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a different side of Israel

Tag: Hezbollah (page 3 of 10)

Post Optimism

An Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire “sort of” began today; Iran agrees to discuss the West’s anti-nuclear incentives; Exchange of prisoners with Hezbollah is rumored to take place any day now; Bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance stand together with the Histadrut (the federation of labor) against the Minister’s plot to tax the Study Funds; It’s summer…

There are lots of things to be optimistic about, it seems.

Question Mark

Well, I don’t think anyone’s really excited about these news. It’s good that things start to roll, but it may be too little, too late.

1. The truce may enable Hamas to smuggle Gilad Shalit out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt, turning this tragedy into a much longer affair. In addition, there are no illusions about this cease fire. In the meantime, Hamas supplies itself with new ammunition and new rockets, and the flames could be back in a matter of days.

2. Iran stalls time. After all, Mr. Bush is about to leave office, and Ahmadinejad knows that while Bush is keen to attack, Obama (which polls project him to be the next US President) is keen to avoid any such confrontation. “So it’s Okay to show signs we’re ready to enter the diplomatic path. These things take months and years, and we only need to stall Mr. Bush for five months”.

3. Yes, after almost two years, we may finally know what happened to Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. However it’s highly estimated that they’re dead, and in exchange for their release, Israel will let go of Samir Kuntar, the last bargaining chip we have when it comes to extracting information from the Hezbollah regarding the missing pilot Ron Arad.

Sun4. It’s “common knowledge” in recent years that the state of Israel is actually controlled by the Ministery of Finance bureaucrats. The Ministers come and go every two-or-so years, but the bureaucrats are the ones who sign the papers and release the money, while having the chance to push forward their agenda over long periods of time. They have practically privatized any thing imaginable in the last decade, and make this country unbearable for more and more people: Students, the elderly, single moms, etc. Now they’ve done something truly exceptional — entirely out of character — and stood up against the Minister when he suggested striking another blow at the average citizen. Honestly, this is the only report that actually excites me.

5. Oh, and I’m also excited about the summer.

Picture by Lucky Oliver

Hurray! Peace with Syria – Political Commentary by Ashley

Guest Commentary

Wait a second – Weren’t we at war with them? What does it mean to announce peace talks with a regime that we vastly outgun in military matters and totally humiliate on an economic level (Israel’s per capita GDP is $30,000 and climbing; Syria’s is just scraping $4,000)?

Israel recently entered Syrian airspace after disabling Syria’s “latest and most advanced” Russian-made air defense systems and then destroyed what’s thought to have been a nuclear weapons facility. Even during the Lebanon War — that mismanaged, mangled, and relatively pathetic display of Israel’s military capabilities — Israeli warplanes were able to buzz “President” Assad’s palace without so much as being shot at.

So, clearly, Syria is a major threat to Israel and we should scramble to give up the ultra-strategic Golan Heights (where Syria attacked Israel from when it actually was a threat) in order to quell the potential “shit-storm” that Syria might like to serve us.

What’s really going on here? No sane nation in today’s geopolitical world, and none in the history of nations, would ever sit down to give away land — strategic land — to a bordering country that not only has limited power but also constantly calls for the destruction of the first, more powerful country.

All I can say is: Welcome to Israeli domestic politics.

We’ve seen this before, many times. The parallels are actually frightening. Let’s rewind back to the winter of 2000, when Ehud Barak led Israel through a number of failed, disastrous policies. In February of 2000, Barak, according to The Economist, was accused by the state comptroller of corruption and “shenanigans over election financing.” Barak, as skillful and slippery as any Israeli politician, managed to sway the public focus away from him by doing something “bold”: he removed Israeli troops from their strategic position in southern Lebanon where they had been keeping Hezbollah (and their likes) at bay.

After the troop withdrawal, Hezbollah had the opportunity to casually saunter into southern Lebanon. In effect, Barak’s wily plan worked — he was praised by the left-wing media for his dovish actions and his campaign imbroglio was largely forgotten. He also, by the way, wiped out more than a decade of hard-won gains in Lebanon that kept terrorists out of firing range of Israel’s population centers. Six years later, we got a terror war from the south of Lebanon in which Israeli soldiers and civilians were murdered.

Ariel Sharon provides another instructive example. Just after he became prime minister, Sharon began to deny accusations of campaign finance violations faster than he could gobble down Shwarmas. Boomerang, a book written by left-wing Israeli journalists and based on extensive interviews as well as on the examination of declassified documents and use of archival material, had made the case that Sharon used the withdrawal from Gaza to distract the Israeli public from his misdoings.

