a different side of Israel

Tag: Palestinian (page 2 of 12)

Heir to the Throne

As Olmert is plunging into the claws of another corruption investigation, talk is spreading as to who’s gonna replace him when the time comes. And my friends, the time is approaching.

StampToday we were announced that Dalia Itizk is considered among “Kadima” party officials as an acceptable replacement for Mr. Olmert if the latter is forced to resign. From the other side of the political fence, former PM Benyamin Netanyahu is sharpening his sword in preparation for a general election, and yet another former PM — and current Defense Secretary — Ehud Barak, remains as opaque as ever.

Who will be the next Prime Minister of Israel? Whomever it may be, he or she will have to lead the country through the imminent face-off with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Whether this threat is resolved via diplomatic means or via a military operation, the matter is likely to reach its climax during the next PM’s term. Moreover, Olmert’s replacement will be given the reins of a preliminary peace process with Syria, one that has the potential of tearing the country apart, socially and literally. There is also a much-due peace process with the Palestinians that everyone is so weary of, and of course the ever-present frustration of Israeli Arabs and Druze. Economically, the next PM will face increasing social gaps, and the privatization of the last remains of the Welfare State that Israel once was.

Personally, I can’t imagine why anyone would want such a grueling position. The perks are nice, but there ain’t much sleep, and most Israeli PMs left office with the loud cry of “boo” shouts behind their backs.

As for the voters, Israelis have become cynical and distrustful of new players in the political game who promise “change”. Most would rather stick with the same old characters who disappointed them in the past. Well, Itzhak Rabin left office for the first time with his head low in the ground, escaping corruption allegations, and several decades later came back for a glorious second term. Maybe Netanyahu or Barak learned their lessons, they wouldn’t have to repeat the same rookie mistakes, and go straight for business.


Picture by the Israeli Post

Writers’ Conference

Amos Oz - Israeli WriterBefore all attention is deflected to President George W. Bush’s visit to Jerusalem today, the capital is hosting its annual Writers’ Conference, one of Israel’s leading literary events, which attracts internationally-renowned novelists and poets. One of the guests is Nadine Gordimer, South African writer, political activist and Nobel Prize laureate, who has long written about racial issues in her home country.

The authors have discussed political issues as well as literature:

“Israel is the country of immigrants and refugees, survivors and displaced people from all over the world. We weren’t occupiers, and we didn’t want to be occupiers”, said Eli Amir, the famous Israeli writer, “We were thrown into a historic situation that we have not managed to get out of. We are a torn nation. The occupation is destroying us. We have no right to control another nation. Our leaders and the leaders of the Palestinian people must do everything to get out of this situation.”

Amos Oz, winner of the prestigious Goethe Prize in 2005 spoke about his love-hate relationship with Israel, “I must personally admit that I love Israel even when I can’t stand it. It’s no coincidence that during a year when it’s tough to love Israel, it’s easier to love its literature. Israeli literature delivers the bill to the Israeli people – for the subjugation of the Palestinians, the occupation, the wars, the internal social injustices, book after book, creation after creation.”

We hope that authors will succeed where politicians have failed so far, and will help to bring a touch of normality to this conflicted area.

Source: Haaretz ; Picture by Princeton University Press

Gaza Chaos Continues

Children Killed in Gaza AttackMedia reported that on Monday, IAF attacked two terrorists who were located in Gaza strip; a mother and her four children residing near the terrorists were killed as well. Many Palestinians have criticized Israel’s aggression, but now it is unclear who holds responsible for this killing.

The Palestinians claim that the IDF killed the family, but the IDF claims that they the tragedy was actually caused by the explosives the terrorists used. IDF has responded to the ongoing rocket fire on Southern towns Sderot, and now on Ashkelon.

Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, blames Hamas for this awful incident:

“We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens in the area around Gaza, all of the strikes, and the IDF is acting and will continue to act against Hamas, within the Gaza Strip… Hamas is also responsible, through its operations within the civilian population, like the laying of explosives, for wounding some civilians who are not involved in the operations,”

It remains clear however, that this death leads to the next Qassam that leads to the next IDF attack. I wonder, will this vicious circle ever end?

