Israel and Palestinians Archives

April 18, 2006

LA Times: Isolate Hamas

The Los Angeles Times editorial board can sometimes provide a pleasant surprise, and today it demonstrates this when reviewing the Bush administration's Palestinian policy in light of the latest suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The LAT utterly rejects Hamas' attempt at moral equivalence and gives a strong endorsement of the isolation policy pushed by the US: THE HORROR OF MONDAY'S SUICIDE bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed the bomber and nine other people and wounded scores more, presented Hamas with an opportunity to break from its history as a supporter of terrorism. Instead, a spokesman for Hamas, which formed a Palestinian parliamentary government last month, described the attack carried out by another group, Islamic Jihad, as an act of self-defense. If there was any lingering doubt that the U.S. and Europe were right to ostracize the Hamas government and cut off economic aid, it has been dramatically dispelled. It remains...

April 19, 2006

Israel Mulling Over Responses

Israel has decided not to launch a lightning-strike attack on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority despite holding it responsible for the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed nine people and wounded dozens. Thus far, it appears that Ehud Olmert has decided to bide his time and look for ways to undermine Hamas: Israel said Tuesday that it would increase political pressure on the Palestinian government in response to a suicide bombing the day before, but gave no hint of planning a major military response or singling out members of the Hamas-dominated government for arrest or assassination. ... Israel's prime minister-designate, Ehud Olmert, huddled with senior aides and top security officials on Tuesday and chose to emphasize diplomatic and political pressure rather than a large military response, officials said. The Israeli approach is intended to maintain Western and other international support for boycotting the new Palestinian government, which is struggling with...

Hamas: Winning Friends In The Middle East

Hamas has certainly built an impressive track record at the helm of the Palestinian Authority. Just when no one thought they could possibly do worse than the kleptocrats of Fatah that robbed the Palestinians blind for a decade, Hamas has created a nostalgia for the previous government in less than two months. After having their aid cut off and impoverishing their people through diplomatic isolation with the West, Hamas has busied itself by alienating their closest Arab neighbor: Palestinian officials have criticised Jordan's decision to cancel a visit to Amman by Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahhar of the Hamas militant group. Amman announced it had postponed the trip indefinitely after discovering arms and explosives it said were smuggled into Jordan by Hamas members. It said this was proof that Hamas had been saying one thing and doing another in its dealings with Jordan. ... Jordanian officials said the weapons were seized...

April 21, 2006

Terrorists, Inc. (Updated)

The Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority underscored its terrorist nature by placing one of the more notorious terrorists in charge of its new Islamist security forces. Jamal Abu Samhadana, whose track record includes the murder of US Marines in Gaza during a diplomatic mission, will create and command the new force: The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority on Thursday named a guerrilla leader whose group has attacked Israel, and has been blamed for bombing a U.S. convoy, to head a new security force made up of Islamic militants. Interior Minister Saed Siyam issued a decree appointing Jamal Abu Samhadana, head of the Popular Resistance Committees, as director general of his ministry. Abu Samhadana, a former security officer who was dismissed for refusing to report for duty during the uprising against Israel, was given the rank of colonel. His group is responsible for many of the homemade rockets launched at Israel in...

April 22, 2006

Hitting Them In The Wallet

It turns out that the man killed by Pakistani forces near Khaar two days ago had a key role in what is left of al-Qaeda, and also had information that more clearly shows the connection between the bin Laden network and the Iraqi foreign insurgency: Documents found on an operative for Al Qaeda who was killed by Pakistani forces showed that he was an explosives expert and a money carrier who appeared to be distributing cash to the families of Qaeda members, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the organization's leader in Iraq, a senior Pakistani intelligence official said Friday. The operative, Marwan Hadid al-Suri, 38, also known as Abu Marwan, was shot to death on Thursday during a gunfight outside Khaar, a tribal area close to the Afghan border, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said. A notebook found on Mr. Suri contained details and diagrams of bomb circuits and chemicals...

April 25, 2006

The Check Is Not In The Mail

The Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority has claimed that it does not need American and European cooperation to survive, requesting and receiving pledges for stop-gap financing from Arab nations as well as Russia to avoid complying with the conditions necessary to do business with the US and the EU. Having refused to recognize Israel's right to exist and to honor previous commitments made by the PA, Hamas has instead gone the route of full defiance, relying on their brethren in the Middle East to sustain them. However, the terrorists have underestimated the extent of a Western crackdown on finances during wartime: Banks fearful of U.S. retribution are preventing millions of dollars in foreign aid from reaching the Palestinians, the Palestinian finance minister acknowledged Tuesday. Since a Cabinet run by the militant Islamic Hamas was sworn into office last month, financial pressure by Israel and Western countries has left the...

April 26, 2006

Papa Lost His Brand-New Bag

How incompetent is the new Hamas leadership that now runs the Palestinian Authority? Apparently, they can't even hire a decent bagman any more: Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar has had $450,000 stolen from his hotel room during his current visit to Kuwait, the Itim news agency quoted the Kuwaiti media as saying Wednesday. According to the report, al-Zahar had asked the Kuwaiti authorities to keep the theft under wraps, but the incident was confirmed by a security official at the hotel. The foreign minister, a senior member of Hamas, is on a tour of Arab and Muslim countries to drum up funds after Israel suspended the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority and Western donors cut off aid to the Hamas-led government. He wanted the theft kept a secret? Understandable; I suppose that the Palestinians who elected Hamas will not be too thrilled to find that their new...

April 27, 2006

Israel Responds To Hamas

As I predicted after the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last week, Israel has decided on its response to the attack and the Hamas response praising it by finishing the security barrier through Jerusalem and shutting out the Palestinians, apparently permanently. Hamas gave the Israelis all the justification they need to complete the project with its endorsement of suicide bombings on Israeli civilians: Israel's prime minister-designate, Ehud Olmert, told top security officials today to swiftly plug the gaps in the separation barrier around Jerusalem. His order came nine days after a Palestinian suicide bomber struck again in Israel. Israel's separation barrier still has numerous openings around Jerusalem, and Israeli security officials consider the city one of the places most vulnerable to attack. ... Mr. Olmert ordered "all gaps be closed immediately by means of temporary fences until they are permanently closed by the security fence," according to the prime minister's...

April 30, 2006

Kadima Gets A Majority, Announces Jerusalem Wall

The new Israeli political party founded by Ariel Sharon before his stroke cemented its parliamentary majority and announced its plans to erect a security barrier around Jerusalem. Ehud Olmert and his Cabinet agreed on the route for the wall, separating thousands of Palestinians from their jobs and paying Hamas back for their support of the terror attack in Tel Aviv: Israel modified the route of its West Bank separation barrier on Sunday, moving forward with Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to quickly define the country's final borders as his Kadima Party secured a parliamentary majority. The Israeli Cabinet voted to reroute an area near the major settlement of Ariel deep in the West Bank and approved putting temporary fencing around areas of Jerusalem abutting the West Bank. The moves will put thousands of Palestinians on the "Palestinian" side of the enclosure, officials said. ... "We must make a supreme...

May 3, 2006

The West Does Not Need To Rescue Palestinians From Their Own Folly

An integral part of democracy and free elections is the responsibility one assumes for the government that results. If an electorate lifts idiots to power, then they need to experience the consequences of that choice, or otherwise they will keep electing idiots without regard to the results. Unfortunately, former Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn doesn't agree and insists that the West must bail out the Palestinians from the consequences of electing a terrorist group to govern them: JAMES WOLFENSOHN, the international envoy to the Middle East, has resigned and issued a warning of the dangers ahead if the West cuts everything but humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Mr Wolfensohn, a former head of the World Bank, also cautioned that the UN, charities and humanitarian organisations will not be able to fill the gap if the Palestinian Authority collapses under financial pressure. Speaking in Washington after he ended his posting as envoy...

May 7, 2006

Gaza Uprising Against Hamas

Hamas faces a dangerous situation in the Gaza Strip, once its base of power, as Palestinians went on strike and staged demonstrations over their overdue paychecks. The ruling party in the Palestinian Authority has rapidly dissipated its mandate as its support for terrorism has isolated it from the nations that had been paying civil servant salaries in the territories: Hundreds of Palestinians staged strikes and demonstrations Saturday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to demand payment of overdue salaries to government workers — the first public signs of discontent with the Hamas-led Cabinet's handling of a growing financial crisis. The unrest occurred ahead of a meeting in Gaza late Saturday between Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and moderate President Mahmoud Abbas. The two, involved in a power struggle since Hamas defeated Abbas' Fatah Party in January's legislative elections, failed to resolve their differences during four hours of talks...

Israel Saves Abbas

In a strange, ironic twist, Israel saved Mahmoud Abbas from assassination at the hands of Hamas, the London Times reports this morning. The armed wing of the "political party" had planned on murdering Abbas on a visit to his office in Gaza before Israeli intelligence discovered the plot and stopped Abbas from walking into the trap: A HAMAS plot to assassinate Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has been thwarted after he was tipped off by Israeli intelligence. Hamas’s military wing, the Izza Din Al-Qassem, had planned to kill Abbas at his office in Gaza, intelligence sources said. Abbas, who became president of the Palestinian Authority last year after the death of Yasser Arafat, was formally warned of the danger by the Israelis and cancelled a planned visit to the territory. The murder plan is the clearest sign yet of the tensions inside the Palestinian Authority between Hamas, which swept to...

May 8, 2006

Carter: Give Money To Elected Terrorists

Jimmy Carter, writing in the International Herald-Tribune, demonstrates the knack for foreign relations that got us the Iranian hostage crisis and limited him to a single, embarrassing term in office. He argues that the suspension of foreign aid to the Palestinians not only hurts innocent citizens but damages prospects for peace by failing to fund terrorists: Innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime. Because they voted for candidates who are members of Hamas, the United States government has become the driving force behind an apparently effective scheme of depriving the general public of income, access to the outside world and the necessities of life. Overwhelmingly, these are school teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers, farm families, shopkeepers, and their employees and families who are just hoping for a better life. Public opinion polls conducted after the January parliamentary election...

May 10, 2006

Israel Draws A Line While West Draws Back

Israel has set a deadline for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel's right to exist and agree to negotiate for a permanent settlement and the two-state solution. Otherwise, Israel's new prime minister warns, Israel will set the final borders unilaterally: Israel will give the Palestinians until the end of the year to prove they are willing to negotiate a final peace deal, and will unilaterally set its final borders by 2008 if they don't, Israel's justice minister said Wednesday. The statement by Justice Minister Haim Ramon, a close associate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's, was the first by an Israeli official to set a deadline for the Hamas-led Palestinian government to disarm and recognize the Jewish state. ... "Through the end of this year, 2006, there will be honest attempts to talk to the other side," Ramon told Israel's Army Radio. "If it becomes clear by the end of...

May 11, 2006

Palestinian Unity Breakthrough?

Fatah and Hamas have proposed a platform which would bring both factions into the government and allow for meaningful talks with Israel on a two-state solution, the AP reports this morning. Leaders of both groups imprisoned by Israel for terrorism conducted the delicate negotiations, and the product has been embraced by Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of Fatah, while the Hamas leadership in the West Bank and Gaza study it: After months of tensions, senior members of the rival Hamas and Fatah factions have forged a joint platform, including acceptance of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. However, it was unclear whether Hamas, particularly the group's hardline leaders abroad, will back the program, which would signal a major softening of positions. Until now, Hamas has balked at the West's demands that it renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept existing peace agreements. ... "This document is very important....

May 18, 2006

Hamas Defies Abbas, Deploys Terrorist Army

Hamas made good on its threat to field its own armed force in Gaza, defying Mahmoud Abbas and his presidential veto of their militia. Abbas responded by sending his own Fatah forces into the streets, setting the stage for a gang war: The Hamas-led Palestinian government on Wednesday deployed a new security force in the Gaza Strip, a direct challenge to the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, who last month vetoed the creation of the force. Mr. Abbas, who has been traveling in Europe this week, responded Wednesday night by ordering a large number of members of the security forces under his command to be placed on the streets in Gaza, Reuters reported. In another sign of Palestinian infighting, a Hamas militant was killed in a drive-by shooting near Gaza City, the second such killing of a Hamas member in two days. No one claimed responsibility, though Hamas and Mr....

May 19, 2006

Hamas Under Fire And Losing Money

Hamas took two hits today in its bid to spread its terrorism throughout the Middle East. The combined effects of losing almost a million dollars in cash and the provoked hostility of the Jordanian government threaten to put the terrorist group into a political death spiral. First, the Fatah police have relieved a Hamas envoy of his cash as he attempted to enter Gaza: Palestinian border police have confiscated more than $800,000 (£427,000) from a Hamas official trying to enter the Gaza Strip from Egypt. The Hamas-led government says it is hard to transfer cash to Palestinian territory as banks fear US sanctions for dealing with the militant group. ... A European Union observer at the crossing identified the Hamas official as spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, a well known figure in the Arabic media. "Sami Abu Zuhri did not declare the money. The Palestinian security and customs officials found it...

May 22, 2006

Israel And Fatah Meet In Egypt

Mahmoud Abbas met yesterday with Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni in Egypt to find some manner in which to restart peace talks as the Palestinian protostate came closer to civil war. Abbas also announced that he would begin talks with Hamas to calm the tensions in Gaza after the ruling party attempted two assassinations on government officials from Fatah: MAHMOUD ABBAS, the Palestinian President, met Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, yesterday in the first high-level contact between the two sides since Hamas, the Islamist group, won the Palestinian elections in January. The meeting, in Egypt, came amid increased tensions in Gaza, where assassination attempts on two Palestinian security officials prompted Mr Abbas to warn against civil war between his secular Fatah and its Islamist rival. ... Mr Abbas said that he would begin talks with Hamas this week. “We have to look for a solution,” he said, warning that...

May 23, 2006

Israel Captures Their Top Enemy

The Israelis dealt Hamas a significant blow and perhaps a fatal loss of prestige when they captured the top commander of its terrorist wing this morning. Ibrahim Hamed surrendered without firing a shot when the IDF surprised him in a pre-dawn raid on his apartment building, forcing him to strip to his underwear and capitulate rather than get buring in the destruction of the building: Ibrahim Hamed emerged from the building before dawn and troops told him over a loudspeaker to strip to his underwear, witnesses said. Hamed complied, was cuffed and taken to a nearby building. Army officials said Hamed was armed and alone at the time of his capture. The army said Hamed, 41, masterminded attacks that killed 78 Israelis and wounded hundreds. Hamed has been on Israel's wanted list since 1998, frequently evading capture. Hamed, a university graduate and influential leader, became the West Bank's commander of...

May 24, 2006

Hamas Attempts Slow-Motion Coup

After winning control of the Palestinian parliament, the terrorist group Hamas has now resorted to its traditional strategy to remove the executive branch from the proto-state. The third assassination attempt in the last two weeks netted Hamas its second Fatah scalp, this time a security commander in Gaza, athough Fatah certainly provided the provocation: A security force commander loyal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was killed in an attack on his car in the Gaza Strip yesterday, sharpening tensions between Hamas and Fatah that have now claimed 10 lives this month and prompted warnings of civil war. Nabil Hodhod, the commander for the central region of the Gaza Strip for the elite Preventive Security Service, was killed by an explosion that was suspected to be either a hand grenade thrown into his vehicle or a bomb planted under it. Two of his colleagues were wounded. The PSS and other...

May 25, 2006

Hamas Plans 9/11-Style Attack On Israel While Gray Lady Wants Engagment

The duly elected political party of Hamas has started planning the purchase of aircraft for suicide missions against Israeli skyscrapers, their "resistance" commander revealed yesterday. The New York Sun reports that Abu Abdullah, the commander of Hamas's Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, told a WorldNet Daily interviewer that all targets within their "dear Palestine" were legitimate for suicide attacks using airplanes as guided missiles, and that Hamas had already started investigating the necessary purchases: Hamas is seeking the ability to attack Israel using small airplanes laden with explosives to be flown September 11-style into important targets, possibly Tel Aviv skyscrapers, a leader of Hamas's so-called military wing, Abu Abdullah, told World Net Daily yesterday. ... Mr. Abdullah said Hamas would fly the planes into Jewish targets, possibly Tel Aviv skyscrapers. "The goal is to have these planes carry maximum quantities of explosives and that they will be able to hit the...

Hamas Losing Arab Support?

Accoridng to the Washington Times, Hamas has damaged relations with key states in the Middle East, a development that could mean difficulties in their offensive against Fatah and their desired war on Israel. Jordan and Egypt have both determined that Hamas has masterminded plots against them, and now seek to curtail their operations: Two recent events deserve considerably more attention then they have been receiving thus far: Jordan's announcement last month that it had uncovered a Syrian-backed Hamas plot to attack the kingdom; and Egypt's announcement on Tuesday that the terrorists who carried out the April 24 bombings that killed 24 people in Dahab, a Sinai resort town trained for the operation in Gaza. Hamas' most serious problem is with Jordan, where security forces last month arrested 20 of its members. Amman accuses Hamas of smuggling detonators, rocket launchers and explosives into the country from Syria, and of attempting to...

May 26, 2006

Abbas: Let's Vote On Peace

Mahmoud Abbas gambled what remains of his power and influence yesterday on the Palestinian desire for peaceful coexistence with Israel, demanding that Hamas either recognize Israel or put the matter to a plebescite: The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, said Thursday that he would call a referendum on a proposal for a Palestinian state that would recognize Israel, if the governing Hamas party failed to accept the plan within 10 days. In laying down his challenge, Mr. Abbas seems to be gambling that he can force his Fatah party, Hamas and some smaller factions to agree on a broad framework for dealing with Israel, which Hamas now refuses to recognize. But he runs the risk of provoking a political showdown at a moment when the Palestinians are already plagued by infighting and a worsening financial crisis. ... "We are not afraid of a referendum," said a Hamas legislator,...

May 27, 2006

They're Baaa-aaack!

A day after pulling their armed forces off the streets of Gaza while attempting to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas sent their militia back again, raising the prospects for a bloody fight with Fatah for control of the Palestinian territories. They intend to take fixed positions in the streets and begin "patrols" immediately: The Hamas-led government sent its private militia back into the streets of Gaza on Saturday, a day after withdrawing the force to help calm an increasingly bloody standoff with forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas officials said the move wasn't meant as a provocation. But Abbas' Fatah movement said the deployment raised the chances of new fighting. Fatah officials also said the move threatened negotiations on the president's ultimatum to the militants to accept a plan that would implicitly recognize Israel. The 3,000-strong Hamas militia has been at the center of the Palestinian infighting, and Hamas'...

June 1, 2006

UN: Rescue Palestinians From Themselves

The UN again demonstrates its fecklessness by insisting that the world owes the Palestinians refuge from their own bad choices, requesting emergency aid donations to stave of a financial crisis of their own making. The UN wants almost $400 million to replace what the Palestinians threw away when they elected terrorists to control their protostate: The UN has appealed for a near doubling of emergency aid to the Palestinian territories to alleviate a crippling economic crisis after the freezing of foreign funds to the Hamas government and Israeli sanctions against the Palestinians. It has revised the amount it wants foreign governments to donate this year from $215m (£115m) to $385m to prevent the collapse of services such as health and education, and to provide food and medicines. The appeal document said the UN had taken the unprecedented step of asking for more money because of the "extremely bleak" humanitarian outlook...

June 5, 2006

The Palestinian Showdown

The New York Times reports in tomorrow's edition that talks between Hamas and Fatah have ended without agreement, and Mahmoud Abbas will proceed with his plans for a plebescite on adopting the two-state solution as the official policy of the Palestinian Authority. This promises to escalate into a serious showdown between the two armed factions vying for power in the territories, and the chances of holding the referendum without an outbreak of civil war appears slim: The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, intends to call a referendum on a proposal developed by prisoners for a unified Palestinian political program that the governing Hamas faction opposes. Talks on the proposal ended without agreement late Monday night, and early Tuesday morning Mr. Abbas's office said in a statement that he intended to live up to his ultimatum to Hamas, the militant Islamic faction that heads the government, and announce a referendum later on...

June 9, 2006

The End Of The Non-Truce

Hamas has announced the end of a truce that never was, after a series of artillery exchanges between Palestinians in Gaza and the IDF resulted in seven civilian deaths on a Gaza beach, apparently from an errant Israeli volley. After the seven victims died on the beach, Hamas angrily announced their renunciation of the truce: Hamas militants called off a truce with Israel on Friday after a barrage of Israeli artillery shells tore into Palestinians at a beachside picnic in the Gaza Strip, killing seven civilians. The declaration raised the prospect of a new wave of bloodshed. Hamas militants suspended a campaign of deadly suicide attacks on Israelis with a February 2005 cease-fire, and have largely stuck to the truce. The Islamic group now leads the Palestinian government. "The earthquake in the Zionist towns will start again and the aggressors will have no choice but to prepare their coffins or...

The End Of The Non-Truce

Hamas has announced the end of a truce that never was, after a series of artillery exchanges between Palestinians in Gaza and the IDF resulted in seven civilian deaths on a Gaza beach, apparently from an errant Israeli volley. After the seven victims died on the beach, Hamas angrily announced their renunciation of the truce: Hamas militants called off a truce with Israel on Friday after a barrage of Israeli artillery shells tore into Palestinians at a beachside picnic in the Gaza Strip, killing seven civilians. The declaration raised the prospect of a new wave of bloodshed. Hamas militants suspended a campaign of deadly suicide attacks on Israelis with a February 2005 cease-fire, and have largely stuck to the truce. The Islamic group now leads the Palestinian government. "The earthquake in the Zionist towns will start again and the aggressors will have no choice but to prepare their coffins or...

June 12, 2006

Did A Land Mine Kill The Palestinians On The Beach?

The Israeli Defense Force believes that the explosion that killed seven members of a Palestinian family on a Gaza beach did not come from Israeli guns. After analyzing the shrapnel taken from the bodies of the dead and reviewing the records of their assault on the Palestinian firing position, the IDF suspects that the explosion came from a buried device meant to discourage an Israeli invasion: The IDF probe investigating the deaths of seven Palestinian civilians, caused by an explosion on a beach in Gaza on Friday evening, concluded that chances were slim that the accident was caused by IDF shelling. According to Channel 2, the findings, expected to be formally released on Tuesday, showed an inconsistency between the shrapnel found in the body of one of the wounded babies and the metal used in IDF artillery. Moreover, the investigation noted the absence of a large enough crater at the...

June 15, 2006

Did They Run Out Of Rockets?

Less than a week after declaring an end to the "truce" with Israel -- a truce that allowed Palestinian terrorists to continue launching rockets at Israeli citizens -- Hamas has offered to resume the truce. This time, Hamas leaders will pledge to stop all other groups from launching separate attacks: The Hamas-led government offered Thursday to restore a cease-fire with Israel, several days after calling off the truce to protest a deadly explosion on a Gaza beach, but said the calm would depend on Israel's response. Hamas said it is ready to put pressure on other militant groups to halt rocket fire against Israel. The rocket attacks have drawn tough Israeli reprisals and raised the possibility of a broader conflict. "This is very clear for us. We are interested to keep the situation and quiet, especially in the Gaza Strip," said government spokesman Ghazi Hamad. "We have contacts with the...

June 18, 2006

Will Hamas Bend?

Reports from the West Bank have Hamas considering a compromise with Fatah on the proposed plebscite on their plan to recognize Israel and work towards the two-state solution. Hamas may agree to an implicit recognition in order to rescue themselves from a back-breaking sanctions regime forced on the Palestinians due to their defiance, but it may not be enough: The ruling Hamas and rival Fatah factions were moving closer to an agreement on implicitly recognizing Israel, negotiators said Sunday in a sign that international pressure on the new Palestinian government could be yielding results. ... One official, who was serving as a mediator, said Hamas is desperate to reach an agreement with Fatah as a way of lifting the international aid boycott that has bankrupted the Hamas-led government and left public workers unpaid since March. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were still in progress. A...

Are We Talking About A Two-State Solution?

Earlier this evening I posted an update on the tensions between Fatah and Hamas regarding the efforts by Mahmoud Abbas to use a plebescite to bypass Hamas and work towards a two-state solution. At least, that has been the reporting from the mainstream media. However, CQ reader Dan and Charles at LGF point towards the actual document -- and we find no evidence that the so-called National Conciliation Document envisages any such solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The proposal has some problems in its presentation at the Jerusalem Media & Communication Centre. Either the translation is sketchy or the original language has a number of grammatical errors. The writing uses long run-on sentences that seem to double back on themselves. However, it clearly never states any intention of recognizing Israel, nor of accepting 1967 borders for a Palestinian state. Let's take a look at the key paragraphs of the proposal:...

June 22, 2006

Hamas: Islam, Islam Uber Alles

Palestinian Media Watch notes a new video Hamas has posted to their web site, one that calls for the overthrow of the United States by Islamists. The governing political party of the Palestinian Authority predicts that Israel, Britain, and Europe will also fall before the onslaught of Islam and exhorts their followers to maintain their defiance against international pressures (via Michael van der Galien at TMV): A Hamas video just released on their web site focuses on the broader Palestinian Islamic ideology, promising the eventual conquering and subjugation of Christian countries under Islam. The way Israel "ran" from Gaza after terror is presented as the prototype for future Israeli and Western behavior in the face of Islamic force. ... The following is the transcript of selections from the Hamas video: "We will rule the nations, by Allah's will, the USA will be conquered, Israel will be conquered, Rome and Britain...

June 25, 2006

How Secret Information Can Catch Terrorists

Ha'aretz shows how secret information can catch terrorists when it remains a secret. The US got Western Union to assist our intelligence services and the Shin Bet in order to catch Palestinian terrorists attempted to move money through their network: From the spring of 2003 until autumn 2004, the Shin Bet security service tracked down Palestinian terror cells in the West Bank thanks to information from the Western Union money transfer service, which was passed on by the FBI. ... In early April, 2003, an Islamic Jihad activist went to a Western Union office in Lebanon and ordered a money transfer to Hebron. The Justice Department authorized Western Union to release this information to the FBI and the CIA, and eventually to the Shin Bet. According to Suskind, all this took just minutes, enabling Israeli intelligence to track the person who collected the transfer in Hebron and to uncover the...

Palestinians Invade Israel From Gaza

The Palestinians have escalated their continuous attacks on Israel from Gaza, which no longer qualifies as occupied territory, by raiding Israel. 'Militants' crossed over into Israel using tunnels, killed two soldiers and apparently kidnapped another, before crossing back into Gaza: Palestinian militants launched on Sunday their first deadly raid into Israel from Gaza since an Israeli pullout last year, killing two soldiers and abducting another in an assault in which two attackers died. The infiltration, through a tunnel militants dug under the Gaza border fence to reach an army post, raised tensions along the frontier to their highest point since Israel completed its withdrawal last September after 38 years of occupation. Israeli forces scrambled into the Gaza Strip to search for the missing soldier, who the army said had been kidnapped. There was no immediate claim from any of the militant groups that took part in the dawn raid that...

Palistinians Claim WMD Capability

The Fatah terrorist faction has claimed the capability of chemical and biological weapons and has threatened Israel with a WMD attack, according to the Jerusalem Post. Leaflets distributed in the Gaza Strip state that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has spent the last three years developing the capabilty, the start of which seems oddly coincidental to the fall of Saddam Hussein (via Reliapundit): The Aksa Martyrs' Brigades group announced on Sunday that it its members have succeeded in manufacturing chemical and biological weapons to be used against Israel. In a leaflet distributed in the Gaza Strip, the group, which belongs to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, said the weapons were the result of an effort that has lasted for three years. The statment was a response to an Israeli Security Cabinet decision to give the IDF the green light to prepare all the forces necessary for a military operation...

June 27, 2006

The Hammer Falls In Gaza

Israel has begun its response to the Palestinian incursion from Gaza this weekend and the capture of an IDF soldier. Israeli tanks have attacked a bridge in central Gaza, and Palestinian security forces report that IDF tanks have begun to move towards the border: Israeli planes attacked a bridge in central Gaza late Tuesday, Israel Radio reported, and Israeli tanks were said to be on the move, possibly signaling the start of a military operation. Palestinian security forces said Israeli tanks were moving near the Israeli village of Nahal Oz, a main Israeli staging area just outside Gaza, but that they had not yet entered Gaza. In the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, not far from the border fence, armed militants took up positions across from the blaring headlights of Israeli vehicles, and Israeli attack helicopters hovered overhead. The militants told residents to leave the area. Israeli military officials said...

Israel Meets Little Resistance In Gaza

The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli troops have met only light resistance from Palestinians in Gaza as its ground offensive pushed across the border. The IDF has made this military operation a coordinated affair, with the Israeli Air Force taking out a power station in the area of the invasion, along with at least three bridges: The incursion began shortly before midnight, when IAF aircraft blew up three main bridges, located along the main route connecting between the northern and southern parts of the Strip. The army said that the operation was intended to keep Hamas from taking kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit out of the Gaza Strip. Ground forces then began entering the southeastern part of the Gaza Strip and the troops gained control of two key sites near Dahaniya. At the same time, artillery units were shelling areas from where Kassam rockets were often launched at Israel. The...

