times, broke the story without disclosing secret details that Al Qaeda would literally have killed to learn. To suggest, as does The Jewish Journal article, that the Bush administration’s feigned outrage at the conduct of The New York Times is a political ploy calculated to whip up hatred against Jews and liberals is as insidious as the odious conspiracy story that Jews and liberals are responsible for 9/11.

Older Chicagoans will, of course, recognize that the old Chicago Tribune sickness of administration hatred (Roosevelt, Bush) has now infected The New York Times.

The Foreign Policy Magazine article cited in Mr. Eshman’s article showing that 86 percent of experts believe the world is now more dangerous for Americans has more to do with Islamo-fascism than anything else. A poll of European experts would probably show that they believe that the world has become more dangerous for Brits, Danes, etc. Surprise?

Seymour W. Croft
Los Angeles

Bill O’Reilly

I have been Jewish for 83 years. I have watched and listened to Bill O’Reilly for at least eight years. He is not the bigot that Dr. Sol Taylor calls him. Taylor makes a giant unsubstantiated leap from right-wing bloggers to the use of New York as anti-Semitic (Letters, July 7). Taylor should stop watching those hysterical left-wing bloggers.

Ed ShevickWoodland Hills

Converts

In response to Laura Birnbaum’s article (“Converts’ Hardships Expose Truth,” July 7), I would like to share an experience that I have had on another college campus that shows a very different attitude.

I am not a student at UCLA but have made myself a member of its Jewish community. Also in this community are two students who are in the process of converting to Judaism and have been accepted with open arms.

They are socially active at Hillel; one of them even shared an apartment with a few other members of the community.

Our rabbi gives them rides to daily minyanim, of which they are regular attendees. Various members of the community have driven them to and from the Beit Din for conversion meetings and classes. I even recall that on Shavuot, one of these young men gave a short shiur about a Gemara that he had learned.

It is unfortunate that Birnbaum’s friends have had to experience discrimination from a people whose religion they have fallen in love with. It is, however, somewhat comforting to know that this is not an attitude that is common across the board and that there are people who are ready to embrace newcomers to our religion with love and encouragement.

Josh Cohen
Los Angeles

Judaism Outdoors

I applaud your article on Judaism and the outdoors (“Judaism Finds Its Niche in Great Outdoors,” July 7). All the organizations you mentioned are doing wonderful work, however, besides Rabbi Shifren, not one of them is in the Los Angeles area or California for that matter.

My organization, Outdoor Jewish Adventures (OJA) is based in Santa Monica and has been servicing the greater Los Angeles Jewish community for a number of years with camping expeditions, hikes and other outdoor Jewish adventures.

Josh Lake and myself, the founders of OJA, have been part of the growing movement of outdoor Jewish educators that fuse the wonders of nature with Jewish teachings.

We encourage your readers to explore nature in a Jewish context and want them to know that they can find these experiences locally through Outdoor Jewish Adventures.

Stuart Treitel
President/Co-Founder
Outdoor Jewish Adventures
Santa Monica

Never Forget

I have admired the Jewish people since 1967, when as a student at Pasadena City College, I met and had a female friend who left to go to war and defend her country when the war broke out in Israel.

I really liked the “$61.8 Billion” story by Rob Eshman (May 19). It shows the greatness of an ethnic and religious group of folks that strive for greatness and do everything possible to succeed.

I would like to see the American Jewish people support Israel more and demand that the American quislings never ever forget their main friend in the Middle East – Israel!

John Sanchez
Madera, Calif.

Old-Fashioned Solution to Iran Problem


John McCain, Republican senator from Arizona and presidential hopeful, is absolutely right about the gravity of the threat from a nuclear Iran.

But does anyone notice something strange?

McCain strongly backed President Bush in toppling Saddam Hussein and is an unabashed hawk in the war against militant Islamism. Presumably, he cheered when Bush launched his doctrine of regime change against rogue regimes — the famed “axis of evil,” of which Iran is a charter member.

Yet even McCain describes the Iran crisis as something separate from the fight against terrorism. How can this be?

Somehow the old, pre-Sept. 11 idea that fighting terrorism means hunting down groups like Al Qaeda, rather than confronting terrorist states, has crept back into the minds of even the most ardent supporters of Bush’s foreign policy. Perhaps McCain made a slip of the tongue, but if so, it was quite a slip. What he should have said was that preventing a nuclear Iran is the pivotal challenge facing the war against terrorism today.

But doesn’t everyone know that Al Qaeda is Sunni and Iran is Shiite, and never the twain shall meet? Iran supports Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad against Israel, but what do the mullahs have to do with Al Qaeda and Sept. 11?

In reality, the conventional notion of a chasm between the Sunni and Shiite branches of the Islamist jihad is mistaken.

The official 9/11 Report has a whole section titled “Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to Al Qaeda” that notes “we now have evidence suggesting that eight to 10 of the 14 Saudi ‘muscle’ [9/11 hijackers] traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.”