In the government meeting this morning Olmert opened with an expression of regret (as in sorrow) for the loss of the Gazan family. He also expressed sorrow for the residents of Sderot and the boy who’s leg was amputated recently in the southern town.

The Army’s investigation of the attack in Gaza revealed so far that an attack by an Israeli jet hit explosives. The secondary explosions caused a house to collapse killing the mother and her four children. The IDF is warning of Hamsa use of the civilian population as human shields in their fight.

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.

Kahled Mashal offers “new deal” to Israel

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashal is trying to instigate a “new peace deal” with Israel. Speaking from his headquarters in Damascus, and coming on the heels of the recent Arab summit held in the Syrian capital, Mashal said that his new proposal is designed to “spare civilian lives on both sides by only targeting military objectives”.
Mashal went on to say that his offer is really almost the same one made nearly ten years ago, but not agreed upon by Israel.

By referring to “military targets” the Hamas leader said that his organization will agree to only target IDF military personnel and installations instead of wholesale terror and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. He said that he is renewing this offer with the hope of reducing civilian casualties, including Palestinian ones resulting form Israeli reprisal attacks.

Mashaal went on to say that his organization “are taking good care of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, although Israel does not take good care of Hamas and other Palestinian prisoners. This statement in itself seems a bit absurd as most, not all Palestinian prisoners are allowed to receive items form relatives and also communicate to them. This in itself is a far cry from the two brief letter said to have been written by of whom no photographs or video have been shown as proof of his being alive and of his physical condition.

The Hamas leader accused both Israel and the U.S.A. of planning to start a regional war, and even had the gall to complain that Hamas fighters have only primitive weapons against Israeli ones, and is requesting better weapons “in order to be able to shoot straighter”. Mashal said that suicidal terror attacks really began in earnest after the slaying of 29 Palestinian worshipers at a mosque in Hebron by Dr. Baruch Goldstein.

Mashal blamed the inability of Arab nations to defeat the Israel’ occupation as a result of overall weakness on the part of many Arab countries, and not as a result to giving in to Israeli demands.

On other topics, Mashal said that although his organization does not deny the occurrence of the Holocaust, the reality of this historical event has been expanded “out of proportion” by Jewish and Israeli historians in an effort to gain more international sympathy. Obviously, Mr. Mashal has not visited such Holocaust sites as Auschwitz-Birkenau, and seems to disregard the fact that more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors, living testimonials to this tragic event, live in Israel alone.

That his man is still alive and so much involved in Hamas’ activities must be a real frustration to organizations such as the Mossad, who botched a chance to be rid of Mashal several years ago when they tried to poison him in Amman Jordan.

The Square Centimeter Dream

In a way, one might feel sorry for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as his weekend Arab Summit in Damascus was rampant with “no-shows”, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki of Iraq all boycotting it, to name a few. Some leaders, who did show up, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi seemed more interested in getting photographed, rather than making any outstanding contributions to improving things in the region.

Dumb DumbFor his part, Bashar al-Assad used the meeting to express his willingness to enter into talks with Israel, as long as Israel is willing to return to the June 4, 1967 borders, which includes the entire Golan Heights “down to the eastern shore of the Kinneret”. Assad emphasized this point that saying he is not willing to compromise “on even one square centimeter of the Golan Heights” which as far as most Israelis are concerned, puts the situation of a possible peace deal with Israel’s eastern enemy back to shit’s creek.

Despite Assad’s hard stance, it was revealed that Syrian officials are saying that a “line of communication” has been opened between Damascus and Jerusalem, and that they, the Syrians, now say that the ball is in Israel’s court in regard to actual negotiations between the two countries. The two day Summit ended with a call for Israel to accept an Arab sponsored peace initiative, most of which is completely unacceptable by Israel.

No high ranking American officials were present at the Summit. Meanwhile, Israeli government officials, meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have agreed to make life a bit easier for West Back Palestinians by proposing to remove as many as 50 roadblocks to make traveling by Palestinians within the West Bank as well as to Israel itself more easier. It has also been disclosed that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other Israeli officials have been meeting with Palestinian officials like Abu Allah in secret locations in and around Jerusalem; the purpose of which is to reach a peace deal by the end of this year.. These meetings, however, have not included any Hamas leaders, who are still confined to Gaza by both Israel and West Bank Palestinians.

