September 20, 2010

EDITOR: A Climate of fear

There is nothing better for the Israeli leadership than a juicy enemy. They have refused for over 4 decades to negotiate with Syria over the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by force in 1967. Now, they panic over the new arms deal, or at least, they wish the poor citizens to live in panic… Israel, armed to the teeth, and periodically destroying other countries’ and killing their citizens, is now crying wolf…

PM ‘troubled’ by missiles sold to Syria: YNet

Netanyahu addresses Russian-Syrian arms deal, says Israel must ‘prepare for new rocket threat.’ We are working to provide a technological response, he tells Likud ministers. Earlier, Israeli official threatens to sell arms to Moscow’s enemies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said the sale of Russian cruise missiles to Damascus was “a problematic and troubling matter” and that Israel “must prepare for a new rocket and missile threat.”

Speaking at a Likud ministers meeting, Netanyahu said, “The matter is being discussed by us. Unfortunately, the deal is progressing in stages. It’s a problematic and troubling matter.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reports Syrian officials commend US move towards peace with Israel, but warn that total withdrawal from territory captured in 1967 is precondition. ‘Peace is strategic choice, but necessitates partner,’ they say
Full story
“We must prepare for a new threat of rockets and missiles and we are working to provide a technological response to this issue through new military supplies,” the prime minister told his party members.

Earlier Sunday, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported that Israeli officials were threatening to sell weapons to “areas of strategic importance” to Russia after Moscow announced over the weekend that it would go through with the sale of P-800 missiles to Damascus.

Russia’s announcement came after both Israel and the US implored that it abandon the sale. The cruise missiles discussed, dubbed Yakhont, have a range of 300 km, which puts Israeli ships off of Lebanon’s coast at risk of being hit by missiles fired from Syria’s southern port.

The original deal was signed between Russia and Syria in 2007, but last month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin and requested that he call it off, for fear the missiles will be handed to Hezbollah.

More recently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Moscow on a similar mission. Barak spoke with both Putin and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. During the visit, the statesmen signed agreements of confidentiality aimed at paving the way for the sale of Israeli drones to Russia.

Despite the extensive efforts, the deal was announced Friday to be proceeding as planned. “They’ve gone one step too far,” one Jerusalem official said. “This is not in keeping with our cooperation with them.”

The official said Israel had so far refrained from selling “strategic, tie-breaking weapons” to third-world countries, and that it expected Russia to do the same.

“The supply of advanced weapons to Syria, one of Hezbollah’s two main supporters, especially on the eve of the fateful peace talks with the Palestinians, is not a move encouraging the moderate forces of the Middle East – but rather a prize for extremist states,” the source said.

Netherlands cancels tour by Israeli mayors over settlers’ presence: Haaretz

Dutch Foreign Ministry cancels tour because participant list includes settlement representatives.

The Netherlands on Sunday cancelled a tour of the country by a forum of Israeli mayors because their group included representatives of West Bank settlements.

The professional delegation, funded by the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish-American charity, was supposed to fly to the Netherlands next month to study public policy and local governance.

But when the Dutch Foreign Ministry found out that regional council heads from the Judea and Samaria regions – including from the West bank settlements Efrat and Kiryat Arba – were due to participate, they decided to cancel the tour.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry responded in a statement: “This is undoubtedly useless and harmless politics, and we hope that this is not the final word on the topic.”

Aryeh Eldad, a Knesset member from the hard-right National Union party, condemned the decision, saying:

“The Dutch surrender to the Arabs reflects their surrender to the Muslim minority that is growing steadily in Holland, which in itself is an echo to Netanyahu’s surrender to Obama regarding the building freeze.”

Eldad added: “If Netanyahu has in effect defined the borders of the state and placed a extended chokehold on hundreds of thousands of Jews – no one can come to the Netherlands with complaints over its surrender to its large minority – as long as Israel continues to surrender and act as if it is still in the Diaspora.”

Local Council Chairman Shlomo Buchbut spoke with the Dutch ambassador and wrote to the Dutch foreign minister, saying that he regarded the decision “with great severity”.

“The Local Councils are led by mayors from all over the political spectrum for Israel’s citizens. These kinds of actions only hurt the cause of advancing peace. We need to support Israel’s citizens just as they are, and not to ignite political debates,” Buchbut said.

“In the past, we have conducted similar trips to Denmark, France and China. We cooperate with the European Union, Arabs, Jews and Europeans to talk about common professional interests and we advance local councils in general,” Buchbut added.

He concluded: “The decision by the Netherlands puts the [Israeli-Arab] conflict before anything else. I hope that the Dutch will change their minds.”

EDITOR: Antisemites for Zionism…

The most extreme of the evangelicals in the USA, a threat to us all, are also vehemently Zionist… they obviously think this is alsoa way of ridding the US of its Jews.

Israel’s best foreign ambassadors: YNet

Some 600 million evangelical Christians help Jews make aliyah, defend Israel’s reputation in the world and set up monuments for Jews. Recent tour of Jewish state helps them campaign for Israel in their own countries
Akiva Novick
They’re Israel’s best unofficial spokespeople around the world, creating monuments for Jews, aiding in bringing Jews to Israel and campaigning to defend Israel’s international reputation after such events as the deadly raid on Gaza-bound flotilla. They are some 600 million evangelical Christians who believe salvation will come only after the Jewish people return to their homeland – Greater Israel.

Recently, some 1,500 tourists visited Israel as part of an annual seminar organized by the Word of Life protestant organization. At first glance their schedule resembles any other tourist timetable: A tour of Jerusalem, a dip in the Sea of Galilee, Shabbat at the Western Wall.