The report states that Al Qaeda terrorists received “advice and training” from Hezbollah, and cites detainee testimony that “Iran made a concerted effort to strengthen relations with Al Qaeda after the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, but was rebuffed because bin Ladin did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia.”

The same source reports that Iranian border inspectors were instructed not to stamp the passports of Al Qaeda operatives, mainly to facilitate travel to Saudi Arabia.

On Dec. 18, 2005, The New York Times reported that after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, “Al Qaeda lost its sanctuary, and Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders scattered to Pakistan, Iran and other countries.”

There is, then, no shortage of direct connections between Iran and Al Qaeda, including specifically connections to the Sept. 11 hijackers. Sunni and Shiite terrorists, it turns out, are happy to work together toward a common cause such as killing Americans and Israelis. Still, it might be argued that Al Qaeda, regardless of any assistance it receives from Iran, is essentially an independent actor and so it is a stretch to claim that targeting Iran is an efficient way to fight Al Qaeda.

But this sort of thinking, although common, also misunderstands the war we are in. Putting terrorist groups at the center and their state backers on the periphery is the wrong way around. The whole progress of the war, in either direction, should be measured, as the terrorists do, in the coin of states, not groups.

Al Qaeda knows that no terrorist group can subdue the United States, let alone control the world. The militant Islamist theory of victory is simple: Take over as many states as possible, first in the Muslim world, then beyond.

Now that pro-terror regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan are gone and Libya has cried uncle and ostensibly abandoned the terror/nuke business, Iran is far and away the most important terrorist regime in the world. For Israel, Iranian nukes are obviously an existential threat. But for the world, as well, a nuclearized Iran would represent the pivot between a world with more terror states and one with fewer.

Make no mistake, if the mullahs fell, it would be a major, perhaps mortal blow, to Al Qaeda and to militant Islam worldwide. This is so because terrorists depend not on military power, which they lack, but on a sense of inevitability and despair, which they hope to create. They are either the wave of the future, or they are nothing. When the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, there was suddenly a surplus of Bin Laden T-shirts in Peshawar, Pakistan.

McCain said something else important in that same interview: “The Iranian people are not happy under these mullahs. They oppress and repress them. We’ve got to do much more to encourage the democracy movement in Iran.”

He’s right for two reasons: The fall of the Iranian regime would deal the greatest blow to Islamist terrorism, and it is the only sure way to protect against a nuclearized terror state.

As columnist Amir Taheri noted, the West should “acknowledge that the problem is not uranium enrichment but the nature of the Iranian regime. More than 20 countries, from Argentina to Ukraine, enrich uranium without anyone making a fuss. But who can trust the present leadership in Teheran not to embark upon some tragic mischief in the name of its ideology?”

The Iranian regime should be the subject of withering international isolation of the sort used to topple Somoza in Nicaragua, Marcos in the Philippines, the apartheid regime in South Africa and, most recently, to reverse the stolen election in the Ukraine. Indeed, the mullocracy is more deserving of pariah status than any of these other nasty regimes since it both oppresses its own people and poses a dire threat to international security.

The great irony is that though Iran’s aggression compounds its human rights sins, its support for terrorism has allowed it to escape the campaigns used to vanquish less-threatening dictatorships.

The most significant impact of economic, or even military, sanctions may not be their direct effects but their contribution to a comprehensive denial of legitimacy. Though the mullahs seem to revel in flouting the international community, it is such isolation and rejection — and their own people — that they fear most. The ultimate solution to the Iran problem is an old-fashioned one: revolution.

Saul Singer is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, where this first appeared.

 

Summit Tackles Iran Nukes, College Strife


 

More than 1,000 pro-Israel activists from across the United States will meet in Los Angeles for the Oct. 30-31 National Summit on Foreign Policy and Politics of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

They will join former President Bill Clinton, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, members of Congress, Israeli military leaders and journalists, scholars and top AIPAC officials in analyzing key issues facing Israel in the Middle East and in its relations with the United States.

Among forum and panel topics are terrorism threats against Los Angeles and other American cities, attitudes of the Latino community, Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, innovative Israeli technology, challenges on American college campuses, the role of European Jewry and development of the Negev and Galilee.

For a Hollywood break, participants will take a studio tour and join a panel discussion with producers of “The West Wing” and “Commander in Chief.”

Attendance at the two-day meeting at the Westin Century Plaza Hotel is limited to members of AIPAC’s Capitol Club, who annually contribute $3,600 or more.

The meeting comes at a time when the influential pro-Israel lobby finds itself the object of much unwelcome media attention.

Two former top AIPAC officials in Washington, D.C. are currently facing trial in federal court on charges that they conspired with a former Pentagon analyst to communicate secret information to an Israeli diplomat.

AIPAC has dismissed the two officials, but is paying for their defense in accordance with its bylaws.

The legal charges have not impacted the organization’s clout in Congress nor its membership and fundraising figures, AIPAC officials maintain.

On the contrary, they say, since the beginning of the second intifada five years ago, AIPAC membership has almost doubled from 55,000 to 100,000, and its annual operating budget has risen from $17 million to $40 million.

