Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is Obama planning another move against Israel?



Israel Fears Obama Heading for Imposed Mideast Settlement -Ari Shavit

President Obama's demands point to an intention to impose a permanent settlement on Israel and the Palestinians in less than two years, political sources in Jerusalem say.

Israeli officials view the demands that Obama made at the White House as the tip of the iceberg under which lies a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Israel.
(Ha'aretz)


Obama May Double His Bets -Warren P. Strobel

The administration is said to be preparing a major peace initiative that would be Obama's most direct involvement in the conflict to date, and would go far beyond indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks.
(McClatchy-Miami Herald)


President Obama's Mideast Gamble -Ben Smith

Obama's new focus represents an acceptance of the Arab narrative that Israeli intransigence lies at the heart of the Middle East conflict.

David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration trade official, said the new model is [meant] to build support among Arab leaders for a U.S. plan and then present that to Israel - to serve as the Arabs' lawyer, rather than as Israel's.
(Politico)
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Friday, March 26, 2010

"Open Season" on Israel?

Analysts See Hypocrisy in Criticism of Israel -Richard Allen Greene

Criticism from the U.S. has made it easier for other countries to condemn Israel, said analyst Mark Heller of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. "I am guessing [it] somehow opens the floodgates because people might sense that if the U.S. appears to be distancing itself a little bit, then it's open season," he said.
(CNN)


Crisis Gives Encouragement to Israel's Enemies -David Horovitz

While most Israelis believe that prime ministers Rabin, Barak and Olmert traveled a great deal more than half way down the road in their efforts to reach a viable peaceful accommodation with the Palestinians, the Obama presidency evidently feels differently. It is wrong and it ought to know better, but this administration apparently still believes that Israel had the capacity to go further.

The American response emboldens Palestinian and wider Arab extremism. If America publicly brands Israel worthy of such bitter condemnation, then the worst of the extremists can confidently expect their violence against Israel to be granted still more indulgence internationally than it already enjoys.

By deliberately inflating the Ramat Shlomo issue into a public crisis of faith in its ally, the Obama administration has given encouragement to Israel's enemies, turned more of Israel's friends against it, and potentially put every Israeli's life in a little more danger.
(Jerusalem Post)


Netanyahu Can Say "No" -Efraim Inbar

The timing of the crisis serves Israel well - just before Passover - when Jews repeat a 2,000-year-old text pledging, "Next year in Jerusalem."

Rejection of the division of Jerusalem expresses the deepest wishes of an overwhelming number of Jews living both in Israel and the diaspora. Jerusalem has never been a capital of any political entity, except that of a Jewish state, and Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem for the past 150 years.

Moreover, the Arab residents of Jerusalem, if given a choice, would in all probability prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty than become part of a failed Palestinian state.

[T]he Israeli interest in keeping Jerusalem united is more intense than the Obama desire for a foreign policy success.
(BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)


The White House War Against Israel -Edward Alexander

The decision of the Obama White House to pick a public fight with Israel...has by now been subjected to sharp and justified criticism for its disproportionality; its bad faith in reneging on signed agreements with Israel; its mean-spirited spitefulness; its dogged attachment to the exploded assumption that "settlements" are the cause of Arab intransigence; its desire to keep intact the possibility of an apartheid state of Palestine that would not accommodate a single Jew; and its entire indifference to the violence that its reckless statements could (and did) incite in Jerusalem.
(FrontPageMagazine)


Treating America's Friend with Disdain -Shmuley Boteach

Dividing Jerusalem, as it had been split until the Six-Day War, is the single gravest risk to Israel's security.

Just imagine a Palestinian capital, with Palestinian forces, only miles from Israel's Knesset. Would Israel really sign a suicide pact to put all the organs of its government within easy striking range of Palestinian rockets? Haven't we seen this happen before with Sderot and Gaza?
(Jerusalem Post)
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Palestinians watch on sidelines as Obama negotiates for them


Palestinian Demands Are a Ruse -Stephen Pollard

Far from Israel's behavior over east Jerusalem being the cause of the breakdown in talks, it's the Palestinians who have come up with east Jerusalem as a figleaf for their rejection of talks.

The Palestinians' refusal to countenance real talks unless Israel freezes building in east Jerusalem is simply a ruse. For 16 years after the Oslo accords, such building was never an issue. The real reason why the Palestinians have landed on an east Jerusalem freeze as a prerequisite is because they no longer want negotiations with Israel, or the U.S.
(Guardian-UK)


U.S.-Engineered Deadlock -Jackson Diehl

[F]or the second time in a year, the Middle East peace process has been stalled by a U.S.-engineered deadlock. U.S. and Israeli negotiators worked until 3 a.m. Wednesday in an attempt to come up with a formula that would allow the talks to go forward. So far, no luck.

Obama added more poison to the U.S.-Israeli relationship when he refused to allow non-official photographers to record his meeting with Netanyahu, and no statement was issued afterward. Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length.

That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice.

A new administration can be excused for making such a mistake. That's why Obama was given a pass by many when he made exactly the same mistake last year. The second time around, the president doesn't look naive. He appears ideological - and vindictive.
(Washington Post)
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Hillary @ AIPAC: posture without backbone?


Washington's Shrinking Options on Iran Nuke Sanctions -Tony Karon

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told AIPAC on Monday: "We are now working with our partners in the United Nations on new sanctions that will bite."

The actual level of progress on the Iran sanctions front, however, has not yet caught up with Clinton's tough talk - and there's little sign that any of the pressure will realistically stop Iran from acquiring the means to create a nuclear bomb.
(TIME)


Hillary Clinton's Unfortunate Mistake -Itamar Marcus & Nan Jacques Zilberdik

In her speech to AIPAC on Monday, Clinton condemned Hamas for renaming "a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis." On the other hand, Clinton "commended" Abbas.