June 28, 2006

Gaza Incursion Gains Ground

The IDF gained important tactical positions east of Rafah this morning, allowing Israel to control more of the southern border of Gaza, while it also captured an airstrip in Dahaniyeh and bombed northern Gaza where Palestinian terrorists often launch Kassam rockets into Israel. The manuevers show that the IDF has taken the time to think its incursion through for strategic as well as tactical purposes, cutting off the escape routes from Gaza into Egypt: Earlier in the day, the IDF took control of the abandoned airport in Dahaniyeh and the town of Shuka in southern Gaza in a move to cement their foothold in areas east of Rafah, a city on the Egyptian border. The area of Dahaniyeh represents a strategic control and observation point over the area of Rafah and the southern Gaza Strip. So far there has been one incident of gunfire and anti-tank missile fire at the...

An Appointment With The Opthalmologist

Israeli Air Force pilots paid a visit to the Middle East's most famous opthalmologist earlier today, reminding the doctor that unless he stops protecting Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, the IDF may send a lot more business his way soon: Israeli warplanes buzzed the summer residence of Syrian President Bashar Assad early Wednesday, military officials said, in a message aimed at pressuring the Syrian leader to win the release of a captured Israeli soldier. The officials said on condition of anonymity that the fighter jets flew over Assad's palace in a low-altitude overnight raid near the Mediterranean port city of Latakia in northwestern Syria. Israeli television reports said four planes were involved, and Assad was home at the time. The flight caused "noise" on the ground, the military officials said on condition of anonymity, according to military guidelines. The IDF has paid visits to Bashar Assad before. In 2003, they buzzed...

Peretz Gives Order For Stage Two Of Gaza Incursion

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz reacted to the additional abduction claimed by the Palestinians by giving a green light to the second stage of the Israeli incursion into Gaza. The IDF will roll into northern Gaza and begin a vise manuever on the region as Israel solidifies its grip on Rafah: Less than 24 hours after the IDF entered Gaza in the biggest operation since disengagement last summer, Defense Minister Amir Peretz gave the green light on Wednesday evening for the second part of the IDF Gaza incursion. The IDF was poised to enter northern Gaza. IAF planes will distribute flyers on Wednesday night in the Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun areas in the northern Gaza Strip, warning local residents that they are endangering their lives by being in the vicinity of Kassam launch sites. ... The Hamas-led Palestinian government called for a prisoner swap with Israel, saying the Gaza...

Israel Captures Hamas Ministers As Palestinians Kill Hostage

Israeli forces rounded up dozens of Hamas ministers in the West Bank as the Gaza incursion continued. Palestinian terrorists also announced that they had killed one of their hostages, the teenager kidnapped just as Israel entered Gaza: Israeli forces arrested the Palestinian deputy prime minister and dozens of other Hamas officials early Thursday and pressed their incursion into Gaza, responding to the abduction of one of its soldiers. Adding to the tension, a Palestinian militant group said it killed an 18-year-old Jewish settler kidnapped in the West Bank. Israeli security officials said Eliahu Asheri's body was found buried near Ramallah. They said he was shot in the head, apparently soon after he was abducted on Sunday. ... Army Radio said the arrested Hamas leaders might be used to trade for the captured soldier. Israel had refused earlier to trade prisoners for the soldier's release. More than 30 lawmakers were detained,...

Did The Palestinians Fire WMD At Israel?

Reuters reports that Palestinian terrorists have claimed an attack on Israel that they say used a chemical weapon warhead (via 4 The Little Guy): A spokesman for gunmen in the Gaza Strip said they had fired a rocket tipped with a chemical warhead at Israel early on Thursday. The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the claim by the spokesman from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement. This follows the AAMB claim this weekend of WMD capability. The Israelis, however, can confirm neither the chemical attack nor any attack as described by the AAMB. So far, then, it appears that the terrorists have no WMD except in their own minds. Hopefully, that remains the case. If they do start using chemical weapons in their attacks, the Americans should take a serious interest in how the Palestinians acquired these weapons, and where...

June 29, 2006

France Blasts Israel; Palis Invade Egypt

France leveled criticism at Israel this morning for its incursion into Gaza, the Jerusalem Post reports. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy condemned Israel's arrests of senior Hamas leadership, now up to 60, and insisted that diplomacy should be used instead of violence: French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy condemned on Thursday the arrest of over 60 Hamas members by Israeli forces early in the morning. He said that diplomacy was the only solution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that political figures should not be arrested. Israel stated that the arrests were made as part of a criminal investigation into the Hamas officials' involvement in a terrorist organization. Israeli officials insisted that the detainees would be entitled to legal representation, and would be released if it were to be found that the suspicions against them were unfounded. Over 60 Hamas members, including ministers in the Palestinian Authority parliament,...

Olmert Holds Off On Northern Gaza Operation

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has delayed the IDF incursion into northern Gaza due to an unexpected and unspecified diplomatic initiative, the Jerusalem Post reports. Olmert says that the initiative has paid no dividends as of yet, but apparently he wants to play it out a little further: In a meeting with Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the delay of an IDF incursion into northern Gaza . Government sources emphasized that the order was not a cancellation, but rather a postponement. The delay is related to an undisclosed development on the diplomatic front. Earlier Thursday, Peretz revealed that a "surprising diplomatic breakthrough" was possible in the attempts to release kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Shalit, but did not elaborate on the development. "We are in one of the most crucial stages of establishing the rules of conduct between us and the Palestinian terror organizations," he...

Fatah: Violence Is Hamas' Fault

A senior Fatah official in the Palestinian Authority told Israeli Radio today that, while he condemns the IDF incursion into Gaza, responsibility for this cycle of violence lies squarely with the extremists of Hamas. The advisor to Mahmoud Abbas blames Khaled Mashaal and the hardliners of Hamas for turning the world against the Palestinians: A senior Fatah member said on Thursday that although Israel should be condemned for its incursion into the Gaza Strip and the arrest of senior Hamas officials, it was Hamas who brought these actions upon the Palestinian people. He blamed Hamas' uncompromising, extremist approach - especially that of Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Mashaal - for turning the whole world against the Palestinians. The official, an associate of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel Radio said that Mashaal interfered with any attempt at moderation or mitigation of the economic embargo on the Palestinians. The Hamas-Fatah...

June 30, 2006

Mubarak To Assad: Get Hamas Out Of Syria

The hesitation of Ehud Olmert to order the movement of ground troops into northern Gaza for unspecified diplomatic initiatives now can be understood. Reports have Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak demanding that Bashar Assad expel Hamas from Syria if the terrorist group does not release IDF soldier Gilad Shalit: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak demanded from his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad to deport the Syrian-based Hamas leadership unless it agrees to release kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Palestinian sources said on Friday. The demand was made in the context of a compromise that Egypt was attempting to draft between the Israel and Hamas, whose Damascus leader, Khaled Mashaal was demanding that thousands of Palestinian detainees, held in Israeli prisons, be released. Mubarak warned Mashaal that his position was leading the Palestinians to disaster, Israel Radio reported. According to the Palestinians, the Egyptian compromise calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from...

Hamas Hypocrisy

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, says that Hamas will not negotiate under fire for the release of Gilad Shalit. He turned down the idea of swapping Shalit for the dozens of Hamas politicians arrested by Israel in the West Bank in response to the Shalit abduction: In his first public address since Israel began its offensive into the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Friday said his government would not cave into Israeli demands but said he was working hard to end a five-day-old crisis with Israel. Though Haniyeh did not directly address Israel's demand that Palestinian terrorists hand over abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, he implied that the government would not trade him for eight Cabinet ministers and 56 other Hamas officials arrested on Thursday. "When they kidnapped the ministers they meant to hijack the government's position, but we say...

July 1, 2006

Do Political Leaders Make Legitimate Targets Of War?

Israel's threat to assassinate Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh if the terrorist group does not return Gilad Shalit unharmed has created an international uproar. Many pundits and diplomats have scolded Israel for escalating a conflict unnecessarily and issuing a threat they see as illegitimate. However, just as with some Americans almost five years after 9/11, people seem almost deliberately taking the warning out of its larger context. First, the facts as reported by The Australian (via Hot Air): ISRAEL last night threatened to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh if Hamas militants did not release a captured Israeli soldier unharmed. The unprecedented warning was delivered to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter as Israel debated a deal offered by Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit. It came as Israeli military officials readied a second invasion force for a huge offensive into Gaza. Not much in the way of confirmation has...

Israel Follows Through On Threat

According to an MS-NBC report, the Israelis have made good on their threat to target Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in the war that the Palestinians touched off by kidnapping an Israeli soldier on Israeli land. The IDF bombed the Hamas Prime Minister's offices earlier, according to witnesses who saw the attack (h/t Michael van der Galien, also of TMV): An Israeli helicopter gunship fired at least one missile at the Gaza City office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh early on Sunday, witnesses said. They said Haniyeh, a top Hamas official, was not believed to be in the office at the time. On Saturday, Palestinian militants holding an Israeli soldier issued a new set of demands, calling for the release of 1,000 prisoners and a halt to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. But Israel rejected them. Meanwhile, the Palestinian deputy minister of prisoner affairs, Ziad Abu Aen, said mediators had...

July 2, 2006

Hamas To Target Schools, Hospitals

Hamas has threatened to retaliate for Israel's response to ongoing Palestinian provocations by committing war crimes. The spokesman for the putative political party's terrorist wing stated that Hamas will attack schools and hospitals unless Israel unconditionally removes itself from Gaza: Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, on Sunday threatened to attack infrastructure facilities inside Israel, including schools, hospitals and universities. The threat, the first of its kind since Hamas won the parliamentary election last January, was issued in response to continued Israeli military strikes in the Gaza Strip. "If they continue with these attacks, we will strike at targets in Zionist territory that we have not struck until now," said the organization's spokesman. The latest threat came as Egypt continued its efforts to resolve the crisis. This comes as no surprise from the Palestinians. One must remember that even the political wing of Hamas applauded an attack on a Tel Aviv...

July 3, 2006

Israel: No Negotiations For Return Of Shalit

Israel has rejected a deadline from the Palestinian terrorists holding their abducted soldier, Gilad Shalit, and refused to release any prisoners from their jails in exchange for his return. The terrorists had demanded the release occur by 6 am Tuesday, which sets the stage for a further escalation: "We will not conduct any negotiations on the release of prisoners," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday, officially rejecting an ultimatum released Monday morning by the kidnappers of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit that set a 6:00 a.m. Tuesday deadline for the release of Palestinian prisoners. "Israel will not give in to extortion by the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government, which are led by murderous terrorist organizations ... The PA bears full responsibility for the welfare of Gilad Shalit and for returning him safe and sound to Israel," Olmert continued. ... Meanwhile, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said during...

The Deadline Passes In Gaza

The deadline for Israel to acquiesce to Palestinian demands for the release of Gilad Shalit has come and gone -- and the "Army of Islam" has announced that no further announcements on Shalit will be forthcoming: The deadline made by Cpl. Gilad Shalit's captors on Monday, stating that they would kill the soldier at 6:00 a.m., came and went Tuesday without concrete word or new information. Army Radio reported, however, that an armed group in Gaza, "the Army of Islam," announced nearly one half hour after the deadline passed "from now on no new information would be given," regarding Shalit. According to government officials, Israel would continue its ongoing military operation against Hamas as if there were no ultimatum, and has warned key international players that the military action will be escalated if Shalit is killed. ... "If, God forbid, they should hurt the soldier, our operations will be far...

July 4, 2006

Palestinians Pledge To End Negotiations But Keep Shalit Alive

The "Army of Islam" that holds abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit has declared an end to negotiations for his release, but at the same time pledges to keep him alive in keeping with the teachings of Islam -- if he is still alive: Palestinians holding an Israeli soldier said this morning that they had ended negotiations on his fate after Israel ignored an ultimatum to begin releasing prisoners. The Hamas-led militants holding Corporal Gilad Shalit had said that if Israel had not begun releasing some of the 1,500 prisoners by 6am today it would "bear the consequences". A spokesman for the Army of Islam, one of Cpl Shalit's abductors, said they had "decided to freeze all contacts and close the files of this soldier" but added: "We will not kill the soldier, if he is still alive." Israeli and Palestinian officials believe the soldier is still alive and negotiations are...

July 5, 2006

Israeli Cabinet Approves Deeper Gaza Incursion, Buffer Zone

After Hamas fired a longer-range Kassam rocket that hit the city of Ashkelon, the Israeli cabinet has decided to respond to this escalation by pushing the Palestinians farther away. The IDF will deepen their northern incursion into Gaza and start leveling residential structures in their rocket-staging area, intending to set up a permanent buffer zone: The Security Cabinet approved a deeper military incursion into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, following the Kassam that demonstrated a new, longer rage by landing in an Ashkelon school on Tuesday night. The IDF has been given the green light to enter residential areas, but will not reoccupy the Gaza Strip, an official at the meeting said. A buffer zone will be created in the northern part of the Strip. ... Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF to increase its activities in the Gaza Strip as part of "Operation Summer Rains." Peretz stressed that...

July 8, 2006

No Hudna For Haniyeh

The Israeli government has rejected a call for a cease-fire from Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas PM that has yet to produce the israeli soldier his organization abducted in a border raid that killed two other IDF troops. Israel insists that no negotiations for cessation of its Gaza incursion can begin until Hamas returns Gilad Shalit: The Hamas-led Palestinian government called for a cease-fire in its violent two-week standoff with Israel but stopped short Saturday of offering to release an Israeli soldier held by Hamas militants. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected the proposal by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Olmert will not agree to a truce until Hamas releases the soldier, officials in Olmert's office said. ... Israel's two-week military campaign, prompted by the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit has put the Hamas government under growing pressure. Israel has arrested several Palestinian Cabinet ministers and Hamas lawmakers. On Saturday, Haniyeh...

July 9, 2006

Understanding The Palestinian Death Wish

Barry Rubin attempts to explain to Westerners the reasons why our efforts to deal with the Palestinians on a rational basis have no hope of success. The West offers incentives that have no traction in the Palestinian culture, Rubin tells us, and until we learn that we will never discover that the Palestinians fight because they cannot accept reality: The things many in the West think motivates Palestinians - getting a state, ending the occupation - are of no interest in their own right. Indeed, the only way to maintain the pretense is a combination of amnesia and abandoning of the kind of rational analysis used to view any other political situation in the world. ... HERE ARE the basic points for understanding Palestinian politics: There are hardly any moderate Palestinians in public life and even those few generally keep their mouths shut, or echo the militant majority. With few...

July 11, 2006

We Know The Truth -- And That's The Problem

Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh writes at the end of a long and deception-filled screed in today's Washington Post that "[i]f Americans only knew the truth," we would stop supporting Israel in the struggle between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Even the briefest skim over Haniyeh's column reveals that we will not get the truth from Hamas, as Haniyeh manages to hit all of the Hamas talking points while oddly neglecting to mention their part in escalating the conflict into open war in Gaza. Let's take this one piece at a time. He claims that the Palestinians are "besieged" by their occupiers: As Americans commemorated their annual celebration of independence from colonial occupation, rejoicing in their democratic institutions, we Palestinians were yet again besieged by our occupiers, who destroy our roads and buildings, our power stations and water plants, and who attack our very means of civil administration. Our homes and...

Israel Plans Expansion Of Gaza Incursion

After Khaled Mashaal refused to release Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier kidnapped in a Hamas border raid that touched off a military escalation in Gaza, the Israelis have ordered a "massive" expansion of the Gaza operation: IDF troops were gearing up Tuesday afternoon for a planned massive incursion into the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave the IDF a green light to re-enter Gaza in an effort to stop Kassam rocket attacks. Military sources said that the new incursion would involve naval, infantry, and air forces, which would operate in the Gaza Strip. Ehud Olmert refused to trade Palestinian prisoners for Shalit, saying that such a capitulation would have serious long-term repercussions for the state of Israel. That reinforces the change in policy apparently made by Olmert over the last few weeks. Israel has made several such swaps before, trading hundreds of Palestinian terrorists for a handful of Israeli...

July 12, 2006

Hezbollah Finds Out Israelis Can Fight On Two Fronts

The terror group Hezbollah tried taking advantage of Israel's focus on Gaza and the fate of its kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit, by staging its own cross-border raid and abducting two more IDF soldiers. Israel made it clear that the Gaza operation would not prevent it from responding in the north, as Ehud Olmert warned Lebanon that it had committed an act of war against Israel: Seventeen days after IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in Gaza, a second front was opened on Israel's northern border Wednesday morning as Hizbullah, under cover of a barrage of Katyusha rockets and mortar shells, kidnapped two more army troops. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the attack as an "act of war" and not terror. During a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Wednesday afternoon, he called it an unprovoked assault by a sovereign nation and held Lebanon, where Hizbullah has a minister...

Hezbollah: Israel Must Swap Prisoners For Soldiers

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, appeared at a press conference today to insist that Israel had to negotiate for the release of its prisoners, a plan that Nasrallah says Hezbollah planned over the past year. The terrorist leader appeared to blame the IDF for being ill-prepared for the attack, which allowed Hezbollah to capture the two soldiers: In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Hizbullah's spiritual leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, lauded the Hizbullah for the attack in which seven IDF soldiers were killed and two others kidnapped and warned Israel that the Hizbullah would only release the captives in exchange for security prisoners. "Our operation succeeded, we have results and honor," the sheikh declared. "We kept our promise to kidnap soldiers [to secure] the release of prisoners, and therefore are calling the attack 'Operation Promise Fulfilled'." The sheikh warned Israel not to attempt a rescue operation....

Chickens Come Home To Roost In Gaza

One of the most-sought Hamas leaders suffered major injuries in a bomb strike by the IDF in Gaza today. Mohammed Deif, who had coordinated suicide attacks in Israel by Hamas, will likely be a paraplegic if he survives the attack at all: A Hamas militant leader who has topped Israel's most-wanted list for a decade was badly wounded and underwent four hours of spinal surgery Wednesday after an Israeli F-16 warplane dropped a quarter-ton bomb that killed nine members of one family, security officials said. The top fugitive, Mohammed Deif, could end up paralyzed, Palestinian security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his condition. Wednesday's blast marked the army's fourth attempt to kill Deif, held responsible for suicide bombings in Israel. In a 2002 missile strike, he lost an eye. ... Israel's air force targeted the two-story house of Nabil Abu Salmiyeh, a...

Egypt Blames Syria For Escalating Violence

Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak blames Syria and Bashar Assad for scotching a deal last week that could have resolved the crisis in Gaza. Egypt had worked out a deal with Israel and Hamas to trade prisoners for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, but "outside pressure" caused Hamas to renege at the last moment: Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa denied his country had a role in either the Hamas or Hezbollah abductions. .. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak implicitly accused Damascus of wrecking his attempts to mediate a deal for the release of Cpt. Cpl. Gilad Shalit, snatched by Hamas-linked militants on June 25. Hamas was subjected to "counter-pressures by other parties, which I don't want to name but which cut the road in front of the Egyptian mediation and led to the failure of the deal after it was about to be concluded," Mubarak told Cairo's Al-Ahram Al-Massai newspaper. No one with...

July 13, 2006

Is Lebanon The Right Target?

No one can blame Israel for the years of frustration in dealing with Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon. They have conducted border raids, shot missiles, and otherwise tried to provoke Israel into a response. This week, they took advantage of the Gaza engagement to attack Israel again -- or perhaps staged the attack in coordination with Hamas -- and Israel has finally responded in force. While Hezbollah fires more rockets into Northern Israel, Olmert has all but declared war on Lebanon: Israel intensified its attacks against Lebanon on Thursday, blasting Beirut's international airport and the southern part of the country in its heaviest air campaign against its neighbor in 24 years. Nearly three dozen civilians were killed, officials said. The strikes on the airport, which damaged three runways, came hours before Israel imposed an air and naval blockade on Lebanon to cut off supply routes to militants. ... In a...

What Does The Lebanese Air Force And Hezbollah TV Have In Common?

They're both off the air: Israeli warplanes blasted runways at the two main army air bases in eastern and northern Lebanon near Syria's border on Thursday, police said, attacks that could draw the Lebanese army into Israel's war with Hizbullah guerrillas. Israeli jets dropped two bombs on the runway at the Rayak air base in the eastern Beka'a Valley, damaging it, police said. There were no reports of casualties or damage to aircraft. .... Planes later attacked the Qoleiat air base near the Syrian border in the north with four missiles, police said. The strikes on the country's two air bases virtually neutralize Lebanon's air force. The Jerusalem Post also shows a picture of an explosion at Al-Manar, the Hezbollah television channel, in an attempt to cut off all possible means of communication, especially propaganda broadcasts. The eradication of Lebanon's air force again calls into question the Israeli strategy. It...

Haifa Hit As Hezbollah Wants Iranian Escalation

The Israeli-Lebanon conflict appears to have escalated greatly in the last few hours. Rockets hit Haifa from Lebanon earlier for the first time, and Hezbollah now wants to involve Iran in the war they initiated: Two rockets have struck the Israeli city of Haifa, hours after a threat by the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah. Hezbollah denied firing any rockets at the northern port city. There were no reports of injuries or damage. Haifa, Israel's third largest city, is more than 30km (18 miles) from the Lebanese border and was thought to be out of Hezbollah's range. This represents a major escalation by Hezbollah, although one completely expected after the Israeli bombing of Beirut's airport, Lebanese air force bases, and Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station. However, Hezbollah has done something rather unexpected in attempting to move the captured Israeli soldiers to Iran: Israel has information that Hizbullah guerrillas who captured two Israeli...

When You Lose The Wahhabis ...

The terrorist braintrust at Hezbollah, and whoever else gives them counsel, apparently screwed up so badly that even other Arabs put the blame on them instead of the yahouds. The Jerusalem Post notes that the most conservative Islamic nation in the region publicly scolded Hezbollah for its "uncalculated adventures": In a significant move, Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's political heavyweight and economic powerhouse, accused Hizbullah guerrillas - without naming them - of "uncalculated adventures" that could precipitate a new Middle East crisis. A Saudi official quoted by the state Saudi Press Agency said the Lebanese Hizbullah's brazen capture of two Israeli soldiers was not legitimate. The kingdom "clearly announces that there has to be a differentiation between legitimate resistance (to Israel) and uncalculated adventures." The Saudi official said Hizbullah's actions could lead to "an extremely serious situation which could subject all Arab nations and its achievements to destruction." "The kingdom...

July 14, 2006

Hezbollah Gamble Coming Up Short

Anthony Shadid analyzes the Hezbollah attack on Israel and its capture of two IDF soldiers, and concludes that it just shot itself in the foot. Their unilateral decision to engage Israel militarily has probably done as much damage to Hezbollah in Lebanese politics as the assassination of Rafik Hariri did to the Syrian occupation: The radical Shiite movement Hezbollah and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, hold an effective veto in Lebanese politics, and the group's military prowess has heartened its supporters at home and abroad in the Arab world. But that same force of arms has begun to endanger Hezbollah's long-term standing in a country where critics accuse it of dragging Lebanon into an unwinnable conflict the government neither chose nor wants to fight. "To a certain Arab audience and Arab elite, Nasrallah is a champion, but the price is high," said Walid Jumblatt, a member of parliament and leader of...

NYT: Give Hezbollah What They Want

A curious column in the New York Times prescribes a hefty dose of everything that Hezbollah wants as the path to peace on Israel's northern border. Michael Young, the editor of Lebanon's Daily Star, gives a first-class analysis of the political blunder that Sheikh Nasrallah has committed in his attack on Israel, but then advises the Israelis to ensure that it pays off: Once the Israelis end their offensive, Hezbollah will regroup and continue to hold Lebanon hostage through its militia, arguably the most effective force in the country. Hamas leaders in Damascus will continue derailing any negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. And Syria will continue to eat away at Lebanese independence, reversing the gains of last year when hundreds of thousands of Lebanese marched against Syrian hegemony. It would be far smarter for Israel, and America, to profit from Hezbollah’s having perhaps overplayed its hand. The popular mood here...

The Vatican Rag (Updated)

The Vatican finally issued a statement on the conflict in Lebanon, and Catholics around the world -- including yours truly -- will wish that the Holy See had remained quiet. Despite the attack on Israel by Hezbollah, a member of the Lebanese government, the Vatican blames Israel for defending itself militarily: The Vatican on Friday strongly deplored Israel's strikes on Lebanon, saying they were "an attack" on a sovereign and free nation. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said Pope Benedict and his aides were very worried that the developments in the Middle East risked degenerating into "a conflict with international repercussions." "In particular, the Holy See deplores right now the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation, and assures its closeness to these people who already have suffered so much to defend their independence," he told Vatican Radio. ... Sodano reserved his harshest words for Israel. "The...

Israel Destroys Hezbollah HQ, But Nasrallah Escapes

Israel stepped up its attacks on Hezbollah targets throughout Lebanon this afternoon, destroying their headquarters in Beirut and again attacking Lebanon's airport. The IAF also bombed Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's house, but the Hezbollah chief apparently escaped harm in both attacks: Hizbullah threatened to strike Haifa with improved Katyusha rockets on Friday evening after IAF warplanes destroyed the building housing the headquarters of the Hizbullah terror organization in south Beirut and organization head Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's private home. In an urgent flash, the organization's al-Manar TV station said the building housing Hizbullah's leadership was destroyed. It did not elaborate, nor say whether there were any casualties. The report on the destruction of Nasrallah's home was announced by official Hizbullah media outlets. From televised reports, it appears that Nasrallah had gone to ground and was not at either location when Israel struck. The IAF continued its attacks on southern Beirut, where Hezbollah...

Syrian Power Structure Bypassing Assad?

Syria made its official entry into the war breaking out between Israel and Hezbollah, pledging to come to the aid of Hezbollah and Lebanon if necessary to ensure Israel's defeat. However, the statement did not come from Bashar Assad, the ostensible leader of Syria, but from a meeting of the Ba'athist party's power brokers: Syria will support Hizbollah and Lebanon against Israel's attacks on the country, the ruling Baath Party said on Friday, defying the Jewish state and its chief ally Washington. "The Syrian people are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes," said a communiqu¿ from the party's national command issued after a meeting. It said Israel and the United States "are trying to wipe out Arab resistance in every land under occupation" and that President Bashar al-Assad was aware of...

July 15, 2006

Nasrallah Bugging Out?

The Jerusalem Post reports that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and his merry band of stalwart defenders of Lebanon have decided to get the hell out of Beirut after the Israelis flattened their offices there. The move follows Nasrallah's call for "open war", and an Israeli response by hitting the Lebanese city of Triploi, north of Beirut: Hizbullah leaders and operatives were leaving Beirut on Saturday following a massive IAF strike on an 11-story building that served as the organization's command center, initial intelligence indicated. Channel 2 reported that the move appeared to be made under heavy security. Earlier Saturday, IAF jets attacked targets in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, some 90 kilometers north of Beirut, marking the deepest Israel has struck inside Lebanon since the onset of Operation Just Rewards. The jets also hit bridges and gas stations in eastern and southern Lebanon, and dropped tens of thousands of fliers...

Israel Issues Ultimatum To Syria

Perhaps sensing a leadership vacuum in Damascus based on the odd report yesterday that Bashar Assad did not participate in a Ba'ath Party leadership conference, Israel has issued an ultimatum to Syria demanding the return of its soldiers and the end to Hezbollah activity along the border. If Syria does not comply within 72 hours, an Arabic newspaper reported, Israel will launch a major attack against Syria: The London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Saturday that “Washington has information according to which Israel gave Damascus 72 hours to stop Hizbullah’s activity along the Lebanon-Israel border and bring about the release the two kidnapped IDF soldiers or it would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences.” The report said “a senior Pentagon source warned that should the Arab world and international community fail in the efforts to convince Syria to pressure Hizbullah into releasing the soldiers and halt the current escalation Israel...

July 16, 2006

Israel Prepares Ground Offensive Into Lebanon

After a rocket attack on Haifa killed eight civilians and narrowly missed a fuel depot, the Israelis have decided to launch a ground offensive into Lebanon to take out Hezbollah rocket sites. They have mobilized a reserve infantry division for the new effort: The IDF on Sunday mobilized a reserve infantry division in preparation for a possible ground incursion into south Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The move was intended as the beginning of a new effort to push Katyusha rocket launching cells away from the Israel-Lebanon border. The division was setting up command posts along the northern border, while tanks and armored personnel carriers were being transported northward. A senior IAF officer revealed to the Post on Sunday afternoon that the IDF was using bunker-buster bombs to strike at senior Hizbullah officials in hiding throughout Beirut and Lebanon. According to the officer, several of the bunker hideouts were...

Israel Prepares Ground Offensive Into Lebanon

After a rocket attack on Haifa killed eight civilians and narrowly missed a fuel depot, the Israelis have decided to launch a ground offensive into Lebanon to take out Hezbollah rocket sites. They have mobilized a reserve infantry division for the new effort: The IDF on Sunday mobilized a reserve infantry division in preparation for a possible ground incursion into south Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The move was intended as the beginning of a new effort to push Katyusha rocket launching cells away from the Israel-Lebanon border. The division was setting up command posts along the northern border, while tanks and armored personnel carriers were being transported northward. A senior IAF officer revealed to the Post on Sunday afternoon that the IDF was using bunker-buster bombs to strike at senior Hizbullah officials in hiding throughout Beirut and Lebanon. According to the officer, several of the bunker hideouts were...