It seemed to work — except for the small annoyance that some call “daily terror attacks”, in the form of Qassam and Katyusha rockets fired from the recently withdrawn-from Gaza Strip. (There have been roughly 8,000 rocket strikes on Israeli ground from Gaza to date since the withdrawal.)

Of course, not a problem for Sharon — then and now — who sleeps with a clear conscience.

Olmert, who, some scientists speculate, may actually be amphibious, has set off on the same mission. A quick browse of today’s news headlines and you can see all the pieces coming together: Olmert announces his new peace plan with our seriously threatening enemy, Syria. At the same time, he wrangles with the police and the justice department officials, in an attempt to delay the testimony of the American financier, Morris Talansky, which could put him behind bars. Delay it just long enough for the peace-crazed public to forget… Forget what, again…?

Olmert may have gone too far this time. But then again, we in Israel like to draw lines in the sand, never remembering that the desert’s political winds blow hard.

Lebanon: Who’s in Charge There?

A lebanese shiite gunmanRecent fighting in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon has made many wonder who is really in charge there. The fighting began several days ago following a clamp down by the Sunni Muslim dominated government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora – himself a Sunni Muslim – on a media network run by none other than Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s Hezbollah organization. PM Siniora must have pushed the Shiite Sheikh and his organization a bit too far, as Nasrallah went on the air declaring in a fiery speech that Siniora and his “so-called” government’s actions were nothing less than an act of war against the Hezbollah.

Nasrallah’s tirade was almost immediately followed by Shiite gunmen setting up positions in various sections of the Capital, which forced Siniora to order the Lebanese army to send out troops with tanks and armored personnel carriers, as to try and show Nasrallah and his followers that the government meant business. All that can be said about these events is that the fighting which took place over the past few days in both Beirut and Tripoli indicates the Hezbollah appears to have the upper hand in this new conflict that many fear could turn into another civil war, like the one that almost destroyed the country back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

The situation went from bad to worse with large areas of Beirut again becoming a war zone, and people being afraid to leave their homes, or even to purchase basic necessities.
Although the situation has begun to improve a bit since the fighting broke out (which coincidentally was about the same time that Israel was celebrating it’s 60th Independence Day), the relative calm only occurs because Nasrallah and the Hezbollah backed off a bit, for their own personal reasons. Most likely, the Hezbollah isn’t inclined to assume control of the entire country, and so its people are content to consolidate their hold on areas like West Beirut, along with their known strongholds in southern Lebanon.

Obviously, the Israeli government and military are keeping a wary eye on the developments in the north, as was noted by Defense Minister Ehud Barak during a visit to a kibbutz in southern Israel after a Hamas attack that took place there. Barak said that the IDF is “keeping one eye open in the south and another eye open in the north in regards to what is happening in Lebanon”.

That may be indeed a good idea, as Israel’s worst nightmare would be a Hezbollah-governed Lebanon on its northern border. The 2006 war is still on many people’s mind in Israel, especially those living in the north. The actions of Nasrallah’s organization during the past few days clearly indicate that Fouad Siniora and his government are not in charge of their country’s affairs — in fact, far from it. So, who’s really in charge in the “country of the cedars”? You, the reader, can draw your own conclusions.

Good News – The world hates Iran more than Israel!

Wow, I’m very much relieved! Just when I thought that the country I have chosen to live in for the past 32 years was top on the list of countries that most of the world despises, it’s suddenly been revealed that there is another county out there that is even more unpopular. And that one (you’ve probably guessed it) is none other than the Islamic Republic of Iran.

JeremiahHow this all came about is the result of a recent poll conducted by the BBC, that U.K. based media network that has always been a bit unkind towards the Jewish State. This poll, conducted last week, and involving listeners form all over the globe found that of all the respondents, 54% said that Iran is the country most feared and which has the most unpopular regime. After Iran, Israel came in a close second with an unpopularity rating of 52%. Pakistan came in third at around 51%, larger due to recent events there which included the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the activities of President Pervez Musharraf, whose present popularity rating in his own country may be even lower than that of U.S. President George W. Bush.