Assad obviously has more than just national pride in mind in wanting to regain his lost territory. Like most other countries this region, Syria has a chronic water shortage that makes one of Israel’s main sources of fresh water look exceedingly attractive. The streams on the Golan, many fed by melting snow from Mt. Hermon, are one of the Kinneret’s important water suppliers. Syria would like to have the lake’s eastern shore back in it’s possession so it can simply pump water out of the lake like it did prior of June 4, 1967. With the present lake level already reaching the critical “redline,” even Israel may soon not be able have this important water supply available, let alone Syria.

So in the end, any proposed peace talks are not likely to have much chance of succeeding, unless Syria and Israel are willing to compromise.

Hamas On The West Bank

Hamas's Ismail HaniyehOn the eve of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s send visit to Israel so far this year, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has expressed fears that Ismail Haniyeh’s radical Hamas organization could wind up taking control of the West Bank from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, either by force or arms, or by democratic election. Barak, who was meeting with a U.S. envoy to the Middle East, said that he is afraid that all of the efforts that the Israeli government is trying to make in giving support to the Abbas led section of the Palestinian Authority will be for naught, should this happen, and Israel will then be in even greater danger, with hostile Hamas militiamen on Israel’s most vulnerable sections, ready to launch even more Qassam and Grad type rockets into Israel’s most populated areas.

With Palestinian general elections not far away, many disenchanted Palestinians may see Hamas’ victories as reason to elect them to be the political entity in the West Bank as well, as Abbas’ Fatah organization has not really done much to satisfy the people, and is about as corrupt as it was in Gaza. Hamas, on the other hand, is known for giving social assistance to its constituents, even though it has been much harsher on the lives of most Palestinians, including forcing them to live according to strict Shaari Islamic law. West Bank Palestinians, on the other hand, have much more individual social and religious freedoms, which even includes am FM radio station which plays the latest popular Western hit tunes. The West Bank is also the home of approximately 200,000 Jewish residents, many of whom live in well established towns and settlements which include large sections of northern and eastern Jerusalem. This number is a far cry from the 9,000 settlers, who were evacuated from 21 settlements in Gaza back in August, 2005.

Judging from the experience of the Gaza disengagement, which many Israelis now blame for the continuous launchings of rockets into Israeli cities and towns like Sderot and Ashkelon, it will be more difficult to stage massive evacuations of Jewish settlers from the West Bank, as doing so could result in Qassam rockets striking cities like Kfar Saba and Grad-type rockets hitting Tel Aviv. Of course, it is more difficult to smuggle large quantities of arms and explosives into the West Bank as compared to Gaza (with its numerous tunnels on the border with Egypt). This wouldn’t stop resourceful terrorists from making their own rockets, however, and fueling with ammonium nitrate fertilizer as is now being done in Gaza.

Hamas has recently been increasing it’s activities in many West cities and towns, and for this reason, Barak and other Israeli officials fear that it might not make much for a weakened Abbas led government to be defeated either at the ballot box or by a coup. These fears have been advised to American and European government officials, and will be discussed with Secretary Rice during her visit.

The Palestinian Shelter

Who thought Israel would serve as a shelter for a Palestinian from Jenin?

This week Israel has granted a residency permit to a 33-year old gay Palestinian who asked to stay with his partner in Tel Aviv. This is not the first time that a Palestinian gay man asks for residency permission, claiming his life is threatened in their hometown.

Under the Hamas regime, the lives of Palestinian gays and lesbians have become more difficult than ever. According to the Palestinian law, homosexual sex is a serious offense punishable by law. The accusations lead to further charges such as spreading the HIV virus. Ten years ago, a Palestinian officer was executed for having sex with a younger man. Next to that, any act of homophobia in Israel looks like a walk in the park!

The lives of gays who live at the West Bank continue to be in constant danger. As part of Israel’s strict security policy, applications on the basis of sexual orientation are typically denied. The Defense ministry does not allow Palestinians to formally unite with their Israeli partners within its territories. This policy applies to both heterosexual and gay couples.

Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories says: “In this case the man’s lawyer said his life was in danger because of his sexual preference. On this basis we issued the temporary permit”.

