Posting: September 21, 2008


In the Torah reading for this past Shabbat — Ki Tavo — Moses speaks to the children of Israel shortly before they cross the Jordan River “into the Land that G-d is giving you… ” The people are instructed to make an alter and to bring offerings of thanksgiving and to “be glad” (samachta) before G-d.

How powerful is this message in its many parts, and — sadly — how much of this has been lost: The ability of (some) Jews to know that this is our Land, and to rejoice in this. To embrace our heritage and value it.

I write a good deal about narratives. Here we have a small but extremely significant piece of the Jewish narrative. Those of us who understand this narrative — whether Jewish or Christian (and some Christians understand better than some Jews) — have a solemn responsibility to keep telling it, so that it not be lost. For this would be a tragedy of immeasurable dimensions.


Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA, wrote an op-ed the other day in the Wall Street Journal. As he often does, he inverted the truth of our narrative. And he did it in tones so reasonable that without a doubt many a Jew (as well as many non-Jews) read what he wrote and embraced it as positive — not even understanding that he was stealing from and destroying our narrative. That he spoke lies and distortions, and not truth.

This cannot go unanswered. Hopefully I will have the opportunity for a more extensive response elsewhere. Here I will address a couple of major points:

1) He speaks about an agreement based on the 1967 “borders.” But these were armistice lines, not borders. Not sacrosanct and not anything we are obligated to return to.

2) He says — with breath-taking chutzpah — that the Palestinians already made a sacrifice by agreeing to a two-state solution, which meant that the Palestinian state was to be established on only 22% of their “historic homeland.”

No, no and no!

The Mandate for Palestine promised the land of Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean to the Jews as a homeland; this is an article of international law since 1922. It is our governments of the past 15 years that have made a sacrifice (ill-advised, in my opinion) in offering to share this.

There is more, but this will suffice here. My friends, stay vigilant and do not be fooled by misleading words, please.


Olmert informed the cabinet this morning that he would be officially submitting his resignation to President Peres this evening. This should be taking place as I write.

Once Olmert submits his resignation, his government becomes transitional, staying in power only until a new government can be established.

Officially, Peres must now select the faction head to be given the opportunity to establish a coalition. This is a formality, as it is clearly understood that this will be Livni. Peres is expected to meet with her later this evening.


But it looks as if Tzipi Livni, as new head of the Kadima party, is on shaky ground with regard to being able to establish a solid coalition. The departure of Mofaz, and the anger of his supporters, is a step towards the disintegration of Kadima, which means she is not negotiating from strength.

Mofaz has refused to join Kadima meetings meant to strengthen party cohesion. His absence leaves a considerable hole in the party.

It hasn’t helped that key Mofaz supporter MK Ronit Tirosh went on Israel Radio last night with the claim that the primary was riddled with irregularities. While MK Ze’ev Elkins, of Kadima, has said he will petition the Kadima court for a recount because of those irregularities.


Seems, in addition, that Livni is not handling the current coalition partners well. Her message: We were supposed to get rid of Olmert, and this we’ve done, so there’s no need to make any other changes — stay where you are and we’ll keep going. But her coalition partners are not so sure. Shas is still holding out, at least as of this writing. (Actually, many of the statements by Eli Yishai, head of the Shas faction, are so convoluted they are making no sense.)

And Labor is cool. Last night Barak met with Netanyahu. Though there is nothing official at this point, the rumor is that they were talking of a national emergency government — one that excludes Kadima. Speaking to the Labor faction today, Barak said:

“In light of the political, security and economic challenges, the correct move for the people of Israel is [the formation of] a very broad national emergency government. What interests me is what is good for Israel.”

While it’s hard not to choke on the suggestion that Barak works for the good of Israel, if it turns out that he has decided that what’s good for his party and for himself is to separate from a Kadima-led government, this is a step in the right direction. Aides are suggesting that he may prefer that national emergency government to continuing in a Kadima government.

Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, of Labor, predicts that first there will be elections and then the national emergency government.

“The coalition talks are nothing but a game, since everyone knows elections are near,” he told Israel Radio.


And Livni? She is saying that if a stable coalition cannot be established soon, she’ll go to elections. She’s not afraid of this, however, because she is confident that Kadima will win. Talk about bluster!

Her first concern, she insists, is the good of the nation.

All I can say is that if the people making these declarations really cared about the good of the nation yea these past few years we wouldn’t be in the place we are now.


And what’s good for the nation?

Elections, for certain. Not a Livni-run government. And a solid coalition that at least tilts right. We are facing difficult times and there must be a government with the strength to act decisively in the name of the people — decisively both in terms of having the courage to act in our defense and to refuse to be cowed into making dangerous concessions.

We need a government led by people who will not defy the will of the nation, as Olmert and Livni have, and move unilaterally on existential issues when there is no national consensus. As Minister Eli Yeshai has just said:

“There is not one person… who has the moral, political or practical authority to push issues that are subject to disagreement.”

Without doubt, he is referring primarily to willingness to negotiate the division of Jerusalem, although the majority of Israelis are against this.


A Palestinian Authority security official, reports YNet, has registered concern that Hamas is planning a series of attacks to weaken the Authority at the time that Abbas’s term as president comes to an end. Reportedly, these planned operations are being headed by Ahmed Jabri, who is understood to be deputy chief of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing.

What is the way to weaken Hamas? Says the official:

… “the way… is to speed up the peace talks and dismantle Israeli outposts and even settlements in the West Bank, as well as remove IDF roadblocks, grant entry permits to Palestinian workers and cease the IDF’s operations in the West Bank.”