The BBC went even deeper into “percentages” and broke down various ratings of popularity and unpopularity for countries that have often been considered as part of an “axis of evil” due to their internal and external policies. Iran was actually perceived more favorably by countries like Egypt (62% positive towards Iran) whose citizens dislike of their Israeli neighbor grew to 94% of those polled, which is up from 85% in a previous poll. Other countries in the same region also increased their dislike of Israel, including Lebanon, whose dislike of Israel increased to 87% of those polled, up form 78%. For Lebanese, this may be understandable due to how their country was pounded by the Israeli Air Force in the 2006 war. Most likely, however, the BBC pollsters failed to asked the Lebanese concerning the Hezbollah’s (who are based in Lebanon) launching of more than 4,000 Katyusha and other missiles at Israel’s population centers, which in itself caused a great deal of personal property to Israelis.

Both European and Asian respondents, including those living in countries like Japan also expressed a higher percentage of disapproval to Israel policies towards the Palestinians and others in the region. And even Americans polled registered increases in negative feelings, which were up from a former 33% to 39%. 43% of polled Americans did express positive feelings towards Israel, however. The U.S.A. in comparison came in fifth in this “most unloved” poll, behind North Korea, with a 47% unfavorable rating; while Germany and Japan received the highest favorable ratings. For those two countries anyway, that’s a 180 degree turnabout from how they were regarded during WWII.

Many people both within Israel and abroad, admit that the Israeli government could do a lot better PR job to present their country’s position in respect to how most of the world views this country. After all, people usually believe what they want to believe, whether it is true or not.

Deals with the Devil

Newspapers around Israel have reported that Hamas is now threatening to murder Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was wounded and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists back in June 2006 which ignited the second Lebanese-Israeli War. Hamas stated that if the Israeli government does not meet their demands of the release of 350 prisoners, many of whom are imprisoned for outright murder of innocent civilians, they will begin negotiating over releasing Shalit’s remains as opposed to the soldier himself.

Dealing For Gilad ShalitOver the past several weeks reports from officials stated that Shalit was alive and in good health. Doubts about his well-being have surfaced since his capture nearly two years ago, yet over time, intellegence sources have confirmed that the young soldier was indeed alive. There has been no contact between Shalit and his family since. Yet, nearly a year after his kidnapping, Hamas released a recorded message of Shalit was was broadcast to all of Israel and eventually worldwide. It pulled at the heartstrings of many, as of the three soldiers who were kidnapped during this conflict, Shalit is the youngest and most vulnerable. Unlike Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two IDF Reservists who were kidnapped by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon less than a month later, there has been at least some signs of life from Shalit.

Shalit’s father, Noam Shalit has become a familiar face in the media. Reports of his meetings with Prime Minister Olmhert, President Shimon Peres and Members of Knesset have lead him either to dead ends and virtually nowhere while pleading with officials to do anything they can in their power to have his son released. Support for the soldiers have come from across the globe, from private citizens to human rights organizations to world leaders. Yet, cries have fell upon deaf ears as Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev have become nothing more than barganing chips to both Hamas and Hezbollah. Leaving the Israeli government pleading with her hands tied behind her back is part of how this game has been played.

Many people have voiced very strong opinions, many of whom advocate not giving into terrorists and not allowing blood thirsty terrorists loose just so they can continue causing more harm to Israelis in Israel and worldwide. Jonathan Pollard, the American-Israeli who was imprisoned over twenty years ago for leaking confidential information to Israel which lead to the destruction of nuclear facilities in Hussein’s Iraq, has stated that he would refuse to be released from prison if it meant a barter agreement between his release and the release of wanton murderers.

Now put yourself in the shoes of Noam and Aviva Shalit, whose bespectacled now 21 year old son is in the clutches of those who sacrifice their lives for the love of Allah and 72 virgins. Imagine yourself trying to function daily, going to work, doing your job, eating, sleeping, shopping, holidays, etc and knowing that your child’s well-being, safety and whole life is in the hands of those who have no problem sending youngsters into crowded areas with bombs strapped to their belt buckles to murder who ever is within their radius. Imagine sitting at your own dinner table having a meal and looking at an empty seat across from you. It would be one thing if the child were dead. As horrible as this would be, at least there would be an everlasting mourning period and some sort of closure.

Can you at least imagine what is going on in their minds? I’d doubt you can.

Now, what would you do? Advocate for the release of 350 imprisoned terrorists who could indeed inflict more harm upon innocent civilians for the release of your child or demand that terrorists release him because he has already served a sentence without a prisoner exchange?