But in fact it has been the PA and Mahmoud Abbas, not Hamas, who have been leading the Palestinians in glorifying Dalal Mughrabi.

When Hamas is condemned for the terror glorification while it is Abbas and the PA who are guilty, the message to the Palestinian leadership is that they can continue with their incitement to hatred and violence, and no one will call them to account.
(Jerusalem Post)


UPDATE:

U.S. Softens Sanction Plan Against Iran -David Crawford, et al

The U.S. has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran in order to win support from Russia and China for a new UN Security Council resolution on sanctions.
(Wall Street Journal)

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Educating Obama


Obama's Israel Crisis -Benjamin Kerstein

In the end, Obama will likely have to face the fact that the Israeli-Arab conflict is impervious to Israeli concessions.

The Israeli-Arab conflict was begun by the Arabs, and it can only be ended by the Arabs.

It was a war of choice, unnecessary and unfortunate; and the Arabs, should they wish, can choose to end it.
(New Ledger)
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Monday, March 22, 2010

AIPAC confronts US Administration at Conference


AIPAC president: That’s not how friends behave -Ben Harris

AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg gave the Obama administration a piece of his mind Sunday, and AIPAC ate it up [see video above].
[JTA]
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Americans get the MidEast!


Poll Finds Americans Side with Israel

Americans, by a significant margin, believe the U.S. should support Israel in its conflict with Palestinians, a poll shows.

80% agree with the statement, "Enemies of America use the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as an excuse to create anti-American sentiment. Even if the dispute is settled, they would find another excuse to justify their hostility towards America."

73% said the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is about ideology and religion, not land.

64% said they believed Iran will pursue a goal of destroying Israel, and 80% believed Iran's nuclear program would make it easier for terrorist groups to gain access to nuclear weapons.
(UPI)
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

What's motivating Obama in Israel rift?



Obama’s war on Israel -Caroline Glick

[E]ven more important than its usefulness as a tool to divert the public’s attention away from the failure of his Iran policy, Obama’s assault against Israel may well be aimed at maintaining that failed policy.

Specifically, he may be attacking Israel in a bid to coerce Netanyahu into agreeing to give Obama veto power over any Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear installations. That is, the anti-Israel campaign may be a means to force Israel to stand by as Obama allows Iran to build a nuclear arsenal.

For the past several months, an endless line of senior administration officials have descended on Jerusalem with the expressed aim of convincing Netanyahu to relinquish Israel’s right to independently strike Iran’s nuclear installations. All of these officials have returned to Washington empty-handed. Perhaps Obama has decided that since quiet pressure has failed to cow Netanyahu, it is time to launch a frontal attack against him.
[Jerusalem Post]
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Poignant reflection on US MidEast Policy

Biden's Failed Mission -Mitchell Bard

[T]he administration sent Vice President Joseph Biden to Jerusalem to convince Israelis they have a friend in the White House, but Biden couldn't stick to the script and managed to reinforce their fears rather than reassure them.

If Biden really wanted to do something for the Palestinians, he would not feed their latest tantrum. Instead, he should point out to Abbas that the longer he waits to negotiate an agreement with Israel, the more Jews will be living in the areas he wants and the less land he will get in the end.

Had Jimmy Carter said this to Yasser Arafat 30 years ago when 12,000 Jews lived in the West Bank, the conflict might have been resolved. Now, nearly 300,000 Jews live in that same area. Whose side is time really on?
(Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles)


The Settlements Aren't the Problem -Bret Stephens

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn't territorial. It's existential.

Israelis are now broadly prepared to live with a Palestinian state along their borders. Palestinians are not yet willing to live with a Jewish state along theirs. That should help explain why it is that in the past decade, two Israeli prime ministers - Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 - have put forward comprehensive peace offers to the Palestinians, and have twice been rebuffed.

Then there is the test case of Gaza. When Israel withdrew all of its settlements from the Strip in 2005, it was supposed to be an opportunity for Palestinians to demonstrate what they would do with a state if they got one. Instead, they quickly turned it into an Iranian-backed Hamas enclave that for nearly three years launched nonstop rocket and mortar barrages against Israeli civilians.

The sad fact is that the most important thing Israel's withdrawal from Gaza accomplished was to expose the fanatical irredentism that still lies at the heart of the Palestinian movement.

Israel withdrew from Gaza with assurances from the Bush administration that the U.S. would not insist on a return to the 1967 borders in brokering any future deal with the Palestinians. But Hillary Clinton reneged on that commitment last year, and now the administration is going out of its way to provoke a diplomatic crisis with Israel over a construction project that is plainly in keeping with past U.S. undertakings.

In the past decade, Israelis have learned that neither Palestinians nor Europeans can be taken at their word. That's a lesson they may soon begin to draw about the U.S. as well.
(Wall Street Journal)
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Krauthammer spears Clinton


How Obama Created the Biden Incident -Charles Krauthammer

Why did President Obama choose to turn a gaffe...into a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations?

The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.

Clinton's spokesman publicly announced that Israel was required to show in word and in deed its seriousness about peace. Israel? Israelis have been looking for peace - literally dying for peace - since 1947, when they accepted the UN partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. (The Arabs refused and declared war. They lost.)

Israel made peace offers in 1967, 1978 and in the 1993 Oslo peace accords that Yasser Arafat tore up seven years later to launch a terror war that killed a thousand Israelis.

The Palestinians have not once accepted an Israeli offer of permanent peace, or ever countered with anything short of terms that would destroy Israel.

Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called "unprecedented."

And Clinton demands that Israel show its seriousness about peace? Now that's an insult.
(Washington Post)
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Ed Koch weighs in on Obama & diplomatic crisis


Opposition to Obama's Tactics Builds -Jennifer Rubin

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch:

"It is very serious. I hope all Jews understand the unforgivable pressures being brought on Israel." And let's hope all Americans do as well. The problem is not simply the uncivil tone and bullying techniques, but also the entire mindset and policy that seek to extract the most concessions possible from the Israeli government - or even topple it - as a negotiating gambit."
(Commentary)
[Note: Edward Koch endorced candidate Obama for President]

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UPDATE:

Obama and Israel: Why the Trust Is Gone -Ed Koch

I consider the Obama administration's recent actions against the Israeli government to be outrageous and a breach of trust.

There will be an effort this week to mend fences, but the relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there.
The writer served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989.
(World Tribune)
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

More money poured into Gaza's Terror State than Haiti



Gaza: More Aid than Haiti -Jacob Shrybman

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is set to arrive in Israel to visit Gaza amidst demands to end a so-called siege on the terrorist-controlled territory.

Yet one has to ask what siege, or blockade, he is referring to, with 738,576 tons of humanitarian aid being transferred into Gaza in 2009. Gaza has also been called "the world's largest prison," yet in 2009, 10,544 patients and their companions left Gaza for medical treatment in Israel, including nearly 500 last week.

Secretary of State Clinton pledged $900 million in aid to Gaza following Operation Cast Lead. A USAID report calculated the aid sent to quake-raved Haiti at $700 million - less than Gaza.
(Ynet News)
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Obama's MidEast Policy: Train Wreck




American Credibility at Stake in Showdown -Hillel Halkin

Four months ago, Israel and the U.S. concluded an argument regarding Israeli construction in the West Bank and former Jordanian Jerusalem with a compromise that neither government was particularly happy about: Israel reluctantly agreed to suspend all new construction in the West Bank for nearly a year, and the U.S. reluctantly accepted Israel's refusal to do the same in Jerusalem.

America made it clear that it considered the Israeli position enough of a concession to push the "peace process" forward and that it was willing to live with it. On that basis, the Netanyahu government declared a West Bank freeze and began to enforce it.

Now, America has reneged on its word.

Using the Ramat Shlomo incident as a pretext, it is demanding once again, as if an agreement had never been reached, that Israel cease all construction in "Arab" Jerusalem. Basically, it is saying: "We agreed to a compromise? So what if we did? Now you've insulted us and we're taking our agreement back."

This is a grave mistake. And it is gravest of all for the "peace process" that President Obama claims to be so eager to restart. The next time an American president asks Israelis to count on America, he might ask himself: Why on earth should they?
(New York Sun)


Peres: Israel Has Every Right to Build in Jerusalem

President Shimon Peres [said] that Israel reserved the right to build in Jerusalem and that Israel's construction policy in the capital has not changed in forty years.

This policy has never interfered with the peace process, he said. He added that Israel would continue this policy and called for a quick resumption of peace talks.
(Ha'aretz)


Tripping in Jerusalem -Allan Gerson

Israel's position may change during negotiations, but it seems delusional to believe that Israel can be forced to change its position on Jerusalem in advance of actual negotiations.
(Huffington Post)


How About an Arab "Settlement" Freeze? -Ruth R. Wisse

It is unfortunate that Arabs obsess about building in Israel rather than aiming for the development of their own superabundant lands.
(Wall Street Journal)


Obama Aggravates Israel's Mistake -Jeff Robbins

[T]he Obama administration...stayed conspicuously silent for 14 months while Mahmoud Abbas refused even to negotiate with Israel, without fear of any consequences.

The PA has in the last decade repeatedly rejected two-state solutions...
Hamas...is committed to the destruction of any state of Israel, regardless of borders. This makes the Obama administration's position that settlements are the impediment to peace worse than silly.

When those who have long harbored the view that it is only a matter of time before the U.S. can be peeled away from Israel hear words that confirm their view, any incentive they may have had to make peace with Israel disappears and the incentive to be intransigent grows.

[W]hen the administration resorts to this sort of ugliness, it raises serious questions among Israelis and others about whether Obama can be trusted to protect the security of Israel.
(Boston Globe)


Was Obama's Confrontation Premeditated? -Yossi Klein Halevi

Ramat Shlomo will remain within the boundaries of Israeli Jerusalem according to every peace plan. By placing the issue of building in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem at the center of the peace process, President Obama has inadvertently challenged the Palestinians to do no less.

Obama's demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem led to a freeze in negotiations. It is pique disguised as policy.

[T]he administration is demanding that Israel negotiate over final status issues in proximity talks as a way of convincing the Palestinians to agree to those talks - as if Israelis would agree to discuss the future of Jerusalem when Palestinian leaders refuse to even sit with them.

To the fictitious notion of a peace process, Obama has now added the fiction of an intransigent Israel blocking the peace process.
(New Republic)
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reflections on Obama's turn against Israel



Testing Obama, at Home and Abroad -David E. Sanger

David Rothkopf, a noted expert in the exercise of presidential power, noted, "He's in the position of appearing fierce with the Israelis over an insult, but timid with the Iranians over nuclear weapons."
(New York Times)


Obama and Israel: Not Smart -John Podhoretz

While Jews are divided over Israel's policies, most do not want the U.S. to become part of the beat-up-on-Israel forces.
(Commentary)


A Telling Tiff -George Jonas

Why Israel builds apartments? That's what countries do.
Why it builds on disputed territory? Every inch of Israel is disputed. That's what the Middle East conflict is about.