We Don't Need Help, But Where The Hell Is It?

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah seems a bit confused after taking a beating from the Israeli military and provoking outrage from Lebanese politicians who resent Hezbollah's unilateral decision to commit an act of war. In a press conference earlier today, the terrorist chief said that Hezbollah needed no assistance to beat the Israelis -- but then complained that no Arab nation had come to his aid: In a recorded television speech on Sunday evening, Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah urged Arab states to come to the organization's aid. "Where are the Arab nations?" he asked, moments after declaring that Hizbullah wouldn't ask for help from anyone. Speaking to Lebanese civilians, many of whom have expressed anger at Hizbullah's Wednesday attack in which two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and which triggered a massive Israeli aerial bombardment of Lebanese infrastructure, Nasrallah affirmed that all damage caused by IDF strikes would be repaired after the battle...

G8: We'll Restrain Israel When You Restrain Yourselves

The G8 released a statement on the Israeli-Hezbollah-Hamas conflict that attempts to restore some common sense to the global debate on the widening war. Responding to calls for a condemnation of Israel, the industrial powers instead tweaked those who complained about Israel acting in its defense: Group of Eight leaders on Sunday blamed extremists for an upsurge of Middle East violence and while accepting Israel's right to defend itself said the Jewish state should exercise "utmost restraint." Setting out conditions for an end to violence, G8 leaders in summit talks in Russia put the onus on Hizbollah militants to restore peace by releasing abducted Israelis and ending attacks on Israel. Then the Israeli offensive against Lebanon could end, said the statement. "These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos," said the text hammered out by the leaders of the world's...

Not All Lebanese Are Unhappy With Israel

Holly at TMV links to an interesting message up at The Lebanese Foundation for Peace, a site that lists its mission as "to promote a lasting peace between Lebanon, Israel, and Syria". Bridgett Gabriel sends a message to Israel that sounds somewhat different than one might expect: Thank You Israel For the millions of Christian Lebanese, driven out of our homeland, "Thank you Israel," is the sentiment echoing from around the world. The Lebanese Foundation for Peace, an international group of Lebanese Christians, made the following statement in a press release to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert concerning the latest Israeli attacks against Hezbollah: "We urge you to hit them hard and destroy their terror infrastructure. It is not [only] Israel who is fed up with this situation, but the majority of the silent Lebanese in Lebanon who are fed up with Hezbollah and are powerless to do anything out...

Not All Lebanese Are Unhappy With Israel

Holly at TMV links to an interesting message up at The Lebanese Foundation for Peace, a site that lists its mission as "to promote a lasting peace between Lebanon, Israel, and Syria". Bridgett Gabriel sends a message to Israel that sounds somewhat different than one might expect: Thank You Israel For the millions of Christian Lebanese, driven out of our homeland, "Thank you Israel," is the sentiment echoing from around the world. The Lebanese Foundation for Peace, an international group of Lebanese Christians, made the following statement in a press release to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert concerning the latest Israeli attacks against Hezbollah: "We urge you to hit them hard and destroy their terror infrastructure. It is not [only] Israel who is fed up with this situation, but the majority of the silent Lebanese in Lebanon who are fed up with Hezbollah and are powerless to do anything out...

Another Example Of Iraqi Cooperation

Another of the FMSO documents shows the level of cooperation with UNSCOM weapons inspections that Saddam Hussein provided -- and also demonstrates that the Iraqis actively hid something from the UN. Document ISGZ-2004-028947-1 has orders from M6, the Iraqi Intelligence Service's Directorate of Internal Security. M6 integrated deeply with the Military Industrialization Commission (MIC), the bureau responsible for Saddam's WMD programs. These orders make clear that MIC leadership needed to purge their records of all material that could aid UNSCOM at discovering ... something: Republic of Iraq Intelligence Service Secret, Personal and Urgent (TC: foreign classification) Letter # M6/1/2/1488 Date 3/23/1997 To: General Managers & Top Officials Re: Instructions We noticed during the last inspection of the Agency location by UN team #182, that the team asked about specific acronyms of some of the Agency’s directorates and procedures. Their questions are aimed at determining the activities of these directorates and...

July 17, 2006

Arabs Fear Iran More Than They Hate The Jews

The New York Times provides an interesting analysis regarding the surprising criticism coming from Arab capitals towards Hezbollah. Yesterday, its chief complained that the Arabs had not rallied around his organization while it fights the hated "Zionists". However, the Arabs understand that Hezbollah represents a non-Arab threat that presents a much bigger problem than Israel: With the battle between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah raging, key Arab governments have taken the rare step of blaming Hezbollah, underscoring in part their growing fear of influence by the group’s main sponsor, Iran. Saudi Arabia, with Jordan, Egypt and several Persian Gulf states, chastised Hezbollah for “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts” at an emergency Arab League summit meeting in Cairo on Saturday. ... The way some officials see it, Arab analysts said, Israel is the devil they know, but Iran is the growing threat. “There is a school of thought, led by...

Israeli Raids In Lebanon; Chirac Surrenders

The Israeli army crossed into Lebanon for a series of raids on Hezbollah positions this morning, pulling back across the border quickly when the operations were complete. The continuous volley of rockets at Israel's cities provided the impetus for the raids, with the IDF attempting to force Hezbollah to move their launchers farther away from the border: A government spokesman said Monday afternoon that IDF ground forces had briefly entered southern Lebanon to target Hizbullah bases along the border in order to push the terrorist group out of rocket-firing range. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz declared that the IDF currently had much better alternatives than to launch a major ground incursion into Lebanon. In addition, the IDF has denied Lebanese news reports that an Israeli F-16 jet was downed near Beirut. Virtually all Lebanese news agencies were showing unclear video footage of what was claimed to be the...

An International Force?

Tony Blair and Kofi Annan made headlines this morning when they called for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to resolve the conflict between Israel, Hezbollah, and assumably Hamas. They provided no details of their proposal, but claimed that peace could not be achieved without intervention: In the face of the escalating violence, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday called for an international stabilization force to go to the Mideast to help end the cross-border attacks between Hezbollah and the Israeli military. The proposed international force would be the first step in what Annan and Blair said should be a series of actions that would stop the hostilities. "The only way we are going to get a cessation of hostilities is the deployment of an international force to stop the bombardment of Israel and get Israel to stop its attacks on Hezbollah," Blair...

Israel: Return Soldiers And Move Hezbollah Away From Border

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has told Italy that Israel will accept a truce when Lebanon returns the soldiers captured by Hezbollah and clears the terrorists away from their shared border. The offer came as Italy attempted to craft some sort of compromise that will allow the fighting to stop, according to the AP (via It Shines For All): Israel would agree to a cease-fire in its six-day-old offensive against Hezbollah if the Lebanese guerrillas withdraw from the border area with Israel and release two captured Israeli soldiers, a senior official said Monday. The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomacy, said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had conveyed Israel's position to Italy's prime minister, who is trying to broker a cease-fire deal. Israel had previously demanded the full dismantling of Hezbollah as a condition for ending hostilities. However, the senior official said Israel would agree to...

July 18, 2006

You Are A Fluke Of The Universe ...

... You have no right to be here ... Richard Cohen channels National Lampoon's "Deteriorata" in today's Washington Post opinion section in writing about Israel. He argues that since Israel's birth came out of the Holocaust and that many in the Muslim world refuse to acknowledge that genocide, Israel should "hunker down" and apparently allow terrorist groups to attack then without fear of reprisal: The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is...

IDF: One More Week Needed

The Jerusalem Post notes that the IDF needs just one more week to render Hezbollah incapable of conducting missile attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon. Hezbollah attacks have dropped almost 75% over the past week, dropping from 150 a day to 40, and the IDF believes it can drop that number to zero: Forty to fifty percent of Hizbullah's military capability has been destroyed in the six days of the IDF counter-attack following last Wednesday's Hizbullah raid in northern Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The IDF, it is understood, believes it needs another week or so minimum to achieve its military goals in terms of alleviating Hizbullah's capacity to threaten Israel. ... Meanwhile, Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved a call-up of three additional reserve battalions. The reservists are set to replace troops currently operating in the West Bank, allowing those soldiers to be deployed in the north, to assist...

Israel Enters Lebanon

It may not be the massive ground offensive that Israel has threatened, but a small force of IDF soldiers entered Lebanon earlier. Israel says the soldiers will search for weapons and tunnels near the border and do not expect to conduct offensive operations at this time: Israel declared Tuesday it was ready to fight Hezbollah guerrillas for several more weeks, raising doubts about international efforts to broker an immediate cease-fire in the fighting that has killed more than 260 people and displaced 500,000. The military said early Wednesday it sent some troops into southern Lebanon searching for tunnels and weapons. Despite the diplomatic activity, Israel is in no hurry to end its offensive, which it sees as a unique opportunity to crush Hezbollah. The Islamic militants appear to have steadily built up their military strength after Israel pulled its troops out of southern Lebanon in 2000. ... At daybreak Wednesday,...

July 19, 2006

Hezbollah Ready To Crumble?

The Australian claims that Hezbollah has been sent reeling both by the Israeli military response and the lack of support from the Arab world, and that the terrorist group may agree to pull away from the Israeli border in exchange for a cease-fire. The terrorists have found out that their deterrent no longer works on an Israel fed up with constant border provocations: One week after the humiliation it suffered in a Hezbollah cross-border raid in which eight soldiers were killed and two captured, Israel senses one of its major military and political victories is within reach. The stunning campaign it has waged against Hezbollah has reportedly brought the militia to a point where it is willing to discuss Israel's major demand - that it pull back several kilometres from the Israeli border, perhaps to the Litani River. Reports from Beirut yesterday said that Hezbollah officials had declared readiness to...

Is This War Bush's Fault?

One of the stranger memes to arise in the last week is the notion that the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict is somehow the fault of George Bush. Howard Kurtz covers this in today's Media Notes, along with links to plenty of people willing to cast blame at the White House. The Post also has a separate report asserting that conservatives have erupted in anger against Bush's foreign policy, asserting that Bush has not taken the fight to America's enemies, or at least not enthusiastically enough, and that this has led Iran and Syria to test our responses via their Hezbollah proxies. Both of these points have no merit. How can one argue that George Bush has any responsibility for the outbreak of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel -- or Hamas and Israel, for that matter -- when the fighting between the groups has gone on continuously for decades? Hezbollah and Hamas have...

A Golden Opportunity

Rather than look at the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict as a major disaster and a failure, Charles Krauthammer sees it -- correctly -- as a golden opportunity. In the Washington Post this morning, Krauthammer puts the conflict in its proper perspective, and shows why the US should not rush Israel into a cease-fire without having achieved its military objectives first: Every important party in the region and in the world, except the radical Islamists in Tehran and their clients in Damascus, wants Hezbollah disarmed and removed from south Lebanon so that it is no longer able to destabilize the peace of both Lebanon and the broader Middle East. ... Everyone agrees it must be done. But who to do it? No one. The Lebanese are too weak. The Europeans don't invade anyone. After its bitter experience of 20 years ago, the United States has a Lebanon allergy. And Israel could not act...

Baby Speaks!

Bashar Assad finally spoke his first words on the israeli-Hezbollah conflict after spending the last nine days missing in action. Assad, whose party started issuing foreign-policy statements in his absence last week at the outset of the hostilities, demanded a UN-brokered cease fire: Syrian President Bashar Assad spoke out on Wednesday for the first time since the outbreak of the war in the North and said a cease-fire was necessary in order to stop the Israeli attacks on Lebanon. The president made the statement in a telephone conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. CNN Turk reported that Assad called on Erdogan to put pressure on Israel to stop its offensive in Lebanon. According to the report, Erdogan answered him that Turkey was trying to bring about a cease-fire and would continue to do so. Meanwhile, a UN envoy who visited Israel and Lebanon this week and met with...

How Deeply Are Iran And Syria Involved In Lebanon?

According to two news reports over the last twenty-four hours, Iran and Syria have provided their Hezbollah proxies a lot more than just cheerleading. Ynet News reported last night that the IDF had intercepted missile shipments coming from Syria, and the New York Sun's Ira Stoll says that "hundreds" of Iranian troops have joined Hezbollah's missile brigades. First the Syrians: Although Hizbullah has suffered a harsh blow from Israeli air force strikes which took out a good percentage of their available weapons, Syria was continuing to smuggle arms into Lebanon to rearm the group, IDF Operations Branch Head Major General Gadi Eisenkot said during a press briefing Tuesday. Thus far, the IAF managed to intercept a number of trucks transporting rockets from Syria to Hizbullah, including trucks laden with the 220mm-diameter rockets with warheads like the one that hit the Haifa train depot Monday, claiming eight lives. Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot said...

Israeli Shock And Awe

Israel took a page from the American playbook this evening, dropping 23 tons of explosives on a bunker in southern Beirut where the IDF believes top Hezbollah leadership to be hiding. Preliminary bomb-damage assessment seems optimistic: IAF fighter jets dropped over 20 tons in bombs late Wednesday night on a Hizbullah bunker, possibly the hiding place of the group's leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, in the Burj al-Arjana refugee camp in southeast Beirut. It was still unclear who was in the bunker at the time and what their fate was, but IDF sources said the bunker was totally destroyed and that all that was left was a crater. The IDF obtained intelligence information late Wednesday night that Hizbullah leaders possibly including Nasrallah had taken refuge inside the bunker. A wave of aircraft immediately took to the air and dropped 23 tons of explosives on the bunker. IDF sources would not confirm...

July 20, 2006

They Won't Just Go Away If Israel Capitulates

No one doubts that Fuad Saniora, Lebanon's Prime Minister, finds himself in a tough spot, and anyone who doesn't sympathize with his plight and that of Lebanon has a hard heart. Saniora and his fellow citizens have been victimized and held hostage by Hezbollah for three decades, and they do not have the wherewithal to free themselves, thanks to Syrian and Iranian support for the terrorist group. Now they find themselves once more to be the battleground for a proxy war, and their friends and families are caught in the crossfire, just as Hezbollah intends in order to pressure the Israelis to stop fighting back. All the Lebanese want is their freedom from Iran, Syria, and Israel, and to be left in peace. Saniora has my sympathy, but he still sounds like a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome. His solution today reverts back to the "give them what they want...

Saudi Fatwa Against Hezbollah

The Arab rejection of Hezbollah and the war they started continues to grow, and the outrage appears to have reached the Wahhabi in the streets. An influential Wahhabi sheikh has issued a fatwa that forbids Wahhabis from supporting Hezbollah in any way -- including the offering of prayers: One of Saudi Arabia's leading Wahhabi sheiks, Abdullah bin Jabreen has issued a strongly worded religious edict, or fatwa, declaring it unlawful to support, join or pray for Hezbollah, the Shiite militias lobbing missiles into northern Israel. The day after Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers on July 12, Sheik Hamid al-Ali issued an informal statement titled "The Sharia position on what is going on." In it, the Kuwaiti based cleric condemned the imperial ambitions of Iran regarding Hezbollah's cross border raid. The surprising move demonstrates that Sunni Muslim fundamentalists in the Middle East are deeply divided over whether Moslems should support Hezbollah,...

Saudi Fatwa Against Hezbollah

The Arab rejection of Hezbollah and the war they started continues to grow, and the outrage appears to have reached the Wahhabi in the streets. An influential Wahhabi sheikh has issued a fatwa that forbids Wahhabis from supporting Hezbollah in any way -- including the offering of prayers: One of Saudi Arabia's leading Wahhabi sheiks, Abdullah bin Jabreen has issued a strongly worded religious edict, or fatwa, declaring it unlawful to support, join or pray for Hezbollah, the Shiite militias lobbing missiles into northern Israel. The day after Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers on July 12, Sheik Hamid al-Ali issued an informal statement titled "The Sharia position on what is going on." In it, the Kuwaiti based cleric condemned the imperial ambitions of Iran regarding Hezbollah's cross border raid. The surprising move demonstrates that Sunni Muslim fundamentalists in the Middle East are deeply divided over whether Moslems should support Hezbollah,...

Gillerman: 'It Will Take As Long As It Will Take'

Israel's ambassador to the UN gave no indication that Israel plans any cessation of its mission in southern Lebanon, at least not until Hezbollah has been incapacitated. In the wake of a UN Security Council session in which Kofi Annan lashed out at both Israel and Hezbollah, Gillerman made clear his disappointment that Annan could not bring himself to mention Iranian and Syrian support for the terrorist group: Israeli troops met fierce resistance from Hezbollah guerrillas Thursday as they crossed into Lebanon to seek tunnels and weapons for a second straight day, and Israel hinted at a full-scale invasion. Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council that "hostilities must stop" between Israel and Hezbollah. ... Annan also condemned Israel's "excessive use of force" against Lebanon. "There are serious obstacles to reaching a cease-fire or even to diminishing the violence quickly," Annan said. Reporting from the UN session remains...

Israeli Journalists Leave IFJ

Accusing the International Federation of Journalists of "cowardice", the Israel Association of Journalists suspended its membership in the IFJ after it defended Hezbollah's Al-Manar television channel as a "free press" and condemned the IDF attack on their facilities. The IFJ said that the Israeli bombing of their broadcast facilities showed a "policy of using violence to silence the media": The Israel Association of Journalists decided on Thursday to suspend its membership in the International Federation of Journalists to protest the association's condemnation of Israel's attacks on Hizbullah's Al-Manar television network. In a strongly worded letter, the Israeli journalists accused IFJ general secretary Aidan White of "cowardice" for not retracting the organization's condemnation of Israel and said White deserved a "badge of shame" for calling the Hizbullah propaganda tool "free press." "Al Manar gets its budget from the same people firing upon us," said the Israeli representative on the IFJ executive,...

Nasrallah Speaks

He's baa-aaaack: Hizbullah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, spoke for the first Thursday since the beginning of the week, saying Hizbullah's entire infrastructure and leadership hierarchy were still intact and functional. "I can confirm without exaggerating or using psychological warfare, that we have not been harmed," he said, referring to the strike. Al-Jazeera, which aired only excerpts of the interview, said it was taped earlier Thursday. The interviewer said the interview took place amid tight security precautions but did not say where. ... "Hizbullah has so far stood fast, absorbed the strike and has retaken the initiative and made the surprises that it had promised, and there are more surprises," he said, warning that a Hizbullah defeat would be "a defeat for the entire Islamic nation." Well, better luck next time, guys....

Hamas: Uh, Dudes, We're Not With Hezbollah

The Jerusalem Post reports tonight that Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas have agreed in principle to meet in an attempt to resolve the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and allow the Palestinians to disconnect their issues from the Hezbollah fighting. That apparently comes from Hamas as well, which has determined that association with the Iranian-backed terrorist group may be bad for their leaders' health: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is "actively" planning for a long-delayed meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, sources close to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Thursday. The sources said that Solana was told of the preparations during his meeting with Olmert and senior members of his staff in Jerusalem on Wednesday. According to the sources, Egypt has stepped up efforts to forge an agreement for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, which would be followed some time later by an Israeli release of Palestinian prisoners...

July 21, 2006

Banished Islamofascist Begs For Britain's Protection

O, the irony! Omar Bakri fled the UK after spending years preaching hate from his London mosque, and got out just ahead of a British deportation order. The Home Secretary banned him from ever returning to Britain after Bakri left -- for Lebanon. Now that the Hezbollah lunatics he supports started a war they cannot handle, Bakri now demands that Britain allow him to return -- on humanitarian grounds! In the somewhat purple prose of the British tabloid, The Sun: EXILED preacher of hate Omar Bakri has begged the Royal Navy to rescue him from war-torn Beirut. The Muslim cleric who fled Britain last year, tried to board a ship full of women and children yesterday but was turned away. He also wrote to the British embassy asking to be allowed back on “humanitarian grounds”. In an email to officials, dole scrounger Bakri pleaded: “The current situation in Beirut left...

Israel Sets Up Humanitarian Aid Corridor To Lebanon

Israel approved the creation of a corridor between Lebanon and Cyprus for international organizations to deliver humanitarian aid to the Lebanese. This bolsters the efforts already under way by the UN and others to evacuate and give medical assistance to civilians under fire in the war: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni approved late Thursday the establishment of a "humanitarian corridor" between Lebanon and Cyprus in order to relieve the humanitarian crisis that was claimed to be present in Lebanon. Israel has been under great international pressure, especially by the United States and France, to provide for the relief of the Lebanese citizens' hardships following the massive campaign that has created a lot of damage in Lebanon. UN sources stated that the fighting in Lebanon had created half a million refugees, who were forced to leave their homes to evade IDF strikes. The...

Hamas Politicians Powerless In Gaza

According to a New York Times report this morning, the political wing of Hamas lost control of their terrorist wing after pursuing politics, and now no one except Khaled Mashaal in Damascus can control the Hamas bombthrowers. This paints a different picture than the common perception, and shows that political engagement with either Hamas or Fatah likely will produce no results at all: Despite its links to the Palestinian government, Palestinian and Israeli analysts say, the Qassam Brigades does not take orders from the governing leaders of Hamas. This is why, according to many accounts, the Hamas-led government itself was surprised by the Qassam Brigades’ attack against the Israeli military post in June. “They lost their position as leaders of Hamas when they joined the government,” said Abu Muhammad, a Qassam Brigades field commander in Jabaliya. “New leaders were named in the movement, and they are more senior than the...

The Coming Invasion

Israel has moved several divisions to its northern border and a full-scale ground invasion appears imminent. The order has not yet been given, but it looks inevitable at this point: The IDF was gearing up for a large-scale ground incursion into Lebanon on Friday. Thousands of reservists were being mobilized to the North throughout Friday to beef up forces stationed in the area in preparation for a possible operation. In total, three to four ground divisions will be operating along the Lebanese front. Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Friday that the defense establishment was evaluating the size of the force needed to conduct a large-scale operation in Lebanon. "We have no intention of being dragged into something that Hizbullah wants to drag us into," Peretz said. "Nevertheless, we will operate in every place that we find it necessary." On Friday afternoon, the IAF dropped leaflets over southern Lebanon all...

July 22, 2006

Nasrallah Runs Lebanon

Rick Moran of Right Wing Nuthouse sent me a link to an intriguing article in Lebanon's Daily Star, in which Sheikh Nasrallah explains quite clearly how Hezbollah now runs the Lebanese government. Nasrallah gave an interview in which he told A-Jazeera that he has assigned some tasks to government officials regarding international negotiations, and how the Lebanese government has entered into an agreement with Nasrallah to allow Hezbollah to operate at will against the Israelis. Nasrallah mentioned five points for his program (emphases mine): First, Nasrallah insisted on an exchange of prisoners, beginning with the longest-held Lebanese detainee, Samir Qantar. However, according to contacts with Israel, the Jewish state would never agree to release Qantar because he killed Israeli civilians. Second, Nasrallah said he did not care about Arab criticism of Hizbullah. Commenting on the issue, Nasrallah said, "We forgot them as if they [Arab states] do not exist," and...

Israelis Capture Maroun al-Ras

Israel conducted its first major incursion into Lebanon today, investing the town of Maroun al-Ras with 2,000 troops and tanks. The military operation coordinated ground forces, air, and naval assets and rapidly achieved its objective: Israeli tanks and hundreds of troops moved in and out of Lebanon on Saturday, taking over a village, entering a U.N. observation post and engaging Hezbollah militants by land, sea and air as part of the country's limited ground campaign. The soldiers — backed by artillery and tank fire — took control of the large village of Maroun al-Ras, military officials said on condition of anonymity. That included a group of Israeli tanks, bulldozers and personnel carriers that knocked down a border fence and entered the area Saturday afternoon. The equipment and about 25 soldiers raced past a U.N. outpost and headed into the village, where other Israeli soldiers already had control. Some of the...

Lend-Lease Reappears In 2006

America has started to expedite the shipment of munitions to Israel, according to the New York Times, in order to maintain Israeli stocks as they continue to pound Hezbollah positions in Lebanon: The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday. The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah. The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is...

Palestinians Reduce Number Of Israeli Fronts?

This development seems pretty strange, considering the opportunity for mischief the Palestinians have at the moment, but the major terrorist groups have announced a cease-fire in the territories: Palestinian factions agreed to a cessation of Qassam rocket launching at Israel from Gaza. The decision was reached following a Hamas initiative and in anticipated to come into play at midnight Saturday. That having been said, a number of militant groups already announced that they will not honor such an agreement. So far, Fox News has reported this on their radio feed and Ynet on the wires, but no other agency has broadcast any more details. If this turns out to be true, it's a major slap in the face to Hezbollah and to their Syrian patrons. It might signal a split among Hamas factions in the territories and the terrorist leadership in Damascus, which would absolutely want Israel to fight a...

July 23, 2006

Hamas Ready To Give In?

According to Haaretz, Hamas wants to cut its losses and get out of the current war. Reportedly unhappy with Hezbollah's amplification of Israeli rage, local Hamas leadership has agreed in principle to return Gilad Shalit now for consideration of future releases of Palestinian prisoners, and will agree to a mutual cease-fire to seal the deal: Senior Fatah sources in Gaza said on Saturday Hamas is ready to accept a deal that involves freeing abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, a joint cease-fire and an end to IDF actions in the Gaza Strip. What is not clear is whether Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader in Damascus, will sanction the Egyptian-brokered deal. The initiative, proposed by Egypt and discussed by Palestinian leaders in Gaza in the last few days, consists of freeing Gilad Shalit, a joint cease-fire and the cessation of the IDF's assassinations in the Gaza Strip and freeing Palestinian prisoners later on....

Can Syria Be Saved?

The Bush administration may try to rescue Syria from its ties to the Iranians, according to a New York Times report out today, in part by convincing them to quit supporting the Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. Condoleezza Rice will meet with the Saudis to attempt such a strategy in the coming days, as the Saudis have just as much eagerness to rid the region of Hezbollah and Iranian influence in general: As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads to Israel on Sunday, Bush administration officials say they recognize Syria is central to any plans to resolve the crisis in the Middle East, and they are seeking ways to peel Syria away from its alliance of convenience with Iran. In interviews, senior administration officials said they had no plans right now to resume direct talks with the Syrian government. President Bush recalled his ambassador to Syria, Margaret Scobey, after the...

Israel: We'll Take NATO

Israel has indicated that it will accept a new multinational screening force in Lebanon to keep Hezbollah off of Israel's border, but wants NATO-commanded forces for the task. Whether or not NATO -- and by extension the United States -- decides to take job is another question entirely: Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that Israel would accept a temporary international force, preferably headed by NATO, deployed along the Lebanese border to keep Hizbullah guerrillas away from Israel, according to officials in Peretz's office. "Israel's goal is to see the Lebanese army deployed along the border with Israel, but we understand that we are taking about a weak army and that in the midterm period Israel will have to accept a multinational force," he said according to his office. Peretz made the comments during a closed meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. ... Israel has made clear...

Arabs Pressuring Syria To Cut Hezbollah Support

The Arab nations continue to pursue a policy of opposition to Iranian dreams of hegemony in the Middle East, and have begun a campaign to pressure Bashar Assad into cutting off support for Hezbollah. Rather than unite behind the Persian power play, the Arabs appear to regard Teheran as a bigger threat than Israel: Mideast diplomats were pressing Syria to stop backing Hezbollah as the guerrillas fired more deadly rockets onto Israel's third-largest city Sunday. Israel faced tougher-than-expected ground battles and bombarded targets in southern Lebanon, hitting a convoy of refugees. ... With Israel and the United States saying a real cease-fire is not possible until Hezbollah is reined in, Arab heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia were pushing Syria to end its support for the guerrillas, Arab diplomats in Cairo said. A loss of Syria's support would deeply weaken Hezbollah, though its other ally, Iran, gives it a large part...

July 24, 2006

IDF: Hezbollah Running Out Of Missiles

Hezbollah has started to run low on munitions and morale, according to the IDF. Without secure lines of communication to Syria, the terrorists have been unable to resupply, and this has led jihadis in northern Lebanon to avoid joining the fight against Israel: IDF Military Intelligence (MI) believes the army has 10 days left before diplomatic pressure puts an end to Operation Change of Direction against Hizbullah, The Jerusalem Post learned on Sunday. In addition, MI - reflecting its latest strategic assessment - believes that the Islamist group has already been dealt a severe blow by the IDF operation launched 12 days ago, and that within a month it will run out of Katyusha rockets to fire at Israel. ... The unit has been able to recruit reserves, but MI has noticed that it has run into difficulty convincing members of the terror group who reside in northern Lebanon to...

Rice: Lebanon Must Assert Sovereignty

Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Beirut this morning, meeting with Lebanese PM Fuad Saniora as war continued to hit close to the capital. Rice made clear that any resolution to the conflict had to remove Hezbollah missiles and terrorism from the southern border, and that Lebanon's government had to assume sovereignty over its territory: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora in Beirut on Monday in a show of support for that country's weakened democracy, which is struggling to contain the fighting between the Hezbollah militia and Israel. ... "If there is a cessation of hostilities, the government of Lebanon is going to have to be the party," she said. "Let's treat the government of Lebanon as the sovereign government that it is." That is the key point in all of the discussions regarding a cease-fire, and it expands on a point made...