Knesset lobby recruits Christian ‘ambassadors’ to counter pro-Palestinian campaigns against Israel on overseas campuses. ‘When you send a Jewish student, they immediately say he’s not objective,’ explains MK Yoel Hasson
Full story
But the visit is in fact a week-long seminar training the group’s members towards their PR task that awaits them in their 35 countries of origin.

We meet the group at the lobby of a hotel in Jerusalem. “Since its establishment in 1987 the organization’s aim has been to stand by Israel’s side,” Dr. Ulf Ekman, a Swedish Protestant pastor who heads Word of Life says.

“As a Christian, identifying with Israel is a basic tenet. It is part of our culture and commitment. When one reads the Bible it’s simply impossible to be against the Jews. All these reasons make me a Zionist,” he proclaims.

Ekman established the organization after a visit to Israel. It now consists of thousands of members, 12,000 of whom are active in the PR front.

“They come to see the places they defend with their own eyes,” Roar Sörensen, who organized the tour, says in fluent Hebrew. “They study the Bible, hear lectures about the political situation and Israel’s interior affairs. They also do Kabalat Shabbat in the Kotel,” he adds.

The future ambassadors also visit the Dead Sea, Masada and Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

Sörensen says that he’s addicted to Israeli media and shows us an iPhone application which allows him to tune into Israeli radio stations anywhere in the world. He has also recently completed an official Israeli PR course given by the Foreign Ministry.

“We encourage our members to go out there, send letters to newspapers and generally engage in a Zionist discourse,” Dr. Ekman says.

Encouraging aliyah
The group also helps Jews make aliyah. Since 1992, some 18,000 Jews immigrated to Israel with the help of Word of Life, which for a number of years also operated a ship transporting thousands of Jews and their possessions to Israel.

“In the recent war in Georgia there were 30 Jews who got stranded in the war-torn district of Abkhazia,” Ekman relates. “They contacted us and begged us to help them. We held negotiations with both the Russian and Georgian governments until the Russians yielded and gave us six hours to evacuate them.”

According to the evangelical denomination, Jesus will be revealed to his followers and carry them to heaven after the biblical war of Gog and Magog. Jews, however are not part of the plan. Apart from a small group which will recognize Jesus’ divinity, all humans will be annihilated. The vision can only occur after Jews return to Greater Israel, which explains why they’re so set on helping us.

“Granted, we are mostly evangelicals, but we don’t deal with what the future will bring but with how to help Israel now,” Dr. Ekman explains.

“What I know now is that every Jew has the right to be here and no one has the right to tell you ‘you don’t belong here.’ All Christians are indebted and grateful to Israel in their hearts. Bible-loving Christians are your best friends in the world,” he proclaims.

Lieberman: Peace talks must reassess Israeli-Arabs’ right to citizenship: Haaretz

With the Palestinians refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, negotiations must tackle issue of Israeli-Arab ‘loyalty’, foreign minister says – prompting accusations of ‘apartheid and ethnic cleansing’ from Arab MK.
Israeli Arab politicians responded furiously Sunday to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s suggestion suggesting that “disloyal” members of that sector should take Palestinian citizenship.

The question of Israel’s citizens needs to be one of the central issues on the negotiating table, in light of the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” Lieberman said ahead of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Recognizing Israel as uniquely Jewish is one of the key demands by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the latest peace talks with the Palestinians, which began earlier this month.

“We can’t continue to ignore issues like that of Hanin Zuabi, who identifies completely with the other side,” Lieberman said, , referring to an Israeli Arab member of Knesset was stripped of her parliamentary privileges after sailing aboard a pro-Palestinian aid convoy attacked by Israel en route to the Gaza Strip.

“It’s as if someone sells you a flat and then demands that his mother-in-law continues living there,” he said. “Any Israeli you takes pride in his citizenship should be able to serve in any post, but people like Hanin Zuabi should in my opinion be Palestinian citizens elected under Hamas in Gaza.”

In response to Lieberman’s remarks, Zuabi declared: “We [Israeli Arabs] represent the only possible democratic option, while Lieberman represents apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

“Lieberman bases his claims on a doctrine of racism, while I base mine on the principle of full equality among citizens – but both of us agree that there needs to be a discussion on the question of Palestinians in Israel and how to classify the state in any negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” she added.

MK Ahmed Tibi pointedly referred to Lieberman’s status as an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, saying: “We aren’t calling for the expulsion of citizens from within the State of Israel, but if we were, then whoever got here in the last century should leave first.”

“It is very serious that the deputy prime minister is a settler who is constantly concerned with programs pertaining to the expulsion of citizens or the collective expropriation of citizenship,” he said.

“We were here before the fascist immigrant Lieberman and we will stay here even after him,” Tibi declared.

Israeli Arab MK Mohammed Barakeh said his sector just wanted to “live with hםnor and in equality in our own homes.”

Lieberman, whose ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party campaigned under the slogan “no loyalty, no citizenship”, has made national allegiance a central component of his political agenda, demanding all Israelis, swear an oath of loyalty to the state.

The foreign minister’s remarks came just days after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dismissed as “unnecessary” Israel’s demand to be recognized by the Palestinians as a Jewish.

“I say to Israeli citizens, including Jews, Muslims and others, that there is no such thing as a state in which all the citizens are Jews,” Mubarak said. “In Egypt, we have Muslims, Christians and Jews and there is no problem. When they wanted to establish a Muslim state in Kosovo, the world came out against it because it did not want a Muslim state in central Europe.”

Israeli Arabs make up around a fifth of the country’s population.