With Barack Obama in the Oval Office, America may be Israel's ally but it isn't Israel's friend.
(National Post-Canada)


Overkill: Rebuke of Israel Goes Overboard -Editorial

We suspect lots of Americans are wondering about the Obama administration's sense of proportionality: Iran's government cuts down opponents in the streets and barely creates a ripple with the Obama crew, which has no problem reaming our most valuable friend in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, it is this president's pattern: tread lightly with America's adversaries and land like a ton of bricks on friends - especially dangerous for Israel because of those who will be emboldened by it.
(The Oklahoman)


Democrats Criticize Obama on Israel -Ben Smith

Pro-Israel Democrats have begun to criticize the Obama administration's stern stance toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(Politico)


Critics Accuse Administration of Aiding Enemies

The Obama administration is drawing fierce criticism from both sides of the aisle for appearing to take dead aim at U.S. policy toward Israel by exploiting a dispute that began as a mere bureaucratic blunder.

"These matters need to be thought through before public pronouncements can significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process," Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said.
(FOX News)


Allies Everywhere Feeling Snubbed by President Obama -Robert Kagan

Israelis shouldn't feel that they have been singled out.

* In Britain, people are talking about the end of the "special relationship" with America, despite their ongoing sacrifices in Afghanistan.

* In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has openly criticized Obama for months.

* Relations with Japan are rocky, partly because of a perception that the U.S. can't be counted on for the long term.

By now, a moderately self-reflective administration might be asking why so many allies, everywhere, are worried. Who has attracted [positive] attention in the Obama administration? The answer, seems to be not America's allies but its competitors, and in some cases its adversaries.

The president has shown seemingly limitless patience with the Russians as they stall an arms-control deal that could have been done in December. He accepted a year of Iranian insults and refusal to negotiate before hesitantly moving toward sanctions.

The administration continues to woo Syria without much sign of reciprocation in Damascus.

Yet Obama angrily orders a near-rupture of relations with Israel for a minor infraction - and after the Israeli prime minister publicly apologized.
(Washington Post)




Israel and the Crisis with Obama -John Bolton [pictured above]

Mr. Obama almost certainly believes the real obstacle to peace is not new housing or unfortunate timing but so-called Israeli intransigence.

On Iran, Mr. Netanyahu's mistake has been to assume that Mr. Obama basically agrees that we must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the White House likely believes that a nuclear Iran, though undesirable, can be contained and will therefore not support using military force to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions. What's more, Mr. Obama is also unwilling to let anyone else, namely Israel, act instead.
(Wall Street Journal)
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Reflections on American-Israeli Diplomatic Crisis




Obama Pushing U.S.-Israel Alliance to the Brink? -Dan Raviv

In the cause of pushing for progress toward Israeli-Arab peace it looks to many as though Obama is brandishing a big box of matches and a large jerrycan of gasoline.
(CBS News)


A New Low -Noah Pollak

It appears to be official policy in the current administration to approach the peace process as an opportunity to reorient the U.S.' position between Jews and Arabs in the region.

Palestinian incitement, the PA's public celebration of terrorism, the rioting in Jerusalem, the ongoing Palestinian refusal to participate in negotiations - none of these have warranted any American comment whatsoever.

In fact, I cannot recall a single time when an Obama administration official has criticized the PA for anything.
(Commentary)


Are U.S.-Israeli Relations Headed for a Train Wreck? -Joel C. Rosenberg

Given rising and serious threats against Israel from Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizbullah, is this really the time for the White House and State Department to be throwing a temper tantrum over Israel's right to build houses in its capital?
(National Review)


Israel Sends Message on Jerusalem -Editorial

As Benny Begin put it, had the announcement been made two weeks in advance of Biden's visit, Israel would have been accused of undermining it. Had the announcement been made two weeks after Biden's visit, Israel would have been accused of deceiving him.

The fact is, there is never a good time to announce something that either the Palestinians or the U.S. will not like. Apparently, they will never like Israel's assertion of sovereignty over Jerusalem.

No Israeli government, on either the right or the left, is willing to deny 3,000 years of Jewish history, hundreds of mentions of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible, as over against zero mentions in the Koran.
(Intermountain Jewish News)


Netanyahu: Israel Will Keep Building in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset:

"No government of Israel for the last 40 years has agreed to place restrictions on building in Jerusalem....During that time, all these governments have built in the suburbs of Jerusalem. The establishment of these Jewish suburbs did not harm the Arabs of east Jerusalem in any shape or form and did not come at their expense. Regardless of whatever political differences there may be in this house, everyone agrees that all of these neighborhoods will remain part of Israel in any final peace settlement."
(Prime Minister's Office)


U.S. Israel Criticism Ignites Firestorm in Congress -Matthew Lee

A bipartisan parade of influential lawmakers has taken aim at the administration's decision to publicly condemn Israel for its announcement of new Jewish housing in Jerusalem.
(AP-Washington Post)


The U.S. Quarrel with Israel -Editorial

The [US] president is perceived by many Israelis as making unprecedented demands on their government while overlooking the intransigence of Palestinian and Arab leaders. If this episode reinforces that image, Mr. Obama will accomplish the opposite of what he intends.
(Washington Post)


U.S. Anger Is Excessive -Avi Issacharoff

Palestinians see the Obama administration's decision to attack Israel as an invitation to adopt a more confrontational line. The PA has smelled blood. So why not start a riot and blame the Israelis, especially when the U.S. government is doing the same.
(Ha'aretz)
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Foxman & ADL confront Obama administration on diplomatic crisis with Israel

Clinton rebukes Israel -Glenn Kessler

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rebuked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about the state of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, demanding that Israel take immediate steps to show it is interested in renewing efforts to achieve a Middle East peace agreement.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley described the nearly 45-minute phone conversation in unusually undiplomatic terms, signaling that the close allies are facing their deepest crisis in two decades...
[Washington Post]


ADL ‘stunned’ by American tone

The Anti-Defamation League expressed dismay at Washington’s “public dressing-down of Israel” over new housing in east Jerusalem.