Nasrallah: Saniora Gov't Knew Of Abduction Operation

MEMRI has the transcript of an Al-Jazeera interview with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in which he states that the Lebanese government explicitly knew that Hezbollah would invade Israel and abduct Israeli soldiers. This undercuts the depiction of Lebanon as a helpless victim in some degree: Interviewer: "Did you inform them that you were about to abduct Israeli soldiers?" Hassan Nasrallah: "I told them that we must resolve the issue of the prisoners, and that the only way to resolve it is by abducting Israeli soldiers." Interviewer: "Did you say this clearly?" Hassan Nasrallah: "Yes, and nobody said to me: 'No, you are not allowed to abduct Israeli soldiers.' Even if they had told me not to... I'm not defending myself here. I said that we would abduct Israeli soldiers, in meetings with some of the main political leaders in the country. I don't want to mention names now, but when...

July 25, 2006

Palestinians Want Out Of The War

It has become clear that the Palestinians in Gaza want to get out of the way of the border war Israel has in its north. All groups in Gaza have now agreed to stop fighting and return Gilad Shalit in exchange for a simple cessation of hostilities and the promise of future releases of prisoners: All groups in Gaza, including Hamas, would now accept a cease-fire deal with Israel which would include releasing Gilad Shalit, according to the Palestinian Agriculture Minister, who also heads the coordinating committee of Palestinian organizations there. Ibrahim Al-Naja said the factions were ready to stop the Qassam rocket fire if Israel's ceased all military moves against the Palestinian factions in Gaza. They are also ready to release Shalit in exchange for guaranteeing the future release of Palestinian prisoners. Hamas leaders did not confirm this report on Monday, but if it is true, then this is...

The Absurdity Of Proportionality

Richard Cohen makes amends for his last column, in which he called Israel a "mistake", by debunking the notion of proportional response to war. For some reason, the global community has taken this concept up as a cudgel with which to beat Israel in its fight against the Hezbollah terrorists who touched off the war, as if any war in human history has ever been deliberately fought within the bounds of "proportionality": The list of those who have accused Israel of not being in harmony with its enemies is long and, alas, distinguished. It includes, of course, the United Nations and its secretary general, Kofi Annan. It also includes a whole bunch of European newspapers whose editorial pages call for Israel to respond, it seems, with only one missile for every one tossed its way. Such neat proportion is a recipe for doom. The dire consequences of proportionality are so...

Rice: No Return To Status Quo Ante

Condoleezza Rice made it plain to Mahmoud Abbas that the United States would not accept a return to the status quo ante after the attacks on Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas this summer. Rice called for those who want to see a new Middle East to demand change, and that cease-fires would have to wait until a consensus for real change arrives: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Tuesday with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah following her earlier meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "It is time for a new Middle East," Rice said in the meeting. "It is time to say to those that don't want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail. They will not." Rice admitted that the suffering of all innocent people in the region was disturbing, but nonetheless, did not call on Israel to stop its actions in Lebanon....

Israelis Take Out Hezbollah Commander

The Israelis hit a Hezbollah "war room" in southern Lebanon, killing five terrorists and their regional commander and discovering sophisticated equipment of interesting pedigree: As fighting in Maroun al-Ras came to a close on Tuesday, IDF troops killed five Hizbullah gunmen, including the movement's regional commander. Several IDF soldiers were lightly wounded in the clashes and were evacuated under fire. Earlier, Brigadier General of Division 91, Commander Gal Hirsch, revealed that troops operating in Bint Jbeil discovered war rooms with eavesdropping and surveillance equipment made by Iran, being used by Hizbullah against Israel. The IDF appears to be laying the groundwork for a large-scale invasion using ground troops and armor. They have taken two points with some strategic significance for Hezbollah, and in this particular case wiped out the command structure for Hezbollah in the area. Israel claims that it controls Bint Jbeil, another strategic point known as the capital...

July 26, 2006

The Transformation From Dove To Hawk

Today's Der Spiegel has a fascinating column from Zeev Avrahami, a former Israeli soldier turned peace activist after his required service ended. Avrahami discusses the generational attitudes of Israelis towards their vision of their nation's place in the world and how it affected the policies adopted by a series of governments. Avrahami concludes that his peace activism may have been misplaced after all, and the man he despised twenty years ago is now the man he misses: Every time war footage from Lebanon flickers across the flat screen television in my apartment on the 30th floor of a high-rise in mid-town Manhattan, I am overwhelmed by a deep feeling of sadness. When I scan through the news on the Internet each morning, I'm overtaken by anger. The result is confusion: I go to sleep at night thinking I am a dove and wake up in the morning to find out...

Israel Wants 2-KM Security Zone; France Surrenders On Behalf Of NATO

The Israelis have begun to discuss the details of an acceptable situation for a cease-fire, the AP reports, as Ehud Olmert has given the dimensions of the security zone Israel wants in southern Lebanon. He proposes a 2-kilometer buffer zone (1.2 miles) that would initially have an international military force patrolling to keep Hezbollah out of range of Israel's cities and towns: "We want a two-kilometer (1.2-mile) space from the border in which it will not be possible to fire rockets toward soldiers and civilians' houses and in which there will not be contact with military border patrols," Olmert was quoted as telling the committee. Israeli soldiers patrolled a "security zone" during Israel's 18-year occupation of south Lebanon, but Olmert indicated the new buffer zone would be different. "We do not have any intention of returning to the security zone but want to create an area where there will be...

A Reminder Of Hezbollah's Track Record

Some still consider Israel's decision to respond with a limited war to Hezbollah's invasion, which killed eight and saw two IDF soldiers abducted by the terrorists, an unreasonable reaction to the scale of the provocation. People have forgotten that Hezbollah has not sat quietly in Lebanon and acted as a political party during the six years after Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Just eight months ago, Hezbollah fired off rockets at Israel: Rocket Attacks Don't Dent Sharon By Martin Sieff Dec 29, 2005 WASHINGTON, The latest wave of Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel suggest an ambitious tactical political agenda on the part of the attackers. With Israel deep in the throes of probably its most crucial general election in almost 29 years, terrorist groups are trying to directly influence the political process. The attacks certainly fulfill the warning of Israeli security chiefs that hostile Islamist groups would...

Harper Says UNIFIL Attack Not Deliberate, General Explains Why

Two figures of Canadian leadership came forward today in opposition to Kofi Annan's assertion that Israel deliberately targeted a UNIFIL position, resulting in four deaths, including one Canadian soldier. PM Stephen Harper told reporters that he thought the attack had been a mistake, and retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie told CBC that the Canadian soldier who was killed in the attack complained that Hezbollah exploited their position as a shield: “I certainly doubt that to be the case given that the government of Israel has been co-operating with us in our evacuation efforts and our attempts to move Canadian citizens out of Lebanon and also trying to keep our own troops that are on the ground involved in the evacuation out of harm's way,” Mr. Harper said. “I seriously doubt that but we obviously want to get information.” He said Ottawa now wants to know why the UN post was...

The Nasrallah Blues

Haaretz reports that Israel has penetrated Hezbollah communications, and Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has quite a different spin on events internally than externally. While issuing public statements full of bombast and dire predictions for Israelis, his private communications acknowledges the shock of Israeli military action has taken a toll on operational capability and morale: An Israel Defense Forces analysis of the messages transmitted by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah to his men during the fighting in Lebanon reveals a slightly different tone from the one he took in three public television interviews in the same period and in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper A-Safir. ... Nasrallah admits that his organization is having morale problems and says his group will receive support and encouragement. He adds that not only Hezbollah, but also Israel, has been badly hit. He also complains frequently that the Arab states have deserted Hezbollah and the Lebanese...

July 27, 2006

General MacKenzie Responds To Annan At G&M

General Lewis MacKenzie told the CBC yesterday about communications from the Canadian soldier killed in the Israeli bombardment at their UNIFIL position, information that Kofi Annan could have used before leaping publicly to the conclusion that the IDF deliberately attacked the UN. Today he expands on his comments in the Globe & Mail in an article entitled, "Kofi's Rush To Judgement" (via Newsbeat1, one of the best aggregators in Canada): The blast on Tuesday claimed the lives of Major Paeta Derek Hess-von Kruedener, a Canadian serving with the UN Truce Supervision Organization mission in southern Lebanon, and three other UN soldiers. On July 18, Major Hess-von Kruedener had sent a number of his colleagues, including regimental officers such as myself, an e-mail describing what the situation was like at his location since the Israeli attacks began against Hezbollah in Lebanon. "Based on the intensity and volatility of this current situation...

The Nasrallah Bug-Out

When the going gets tough, the tough get going ... to Damascus. Apparently unhappy with Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's direction, Syrian intelligence has whisked the Hezbollah leader to Syria for a series of meetings. Coming as it does on the heels of Nasrallah's own admission of severe blows to his efforts, one has to wonder whether Nasrallah will return to Lebanon: Hizbullah head Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is currently in Damascus, the Kuwait based a-Siasa newspaper reported Thursday. Nasrallah was apparently taken to Damascus by Syrian intelligence for a series of meetings. According to the report, Nasrallah is scheduled to meet with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani and perhaps with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Nasrallah has to answer to his two major patrons, and the indications so far would be that the conversation will be "frank and open" -- diplo-speak for a butt-chewing. Commanders do not often leave a war theater...

Israel Calls Up 30,000 Reserves

Israel has made it clear that they will not soon scale down their attacks in southern Lebanon. The IDF called up 30,000 troops for training in the fight against Hezbollah: Israel's government on Thursday called up at least 30,000 troops to begin training for duty in the offensive against Hezbollah, and Lebanese officials estimated a civilian death toll as high as 600 with fighting in its third week. .... The high-level conference in Rome ended Wednesday with most European leaders urging an immediate cease-fire but the United States willing to give Israel more time to punish Hezbollah and ensure an international peacekeeping force for south Lebanon. "We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world .... to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah won't be located in Lebanon and until it is disarmed," Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Israel's Army Radio. "Everyone understands that a victory...

Hamas Skims Off The Top

Remember all the sob stories Hamas plied about how the international sanctions on their group had Palestinians starving in the street? Journalists from around the world issued hysterical alarms about how cutting off salaries of Palestinian Authority civil servants would collapse the economy and cause untold human suffering? Apparently, all of that concern did not reach the upper levels of Hamas itself, which has skimmed the international aid it has received for salaries of senior officials: Some of the Arab League money recently transferred to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been paid out to Hamas ministers this week, according to PA sources. ... The Arab League raised money to help the Palestinians in March but was unable to transfer it until earlier this month. America has pressured banks not to allow money to flow to the PA, lest they be held in violation of US anti-terror laws, which forbid...

UN Report Reveals Uselessness of UNIFIL

The United Nations quietly released a report on the UNIFIL mission on July 20th covering events since the beginning of the year in southern Lebanon. The report reveals the uselessness of the UNIFIL mission as the UN itself details how Hezbollah held control of the territory and how the UN stood by as the terrorists dug into their positions. After a lengthy description of tit-for-tat provocations during the reporting period, the report describes the situation on the ground prior to the eruption of war earlier this month: 28. Control of the Blue Line and its vicinity appears to have remained for the most part with Hizbollah. During the reporting period, Hizbollah maintained and reinforced a visible presence in the area, with permanent observation posts, temporary checkpoints and patrols. It continued to carry out intensive construction works to strengthen and expand some of its fixed positions, install additional technical equipment, such...

Israel Rejects UN-Led Force In Lebanon

Israel's outspoken ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, explicitly rejected the deployment of another United Nations-led force in southern Lebanon as part of any cease-fire initiative. Gillerman said that any force deployed to replace the Israelis would have to have more professional leadership than that offered by Turtle Bay: Israel's U.N. ambassador on Thursday ruled out major U.N. involvement in any potential international force in Lebanon, saying more professional and better-trained troops were needed for such a volatile situation. ... Gillerman was highly critical of the current U.N. peacekeeping force, deployed in a buffer Zone between Israel and Lebanon since 1978, saying its facilities had sometimes been used for cover by Hezbollah militants and that it had not done its job. "It has never been able to prevent any shelling of Israel, any terrorist attack, any kidnappings," he said. "They either didn't see or didn't know or didn't want to...

July 28, 2006

Christopher Teaches All The Wrong Lessons

Warren Christopher had two opportunities to influence foreign policy from the top. He served as Deputy Secretary of State for all of Jimmy Carter's term of office, and then as Secretary of State for Bill Clinton's first term. These periods will be best known, in terms of Islamists, as periods of American retreat. Christopher headed the negotiations that dragged the Iranian hostage crises to 444 days, as Carter refused to respond to an act of war with American strength and instead accepted the ongoing humiliation from Teheran. His tenure as Secretary of State comprised the Oslo fiasco, which bound Israel and created a protostate for Yasser Arafat, which he used to both enrich himself and launch multiple intifadas against the Israelis. One might think that a former diplomat with this kind of track record would refrain from offering advice on Middle East conflict. However, Christopher takes to the pages of...

UN Acts Late In Removing Observers

The UN has finally started withdrawing its observers from the war zone in southern Lebanon, the AP reports this morning: The United Nations has decided to remove unarmed observers from their posts along the Israeli-Lebanese border, moving them in with the peacekeeping force in the area, a spokesman said Friday. The decision came after one of the posts of the observer force, known as UNTSO, was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike earlier this week, killing four. The press will no doubt spin this as the fault of the Israelis. However, the UN has known of Hezbollah's efforts to use the UNTSO bases as shields for their offensive operations for at least the last two weeks, if not longer. Their own report from July 20th, compiled by their own analysts, made this clear: 28. Control of the Blue Line and its vicinity appears to have remained for the most part with...

Has Hezbollah Folded?

Hezbollah politicians have agreed in principle with the Saniora government to an international military force to occupy Lebanon and, more importantly, to disarm the "guerillas" that touched off the war: Hezbollah politicians, while expressing reservations, have joined their critics in the government in agreeing to a peace package that includes strengthening an international force in south Lebanon and disarming the guerrillas, the government said. The agreement — reached after a heated six-hour Cabinet meeting — was the first time that Hezbollah has signed onto a proposal for ending the crisis that includes the deploying of international forces. The package falls short of American and Israeli demands in that it calls for an immediate cease-fire before working out details of a force and includes other conditions. The agreement has its pitfalls. It calls for a broad approach to resolve the war, including a final determination of Shebaa Farms, presumably in Lebanon's...

July 29, 2006

They're Not With Us, Volume II

A week ago, Hamas went out of its way to disassociate itself with Hezbollah in Lebanon, leaking to the press that they understood the danger of linking its conflict with the Iranian/Syrian proxy in the north. Later, however, they floated an idea to team up with Hezbollah on prisoner swaps. Today, Mahmoud Abbas explicitly rejects that sentiment, announcing that they will not work with Hezbollah on negotiations: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday his government has no intention of teaming up with Shi'ite Hizboullah on negotiating the release of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. ... Hamas had raised the possibility this week of teaming up with Hizbullah to negotiate terms to release of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in Israel in exchange for the three IDF soldiers. But Abbas said the situations were too different to coordinate a release. "Our brothers in Lebanon have their own special case ......

Let Slip The Doves?

Events have moved quickly since last night, and Condoleezza Rice's return to the Middle East may result in a cease fire rather quickly. After Hezbollah indicated last night that they would be willing to eventually disarm as part of an overall settlement over the Israeli-Lebanese border issues, Rice called the offer a "positive step" -- and Israel has just stated that it will not insist on Hezbollah's disarmament as a prerequisite to a cease-fire: En route to a new round of Middle East negotiations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday that she was encouraged by Hezbollah's general agreement to disarm and accept an international force in Lebanon, which she called a "positive step" that also strengthens the Lebanese government in the illusive search for a cease-fire. "Obviously we are all trying to get to a cease-fire as quickly as possible, so I'll take this as a positive step," Rice...

Hezbollah Hiding Among Civilians

Some people have argued over the last two weeks that Hezbollah's reputation for hiding among civilians is either false or overblown. However, Australia's Herald-Sun newspaper published photographs that show Hezbollah firing positions within residential areas of Lebanon, confirming the terrorists' use of civilians as human shields (via AJ Strata): THIS is the picture that damns Hezbollah. It is one of several, smuggled from behind Lebanon's battle lines, showing that Hezbollah is waging war amid suburbia. The images, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Herald Sun, show Hezbollah using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy-calibre weapons. Dressed in civilian clothing so they can quickly disappear, the militants carrying automatic assault rifles and ride in on trucks mounted with cannon. The photographs, from the Christian area of Wadi Chahrour in the east of Beirut, were taken by a visiting journalist and smuggled out by a friend. The Herald-Sun site...

IDF Preparing Ground Incursion, Setting Table For Int'l Forces

After successfully reducing Bint Jbeir and Maroun al-Ras, the IDF has amassed its forces at the border for more operations in southern Lebanon. With American diplomacy working towards an end to the fighting, the Israelis want to clear as much territory from Hezbollah as possible in the time remaining: The IDF wrapped up its operations in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbail on Saturday and withdrew most of its troops from the area. At the same time, the army was gearing up for a new ground incursion into Lebanon. Also Saturday night, the IAF struck a road along the Lebanese border with Syria that the IDF said was being used by Damascus to smuggle weapons to Hizbullah. It does not appear that Israel has contemplated an all-out occupation of the land south of the Litani. However, they do intend on trapping as many of Hezbollah's fighters between their airstrikes...

July 30, 2006

The Qana Funeral

Israel attacked Hezbollah launching positions in the ancient city of Qana, resulting in the deaths of dozens of civilians. Ehud Olmert and his staff immediately expressed regret for the deaths, but pointed out that Hezbollah's positioning made this kind of collateral damage unavoidable: Olmert expressed deep regret for the harm inflicted on the civilians in Qana Sunday morning when at least 57 civilians - 37 of whom were children - were killed as the IAF fired missiles at a building in the southern Lebanese town. "I express deep regret, along with all of Israel and the IDF, for the civilian deaths in Qana," said Olmert. "Nothing could be further from our intentions and our interests than harming civilians - everyone understands that. When we do harm civilians, the whole world recognizes that it is an exceptional case that does not characterize us." "In contrast," Olmert said, "Hizbullah has launched rockets...

Palestinians: We're Not Hezbollah

The Palestinians in Gaza have begun to resent the linkage made between their conflict and that in Lebanon, the Washington Times reports. In their objections, they point out the key flaw in Hezbollah's claims of self-defense and resistance: As fighting between Israel and Hezbollah continues to rage in Lebanon and northern Israel, Palestinians find themselves at the margins of a regional conflict that has shifted attention away from their six-year uprising for the first time. The war between Israel with the radical Shi'ite Hezbollah also has highlighted the Hezbollah-Iran alliance as a major Middle East flash point that has overshadowed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To the chagrin of many Palestinians, a resolution to the Gaza clashes often is linked to a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah. "The Palestinians have to prove that they are not in the same basket and that they should not be punished for the Lebanese cause,"...

Israel Agrees To Temporary Suspension

In response to the outcry over the bombing in Qana, Israel has agreed to suspend aerial attacks on southern Lebanon for 48 hours, and also to suspend ground operations for 24 hours in order to allow humanitarian aid into and civilians out of the area: Israel agreed to a 48-hour suspension of aerial activity over southern Lebanon after its bombing of a Lebanese village on Sunday that killed a number of children. The suspension of over-flights was announced by State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. He said Israel has reserved the right to attack targets if it learns that attacks are being prepared against them. "The United States welcomes this decision and hopes that it will help relieve the suffering of the children and families of southern Lebanon," Ereli told reporters traveling with Rice. This is a smart move by the Israelis. It gives Hezbollah 24 hours to manuever, of course,...

Thanks For All That Death And Destruction

Fuad Saniora apparently wants to make it difficult for people to remain sympathetic to Lebanon, or perhaps he just has the worst case of Stockholm Syndrome since Patty Hearst. Whatever the reason, Saniora made it clear that he will not have the stomach for disarming Hezbollah as required by the UN Security Council as he praised their "defense" of Lebanon: Lebanese Prime Minister Fuoad Siniora expressed his 'gratitude' to Hizbullah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah for "sacrificing their lives for the country." During a press conference held in wake of the Qana village incident in which 55 Lebanese were killed, Siniora asked: "Is Israel's mission to wipe out the Lebanese? It seems they want to kill all of us. One of those killed today is a baby just one day old. With its aggression, Israel is encouraging extremism." ... Siniora repeatedly stressed his desire to reach a ceasefire, and called...

July 31, 2006

Putting Qana In Perspective

When we or our allies go to war, we expect the maximum effort to adhere to the modern conventions of warfare, especially in protecting civilian populations. Unfortunately, the success for such efforts largely depend on the nature of the enemy. An enemy that does not concern itself with protecting civilian populations -- in fact, one that hides itself and its weapons among civilians for tactical and political purposes -- makes civilian casualties impossible to avoid. That Israel faces such an enemy should surprise no one, especially considering the tactics used by their enemies now and for the last generation, as Naomi Ragen reminds us in Arutz Sheva. Ragen describes an incident experienced by her son's friend in the current conflict: The village looked empty, and then we heard noises coming from one of the houses, so we opened fire. But when we went inside, we found two women and a...

Israel Will Expand Ground Offensive, Or Else ....

Israel will only temporarily cease operations over the next few hours, as the Knesset has demanded a more expansive ground offensive and a "strategic victory" over Hezbollah. Defense Minister Amir Peretz ignored heckling by Israeli Arabs in the parliament as he pledged to engage Hezbollah on a more sweeping scale than before: Israel must not agree to an immediate cease-fire, but rather expand and strengthen its attacks on Hizbullah, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told an emergency session of the Knesset on Monday. "We must not agree to a ceasefire that would be implemented immediately," Peretz said at the start of the heated session. ... Peretz's speech was widely echoed by MKs across the spectrum including Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu who added that Hizbullah posed a strategic threat, and therefore required a strategic victory. "The journey of war is like any other journey. It starts easily but midway there's a difficult...

Get Ready For The Offensive

The Israeli war cabinet has decided to launch a wide-ranging ground offensive, as I predicted earlier. The move comes as France has attempted a new diplomatic effort with Syria and Iran: Israel's Security Cabinet approved early Tuesday widening the ground offensive in Lebanon and rejected a cease-fire until an international force is in place, a participant in the meeting said. Airstrikes in Lebanon would resume "in full force" after the 48-hour suspension expires in another day, said the participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. He said there was no deadline for the offensive, though the United Nations Security Council is expected to debate a resolution this week about a cease-fire. The Israelis may have found some encouragement from new intel that says Hezbollah has run low on launchers, if not the rockets. They want to make sure they can capture...

August 1, 2006

The Soft Nihilism Of Low Expectations

I return to the editorial page of the Examiner today with a piece on the double standard for Israel's prosecution of the war, as opposed to the lack of outrage over terrorist tactics and strategy. Borrowing a phrase from George Bush, I argue that this soft nihilism of low expectations -- which also snares the United States in its grip -- actually encourages terrorism: While the world holds Israel to this standard, things become curiously silent when it’s time to hold Hezbollah responsible for its conduct of war. Hardly a word has escaped from the U.N. or Europe on the 2,500 missiles that have rained down upon Israeli civilians, deliberately targeted by Hezbollah. Those attacks have displaced more than 300,000 civilians, a fact the global community and the mainstream media ignore. Those who argue that Israel has occasionally violated the Geneva Conventions in its attacks casually ignore the blatant violations...

Israelis Press Towards Bekaa

The Israeli offensive has taken an interesting turn as the IDF unleashes its ground forces in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah may have felt sanguine about their chances of outlasting Israel thanks to the efforts of world leaders in handcuffing Ehud Olmert, but now the re-energized IDF has taken aim at Hezbollah's patron: Lebanese army and security officials said a major Israel Defense Forces operation was underway against suspected Hezbollah positions near Baalbek in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley late Tuesday. IDF troops thrust deep into the area, landing troops by helicopter in the Hezbollah heartland. Lebanese security sources said IDF soldiers had landed by helicopter near Baalbek as aircraft launched several strikes in the region. One Lebanese officer saying the Israel Air Force presence in the air above the ancient city was "unprecedented." ... "The extreme, unprecedented number of aircraft indicates the possibility that the Israelis are planning to land troops, but...

August 2, 2006

Israel Captures Prisoners In Bekaa (Updated)

The Israeli operation in Bekaa has met with success. In a commando raid far behind enemy lines, the IDF captured an unspecified number of Hezbollah operatives in a Baalbek hospital: Israel poured up to 10,000 armored troops into south Lebanon Tuesday, and separately sent commandos deep into the eastern Bekaa Valley where they raided a Hezbollah-run hospital and captured guerrillas during pitched battles, a major escalation of the three-week-old war. The Israeli military confirmed the attack on the ancient city of Baalbek, about 80 miles north of Israel. It said troops, ferried in by helicopter, captured an unspecified number guerrillas and all soldiers returned unharmed. The statement gave no other details. The Baalbek raid was the deepest ground attack on Lebanon since fighting began 21 days ago. Hezbollah denied that Israel captured anyone in Baalbek, telling the press that they had the commandos pinned down at the hospital. Perhaps that...

Israel Got Hezbollah's Attention

After their rocket attacks on Israel dwindled down to 10 yesterday, the commando raid on Baalbek has apparently infuriated Hezbollah into risking everything on a last-gasp series of volleys. A record number of missiles have flown over the border, and in one case hit near the West Bank town of Jenin: Hezbollah launched its deepest strikes yet into Israel on Wednesday, firing a record number of more than 160 rockets. An Israeli-American was killed as he fled for home by bicycle, and a stray rocket hit the West Bank for the first time. The intense rocket fire defied claims by Israeli leaders and generals that they have considerably weakened Hezbollah's military capabilities. It followed a two-day lull in Hezbollah rocket attacks, and came hours after Israeli commandos in Lebanon captured what Israel said were five Hezbollah guerrillas. Police said at least 21 people were wounded in Wednesday's attacks, which brought...

No Retirees Or Tourists: Olmert

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made clear that the war in Lebanon could be over in days, but only under conditions that ensure security for Israel on its northern border. With the UN debating various types of peacekeeping forces to replace Israel in Lebanon, Olmert insists that Israel would not accept another UNIFIL disaster: In an interview with The Times in Jerusalem, the Israeli Prime Minister, said that the conflict could be over as soon as the United Nations Security Council authorised an international force and the troops were in place. As he set out his vision for peace, the fighting intensified with 10,000 Israeli soldiers battling against Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. The Shia Muslim militant group fired a record number of 213 rockets into Israel, with some penetrating the West Bank, the farthest that they have reached. Nevertheless, Mr Olmert seemed confident that the fighting could be...

August 3, 2006

The True Purpose Of The Cease Fire

At least one world leader has given an honest assessment of why an immediate cease fire should occur in the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict, now entering its fourth week. Oddly enough -- or not -- that world leader runs Iran: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday the solution to the Middle East crisis was to destroy Israel, state-media reported. In a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Malaysia, Ahmadinejad also called for an immediate cease-fire to end the fighting between Israel and the Iranian-backed group Hizbullah. "Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," Ahmadinejad said, according to state-run television in a report posted on its Web site Thursday. Ahmadinejad made these comments at a hastily-arranged summit of Muslim nations in an attempt to get more support for Iran's proxy in Lebanon. He implored the other...

Oh, So That's Not What You Meant By 'Stabilizing'?

Sacre bleu! The French just figured out exactly what kind of stabilization Iran has in mind for the Middle East. Just days after his jaw-dropping description of the radical Iranian mullahcracy as a "stabilizing force" in the region, the French Foreign Minister had to eat his words: Days after calling Iran a "stabilizing" force in the Middle East, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy issued a statement harshly criticizing Iran's call on Thursday to destroy Israel. "I totally condemn these words," Douste-Blazy said on France-Inter radio, in response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement Thursday that the solution to the current Middle East crisis was to destroy Israel. "Peace and security in Lebanon and its borders has to be preserved by the Lebanese government and people. Deployment of foreign forces is not acceptable in any shape unless it is just, based on UN rules and preserves the unity and territorial integrity...

Is Anyone Buying This?

The latest news on the diplomatic front of the Hezbollah-provoked war in southern Lebanon has the Europeans convincing Syria to pressure their terrorist proxies into accepting a cease-fire. According to Ynet News, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has agreed to get Hezbollah to allow Israel to stop shooting at them: The European Union has enlisted Syria's help to end the fighting in Lebanon as Damascus pledged support to the Lebanese government's plan for a settlement. EU envoy and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said following talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad Thursday, Damascus agreed to play a constructive role in settling the conflict by pressing Hizbullah to accept a ceasefire. ... He said Syria backs Siniora's seven-point plan to end the conflict. "Hizbullah's present stance is unanimous with the government, and Premier Siniora represents all Lebanese parties, including Hizbullah.["] Syria has agreed to push Hezbollah into winning the conflict by...

August 4, 2006

There's Gotta Be Irony In Here Somewhere

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has told an interviewer that he wants German troops in any international force protecting the Jewish state. I'm really not kidding: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would welcome German troops participating in an international force in southern Lebanon, according to a newspaper interview published Friday. ... Olmert said he told Merkel that Israel has "absolutely no problem with German soldiers in southern Lebanon." "Why should German soldiers shoot at Israel? They would be part of the force protecting Israel," Olmert was quoted as saying in the interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "There is at the moment no nation that is behaving in a more friendly way toward Israel than Germany," he added. "If Germany can contribute to the security of the Israeli people, that would be a worthwhile task for your country. I would be very happy if Germany participated." So now we have...