Short Cuts: London Review of Books

Adam Shatz
Israel is likely to launch a strike against uranium-enrichment sites in Iran within a year. Or so Jeffrey Goldberg reports in the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly. If the Iranians continue to defy the International Atomic Energy Agency and Obama refuses to pursue a more muscular punishment, he warns, an Israeli attack is a ‘near certainty’. Tony Blair, we must assume, would agree.

The risks involved, Goldberg conceded, are enormous: ‘a full-blown regional war’; the end of the special relationship between Tel Aviv and Washington; a ‘cataclysmic’ rise in oil prices; terrorist attacks on Jews in the diaspora; the loss of whatever moral prestige Israel has left. Yet the potential gains just might make them worth taking. For if, as he puts it, Israel succeeds in liquidating Iran’s nuclear programme, it will have eliminated ‘the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people’. Moderate Arab regimes may frown in public, but behind closed doors they will thank Israel: the destruction of Tehran’s nuclear programme may even strengthen the fight against nuclear proliferation and thus win praise from ‘the enthusiastic counter-proliferator who currently occupies the White House’ – no small achievement for the country that introduced nuclear weapons to the Middle East.

Was the article intended to prod Obama into taking tougher action against Iran before Israel takes matters into its own hands? Many readers thought so, not least because Goldberg is a former New Yorker writer who, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, published a series of hawkish articles based on chats with Bush administration officials, Kurdish rebels and other equally reliable sources. Goldberg is also a passionate supporter of Israel: he went to live there as a young man, served with the IDF in the Occupied Territories, and writes a blog for the Atlantic that has made him an influential figure in American Zionist circles. One would never guess from his piece that, despite its support for militants in Palestine and Lebanon, and its often incendiary rhetoric, Iran has tended to avoid direct confrontation with Israel; or that a number of Israeli leaders, including Ehud Barak and the former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, have made it clear that they don’t see Iran as an existential danger. What Goldberg’s critics say is that, knowingly or not, he is acting as a mouthpiece for hawks in Tel Aviv, much as he used to do for Cheney and Rumsfeld. In Stephen Walt’s words, he is ‘mainstreaming war with Iran’.

But if that was the intention, the article succeeded only in showing how far out of touch with mainstream Western opinion Goldberg’s interviewees – about 40 Israeli officials, some of them retired – are. Netanyahu, for example, is depicted as still being in thrall to his 100-year-old father Ben-Zion, a former aide to the right-wing Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky. And for all their emotional talk about averting another Holocaust, the Israelis Goldberg spoke to appear to be less afraid of a ‘direct attack’ by Iran (which some concede would be suicidal) than they are of the ‘more subtle’ threat an Iranian nuclear arsenal would present. In other words, Israel would lose its nuclear monopoly in the region, Iran would enjoy growing influence over Israel’s Arab neighbours and, most frightening of all, Israel would attract fewer and fewer bright Jewish immigrants – ‘the real threat to Zionism’, as Barak sees it.

Still, Goldberg’s article was sensational enough to cause concern. The former US senator Gary Hart issued a terse set of reasons not to attack Iran, while Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and presidential adviser (Obama was one of those he advised), urged the United States to ‘send a clear red light to Israel’. More out of the ordinary was Fidel Castro’s decision to summon Goldberg to a conference centre in Havana to discuss the piece. Assuming a new role as an elder statesman, and drawing, no doubt, on his own experience of a nuclear stand-off, he had words of wisdom for both leaders. Netanyahu, he said, had to choose between giving up his nukes and giving up his nuclear monopoly, while Ahmedinejad was to stop slandering the Jews and denying the Holocaust.

Goldberg isn’t the first writer to predict an Israeli attack. On 18 July 2008 in the New York Times, the Israeli historian Benny Morris claimed that ‘Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months.’ Like Goldberg, he made much of Israel’s fear that ‘its very existence was at stake’ so long as the Holocaust-denying, Israel-denouncing, Hamas-and-Hizbullah-supporting Ahmedinejad remained in power, and argued that Iran too would be better off if Israel attacked now, confining itself to a conventional air assault against Natanz and other nuclear sites: if Iran managed to acquire the bomb, he said, war would break out, and Israel, with its second-strike capacity, would reduce Iran to ‘a nuclear wasteland’.

Two years on, the need to confront Iran is being aggressively peddled by neoconservative groups – the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, for example, which lobbied for the Iraq war – and by a handful of liberal hawks, Blair’s friends. But there are few indications – Goldberg’s article aside – that Israel is any closer to contemplating military action. ‘My understanding is that the political and military upper echelon just isn’t keen on a unilateral attack,’ Zvi Barel, a reporter for Haaretz, says. ‘They don’t want this issue to be perceived as an Iranian-Israeli conflict, but as a global one. Also, they’re not sure that Israel can absorb all the casualties that Iran’s retaliation would cause. Sure, Netanyahu has said all the options are on the table – so have the Americans – but some options are more on the table than others.’

The Iranians are well aware that war is the least likely of them. The Obama administration has little appetite for it, especially when Iran could do much to undermine the precarious campaign in Afghanistan. Are they worried that Netanyahu might step in and do the job for Obama, as Goldberg predicts? ‘I don’t think they would take Goldberg’s article seriously,’ the Iran expert Hooman Majd says. ‘They certainly wouldn’t read it and think: “Unless we do something, there’s a 50-50 chance they’ll bomb us.”’ Others say the piece will probably be dismissed as ‘psy-ops’, its real aim being, as usual, to push the image of Iran as a Nazi-like threat and of the Israelis as potential victims of a new Holocaust – images that Ahmadinejad’s anti-semitic rants do little to dispel.