We are shocked and stunned at the administration’s tone and public dressing-down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem,” ADL’s National Director Abe Foxman [pictured above] said in a statement.

He said Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley was especially harsh when he charged that Israel “undermined trust and confidence in the peace process, and in America’s interests.”

Foxman said the US criticism was “especially troubling” because Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had offered clear explanations of the announcement mishap both publicly and privately. “US Vice President Joe Biden accepted the prime minister’s apology,” Foxman said. “Therefore, to raise the issue again in this way is a gross overreaction to a point of policy difference among friends.

We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the United States,” the statement continued.

One can only wonder how far the US is prepared to go in distancing itself from Israel in order to placate the Palestinians in the hope they see it is in their interest to return to the negotiating table.”
[Jerusalem Post]


UPDATES:

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren has called this situation "the worst crisis in 35 years."

AIPAC called the "escalated rhetoric of recent days" a "distraction from the substantive work that needs to be done," and called on the administration "to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State."

The Washington Post reported, "Relations with Israel have been strained almost since the start of the Obama administration. Now they have plunged to their lowest ebb since the administration of George H.W. Bush."

Obama's Turn Against Israel -Editorial

White House political chief David Axelrod got in his licks on NBC's Meet the Press, lambasting Israel for what he described as "an affront."

It's difficult to see why the Administration has chosen this occasion to spark a full-blown diplomatic crisis with its most reliable Middle Eastern ally.

If the Obama Administration opts to transform itself, as the Europeans have, into another set of lawyers for the Palestinians, it will find Israeli concessions increasingly hard to come by.
(Wall Street Journal)

Leaders Push Back on U.S. Criticism of Israel -Ron Kampeas

U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) described the State Department's tough criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an "irresponsible overreaction" that suggested a pro-Palestinian bias by the administration.

"Where, I ask, was the administration's outrage over the arrest and month-long incarceration by Hamas of a British journalist who was investigating arms smuggling into Gaza?" she asked. "Where was the outrage when the Palestinian Authority this week named a town square after a woman who helped carry out a massive terror attack against Israel? It has been the PA who has refused to participate in talks for over a year, not the government of Israel."
(JTA)
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Gulp: Cartoon spears Obama administration on Israel


Friday, March 12, 2010

The Biden Affair turns nuclear

Joe Biden told the Israeli Prime Minister, that Israel was liable to ''set the Middle East on fire''

End of the line -Jason Koutsoukis

US Vice-President Joe Biden told the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that it was liable to ''set the Middle East on fire''.

Mr Biden [told] officials that the United States' close relationship with Israel was jeopardising its other bilateral relationships across the region.

''This is starting to get dangerous for us,'' he reportedly castigated Israeli officials. ''What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.''
[Sydney Morning Herald]


There is a reason Israel doesn't roll over -Stephanie Gutmann

Vice President Biden reportedly said that the lack of an agreement over Palestine is "endangering U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Oh please. Like what's really irking the Taliban and al-Qaeda is the placement of borders over in Palestine. If there was a "final status agreement," everybody would settle down and take up crocheting.

The VP's comment reveals some profound confusion about how the region works.
(Telegraph-UK)


Jerusalem: It's All in the Timing -David Hazony

[T]he New York Times headline read: "As Biden Visits, Israel Unveils Plan for New Settlements." An earlier version of the story, which has since been edited, described Jerusalem as home to "thousands of settlers."

What Netanyahu knows, and Biden apparently does not, is that the vast majority of Israelis, including those who favor a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians, do not, and will never, look at Jerusalem as a settlement or at residents of its neighborhoods as "settlers."
(Commentary)


Palestinians Honor Terrorist After Biden Visit -Isabel Kershner

Dozens of Palestinian students from the youth division of Fatah, the party led by Mahmoud Abbas, gathered in El Bireh in the West Bank to dedicate a public square to the memory of Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel's history.

Mughrabi was the leader of a Palestinian squad that sailed from Lebanon and landed on a beach between Haifa and Tel Aviv. They killed an American photojournalist, hijacked a bus and commandeered another, embarking on a bloody rampage that left 38 Israeli civilians dead, 13 of them children.

To Israelis, hailing Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism. But Fatah representatives described Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history. "We are all Dalal Mughrabi," declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee. "For us she is not a terrorist."

An official PA ceremony was put off due to the visit to the region by Vice President Biden.
(New York Times)
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The Temple that refused to die


Hurva Synagogue Restored in Jerusalem's Old City -Benjamin Balint

The Hurva synagogue [pictured above] in the heart of the Jewish Quarter remained in ruins for six decades, but has now been restored after eight years of construction.

The ark, which stands beneath the building's gleaming 82-foot-high dome, is a nearly exact replica of the original that stood on the spot more than 150 years earlier.

In 1701 a group of Polish immigrants to the Holy Land started to build a synagogue at the site. Two decades later, after the group had exhausted its funds, Arab creditors destroyed the building.

In the 19th century, with funds from Sir Moses Montefiore, the Rothschilds and communities as far-flung as St. Petersburg, Baghdad, Cairo and India, the Ottoman sultan's architect, Assad Effendi, was hired to erect a domed structure. The impressive result, completed in 1864, became for the next eight decades the tallest Jewish landmark in Jerusalem.