Take your time to decide.

Syria and The Summer of Love

Emergancy ExcerciseAl Quda Al Arabi in the UK is reporting that the Syrians are getting a little fidgety and have called in reserves expecting an imminent attack by the “zionist pigs”. The “zionist pigs” are not sure what they’re babbling about but it seems like the area is getting a little tense (we all know how peaceful it is normally….).

Barak visiting the North this week mentioned that Hezbollah is gathering weapons and is heavily arming itself in an expected showdown but that the IDF is doing the same. “Looking at this picturesque quiet we know that things are brewing just below surface”…

Talk in the chat and online commentary is that something will happen soon enough. Some say that the Syrians are causing a diversion with their troop movements, that Hezbollah will initiate a third party attack on the northern border, or that the next attack will coincide with Israel’s 60th Independence Day coming soon.

Regardless (or not..), our Home Security Command announced a massive exercise next Tuesday that will cover 253 municipalities and will include government, public, private, emergency and rescue organizations.

Oh, we are also going to get back those really fashionable gas masks after they were “refreshed” earlier this year.
But hey, no need to panic 😉

Ahh, can you feel it? The Summer of Love!

The Oil War?

Oil WarPicture: The Washington Post

In a mode that could clearly say: “I told you so”, critics of America’s involvement in Iraq are now saying that the U.S. Administration sent the troopers there for one primary reason: to shore up a reliable source of crude oil that would keep flowing into American storage facilities, and hence into American citizens gas tanks for at least another 15 to 20 years. With Iraqi petroleum reserves estimated to be at least 10% to total world supply, and if major American oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and Amoco controlling the pumping of fossilized, primeval Earth in most of Iraq, then it would be a win-win situation; the winners being Uncle Sam and Co. of course.

Unfortunately, for President George Bush (an oilman himself) and his assistant, Vice President Dick Cheney (of Halliburton Corp. fame); things didn’t work out the way they wanted them to. Now that Iraqi and (presumably) US forces are staging an operation against Shiite militiamen in the oil rich Iraqi city of Basra, this oil war doctrine seems to be more relevant than ever. Iraqi oil production has been plagued with a scores of problems in both Iraq’s southern region as well as in the northern, Kurdish controlled sector.

Maybe this explains why so many top American officials have made so many “surprise visits” to Iraq in this 2008 election year.

Ever since the invasion of March, 2003, production and exports of Iraqi crude oil have been beset by a combination of old production equipment in bad repair, as well as countless incidents of sabotage by Iraqi insurgents and foreign elements who simply do not want Iraqi oil to fall into the hands of “The Great Satan”, no matter what the price to Iraq’s own economy. As oil has been this country’s major export (and was used by Saddam Hussein to fleece his pockets during his 30 year reign) not being able to produce and export sufficient quantities has resulted in the country’s economy becoming an international basket case.

Now, more five years later and 4,000 American way dead, this precious resource seems even more distant from American and other Western automobile gas tanks. Countries like Israel, who once feared possible attacks from Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, called WMD’s for short, now fear another oil rich country, Iran, whose leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has often called for Israel to be “wiped off the face of the map”. Despite the fact that the U.N. Headquarters is still located in New York City, American governmental officials, and especially New York City officials should have been more prudent than to let this man come twice to address the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, as well as speak before such a pristine academic institution as Columbia University. For it is Iran’s sponsored militiamen who are now fighting Americans in southern Iraq, as well as providing training and arms to Hamas militiaman in Gaza and to the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Oil is now fetching more than $100 a barrel, and the U.S. Dollar is even weaker than currencies like the Israeli Shekel. It appears that the time has come for some serious stock-taking in regards to just why American forces went into Iraq in the first place, instead of simply letting Saddam Hussein and his cronies remain there as a possible buffer against the real world enemy – Iran.

Nasrallah’s New Game Plan

With the official 40 day mourning period for assassinated Hezbollah terror leader Imad Mughniyeh now over, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hasn’t wasted any time renewing his rhetoric concerning his organizations plans to take revenge on Israel, whom he say’s are responsible for Mughniyeh’s death. In addition to the regular manner of reprisals, such as additional cross border attacks and kidnappings, possible renewed Ketiusha rocket launchings and the like, the Sheikh now has an additional new “game plan” up his black sleeves. And that plan is to literally saturate Israel with hard line narcotics such as heroin.