The more people in the West worry about Iran’s weapons, sceptics claim, the less they’ll worry about Israel’s siege in Gaza, or its own extremist clerics, one of whom – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party, a member of Netanyahu’s coalition – recently called for the annihilation of the Arabs. The Iranians may also find consolation of a kind in the mere existence of Goldberg’s article, and in the frankness with which his sources discuss the military option. Before Israel attacked the Osirak reactor outside Baghdad in 1981, it gave no advance warning, and the same radio silence preceded the bombing in 2007 of a secret North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria. Being threatened by your enemies isn’t great, but sometimes not hearing from them is even worse.

IDF still using banned weapon against civilian protestors: Haaretz

Military court hearing reveals that the army continues to use the Ruger 10/22 rifle to break up protests, defying a ban by the military advocate general.

The Israel Defense Forces continues using the Ruger 10/22 rifle to disperse protests even though it has been prohibited by the military advocate general, a hearing at a military court revealed last week. A brigade’s former operations officer told the court he wasn’t even aware of the prohibition.

Last Wednesday, the Judea Military Court convened for the sentencing hearing of protest organizer Abdullah Abu-Rahma from Bil’in, convicted last month of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations. The state submitted an expert opinion by Maj. Igor Moiseev, who served as the Binyamin Brigade’s operations officer for two years.

The opinion details the cost of ammunition fired in Bil’in and Nial’in from August 2008 to December 2009; it notes that the army used Ruger bullets that cost a total of NIS 1.3 million. Moiseev described the Ruger as a nonlethal weapon.

When Abu-Rahma’s attorney Gabi Laski inquired if Moiseev knew that the military advocate general had ruled that Ruger rifles are not to be used to disperse protests because they are potentially lethal, Moiseev said he was not aware of such an instruction. The state objected to the question.

In 2001, the military advocate general at the time, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Menachem Finkelstein, prohibited the use of Ruger bullets as nonlethal ammunition.

Nevertheless, the IDF reverted to using the Ruger against protesters in 2009, killing a teenager in Hebron in February and a protester in Nial’in in June. Human rights group B’Tselem asked the military advocate general to make clear that the weapon was not meant for crowd control.

In July, Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit wrote that “the Ruger is not defined by the IDF as a means for riot control. The rules for using these means in Judea and Samaria are strict and parallel to the rules of engagement for live fire. If the media or organizations were told anything else regarding the definition, this was an error or misunderstanding.”

He wrote that “recently, the rules were stressed once again to the relevant operations officers in Central Command. The command in fact expects to hold a review headed by a senior commander, examining the lessons drawn from using such means in recent months.”

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said in a statement yesterday that rules for firing 0.22 ammunition are part of the general rules of engagement, “and as such are classified and naturally cannot be elaborated on. In general, it can be noted that the rules applying to 0.22 ammunition are strict and are parallel, in general, to rules applying to ordinary live ammunition.

“The operations officer’s testimony was given at a sentencing hearing of someone convicted of incitement and organizing and participating in violent riots in the village of Bil’in. The quote used is partial and does not reflect all comments by the officer on the means used by the IDF to disperse such riots. The IDF takes care to act in accordance with the rules of engagement.”

Phone app monitors Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories: The Guardian

Real-time information on settlements relayed to iPhones and iPads as building moratorium nears expiry date
Ian Black, Middle East editor
Campaigners against Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories have launched a new web and iPhone application that uses powerful mapping technologies to publicise data that was previously hidden away, inaccessible, or simply too costly to distribute.

American Friends of Peace Now (APN), a Washington-based group, says its Facts On the Ground app will allow anyone, anywhere, to access comprehensive, real-time information about Israeli settlements and to learn what is happening on the ground in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The launch comes as diplomatic pressure intensified on Israel to renew a partial moratorium on settlement-building that is due to expire this weekend. Israel has repeatedly insisted it will not renew it while Palestinians have threatened to walk out of the recently revived US-brokered peace negotiations if it does not.

Information about settlements is notoriously hard to collate and analyse because Israel makes a distinction between the West Bank and East Jerusalem – though both are occupied territory under international law – and because different government departments and other agencies can approve construction. Building and sales are private-sector activities.

Supporters of settlements are poised to initiate a wave of new building work the moment the moratorium deadline expires on Saturday. In the past, settlers have often set up unauthorised outposts and challenged the government to remove them.

“Our app will update constantly to reflect breaking events such as settlement or outpost construction, outpost removals, Palestinian violence or settler violence, making it a real-time tool that provides context to the ever-changing situation in Israel and the West Bank,” APN said.

The app allows users to look at different layers and overlays. It uses a Google Earth-type format to display map, satellite, hybrid or terrain images. It divides the West Bank into areas A, B and C under the 1993 Oslo accords, in which the Palestinian Authority and Israelis exercise different levels of control.

It also shows how Israel’s West Bank barrier relates to the pre-1967 border, which the Palestinians say must be the basis for a long-term peace settlement. Some 300,000 Israelis live in 120 officially recognised settlements in the West Bank, a further 192,000 in settlements in East Jerusalem, and there are 100 unauthorised outposts in the West Bank that are not officially recognised by Israel.

The app’s users can zoom in on dense clusters of settlements around Jerusalem and in Hebron, and single out large-scale maps of individual settlements complete with historical and population data.

The app is available for the iPhone and iPad and will soon be available for Android hand-held devices, APN said. A Hebrew edition will be available within weeks.

Abbas: Peace talks won’t continue ‘a single day’ if settlement freeze ends: Haaretz

In interview with AFP, Palestinian leader reiterates Palestinian demand for direct negotiations; Netanyahu said Sunday that he would not yield to international pressure.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said Monday that he would not continue “a single day” of direct peace negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if Israel refused to extend its construction freeze in West Bank settlements after it expires next week, AFP reported.