Over the last two years alone, membership has grown by some 25 percent and conferences across the country have scored record attendances, according to AIPAC officials, who are not obliged to document this information.

They attribute the rise mainly to the violence of the initifada and the impact of Sept. 11, factors that emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

While figures regarding AIPAC could not be independently verified, a number of key L.A. Jewish activists asserted in interviews that the indictments of the two ex-AIPAC officials have not, so far, had a detrimental effect on support for the organization.

About half of the attendees at the summit meeting are expected to come from the Southern Pacific region of AIPAC, which has an estimated 10,000-15,000 members in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii.

 

All About AIPAC

AIPAC Is Guilty — But Not of Spying

How to Polish a Tarnished Image

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad AIPAC?

Looking for a Shining Star

 

Local Iranians Counsel Congress


As Iran’s fundamentalist regime has increased its persecution of Jews and become a major sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East, local Iranian Jewish leaders have stepped up efforts to inform U.S. officials of the increasing danger posed by the Islamic nation.

"We’re at the forefront of keeping the people in the U.S. government aware of what Iran is doing and trying to highlight alternative types of government to the current regime there," said Pooya Dayanim, president of the Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee, a nonprofit organization working on behalf of Iranian Jews outside Iran.

Both Dayanim and Frank Nikbakht, public affairs director of the Council of Iranian American Jewish Organizations (CIAJO), have been the primary forces in educating lawmakers on Capitol Hill about Iran, facilitating meetings between several pro-democracy Iranian opposition groups and U.S. officials.

"In April 2003, I helped coordinate informal meetings between Reza Pahlavi and members of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nuclear Nonproliferation and Human Rights," Dayanim said.

Aside from informally advising the Constitutionalist Party of Iran (supporters of a constitutional monarchy), Dayanim said he has also educated other pro-democracy Iranian opposition groups, such as the Marse Porgohar Party (supporters of a secular government), on how seek assistance from key U.S. policymakers.

Last May, Dayanim said he collaborated with Rep. Brad Sherman’s (D-Sherman Oaks) staff in drafting the Iran Democracy Support Act of 2003, a bill calling for an international referendum on regime change in Iran.

"The bill passed in the House. It was supposed to provide $50 million to dissident political parties, people supporting regime change in Iran and opposition media," Dayanim said. "At the last minute, the Rules Committee stripped this funding at the request of the White House, which really took the muscle out of the legislation."

Despite U.S. lawmakers’ and officials’ support for regime change in Iran last year, the current mood for action against the Iranian government has dramatically changed as the U.S. war in Iraq has continued, Dayanim said.

"Iraq didn’t turn out the way the administration wanted it to. They wasted their political capital there, and by this fall everything fell apart," Dayanim said. "Iran is the real hub of terror and is keeping the U.S. tied up in Iraq by supporting [Moqtada] al-Sadr, so the U.S. wouldn’t go after Iran next."

Dayanim also said key U.S. government departments are split on whether to endorse a policy of regime change in Iran or to engage Tehran in dialogue and ease U.S. sanctions. As a result of this division and the war in Iraq, President Bush has yet to take a stronger stance again Iran, Dayanim said.

"The president has always been steady in voicing his support for the freedom of the people of Iran, and actuality it has been a moral support, but we need more action, because Iran could become a nuclear power very soon and destabilize the region," Dayanim said.

Even though Iran’s terrorist activities have taken a back seat as the conflict in Iraq continues, Congress has not totally ignored the country. Recently the House passed a unanimous resolution calling for U.S. action to stop Iran’s nuclear proliferation efforts, Dayanim said. Likewise, a Senate bill has been drafted, calling for regime change in Iran, Dayanim pointed out.

"Two weeks ago, Sen. [Rick] Santorum and Sen. [John] Cornyn introduced a new bill which is more explicit in its terms and will make it the policy of the U.S. government to have regime change in Iran," Dayanim said. "At this time, I’m trying to get other senators to support this legislation."

Iranian government officials are monitoring the U.S. elections closely this year, because they believe that a Kerry administration would be more willing to negotiate with Iran without making any demands on its nuclear and terrorist-sponsoring activities, Dayanim said.

Both Dayanim and Nikbakht broke the historical taboo in the Iranian Jewish community of voicing opposition to mistreatment of Jews in Iran, when in 1999, they, along with numerous other Jewish organization, launched a campaign to publicize the plight of 13 Jews from Shiraz facing execution on false charges of spying for Israel and the United States.

"Generally the Iranian Jewish leaders have had a ghetto mentality by trying to keep everyone silent, because they’re afraid it will make the situation worse," Nikbakht said. "In 1999, we broke that silence with our campaign for the Shiraz 13, and that vocal pressure saved those Jews’ lives."

Nikbakht, who is also director of the Committee for Religious Minority Rights in Iran — an informal local group consisting of Iranian Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians and Baha’is — said that after the international community condemned Iran’s treatment of the Shiraz Jews in 1999, the Iranian government halted its campaign of systematically executing Jews.