Nasrallah’s plan is really nothing new as opium and heroin have been smuggled into Israel for years – even with the “assistance” of the once Southern Lebanese Army which was closely allied with Israel. Raw Lebanese opium originates in the Beka Valley, especially near the town of Baal Beck. From there, it is sent to various “processing centers” where the raw opium is made into heroin and then sent to Kfar Roger on the border with Israel. After being smuggled across the border, it finds its way to Israel’ center, especially Tel Aviv and Lod, where the drug is sold to addicts through holes in the wall, called “Kaspomats”, which is the same term used by ATM machines. Other major cities, including Jerusalem, where large numbers of “users” live, also are eventual recipients of Lebanese narcotics.

The Sheikh plans to literally flood Israel with the hard stuff hoping to demoralize people and increase the number of addicts due to the availability of cheaper heroin. What he fails to realize is all he will be doing is helping to line the pockets of Israeli drug dealers, both Jewish and Arab, who will be happy to handle this new influx of dope, no matter what it’s origin.

To give one an idea of how much money can be made on the stuff, a kilogram of processed heroin brings $20,000 in Lebanon. In Israel, the price skyrockets to $100,000 after final processing in Israel. Illegal narcotics laboratories in Israel dilute the dope so a kilo of Lebanese “H” winds up as 4 to 10 kilos of diluted drugs when finally sold on the “street”. This also doesn’t take into account the risks that the addicts take by using heroin with talcum powder and other “additives” mixed in.

Israeli police officials are already used to having to deal with this kind of problem, which began in earnest following the 1982 Lebanese war. At that time, the border with Lebanon was so “porous” that literally everything, including AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons was brought in by Israeli soldiers and others who were in Lebanon following Israel’s invasion of that country. In the 18 year occupation of the southern “security zone” narcotics, including large quantities of hashish, was also smuggled across into Israel.

Police officials take Nasrallah’s new threat very seriously; and will have to be more vigilant as to these new quantities of “imported” merchandise, courtesy of the Hezbollah.

What McCain is Learning From Israel

U.S. Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain didn’t just make a recent Middle East tour to say hello. McCain, being a former military man himself, decided rightly that he needs see for himself the current situation in countries that will be a big part of his country’s foreign policy dealings should he be sitting in the Oval Office next January 21st. After previous remarks that American forces will remain in Iraq “for 100 years, if necessary” in a manner similar to post WWII Germany and Japan, McCain realizes more than anyone that in order for his country’s 3 trillion dollar investment in post Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to bear fruit, American foreign policy must undergo some serious changes.

McCain’s visit to Israel, in which he made some very positive remarks about American Israeli relations, comes at a time when the Israeli/Palestinian issue is at a most volatile level, and is influenced considerably by radical Islamic fundamentalism; with the Islamic Republic of Iran being Israel’s greatest danger since becoming a nation. During an interview conducted with editors from the Jerusalem Post, McCain said the following concerning the Iranian threat:

“When you look at the multitude of challenges and the nature of the enemy, including a nation that is developing nuclear weapons and is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, then from my standpoint, Israel is probably at greater risk than perhaps it has been since 1947”.

McCain is careful not to appear that his country is trying to exert undue influence upon Israel’s dealing with “the Iranian and Palestinian problems”, and appears to fully understand Israel’s need to be able to defend itself against both entities, as well as by groups such as Hezbollah, who are Iranian clients. He appears to appreciate the fact that Israel is one of America’s closet allies and defense partners, and he emphasizes the term “partnership” in reference to current and future relationships between Israel and the U.S.

Dealing with ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks and Israel’s response, often referred to as a “disproportionate use of force” by many European countries, McCain repeated what he has said previously that Americans “especially in my home state of Arizona would not stand for such activity on their southern border”.

While Cain hopes that Israel will be able to reach some kind of peace agreement with Palestinian leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas, McCain is also realistic in the fact that as long as groups like Hamas (who are also tied to Iran) are in power, no final agreement is possible. “My personal feeling is that Israel should not talk to Hamas as they are dedicated to Israel’s extinction”, McCain said.

One thing is for sure; should McCain become America’s next president: he will not formulate policies that will be detrimental to Israel’s security interests, as he sees these interests as inseparable from America’s security interests. He sees the threat that Israel faces from Islamic radicalism, particularly from Iran, as no different than the one America faces, and that the greatest challenge he will have is how to fight this threat. With Israel on his team, he knows he has a strong ally in this part of the world.