Abbas told AFP that “the negotiations will continue as long as the settlement remains frozen,” but stipulated “I am not prepared to negotiate an agreement for a single day more.”

The Palestinian leader’s remarks came a day after Netanyahu reiterated that he would not yield to growing international calls on Israel to extend a freeze on settlement building in the West Bank – and prevent peace talks from collapsing.

Israel would not risk exposing its citizens to the type of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip since Israel’s withdrawal in 2005, Netanyahu told cabinet colleagues at their weekly meeting in Jerusalem.

“I stand firmly behind Israel’s security needs, to prevent a repetition of the rocket fire on Israel’s citizens from Gaza,” he said.

The 10-month freeze, which covers the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem, is due to expire on September 26 and has proved the major sticking point in new peace talks that began in Washington at the start of the month.

Abbas has repeatedly threatened to abandon negotiations if building resumes. Last week, Abbas and Netanyahu – who is under heavy pressure from right-wing coalition partners to abandon the freeze – met in Jerusalem to try and break the deadlock.

But over the weekend Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman completely ruled out a new ban on construction.

“The settlement freeze is just a Palestinian excuse to undermine peace talks, and anyone who seeks excuses will find another excuse even if the freeze is extended,” Lieberman said.

Despite the impending end to the freeze, Israel still hopes to avert a crisis, however, and President Shimon Peres is expected to meet Abbas in New York this week in an effort to keep the Palestinians at the negotiating table.

EDITOR: What a surprise…

Below, Yediot Ahronoth is wondering why young and progressive Israelis are moving in large numbers to Berlin… those who know Berlin will not be wondering. It is also true that while Berlin is much larger than Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, it includes fewer fascists and racists, most probably…

Young Israelis moving to Berlin in droves: YNet

City from which Hitler unleashed genocide of six million Jews now attracting small but growing community of Jews from Israel for whom it embodies freedom, tolerance, anything-goes spirit

09.19.10
Nirit Bialer, granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, welcomes listeners in Hebrew to a one-hour radio show of music, talk and interviews. The setting isn’t her native Israel but a radio station in the heart of the German capital – and hundreds of Israeli Berliners are tuning in.

The city from which Hitler unleashed the genocide of 6 million Jews is now attracting a small but growing community of Jews from Israel for whom it embodies freedom, tolerance, and an anything-goes spirit.

“Berlin has become a real magnet for Israelis – everybody wants to move here,” said Bialer, 32, whose Friday noon “Kol Berlin,” Hebrew for “the voice of Berlin,” started three years ago and is something of an institution for young Israelis in Berlin.

Nobody knows exactly how many Israelis have moved here in recent years; unofficial estimates suggest 9,000 to 15,000 – far fewer than the 120,000 Jews who lived in Berlin before the Nazis came to power in 1933.

But their presence is a powerful symbol of generational change. Years ago, Israelis viewed emigration from their country as a betrayal of the Zionist cause, and moving to Germany was reviled as the worst betrayal of all.

Many wouldn’t set foot in Germany even as tourists. Today, Israelis make up the second-largest group of non-European tourists coming to Berlin, after Americans. The streets of Tel Aviv feature billboards featuring Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate as a tourist attraction.

‘You suddenly realize who you are as a Jew. ‘ Berlin (Photo: Joseph Jackson)

The Israelis who come to stay are looking to work, study, party and make art, and don’t seem to care much about the Nazi past. They arrive on student visas, overstay tourist permits or have German or other European ancestry that entitles them to citizenship. Many start families with German partners, far from the tensions of the Middle East.

“I love Israel, but I just couldn’t live there anymore – it’s like a small village and so militaristic,” explained Lea Fabrikant, a photography student who arrived two years ago.

“Most of all, I needed freedom and space, and I found it here.”

Fabrikant, 26, said she lived through the many suicide bombings in Jerusalem, her home town, during the 1990s, and loves Berlin’s tranquility, relaxed spirit and affordability for students and artists.

Germany’s past, she said, “doesn’t affect me at all.”

New Jewish community
On the other hand, Asaf Leshem, a 36-year-old travel guide, said his move three years ago had much to do with his family’s past in Germany.

He has walked through the Schoeneberg neighborhood where his grandfather lived as a child before emigrating in 1938, and visited the family plot at the Jewish cemetery in Weissensee.

Leshem thinks his grandfather, were he alive, would have supported his decision.

“The Nazis ruled Germany for 12 years and many German Jews felt like the Nazis abducted the country from them,” Leshem said. “They also had good memories, especially from their childhood in Germany, how they used to go on trips to the Baltic Sea or go for a swim in Berlin’s Grunewald forest.”

Leshem grew up in Israel but says he feels a bit German himself and appreciates German culture.

For those who miss the flavors of home there are Israeli delicatessens, bakeries, bars and child care groups. Berlin is friendly to gays, and the Israelis among them throw a monthly party, called “Meshuggah” – Yiddish for “crazy.”

Udi Cohen, 32, wandered around the US and Europe for years before settling in Berlin. He opened “Luigi Zuckermann,” a bistro in Berlin’s Mitte district where he sells sandwiches and salads with an Israeli twist.

“In Israel, I couldn’t function, I couldn’t find a job, but here I’m fine and enjoy the vibe and energy of the city,” he said.

Gal Bar-Adon, 27, learned trombone in Berlin and produces dancefloor music that he said is played in clubs across the city and beyond. “Israel is simply too small,” he said. “There’s not enough of an audience for my kind of music.”

Bialer said that despite Berlin’s attraction, living here also means coming to terms with Germany’s past. She notices that sustained conversation with Germans inevitably shifts to the Nazi era.