"For the five years before the Shiraz 13 incident, the Iranian government was executing one Jew per year to keep the Jews in line," Nikbakht said. "But now all this exposure has caused changes in Iran, and Jewish leaders there have been able to openly write letters to Iranian officials to voice their disagreement with anti-Semitic legislation and Nazi-like propaganda from the regime, which they couldn’t do before."

Nikbakht said that for the past five years, the U.S. State Department has been incorporating his detailed reports about widespread discrimination against religious minorities in Iran into its annual report on Iran.

"We’re demanding equal rights for all Iranians, regardless of their religion," Nikbakht said. "We’re basically asking people in the U.S. government to put any pressure they can on Iran, including intensifying sanctions until they improve human rights in Iran for these minority groups."

Dayanim said his recent request for funding on a project to extensively document the large-scale persecution of religious minorities in Iran was rejected by the State Department, despite federal funds available for such research.

"We can only do this through federal funding, and its obvious that the issue of religious freedom for minorities was not important to them," Dayanim said.

George Harounian, CIAJO president, said the situation for Jews in Iran has deteriorated over the last 10 years. Between 1994 and 1997, 12 Iranian Jews were imprisoned and their fates are currently unknown, Harounian noted. He said they had attempted to flee the country by crossing the border into Pakistan.

Many Iranian Jewish leaders who are in contact with U.S. policymakers said they were optimistic about the U.S. government’s future actions with regards to Iran. They said they will continue to keep the light on Iran’s activities, as long as it continues to threaten the world with terrorism and potential nuclear war.

"I think the [Bush] administration wants to help, but the election has to pass and things in Iraq have to settle," Dayanim said. "I’m also meeting with foreign policy advisers to Kerry to argue that support [for] true democracy in Iran should be their policy as well."

Bush Expands Mideast Agenda


With the death toll mounting in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian "road map" plan in tatters, the Bush administration and Congress want to put out other Middle East fires before they get out of control.

Administration officials and lawmakers recently launched initiatives to sanction Syria and Iran for links to terrorist organizations and plans to develop and obtain weapons of mass destruction. Lawmakers also have focused on Saudi Arabia, accusing it of supporting Hamas and other terrorist groups. Officially, the Bush administration regards the kingdom as an ally in the war on terrorism.

The United States has been keeping an eye on these three countries for years, but attention on them has increased in the wake of U.S. military action against Iraq.

"I think it’s all wrapped up with the Iraq war and concern about the riffraff of the world assembling in Iraq to attack American forces," said Edward Walker, a former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Walker said some Bush administration officials want to take severe actions against Iran and Syria, including new sanctions made possible by the Patriot Act, passed over Sept. 11, 2001. The new actions could include cutting sources of funding for the three countries and their interests in the United States.

Lawmakers are already highlighting their concerns in Congress. A number of congressional hearings last week produced dire predictions about Iranian and Syrian capabilities and what could be the result if the United States fails to act.

Israeli and U.S. legislators said Wednesday during a committee hearing that Iran could be "weeks away" from achieving nuclear-weapon capabilities.

"If not efficiently tackled, in one year from now we may face a new world, a very dangerous Middle East and a very dangerous world," said Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defense committee.

Pressure on Syria has been mounting as well. John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told a House subcommittee Tuesday that Syria is a dual threat because of its support of terrorist groups and the possibility that Syria could arm the groups.

"While there is currently no information indicating that the Syrian Government has transferred [Weapons of Mass Destruction] to terrorist organizations or would permit such groups to acquire them, Syria’s ties to numerous terrorist groups underlie the reasons for our continued anxiety," Bolton said.

Bolton also appeared to soften Bush administration opposition to the Syria Accountability Act — legislation backed by pro-Israel groups that would sanction Syria for harboring terrorists, seeking nuclear weapons and occupying Lebanon.

Bolton said Tuesday that the administration has no position on the legislation. The White House had previously claimed the legislation would tie up the administration’s hands in foreign policy. Sources say the State Department is using support for the sanctions act as leverage in discussions with Syrian officials.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Bush on Tuesday calling for the United States to downgrade relations with Syria.

"Unless Syria changes its policies, no United States ambassador should be sent to Damascus, and the president should refuse to accept the credentials of any proposed Syrian ambassador to the United States," Ackerman wrote.

Walker said unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran and Syria would have little effect.

"We already have unilateral sanctions against both countries, and it hasn’t really stopped them," said Walker, now president of the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank. "Sanctions will only hurt American companies."

In Saudi Arabia’s case, the Bush administration and lawmakers remain miles apart. Lawmakers emphasize the link between the Saudis and terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda; the Bush administration says Saudis are aiding the fight against terrorism.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that American law enforcement officials estimate that 50 percent of Hamas’ budget comes from people in Saudi Arabia.

The Bush administration dismissed the report.

"The Saudi government has committed to ensuring that no Saudi government funds go to Hamas," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We know that private donations from people in Saudi Arabia to Hamas are very difficult to track and stop, and we continue to work closely with Saudi officials to offer expertise and information that can assist them in that regard."