Iran Defies ... Well, Everyone

We have known for years that Iran has funded and sheltered Hezbollah, along with Syria, in an effort to undermine Israel's security. Up to today, Teheran couched that assistance in humanitarian terms, arguing that it wanted to promote the social activities of Hezbollah and its spiritual jihadism. According to Jane's, a respected military publication, Iran will send arms to the non-state militia: Iran will supply Hezbollah with surface-to-air missile systems in the coming months, boosting the guerrillas' defences against Israeli aircraft, according to a report by specialist magazine Jane's Defence Weekly, citing unnamed Western diplomatic sources. In a meeting, held late last month, the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia called on Tehran to "accelerate and extend the scope of weapon shipments from Iran to the Islamic Resistance, particularly advanced missiles against ground and air targets." Hezbollah's representatives pressed for "an array of more advanced weaponry, including more advanced SAM (surface-to-air missile)...

August 5, 2006

Israeli Commando Raid On Tyre Nets Hezbollah Captives

Israeli naval commandos raided the Mediterranean port of Tyre early Saturday, destroying a missile-launch site and capturing Hezbollah terrorists, including senior members. The operation comes after Israel destroyed the last major road link to Syria, cutting off escape and resupply routes for the beleagured terrorists in Lebanon: The operation, which was conducted based on military intelligence, targeted terrorists that were responsible for firing long-range rockets at Israel, including those that reached Hadera on Friday. The commandos entered an apartment building in a crowded residential area in northern Tyre, where they engaged with Hizbullah operatives, including three senior members. When the elite unit left the apartment, they were fired upon from several directions. IAF aircrafts and drones covered the force and cleared an exit for it. Seven Lebanese were killed in the operation. Head of Naval intelligence told Army Radio that an aerial assault on the building was avoided since it...

France, US Agree On Cease-Fire Formulation

France and the US have reached accord on the wording of a UN cease-fire proposal for the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. It calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities by Hezbollah, which started the conflict, and allows Israel to respond if Hezbollah does not comply: The United States and France agreed Saturday on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for a "full cessation" of fighting between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, but would allow Israel to defend itself if attacked. The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, "calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations." That language would be a major victory for Israel, which has insisted it must have the right to respond if Hezbollah launches missiles against it. France and many other nations had demanded an...

No Saudi Sympathy For The 'Devil'

Hezbollah's war continues to inspire some unprecedented politics in the Middle East, this time in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. An influential cleric who helped inspire Osama bin Laden's war on the West has issued a fatwa demanding that Saudis oppose the 'devil' in this conflict -- but if you think that means the yahoud, you'd be mistaken: A top Saudi Sunni cleric, whose ideas inspired Osama bin Laden, issued a religious edict Saturday disavowing the Shi'ite guerrilla group Hizbullah, evidence that a rift remained among Muslims over the fighting in Lebanon. Hizbullah, which translates as "the party of God," is actually "the party of the devil," said Sheik Safar al-Hawali, whose radical views made the al-Qaida leader one of his followers in the past. "Don't pray for Hizbullah," he said in the fatwa posted on his Web site. The edict, which reflects the historical stand of strict Wahhabi doctrine viewing Shi'ite...

August 6, 2006

Israel Plays It Cool, Lebanon Plays Into Their Hands

It looks as if Israel has a plan to win the diplomatic war, and Lebanon's Hezbollah-backed politicians are determined to let them do it. After the US and France agreed on a cease-fire proposal for the UN Security Council, many thought that the resolution allowed Hezbollah too much leeway to regroup and rearm. Israel, however, quickly embraced the proposal -- and Hezbollah jumped at the bait: Senior government officials in Israel expressed satisfaction at the draft of the UN Security Council resolution on Lebanon Saturday night, saying it safeguarded a number of key Israeli interests - foremost that the IDF would remain in south Lebanon until an international force arrives. The US and France agreed on a draft Saturday that calls for a full cessation of the fighting but preserves Israel's right to respond if attacked. The Security Council was scheduled to debate the resolution later Saturday in New York,...

What You Need To Know About Diplomacy And Journalism In War

We have been granted a unique opportunity this morning to see the problem with double standards in diplomacy and journalism in war, especially a war that involves Israel and terrorists. Earlier we recounted the utter idiocy of Reuters in allowing a badly-doctored photograph of Beirut to go out over their wires (all hail Charles Johnson). Now USA Today gives us a report on Hezbollah attacks this morning that shows more than one double standard at work: Hezbollah guerrillas unleashed their deadliest barrage of rockets yet into northern Israel, killing 11 people, while Israeli bombardment killed 17 people in southern Lebanon as fighting only intensified despite a draft U.N. cease-fire resolution. ... Hezbollah fired a volley of 80 rockets at several Israeli towns, with one of them making a direct hit on a crowd of people at the entrance of the communal farm of Kfar Giladi. USA Today actually avoids a...

August 7, 2006

Israel Won't Go To The Litani

Israel has decided not to hold territory in southern Lebanon all the way to the Litani. Instead, the IDF will try to clear a tighter security zone unless diplomatic developments allow for new strategies: After completing the creation of a security zone in southern Lebanon and with diplomatic pressure mounting, the IDF, senior defense officials revealed Sunday, did not plan to move ground troops northwards towards the Litani River - a line initially named as the IDF's final destination in this current ground incursion. ... While the IDF initially had planned to send troops north to the Litani River - a line from which officials said it would be easier to prevent rocket attacks - high-ranking military sources told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that due to the mounting diplomatic pressure the plan had been deferred for the time being. An incursion up to the Litani - some 30 km...

A Day For Lebanese Reversals

Lebanon's Saniora government reversed itself twice today on the war. First, after accusing Israel of killing 40 Lebanese civilians in an air strike last night, Fuad Saniora had to cut the number down ... by thirty-nine ... and still couldn't get it right: Late Monday evening IAF fighters struck targets in a Hizbullah-controlled neighborhood of Beirut. Security officials at the scene reported at least five dead and 20 others wounded. Earlier in the day, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said only one person had died in an earlier Israeli air raid on the southern village of Houla, reversing his earlier claim that 40 were killed there. Saniora reportedly broke into tears during opening remarks appealing to Arab League foreign ministers for help, saying that 40 had died in Houla. A security official later said there were about 30 people trapped and the death toll was not known. The efforts of...

A Day For Lebanese Reversals

Lebanon's Saniora government reversed itself twice today on the war. First, after accusing Israel of killing 40 Lebanese civilians in an air strike last night, Fuad Saniora had to cut the number down ... by thirty-nine ... and still couldn't get it right: Late Monday evening IAF fighters struck targets in a Hizbullah-controlled neighborhood of Beirut. Security officials at the scene reported at least five dead and 20 others wounded. Earlier in the day, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said only one person had died in an earlier Israeli air raid on the southern village of Houla, reversing his earlier claim that 40 were killed there. Saniora reportedly broke into tears during opening remarks appealing to Arab League foreign ministers for help, saying that 40 had died in Houla. A security official later said there were about 30 people trapped and the death toll was not known. The efforts of...

August 8, 2006

More Double Standards At The UN

Kofi Annan continues the Turtle Bay tradition of double standards when it comes to fighting terrorists. Annan, responding to Arab League complaints, said that the bombing in Qana could show a pattern of war crimes by Israelis against civilians -- without mentioning the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Hezbollah rocket launchers: Israel's air raid on in the Lebanese town of Qana, which killed 28 people, may be part of a larger pattern of violations of international law in the war between Israel and Hezbollah, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report Monday. In that light, Annan said that the July 30 attack was sufficiently serious to merit a more comprehensive investigation. The attack should be seen "in the broader context of what could be, based on preliminary information available to the United Nations ... a pattern of violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and international human...

August 9, 2006

Israel Unites In Defending Nation

The attack and abduction by Hezbollah that triggered the current war has united the Israeli Right and Left, resulting in an unprecedented mandate for the government to press forward with massive military action. Criticism of the government has mostly focused on getting the government to commit more resources to the fight, not for an end to action: As Israel’s war with Hezbollah finishes a fourth difficult week, domestic criticism of its prosecution is growing. Yet there is a paradoxical effect as well: the harder the war has been, the more the public wants it to proceed. The criticism is not that the war is going on, but that it is going poorly. The public wants the army to hit Hezbollah harder, so it will not threaten Israel again. And while Israelis are upset with how Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has run the war, they seem to agree with what he...

Don't Start Wars You Can't Finish

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora takes to the pages of the Washington Post to convince Americans of the evil that Israel commits in the current war. It is a remarkable document, utterly free of any hint of Hezbollah's responsibility for committing an act of war against Israel, their consistent and deliberate targeting of Israeli citizens from Lebanese territory, or Siniora's failure to disarm Hezbollah or to even bother to attempt it. Instead, Siniora wants us to conclude that Lebanon's harboring of Hezbollah has no bearing on the current conflict: A military solution to Israel's savage war on Lebanon and the Lebanese people is both morally unacceptable and totally unrealistic. We in Lebanon call upon the international community and citizens everywhere to support my country's sovereignty and end this folly now. We also insist that Israel be made to respect international humanitarian law, including the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, which...

Iranian Soldiers Among Hezbollah Dead

Israeli television reports that ten Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers were among Hezbollah's dead in fighting today, identified as such by documents on the corpses. If confirmed, the deployment of Iranian military forces would allow Israel to treat Iran as a combatant in the war (hat tip: CQ readers Thomas and Marcie): Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have been found among Hizbollah guerrillas slain by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, Israel's Channel 10 television reported on Wednesday citing diplomatic sources. It said the Iranians were identified by documents found on their bodies, but gave no further details on how many were discovered or when. Neither the Israeli military nor Hizbollah representatives in Beirut had immediate comment on the report. Iran, like fellow Hizbollah patron Syria, insists its support for the Shi'ite guerrilla group is purely moral. This will complicate the global communiy's efforts to appease Teheran on the various peace proposals....

August 10, 2006

Lebanon Getting Choosy

Efforts to reach a compromise in the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict hit a snag tonight when Lebanon rejected French forces as a component of any peacekeeping contingent in the south. Even with the French backpedaling furiously to placate the Arab League, the Siniora government refused to allow France to exercise its mandate: A new obstacle was raised in the approval of the proposed cease-fire agreement between Israel and Lebanon on Thursday night, when the latter was refusing to allow French forces to enforce its mandate by force, if necessary, as allowed by the UN's chapter VII regulations. Israel Radio reported that attempts were being made to convince Lebanon to agree to the proposal. If both Lebanon and Israel agree to the proposal, it is expected to brought before the UN Security Council for ratification within 24 hours. The irony comes in layers with this development. The Arab League wanted an immediate cease-fire...

August 11, 2006

When The Only Defense Is A Good Offense

In a morose column in today's Jerusalem Post, Doron Almong gives his analysis of the situation along the Blue Line and in Gaza and deduces that only ground forces will create security for Israel. The destabilizing nature of the missile capacities of Hezbollah and Hamas and their refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist makes it impossible to protect Israeli citizens any other way: At first, in June 2006, Sderot became hostage to the dozens of Kassam rockets fired at it from Gaza, making the lives of its people intolerable. Then, from July 12, the North fell hostage to the thousands of Katyusha and other rockets being fired at it. The North has become a war zone. Hizbullah was and remains the inspiration for the Palestinian organizations, their role model and hero. More than anything else, the Palestinian terror organizations would like an upgrade of their rocket capability to bring...

The Mixed Bag Cease Fire

It appears that Ehud Olmert has accepted in principle the cease-fire proposal offered by the US and France, who apparently recovered somewhat from the swoon it experienced over Arab criticism of the original proposal. The UN Security Council meets shortly to debate the offer and vote on its adoption, and it is expected to pass without opposition. Some have hailed this as a breakthrough, while others see it as an unmitigated disaster. The truth is that the proposal gives both sides something while attempting to find what everyone understands will be the eventual outcome of any protracted war, given the reluctance of Israel to attempt another twenty-year occupation of Lebanon. And it holds an ace in the hole for Israel, which many seem to have missed. Let's look at the resolution itself, covered in detail by the Jerusalem Post and also by The Corner. The points adopted in this proposal...

August 12, 2006

Now It's Time To Play Beat The Clock

Neither Israel nor Lebanon acted urgently to ratify the UN Security Council cease-fire resolution, putting off consideration from both Cabinets until Sunday. Israel used the time to push forward on its military goals, trying to accomplish as much as possible before the cease-fire comes into effect: Israel staged wide-ranging airstrikes and sent commandos into the Hezbollah heartland Saturday while the U.N. raced to begin enforcing its new cease-fire blueprint and stop combat. Airstrikes killed at least 19 people, including 15 in one Lebanese village. Israel also blasted a highway near Lebanon's last open border crossing to Syria as it kept up its full-scale campaign against Hezbollah militants. Long columns of Israeli tanks, troops and armored personnel carriers streamed over the border. Some people may ask why Israel bothers to do this, considering it has already agreed to the cease-fire, at least provisionally until its Cabinet meets. The answer is found...

A Response To Paul

Paul Mirengoff, a true gentleman and a friend, responds to my criticism that he unfairly criticized George Bush for agreeing to the Security Council resolution, rightly noting that I did not explain myself in much detail. Paul politely restates his case and attempts to interpret my thin line of argument. In fairness, I'll provide a better explanation and hope that makes for a better argument. The overriding question of how to end the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict is to understand Israel's goals and realistic expectations of military action in Lebanon. Many argue that Israel should destroy Hezbollah and kill all the terrorists in Lebanon, and that the military effort should not cease short of this goal.. Anything less would be a defeat for Israel and a victory for the terrorists, who will use this to celebrate a triumph over the IDF. That argument serves as a satifactory emotional position, but it ignores...

Nasrallah Endorses Cease Fire ... Sort Of

Hassan Nasrallah has made a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of the UN Security Council cease-fire resolution, promising to argue for modifications in the Lebanese Cabinet meeting taking place in hours to formulate an answer to Turtle Bay. Nasrallah objects to the arms embargo placed on Hezbollah, and vows to continue his "jihadic" responsibilities towards Israel: Hizbullah Leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that if a UN-endorsed agreement were reached that would end the hostilities, then his organization would abide by it. In a televised speech on Hizbullah-run al-Manar television, he said that he would allow for the deployment of the Lebanese army, augmented by UNIFIL forces, to deploy in southern Lebanon. Still, he said he had some reservations against the resolution, but noted he would bring those up at the Lebanese cabinet meeting that would be convened on Saturday evening. His strongest reservation was against the arms embargo that the cease-fire...

August 13, 2006

Israel Cabinet Unanimously Adopts Cease-Fire

It does not appear that the UN Security Council cease-fire resolution created much controversy in Israeli politics. Ehud Olmert's Cabinet unanimously agreed to adopt it, with only one abstention: The cabinet approved the UN cease-fire deal after a stormy debate Sunday, clearing a key hurdle to ending the monthlong Mideast war, the government said. The 24-0 vote, with one abstention, came a day after the Lebanese government approved the agreement, and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave his grudging consent. The truce was to take effect on Monday morning, but the potential for new flareups remained high. ... Addressing reporters after the vote, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the cease-fire deal approved would bring about a "change in the rules of the game" between Israel and Lebanon. "The decision is good for Israel. I am not naive. I live in the Middle East and I know that not every decision in...

Lebanon About To Fall

The cease-fire agreement appears to have created a crisis in Lebanon's government, as a Cabinet meeting of Siniora's government has been abruptly cancelled. The Cabinet was supposed to vote on a plan to deploy their army into southern Lebanon and to displace Hezbollah. That has now been indefinitely delayed -- which means that Israel is not bound by the agreement to stop fighting: A critical Lebanese Cabinet meeting set for Sunday to discuss implementation of the cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah was postponed, a move that was likely to delay the dispatch of the Lebanese army to the south and an end of the fighting. A top aide to Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said the meeting had been indefinitely postponed but would give no reason. Published reports said the Cabinet, which approved the cease-fire unanimously Saturday night, had been sharply divided over demands in the cease-fire agreement that Hizbullah surrender...

BBC: Lebanon Refuses To Disarm Hezbollah

I guess that crying on television and writing op-eds about the desperate hope for peace cannot motivate Fuad Siniora and his Cabinet to take the concrete action that would deliver it. The BBC reports that the Siniora government has rejected the UN demand to disarm Hezbollah, and the terrorist group has blocked the deployment of the Lebanese Army to the south: Crucial Lebanese cabinet talks on disarming Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon under a UN-brokered ceasefire have been put off. A truce between Israel and Hezbollah is due to come into force at 0500 GMT. The postponement, amid reported divisions, seriously complicates the establishment of a stable ceasefire, the BBC's Nick Childs in Beirut says. ... [T]he issue of Hezbollah's disarmament and its military presence in southern Lebanon continues to cause major tensions within the fragile government, our correspondent reports. He says that without a meeting and an agreed plan,...

August 14, 2006

The Humiliation Of Lebanon

Fuad Siniora's collapse yesterday humiliated his armed forces, the Times of London reports, and demonstrated the illusive grasp of power that the official government holds in Lebanon. The consensus in his Cabinet to accept the cease-fire collapsed when it came time to deploy the army into southern Lebanon: TODAY was supposed to be the day when the muchmaligned army of Lebanon took control of its borders and policed the UN ceasefire. Instead, its military commanders were left humiliated and its troops stranded as Hezbollah told them not to try to disarm its fighters. The first infantry units were preparing to head south yesterday when Hezbollah demonstrated who exercised the real control by announcing that it had no intention of surrendering a single weapon. General Michel Sleiman, the commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Army, and his lieutenants had been invited to join in Cabinet meetings to finalise plans to deploy their 15,000-strong...

August 15, 2006

Lebanon Balking At The Terms

Rick Moran tipped me to this story from the Jerusalem Post which indicates that Lebanon may blow the cease fire within hours of its implementation. Despite the clear language in the agreement that not only calls for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1559 to disarm Hezbollah but also to ensure that the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL have the only arms in the sub-Litani region, Beirut now says that Hezbollah can keep their weapons -- as long as the weapons stay concealed: Hizbullah will not hand over its weapons to the Lebanese government but rather refrain from exhibiting them publicly, according to a new compromise that is reportedly brewing between Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Seniora and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The UN cease-fire resolution specifically demands the demilitarization of the area south of the Litani river. The resolution was approved by the Lebanese cabinet. In a televised address on...

Israel: Game On If Hezbollah Keeps Weapons

Israel has warned the UN and Lebanon that any solution that allows Hezbollah to retain any weapons will result in a resumption of hostilities. Kofi Annan's earlier reaction to the reported deal between Fuad Siniora and Hassan Nasrallah that amounted to a "don't show, don't tell" policy angered Israelis and probably scotched the notion of a cease-fire in the short term: The IDF will have to resume operations in Lebanon if the expanded United Nations force being assembled does not fulfill its obligation to dismantle Hizbullah, an official in the Prime Minister's Office warned on Tuesday. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah reportedly reached a deal allowing Hizbullah to keep its weapons but refrain from exhibiting them in public. Israeli officials called the arrangement a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which passed over the weekend and was approved on Sunday by the cabinet. "The...

August 16, 2006

Rice Protests Too Much?

Condoleezza Rice takes to the pages of the Washington Post in an effort to explain to Americans why the US pressed for the cease-fire agreement adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council. Rice insists that UNSCR 1701 delivers the construct for a lasting peace, if fully implemented. That, however, is the problem, which even Rice acknowledges: The agreement we reached last week is a good first step, but it is only a first step. Though we hope that it will lead to a permanent cease-fire, no one should expect an immediate stop to all acts of violence. This is a fragile cease-fire, and all parties must work to strengthen it. Our diplomacy has helped end a war. Now comes the long, hard work to secure the peace. Looking ahead, our most pressing challenge is to help the hundreds of thousands of displaced people within Lebanon to return to their homes...

August 17, 2006

A Spot Of Tea Lands Lebanese General In Tight Spot

A Lebanese general sits in jail today after committing a terrible crime -- having tea with an Israeli. During the military operation, the IDF captured his barracks and held Adnan Daoud and 350 of his men prisoner, but apparently did so rather informally. A videotape taken during the event shows Daoud drinking tea with the soldiers as both sides acted cordially: A Lebanese general was ordered arrested Wednesday for appearing in a videotape drinking tea with IDF soldiers who had occupied his south Lebanon barracks during their incursion of the country. Adnan Daoud was summoned and ordered held for questioning, Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat said in a statement. Daoud is commanding officer of the 1,000-strong joint police-army force that had positions in southern Lebanon and was based in Marjayoun. IDF troops seized the barracks there last week and held him and 350 soldiers for a day before allowing them to...

Palestinians Try Forming Unity Government

Fatah and Hamas have opened talks on forming a unity government in the West Bank and Gaza. This follows an abortive attempt at the same goal earlier this year, when Hamas got desperate to end the global embargo on aid once they assumed power: MAHMOUD ABBAS, the Palestinian President, and Ismail Haniyeh, the Prime Minister of the Hamas-led administration, agreed yesterday to discuss forming a government of national unity after meeting in Gaza. Similar negotiations last February with the President’s Fatah faction foundered when Hamas refused to accept earlier peace deals with Israel which would have implied recognition of the state. Hamas went on to form its own Government, which sparked an economic embargo by the international community. This follows the demands made by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails that the various groups unite in one government, which could then work towards the end of occupation -- as defined by...

August 18, 2006

Palestinians Declare Unilateral Cease-Fire

Apparently concerned that the Israelis might adopt the tougher tactics that their citizens wanted used against Hezbollah, Mahmoud Abbas has declared a unilateral cease-fire in the West Bank and Gaza. He claims to have the support of all armed groups in this stand-down agreement, and hopes to end the Israeli offensive in Gaza: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that Palestinian armed groups promised him they would suspend their attacks on Israel in hopes of ending a nearly 2-month-long Israeli crackdown in the Gaza Strip. The groups hedged their bets, denying there was a formal agreement with Abbas, while leaving the door open to a possible halt in attacks. There was only minor violence reported Thursday, and there appears to have been a drop in rocket attacks against Israel in recent days. Abbas said the groups reached their agreement late Wednesday during renewed talks on forming a national unity government...

The French Surrender ... Again

After insisting on a cease-fire in Lebanon and demanding international action to separate the combatants, the French have performed one of their traditional about-faces and refused to substantially contribute to the effort. Efforts to create a strong international force to support the Lebanese Army centered on commitments by the French of up to 5,000 troops. Now the Chirac government says they could scrape up maybe 200, if they're not too busy on their August vacations: France on Thursday rebuffed pleas by U.N. officials to make a major contribution to a peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, setting back efforts to deploy an international military force to help police a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, according to U.N. and French officials. French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that France would contribute only 200 additional troops to the U.N. operation in southern Lebanon, which the Security Council wants to expand from 2,000 troops...

August 19, 2006

Israel Arrests Palestinian Deputy PM In Ramallah

The Israelis sent a message this morning that they have not forgotten the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit by Hamas. The IDF captured the Hamas Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser Shaer, at his home this morning: Israeli soldiers arrested the Palestinian deputy prime minister Saturday, the highest-ranking Hamas official rounded up in a seven-week-old crackdown against the ruling party. Troops burst into the home of Nasser Shaer around 4:30 a.m. and took him away, said the deputy prime minister's wife, Huda. ... The army said Shaer was arrested in Ramallah overnight for his involvement and activity in the Islamic militant Hamas. With Shaer, Israel has now arrested four members of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Cabinet and 28 Hamas lawmakers. Four other ministers have been detained and released. As Shaer's wife explained, this comes as no surprise to the deputy PM. He had avoided his home ever since the Shalit kidnapping, which preceded the...

Israel Attacks Resupply Convoy

Israel has made it clear that they will abide by the cease-fire only to the extent that their partners do the same. In a raid this morning, Israel killed three militants while stopping an arms transfer to Hezbollah: Israel carried out an overnight raid inside Lebanon aimed at disrupting an arms transfer, the Israeli army says. One soldier died and two were injured in the Bekaa Valley operation, it said. Lebanese sources earlier told Reuters agency that three militants also died. The incident came hours after UN chief Kofi Annan warned of a "fragile" situation on the ground. The Israeli commando raid took place near Baalbek, far to the north of Lebanon along the border with Syria. The IDF attacked the convoy and claimed that its mission objectives "were achieved". Fuad Siniora, meanwhile, complained that Israel had committed a "naked violation" of the cease-fire agreement. Siniora may want to take...

Arab Media Take Aim At Assad

After Bashar Assad called Arab leaders "half men" for failing to rally to Hezbollah's support, state-sponsored media in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia have castigated Assad in terms usually reserved for infidels. His critics have called him a coward and a dead rosebud, among other epithets: Syria's president sparked a wave of anger after he knocked Mideast leaders as "half men" in a televised speech, underlining the divisions as Arab nations try to form a unified front in the wake of the Lebanon crisis. The bitterness over Bashar Assad's speech last week will likely stir up a gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Sunday. The meeting is supposed to pave the way for a summit of heads of state later in the month that will draw up plans to help rebuild Lebanon - and try to launch a new Arab peace initiative with Israel. So far governments have...

Our Sympathy Is Limited

Ismail Haniyeh wants the world to come to his assistance. The Hamas leader demands that the international community demand the release of his deputy prime minister, captured by the Israelis a day earlier: Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has appealed to the international community for help to secure the release of his deputy. Nasser al-Shaer was detained by the Israeli army early on Saturday. Mr Haniya, from the Islamic militant movement Hamas, said the arrest was part of an Israeli attempt to undermine the Palestinian political system . The Israeli army said it had detained Mr Shaer because he was a member of a "terrorist organisation". Lest anyone forget, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, more than two months ago in order to extort the release of terrorists from Israeli prisons. Now Haniyeh runs crying to the world because the Israelis have begun to arrest Hamas' leadership for its...

August 20, 2006

Fuad And Kofi: Big Fans Of Newspeak

The war peace in Lebanon keeps getting stranger. Fuad Siniora and Kofi Annan seem intent on standing themselves on their heads rhetorically to ensure that they can blame Israel when Lebanon and Hezbollah violate the terms of the cease-fire. Although Lebanon has rejected the key component of UN Security Council 1701 -- the disarming of Hezbollah -- Annan made sure that he blamed Israel for violating the agreement to which Lebanon agreed: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced Saturday night that the raid in Baalbek constitutes a violation of the UN cease-fire resolution that went into effect on Monday. A statement issued by Annan's spokesman said that the UN chief spoke with both Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Olmert about the fighting. "The secretary-general is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities," it said. "All such violations of Security Council Resolution 1701...

British Night Goggles Go From Iran To Hezbollah

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Israelis have found sensitive night-vision goggles on Hezbollah fighters that originated in the UK. The tactical equipment appears to come from a shipment sent from the British government to Iran in 2003, intended to help interdict narcotics. Instead, the Iranians put them to another use entirely (via The Asylum): Israeli intelligence officials have complained to Britain and the United States that sensitive night-vision equipment recovered from Hezbollah fighters during the war in Lebanon had been exported by Britain to Iran. British officials said the equipment had been intended for use in a U.N. anti-narcotics campaign. Israeli officials say they believe the state-of-the-art equipment, found in Hezbollah command-and-control headquarters in southern Lebanon during the just-concluded war, was part of a British government-approved shipment of 250 pieces of night-vision equipment sent to Iran in 2003. Israeli military intelligence confirmed that one of the pieces of equipment...

August 21, 2006

Israel Rejects Peacekeepers Who Reject Israel

Israel has formally rejected the UN's plan to comprise its bolstered UNIFIL force with nations who do not recognize Israel. Ehud Olmert has warned Lebanon and the UN that it will not abide by 1701 if the UN stations hostile troops on its northern border: ISRAEL said last night that it would veto the presence in Lebanon of peace-keeping forces from nations with which it does not have diplomatic links. Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, ruled out countries that do not recognise Israel, complicating the already difficult task of assembling 15,000 troops to oversee the United Nations’ ceasefire resolution and bolster Lebanese forces. Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh — Muslim states that do not have diplomatic links to Israel — are among the few countries that have offered troops for the stabilisation force that is expected to be led by European troops. This arises from the collapse of French fortitude after...

UNIFIL Teeth Sharpened?

The Jerusalem Post reports that Kofi Annan will modify the rules of engagement for UNIFIL to allow them to open fire on armed Hezbollah positions and troops. This change, if true, would constitute a major departure for the UN and its hapless observer forces in the region: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to recommend Monday that the rules of engagement of the enhanced UNIFIL force to be deployed in Lebanon include opening fire on Hizbullah where necessary, The Jerusalem Post has learned. While UN Security Council Resolution 1701 mandated an enhanced UNIFIL force to help the Lebanese Army deploy south and along the border with Syria, it did not spell out the operational procedures of this force. Israel has been pushing for the need for an effective force, arguing that one of the criteria would be the ability to open fire on Hizbullah if the force saw, for instance,...