I am not making this up. I couldn’t.

The unnamed PA official is mum on how speeding up the peace talks will weaken Hamas, when the Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida has declared that the PA’s increased cooperation with Israel was one of the factors that has “pushed the moment of punishment forward.”

I hasten to point out, as well, that the PA does not do the sort of military operations against terrorists that the IDF does. They have neither the will nor the capacity. They take out common thugs and shut down Hamas charities.


It’s shameful on several counts and I cannot let this posting pass without mention of this, although, surely, many readers are already familiar with the situation:

Ahmadinejad is coming to New York to address the UN General Assembly. In protest, the Conference of the Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations — a major umbrella organization for establishment American Jewish organizations, headed by Malcolm Hoenlein — organized a rally.

Among the speakers they invited were Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. The intent, clearly, was a unified, non-partisan protest. There are times when politics are not appropriate: McCain and Obama, for example, came together at Ground Zero for 9/11.

But Hillary Clinton, acting with consummate foolishness, politicized the situation. When she learned that Palin was also invited, and had decided to come, she withdrew her agreement to participate, expressing concern that this was becoming a “partisan political event.”

So far, her mistake and nothing more. As JINSA pointed out, her participation would have insured that the event wasn’t partisan, and she blew it.


Pressure was then brought to bear upon the Conference of Presidents to withdraw the invitation to Palin. This was reportedly done so that there should be no impression of partisanship, but what actually happened is that an opportunity to show the world that everyone in the US stood against the intentions of Iran had been lost and the major issue was obscured by trivializing politics. And the Conference conceded.

JINSA reported that the pressure came from the National Jewish Democratic Council. I have since picked up information that JStreet, the leftist political group, is taking credit on its website for having accomplished this. It should be noted that there are links between the two groups.

What is most disgraceful here is not the pressure brought to bear by Jewish leftist groups, but the fact that a mainstream Jewish group caved.

I am aware of two organizations — JINSA and CAMERA — that have publicly protested the Conference’s decision and the fact that they, as members of the Conference, were not consulted before that decision was made. There may well be others similarly incensed.


Head of Military Intelligence, Brigadier-General Yossi Baidatz, today briefed the Cabinet. Among the matters he addressed was Iran:

“Iran is focusing its efforts in enriching uranium and improving the operational capabilities of its centrifuges. It is mastering the necessary technology and now has one-third of what it needs to create a bomb.

“In view of the UN Security Council’s inability to enforce a fourth round of sanctions, Iran’s confidence is increasing and they now believe there is nothing the international community can do to stop them. Time is on Iran’s side.”

Baidatz additionally said that Teheran is strengthening its relations with Hezbollah, Syria and various Palestinian terror groups in an attempt to position itself as the lead radical force in the Middle East, while “The more moderate Arab states are not united in the wish to act against Iran.”

Put simply, he said the international community is not doing enough to stop Iran.

G-d help us, that there are fools worried about partisan politics when this happening. If ever there were people fiddling while the world threatened to burn.


Please, if you American, take a look at this from Jeff Jacoby, on a drilling bill that bans drilling.

“According to the Interior Department, the offshore areas where drilling is restricted contain more than 19 billion barrels — that’s equal to 30 years of current imports from Saudi Arabia. The bill would deny Americans access to as much as nine-tenths of that oil.”

But if America were to avail itself of oil reserves it would literally shift the dynamics of the Middle East and loosen the stranglehold of the oil-producing nations.


Posting: September 18, 2008

“No Bargain”

So, Tzipi Livni has won the Kadima primary, making her the new head of the party, beating runner-up Shaul Mofaz not by the landslide polls had predicted but by a mere 431 votes.

But the nation deserves better than her as prime minister. The last time I heard her speak, I walked out because I found her “logic” as to why we must give away our country unbearable. She, too, has lost the Israeli narrative.


She is now starting the process of trying to put together a coalition. She has a month to do this(and can request another 15 days beyond this). In some quarters the betting is that she won’t be able to do it. It’s difficult to call.

If she doesn’t, the nation then goes to elections.

There are those — not just opposition head Netanyahu, but members of Labor as well — who say elections are imperative now because a primary election in Kadima shouldn’t determine who becomes prime minister, our nation must do that.


Olmert had said he would resign as prime minister as soon as the new head of Kadima was elected. But he has not yet handed his resignation to President Peres, and there is now some talk of his delaying until after Rosh Hashana — which would mean October 2. At the moment he is an anomaly — a prime minister who is not also head of his party. I don’t believe this has ever happened in this country before.

Even after he does hand in his resignation, he can remain in office as head of a transitional government until such as we have a new government. What he should do is step aside immediately, declaring that he is unable to fulfill the functions of his office, and allow Deputy Prime Minister Livni to take over the transitional government. But I’m not sure “should” is in his vocabulary.


When Mofaz first got the news about how close the vote was, he said he would challenge it. He then pulled back on this and has now announced that he intends to take a rest from political life.


Please see my article on the “right of return” from Front Page Magazine:


Posting: September 16, 2008


In a word, Ehud Olmert is not even a poor excuse for a prime minister. For he has abandoned the Israeli narrative and lost the ability to speak on behalf of our nation.

He made a statement to the Knesset Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense yesterday. My first impulse was to respond to it, argument by argument, but I have decided not to because we are on the cusp of changes (please G-d!) and my energy is best spent doing other things.


Just two days ago, a report — unconfirmed — came from Channel 2 saying that Olmert had agreed to give away over 98% of our land in Judea and Samaria. Olmert’s statements to the committee, however, seemed to imply a 100% giveaway (I don’t believe that Jerusalem was included in this).