Wentworth Miller in Israel

My wife asked me to write this….

Wentworth Miller in IsraelWentworth Miller is here in Israel and between the attacks in the south, Hezbollah gargling in the North and the occasional stabbing over a parking spot, this politically correct, polite Englishman is making the news. He is visiting here for the third time and is going through the traditional route (Masada, Dead Sea, Galilee and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem). He is very patient with the reporters and answers all questions big and small. He was born in the UK and went to school in the US (Princeton) and he fascinated reporters with his genetic background, Russian, Dutch, French, Syrian and Egyptian from his mother’s side and African American, Jamaican, English, German and Jewish (yep..) on his father’s side. The final result according to our local fans (and my wife) is a very pleasant to look at guy.

Welcome to Israel !

Olmert Denies Ceasefire Talks with Hamas

Israel’s political confusion has become even more pronounced with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denying that his government is conducting ceasefire negotiations with Hamas. Speaking from Speaking during a meeting with visiting Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanik Olmert said that not only were negotiations not taking place, but that Israeli military forces are still involved in operations in and near Gaza.

Hamas spokesmen, for their part, also deny that such negotiations are taking place, although it appears that they have scaled down their Qassam and Grad rocket attacks on Sderot and Ashkelon. Defense Minister Ehud Barak also said that that there was no ceasefire talks going on, and that the IDF is continuing military operations in the area. The scaling down of Hamas rocket attacks has resulted in the IDF scaling down its operations as well, according to Barak. These new changes have been going on several days now, and this is in spite of Thursday night’s terror attack in Jerusalem.

Despite this, however, many right winged Knesset members, including Likud M.K. Yuval Steinitz (pictured), agree that Hamas appears to have come out on top, from a political viewpoint, in recent fighting with IDF troops, despite a large number of Hamas militants and civilians being killed. “The real meaning of this new lull is that Hamas has won out over Israel and that this new ceasefire is a Hamas victory” Steinitz said in an interview on Galei Tzhal, the IDF radio station. Steinitz went on to say that he sees that Israeli leaders are accepting a Palestinian State in Gaza that is allied with Syria and Iran, and that the Hamas organization is nothing more than an Iranian outpost.

All of these happenings are occurring in the aftermath of the IDF military operations in northern Gaza which ended with more than 100 Gazans killed against three Israeli soldiers and one civilian. Despite the large number of Palestinians killed or wounded, a Hamas spokesman described Israel’s pull out as ” a great victory for Hamas’ Five Day War” with Israel.

Although no formal cease fire has been reached, the situation on Israel’s border with Gaza is much quieter than it has been in days. But judging from previous “cease fires” or hudnas as they are called in Arabic, these lulls do not last for long before the cycle of violence begins all over again. No headway either has also been made concerning the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, who has now been a captive for more than 630 days.

In other related news, it has been divulged that more than 150 Hams militants are now receiving special commando training in Iran. These are probably only a small number of the thousands of Hamas members and other Gazans who have not yet returned to Gaza following the breach made by Hamas men in the security fence between Gaza and Egypt. Iran is presently considered to be Israel’s number one security threat by Israeli intelligence officials, and their assistance to Hamas and Hezbollah is well known.

“Line drawn” for Israeli Arabs and politicians

Following recent rock throwing attacks on by Israeli Arabs on Jews, and after last Thursday’s terror attack in Jerusalem in which Palestinian and Hamas flags were posted at the residence of the slain terrorist, Israeli Jewish politicians have been calling upon Arab politicians to “either choose our side or theirs (the enemy’s)”.

Right winged politicians, in particular Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu are calling upon Arab Knesset members to “decide which side they are really on” and either show support for Israeli soldiers or resign their parliamentary positions. “We simply cannot tolerate a ‘fifth column’ within this country, and therefore, all Israeli Arabs, especially politicians, must show their support to the army as well as their fellow citizens – that is a very basic requirement”.

These statements follow a serious of acts reminiscent of the intifada uprisings in both 1987 and 2000 with occurrences of stone throwing at vehicles and the near lynching of two Jerusalem traffic wardens in East Jerusalem last week. A number of Israeli Arabs, mostly youth, were arrested for stone throwing near their villages in northern Israel.

Such incidents of violence among Israel’s Arab population has made many Israeli’s wonder if they are harbingers of a third and even more violent intifada uprising. In addition, the thought that an Hezbollah “sleeper cell” might be present in East Jerusalem, and was called into action last Thursday, has many people on edge as well.