August 22, 2006

Abbas Retreats On Cease-Fire

Mahmoud Abbas had to retreat on his announced efforts to stop rocket fire from Gaza into Israel after almost all of the various armed groups in the territory rejected his plan. Even Fatah's own in-house lunatics, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, refused to stop attacking Israel, demonstrating the lack of power held by the PA president: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was forced earlier this week to call off plans to deploy PA security personnel in the northern Gaza Strip when several armed groups, including militias from his own Fatah movement, threatened to attack these forces, PA officials here told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. Abbas had planned to deploy several hundred PA policemen and security officers in an attempt to stop the armed organizations from firing rockets at Israel, the officials said, noting that the proposed move had won the backing of the US and Israel. "Those who are...

August 23, 2006

Israelis Cancel West Bank Withdrawal

The Israeli push to withdraw from the West Bank has become a casualty of the Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon. With Israelis increasingly angry about the performance of the government in the conflict and disgusted with the results of conciliatory gestures, Ehud Olmert has little choice but to shelve plans to pull out of the occupied territory: The plan, which propelled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to victory in March elections and was warmly endorsed by President Bush as a way of solving Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, is no longer a top priority, Olmert told his ministers last weekend, according to one of his advisers. Instead, the government must spend its money and efforts in northern Israel to repair the damage from the war and strengthen the area in case fighting breaks out again, Olmert said. ... Even without the financial considerations, the plan for unilateral withdrawal from some settlements is...

A Meaty Mandate, With A Caveat

The mandate for the expanded UNIFIL force turned out more robust than first thought. According to the Associated Press, it allows for offensive military action in support of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1701 (and 1559 by implication): Proposed rules of engagement for an expanded UN force in southern Lebanon would allow troops to open fire in self-defense, protect civilians and back up the Lebanese army in preventing foreign forces or arms from crossing the border, according to a UN document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The 20-page draft was circulated to potential troop-contributing countries last week by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which is trying to get an additional 3,500 troops on the ground by the end of next week to strengthen the 2,000 overstretched UN peacekeepers already there. The rules of engagement for the expanded force - which is authorized to grow to 15,000...

August 24, 2006

The Birth Of The Caliphate? Nice Try

Fatah leaders will conference for the next three days in Jordan to determine their relationship with Hamas. However, by the time they have that figured out, they will return to a Gaza that will be the seat of the new Caliphate -- at least according to an even more radical group than Hamas: Meanwhile, a radical Islamic group called Hizb al-Tahrir (Liberation Party) is planning to declare the birth of an Islamic caliphate in the Gaza Strip on Friday. The relatively small party, which is seen as more extreme than Hamas, is said to have increased its popularity following what is perceived as a Hizbullah victory over Israel. On Tuesday, thousands of the party's supporters staged a demonstration in Gaza City to mark the anniversary of the end of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It was the first demonstration in the Gaza Strip in which demonstrators called for establishing...

An Illusory Partner For Peace

Western diplomats have desperately held out Mahmoud Abbas as a partner for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but events over the past week have exposed Abbas as an empty suit in Palestinian politics. My new column in the Examiner explains why: The Fatah leader that the U.S. and the West consider the best partner for peace in the region had to cancel orders to deploy Palestinian security personnel into the northern Gaza region where most of the rocket attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad originate. Fatah’s own in-house lunatics, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, refused to stop attacking Israel, demonstrating the lack of power held by the West’s partner for peace. The Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas was the only group that had accepted Abbas’s cease-fire. When his own band of militants refused to carry out Abbas’ orders, the deal fell apart. The lack of influence on Abbas’ part shows...

August 26, 2006

Olmert Teetering On Political Oblivion

Ehud Olmert may have reached the end of his political rope, as almost two-thirds of Israelis want him out of office. Up to now, the ruling coalition that has kept the Kadima leader in power has not yet crumbled, but that may change soon: DISCONTENT over Ehud Olmert’s handling of the war with Hezbollah has risen sharply, to the extent that most Israelis now believe that the Prime Minister should resign. An opinion poll in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper yesterday showed that 63 per cent of those questioned want Mr Olmert to go. In contrast, support for his rival Binyamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party has risen sharply. The steep decline in Mr Olmert’s popularity has gathered momentum as the ranks of protesters dismayed by his Government’s management of the conflict have grown since the United Nations’ ceasefire began 12 days ago. The Israeli public opinion has been further shaped by...

August 27, 2006

Prisoner Swap Deal In Progress?

Egyptian sources told a Cairo newspaper that a deal to release kidnapped IDF soldiers has been made, and the Israelis will swap Palestinian prisoners in exchange: The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram said Sunday morning that according to high-ranking Egyptian sources, an exchange deal is set to take place between Israel and Hizbullah within the next two or three weeks, Israel Radio reported. The first stage of the agreement would be the release of the two soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah last month, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the report said. The next stage, the sources said, would be Israel's release of Palestinian prisoners a day or two after the soldiers are returned. A similar deal has been made with the Gaza kidnappers of Gilad Shalit. the newspaper reported. All exchanges will be made within the next three weeks. If this is true, then Israel has made a big mistake. One of the...

Centanni, Wiig Released After 'Conversion'

Kidnapped journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig won their release and have returned to safety. Their abductors only freed them after "converting" the pair to the Religion of PeaceTM at gunpoint: Two FOX News journalists were released by their kidnappers Sunday, nearly two weeks after they were taken hostage in the Gaza Strip. ... "We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint," Centanni told FOX News. "Don't get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn't know what the hell was going on." ... Later Sunday, the two journalists made a joint appearance with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. Haniyeh, Centanni and Wiig sat in a circle of chairs at the Beach Hotel. Wiig was also accompanied...

Nasrallah: Oops! Our Bad

Hezbollah admits that the war they provoked caught them by surprise in a television interview today. Hassan Nasrallah also told the Lebanese that he would not have ordered the operation had he known of the potential Israeli response: "We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," he said in an interview with Lebanon's New TV station. ... Nasrallah also said the United Nations and Italy already had initiated "contacts" about beginning negotiations on a prisoner swap. Israeli officials have been refusing to comment on the record about the prospects of a prisoner exchange, citing the extreme sensitivity of the issue. But military officials said earlier this month...

August 28, 2006

Lantos: No Lebanon Aid Until Beirut Acts Responsibly

Rep. Tom Lantos wants Congress to perform the task that the United Nations appears unwilling or incapable of doing: forcing Lebanon to take responsibility for its own sovereignty. The ranking member of the House International Relations Committee wants to suspend aid to Lebanon until the Fuad Siniora government agrees to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701: A congressman said Sunday he would ask the U.S. administration to freeze the $230 million aid package to Lebanon proposed by President Bush until the Lebanese government takes control of its borders with Syria and prevents arms smuggling to Hezbollah guerrillas. ... Lantos said he told Olmert the U.S. aid package to Lebanon was important, "but that this package should be withheld until the Lebanese government displays responsibility." "A porous Syrian-Lebanon border will only invite the repetition of Hezbollah attacks in the future. Hezbollah must not be allowed to rearm again," he said....

Hamas, Getting A Clue

Golda Meir once said that Israel and the Palestinians would have peace when the latter learned to love their children more than they hate the Jews. So far we see little improvement on the latter, but the Jerusalem Post notes that Hamas may have started working on the former: "When you walk in the streets of Gaza City, you cannot but close your eyes because of what you see there: unimaginable chaos, careless policemen, young men carrying guns and strutting with pride and families receiving condolences for their dead in the middle of the street." This is how Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority government and a former newspaper editor, described the situation in the Gaza Strip in an article he published on Sunday on some Palestinian news Web sites. The article, the first of its kind by a senior Hamas official, also questioned the effectiveness of the...

August 29, 2006

Olmert Dodges Independent Review Of War

Ehud Olmert has rejected calls for an independent investigation into the leadership and management of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, opting to stick with an internal review of the conflict split between three different government committees. Dan Izenberg writes in today's Jerusalem Post that the dodge will fool no one and may increase calls for the beleaguered Prime Minister's removal: The Movement for Quality Government and the head of the army reservists protest movement have already declared they will continue their campaign for an independent state committee of inquiry headed by a judge. Meanwhile, University of Haifa law professor Emmanuel Gross described Olmert's proposal as a "cover-up committee." There will be many critics, and not only from the political opposition, that will agree. The second Lebanese War raised questions regarding three major issues: the IDF's preparedness for and conduct of the war, the government's definition of its war aims...

August 30, 2006

Olmert And The Fixed Buffet

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has shrugged off repeated calls by UN head Kofi Annan to lift the military blockade of Lebanon, telling reporters that he sees the cease-fire agreement as a "fixed buffet" and, presumably, not a smorgasbord: Mr Annan said the blockade should be lifted to help Lebanon recover from the month-long conflict. But Mr Olmert said only that Israel would pull out of the Lebanon once UN resolution 1701 was implemented. "[The resolution] is not a buffet where you pick up one item and leave others," he said. "So far as we're concerned we entirely accept this, this is a fixed buffet and everything will be implemented including the lifting of the blockade as part of an entire implementation of the different articles." Mr Olmert said unless two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on 12 July were freed, the UN resolution "cannot be considered as fully implemented"....

August 31, 2006

Abbas: End The Rocket Attacks

Two days after the official spokesman of the Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority castigated terrorists for turning Gaza into a chaotic nightmare, PA president Mahmoud Abbas demanded an end to provocations against Israel: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has launched a scathing attack on armed groups that are firing rockets from the Gaza Strip, saying Wednesday they were responsible for bringing death and destruction to the Palestinians. Addressing thousands of demonstrators outside his office in Ramallah, Abbas said, "So far we have about 250 martyrs in the Gaza Strip and thousands of wounded people and destroyed houses. Why? What are the reasons for this? Let's start searching for the reason for all this." Abbas was referring to the number of Palestinians who have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit in June. His comments, which were interpreted as criticism of Hamas and its...

September 1, 2006

In What Universe?

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad assured him that Syria would enforce the arms embargo on Hezbollah, and that the Syrian army would patrol the border to ensure that arms traffic ceased: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday that Syria would step up border patrols and work with the Lebanese army to stop the flow of weapons to Hizbullah. Syria will increase its own patrols along the Lebanon-Syria border, and establish joint patrols with the Lebanese army "when possible," Annan said after meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. ... Annan said Assad informed him that Syria would "take all necessary measures" to implement paragraph 15 of UN resolution 1701, which calls on countries to prevent the sale or supply of weapons to entities in Lebanon without the consent of the Lebanese government or UN peacekeepers. It would be a lovely development if it were...

September 5, 2006

Israel Considering Arab Initiative

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israelis have come back to the stalled Arab Initiative, a comprehensive peace plan sponsored by the Saudis four years ago. The Saudis apparently intend on raising the plan again at an upcoming summit in Cairo, and the Israelis will watch with interest how it develops: Israel will be watching a meeting of the foreign ministers of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia scheduled for Tuesday in Cairo with "interest, but little expectation," senior diplomatic officials said Monday. The meeting, which is also likely to include the PLO's foreign minister Farouk Kaddoumi, is expected to discuss an Arab League peace initiative that will likely be presented at the UN later this month. UN Secretary of State Kofi Annan said in Damascus Friday that the Arab League has called on the UN Security Council to formally recognize "the need to reactivate the Middle Eastern...

September 6, 2006

Germans Plan For Success, Which Gets Hezbollah Objection

Hezbollah has objected to the deployment of German troops in the sub-Litani region, the German magazine Expatica reports, because Germany intends to fulfill the literal mandate of UNSCR 1701. Hezbollah expressed "reservations" over German intentions to search vehicles entering its area for arms: The Shiite Hezbollah militia has expressed "reservations" about Germany's involvement in the multinational UN force deploying for Lebanon, owing to German demands that its troops be allowed to stop and search boats bound for the country. "Our reservations are regarding the German demand to search boats as they enter Lebanon," Hezbollah member of parliament Hussein Haj Hassan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on Tuesday. "Such a demand stands against the sovereignty of Lebanon." Hezbollah "is not against the German government and has great respect for the German people," Haj Hassan stressed, "but they want the German government to review its stand towards Lebanon." Haj Hassan additionally accused Berlin...

September 9, 2006

French Military Turns Pacifist On Shores Of Lebanon

When Israel agreed to lift the air and sea blockade of Lebanon two days ago, the UN promised that the forces replacing them would interdict arms intended to resupply their enemy, Hezbollah. France, which will provide substantial forces in controlling sea access to Lebanon, now says its military will not use force to stop anything: France announced on Friday that the international naval force designated to patrol Lebanon's territorial waters would not be authorized to employ force to stop ships from entering or leaving Lebanon. A spokesman for the French defense ministry said that the international craft would only provide assistance for Lebanese ships, and would not interfere with other nations' boats, Israel Radio reported. Earlier Friday, Israel began to remove its naval blockade of Lebanon, imposed almost two months after Hizbullah launched its cross-border raid and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Maj.-Gen. Alain Pellegrini, the French commander of UNIFIL, said...

September 11, 2006

The Difference Between Israel And Its Enemies

In Israel, Jewish terrorists get tried and convicted: An Israeli settler who shot and killed four Palestinian civilians in the West Bank in an attempt to scuttle Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip was convicted Monday in the Jerusalem District Court on four counts of murder. Asher Weisgan, 38, of the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, who had subsequently called for the assassination of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had been found mentally fit to stand trial by a psychiatrist who examined him at court order. A driver who transported Palestinian laborers, Weisgan grabbed a gun from a security guard at the end of the work day last August after asking him for a drink of water, and then opened fire at the workers in his car at close range, killing three instantly and mortally wounding a fourth, who died later on the operating table at Jerusalem's Hadassah-University Hospital...

September 13, 2006

Palestinians May Walk Away From Self-Government

The Washington Post reports that the newly-declared unity government might not last very long if its leaders cannot convince Israel and the West to lift economic sanctions imposed after Hamas took power earlier this year. More Palestinians believe that the Palestinian Authority should collapse if it cannot meet its payroll: Created a dozen years ago to administer the occupied Palestinian territories, the frail political system called the Palestinian Authority is now broke, paralyzed by months of partisan infighting and depleted by Israeli arrests. A growing number of Palestinians -- a group that has expanded in recent months from a core of secular intellectuals to include officials from the leading political movements -- have begun advocating openly for the authority's dissolution. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, facing a strike by civil servants over unpaid wages, agreed this week to form a power-sharing government with Fatah and other factions in hopes...

September 14, 2006

Israeli Arabs a 'Fifth Column'?

Israeli Arabs have come under unprecedented criticism in the last few weeks, undermining their political position in the nation. While majorities still see native Arabs as Israelis, growing percentages of Israelis want them to emigrate out of Israel, with even Knesset members expressing hostility towards them. The potential for increasing racism have some politicians worried, especially Israeli Arab MKs. However, as the Jerusalem Post reports, they have done the most damage to their image themselves: Unsurprisingly, this trend worries Israeli Arabs. MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) complained of a "season of incitement against Arab MKs" during the recent Lebanon war. Bakar Awada, director of the Center Against Racism, said the poll showed that "racism is becoming mainstream…. This is a worrisome development." Yet Israeli Arab leaders apparently still see no connection between this growing anti-Arab sentiment and their own behavior. And in fact, their behavior is the main impetus for this...

Arabs Increasingly See Lebanon As A Loss

At the imposition of the UN Security Council cease-fire resolution, the West almost unanimously considered the war in Lebanon a disaster for Israel. Most analysts insisted that Israel's failure to destroy Hezbollah amounted to a humiliation and worried about the energizing effect Hassan Nasrallah's victory would have on radical Islam's popularity in the region. These analysts would be surprised to learn that Arabs increasingly view Hezbollah's war as a disaster as well -- but a disaster for Arabs: At the height of the war, as Hizbullah rockets regularly sent hundreds of thousands of Israelis scurrying to the shelters like "rabbits and mice," as some of the Arab media noted with undisguised gratification, the mood tended to be militantly euphoric, buoyed by the widely broadcast images of Israeli suffering and humiliation. But as the war came to its conclusion and life in Israel returned pretty much to normal, opinion in the...

September 16, 2006

The Limited Reluctance Of Israel

Israel has warned Lebanon that a failure to disarm Hezbollah will lead to a war with Lebanon if Hezbollah attacks Israel again. Tzipi Livni, Israel's Foreign Minister, told the Washington Post that the stakes will go up considerably if the terrorists attempt more provocations along the Blue Line: The Lebanese government must fully implement a recent U.N. resolution requiring the disarming of the militant Shiite group Hezbollah or Israel will be less reluctant to attack the Lebanese state if Hezbollah resumes hostilities, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said yesterday. Livni, in an interview with editors and reporters of The Washington Post, said that when the fighting began in July after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers, Israel heeded calls from world officials not to undermine the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora because the formation of the government and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian troops was an "achievement of the international...

September 18, 2006

The Icognito Victory Lap

Hassan Nasrallah wants to celebrate Hezbollah's "victory" with a massive rally in Beirut, in the suburbs that have served as a Hezbollah stronghold for decades. That apparently won't be enough for Nasrallah, however, as he will not commit to appearing at his own victory rally: Hizbullah's leader on Sunday called for a massive rally in Beirut's bombed out southern suburbs to mark the militant group's "victory" over Israel during the monthlong fighting this summer. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said the rally, to be held Friday evening, would show Hizbullah's "absolute commitment to our right to recover our land and prisoners and defend our nation, its dignity, freedom, sovereignty and real and full independence in the face of [Israeli] occupation." "I call on all of you to participate in this victory rally," he said in a brief, televised speech broadcast on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV station. Nasrallah, who went into hiding on July...

September 21, 2006

Palestinian Government To Recognize Israel?

MS-NBC is flashing a banner announcing that Mahmoud Abbas has stated that the new unity government of the Palestinian Authority will explicitly recognize Israel. So far, no wire service has a story, but I will keep my eyes open for fresh reporting on this subject. Stand by! .... UPDATE: Allahpundit sends the link to the AFP wire story. Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that any new Palestinian government would recognize Israel's right to exist: Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that any new Palestinian government would recognise Israel. "I would like to reaffirm that any future Palestinian government will commit to all the agreements that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority have committed to," he said in a speech to the assembly. Abbas referred in particular to letters exchanged by Palestinian and Israeli leaders, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, in 1993 which...

September 23, 2006

Abbas: Back To Zero On Unity Government

Mahmoud Abbas will have to wipe the egg off of his face after his stunning announcement at the UN proved false. He now says that all efforts to form a unity government for the Palestinian Authority have returned to the drawing board when Ismail Haniyeh and the rest of Hamas refused to join if they had to recognize Israel's right to exist (h/t CQ reader Cynic): Efforts to form a Palestinian government acceptable to the West have gone "back to zero," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday, a day after Hamas said a coalition government that recognizes Israel is unacceptable. The Islamic militant group has ruled alone since March, but this month agreed to share power with Abbas' moderate Fatah Party in hopes of ending a crippling international aid boycott of the Palestinian Authority. The Hamas-Fatah coalition deal sidestepped recognition of Israel. Instead, it said the government would seek to...

September 25, 2006

Palestinian Situation Crumbling

Mahmoud Abbas says he will try once more to get Hamas into a unity government that will abide by the agreements signed with Israel, but several militias threatened open rebellion to any government that offers official recognition of Israel. The developments leave the Palestinian Authority with almost no mandate and no chance to convince the West to restart aid to the territories: Four Palestinian armed groups on Sunday threatened to target any Palestinian government that recognizes Israel's right to exist and attacked Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for "succumbing" to US pressure. The latest threat came as Abbas was preparing to travel to the Gaza Strip for another round of talks with PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over the formation of a joint Hamas-Fatah government. Abbas is demanding that the political program of the proposed government recognize Israel and honor all previous agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel. Hamas...

September 27, 2006

Egypt Loses Patience With Hamas

Egypt sent a "strongly-worded letter" to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal after seeing its attempts to resolve the Gaza crisis come to naught. The letter demands that Mashaal release kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, and Hamas to form a unity government with Mahmoud Abbas: Egypt has demanded that Hamas immediately release kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit to avoid a worsening crisis in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials and Arab diplomats said. The Egyptian demand came in a "strongly worded letter" from Egypt's powerful intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to the Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, the officials said Tuesday. The letter also demanded Hamas cooperate fully with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in forming a national unity government, a step that has been stalled by the Hamas' refusal to form an administration that recognizes Israel. The message reflected increasing impatience with Hamas by Egypt, which has been mediating for months, trying...

September 28, 2006

New Offensive Brewing In Gaza

The London Telegraph reports that Palestinian militants have acquired tons of explosives and perhaps even advanced missiles, preparing for a showdown with the IDF they expect to come if Gilad Shalit is not freed soon. The terrorists want to emulate Hezbollah's attack against the Israelis and have upgraded their weapons systems with that in mind: Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip are rearming and retraining for an imminent military showdown with the Israeli army, intelligence sources disclosed yesterday. Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel's intelligence service Shin Bet, said 19 tons of explosives had been smuggled into Gaza in the past year. Other senior Israeli officials indicated that Palestinian fighters were acquiring more effective weapons. ... Brigadier General Shalom Harari, a military intelligence officer, said yesterday that Israeli forces might "go into Gaza in a big way" unless Cpl Shalit is freed. Accusing Iran of being behind the new weapons...

October 3, 2006

Hamas Rejects 1100-1 Prisoner Swap For Shalit

Hamas appears prepared to act as reasonably as ever, the Jerusalem Post reports. Egypt announced that Hamas had refused to accept a deal to free captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, even after the Mubarak government tried offering up to 1,100 Palestinian prisoners in exchange: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Monday that Israel had offered to release up to 1,000 prisoners in exchange for captured soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, but Hamas had turned down the proposal. "[There was] a deal that could have freed 900 to 1,000 prisoners, but sadly they have decided to keep holding him," he told Al-Arabiyeh Television. Egypt has been mediating between Israel and Hamas over the release of Shalit, who was abducted at Kerem Shalom on the Gaza border on June 25. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz told Israel Radio on Sunday that the IDF might step up military operations in...

October 5, 2006

Israel Sacks Its Toughest War Critic

It seems that Israel has found its analogy to Douglas MacArthur. Just as the legendary American general forced his own cashiering onto Harry Truman by intimating that the President lacked the will to win in Korea, Major General Yiftah Ron-Tal criticized his superior publicly and got a discharge for his trouble: Israel's army chief fired a top general Wednesday over his criticism of the war in Lebanon and government policy, the army said. The dismissed officer, Maj. Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal gave unauthorized interviews to several Israeli news media earlier Wednesday, an army statement said. Ron-Tal said army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz must "accept responsibility" for the shortcomings of Israel's 34-day war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, which ended Aug. 14. Halutz, in a letter to Ron-Tal, said he was terminating the general's stay in the military immediately. Halutz said Ron-Tal's decision to make public statements was "unacceptable," the...

October 6, 2006

These Petards Are Made For Hoisting

The Palestinians have continued tunneling under the Gaza-Egypt border, presumably to smuggle arms across the border without attracting attention. They managed to literally blow that today, and the illicit weapons they smuggled into the tunnel apparently provided their undoing: An explosion collapsed a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border early Friday, trapping five terrorists inside and killing at least one, Palestinians said. The Aksa Martyrs' Brigades said the five were members. The group refused to say what they were doing. The group said the explosion was not caused by an IAF air strike, after first blaming Israel. They refused to say what they were doing in an illegal tunnel that inexplicably blew up? Why would they need to spell it out for anyone?...

October 8, 2006

Rice's Diplomacy In Middle East Starting To Pay Off

Herb Keinon sheds some light on the murky efforts by Condoleezza Rice in confronting the radicalism in the Middle East, especially as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian mess. His length analysis points out the progress Rice has made in the past several weeks in convincing the existing regimes that democratization presents a far less significant threat, especially in the long term, than Iranian- and Syrian-backed radical Islamists. This slow realization has begun paying dividends as the Arab states now see organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas as threats to their own survival as well as Israel's: Remember, as well, that unlike the days when Colin Powell led the State Department, now there is largely one source of foreign policy power in Washington, and it rests with Rice. She needs some kind of achievement. Forming a coalition of moderate Arab states to counterbalance Iran, Hizbullah, Syria and Hamas would fit the...

October 12, 2006

Gaza Descends

Gaza has begun its descent into all-out civil war as the economy continues to tank and no one has the political will to solve the problem. Hamas has committed summary executions of protesting government workers unhappy with the lack of pay, and Fatah has struck back with attacks of its own: As Yusuf Siam stood to greet mourners, a boy arrived with a handful of papers marked from the al-Aqsa Brigade, a Fatah-affiliated militant group, and handed them out. The letter offered condolences to the family and then vowed revenge. "For the families of the people who lost their sons at the hands of Hamas we swear that their blood will not be spilt for nothing," it said. "We will give a lesson to Hamas." There are signs that this is more serious than rhetorical rivalry between militants. "The Palestinian situation is marred by sharp divisions and battling; it is...

October 18, 2006

Technocracy In Palestine?

Mahmoud Abbas may appoint a new Cabinet of technocrats to replace the Hamas government that has drawn economic santions from former benefactors in an attempt to get money flowing to the Palestinians. Instead of appointing politicians and faction leaders to the ministries, Abbas wants to handpick Palestinian professionals for the jobs: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday promoted the idea of a Cabinet of technocrats as a way to ease crippling Western sanctions, but pledged not to force it on Hamas, who reacted coolly to the idea. Abbas addressed reporters for more than an hour at his headquarters in Ramallah on Tuesday evening. In his strongest endorsement yet of the technocrat idea of a Cabinet made up of professionals instead of politicians, he said it should be "considered seriously" as a way out of the current deadlock. ... The idea was endorsed earlier Tuesday by a group of academics,...

October 20, 2006

Hezbollah Used Cluster Munitions Against Israel

Israel has taken worldwide condemnation for its use of cluster munitions in the war against Hezbollah this summer. Human Rights Watch esitimated that as many as 4 million bomblets got shot ino Lebanon by the Israelis, a quarter of which have yet to be cleaned up and which cause casualties every day. However, HRW didn't disclose until yesterday that both sides used cluster munitions: The Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah fired cluster munitions during its 33-day war with Israel last summer, in strikes that caused one death and 12 injuries, according to a report released this week by the New York-based Human Rights Watch. The group expressed alarm over the rising supply of these controversial weapons to non-state armed groups. "We are disturbed to discover that not only Israel but also Hezbollah used cluster munitions in the recent conflict, at a time when many countries are turning away from this kind...

October 27, 2006

Shalit For 1,000 Players To Be Named Later

The status of Gilad Shalit appears to be a little closer to resolution, according to sources speaking to London-based Al-Hayat, an Arabic newspaper. According to these sources, Hamas has dropped its demand for the immediate release of 1,000 Palestinians for Shalit under increasing pressure from Egypt: Reportedly, the Hamas leadership has withdrawn its demand that concurrent with Shalit's release, Palestinian security prisoners would be immediately released by Israel. Instead, Hamas is said to be willing to free Shalit, and wait two months for Israel to release some 1000 prisoners Al-Hayat claimed that Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal was expected to hear Israel's response to the proposal when he travels from Damascus to Cairo next week to meet with head of Egyptian intelligence Omar Suleiman. Israel had agreed in principle earlier to release a large number of Palestinian prisoners in order to get Shalit back. However, Mashaal reneged on the offer, embarrassing...

October 29, 2006

A Coup In Palestine?

Can a president of a government conduct a coup? That question may soon find an answer in the Palestinian territories, as Mahmoud Abbas insists that he will dissolve the Hamas government in favor of an appointed technocracy. The threat comes as Hamas still refuses to form a national-unity government that will meet the requirements of Western nations for a restoral of badly-needed subsidies: Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he will dissolve the Hamas-led government within two weeks if the Islamic group does not agree to form a governing coalition with his Fatah Party, Palestinian officials said. Abbas told the European Union's top diplomat that he would replace the Cabinet with an apolitical panel of professionals, the officials said Friday. The moderate Palestinian president has raised the idea before but promised not to force it on a reluctant Hamas. His new stand suggested a willingness to take a stronger line...

October 31, 2006

Germans And Israelis Have Trust Issues

The Israelis requested German troops as part of the scaled-up UNIFIL forces that would enforce the terms of Resolution 1701. Ehud Olmert went out of his way to request the troops from the Angela Merkel government, a remarkable development sixty years after the Holocaust. Germany, feeling vindicated after generations of effort to atone for the Nazi atrocities, sent their contingent to Lebanon and the Mediterranean, believing that a new age of trust was within its grasp. Unfortunately, as Der Spiegel reports, it didn't quite work out that way: It started so well. But now, questions surround Germany's mission to Lebanon. Not only have Israeli planes buzzed German ships, but the naval mission has fewer rights than at first promised. The German parliament is demanding answers. One thing is certain, when Germany's Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung visits Israel and Lebanon the end of this week, there will be no shortage...