Whether he meant it — he certainly seems to mean it — or he was simply grandstanding is something I ponder.

On the one hand, he caves ever more to PA demands. As if — and I’ve described this before — we and not the Palestinians are in greatest need of a settlement. This is how he presents his case. So that finally he comes to the point of totally acceding to PA demands, while the other side concedes nothing. I speak with certainty when I tell you that this is not the position sanctioned by the majority of Israelis. For those of us concerned with our heritage as well as with security issues — which he totally and disgracefully discounted — it is all fairly unbearable and enormously enraging.


For the record: The ’67 lines were only armistice lines. They were not borders and it was not expected that they would become Israel’s borders. Jordan, in signing an armistice agreement, acknowledged that the lines weren’t final. The UN, in resolution 242, also structured matters so that Israel was not expected to return to the ’67 lines — issues of secure and defensible boundaries (which the ’67 lines do NOT represent) were alluded to.

There is nothing sacrosanct about those lines and no reason in the world we should be expected to return to them. That’s from a legal perspective — in short, with much more that might be said.

From the perspective of our heritage, there is solid claim to territory beyond the ’67 lines as well. From the perspective of heritage it is our land.

And yet, the Arabs have been so successful in their PR that they have convinced the world that they have a “right” to everything beyond the ’67 lines. It simply is not so.


The reason why I wonder if Olmert might be simply grandstanding — simply setting up a situation that shows how willing he was to sacrifice — is this: He also said that we cannot accept the “return” of “refugees.” Indeed, we cannot, and survive. But Olmert knows that Abbas cannot accept any final deal that does not include refugees returning. And perhaps then Olmert knows that in the end there will not be a settlement on a two-state solution arrived at now, or in the next four months.


On Sunday, the website of the armed branch of Hamas (carried by IMRA) delivered a message of severe criticism of Abbas for caving in negotiations with the “Zionists.” (The term “Israel” is never used.) Said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, the negotiations with “the Zionist entity” are “very dangerous and will not be accepted by the Palestinian people who will resist and foil these agendas.” Abbas, he said, is turning his back on “millions of displaced Palestinians” who had a right to “return to their homeland.”

This is why Abbas, even if he were inclined (which he is not) to compromise on refugees returning, is not able to do so. And why the negotiations ultimately cannot succeed. (Of course, much the same might be said about PA demands in Jerusalem, which is an issue still to be resolved.)


There continues to be trepidation that Olmert, in his last, reckless days as PM, might commit us to something in principle that will come back to haunt us at a later date.


As Olmert rambles on about what we must give in order to make a deal with the Palestinians immediately, MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) — former chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee — has come out with a statement that strongly opposes such negotiations:

“For any foreseeable future I do not see a partner, or any possibility to leave Judea and Samaria or even part of it.

“The idea of a two-state solution should be dead, today, because unfortunately a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would bring about Israel’s demise.”

Steinitz’s concerns happen to be strictly based on security considerations. He is, I would suggest, worth attending to because he started as a supporter of Peace Now and moved right because of what he saw happening on the ground.


Tomorrow, the Kadima primary. The two leading candidates, Livni and Mofaz, have both spoken about forming coalitions for new governments so that it will not be necessary to go to elections.

There is the possibility, just a possibility, that Shas Chairman Eli Yishai has now diminished the odds of this happening. In a Sunday interview with Maariv, he made a declaration — for whatever such declarations are worth — that Shas will not be party to a government “that does not declare that Jerusalem is not on the diplomatic agenda and is not to be included in negotiations.” (This means more than just postponing such talks — which is the game that has been played until now, it means not having them.)

Livni, who is very much the front-runner, is for such negotiations. Mofaz has spoken out against them.

There have been several speculations regarding Yishai’s motives.


Posting: September 14, 2008

“Rumors and Games”

Changes are rapidly approaching: There is the Kadima primary, scheduled for this Wednesday, and then, three months hence, the end of Bush’s administration — by which time parameters of a “peace” agreement were supposed to have been nailed down.

Reporting on objective “facts” with regard to what’s happening in the run-up to these events is sometimes close to impossible, as the rumors are flying fast.


Last week, US Consul Jacob Walles, in an interview in the Palestinian paper Al-Ayyam, stated that Israel had started negotiations with the PA on Jerusalem — something Olmert promised not to do until all other issues were resolved.

The response from the Olmert government was two-fold: First, official fury at Walles for talking when it had been agreed that the content of negotiations was not supposed to be discussed publicly. And then, a denial by Olmert that Jerusalem was on the table, as this caused something of an uproar inside of Kadima.

But it seems that a bit of mental dissonance has been generated. Says Olmert: We are angry that Walles spoke about something he was pledged not to talk about, but we’re not doing what he says we are.

Tzipi Livni, Kadima frontrunner and chief negotiator, also issued a denial.


Meanwhile, Al Shariq, a newspaper in Qatar, has described an agreement that is allegedly taking shape between Israel and the PA; it was carried by YNet yesterday. Reportedly there are 12 clauses, due to be released by the end of this year. Two are of particular note.

First, the Palestinian capital will include “several neighborhoods of Jerusalem.”

And then, 20,000 refugees will be permitted into Israel within ten years — refugees, aged 60-80, who had been uprooted in 1948, not their families, who would be permitted to live out their lives in Israel.

As to the first: One would have to be an incredibly trusting person to believe Olmert’s and Livni’s denials that Jerusalem has not been discussed. Of course it has! But is the PA going to accept “several neighborhoods” rather than all of eastern Jerusalem (which includes the Jewish holy sites and substantial Jewish neighborhoods)?