Why the apologizing tone? Finally we can say that we have something to be proud about! There is nothing wrong with showing human decency in front of our neighbors and the rest of the world.

Et tu, Cheney?

Cheney in RamallahNo sooner had the fine china been put away for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain at Jerusalem hotels like the Kind David at Jerusalem hotels like the King David, when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney came to town. Cheney, also back from a quick trip to beleaguered Iraq (where U.S. forces have just suffered their 4,000th war casualty) stopped off in Israel to visit both with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Not exactly “Mr. Personality”, Cheney reiterated previous remarks by both McCain and Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice (who was also here recently) in respect to American support of a two state solution and a full partnership with Israel. Cheney also pulled no punches when he mentioned that Iran was not only a danger to Israel but to America and the non-Islamic world at large. This also was not anything new as both Senator McCain and Sec. Rice had made similar remarks.

In respect to relations between Israel and the Palestinians, Cheney said that in order for peace to be achieved, “some painful concessions need to be made”. Now, here is the kicker question in this remark: painful for whom? Israel, the Palestinians (the West Bank Palestinians, that is ) or for those nasty people called Hamas who nobody wants to deal with, except people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah, that is. And we might as well throw in people like Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s No. 2, and even more nasty than Osama bin Laden, so they say. Cheney’s visit with Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas was also a bit lackluster, but what could one expect, since any rational person knows who the most powerful Palestinian leader really is.

Cheney has been behind much of America’s five plus year Iraq experience that is being “commemorated” today with the announcement of the 4000th slain U.S. combat soldier. Not as bad as Vietnam, which had at least 40,000 dead GI’s after the same 5 year period. But these new war dead are bad enough for a much scaled down professional military that requires it’s thinly spread-out troop contingents to spend at lest two duty tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan – take their choice.

As for Cheney’s short trip here, it will most likely be his last to the region, although his boss, President George W. Bush plans to be back in Israel to help celebrate the upcoming 60th Independence celebration. Busch better not plan to be here at the same time that former Beatles greats Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr plan to be here too, as they will surely upstage him.

Oh what the heck. The fact that he’s still alive with half a heart left feebly beating is a triumph in itself! Dick Cheney doesn’t need to worry about such things as upstaging the Beatles, since he won’t be attending the party.

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.


After the story about Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s black supremacist, anti-semitic, troofer pastor (“Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country controlled by rich white people…”) broke this week in the mainstream media, many Americans and non-Americans are scratching their heads, mumbling to themselves, “Really?”

The Wright story comes on the heels of Samantha Power– a “humans right expert” and former top adviser to the Obama campaign– calling Hillary Clinton “a monster,” a term she’d previously reserved for brutal dictators like Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.

A closer look at these Obama advisers showed their more frightening sides: Samantha Power, who vehemently condemns the invasion of Iraq, once said that the US should invade Israel in order to force a peace settlement between us and the Palestinians. Nice.

Obama’s connections with the former leader of the American terror group the Weather Undergorund, Bill Ayers, are well established and go un-denied by the campaign. Likewise with his connection to radical PLO supporter Rashid Khalidi, who now takes cover under the flimsy umbrella of Columbia University.

Obama sat on the board of a Chicago charity called the Wood’s Fund with Bill Ayers. During the boardroom tenure of Obama and the former terrorist, the charity funded an organization called the Arab American Action Network, which happened to be founded and run by none other than Rashid Khalidi’s wife.

Obama and his lever-pullers (including those in the media) have fired back saying the group was a “local” charity that helped “local” people improve their “local” lives. The claim looks silly in the face of photos of Barack and Michelle Obama sitting next to the academic Palestinian crusader Edward Said at AAAN fund raisers.

But here’s the rub: Obama was aligned at the time with an Arab intellectual with ties to the PLO; he fund raised directly and indirectly for an organization called the Arab American Action Network; he was tutored by an anti-Semitic, anti-white preacher who carries on a global oppressor-oppressed narrative as if it’s scientific fact; he hired a “human rights” expert who made statements in support of an American ground invasion (!) of Israel.

Any of these associations on their own could be dismissed as benign and passing. Together they leave us asking only one question: Have we been Obama’d?