During Israel's War of Independence, on May 28, 1948, soldiers of Jordan's Arab Legion set off explosive charges and reduced the Hurva to rubble.

The reconstruction of this most storied of Jerusalem's synagogues represents a deep and irrepressible Israeli urge to rebuild.
(Wall Street Journal)
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Biden Affair: VP spits fire at Israel

Vice President Biden issued this unusually harsh rebuke for an ally:
"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel."


Ramat Shlomo Neighborhood of Jerusalem

Netanyahu Regrets "Timing" of Announcement -Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told cabinet ministers that the timing of the Jerusalem Committee's announcement of a plan to build 1,600 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo [pictured above], issued on the same day U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the region, was "a serious mishap...that should not have happened."

Israel apologized for embarrassing Biden with the timing of its announcement, but made clear it has no intention of reversing its plan.
(Ha'aretz)


Residents Don't Understand the Commotion -Abe Selig

A resident of the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem, commenting on the announcement of 1,600 new housing units, said:

"[Former Jerusalem Mayor] Teddy Kollek...would be turning over in his grave right now if he knew that this was even being debated....If we can't build here, then tell me, please, where can we build?"

Eli Diskin, a Ramat Shlomo resident, said that 1,600 new housing units "wouldn't even be enough" to deal with the overflowing population of the neighborhood. "If someone gets married, if they have more kids, where are they supposed to go? They have to leave the neighborhood."

"If this is not an inseparable part of Jerusalem, than what is?" asked Pini Gamliel.

Mendy Hechtman said American diplomats should come and see the neighborhood for themselves. "Once you get here, you can easily see that this is simply another neighborhood in Jerusalem, but the media makes it seem like this is some kind of far-removed settlement."
(Jerusalem Post)


Biden's Visit and Construction in Jerusalem

Daniel Gordis:

Insisting that Israelis freeze settlement expansion without making some equally explicit demand of the Palestinians - and using the same term "settlement" for both massive neighborhoods that are home to tens of thousands, and for illegal outposts - Obama has convinced Israelis that he has no command of the issues, and that he is predisposed to pressuring Israel much more than the Palestinians.
(New York Times)


Slanting News on Jerusalem -Jonathan Tobin

That the announcement was probably a ploy on the part of Netanyahu’s coalition partners to embarrass the prime minister and limit his maneuvering room, is little consolation to those who already had reason to worry about the shaky nature of the Obama’s administration’s support for Israel.

However, concern about the foolish timing of the announcement in no way diminishes Israel’s right to build homes in its own capital. Netanyahu rightly opposed extending the freeze on building in the West Bank to Jerusalem.

The problem here is that while Arabs and their supporters assume that keeping all Jews out of East Jerusalem is a prerequisite of Palestinian independence, no one questions the right of Israeli Arabs to live in any part of Jerusalem, including the sections that were under Israeli control from 1949 to 1967.

Thus, the hypocrisy is not on the part of Israel but rather its critics. So long as Arabs are free to buy and/or build in West Jerusalem, banning Jews from doing the same in the eastern part of the city that was illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 is discriminatory.

And even if a peace deal were ever adopted in which parts of the city were given to a Palestinian state, why would the presence of Jews there prevent such a pact, since no responsible person would expect such an agreement to also specify the eviction of Arabs from Israel?
[Commentary Magazine]
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Jihad Jane:" White Trash becomes Muslim Trash


American "Jihad Jane" Arrested -Richard A. Serrano

Using e-mail, YouTube videos, phony travel documents and a burning desire to kill "or die trying," an American woman from Pennsylvania helped recruit a network for suicide attacks and other terrorist strikes in Europe and Asia, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

With blond hair and green eyes, Colleen R. LaRose, 46, who dubbed herself "Jihad Jane," bragged that she could go anywhere undetected, and that it was "an honor and great pleasure to die or kill for" jihad.

Authorities said LaRose solicited funds for terrorist organizations, helped arrange phony passports and other travel records, and used the Internet to recruit women to kill in Europe and men in Asia.
(Los Angeles Times)


American 'Jihad Jane' Faces Terrorism Charges -Carrie Johnson

As an American citizen whose appearance and passport allowed her to blend into Western society, LaRose represents one of the worst fears of intelligence and FBI analysts focused on identifying terrorist threats.

She looked for recruits whose physical appearance would "blend in with many people" and go undetected in Europe and the U.S.
(Washington Post)
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Terror for Nigerian Christians

Victim of Muslim attacks against Christians in Nigeria


Jihad in Nigeria -Melanie Phillips

In appalling violence by Muslims against Christians in Nigeria, the latest tally after weekend attacks on three mostly Christian villages is some 500 dead.

What is happening to Nigeria's Christians makes a mockery of the frenzied Western obsession with Israel. To understand the real cause of global tumult we should look carefully at Africa, and the appalling suffering of [Christians].
(Spectator-UK)
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Iran poised for Iraq takeover


Iraq's Cosmetic Election -Daniel Pipes

"It takes a cynical mind not to share in the achievement of Iraq's national elections." So writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board. I'm no cynic, but my mood about Iraq could variously be described as depressed, despairing, despondent, dejected, pessimistic, melancholic, and gloomy.

That's because the Iraqi regime (along with those of Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority) is a kept institution that cannot survive without constant American support. As long as Washington pumps money and sacrifices lives to maintain the Baghdad government, the latter can hobble along. Remove those props and Iranian-backed Islamists soon take over.

Tehran has aspired to seize effective control of Iraq since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. With many levers at hand, from mosques to schools to militias to politicians, the Iranian despots are well placed to inherit the country.