And the second: In spite of the cry about “right of return,” are we to believe that the Palestinians will settle for a small number of elderly people, without family support, coming to live in Israel? As the Arabs are claiming 4.6 million refugees, this is a token.043%.


And here we are: On Friday, Abbas gave an interview with Haaretz in which he said that “We presented our ideas and demands regarding the six issues, but have not received any answer from the Israeli side.”

Abbas, in this interview as elsewhere, is adamant about Israel accepting responsibility for the refugee problem and a “practical” right of return — which he would base on the Arab initiative of 2002.

That Arab — read Saudi — initiative was a horror for Israel. With regard to the refugees, it called for a “just” solution based on UN Resolution 194. (For over 60 years, the Arabs have been basing their claims to “right of return” on this document, which in point of fact guarantees nothing with regard to return.)

What is more, which is a tip-off, it “Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.” This means that Syria and Lebanon, and other Arab states that currently host “Palestinian refugees” in an on-going limbo status are being reassured that they are under no obligation to absorb them permanently.


This morning, an aide to Abbas said that reaching a peace deal this year was becoming more difficult, but that the Palestinians were interested in continuing talks after Olmert left office. What’s clear is that they are counting on Livni replacing Olmert. See following…


A Kuwaiti paper, Al-Jarida, also cited by YNet, says that Ahmed Qurei, the chief PA negotiator, supports Livni for head of Kadima because she is “willing to give them what others have not.” Understand, Qurei and Livni have established a solid working relationship already in the course of negotiations.

Qurei, according to this report, is structuring things so that she appears tough, in order to win votes. A bit of unintended humor: What was actually said was that he is helping her establish a “radical right-wing aura.” Livni cannot convey a radical right-wing aura any more than I can project an aura of being an avid supporter of Peace Now. This is a window on PA thinking: Concern about protecting Israeli security — which is what Livni is expressing –is in their eyes the mark of a radical right-winger.

In spite of this, Qurei said he would not sign the current agreement that was taking shape on Jerusalem (uh huh… ) because it would allow the city to be “an Israeli military camp,” which is his version of Israel retaining some areas with security measures.

In fact, he said that the negotiations, in his expectation, would amount to nothing. My expectation as well, but I ponder why it matters to him whether Livni wins the primary if nothing will come of it anyway.


Possible scenarios to watch for, coming down the road when the negotiations run their course:

Another Intifada — greatly increased violence (terrorism) against Israel. This is hinted at in some quarters, but others suggest that either there is not the resolve for this within the populace or that politically this is not the way to go.

Push for a “one state” solution. In this scenario PA leaders declare that they’ve given up on a two-state solution and want Israel to incorporate all Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Gaza so that there is one bi-national state. A dangerous concept.


But perhaps the negotiations will be dragged out for longer than expected (and perhaps this is what Qurei is thinking about):

According to PA Basic Law — you may read reports to the contrary, but there is no PA constitution — the presidential term is four years, which means Mahmoud Abbas’s term as president runs out in January 2009. Reports are circulating about unease here that after Abbas leaves chaos in the PA will follow. In fact, the Post has indicated that the IDF has held special exercises in preparation for a potential increase in violence.

The Basic Law says that until new elections are held (and this would require 60 days), the Speaker of the Legislative Council takes over once the president has left office. Hamas is pushing hard for this, for the speaker is Hamas-affiliated Abdel Aziz Duwaik. Abdel Aziz Duwaik, it happens, is sitting in an Israeli prison right now. (Acting speaker is Sheikh Ahmed Bahar, who in a Friday sermon a year ago called upon Jews and Americans to be killed “to the very last one.”) Undoubtedly, it is the prospect of Duwaik receiving the title of PA president while in prison here that is unsettling the IDF, with good reason.

Of course, Abbas could still schedule those elections. But he has made no mention of this to date, no move to set things in motion. Abbas, it seems, has a different interpretation of Basic Law. The election for president, he says, is supposed to coincide with elections for the Legislative Council, which are scheduled for January 2010 — four years after the Hamas electoral victory of 2006. (My assumption is that Abbas is claiming the presidential elections are out of synch because of Arafat’s death in November 2004, and the need to elect his successor in early 2005, one year before presidential elections would otherwise have been held.)

Anything can happen, and the political in-fighting is likely to be substantial, but there is solid betting that Abbas is about to extend his presidential term to January 2010.


Israel is suffering from drought. But this is apparently nothing compared to the drought being endured right now in Iran. From the Jordan Times, carried by IMRA, comes a report of extreme suffering in the southern Iranian province of Fars, where rainfall is down 68% and 10 of its 11 rivers have dried up. Not only are people without drinking water, but this agricultural region, where 85% of the population relies on farming, is in dire straits.

This is of significance with regard to Iran’s strength. The Iranian government has allocated $5 billion to fight the drought, and will have to import 5 million tons of wheat for domestic consumption.

Hard times, it would surely seem, make Iran more vulnerable to the impact of serious economic sanctions. What is more, it’s a good guess that the population must have grievous dissatisfaction with the focus of its government in this time of hardship.


This is good news:

Just days ago news reports were saying that the US has been declining in recent months to respond favorably to Israeli requests for military equipment that would make an Israeli attack on Iran more effective. But now in the wake of this comes a different sort of report from Haaretz.

The U.S. Department of Defense announced on Friday that it will sell the Israel Air Force 1,000 new “bunker buster” smart bombs. What we’re talking about is the Guided Bomb Unit-39 (GBU-39), which was developed for penetration of deep fortified facilities.