Actions of violent resistance on the part of Israel’s Arab community may also be connected with the community’s organized resistance against voluntary national service for young Israeli Arabs. An organization known as Baladna (our land) is campaigning against a country-wide national service program for Israeli Arabs on the grounds that such a program will eventually lead to compulsory military service. This is highly unlikely as other Arab groups such as the Bedouin and the Druze have many of their young men in the IDF, although on a voluntary basis. Objections by groups like Baladna, as well as by Arab Knesset members only hurts the Israeli Arab Community in the long run as young volunteers, who give a year or two of their lives towards assisting their own people can make a very positive difference in the quality of life in Arab towns and villages, and in the end, both the young volunteers and their communities can benefit.

Even though many Israeli Arabs, especially younger ones, tend to identify with the Palestinians, with whom many are related, most Israeli Arabs admit they are much better off under Israel sovereignty, and that they have many more opportunities and personal freedoms than their peers have in neighboring Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan, not to mention those living in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

Taking all of this into account, perhaps those like Bibi Natanyahyu are right; and the time has come for Israeli Arabs to either join the party – or party alone.

Gotcha! Hillary Hits Back

Hillary Rodham Clinton can definitely be called “the comeback kid” following Tuesday’s American primary contests in four states. Winning handsomely in both Ohio and Rhode Island, and squeaking by in Texas by a 3% margin. Clinton now has considerable breathing space in which to prepare for the next and perhaps most decisive contest, the Pennsylvania primary in late April.

Hillary BackAlthough her opponent, Barack Obama only won in the Vermont primary and is just slightly ahead in the Texas caucuses he still leads the overall delegate count by at least 100; and is now having to re-plan his overall strategy if he expects to win the Democratic Party nomination in July. When interviewed Wednesday morning in Austin, Hillary Clinton seemed to have regained her confidence and said that what made the difference is her overall experience as compared to Obama’s. When interviewers from CNN asked whether the recent commercial about which candidate would be able to make the right decision after receiving a 3 a.m. phone about a national security emergency, she reiterated about her past experience in such matters, including her being sent to such places as Bosnia (during their civil war) to mediate a peace agreement. She compared herself to Obama who she said “only continues to talk about a speech he made back in 2004 concerning America’s involvement in Iraq”.

I suppose that Hillary can say that she has a bit of experience, as the “red phone” did ring a few times at 3 a.m. when she was in bed with her husband Bill. She also could include her “experience” in dealing with that very uncomfortable period from November 1998 until July, 2000, when she had to deal with another kind of crises that was “a bit too close to home”.

Disregarding those unpleasant episodes, Hillary does probably have a bit more of a track record than Obama has; and whether or not this will help her to wind up making a “V” sign at the speakers podium of the convention will be determined in the coming weeks ahead.

People all over the world have been following the U.S. Presidential campaign; and these primary races have for sure been followed by those living in the Middle East and elsewhere in Islamic World. Barack Hussein Obama is no doubt the favorite of many who make up what is known as Dir Al Islam – the World Community of Islam, and these include many of America’s present enemies, such as Hamas, the Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and most certainly The Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a recent short visit to Iraq, said during a speech there that nearly everyone hates Americans. Well, he does anyway.

Jews around the world, especially in Israel, have from the start been a bit apprehensive about the possibility of Obama winning the Presidency; and what could afterwards be in store concerning America’s future relations with the Jewish State. There is really no way of knowing how Obama will deal with the Israel-Palestinian issue until he is actually sitting in the Oval Office. But in the weeks and months ahead, this matter will most certainly crop up; and it will most likely be used against Obama by both Clinton and John McCain, the Republican nominee.

This year’s contest has so far been anything but boring; and with the U.S. heading towards what may be a moderate to severe recession, the U.S. economy will be a top issue in the months ahead as well. If Hillary does manage to win over the remaining primary contests and become her party’s candidate, she’ll still need all the help she can get to beat McCain in November. And to do this, she’ll have to get real friendly again with a guy named William Jefferson Clinton, who has a bit of “experience” himself.