“It can be exhausting, it can be liberating – but it is a sure thing that at some point we will talk about the Holocaust,” she said.

When the grandchildren of the victims and of the perpetrators meet for the first time, the experience can be sensitive and guilt-ridden.

Living here has also made Bialer more aware of her Jewishness.

“In Israel you don’t think about what it means to be Jewish because everybody is celebrating Shabbat or the Rosh Hashana” (Sabbath and Jewish New Year), she said. “In Germany, you suddenly realize who you are as a Jew and you’re different from everybody else around you.”

In the end, Bailer said, an Israeli influx could start to fill the void left by the Holocaust.

“I think there’s something growing here: A new Jewish community in Berlin.”

EDITOR: Easy way out…

How likely isa majority of Israelis to vote for peace in a referendum? Just read the polls over the last deaced. No prozes offered for answers…

‘Netanyahu in favor of referendum prior to signing peace deal': Haaretz

According to Netanyahu insider MK Ofir Akunis, Prime Minister gave his support for law that would allay fears of right-wing coalition partners.

Netanyahu insider MK Ofir Akunis intends to propose a law requiring a national referendum to approve any peace deal reached with the Palestinians. Akunis’ proposal received Netanyahu’s blessing when it was presented to him several days ago.
The referendum proposal is not meant to prevent rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Akunis. “The negotiations will continue on schedule. This will not handcuff the negotiators.”

There are many pitfalls on the way to an agreement, and I am not convinced that it will be reached within a year,” Akunis continued. “But if an agreement is reached, this is something that is a contentious issue in Israel society, it certainly justifies turning to the public to ask them if they agree with it or are opposed to it.”

According to the plan, the proposed law will be introduced during the winter session of the Knesset. The proposal is expected to help Netanyahu maintain his right-wing coalition, affirming to the other parties that he will make no decisions with far-reaching implications on his own as part of a peace deal.

The new proposal sits well with a poll that revealed that approximately 70% of the public support a referendum on a peace deal.

“We will advance the proposal [for a referendum] while we simultaneously advance the peace process to bring about a situation where if we work out an agreement, we will be able to turn to the public and receive its support, ” Akunis said Sunday.

The Tehran tangle in Middle East peace: The Guardian

A peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians could turn out to be the best way to neutralise Iran’s nuclear ambitions
Success in the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will depend on active bridging by the third party, the United States. At the same time, we should not forget the destructive role played in the past and present by spoilers on both sides, as well as others further afield. As the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, stated last month, “the enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and derail these talks”.

Regionally, Iran is pressing ahead with its nuclear programme. In the words of its foreign minister, it will continue to enrich uranium despite receiving Russian fuel for its nuclear reactor. This has become a high priority strategic concern for the US and its allies, who believe Iran’s real intention is to build nuclear weapons.

Zalman Shoval, a former Israel ambassador to the US who is close to power circles in Jerusalem, remarked that “the Obama administration felt that progress on the peace process would set the stage for an effective regional coalition against Tehran. The Israeli approach was the exact opposite, stressing that if Iran’s nuclear programme were neutralised, then that would set the stage for a real peace process, since that would weaken the most radicalised elements in the Arab world who sought to actively undermine any prospects for peace, especially Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria.”

This linkage is further complicating the situation. Most of Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners, and even members of his own Likud party, view this linkage as a double nightmare. Strong indications that Israel is preparing unilateral, surgical air strikes against multiple Iranian nuclear facilities darken this bleak picture. Not only would such an operation be militarily difficult to carry out, it cannot achieve Israel’s ultimate objective of eliminating the Iranian threat. As the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, has warned, at best it will postpone the development of a nuclear strategic capability.

We – an Israeli and a Palestinian – believe there’s a way out of this tangle. As the risks grow, so do the benefits of bold thinking. We teach our students at the University of Maryland: “The Israelis and Palestinians are doomed to live together.” This summer, we added to this formulation, “… or are doomed to die together”. This state of affairs demands a striking paradigm shift, through which an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement could actually neutralise the Iranian nuclear peril. This kind of linkage may be the only way to achieve results in which all the parties – Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and Iranians – can “win”.

With a peace agreement in hand, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, could then address his Iranian counterpart, and pointedly ask: “Mr Ahmadinejad, have you been developing a nuclear weapons capability to stand against Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian people?” – and then add, “I am the president of the Palestinians and I say to you now, ‘No thanks’. We have made peace with our neighbours and need to move on to a new constructive era.”

The international community understands that Iran has provided weaponry and monetary support to non-state actors such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, undermining progress towards regional peace. If Abbas can offer a credible alternative, it offers excellent prospects for trumping the rejectionists’ appeal.

Historical Jewish fears of another Holocaust have been aggravated by the growing nuclear threat from an unpredictable government, by the recent terrorist acts of suicide bombers, and the new long-range rockets that move the front from the borders of Israel to homes all over the country. These realities make the price of trading territory for a peaceful future a goal that many Jews in Israel still find worthwhile.

At the same time, the Palestinians have come to appreciate that a militarised uprising cannot guarantee their independence or put an end to their own traumatic experience of occupation. The Palestinian Authority has slowly, but progressively, supported the concept and practice of nonviolent action. In the West Bank areas that are under Palestinian control, police now provide credible security, even though Israel has not fully reciprocated by removing checkpoints and ending nightly army incursions.

If the Israeli government declares support for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, this may secure diplomatic relations with the 22 members of the Arab League and may even lead to the establishment of normal ties with all 57 Muslim countries that have endorsed the plan. Notably, Iran is still among those signatories.