This Boeing-developed bomb is able to successfully penetrate more than 1.8 meters of thick reinforced concrete, and has a 50% probability of hitting its target within 5-8 meters. Because of its small size — 113 kilograms, four can replace a single conventional one-ton bomb on an aircraft.

This, needless to say, will considerably enhance our ability to mount a successful strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, should such a strike be decided upon. It also gives some credence to the theories I’ve encountered maintaining that public US disapproval of our intention to hit Iran, if necessary, is at least in part smoke screen.


You might want to take a look at Charles Krauthammer’s perceptive piece, “Obama’s Altitude Sickness,” in which he takes a clear-eyed look at the reason why Obama is now losing steam in the campaign.

“… Obama was the ultimate celebrity candidate. For no presidential nominee in living memory had the gap between adulation and achievement been so great.

“… The unease at the Denver convention, the feeling of buyer’s remorse, was the Democrats’ realization that the arc of Obama’s celebrity had peaked — and had now entered a period of its steepest decline. That Palin could so instantly steal the celebrity spotlight is a reflection of that decline.

“It was inevitable. Obama had managed to stay aloft for four full years. But no one can levitate forever.

“… With every primary and every repetition of the high-flown, self-referential rhetoric, the campaign’s insubstantiality became clear. By the time… of the last primary [it was] tired and flat. To top himself, Obama had to reach. Hence his triumphal declaration that history would note that night, his victory, his ascension, as ‘the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.’

The moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal??

“Clang…. That grandiloquent proclamation of universalist puffery popped the bubble. The grandiosity had become bizarre.

“… One star fades, another is born. The very next morning McCain picks Sarah Palin and a new celebrity is launched.

“… her job is easier. She only has to remain airborne for seven more weeks. Obama maintained altitude for an astonishing four years. In politics, as in all games, however, it’s the finish that counts.”


Jeff Jacoby, writing in the Boston Globe, has another take on the current Obama slide: People, he says, are being to see through the Obama economic proposals.


Posting: September 11, 2008


It’s been seven years since the horror of the World Trade Center destruction and the attack on the Pentagon.

As with the Holocaust, the by-word must be: Never Again. But words are cheap and vigilance is required. The people of the US — now, especially, with an election close at hand — must ask what is being done, and what must be done, to insure that there is never another Nine-Eleven.


One of the lessons of that horror has never been adequately learned and assimilated: The perpetrators of 9/11 were not poor, not lower class, not uneducated, not hopeless. They acted out of a radical ideology. Throwing money at terrorists does not moderate them.


Al-Qaeda certainly is not what it was seven years ago: It has been substantially weakened. But while it’s down, it is not yet out. We are being told that the message of Jihad still retains currency.

While counter-terrorism efforts have yielded successes, US intelligence officials say Al-Qaeda “remains the most serious terrorist threat to the United States.”

According to some reports, Al-Qaeda is seeking to attack inside US borders, but is finding it difficult because of the increase in vigilance. Thus it looks, instead, to hit in Europe.

There is concern in security circles about evolving techniques — such as increased use of the Internet, which spans local groups. The situation is actually far more complex now than it was seven years ago, because of these localized Al-Qaeda groups. Between January 2005 and April 2007, 40 organizations — located in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Europe, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt — announced formation and pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Additionally, an enclave in tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan has been carved out as a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban fighters from Afghanistan (the guessing is that Bin Laden is there somewhere). This “safe haven” has permitted Al-Qaeda to “regain its equilibrium.”

Says a senior British anti-terrorism official:

“We don’t want to let complacency sink in. That is exactly when something can happen,. The threat hasn’t manifested itself in the West recently, but the picture looks a lot different if you are in Algiers or Islamabad.”


Another lesson not yet assimilated adequately: The presence of Israel and the fact that a Palestinian state has not been established have less than nothing to do with the larger Jihadist picture. All those who imagine that if only Israel would shrink back to the ’49 lines and give the Palestinians half of Jerusalem all would be well are very much mistaken. Most Muslims care not a whit about the establishment of a Palestinian state; in fact the Palestinians are broadly disliked.

The historical roots of Islamic extremism, and Jihadism, are deep, going back centuries, and the goal of a widespread caliphate to rule according Sharia’a (Islamic law) is hardly new. The much analyzed tensions between Sunnis and Shias derive from a conflict over which group would form the legitimate caliphate.


From The Jordan Times yesterday — cited by IMRA — is a piece discussing how furious with the Palestinians the Arab League is. Furious because the Palestinians are so busy fighting among themselves that they can’t get their act together. Arab League secretary general Amr Musa told a press conference Tuesday: “We are studying the measures to be taken in the face of the current Palestinian chaos.”


You know the saying that a good deed never goes unpunished?

For Ramadan, Israel is attempting to ease the passage of Palestinians through checkpoints. At the checkpoint at Hawara, outside of Nablus, where numerous terrorists have been nabbed, a humanitarian lane has been established for emergencies. An Arab woman ran through that lane and threw acid in the face of the soldier manning the post.


Each year it is traditional for the president of Israel to host leaders of the Arab-Israeli community during Ramadan. Present this year at President Shimon Peres’s dinner was Sheikh Abdallah Nimr Darwish, founder of the Islamic Movement.

With regard to the “peace” negotiations, Darwish explained that, “The Palestinians can’t give up any more.”

This was fascinating for me, as I’m not aware of anything they have given up.