November 2, 2006

Iran Torpedoes Shalit Deal

Iran bribed Hamas and Khaled Mashaal in order to convince them to renege on their agreement to release Gilad Shalit, the London Telegraph reports. Israel accused Teheran of paying Hamas and Mashaal 30 million pounds, and have filed an official complaint at the UN: Israel has accused Iran of scuppering attempts to win the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal captured by Palestinian militants near Gaza, by paying the militant Palestinian Islamic group Hamas £30 million not to agree to a prisoner exchange. Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, said Teheran paid Khaled Meshaal, the hard-line Hamas leader who lives as an exile in Damascus, to ruin any chance of a negotiated settlement to this summer's Gaza crisis. "The Iranians paid him £30 million in order to avert and sabotage an imminent release," the ambassador said in New York. "I informed the Security Council of news that...

November 6, 2006

Hamas Folds In The Face Of Technocracy

The Palestinian factions at dagger point have reached an accord, the Jerusalem Post reports, that will replace the current government. Ismail Haniyeh has apparently agreed to step down as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, although no one knows who will replace him: Hamas and Fatah have reached an agreement on the establishment of a unity government in the Palestinian Authority, senior Palestinian sources told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported late Sunday night. According to Army Radio, the sources said that current PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will not head the unity government, but have not yet revealed who will. Haniyeh and PA President Mahmoud Abbas are expected to meet in the next few days. Will this actually happen? It's been rumored for weeks now. Abbas got tired of waiting a couple of weeks back and started threatening to form a technocracy of appointed apolitical experts with or without...

November 10, 2006

What's Olmert Got For Sale?

Ehud Olmert made it clear that he wants to sit down with Mahmoud Abbas and start serious negotiations. He told an interviewer that he would meet with the Palestinian Authority president at any time or place for talks, and that Abbas didn't know how far Olmert would go to achieve peace: Three days ahead of his trip to Washington D.C., Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged on Thursday night to make substantive offers to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. "I am ready day and night, I am ready anytime, any place, without preconditions to sit down and talk. He [Abbas] will be surprised how far we are prepared to go," Olmert said in a public interview with Sky's Adam Boulton at the Conference for Export and International Cooperation in Tel Aviv. "I can offer him a lot," he added, but did not elaborate. The two leaders have not met officially since...

November 11, 2006

Hamas Retreats

Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh has announced his intention to resign from office if an agreement can be forged which will allow international aid to flow back to the Palestinian Authority. However, he has not repudiated the positions which caused the aid to stop, and claims that the new government will not budge from those principles either: Hamas committed today to folding its eight-month government if that would restore the international assistance that was cut off after it won national elections earlier this year. In a shrewd and dramatic speech, the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyah, said he would likely resign in the next “two or three weeks” to make way for a national unity government more acceptable to international donors than Hamas, the organization responsible for the deadliest attacks against Israel. ... It was a public acknowledgment that Hamas had failed to run the Palestinian Authority on its own terms in...

November 13, 2006

Palestinian Coalition Talks Get Serious

It looks like Fatah and Hamas may have made progress in their talks to form a coalition government in an effort to end the crippling sanctions that followed Hamas' electoral victory this year. They have gone far enough to discuss leadership positions in the revamped Palestinian Authority, and the name discussed for Ismail Haniyeh's replacement may sound familiar to West Virginians: A U.S.-educated professor with ties to both Hamas and the rival Fatah Party is the leading candidate for Palestinian prime minister in the emerging unity government, officials said Monday. The militant Hamas group and Fatah have agreed that Mohammed Shabir, 60, formerly the head of Gaza's Islamic University, should head the new government, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top official at Hamas' Syrian headquarters, told The Associated Press. Fatah and Hamas have been discussing the idea of a coalition government for months, but have been unable to reach a deal....

November 18, 2006

When No One Has It Right

Members of the Quartet, the association of nations attempting to resolve the Palestinian problem, have objected to an apparently new plan by the Bush administration to arm Fatah so it can compete with Hamas. America's partners want to support a national unity government to lift the sanctions and do whatever they can to avoid a civil war in the territories. Unfortunately, no one has the right idea about how to proceed towards a two-state peace plan: AMERICAN proposals to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian security forces with additional guns and fighters have alarmed other Western nations, who argue that it is tantamount to supporting one faction in a potential civil war. Fearing the strength of Hamas in Gaza, some US officials have urged that the moderate President Abbas should be given “deterrent capability” so that his Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority forces can confront the Islamist group if talks on a national unity...

November 26, 2006

Triangle Offense Returns In Record Time

Last night, I noticed that the Israelis had once again agreed to a cease-fire and withdrawal from Gaza, reaching the accord with Hamas and Fatah. The Guardian reported the "hopes for peace" late last night, and I intended on writing a cautionary post about it this morning. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas had told Ehud Olmert that all factions had agreed to the deal: Palestinian militants have agreed to stop firing rockets into Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a halt to targetted killings, it emerged last night. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, telephoned Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, and told him that all Palestinian factions had agreed to a ceasefire from 6am this morning. Olmert replied that if there was no rocket fire from Gaza, Israeli forces could stop their operations and begin to withdraw from Gaza. The ceasefire could bring an end to...

November 28, 2006

Olmert Offers Peace, Fatah Responds As Usual

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave what had been billed as a major policy speech, but to little practical effect. Olmert urged Palestinians to agree to end hostilities in order to negotiate for a long-term peace and offered mass prisoner releases as an incentive, but the Palestinians responded with rocket attacks from Gaza: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, trying to build on a shaky cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, on Monday offered Palestinians a series of incentives, including negotiations and a prisoner release, if they turned away from violence. The offer was made in what was billed as a major policy speech, but it contained little that was new. The timing was important, though, because Mr. Olmert and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, are eager to bolster their own political positions, begin a serious dialogue and stop a bloody cycle of violence. ... In his speech, Mr. Olmert appealed to...

November 29, 2006

Perhaps Olmert Is Learning, And Maybe We're Not

A day after offering a broad, if familiar, view of a path for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the Olmert government now signals that they will stop offering any more concessions until Hamas returns Gilad Shalit from captivity. All of Israel's offers of opened commerce and prisoner returns will remain on hold until they have Shalit: There is unlikely to be any additional progress in the suddenly rejuvenated diplomatic process until Cpl. Gilad Shalit is released, a senior diplomatic source said Tuesday, on the eve of a visit by Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. Suleiman met last week in Cairo with Damascus-based Hamas head Khaled Mashaal, who Israel believes holds the key to Shalit's fate. The official hinted that expanding the cease-fire from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank would also be dependent on the release of Shalit, who has been held since June 25. "Until the Shalit issue...

December 7, 2006

Hamas Shoots Its Mouth Off (Updated And Bumped)

Earlier today, the Jerusalem Post ran a story on Hamas' smuggling efforts to avoid the sanctions placed on the Palestinian Authority since they came to power. They have successfully imported $66 million, but that wasn't what caught the eye of The Anchoress when she read the article. Her jaw dropped at this: Hamas officials have managed to smuggle more than $66 million in cash through the Rafah border crossing in the past eight months, a member of the Hamas-led government revealed Wednesday. Meanwhile, sources close to the Hamas-led government claimed that Hamas representatives recently held talks with officials from the US Democratic Party at a secret location. The sources told the Bethlehem-based Maan News Agency that Hamas representatives have also been holding secret talks with European government officials, including Britain and France. However, a funny thing happened to the story in the intervening hours between The Anchoress' post and now...

December 8, 2006

Sun Rises In East, Taxes Get Collected, And ...

... Hamas insists that it will never recognize Israel nor abide by previous agreements of the Palestinian Authority. It's hardly breaking news; Hamas has said this repeatedly even before winning control of the PA early this year. However, their latest venue does warrant a second look: Haniyeh arrived in the Iranian capital on Thursday for a four-day visit for talks with Iranian leaders including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." ... Haniyeh called Iran, a longtime ally of Hamas, the Palestinians' "strategic depth" because they were together in their fight against Israel. "They (Israelis) assume the Palestinian nation is alone. This is an illusion. ... We have a strategic depth in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This country (Iran) is our powerful, dynamic and stable depth," he said. Iran has provided the Hamas-led Palestinian government with US$120 million (€90.25 million) this year...

December 12, 2006

Coming Home To Roost

Golda Meir once said, "Peace will come only when the Palestinians love their children more than they hate Jews." Unfortunately, Hamas has apparently decided that they hate Palestinian children almost as much as the Jews -- if the children belong to Fatah officials. Three children died in a deliberate assassination at the hands of Hamas, a murder that has shaken the territories: Fatah supporters blamed their rivals in the Hamas movement for the murder of the three children of a senior intelligence officer. Hamas denied responsibility and promised an investigation, but Fatah activists were unconvinced. As they attended an emotionally charged funeral for the children in Gaza City they shouted slogans blaming the Islamic movement for the killings. Coming a day after the Hamas interior minister survived an assassination attempt, the killings are expected to prompt more tit-for-tat violence between the two main Palestinian factions. ... In a region supposedly...

December 15, 2006

Bagman, Terror Man, Beggar Man, Chief

Ismail Haniyeh got stopped at the Gaza border yesterday for attempting to smuggle as much as $35 million in cash into the sanctions-hit territories. The border stop pushed tensions to the breaking point, and Hamas lashed out at both Fatah and the Egyptians on both sides of the line: In a bizarre standoff that lasted more than seven hours on Thursday, Israel barred the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniya, from returning home to the Gaza Strip, saying he was carrying tens of millions of dollars in cash that could be used for terrorist attacks. Mr. Haniya was finally allowed to cross from Egypt into the southern Gaza Strip late Thursday night, but only after leaving the money with Hamas officials who stayed behind in Egypt. During his lengthy wait, dozens of angry gunmen from his Hamas movement shot up the Rafah border terminal, clashing first with Palestinian security forces on...

December 17, 2006

The Real Civil War (Updated)

The Palestinians have slid closer to outright civil war after Mahmoud Abbas attempted to end the current Hamas-led government and call for new elections. Hamas responded by rejecting any participation in early elections, and Fatah responded by attempting to assassinate the Hamas foreign minister: Gunmen attacked the convoy of the Palestinian foreign minister and raided a training base for an elite security forces unit Sunday, stepping up factional violence over a decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end nine months of Hamas leadership and call early elections. A 19-year-old woman and a Palestinian security officer were killed in the chaos, while at least 13 people were wounded in gun battles across Gaza City. In one symbolic attack, Abbas' empty residence came under fire. Militants also fired two mortar shells at Abbas' nearby offices. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, in a first response to Abbas' decision, said the Islamic...

December 19, 2006

Blair Rejects Hamas

Tony Blair made clear yesterday that he considers the Hamas government to have no legitimacy in the Palestinian Authority. Blair endorsed Mahmoud Abbas' call for early elections despite uncertainty of his authority to do do: Rival Palestinian factions ignored an overnight truce and resumed fighting in Gaza as Tony Blair placed himself in the middle of the nascent civil war. Hamas fighters abducted a senior Fatah official, who was later released, and another Fatah supporter was killed. “This ceasefire risks being blown away in the wind,” a Fatah spokesman said. The fighting came hours after Mr Blair publicly backed President Abbas, head of the secular Fatah party, in his power struggle with Hamas, his Islamist rivals. Mr Blair declared Hamas to be an obstacle to peace because of its refusal to recognise Israel. “Nobody should have a veto on progress,” he said. Standing alongside Mr Abbas in Ramallah, the Prime...

December 20, 2006

No Blood For Blood

Have the Palestinians finally begun to reject the terrorism that they have championed for more than four decades? The London Times reports that they have started sending a message that they have had enough of bloody violence -- by refusing to replenish what's been spilled: As gunmen spilt it and warring politicians hailed its sanctity, ordinary Palestinians showed their disgust for feuding Hamas and Fatah gunmen by refusing to donate blood. Doctors at Gaza City’s main hospital are used to a plentiful supply of volunteers queuing up to donate blood for victims of Israeli attacks. But faced with the selfinflicted wounds of the nascent Palestinian civil war, that supply has all but dried up. “We are all frustrated and depressed,” said Dr Jumaa al-Saqqa, director of publicity at the Shifa hospital. ... “We have a shortage of blood in the bank now. During Israeli incursions hundreds of people come to...

December 23, 2006

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

It's good to have the weekend to relax, enjoy the company of good friends, and talk about everything they have in common: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a long-overdue summit Saturday, reviving hopes that peace talks can resume after years of fighting, hostility and distrust. Israeli officials say agreement reached on some issues in Olmert-Abbas summit, but no deal on releasing Palestinian prisoners. The meeting, announced just hours before it began, marked the first substantial talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in 22 months. It comes at a time when both men are facing serious political problems at home and stand to gain domestic support with a peace breakthrough. Olmert emerged from his official residence in Jerusalem to greet Abbas.The two shook hands and also kissed each other on the cheek. Abbas as then introduced to Olmert's wife Aliza, an artist known for her...

December 24, 2006

The $100 Million Barbecue

The weekend barbecue hosted by Ehud Olmert for his neighbor, Mahmoud Abbas, turned out to be more expensive than the cost of a beef brisket and a few brews. The long-awaited meeting between the head of the Palestinian Authority and the PM of Israel resulted in the transfer of $100 million in taxes and duties to the PA, with the promise of more to come: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made several concessions to the Palestinians on Saturday, including the release of $100 million in taxes and duties Israel had collected for their treasury but withheld for months, in a bid to revive a peace process stalled for years. Olmert also promised, in a dinner meeting at his office with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to begin easing travel restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and allowing more trucks through Israeli cargo crossings to and from the West Bank...

December 28, 2006

State Dept Confirms Arafat Masterminded Murder Of American Diplomats

A newly declassified report from 1973 shows that Yasser Arafat personally commanded the terrorist attack that resulted in the murders of Ambassador Cleo Noel and his deputy George Moore, as well as a Belgian diplomat. Moreover, the two murders appear to have been the entire point of Arafat's attack: The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yassir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the terrorists to the Saudi Arabian embassy. Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the release of the Fatah/BSO [Black September Organization] leader Muhammed Awadh (Abu Da'ud) from Jordanian captivity. Information acquired subsequently reveals that the Fatah/BSO leaders did not expect Awadh to be freed, and indicates that one of the...

December 29, 2006

Supplying The Means Of Their Destruction

Ehud Olmert has decided to go all out for his new bestest buddy, Mahmoud Abbas, with the blessing of the United States. Olmert has arranged for Abbas and his Fatah faction to receive new guns and equipment from Egypt in an attempt to tilt the balance of Palestinian power away from Hamas: After coordination with Israel and the United States, Egypt has sent a shipment of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip to forces loyal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, Israeli officials said today. Senior Palestinian officials denied the report, including the spokesman for Mr. Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, calling the story “Israeli propaganda aimed at aggravating the situation between Fatah and Hamas.” But Israeli officials confirmed a report in the Haaretz newspaper that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, approved the shipment in his meeting Saturday evening with Mr. Abbas. Four trucks with some 2,000...

January 6, 2007

The Real Civil War, Continued (Updated)

Mahmoud Abbas raised the stakes in the slow-motion approach to civil war in the Palestinian territories today by declaring Hamas' militias illegal: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday declared Hamas' paramilitary militia in the Gaza Strip illegal, raising the stakes in his standoff with the Islamic movement. Abbas made the announcement two days after members of the Hamas force attacked the home of a senior security commander in Gaza, killing the man and seven of his bodyguards. The man was a member of the Preventive Security force, which is loyal to Abbas' Fatah party. Abbas' office said the decision was made "in light of continued security chaos and assassinations that got to a number of our fighters … and in light of the failure of existing agencies and security apparatuses in imposing law and order and protecting the security of the citizens." Technically, Abbas has this right. If the Palestinian...

January 7, 2007

Will Israel Nuke Iranian Nukes?

The Israelis have plans to conduct lightning strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities that include the use of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, the Times of London reports this morning. The revelation has many predicting a bloodbath in the Middle East, but the Times leaves it unclear whether this is an actual plan or merely a training exercise: ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources. The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb. Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired...

January 11, 2007

Reality-Based Hamas

The global leader of Hamas finally admitted that a nation calling itself Israel exists, even if he's not happy about it. Khaled Mashaal says that he wants a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, an implicit acknowledgement of the fact that Israel exists on the other side of the line: The hardline leader of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, accepted the existence of Israel yesterday and acknowledged that the Jewish state was likely to remain a reality. In a clear softening of his position, Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader based in Damascus, even held out the possibility that he would one day recognise Israel formally, once Palestinians had a state of their own. “There will remain a state called Israel. This is a matter of fact,” he said. “The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel,” Mr Meshaal said. “The problem is that the Palestinian state is...

January 15, 2007

Rice, Olmert To Meet Abbas

Condoleezza Rice will extend her contacts with Ehud Olmert to include Mahmoud Abbas in the near future in order to prompt movement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The moderate Arab governments have pushed the US to get more involved in the mediation, and hold out a carrot for us: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice concluded a private three-hour meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday morning, part of her diplomatic visit to the Middle East. The two decided to hold three-way talks that would include Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, after which they would aim for direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. A senior US official in Rice's delegation said the "trilateral meeting" will be aimed at "having a conversation about the political horizon leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state." He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to...

February 2, 2007

Maybe It's A Problem In The Translation

The world may soon adopt "Palestinian cease-fire" as a self-evident oxymoron. Hours after announcing the latest cessation of hostilities between Fatah and Hamas, both groups conducted major attacks on the other, leaving a broadcast station in ruins and ambulances dodging bullets across Gaza: Hamas fighters blew up a pro-Fatah radio station in Gaza, ambulances were caught in the crossfire and gunmen exchanged heavy fire in deserted streets as a new wave of factional fighting raged Friday throughout the chaotic coastal territory. The resurgent violence, which has killed 10 people since Thursday, destroyed a brief truce between Fatah and Hamas and forced thousands of Gazans to huddle in their homes to escape the crossfire. In a symbol that the two sides had returned to open warfare, their respective radio stations stopped playing songs of national unity and broadcast songs about armed struggle and fighting the enemy. In this case, for those...

February 5, 2007

British Jews Repudiate Israel

Claiming that they cannot abide the occupation, Jewish academics in Britain have decided that they value the human rights of Palestinians above the right of Israel to exist. At least, that's the question as they see it: A group of prominent British Jews will today declare independence from the country's Jewish establishment, arguing that it puts support for Israel above the human rights of Palestinians. Independent Jewish Voices will publish an open letter on the Guardian's Comment is Free website calling for a freer debate about the Middle East within the Jewish community. Among the more than 130 signatories are Stephen Fry, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh, Jenny Diski and Nicole Farhi, as well as leading academics such as Eric Hobsbawm and Susie Orbach. "We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim...

Gee, You Think?

The New York Times reports that the Palestinians have begun to sense what a public relations disaster their civil war has become. At the same time they demand recognition as a state, they have proven that they cannot hold one together. Of course, Palestinian academics always know who to blame for their culture of death: The fierce internal clashes between Palestinian factions have shocked many Palestinians and Arab governments, who fear that the continuing bloodshed is damaging the Palestinian image before the world, Palestinians say. “This fighting affects everyone’s morale,” said Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian analyst who teaches at Al Quds University here. “We always felt we had this one big asset, our social unity as Palestinians, but to see it shredding, with lives being shed without much concern, is horrible. We’ve lost a lot of sensitivity to these deaths, to those killed by the Israelis and ourselves.” Even as...

February 7, 2007

Playing Keep-Away With Hamas Costs A Lot

When the Palestinians elected the terrorist group Hamas to lead the proto-state government, the Western nations all agreed to suspend all aid payments to the Palestinian Authority to keep from funding terrorists. Eventually, frightened of domestic public opinion about the collapsing PA economy, the European Union initiated a program of direct payments to Palestinians through bank transfers, intending to play keep-away with the money to ensure that Hamas could not get it. However, the only people getting rich on this program is the bank itself, which has racked up over three million euros in the months that the program has operated: More than €3m (£2m) of EU aid for Palestinians was spent on bank charges last year in an effort to bypass the Hamas-run government, Oxfam said yesterday. The money was spent between August and December under the temporary international mechanism, a system run by the European commission that delivers...

February 8, 2007

Israel, Lebanon Exchange Fire At Border

Israeli and Lebanese Army troops exchanged fire on the border near Maroun al-Ras, the first shots fired since the cessation of hostilities last summer. A wayward bulldozer apparently sparked the incident, and the UN has started deploying peacekeepers in the area (via Israel Matzav): Shooting erupted across the Israeli-Lebanese border last night for the first time since last summer's war, when Lebanese troops opened fire on an Israeli bulldozer that apparently crossed the UN-demarcated boundary. A Reuters correspondent at the scene and Israeli security sources said the clash began after the Lebanese troops shot in the air as an Israeli patrol crossed a security fence to search for explosives planted by Hizbullah. Israeli troops responded with tank and light weapons fire, Israeli security officials said. The exchange, the first since a ceasefire ended a 34-day war last August, broke out near the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras in the central...

February 9, 2007

Haven't We Heard This Before?

The warring factions in the Palestinian Authority have declared their impasse at an end, as Hamas leadership reached an agreement with Fatah president Mahmoud Abbas for a power-sharing agreement. PM Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas' international leader Khaled Mashaal agreed to split the ministries, but the endorsement of prior treaties signed by the PLO and recognition of Israel may not follow from that -- which means aid will likely not be restored: The two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, reached "full agreement" on a national unity government that will include ministers from both groups during crisis talks yesterday in the holy Islamic city of Mecca. But while the decision on the cabinet posts represented progress, there was no agreement on persuading Hamas to accept existing peace treaties with Israel signed by earlier Palestinian administrations. Acceptance by Hamas of these accords, with their explicit recognition of the right of Israel to...

Siniora Standing Up To Hezbollah?

Critics of the agreement that ended the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon last summer pointed out that Hezbollah appeared free to re-arm itself without much interference. The UNIFIL forces that were supposed to keep the peace wound up explicitly stating that disarming Hezbollah fell outside of their mission, and that responsibility lay with the Lebanese Army. At the time, that force made it clear that they would not start a civil war by stripping Hassan Nasrallah and his organization of its arms, but would instead concentrate on moving back into the sub-Litani region with as little conflict as possible. That appears to have changed, possibly spurred by Nasrallah's attempts to bring down Fuad Siniora's government. The Lebanese authorities have seized a shipment of weapons meant for Hezbollah, and they do not intend on giving it back to them: The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has said a lorry intercepted...

February 10, 2007

Hamas Wins In New Unity Government

The Mecca accord which appears to have halted the slide towards civil war in the Palestinian territories -- at least momentarily -- has not produced any movement towards peace with Israel. In fact, it appears that Hamas has won a victory for its policy on Israel, which means that even the weak prospects for peace under Mahmoud Abbas appear dead: Officials from Hamas and Israel dashed hopes yesterday that a Palestinian unity deal reached in the Saudi holy city of Mecca would end a crippling economic embargo or lead to a resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. "Our battle with the Israeli enemy is still on," Fathi Hamad, a Hamas leader in Gaza's Jebaliya refugee camp, told thousands of supporters. He urged militant groups to resume attacks on Israel and denied that Hamas would respect past peace deals with the Jewish state -- a central element of the accord between Hamas...

Double Insanity

When the US invasion of Iraq deposed Saddam Hussein, it ended the very tangible support for terrorists provided by the Iraqi tyrant: payment for Palestinian suicide bombers. Saddam paid families of suicide bombers $25,000 each after a successful attack against Israeli or Western targets, a kind of life insurance for the terminally unstable. Now a leading Arab bank appears to have picked up where Saddam left off, and is issuing life insurance policies for suicidal jihadis. Der Spiegel reports on what happened after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a Jerusalem bus: A few weeks after the suicide bombing, the phone at the home of Bassam Takruri's parents rang. On the other end of the line was a representative of Muassafat Usar al Shuhada, or "The Organization of Martyr Families." He told Bassam's mother that the family had received money, but that they would have to open an...

February 15, 2007

That Hudna Didn't Last Long, Either

Remember the wedding between Hamas and Fatah, and the big reception held by the Saudis in Mecca? It seems that the bride and groom have started consulting lawyers already: In another sign of tension with Hamas over a possible national unity government, the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah faction, canceled a televised speech scheduled for Thursday night, his aides said Wednesday. In the speech, Mr. Abbas was to have told Palestinians about his talks with Hamas leaders in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. But those talks, which ended last Thursday with a proclamation of success, left many details unresolved, including who would fill key posts like interior minister, which controls the Hamas-dominated parallel police force, known as the Executive Force. The details of a political program for the new government are also unclear. ... Reuters reported that another Abbas aide, who was not identified, said: “Hamas has made several...

February 16, 2007

US To PA: No Sale

The latest attempt to end the sanctions that have crippled the Palestinian Authority appear to have failed. The White House informed Mahmoud Abbas that all Palestinian Authority Cabinet ministers would have persona non grata status until the new unity government complies with the Quartet demands to recognize Israel and reject violence: American officials have told the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, that they will boycott all ministers in a new coalition cabinet unless the government meets international conditions, including recognition of Israel, Palestinian officials said yesterday. The warning indicates the extent of Washington's unease at the agreement reached in Mecca last week between the rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah. It comes just before a meeting in Jerusalem on Monday between the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and Mr Abbas. The boycott means that any Fatah leaders who join the new government will be...

February 22, 2007

Syria Arming Up

Syria has embarked on a program to bolster its military after the war last summer in Lebanon, Ha'aretz reported this morning and repeated by the AP. They have begun acquiring heavy weapons from the Russians and the Iranians, including medium-range missiles that threaten just about every possible target in Israel: Damascus has large numbers of surface-based missiles and long-range rockets, including the Scud-D, capable of reaching nearly any target in Israel, the report said, and the Syrian navy has received new Iranian anti-ship missiles. Haaretz also said Russia was about to sell Syria thousands of advanced anti-tank missiles, despite Israeli charges that in the past Syria has transferred those missiles to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Syrian officials did not immediately comment on the Israeli reports, but President Bashar Assad said in a television interview immediately after the fighting that Syria was preparing to defend itself. Israeli defense officials confirmed that...

February 24, 2007

Who's The Dumb One?

This YouTube and assorted photos from the shot have been whipping around the Internet, which purports to show the supposed idiocy of Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz. He's so stupid, he can't even tell when he has caps on his binoculars! I have no idea if Peretz is an idiot or not, but I'm pretty sure he can tell when the binoculars have their lens caps still affixed. It appears to me that these aren't caps at all, but filters to keep sunlight from reflecting off the lenses. Flashes off of binoculars gives one's position away to the enemy, and filters would keep that from happening, as well as reducing glare in very sunny conditions. If you look closely at the video, those "caps" appear to be some type of fabric, not plastic. I could be wrong, but I think Peretz can still tell sunlight from dark, and that this...

February 25, 2007

France: We Can Work With Terrorists

The unanimity of the global community that demanded that the Palestinian government recognize Israel before restoring aid has sported its first cracks, and to no one's great surprise, those cracks have come from France. Foreign minister Phillipe Douste-Blazy, who once called Iran a stabilizing force in the Middle East, pledged cooperation with the Hamas-Fatah government that refuses to meet the demands of the Quartet: France has pledged to cooperate with a coalition Palestinian government that would include Hamas, in a key boost for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. But Abbas's European tour failed to make headway on resuming aid for his struggling people. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy's promise Saturday to work with a government including Hamas and Fatah was the bright spot in Abbas's four-country swing through Europe this week. Other European leaders were more cautious, preferring to wait until the government is formed before making any commitments. "I...

March 5, 2007

Mecca Agreement Falling Apart?

The Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah supposedly gave the warring Palestinian factions a basis for a unity government, one that would satisfy Western concerns and allow for aid to resume to the Palestinian Authority. The latter certainly proved false when Hamas refused to allow the PA to recognize Israel and honor its past agreements with the West as the basis of that aid. Now it looks like it won't even produce the unity government it promised, as Hamas and Fatah have begun accusing each other of undermining the pact: Differences over the identity of Fatah and Hamas ministers in the coalition cabinet are threatening to torpedo the Mecca agreement, a top Abbas aide told The Jerusalem Post. He also said "some differences" had sparked disputes between the two parties over the interpretation of the Mecca agreement, particularly regarding the status of previous agreements with Israel and recognition of United...

March 10, 2007

An End To Schalit Saga, Chapter 176 And Counting

Hamas now says that they want to end the months-long kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. They have agreed in principle to release Schalit as part of the process towards a unity government in the Palestinian territories, with the staged release of "several hundred" Palestinian prisoners by Israel: The release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit affair depends on the establishment of a unity government in the Palestinian Authority, Hamas faction head Halil Alhaya said Saturday. According to Israel Radio, the head of Hamas's armed wing, Abu Obaida, corroborated Alhaya's statement, but stressed that even if no agreement on Schalit's release was reached, it would not prevent the PA from setting up a unity government. Abu Obaida added that Hamas wanted an end to the Schalit affair, and said that Egyptian envoys had asked Hamas to move forward on negotiations in the next few days. ... According to defense officials,...

March 16, 2007

Hamas-Fatah Unity Government Rejects West's Demands

Hamas and Fatah have formally created the unity government that has eluded them ever since Hamas unexpectedly won a majority of seats in the Palestianian Authority parliament. Palestinians hope that the new government will achieve two goals -- to end the civil war that has bubbled below the surface, and to restore the Western aid that keeps the PA afloat. It has not succeeded in the second: The Hamas-led Palestinian government, boycotted by the West since its election more than a year ago because of Hamas’s support of terrorism, announced Thursday a unity coalition with the more moderate Fatah movement in hopes of ending the boycott. But the political document guiding the new government does not fulfill the international community’s three demands — to recognize Israel, forswear violence and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements — and Israel announced that it would therefore not deal with the new government or any of...