IDF Rebuilds

Army RebuildingThe Israeli Defense Forces have undergone considerable upgrading since the 2006 war in Lebanon. Following the appointment of former Golani Brigade commander, Lt. General Gaby Ashkenazi to IDF Chief of Staff, virtually all branches of Israel’s military, especially it’s ground forces, have undergone a number of changes to prepare if a possible future war with the Hezbollah and possibly Syria as well. Ashkenazi is well suited for his new role as he has considerable combat experience and is well acquainted in ground combat fighting, as he has been a commander of what may considered to be the IDF’s top fighting unit.

Being a field commander, General Ashkenazi is much more suited to head the IDF than his predecessor, Dan Halutz, who formerly headed the Israeli Air Force before his appointment to be C.O.S., by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005. One of General Ashkenazi’s major tasks has been to improve the morale in IDF military units, especially among reserve soldiers, considered to be the backbone of the country’s military. Gross logistical failures during what is now called the Lebanon II War, resulted in may reserve soldiers saying that they would refuse to fight in a new conflict unless considerable changes were made to enable them to have the required equipment and training needed to face an enemy that has grown much stronger and is better equipped than in previous years.

For security reasons, a number of these revisions have not been disclosed to the general public. One of main problems that many IDF officers have had is in regards to the type of warfare known as asymmetric warfare that is now being fought not only by Israel against it’s enemies but by other armies such as the American led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Russian forces in provinces such as Chechnya. In asymmetric warfare, different ideologies and the will to fight often results in a lesser equipped enemy having an advantage over a stronger, better equipped army.

Besides Israel’s ground forces, include the highly acclaimed Givati brigade, the armor corps in which the Ga’ash Formation is the largest armor group, and special units such as the Egoz special operations unit, the IDF is also upgrading the Naval forces and Air Forces.

Speaking at a recent officer’s school graduation ceremony at Mitzpeh Ramon, both General Ashkenzi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (a former C.O.S. himself) warned that the IDF must be ready to face the threat of possible regional conflict that could break out at any time, especially following the assassination of Hezbollah’s top terror strategist Imad Mughniyah.

Throughout Israel’s nearly 60 years as an independent country, its army has had to make constant upgrades in its ability to meet the challenges facing the Jewish State in light of constantly changing realities. Only in this way can a small country such as Israel meet the challenges of facing its enemies and prevailing against them.

John McCain and Israel

While the Democratic Party Presidential candidate race still appears to be a close call, the Republican one has formed ranks around U.S. Senator John McCain from Arizona. McCain, who is a former U.S. Navy pilot and prisoner of war, Also contended for the Republican Party’s nomination in 2007, before losing to U.S. President George W. Bush. Now that McCain is the definite GOP choice for the presidency, many Jews, both in America and in Israel, wonder how the 4 term senator’s policies will be towards Israel.

McCain comes from a family of professional naval officers, and both his father and grandfather were naval admirals. His own military record, largely centered around his experiences during the Vietnam War, is exemplary with his receiving virtually every distinguished service award except the Congressional Medal of Honor. His five and half years of captivity in what became known as the “Hanoi Hilton” resulted in his having serious physical limitations, including not being able to comb his hair. This hasn’t limited his ability, nor his desire to lead his country in the capacity of Commander in Chief.

Though his official policies toward Israel are still to be unveiled, his private feelings have been expressed on several occasions, including a speech he made in St. Louis during the time of the 2006 war in Lebanon:

“My dear friends, you have probably seen our European friends say, ‘Well, the Israelis have got to stop.’ But what would we do if somebody came across our borders and killed our soldiers and captured our soldiers? Do you think we would be exercising total restraint?”

If one were to examine John McCain’s military service record, in which he flew more than 27 combat missions against the North Vietnamese, it is easy to see that he has more military experience than any U.S. President since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

McCain, probably more even than President Bush, appreciates the fight against terrorism and aggression by totalitarian Middle Eastern countries that Israel has been involved in since it’s inception in 1948. His five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam, much of it involving torture that contributed to the his disabilities, also gives him great sympathy towards the families of Israeli solders who have been captured by Israel’s adversaries, including the Palestinians and the Hezbollah.. McCain is considered to be a “hawk” in regards to his feelings towards containing foreign aggression, which is another reason why he is surely an admirer of Israeli military actions against people who are also enemies of the USA.

And judging from his remarks concerning the situation in Iraq, and of course his own personal experiences as a POW, he’s not likely to have much sympathy towards organizations like Hamas or Hezbollah.

Taking these factors into account, John McCain will certainly have Israel’s strategic security problems on his agenda should he be elected president in the upcoming elections in November.

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