Posting: September 9, 2008

“Warming That Molasses”

Yesterday I wrote that the process of removing Olmert from the government is as “slow as molasses.” But what I’m seeing now might — just might, no guarantees — push things ahead more quickly. There is heat being generated:

Quite simply, there are people in the government who are weary of the thought of having him at the helm, and people in his own Kadima party who are getting worried about the liability he represents. A prime minister, making major decisions, who is about to be indicted? Not a great scene.


Members of the opposition in the Knesset called a special session today to address what they called the “illegitimate conduct of government regarding political affairs.”

MK Aryeh Eldad (NU/NRP) has always been outspoken and direct, and today was no exception. What he said was:

“How do we know what is behind this man’s decisions? Maybe tomorrow, Olmert will want to give away land to the Arab enemy… Maybe someone paid him to change his mind and give away land that belongs to my people, to my heritage. A man suspected of receiving bribes cannot be Israel’s prime minister since we don’t know what motivates him.”

And I salute him for this honesty. He is not saying that Olmert has been bribed already to negotiate with the PA, but that Olmert cannot be trusted.

When one considers the notion of “bribes” broadly, it becomes even more disconcerting. For there can be financial gain via investments that motivates decisions as well — even though this has nothing to do with what is good for the nation.


Within Kadima there are individuals decidedly not happy with the very convoluted scenario I described yesterday in which Olmert would head a transitional government even if he had been indicted. In some quarters there is a push to have him really step down so that the new head of Kadima — who will be elected next week — can head that transitional government.

Others are declaring with confidence that the winner of the primary (most likely Livni) will be able to form a new coalition so quickly that this would not be an issue.

So… for now we’ll keep waiting and seeing.


Olmert had been scheduled to visit Russia next week, where he was going to be lobbying against arms for Syria, but that trip has been cancelled because of his tenuous position.

Similarly, there is speculation that there will not be any more indirect negotiations with Syria, either. Which, in my book, would be the best thing that could happen. The next round was due to take place on the 18th.


There are Israeli officials lamenting that Assad may feel he already got what he wanted — an end to international isolation — and that he didn’t “need” Israel any longer.

When French president Nicholas Sarkozy came to Syria last week, and then was joined by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, some high level Israelis were lamenting that these people were giving Assad too much recognition. I found this highly ironic, because it was the fools in Israel who broke Syria’s isolation and started the process. Who were they to criticize?

Assad had been making a bid for US involvement in direct talks with Israel — he had said that the talks would only work with US participation. But the US is none too keen to be involved here. One guess is that this is because it would tie Olmert’s successor into this prematurely. But the fact is that the American administration has shown no desire to promote this in any event.


Gen. James Jones, the US security advisor on the Israeli-Palestinian talks, is due here tomorrow in an attempt to define Israel’s vital security needs that would have to be addressed in any Israeli-PA agreement.

As a last ditch effort, it seems, the Americans are hoping to draft a “security document” — a document defining Israel’s security needs that would be acceptable to Israel and the US — even if a diplomatic agreement isn’t reached. Israel, however, isn’t keen on putting anything in writing in this regard without that diplomatic progress.

What infuriates me considerably is the audacity of suggesting that the US has to pass on — or voice acceptance of — our defined security needs. No one, but no one, should sign off on this except Israeli security and military experts. We tell them what we insist upon. And if the rest of the world doesn’t like it, tough. The US thinks it has a say in whether we need certain areas of Judea and Samaria to be secure? Or whether it’s safe for our citizens if we allow PA security personnel carrying guns to locate in such and such a region?

It was Secretary of State Rice who coerced Israel into leaving the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, when we were supposed to have stayed there. She did this in spite of Israeli security objections (and were those objections correct!) because her priority was moving a process, not protecting Israel.


Interesting: Like clockwork, every so often there is a bid to release Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti. Sometimes this is from the Palestinians, but sometimes it comes from our side. There are Israelis convinced that if Barghouti were released he would have such charisma, such impact on the street, that he could move forward a peace agreement and help cool the tensions with Hamas.

Foolish, foolish thinking in any event, I believe. For if the “best” we can find as PA leader is a convicted terrorist, these are not really people we want to deal with. Never mind that because of the Israeli lives he has taken, he should never be free again.

Now the Israel Radio Arab affairs correspondent has reported on a study by our security forces that indicates that Barghouti’s popularity in the street has been severely over-rated. In fact, the last time there were Legislative Council elections, no one who had connections with Barghouti won.

Good. Can we stop talking about letting him go now?


The taskforce, headed by Haim Ramon, charged with coming up with the names of 450 Hamas prisoners we would be willing to exchange for Shalit, has completed its work. This is a list –with new guidelines on who can be released — that Israel decided to submit to Hamas, with initiative coming from our side. This is not in response to specific Hamas demands.

But Hamas is now asking for 1,500 prisoners, so this is not going to play.

And there’s more that is deeply disturbing:

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has been acting as go-between on negotiations, has been unable to get those negotiations started again. Hamas is playing hardball. And so, according to Haaretz, Suleiman told Yossi Beilin in meetings in Cairo on Sunday that he’s working on a new approach. This would include extending the “ceasefire” and securing guarantees from Israel that we would not harm Hamas leaders.

This is what follows from what has been our foolish acquiescence to terrorist demands We have been acting too hungry and too eager.

I much prefer the suggestion of some defense officials — including Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin — that we increase pressure on Hamas instead, even if it means limited military action against Hamas that threatens the “ceasefire.” Our message then changes from “Oh, please, tell us what else we have to do for you to make you happy?” to “Let us tell you what we’ve going to do to you if you don’t act as we want you to.”


Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s first female ambassador to the UN, submitted her credentials Monday to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She was at one time a professor of law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


Posting: September 8, 2008

“Slow Like Molasses”

Getting rid of Olmert is that slow.

At long last, after months of investigation, the police on Sunday evening recommended that Olmert be indicted on charges of bribery, breach of public trust, violation of anti-money laundering laws and fraudulent receipt of goods.

The two cases involved — that will generate these charges — are the Talansky affair, in which he is alleged to have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally in exchange for promises to promote Talansky’s business interests, and the Rishon Tours affair, in which he allegedly double billed non-profit organizations for trips, thereby amassing for himself considerable excess funds.

And this is not the end of what he may yet be charged with.


But the process is hardly complete. Material collected in the two cases mentioned will be turned over to the Jerusalem District Attorney’s office, where Eli Abarnel, district attorney for criminal affairs will assume the investigation. He will submit his recommendations on indictment to State Attorney Moshe Lador, who will present his recommendation to State Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, who will render a final decision on indicting.


The indictment is now not expected before December. And there’s more: Olmert’s associates are saying that he will stay in office even after indictment, and until a new government is formed.

My assumption, based on standard form and expectations, was that a head of government under indictment would step down. Just a few months ago, in early May, Olmert himself had declared that he would step down if there were an indictment against him. A deputy premier would then take over.

But following this, in July, he declared that he would resign after a new head of Kadima was elected in the primary due to take place this month. And in that instance he would stay in place until the new government was formed.

Now what is being said is that if he is indicted in December, and a new government is not in place by that point, then Olmert — who would already have resigned in principle — would remain at the head of the transitional government until such time as the new permanent government was in place, rather than allowing a deputy premier to become prime minister until the new government was established.

Do not be disturbed if this is confusing to you. It’s possible that there would be something wrong with you if you were not just a bit confused, actually. For this is a convoluted scenario filled with “if’s” and “maybe’s.”

Part of what remains to be seen is whether the new head of Kadima is able to put together a coalition, which might happen before December. Or if an election is called, which would mean everything would not be finalized by December. Livni, who is riding high in the polls these days, was said to be thinking of calling for a national election if elected head of Kadima, but is now talking about establishing an emergency government. Mofaz, who is running second in the polls, is also talking about forming a new coalition quickly.

All I can promise is to do my level best to keep you informed as this unfolds.


Mahmoud Abbas, who was in Cairo on Saturday, told Egyptian president Mubarak that he doubted an agreement could be reached with the Israelis by the end of this year. He reiterated his desire for a total agreement:

“The solution that we Palestinians want must include all matters, and not defer on any. Both Jerusalem and the right of return are Palestinian rights.”

Now, it actually is not the case — there is no “right of return” in international law. Yet certainly the Arabs have been claiming it for over 60 years, drawing on UN Resolution 194 (which was only a vague recommendation without legal teeth).

But it would be interesting to see how Abbas and company would demonstrate — legally, historically — the claim to Jerusalem as a “Palestinian right.” They’ve got a good part of the world believing this, without a basis for it at all.


Top Israeli defense officials, cited by The Jerusalem Post, are now saying that Iran is consolidating its hold on Hezbollah, so that Nasrallah is no longer in exclusive control.

Reportedly a delegation of high level Iranian Revolutionary Guards visited Beirut last week to coordinate the incorporation of Hezbollah into its forces.

According to a Syrian opposition newspaper, this was being done in case Syria were to establish relations with Israel and back off on its involvement with Hezbollah (something that seems extremely unlikely from this vantage point).

What seems to make more sense is the speculation that Iran is seeking to control Hezbollah sufficiently so that it would be able to order it to attack Israel, were Israel to attack Iran.


Iran continues to head the list of major international concerns:

A Russian state-run company that — in return for $1 billion — has been helping Iran build its first light-water nuclear reactor in Bushehr says that it should be launched by the end of the year. In theory, this plant is in line with international agreements. The US withdrew objections when Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia so it could not be used for weaponry.


David Kay, who headed the UN inspection program that uncovered the Iraqi nuclear program, writing in The Washington Post, estimated that Iran is two to four years away from developing some five nuclear weapons (a more modest estimate than what Israeli intelligence predicts). He had this to say:

“My humble best guess is that Iran is pushing toward a nuclear-weapons capability as rapidly as it can. But if Tehran were to believe that American – not Israeli – military action is imminent, it might slow work on the elements of its program that it thinks the world can observe.”


Ileana Ross-Lehtinen, one of the very best friends we have in Congress, offered this in a piece she wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

“The best way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities is to impose a cost so high that it threatens the Iranian regime’s survival unless that regime changes course. U.S. sanctions have hindered Iran’s ability to attract capital, materials, and technical support, and have created extensive and growing financial difficulties for the regime. Yet although Congress has repeatedly passed sanctions legislation which has been signed into law, its implementation has been watered down or ignored by successive administrations.

“The latest U.S. response has been to join the European Union’s efforts to bribe the mullahs into suspending uranium enrichment, while failing to apply U.S. sanctions…

“We must impose immediate, comprehensive, tough economic sanctions, along with every other source of pressure that we can muster, in coordination with as many countries as we can persuade to do so…

“The United States should make a moral statement that we will not deal with pariah states and will not help such states to fortify themselves and thereby endanger our own national interests and the interests of our allies, such as Israel.

“The Iranian regime’s expanding political and military involvement across the Middle East and South Asia is a force to be reckoned with. We need to wake up and understand the implications of this matter… History has taught us that failing to act when threatened by a deadly foe like Iran usually ends in an avoidable tragedy. We ignore Iran’s growing hegemony at our own peril.”