Oslo Timeline


The following is a timeline of the most significant developments since the Oslo accords were signed 10 years ago this month.

  • On Sept. 13, 1993 — After 18 months of secret meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Oslo, Norway, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat shake hands on the White House lawn as the two sides sign the Declaration of Principles, a timetable for launching Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

  • May 4, 1994 — Israel and the PLO sign the Cairo Agreement for establishing self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho. Jericho comes under Palestinian rule on May 13. Israel completes its withdrawal from Gaza on May 18. By the end of the year, Israel will have withdrawn from six cities, including Ramallah.

  • Nov. 4, 1995 — Rabin is assassinated at a Tel Aviv peace rally by Yigal Amir, a 25-year-old extremist Jew. Shimon Peres becomes prime minister.

  • Jan. 20, 1996 — Palestinians vote for the first time to elect an 88-member legislative body. Yasser Arafat, who returned from exile in Tunis in July, is elected leader of the Palestinian Council with 90 percent of the vote.

  • Feb. 25-March 4, 1996 — Israel is shaken by a series of bus bombings in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon that kill 59 people and wound more than 220.

  • Sept. 4, 1996 — Newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Arafat hold their first meeting. The sides agree to discuss an Israeli redeployment from most of Hebron, the last major West Bank city to be turned over to Palestinian Authority control.

  • Sept. 25, 1996 — Palestinian rioting erupts in response to the opening of a new entrance to an ancient tunnel alongside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. In three days of violence, 15 Israelis and 61 Palestinians are killed, most of them during exchanges of gunfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian Authority police, and hundreds are wounded.

  • Oct. 23, 1998 — After nine days of talks at the Wye Plantation in Maryland, Netanyahu and Arafat join President Clinton at the White House to sign a memorandum for an Israeli redeployment from 13 percent more of the West Bank in exchange for specific Palestinian steps against terrorism. On Nov. 20, 1998, Israel makes the first of three redeployments called for under the Wye accord.

  • May 17, 1999 — Israelis elect Labor Party leader Ehud Barak over Netanyahu as the nation’s new prime minister by a sweeping margin. On his first visit to the United States as prime minister on July 14, Barak vows to reach comprehensive agreements with the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Lebanon within 15 months. On Sept. 4 Barak and Arafat sign a revised Wye accord in Sharm el-Sheik.

  • Sept. 13, 1999 — Final-status talks begin at the Erez Crossing, six years to the day after the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn. Talks are supposed to result in a framework agreement by February 2000 and a final agreement by September 2000.

  • July 11 2000 — Clinton, Barak and Arafat begin a summit at Camp David aimed at reaching a final peace accord. After two weeks of discussions, Clinton declares the Camp David summit a failure. Jerusalem was the “most difficult problem” blocking an agreement, Clinton says. Clinton praises Barak and essentially blames Arafat for the summit’s failure.

  • Sept. 28, 2000 — Palestinians use the occasion of a visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon to launch widespread violence that becomes known as the Second Intifada. Palestinian rioters attack Sharon’s entourage with stones, wounding some 30 Israeli policemen. Hours later, violent clashes erupt in Ramallah, in the West Bank. In the ensuing days, several Palestinians are killed in riots at the Temple Mount.

  • Sept. 30, 2000 — A 12-year-old-boy, Mohammed al-Dura, is killed in his father’s arms when they are caught in the middle of an Israeli-Palestinian gunbattle in the Gaza Strip. Though there are conflicting claims over whether Israeli or Palestinian bullets killed the boy, television footage of the incident is broadcast around the world. The incident inflames rioting Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and riots spread to Arabs inside Israel.

  • Oct. 2, 2000 — Rioting by Israeli Arabs leads to violent clashes with police. Twelve Israeli Arabs and a Palestinian are killed by police during the riots, prompting Barak to appoint a special investigative commission.

  • Oct. 12, 2000 — Two Israeli reservists are killed and their bodies ripped apart by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah. For the first time, Israel retaliates with helicopter strikes on Palestinian Authority command posts in Ramallah and Gaza City.

  • Oct. 22, 2000 — Barak calls for a “timeout” from the peace process. Arafat says his people will continue to seek a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, adding that Barak can “go to hell” if he does not like it. On Dec. 10, 2000, Barak formally resigns, and on Feb. 6, 2001, Ariel Sharon is elected prime minister by a landslide over Barak.

  • May 21, 2001 — The U.S.-led Mitchell Commission, a panel probing the causes of the intifada, issues its report, calling for an immediate cease-fire followed by a cooling-off period and confidence-building steps. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announces that the United States will use the Mitchell report as the basis for a new initiative aimed at ending the violence. Sharon declares a unilateral Israeli cease-fire.

  • June 1, 2001 — A bombing at Tel Aviv’s Dolphinarium discotheque kills 21 young Israelis. Sharon calls off Israel’s unilateral cease-fire.

  • Sept. 18, 2001 — Following intense international pressure after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington, Arafat declares a cease-fire. Israel responds by pulling its tanks from Palestinian cities in the West Bank. Sharon calls off the cease-fire two days later when an Israeli woman is killed by Palestinian gunmen in a drive-by shooting.