Concluding a regional peace with Israel would minimally allow for the long-term possibility of making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone, Israel included. We believe this approach is congruent with President Obama’s, as set forth when he won the Nobel peace prize, and can deliver its expected fruit. Perhaps, then, we could coin a new phrase for our class: “Israelis and Palestinians are blessed to be neighbours.”

• Manuel Hassassian and Edward Edy Kaufman, are team-teachers at the University of Maryland and senior research associates at its centre for international development and conflict management. Kaufman formerly directed the Truman Peace Research Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Hassassian, former rector of Bethlehem University, currently serves as the Palestinian ambassador to the UK

An opportunity in Damascus
The repeated failures over the course of 19 years of negotiations with the Syrians have only led to the strengthening of Israel’s hostile northern front.

Haaretz Editorial

The renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians has led to a revival on the Syrian track as well. French and American envoys to the peace process have visited Damascus, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hastened there in their wake, reflecting his fear that Syria will weaken its strategic alliance with the Iranians. Turkey also announced its interest in mediating between Jerusalem and Damascus once again, in spite of the crisis in its relations with Israel following the flotilla incident in late May.

Syrian President Bashar Assad and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner meeting in Damascus on May 23, 2010

Photo by: AP
Only in Israel is there silence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ignoring Syria ever since he returned to power and has not responded to the repeated peace feelers of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The most recent diplomatic developments have also encountered Israeli silence, as though these were journeys to another planet rather than an exploration of the chances for a peace agreement with a neighboring country of great importance in the region.

Netanyahu should listen to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces, who are calling on him to renew negotiations with Syria. A peace treaty with Damascus would undermine the “radical axis” led by Iran, bring Assad closer to the United States and the moderate regimes in the region, abate Hezbollah and Hamas and guarantee stability on Israel’s northern border.

In addition to the strategic benefit, a peace treaty would reinforce the regional aspect to the negotiations with the Palestinians, in accordance with the Arab peace initiative. And no less important, it would promote the drawing of Israel’s borders and lead to an end of our control of occupied territory, over which the international community has never recognized the application of Israeli law.

The conditions for peace with Syria are known: Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for security arrangements and normalization in the relations between the two countries. The defense establishment’s support for such an arrangement indicates that, in the opinion of its leaders, Israel can be defended even without the Golan, and that peace will contribute to security no less than tank brigades on the Golan Heights.

The repeated failures over the course of 19 years of negotiations with the Syrians have not led to a perpetuation of the status quo or to the strengthening of Israel’s strategic situation. On the contrary: They have led to the strengthening of Israel’s hostile northern front. Netanyahu now has another opportunity to reverse the trend and achieve a peace agreement that will provide great advantages to this country.

An opportunity in Damascus: Haaretz Editorial

The repeated failures over the course of 19 years of negotiations with the Syrians have only led to the strengthening of Israel’s hostile northern front.

The renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians has led to a revival on the Syrian track as well. French and American envoys to the peace process have visited Damascus, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hastened there in their wake, reflecting his fear that Syria will weaken its strategic alliance with the Iranians. Turkey also announced its interest in mediating between Jerusalem and Damascus once again, in spite of the crisis in its relations with Israel following the flotilla incident in late May.

Only in Israel is there silence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ignoring Syria ever since he returned to power and has not responded to the repeated peace feelers of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The most recent diplomatic developments have also encountered Israeli silence, as though these were journeys to another planet rather than an exploration of the chances for a peace agreement with a neighboring country of great importance in the region.

Netanyahu should listen to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces, who are calling on him to renew negotiations with Syria. A peace treaty with Damascus would undermine the “radical axis” led by Iran, bring Assad closer to the United States and the moderate regimes in the region, abate Hezbollah and Hamas and guarantee stability on Israel’s northern border.

In addition to the strategic benefit, a peace treaty would reinforce the regional aspect to the negotiations with the Palestinians, in accordance with the Arab peace initiative. And no less important, it would promote the drawing of Israel’s borders and lead to an end of our control of occupied territory, over which the international community has never recognized the application of Israeli law.

The conditions for peace with Syria are known: Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for security arrangements and normalization in the relations between the two countries. The defense establishment’s support for such an arrangement indicates that, in the opinion of its leaders, Israel can be defended even without the Golan, and that peace will contribute to security no less than tank brigades on the Golan Heights.

The repeated failures over the course of 19 years of negotiations with the Syrians have not led to a perpetuation of the status quo or to the strengthening of Israel’s strategic situation. On the contrary: They have led to the strengthening of Israel’s hostile northern front. Netanyahu now has another opportunity to reverse the trend and achieve a peace agreement that will provide great advantages to this country.

Gaza receives first car shipment from Israel since 2007: BBC

Israel co-ordinates all imports into Gaza with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank
Israel has allowed about 20 cars into Gaza, in the first such shipment since the militant Hamas movement took over the Strip in 2007.

No cars have been legally imported into the territory since Israel tightened its economic blockade soon after that.

Cars have been smuggled through tunnels from Egypt since then.

In recent months, Israel has eased the blockade of Gaza but exports are still banned and most people are not allowed to leave the territory.

Although Gaza’s economy grew 16% in the first half of 2010, the IMF said the growth followed years of sanctions that had all but devastated the economy.

Four out of five of the territory’s 1.5 million residents rely on foreign aid and unemployment remains at 37%, one of the highest rates in the world.

With so much poverty and unemployment, few people can afford a new car, says the BBC’s Jon Donnison in Gaza.

Repeated delays
The 20 cars – both new and used – were transported into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom border crossing – which the Palestinians call Kerem Abu Salem – on Monday afternoon.
There are only 20 cars and they are much needed. Transport in the Gaza Strip can be dilapidated and rickety to say the least. Many cars are in a terrible state and lots of people still travel by donkey.