Posting: September 4, 2008


Yes, hope. I didn’t realize how hungry for it I was, how bereft of it I felt, until today…

I sit here, along with many others, and I watch how the world has been turning, and how the bad guys are gaining traction, and there is a small wedge of terror in my heart. I go about my business as if it weren’t there. But the flicker of hope that rose up in me today reminded me of its presence, and of how serious are the issues we all face.

Many Americans are also hungry for hope. That’s why they’ve latched on to Barack Obama with such passion. He promises hope. But his promises are cheap and without substance. Many facts have been presented in these postings — carefully documented facts — that demonstrate his weaknesses and the problems inherent in his candidacy.

But now it must be said outright: The hope Obama promises is no more than vacuous, elitist egotism. There’s no substance, no constancy to the man, and certainly no ability to stand strong before our enemies. (“Our” enemies: the enemies of Israel and the US are one and the same.) Barack Obama terrifies me.


So, why do I feel a flicker of hope now?

Because I listened to Gov. Sarah Palin’s speech accepting the Republican nomination as vice president — found on the Internet at And I was blown away. Because she’s genuine and gusty, and she has values. And she talks about putting the country first.

So, I say to myself, maybe a McCain-Palin win is a possibility. Maybe the US won’t implode into a shivering mass of appeasement after all. Maybe there will be a US administration that will stop pressuring us to give away half our land to a bunch of terrorists, and will mean what it says to Iran. Maybe… There is my hope.


Let us move for a moment from the usual topics discussed here to abortion — since many people seem to think that McCain-Palin are unacceptable because of their pro-life stand. Liberals — who are Obama supporters — are pro-choice. But a solid case can be made for the position that “choice” is not a valid option — a women cannot blithely dispose of the growing life inside her just because it doesn’t suit her to have a baby. Jewish law (halachha) certainly does not acknowledge a woman’s right in this respect. There are situations in which abortions are appropriate — cases of rape, incest, emotional or physical inability of the mother to cope (and indeed the rabbis find ways to address these instances).

What is being said is that the McCain-Palin stand permits no abortions at all. But that beats Obama’s position by a great deal. It was Michael Gerson, writing in The Washington Post a few months ago who called Obama’s abortion stand “extreme.” Obama opposed the legal ban on partial-birth abortions. Imagine: partially delivering a fetus — a fetus close to being or perhaps already viable — and then inserting something sharp into its brain to destroy it. This is OK so that a woman can have a choice? Forgive me, this is a moral obscenity. Saying it’s very rarely done excuses nothing.

“And in the Illinois State Senate, [Obama] opposed a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which prevents the killing of infants mistakenly left alive by abortion.” How close to infanticide does it get?

It moved me today, to see Sarah Palin’s husband cradling their baby son, while Sarah spoke about the unique joys and challenges of their special needs (Downs) child, the child she refused to abort. This speaks to me of character. Just as it speaks to me of character that John and Cindy McCain adopted a Bengali baby with a severe cleft palate from Mother Theresa’s orphanage.

Maybe that’s another source of my hope. There’s been such a paucity of character in our leaders.

Please, see Jeff Jacoby’s piece, “A stark choice on abortion”:


More about Obama.

Journalist Kenneth Timmerman has just written that as a young man Obama was assisted by Khalid al-Mansour, who is “well known within the black community as a lawyer, an orthodox Muslim, a black nationalist, an author, an international deal-maker, an educator, and an outspoken enemy of Israel.”

At the time that al-Mansour sought to give a boost to Obama, he was serving as an advisor to Saudi billionaires Abdul Aziz and Khalid al-Ibrahim, as well as to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the nephew of King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia.

Why would al-Mansour have been interested in promoting Barack Hussein Obama? I suggest that most Americans haven’t a clue who Obama really is or what he stands for.


It’s another flicker of hope I felt on reading news about Olmert today. This is a negative hope (is there such a thing?): The hope that we may soon be done with him, at long last. Things have dragged on so long that the end, when it comes, will be almost anti-climactic.

The evidence on Olmert with regard to at least three different cases — it’s not just the Talansky case — are being consolidated by the police in the National Fraud Unit, who met today to discuss it. Within a week the decision as to whether to indict will be sent to the State Prosecutor, though it seems an indictment wouldn’t actually be filed until late October, after the Holidays

It is my impression that if he were indicted he would be expected to step down — even if a new government had not yet been formulated.


Syria’s President Assad has announced that talks with Israel have been postponed because Olmert’s aide, Yoram Turbowitz, who was heading up the indirect negotiations with Syria has resigned. A strange story here: he resigned but has offered to continue to do the negotiations on a volunteer basis. No, says Attorney General Mazuz, he has to be paid. Why does it matter? A volunteer has less accountability. Need more be said?


According to Assad, the up-coming fifth round of indirect talks, with Turkey as go-between, is supposed to lead to direct talks. He says he has now submitted proposals for peace to Israel.

There’s a trap here, though. Assad is eager for international involvement in and support on these talks because then the international community would “make sure” that Olmert’s successor followed down the same negotiating path. Allegedly, Olmert has agreed to give up the Golan Heights for peace. This man cannot be gone fast enough.


When MKs questioned him yesterday about Olmert’s legitimate use of power — since he has already committed to resigning — Attorney General Mazuz replied that the government has characteristic in common with a transitional government.

The government is not formally transitional, as a new government is not being formed nor are we in the period before [announced] elections. However, decisions from the High Court regarding transitional governments elections should serve