The end of U.S. backing looms. Indeed, Barack Obama responded to the well-run elections by declaring a hope that U.S. troops can leave Iraq months earlier than planned.

As the American era closes, the Iranian one opens. In a year or two, the current elections will be looked back on as a cosmetic episode that somehow deceived otherwise savvy observers.
[National Review Online]
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Monday, March 08, 2010

Iran: Crusin' for a brusin'?


A photo released by Iran, of their Nasr 1 (Victory) missiles.
Gen. Ahmad Vahidi announced a new line of highly accurate, short range cruise missiles capable of evading radar


Iran Begins Production of Cruise Missiles -Nasser Karimi

Iran announced that it has started a new production line for a short-range cruise missile, called the Nasr 1, that would be capable of destroying targets up to 3,000 tons in size.

Iran boasts an array of short and medium-range missiles capable of hitting targets in the region, including Israel, U.S. military bases, and much of Europe.

Tehran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.
(AP-Washington Post)
[Hat Tip: JoeS]
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Friday, March 05, 2010

Obama's mis-step


Challenges of Middle East Peace -David Makovsky

The U.S. is smarting from the fact that the Arab states were supposed to match Israeli moves on settlements with gestures towards Israel, but failed to do anything.

The Arab states may say that the settlement moratorium is not 100% of what they would like. No negotiation is what one side wants. Yet, even if they think Netanyahu only moved 70%, they have responded with 0% reciprocity.

It is unlikely the U.S. will go down this road again.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
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The fate of Gaza's movie houses: not playing


Who Destroyed the Cinemas in Gaza? -Jonathan Dahoah Halevi

Five hundred artists from Montreal recently signed a statement "to support the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israeli apartheid." Their statement charges: "During the first and second intifadas, Israel invaded, ransacked, and even closed down cinemas, theatres and cultural centers."

True, not a single cinema house exists in Gaza, but Hamas - not Israel - is responsible.

Saud Abu Ramadan, a Palestinian reporter working for the Chinese Xinhua news service, published an interview on July 26, 2009, with Adnan Abu Beid, 57, who used to run the biggest movie house in Gaza city called al-Nasser.

In 1994, there were nine movie houses in Gaza. Abu Ramadan notes that the al-Nasser was burned and destroyed by angry Islamic Hamas demonstrators in 1995. Abu Beid said, "I hid my film archives and decided to become a vegetable vendor."

He added that his archives "are the only that remained after all the movie houses had either shut down or been destroyed by Hamas" in 1995. "Many people who think about reopening movie houses in Gaza are afraid that it would be attacked, burned and destroyed."

The first and only movie produced by the Hamas government was "Imad Aqel," which tells the heroic story of a senior Hamas terrorist who was responsible for the killing of 13 Israeli soldiers and civilians. As Reuters reporter Nidal al-Mughrabi noted, "The audience in Gaza clapped and cheered as the actor delivered the movie's most memorable line: 'To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God.'"

It is hard to comprehend how such a large group of Canadian artists speaking the language of human rights are silent about Hamas oppression of any free cultural activity or, even worse, its pursuit of a culture of death.
(Shalom Life-Canada)
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When It's Necessary and Desirable to Assassinate Terrorists -Barry Rubin

Proposition One: If you truly understand that the terrorist groups are going to try to kill you no matter what you do, it removes the fear of making them angry.

Proposition Two: If you know the world is going to criticize you no matter what you do, it removes the fear of making them angry.

That's Israel's situation.
(Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya)
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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Study: Americans love Israel despite media coverage


Americans Love Israel More Than You Think -Barry Rubin

Gallup's latest poll measuring how Americans feel about different countries rates Israel 67% favorable and 25% unfavorable. Only one-fourth of those 25%, that is 6%, are really hostile.

After 20 years of intensive media criticism, hostility on campuses, double standards, and controversy, that's nothing short of remarkable.

At the same time, the PA receives constant good publicity in the media, campuses, and among policymakers as moderate and friendly to the U.S. Yet only 20% are favorable to the PA and a whopping 70% are negative.
(Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya)




Israel Increasingly Popular. Surprised? -Editorial

Support for Israel among Americans is at a 19-year high, according to a Gallup poll.

For all the criticism of the mainstream press among pro-Israel advocates in this country, most Americans get their news and views about the Mideast from the very same news media so often perceived of as biased against Israel. Somehow a positive message must be getting through.

The encouraging survey results do not mean that we should, as a community, ease up on our advocacy for Israel. But we should [be] mindful of and grateful for an American society that appreciates the importance of Israel as a strong and loyal ally in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood.
(New York Jewish Week)
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Medical Miracle: Israel techno savvy



A short video on a major advance in lung imaging
[Hat Tip: LindaF]

VideoBite: taking on the Goldstone Report


A short video detailing the biases of the UN Goldstone Report
[AJC]

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Moderate Islam finds a voice


Muslim Cleric Issues Anti-Terror Fatwa

Pakistan-born Muslim scholar Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri [pictured] has issued a 600-page fatwa in London which condemned terrorists as the enemies of Islam.

He said, "They can't claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim Umma (community), no, they become heroes of hellfire....There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered Jihad."

"Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts." Dr. Qadri is the founder of the global Minhaj-ul-Quran movement.
(UKPA)




Suicide Bombers Going to Hell, Says Leading Cleric -Ruth Gledhill

The Minhaj-ul-Quran movement follows Sufi teachings of peace and moderation, and advises the British government on how to combat radicalization in Muslim youth. Dr. Qadri is based in Canada.
(Times-UK)
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Deadly Dining: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?