  • Oct. 17, 2001 — Gunmen lurking in a Jerusalem hotel hallway assassinate Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, a PLO faction, claims responsibility. Israel responds by sending troops into six Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

  • Jan. 3, 2002 — Israel seizes a ship with $50 million in weapons bound for the Palestinian Authority. The weapons aboard the ship, the Karine A, were on the way from Iran.

  • March 29, 2002 — A series of terrorist attacks, including a massive bombing at a Passover seder in a Netanya hotel, kills 136 Israelis in the space of a month. Sharon declares Arafat an “enemy” of Israel and invades his presidential compound in Ramallah, cutting off electricity and phone lines. Israeli troops move into several West Bank cities to carry out anti-terrorist moves in Operation Protective Wall.

  • May 10, 2002 — Israeli troops begin pulling out of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, ending a five-week standoff. Thirteen Palestinian terrorist suspects are flown to Cyprus en route to other countries, while 26 others are sent to Gaza. Israel says the Palestinians, who holed up in the church for 38 days, are complicit in numerous terrorist attacks.

  • June 16, 2002 — Israel begins construction of a new security fence roughly along the contours of the West Bank to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating Israel.

  • June 24, 2002 — In a much-anticipated speech, Bush calls for a “new and different Palestinian leadership so a new Palestinian state can be born.” Bush says the United States will back Palestinian statehood after the Palestinians “have new leaders and institutions” and abandon violence against Israel.

  • March 10, 2003 — Under heavy international pressure and U.S. refusal to deal with him, Arafat appoints Mahmoud Abbas prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

  • June 4, 2003 — Abbas, Sharon and Bush formally inaugurate the “road map” peace plan at a summit in Aqaba, Jordan. Palestinian terrorist attacks follow. By the end of the month Hamas and Islamic Jihad unilaterally declare a three-month “cease-fire” in attacks on Israelis; Fatah declares a six-month truce. In response, Israeli troops withdraw from part of the Gaza Strip and, later, Bethlehem, transferring security control to the Palestinian Authority.

  • Aug. 19, 2003 — Hamas and Islamic Jihad take responsibility for a suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem that kills 21, including several children. The bombing follows a pair of suicide bombings by Hamas and the Al-Aksa Brigade a week earlier. Israel responds by renewing its strategy of targeted killings, first assassinating Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab. The Palestinian terrorist groups say their “cease-fire” is over.

  • Sept. 7, 2003 — Ahmed Karia is named the new Palestinian Authority Prime Minister after Abbas resigns following a power struggle with Arafat.

Terrorism Link in Davis Recall


I’m a proud conservative Republican from Michigan, but I’m appealing to Californians of all political stripes not to support the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) — funder of the recall effort and the only announced candidate to replace Davis — might be the contemporary, real-life version of Frank Sinatra’s "Manchurian Candidate." Instead of communists, Issa’s allies are radical Islamists and supporters of terrorism against Americans, Israelis, Christians and Jews.

In a short political career, Issa’s statements and actions consistently defend terrorists, terrorist groups and terrorist sponsor states.

Saudi Arabia’s longtime lobbyist, James Gallagher, contributed to Issa’s campaign in November 2002, and Issa tried to overturn key classified evidence portions of President Bill Clinton’s 1995 counterterrorism bill. Issa is also credited with "declawing" the Patriot Act.

Then, there’s Issa’s dance with Hezbollah, an organization that is on the State Department’s terrorist list and one of the largest components of Al Qaeda. In the 1980s, Hezbollah — which means "Party of Allah" — murdered more than 260 U.S. Marines while they slept in Beirut and tortured to death Col. Richard Higgins (in 1990) and CIA attache William Buckley.

Hezbollah endorses "the use of hostages," "suicide in jihad operations" and "the duty of all Muslims to engage in Islamic jihad if it ensures the ultimate goal [of] inflicting losses on the enemy."

Less than a month after Sept. 11, Issa visited Syrian President Bashar Assad, praising Hezbollah and lauding Assad’s policies (Syria is on the State Department’s terrorist list).

The Tehran Times and IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency, the official Iranian news agency) quoted Issa’s statements to Assad in Damascus: "Hezbollah acts legitimately and has never been involved in terrorist activities…. Hezbollah and any other Lebanese group has the right to resist the occupation of its territory…. Hezbollah’s humanitarian and governmental actions were legal…. Such behavior would be customary in any country."

Issa denies the statements, but as a recent Los Angeles Times cover story demonstrates he has a record of stretching the truth — about his military record, his criminal history, his business affairs and his political positions.

In November 2001, for instance, Issa told syndicated columnist Debra Saunders he was vehemently against Arabs suing the airlines and government over profiling. At the same time, he told the rest of the press of his plans to introduce legislation to make it easier for Arabs to collect monetary damages for airline and government profiling.