During the past three years, the only way to get a new car into Gaza was literally underground – with whole brand new cars being smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt.

With the easing of Israel’s blockade, it’s 20 new cars for now, and more expected to follow. But one key question – with Gaza’s economy devastated by the blockade and unemployment close to 40%, how many people can afford one?

Earlier, there had been “several problems” in co-ordinating the delayed shipment with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Maj Guy Inbar of the Israeli military’s Gaza liaison office told the AFP news agency, without providing further details.

Since Hamas took over in Gaza, all imports are organised with the Palestinian Authority.

The delivery was also held up by near-daily rocket and mortar attacks last week, he added.

Israel and neighbouring Egypt shut down Gaza’s border crossings when an Israeli soldier was captured in June 2006, and tightened it further when Hamas took control of Gaza, driving the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas out of the strip, a year later.

Hamas had won parliamentary elections in Gaza and the West Bank earlier in 2006.

Israel began allowing consumer goods into Gaza after its May raid on a Turkish aid ship sparked international outrage. Nine activists were killed when Israeli commandos intercepted the ship in international waters.

But it still blocks all exports from the territory, imposes a complete naval blockade, and severely restricts the movement of people.

The Israeli authorities also limit the amount of construction and raw materials allowed into Gaza, leading to the closure of hundreds of businesses and factories – some of which were destroyed during Israel’s 22-day military offensive, which ended in January 2009.

According to the United Nations, the Israeli military campaign left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools damaged or destroyed.

Israel says the restrictions are necessary to pressure militants to stop firing rockets from the territory.

How dozens of Israeli Arab ‘espionage’ arrests ended in minor convictions: Haaretz

Attorney describes legal clause on contact with agents as ‘a trap’ that turns any interaction with an Arab from an enemy state into a criminal offense.
By Jack Khoury

Dr. Omar Said, the Kafr Kana resident who was released last week after five months in jail, is one of dozens of Israeli Arabs who have been detained over allegations of security and espionage offenses. As in most of these cases, the story opened with massive media coverage and serious suspicions, but ended with a limited indictment – contact with an enemy agent – and a relatively short jail sentence.

Attorney Hussein Abuhussein, who represented Said and has witnessed many such security cases, told Haaretz that the legal clause pertaining to contact with enemy agents is so broad that it turns any meeting, phone conversation or online contact with an Arab from an enemy state into a criminal offense. Abuhussein says this includes people living in the West Bank and Gaza; sometimes the security apparatus won’t even say who the alleged agent is.

“It is a trap, a distortion that must be corrected,” he said.

Attorney Abeer Baker of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, agrees that this clause has become a tool the prosecution uses to achieve quick convictions in security cases. In a recent position paper, she describes how the clause is used as leverage to pressure security detainees and their defense lawyers to sign plea bargains quickly. Once convicted, they can be sentenced to jail terms ranging from a few months to seven years.

The Shin Bet security service says the clause is being used increasingly due to the increased attempts by terror organizations, led by Hezbollah, to strike a foothold in the Israeli Arab community. The Shin Bet’s website says Hezbollah is trying to enlist operatives from the Arab sector who can help them learn about Israel’s military and security matters as well as the public mood.

Former deputy Shin Bet head MK Gideon Ezra (Kadima ) rejected Sunday  the claims of attorneys Abuhussein and Baker.

“The State of Israel does not seek to put people in jail, but to carry out proper investigations. There is always a gap between what is known at first and the final outcome,” he said.

The security apparatus offers a few examples from the last decade. In 2002, 10 citizens from the Galilee were arrested for passing sensitive intelligence information to Hezbollah. The main suspect, Omar Heib, a resident of Kafr Zarzir and an Israel Defense Forces lieutenant, was convicted of aggravated espionage and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Another case is that of 24-year-old Rawi Sultani of Tira, who was recruited by Hezbollah at an international Arab summer camp in Morocco organized by the Israeli Arab political party Balad. Sultani was convicted last year of giving information to an enemy agent, for passing on intelligence about IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. He was sentenced to five and half years in jail. His family notes that initially he was accused of much more serious offenses, such as conspiring to assassinate Ashkenazi.

On the other hand, cases that began with great uproars and ended in whispers include that of Geras Geras, a former PLO activist and head of the Fassuta local council. In 2006 he was accused of serious crimes including transferring intelligence information during wartime, which carries a life sentence. The indictment was reduced to contact with a foreign agent working for the Iranians, and the sentence to 33 months in jail.

In 2005 a plea bargain was signed with two dentists, Dr. Nazmi Hassin of Nazareth and Dr. Salem Zaydan of Kafr Manda. The two were first accused of aiding to the enemy in wartime for contact with a Hamas activist while they were studying in Romania. They admitted to one of the clauses in the indictment, contact with a foreign agent, and were sentenced to three and a half years in jail.

That same year, near the end of the trial, a plea bargain was signed with the leaders of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ra’ad Salah and former Umm al-Fahm mayor Suleiman Aghbaria. They were convicted of contact with a foreign agent and related financial offenses, but the most severe charges – membership in a terror organization and passing information to the enemy – were thrown out and they were sentenced to 30 to 46 months in jail.

Dr. Said, first accused of aggravated espionage, agreed to a plea bargain that stated he made contact with a foreign agent, and was sentenced to seven months in jail. The agent was Hassan Jaja, a Lebanese citizen who has contacts with Hezbollah, who tried to recruit him along with Amir Makhoul. Although he confessed, Said continues to claim that the affair was nothing less than political persecution: “Jaja is active in civilian organizations and is well-acquainted with the special position of Arab citizens in Israel. The attempt to accuse him of recruiting agents is completely unfounded,” Said said last week.

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