March 18, 2007

France Wanted Israel To Attack Syria

At the start of the war between Israel and Hezbollah, France sent word through secret channels that it would support Israel in the war if Ehud Olmert attacked Syria and deposed Bashar Assad. Chirac wanted Israel to attack the root of the problem in Lebanon and eliminate Hezbollah's lines of support (via Michael Ledeen at The Corner): French President Jacques Chirac told Israel at the start of the war in Lebanon that France would support an Israeli assault on Syria, it was reported on Sunday. Army Radio reported that in the message, which was delivered by Chirac to Israel via a secret channel, the French president suggested that Israel invade Damascus and topple the regime of Bashar Assad. In exchange, Chirac assured Israel full French support for the war. ... "Former prime minister Ariel Sharon had explained to the French in the past that Iran is the main one responsible...

March 21, 2007

What A Tough Sanctions Regime!

The Palestinians have demanded an end to the aid embargo now that they have created a unity government between Hamas and Fatah, regardless of the fact that the new government still has not met any of the conditions the West set for resumption of support. One might think that the sanctions might have convinced the Palestinians to change their policies, since they are so dependent on outside economic assistance -- but that would take actual sanctions. As it turns out, the Palestinians got more Western aid money than ever after the declaration of sanctions: Despite the international embargo on aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas came to power a year ago, significantly more aid was delivered to the Palestinians in 2006 than in 2005, according to official figures from the United Nations, United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund. Instead of going to the Palestinian Authority, much of...

March 23, 2007

Israel To Give Ground In Jerusalem?

Ehud Olmert took a step yesterday that not even Ehud Barak made in his quest to reach a comprehensive peace plan with the Palestinians. In Tel Aviv yesterday, Olmert embraced the Saudi initiative, which calls for a partition of Jerusalem, a return to 1967 borders, and the end of all settlements: In a bid to open a channel to the Arabs, Israel's premier is embracing a long dormant Saudi peace proposal that would divide Jerusalem and could flood the Jewish state with Palestinian Arab refugees with family claims to land evacuated in the 1948 war that created the state. Speaking in Tel Aviv yesterday, Prime Minister Olmert said Israel was prepared to make "sweeping, painful, and tough concessions" in order to forge open contacts with Arab states that offered in 2002 to acknowledge Israel's right to exist in exchange for its full retreat from the territories it won in the...

March 25, 2007

Another American Peace Plan In The Works?

Condoleezza Rice will make yet another comprehensive tour of the Middle East in the coming days, which has fueled speculation as to the motivation behind it. The fourth trip in as many months appears to signal that the US, which has avoided creating an American plan for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, may now have decided to risk the damage to our credibility by crafting our own solution: In making her fourth trip to the Middle East in four months to try to breathe life into dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has opened the door to the possibility that the United States might offer its own proposals to bridge the divide on some of the entrenched issues that have bedeviled the region for decades. “I don’t rule out at some point that might be a useful thing to do,” Ms. Rice told reporters in Washington...

March 26, 2007

Right Of Return Negotiable?

For decades, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians foundered mostly on the demand for the right of return -- the right of refugees of the original partition that created Israel and their descendants to return to their lands inside Israel. The Israelis refused to consider it, as it would amount to nothing less than the destruction of Israel as a political entity, and the Palestinians refused to proceed without it. It helped caused the collapse of the Wye accord, even after Ehud Barak suggested further land swaps in exchange for dropping the demand. Until now, it has been a showstopper for both sides. Now, though, the New York Times reports that the Palestinians have begun to accept the fact that they will never return to those lands -- and many do not want to do so anyway. Instead, they seek recognition of their displacement and could accept a deal...

March 30, 2007

Arab Nations Offer Peace But No Partner

The Saudis have pressed in recent days for Israel to accept in principle their 2002 plan for normalization in the region. Calling on the Israelis to accept a return to 1967 borders and some version of the right of return, the Arab nations endorsing the plan seem to have forgotten that the Palestinians haven't even accepted the pacts that they have already signed with Israel: Arab leaders on Thursday reiterated their offer to normalize ties with Israel and showed signs of flexibility in their terms for peace. At a news conference at the end of a summit where the Arab leaders' peace plan was the main issue on the agenda, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Arab countries would establish normal ties with Israel as soon as it had resolved its disputes with its immediate neighbors. "We cannot change the plan because it offers peace, and changing it would mean...

March 31, 2007

Olmert To Arabs: You Broke It, You Own It

Ehud Olmert has made it clear to the Arabs pushing the 2002 Saudi peace initiative that Israel will not accept even a single Palestinian refugee under a notion of "right of return". Olmert stated yesterday that the Arab nations created the refugee problem with their multinational war of annihilation against Israel, and they can deal with its consequences now: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in interviews published Friday that Israel would not allow a single Palestinian refugee to return to what is now Israel, and that the country bore no responsibility for the refugees because their plight resulted from an attack by Arab nations on Israel when it was a fledgling state. ... In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Mr. Olmert seemed to rule out any negotiation on refugees. He would not accept any notional Palestinian “right of return” to their homes, telling the newspaper: “I’ll never accept a...

April 3, 2007

Call Us When It's Over

For those who have been waiting for the Palestinians to stop supporting terrorism and to accept a two-state solution, good news will come your way. The Palestinian Authority's foreign minister told French newspaper Le Monde that Hamas is ready to change: Hamas is undergoing a massive transformation and is "ready to change," the Palestinian Authority foreign minister said in an interview published in a French newspaper Monday. Ziad Abu Amr, on a three-day visit to France, met Monday with French counterpart Philippe Douste-Blazy and was holding talks Tuesday with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. ... Abu Amr, an independent, said he thought Hamas was willing to change its ideology in order to remain a political player. "I must admit I'm both surprised and impressed with the speed and the magnitude of Hamas's transformation," he is quoted as saying. He cited Hamas's willingness to accept a future Palestinian state contained within...

April 16, 2007

Saudis Still Support Arab League Boycott

Despite a promise to end the boycott of Israel as a condition of entry into the World Trade Organization, the Saudis have continued to enforce the boycott. The US continues to press the Saudis, but Israeli-made goods cannot enter the kingdom: Despite a promise made to Washington nearly 18 months ago to drop its trade embargo against Israel, Saudi Arabia continues to enforce the Arab League boycott, The Jerusalem Post has learned. In November 2005, Riyadh pledged to abandon the boycott after Washington conditioned Saudi Arabia's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) on such a move. A month later, on December 11, Saudi Arabia was granted WTO membership. The WTO, which aims to promote free trade, prohibits members from engaging in discriminatory practices such as boycotts or embargoes. Nonetheless, the Post has found, Saudi officials continue to bar entry to products manufactured in Israel or to foreign-made goods containing...

April 25, 2007

Triangle Offense Gives Way To Normal Two-Faced Posturing

The Palestinians have used a triangle offense for years now, throughout the post-Oslo era, when it comes to supposed cease-fires. Whenever the Palestinians want to set Israel up as the fall guy for their terrorism, Hamas and Fatah usually propose a cease-fire while Islamic Jihad continues attacking Israel. When Israel finally responds to that provocation, Hamas and Fatah declare that Israel has violated the cease-fire and continue the attacks. The new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has apparently tired of the ruse. This time, they have attacked Israel themselves while claiming to still support the cease-fire: The first public signs of division within the Hamas movement emerged yesterday when the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement fired rockets from Gaza into Israel and announced the end of a ceasefire. A spokesman for the Hamas-dominated government, however, said it wanted the ceasefire with Israel, which has lasted six months, to continue. Several...

Egypt To Hamas: Knock It Off

The Egyptians apparently don't like the triangle offense any better than the Israelis. They have sent a message to Ismail Haniyeh and the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government scolding them for allowing fresh Hamas rocket attacks on Israel: Egypt has threatened to cut off its relations with Hamas unless the movement halts its rocket attacks on Israel, Palestinian Authority officials said Wednesday. The officials said Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman sent a "tough" message to Hamas leaders, warning them against the continued rocket attacks. The message was delivered to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas by Burhan Hammad, a senior Egyptian intelligence officer based in the Gaza Strip, the officials added. They said that Suleiman also warned that Egypt would not side with the Palestinians if Israel launched a military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. "We hope that the Hamas leaders will listen carefully to what the...

April 30, 2007

Olmert Faces Pressure To Resign After War Analysis

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faces new pressure to resign after an extensive investigation into the war in Lebanon last summer accused his administration of incompetence. Olmert has called for a Kadima party conference to address his opposition while the Winograd report gets released this afternoon: The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and defence minister, Amir Peretz, faced further calls for their resignation yesterday after leaks of a report into their management of last summer's Lebanon war which suggests they made a series of errors. The Winograd report, to be published today, directs strong criticism at the government's conduct in the first days of the war, according to leaks in the Israeli media yesterday. In particular, Mr Olmert and Mr Peretz are rebuked for not seeking proper consultation and for accepting the army's recommendations without question. The politicians' lack of experience in military matters, the report says, meant they accepted...

May 1, 2007

Hamas Official: Kill All Americans

Pam at Atlas Shrugged had this earlier, but the Jerusalem Post has a fresh report on the latest threat from Palestinians against the West. The Speaker of the Palestinian Authority parliament has called Palestinians to the task of murdering all Americans, in addition to the mission of wiping Jews off the face of the Earth: Sheik Ahmad Bahr, acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, declared during a Friday sermon at a Sudan mosque that America and Israel will be annihilated and called upon Allah to kill Jews and Americans "to the very Last One". Following are excerpts from the sermon that took place last month, courtesy of MEMRI. Ahmad Bahr began: "You will be victorious" on the face of this planet. You are the masters of the world on the face of this planet. Yes, [the Koran says that] "you will be victorious," but only "if you are believers."...

May 6, 2007

Palestinians: Al-Qaeda Attacked School

Palestinian Authority officials have blamed al-Qaeda for an attack on a school celebration, in part because the terrorists believed that girls and boys would dance together at the event. They allege that AQ has established a foothold in Gaza, and more attacks will follow: Palestinian Authority security officials accused supporters of al-Qaida in the Gaza Strip of carrying out Sunday's attack on a UNRWA-run school in Rafah in which one person was killed and six others were wounded. "There is no doubt that al-Qaida is operating in the Gaza Strip," a senior PA security official said. "Today's attack carries the fingerprints of al-Qaida." Witnesses told The Jerusalem Post that at least 70 Muslim fundamentalists participated in the attack on the Omariya School, where UNRWA and PA officials were attending a celebration. The director of UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip, John Ging, was inside the school at the time. He...

May 8, 2007

Ehoudini Olmert

After the stalemate in the sub-Litani war against Hezbollah and the failure to win the release of the IDF soldiers taken hostage, the Israelis blamed Ehud Olmert for the result. People rallied to demand his resignation, and a report sharply criticized both his decision to go to war and the manner in which he conducted it. No one expected his government to survive. Surprise!: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has survived three no-confidence motions in parliament, in the latest backlash over his handling of the 2006 Lebanon war. The Knesset voted against the motions with wide margins - with votes against totalling 60-62 compared to 26-28 for. A majority of 61 of the 120 members in the Knesset is needed to force the government to resign. Last week tens of thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv calling for Mr Olmert to resign. This will shock Israelis and people around...

May 14, 2007

Palestinian Unity Government Anything But

The unity government formed in March by the Palestinian Authority appears on the verge of collapse. The Interior Minister abruptly resigned today from the position which had been the hardest to fill during the negotiations between Hamas and Fatah, while internecine fighting raged anew in Gaza: The Palestinian interior minister, Hani al-Qawasmi, has resigned, causing a crisis in the fragile two-month-old unity government, after the biggest surge in factional fighting in months revived fears of civil war. Two Palestinian gunmen were killed in Gaza in clashes between the rival Hamas and Fatah groups hours before a government official announced that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had accepted the resignation. As interior minister, Mr Qawasmi was to have overseen Palestinian security services but officials said the former academic faced competition from powerful Fatah rivals for control of the armed contingents. The resignation cast new doubt on whether the power-sharing partnership between Islamist...

May 15, 2007

Hamas Initiating Civil War

Hamas attacked a Gaza checkpoint run by Fatah in conjunction with the Israelis earlier today, killing eight and engaging both Fatah and IDF personnel. The escalation comes a day after the resignation of the Interior Minister and appears to announce Hamas' intention to seize power by force: Hamas gunmen on Tuesday ambushed rival Fatah forces near a key crossing along the Israeli border, killing eight people in the deadliest battle yet in three days of factional fighting. The incident briefly drew Israeli gunfire, threatening to drag Israel into the conflict. At least 18 people have died in the infighting, bringing life in Gaza to a standstill and pushing the fragile Palestinian unity government closer to collapse. Hamas and Fatah formed the union in March with the aim of ending months of violence. Monday's fighting erupted when Hamas gunmen approached a training base used by Fatah forces that guard the crossing,...

The Palestinian Hearing Problem

Maybe the noise from the mortars dropping on Israeli soldiers have the Palestinians a little hard of hearing, but they seem to have missed the point of Ehud Olmert's invitation to renew the peace process. Olmert invited the Palestinians, including Hamas, to Israel along with the leaders of the 22 Arab governments to discuss the Saudi proposal without preconditions -- but the Palestinians claim that Israel is "not ready": "We are ready to come and to invite" Arab leaders "without preconditions from us or their side," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters Tuesday after arriving in Petra for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II, expressing Israel's readiness to discuss the Arab peace initiative and find ways to implement the plan. Olmert later told a conference involving Nobel Laureates and Israeli and Arab youth on ways to solve conflicts in the Mideast that his country was "ready to sit down and...

May 16, 2007

Hamas Starting A Wider War

After its raid on the Karni crossing yesterday, Hamas could have claimed it to be a mistake and stood down its militia. Rather than avoid a civil war in Gaza, however, Hamas expanded its attacks to include key figures of Fatah leadership, including Mahmoud Abbas, and fired rockets into Israel to create a wider war: Hamas gunmen fatally shot six bodyguards from the rival Fatah movement and fired a barrage of rockets at southern Israel Wednesday, apparently attempting to draw Israel into the fierce Palestinian infighting as the Gaza Strip slid further into chaos. ... Fighting raged close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' heavily guarded compound, which also was targeted by Hamas mortar fire overnight. Abbas, a moderate from Fatah, was not present. Early Wednesday, Hamas gunmen fired mortars and pipe bombs at the home of Fatah security chief Rashid Abu Shbak, before storming inside and killing six bodyguards, Palestinians...

May 17, 2007

Egypt And Jordan, White Knights

As Gaza spirals into the civil war that should surprise no one who has paid attention since the Palestinian Authority elections last year, some in the international community have finally figured out the obvious: the Palestinians are completely incapable of self-government. For the first time in decades, whispers of Egyptian and Jordanian custody for the territories have been heard: Gaza was on the brink of civil war last night as violent clashes between Palestinian factions spiralled out of control. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, threatened to declare a state of emergency today, as fierce fighting raged on the streets. But as the death toll climbed to more than 40 in four days of the worst fighting since Mr Abbas forged a coalition Government with Fatah’s rival Hamas two months ago, he appeared powerless to stop it. He can't stop it, because Hamas has no desire to govern. They have no...

May 19, 2007

Reload!

The two major Palestinian factions reached yet another cease-fire in their slide towards total civil war in Gaza this morning. Mahmoud Abbas reached out to international Hamas head Khaled Mashaal, who directed Hamas to negotiate with the Fatah leader: Negotiators from the rival Hamas and Fatah movements reached a new cease-fire deal Saturday, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said. The agreement was worked out in a meeting at the Egyptian Embassy in Gaza, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter with reporters. Previous agreements reached in the past week of deadly factional fighting quickly collapsed, and it was not clear if this one would hold. Under the new truce agreement, both sides pledged to pull their fighters off the streets and to exchange hostages later Saturday. Of course, we've seen these cease-fires before, and they usually...

May 22, 2007

We're Full Up On Lunatics, Thank You

The Lebanese government has ordered its army to finish off the Fatah Islam terrorist group holed up in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp on its northern coast. They want an end to the al-Qaeda affiliate before it has a chance to grow out of control, not unlike the problem they already have in the south with Hezbollah: Artillery and machine gun fire echoed around a crowded Palestinian refugee camp Tuesday as the Lebanese government ordered the army to finish off the Fatah Islam militants holed up inside the refugee camp in the country's north. Artillery and machine gun fire echoed around a crowded Palestinian refugee camp Tuesday as the Lebanese government ordered the army to finish off the Fatah Islam militants holed up inside the refugee camp in the country's north. The fighting — which resumed for a third straight day after a brief nighttime lull — reflected the government's...

May 24, 2007

Finding The Right Motivation

Hamas has decided to enter a unilateral cease-fire with Israel and to stop the launching of rockets at Israeli cities. This sudden reversal after more than a week of constant barrage comes courtesy of an announced change in Israeli strategy -- in which they would target the political leaders of Hamas: Israel's threat to target senior Hamas leaders in response to the Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza has prompted the group to agree to a unilateral cease-fire with Israel, Palestinian Authority officials said Wednesday. "Hamas wants to stop the Kassam rockets. They are especially worried about reports that Israel may assassinate [PA Prime Minister] Ismail Haniyeh and [Hamas chief] Khaled Mashaal," the officials told The Jerusalem Post. The officials were speaking shortly after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Haniyeh met in Gaza City to discuss the possibility of declaring a unilateral truce with Israel. Journalists were not allowed to cover...

June 1, 2007

Palestinians Pine For Israeli Security

How bad has life in Gaza become? Palestinians have begun to recognize that they cannot govern themselves -- and that life under Israeli authority was preferable. Not only are they saying this out loud, but as MEMRI reports, they're writing it in their newspapers (via QandO): Papers reported that some people in Gaza even want the Israelis to return to the Strip. Faiz Abbas and Muhammad Awwad, journalists for the Israeli-Arab weekly Al-Sinara, wrote: "People in Gaza are hoping that Israel will reenter the Gaza Strip, wipe out both Hamas and Fatah, and then withdraw again... They also say that, since the [start of the] massacres, they [have begun to] miss the Israelis, since Israel is more merciful than [the Palestinian gunmen] who do not even know why they are fighting and killing one another. It's like organized crime, [they said]. Once, we resisted Israel together, but now we call...

June 12, 2007

Gaza Collapsing

The latest cease-fire between Palestinian factions has collapsed almost before it got announced as Gaza slides into an all-out civil war. Refugees have begun to flee to Egypt, and Hamas-controlled mosques now serve as broadcast stations for war announcements: Palestinian infighting, almost daily Israeli air strikes, and a steadily worsening economic situation triggered by an international aid boycott has made life unbearable for many Palestinians. Those who can are leaving. European Union monitors at the Rafah border crossing from the Gaza Strip to Egypt say that more than 14,000 Palestinians have fled Gaza since Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers in 2005 and the rise to power of the Islamist Hamas five months later. In the past year alone, the average number of people leaving Gaza per day has doubled from 15 to 30. The rising number of Palestinians seeking to emigrate has prompted Jerusalem's Mufti, Mohammad Ahmed Hussein, to issue...

Hamas Overruns Northern Gaza, PA Near Collapse

In what appears to be a fatal blow to the Palestinian Authority, Hamas launched a large-scale attack on northern Gaza today. They claim to have captured key security positions from the PA and Fatah, and in response, Fatah has threatened to withdraw from the PA altogether: Hamas launched a full-scale attack Tuesday afternoon against Fatah security bases and positions in Gaza, and succeeded in taking over a number of them, Israel Radio reported. Hamas-affiliated television said that the organization overtook the entire northern section of the Gaza Strip. After airing the report, the station was attacked by PA security forces and forced to play pro-Fatah songs. ... Also on Tuesday afternoon, Fatah announced that within several hours, the faction would decide whether to stay in the unity government with Hamas, or leave the Palestinian Authority government altogether, Israel Radio reported. The announcement coincided with a Hamas attack on the National...

June 13, 2007

The Palestinian Authority's Two-State Solution

The civil war in Gaza has apparently imposed a two-state solution on the Palestinian Authority, at least for the moment. Hamas has taken over security installations in Gaza and has pushed Fatah out, attempting to create a protostate under its total control on the Mediterranean: Jamal Abu Jadian, a top Fatah commander, fled his home in the northern Gaza Strip Tuesday evening dressed as a woman to avoid dozens of Hamas militiamen who had attacked it. He and several members of his family and bodyguards were lightly wounded. But when Abu Jadian arrived at a hospital a few hundred meters away from his house, he was discovered by a group of Hamas gunmen, who took turns shooting him in the head with automatic rifles. "They literally blew his head off with more than 40 bullets," said a doctor at Kamal Udwan Hospital. In fact, Hamas has tried over the last...

June 14, 2007

Welcome To Hamastan (Update: Fatah Wants A Dunkirk)

Hamas has overrun a critical and strategic security center in Gaza today, bringing them closer to their goal of controlling the entire region. Mahmoud Abbas has finally ordered retaliatory strikes, but he may not have many to respond to the call, as Hamas has begun executing Fatah militants in front of their wives and children: Hamas fighters overran one of the rival Fatah movement's most important security installations in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, and witnesses said the victors dragged vanquished gunmen from the building and killed them in the street. The capture of the Preventive Security headquarters was a major step forward in Hamas' attempts to complete its takeover of all of Gaza. Hamas later called on Fatah fighters to surrender the National Security compound within the hour. The moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, for the first time in five days of fierce fighting, ordered his elite presidential...

Abbas Fires Hamas Instead Of Firing On Hamas

Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority and declared a state of emergency after Hamas took control of Gaza today. The moves comes after many in his own Fatah faction demanded his resignation for his lack of action over the last five days: President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led unity government and declared a state of emergency Thursday after four days of fighting that has left Hamas in control of much of Gaza. Hamas has seized control of all Palestinian Authority security installations in the territory. Shortly before midnight (5 p.m. ET), Hamas sources told CNN, the presidential compound also fell. If confirmed it would mean all Abbas-controlled security installations are under Hamas control. CNN is reporting now that the ruling factions in both areas have started political cleansing. Hamas has rounded up Fatah members in Gaza, executing some openly on the streets and taking others...

June 15, 2007

Hamas To Grant Amnesty To Fatah Leaders

The transcendent Hamas leadership in Gaza has decided not to execute captured Fatah leaders, and will release them soon as a gesture of goodwill. Hamas continues to consolidate its power in Gaza, however, and the government in the West Bank has started to shed itself of Hamas as a result: Victorious Hamas gunmen rounded up senior military leaders of the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip early Friday, then announced a general amnesty in a sign the Islamic movement is seeking to reconcile with its secular rivals after five days of fierce fighting. The announcement defused worries that Hamas, which completed its swift military seizure of Gaza hours earlier, would begin dispensing victor's justice in the strip. In announcing the arrest of the commanders of the vanquished Fatah-controlled security services, Hamas officials called them "collaborators," a label indicating they work on behalf of Israel and can often mean a death...

June 16, 2007

Mashaal Dictates Terms

Khaled Mashaal, the international head of Hamas, has made clear that he has directed the group's actions in Gaza, including the rebellion that has split the Palestinian Authority. While he announced yesterday that he recognized Mahmoud Abbas as the head of the PA, he also said that he refused to recognize Abbas' actions as the leader -- and dictated to Abbas that Ismail Haniyeh and the Hamas leadership must be retained: Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal said Friday evening that Hamas recognizes Mahmoud Abbas as the head of the Palestinian Authority, and that his group wants to cooperate with him for the sake of the Palestinian people. Mashaal also said that Hamas did not want to take over the Gaza Strip, but was "forced" to, Israel Radio reported. Referring to Abbas's proposed emergency government, Mashaal said that it had no legal standing and that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh would remain the...

June 17, 2007

Will Israel Go After Hamastan?

The Times of London reports that Israel's new minister of defense, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, has drawn up plans for a massive strike on Gaza. Instead of police actions on limited scales, Barak would launch an all-out war on Hamas in the Strip, now that Fatah has no assets remaining there -- and would intend on wiping out all Islamist offensive capability in the region: ISRAEL’s new defence minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush the Hamas militants who have seized power there. According to senior Israeli military sources, the plan calls for 20,000 troops to destroy much of Hamas’s military capability in days. The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks against Israel or a resumption of suicide bombings. Barak, who is expected to become defence minister tomorrow, has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armoured divisions and an infantry...

Abbas Outlaws Hamas Militias

Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new cabinet today and outlawed Hamas militias, two moves that will widen the gulf between the West Bank and Gaza. His counterpart, former Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, insists that Hamas still controls the government, but at this point they have found themselves isolated on the Gaza Strip without any lines of communication back to the Palestinian Authority's power base: The hurried swearing-in ceremony of the new Cabinet left the Palestinians effectively with two governments the Hamas leadership in Gaza and the new Cabinet in the West Bank led by respected economist Salam Fayyad. Abbas issued decrees Sunday annulling a law requiring the new government to be approved by parliament, which is dominated by Hamas, and outlawing the Islamic group's militias. "There is one authority, one law and one legitimate gun in all areas of our homeland, in the West Bank and Gaza," he said later....

June 18, 2007

Hamas Burns Church In Gaza City

The Hamas coup has freed the Islamists to do what they do best -- terrorize non-Muslims. Hamas militants burned the Latin Church in Gaza City and went on a rampage at the Rosary Sisters School, while Fatah decided that the occupation in the West Bank has its good points after all: Fatah leaders have appealed to Israel to halt security measures against Fatah gunmen in the West Bank and promised to continue their massive crackdown on Hamas there, Palestinian Authority officials here said on Sunday. The appeal was delivered to the government via US and European officials who met with several Fatah leaders here in the past few days, the officials told The Jerusalem Post. ... Leaders of the Christian community in the Strip expressed deep concern over the fate of the Christians living under Hamas. They said most of them wanted to leave the Gaza out of fear for...

June 19, 2007

Beware Of Getting Your Wishes, Hamas Version

Hamas finally got what it wanted last week -- unfettered control of Palestinian territory and an end to Fatah opposition to its radical-Islamist agenda. The coup that Hamas conducted, and their operations to cleanse Gaza of Fatah, turned out more successful than they hoped. In fact, they succeeded to the point where the West Bank government has outlawed them and refuse to even negotiate for a reconciliation, putting Gaza in deep isolation and endangering Hamas' status with Palestinians in both territories. Now they want to kiss and make up: Facing growing international isolation, the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday called for a "national dialogue" with their vanquished Fatah foes. "We are shocked and surprised by the voices forbidding discussions with us, while they enter discussions with Israel," Khalil al-Haya, a prominent Hamas lawmaker, said at a news conference. "We are still prepared for a brotherly serious and...

Might Makes Right?

What kind of world leader would instruct the international community to engage with Hamas, even though it just committed an armed insurrection against the Palestinian Authority? Who among the world's experts would argue that the coup d'etat legitimized their claim to speak for the Palestinian people? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Bashar Assad? We wish: The United States, Israel and the European Union must end their policy of favoring Fatah over Hamas, or they will doom the Palestinian people to deepening conflict between the rival movements, former US President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday. Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was addressing a conference of Irish human rights officials, said the Bush administration's refusal to accept the 2006 election victory of Hamas was "criminal." Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in...

June 21, 2007

Under Pressure, Egypt Offers Peace Conference

Egypt has decided to grasp an opportunity to play peacemaker in the wake of the Hamas coup in Gaza. Under pressure from the US, it wants to demonstrate its moderate bona fides and attempt to use this moment as an opportunity to bolster the more moderate and secular faction in the West Bank. So far, the invitees to Egypt's conference sound enthusiastic: The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has invited the Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian leaders to a summit next week, Palestinian officials have said. Israel said a meeting could take place, but that nothing had been decided. The talks between Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, would be the first since Hamas won elections 18 months ago. The conditions could be right for a real advance in peace negotiations, and it couldn't come at a better time for Hosni Mubarak. Congress just voted to partially restrict...

June 22, 2007

Last Chance For Abbas

As usual, Charles Krauthammer hits the nail squarely on the head in today's column on Mahmoud Abbas. Krauthammer generally agrees with the policy of engagement with Abbas in the wake of the Hamas uprising in Gaza, but he warns people not to get too excited. Abbas has not exactly built a track record of success as a leader: But let's remember who Abbas is. He appears well intentioned, but he is afflicted with near-disastrous weaknesses. He controls little. His troops in Gaza simply collapsed against the greatly outnumbered forces of Hamas. His authority in the West Bank is far from universal. He does not even control the various factions within Fatah. But the greater liability is his character. He is weak and indecisive. When he was Yasser Arafat's deputy, Abbas was known to respond to being slapped down by his boss by simply disappearing for weeks in a sulk. During...

June 24, 2007

Fatah Wants To Wipe Out Hamas

According to the London Telegraph, the civil war in the Palestinian territories will get even hotter over the next few days. Mahmoud Abbas plans to shut down private organizations tha