And Issa’s other statements and actions corroborate their veracity:

  • Less than a month after Sept. 11, in an Oct. 9, 2001, interview with the Beirut Daily Star’s Ibrahim, during a trip to Lebanon, Issa said, "It is Lebanon which will determine whether the party’s [Hezbollah’s] activities constitute terrorism or resistance … If [Hezbollah] wants the world to understand that its activities are legitimate, they should say it…. Resistance is a legitimate right recognized [by the U.N.]…. I have a great deal of sympathy for the work that Hezbollah tries to do." He expressed hope that Hezbollah would "reform" and become a "government" like the P.L.O.

  • Assad’s state-run SANA (official Syrian news agency) covered Issa’s November 2001 meeting with Assad, quoting Issa as saying: "Hezbollah or any other party has the right to resist occupation."

    Occupation? Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon at least a year before, and the U.S. withdrew over a decade earlier.

    Issa’s January 2003 actions regarding Israelis captured by Hezbollah asserted the terrorist group’s moral equivalence with Israel. According to The Guardian of London, per Hezbollah’s demand, Issa asked Israel to allow the Red Cross to see captured Hezbollah terrorists in exchange for interceding with Hezbollah to allow the Red Cross to see four Israeli prisoners held by the group.

  • On Oct. 31, 2001, the London Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat, reported, "U.S. Congressman of Lebanese origin Darrell Issa, during his recent visit to Beirut in the mid of October," conveyed a proposal to Hezbollah leadership to remove Hezbollah from the State Department’s terrorist list and "normalize U.S. relations with" the group. Hezbollah refused the offer.

  • On May 31, 2003, Issa publicly made a similar proposal to legitimize Hezbollah by giving Lebanon $500 million of taxpayer money to disarm the group and turn it into a political party.

  • On May 9, 2001, during a House subcommittee discussion of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Extension Act of 2001, Issa praised Hezbollah, "in all candor, for the good things they do, too, the humanitarian, the hospitals, the schools they pay."

  • On April 14, 2002, Issa told Fox News Channel’s Rita Cosby that Hezbollah has done "some good things" (and he also praised Yasser Arafat).

  • In November 2001, Issa told the Financial Times of London, "Hezbollah does in fact have a limited scope. You must differentiate … from other organizations that might have a global reach."

    Global? Hezbollah murdered 86 Jews and wounded hundreds of people in Buenos Aires in July 1994, in addition to murdering Israelis and U.S. Marines and civilians in Lebanon and Iran.

  • In a Sacramento radio interview, Issa said, "They do supply little old ladies with heating oil in the winter and all kinds of other activities," characterizing terrorist Hezbollah as a mere "political party" and "farmers," and adding, "I’d like to see a lot of them just go back to their farms, go back to some honest living."

    Then there’s Issa’s strange respect for Arafat and Palestinian terrorists.

  • Days after Sept. 11, Issa, during his House International Relations Committee’s discussion of fighting terrorism, tried to draw a distinction between "Palestinian groups that are resisting Israeli occupation" and Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

  • During his November 2001 trip to the Middle East, Issa told his hometown newspaper, the North County Times, that he was "particularly impressed with Arafat."

    "He is quite a charismatic individual, despite being a very small man and very old," the congressman said. "He has a wry sense of humor. He gives you food off his plate if you sit next to him."

    Arafat’s personal food taster as your next governor?

  • In April 2003, Issa spoke of Arafat’s "charm" (also in the North County Times).

    Issa’s softness on Syrian-sponsored terrorism is legendary, too. Syria is home to several fugitives, including Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, Hamas political director Moussa Abu Marzook, Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and Jamil Al-Gashey, the only surviving perpetrator of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre — all wanted and/or indicted in the United States. However, Assad refuses their extradition.

  • Issa vehemently opposes the Syrian Accountability Act, which imposes sanctions on Syria until it stops sponsoring Hezbollah and other terrorists. Issa said Syria is "cooperative."

  • The Reform Party of Syria said Issa "helps Syria with [its] propaganda campaign" and "objects to Mr. Issa’s presence in Syria. The Baath Party of Syria is duping Rep. Issa and using him as a propaganda tool."

  • In June 2003, Issa attended the Beirut signing of a major oil deal between Syria and two U.S. firms. The contract states the companies will spend $29 million in Syria and train the state-run Syrian oil company.

  • Issa hosted a pro-Syrian Capitol Hill event with a pro-Syrian Arab business group. The event was organized by former staffers to Reps. David Bonior and John Dingell, who now lobby for a "change" to U.S. Middle East policy.

  • After the Iraq War, during one of several frequent Syrian trips, Issa praised Assad, saying, "His word seems to be good."

Darrell Issa wants to be governor of California and ultimately president. With a record like this, do you want to help him?


Debbie Schlussel, a Detroit-based attorney, radio talk-show host and conservative political commentator, was the 1987 Outstanding Teen Age Republican in the Nation. She can be reached at dschlussel@yahoo.com.

Iraq’s Defeat Raises Fears of Iran Threat


On the face of it, the U.S. military victory in Iraq has significantly enhanced Israel’s national security, removing a threat from weapons of mass destruction and opening new chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

However, there is a downside: Israeli leaders are concerned that Iran could emerge strengthened from Iraq’s defeat and continue to promote terror, while developing nuclear weapons that could pose a threat to Israel’s very existence.