A German In The House: Merkel in Israel

Merkel in IsraelGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Israel on Sunday for the start of a three day visit to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. This is Merkel’s second visit to Israel since being elected Chancellor; and one of her agendas includes addressing the Knesset on Tuesday. Appearing with Prime Minister Olmert shortly after her arrival, Merkel said that her country is strongly committed to Israel’s defense, and added that “a threat to Israel is also a threat to us”.

Merkel went on to mention that she plans to put more effort into confronting the threat that Israel faces from Iran, which many say is Israel’s greatest threat today. Merkel’s address, in German, before the Knesset on Tuesday has upset some Knesset members, as well as many Holocaust survivors still alive and living in Israel. The address will be the first by a German head of state since diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in 1965. Since then, Israel and Germany enjoy thriving trade relations, and victims of the Holocaust, and their families have received more than 18 billion Euros ($25 billion) in retribution payments.

Germany has tried to promote the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which has often been problematic due to continuous acts of violence between the two entities, as well as Israel’s polices dealing with settlements in what the Palestinians consider to be occupied land. The German Republic’s relations with the Hamas controlled sector of the Palestinian Authority has become even more problematic, and she has no plans to visit Gaza during her visit.

Merkel’s visit will coincide with the visit on Tuesday of U.S. Senator and Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, who is presently on a “surprise visit” to Iraq. McCain is a strong supporter to America’s continued involvement in Iraq, and even commented recently that as far as he is concerned, American troops “will stay in Iraq for even a hundred years if they need to”. McCain is also said to be a strong supporter of Israel, which probably explains his desire to come here for a firsthand look regarding the situation. Whether the two will meet while McCain is in Israel is not known.

It will be interesting to see what kind of response Merkel receives when she does address the Knesset in a language that bring back only the darkest memories to Israel’s more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors. However, as German is her native tongue, many people believe that Chancellor Merkel has the right to speak in this language during her Knesset address, and it must be noted that Israeli leaders have spoken to German government bodies in Hebrew in the past.

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.

Terror Attack on Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem

Thursday’s terror attack on students of the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem is being called one of the worst terror incidents in Israel’s capital since the beginning of the Second Intifada. The attack, which now appears to have been carried out by a lone Arab gunman, resulted in 8 students being killed and close to 40 injured, including 5 still listed to be in critical condition at the time of this writing. Some of the students killed and wounded were as young as 14.

Police were notified shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time, after a man dressed similar to a yeshiva student appeared at the entrance carrying a “parcel” that carried the AK 47 assault rifle and numerous magazines of ammunition which he began to fire indiscriminately at the students who were attending prayers in the library. During the pandemonium that followed, scores of screaming students tried to escape the hail of bullets, including jumping out of the yishiva’s second and third story windows. Many of the injuries sustained by the students included broken bones caused by jumping to the ground below.

One of the students, who identified himself as Ariel, called out on his cell phone and said that the assailant “just started shooting at everyone indiscriminately”. Police and army personnel who arrived at the scene were hampered in stopping the carnage due to the confusion caused by the student’s panic. “Bodies and blood were everywhere” another student said. An IDF officer who was familiar with the Yishiva’s layout, entered the building by a back door and managed to kill the attacker when one of his ammunition magazines ran out.

The terrorist, A Jerusalem Arab, came from the Gibrael Al Buchabar neighborhood in East Jerusalem IDF personnel entered the terrorist’s home and took away several family members for questioning.

The yeshiva, one of the largest and most well known in Jerusalem, was founded in 1924 by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, who was Israel’s first Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Yochanan Eiseman, one of the Yishiva’s rabbis and teachers, said afterwards that despite this tragedy, in which the country’s “center for religious Zionism” was attacked, the institution will carry on and will not be deterred from teaching Torah and Zionism to its students. Another rabbi said that due to the yishiva’s role in promoting religions Zionism it’s as if “Zionism itself has been attacked”. Unfortunately, that’s nothing new.

Though no particular terrorist organization has so far stepped forward to claim responsibility (at this writing anyway), the act was cheered by thousands of people in both the West Bank and Gaza. A Hamas spokesman said that his organization was not responsible, although they “greatly sympathized” with its occurrence. An Israel government spokesman said that despite this outrage, talks between Israel and the Palestinians will continue.

Talks may continue, but now who will listen to them?

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