Dinner in Damascus -David Schenker & Matthew Levitt

On Feb. 26, just a week after the U.S. dispatched Undersecretary of State William Burns to Damascus and nominated its first new ambassador in five years, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah for a dinner in Damascus.

During its most recent massive military buildup since the 2006 war with Israel, Hizbullah has procured an estimated 40,000 rockets and - with Syria's help - reportedly improved the quality of its arsenal.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)


Iran, Syria and Hizbullah Fear Security Penetration -Samuel Segev

Iran, Syria and Hizbullah are more concerned about the penetration of their security systems by Israel and other intelligence services than they are about the outbreak of war.

To their shock, a former Israeli intelligence source revealed this past weekend that Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah's recent trip to Damascus was "totally monitored."

"Israel could have eliminated Nasrallah on his way to Damascus, but it didn't want to."

No less embarrassing to Syria, Iran and Hizbullah was the revelation that former Hizbullah military chief Imad Mughniyeh's death in a car bomb in Damascus in June 2008 was done with Jordanian intelligence assistance.
(Winnipeg Free Press-Canada)
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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cancelled: Islamic Solidarity Olympics


Muslims Won't Play Together -Efraim Karsh

The Islamic Solidarity Games, the Olympics of the Muslim world, which were to be held in Iran in April, have been called off by the Arab states because Tehran inscribed "Persian Gulf" on the tournament's official logo and medals.

This small but telling controversy puts the lie to the idea of the Islamic world as a bloc united by religious values that are hostile to the West.

Although the Prophet Muhammad took great pains to underscore the equality of all believers regardless of ethnicity, [i]t took a mere 24 years after the Prophet's death for the head of the universal Islamic community, the caliph Uthman, to be murdered by political rivals. This opened the floodgates to incessant infighting within the House of Islam, which has never ceased.

Likewise, there has been no overarching Islamic solidarity transcending the multitude of parochial loyalties - to one's clan, tribe, village, family or nation. Thus, for example, Arabs consider themselves superior to all other Muslims.

The idea that bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians will bring about a flowering of cooperation in the region and take away one of al-Qaeda's primary gripes against the West totally misreads history and present-day politics.

Muslim states threaten Israel's existence not so much out of concern for the Palestinians, but rather as part of a holy war to prevent the loss of a part of the House of Islam.

There is no way for the Obama administration to resolve the 100-year war between Arabs and Jews. Any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is far less important than a regional agreement in which every Islamic nation can make peace with the idea of Jewish statehood in the House of Islam.
(New York Times)
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Israel's enemies continue throwing mud


A poster accuses Israel of resurrecting Apartheid


Israel Has Its Faults, Apartheid Isn't One of Them -Richard Cohen

Google "Israel and apartheid" and you will see that the two are linked in cyberspace. Yet the Israel of today and the South Africa of yesterday have almost nothing in common.

Israeli Arabs, about one-fifth of the country, have the same civil and political rights as do Israeli Jews. Arabs sit in the Knesset. Whatever this is - and it looks suspiciously like a liberal democracy - it cannot be apartheid.

Yet Israel's critics continue to hurl the apartheid epithet when they ought to know that it is a calumny. Interestingly, they do not use it for Saudi Arabia, which maintains as perfect a system of gender apartheid as can be imagined, or elsewhere in the Arab world, where Palestinians sometimes have fewer rights than they do in Israel.
(Washington Post)
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Another fake Palestinian "moderate"



Fayyad Is Inciting Anti-Israel Violence -Yaakov Katz & Tovah Lazaroff

Palestinian Authority officials headed by Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad [pictured] are inciting anti-Israel violence in the West Bank.

Senior PA officials, and specifically Fayyad, are encouraging Palestinian youth to partake in anti-Israel demonstrations near security fence construction in Ni'lin and Bi'lin as well as in Hebron.

Israel believes Fayyad wants to continue cooperating with Israel on economic issues, but at the same time [wants] to retain the right to use violence against Israel. There is concern within the IDF that the PA security forces could turn their weapons against [Israelis] in the West Bank.
(Jerusalem Post)
[Photo at right: Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak shakes hands with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad]

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Who killed Mahmoud? Redux

Mahmoud Mabhouh's father holds his photo
(Reuters)



Report: Hamas Says Jordan or Egypt Behind Dubai Hit

The Al-Quds Al-Araby daily reported that Mahmoud Nasser, a member of Hamas' political bureau, suspects the security forces of an Arab state were behind the assassination of senior commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

He said Mabhouh was likely being tracked by agents from Jordan and Egypt prior to the killing.
(Reuters-Ha'aretz)


Hamas Shows Signs of Vulnerability -Janine Zacharia

Struggling to maintain its strength in the West Bank amid a crackdown by Israel and Palestinian police, Hamas has been reeling from the assassination of one of its leaders, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

The high-level penetration of Hamas is a "catastrophe for Hamas," said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza.
(Washington Post)



UPDATE:

Israel Was Not Alone in Wanting to "Detonate" the Hamas Missile Man
-Stephen King

The Dubai authorities themselves have not provided any forensic evidence that points to Israel, just a series of photos and videos of random hotel guests. Besides, the persons shown in these images are not shown committing any crime. Nor has anyone come forward and said they recognize any of these people.

It does make you wonder. There is an almighty stink about "passport fraud," but no Western government has much to say about the fact that the terrorist in charge of illegally smuggling missiles from Iran to Hamas apparently had an open invite to hang out in Dubai. Funny that, isn't it?

Mabhouh was on a mission to acquire Iranian weapons for use against civilians. He was a combatant. Unlike his victims, he was fair game for whoever crept into his hotel room that night.
(Irish Examiner)

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