One worry is that the defeat of Iraq could lead to a fundamentalist backlash in the region spearheaded by Iran, using its close ties with Syria and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah to wage a campaign of terror. Another is that Shiite Iran could build close ties with a new Shiite-dominated Iraq, projecting fundamentalist influence across the region.

However, of most concern by far is that, according to some Western experts, Iran is barely two years away from producing a nuclear bomb.

Israeli officials maintain that the two prongs of the Iranian threat — nuclear weapons and terrorism — are related. Ra’anan Gissin, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, declared that Iran uses terror to "create deterrence as it builds a nuclear weapons capability that has not yet become operational." In other words, the threat of Iranian-inspired terror is intended to make the United States or other would-be aggressors think twice before taking military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Over the past few months, Sharon has been urging visiting U.S. legislators and administration officials to take action to stop Iran from going nuclear. The message seemed to be getting through: After mid-March meetings in Jerusalem, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton announced at an Israeli-American strategic forum in Washington that "the U.S. will focus on stopping Iran getting nuclear weapons."

But it could be too late.

Over the past few years, undetected by the world’s most vaunted intelligence agencies or the United Nations’ watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran developed two sites capable of producing the fissile materials from which nuclear bombs are made.

One, near the desert town of Natanz, 200 miles south of Tehran, will be able to produce weapons-grade uranium. The other, farther west at Arak, will be able to make plutonium from heavy water.

The tip-off on the two sites came last August from an Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance. Until then, the Iranians had claimed that the Natanz site was for "desert irrigation."

Satellite photos released in December by the American Institute for Science and International Security proved otherwise. When Mohammed Baradei, an Egyptian who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, visited the Natanz site in late February, he counted 160 new centrifuges capable of producing weapons-grade uranium, as well as parts for assembling 1,000 more.

Baradei’s Iranian hosts acknowledged that by 2005, they planned to have 5,000 centrifuges fully operational at the desert site. Experts say that would enable Iran to produce enough enriched uranium for at least two nuclear bombs a year from 2005 onward.

Experts believe Iran had some help from Pakistan in developing the Natanz technology, but the centrifuges are unique in shape and clearly were engineered by the Iranians themselves. Moreover, Iran has begun mining its own uranium ore in the Yazd area, 400 miles southeast of Tehran.

Taken together, these two facts mean that Iran has passed the point of no return: Its nuclear program can no longer be stopped by getting third parties to withhold materials or technologies.

The same is true of Iran’s missile technology.

"The Iranians cannot be stopped anymore," said Uzi Rubin, former head of Israel’s Arrow anti-missile defense program. "They have their indigenous capability now, and they will continue their programs, regardless of what the international community thinks."

One of the Iranian-developed missiles, the Shahab-3, has an estimated range of nearly 800 miles, able to reach targets in Israel from western Iran.

What makes the Iranian threat most chilling is that Iran’s fundamentalist leaders remain formally committed to Israel’s destruction. For example, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president who retains an influential post, in December 2001 called publicly for the Muslim world to develop nuclear weapons in order to annihilate Israel.

Iran also has shown a marked capacity to act against Israeli interests. According to Israeli intelligence, Iran was behind the 1992 and 1994 terrorist attacks on the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires; regularly supplies Hezbollah with weapons, including long-range rockets, through Damascus, and in 2002, tried to sell arms to the Palestinian Authority for use against Israel.

Israeli experts say it was the January 2002 interception by Israel of the Karine A, a vessel loaded with Iranian arms for the Palestinians, that led President Bush to include Iran in the "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address later that month.

So what can be done to contain or assuage the Iranian threat? First, Israeli experts say, Israel must enhance its defensive and deterrent posture.

The Arrow, which could intercept incoming Shahab missiles, does both. Moreover, according to foreign sources, Israel has mounted special launchers on its submarines that are capable of firing nuclear warheads. This would give it a "second-strike" capability, hopefully deterring potential enemies from contemplating a first strike.

To weaken Iran’s terrorist capacity and ability to spread its fundamentalist message, Israeli experts propose putting pressure on Syria, rather than Iran. Syria, they maintain, is more susceptible to Western pressure and also has the power to disarm Hezbollah relatively quickly.

Once Hezbollah is disarmed and Damascus distances itself from Tehran, Iran’s scope for terror and political influence will decline, the argument goes.

No one in the Israeli establishment believes that after the war in Iraq, the United States will be in any mood for a far more difficult military campaign against Iran. Moreover, many are convinced that it is too late to stop Iran from going nuclear; therefore, they argue, the best way to neutralize a nuclear Iran is to promote regime change from within.

David Menashri of Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center proposes a dialogue with young reformist forces in Iran, while hanging tough with the conservative clerics who run the country today. That way, in case of regime change, at least the weapons would be in more enlightened hands.

Moreover, Menashri adds, if the reformists come to power, the once-flourishing ties between Israel and Iran might even be renewed.

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