Friday, January 30, 2009

Conference of President's report

Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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January 30, 2009
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In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Arms Ship Detained in Cyprus - Menelaos Hadjicostis (AP)
A Cypriot-flagged container ship that was searched by U.S. forces in the Red Sea last week with a suspected Iranian arms shipment bound for Hamas in Gaza arrived in Cyprus on Thursday and was being searched.

Leaders of Turkey and Israel Clash at Davos - Katrin Bennhold (New York Times)
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey walked off the stage after an angry exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a panel discussion on Gaza at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.
Erdogan apparently became incensed after the moderator, columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post, curtailed his response to remarks by Mr. Peres on the recent Israeli military campaign.
Mr. Peres pointed at the departing Mr. Erdogan and said Turkey would have reacted the same way had rockets been falling on Istanbul.

Hamas Accused of Torture Death of Gaza Critic (Reuters)
Bassam Atallah, a Palestinian in Gaza City, on Thursday accused Islamist Hamas militants of torturing and killing his brother Osama for publicly criticizing them.
He said masked gunmen from Hamas internal security arrived at the family home on Tuesday and arrested Osama. Bassam said the family was told Osama would be released in a matter of hours.
They subsequently received a telephone call from the hospital that Osama was in critical condition. He later died of his wounds.
See also Dozens of Palestinians Believed Dead in Reprisal Attacks - Rory McCarthy (Guardian-UK)

American Jews Support Israeli Operation in Gaza - Eric Fingerhut (JTA)
An Anti-Defamation League poll of the American Jewish community released Thursday found that 79% believed Israel's response to the "current crisis in Gaza" was appropriate, with just 17% believing it was excessive.
81% said Hamas was "responsible for the recent escalation in violence," compared to just 14% who blamed Israel.
Overall, 94% expressed sympathy for Israel over Hamas; only 1% for Hamas.
See also Survey of Jewish American Attitudes on the Gaza Crisis (Anti-Defamation League)

Saudi Killed in Gaza Fighting - Thomas Hegghammer (Jihadica)
The latest issue of the slick jihadi magazine Sada al-Jihad contains the martyrdom biography of a Saudi fighter named Abu Muhammad al-Marri who was recently killed in Gaza.
The novelty is not that foreign jihadists want to fight in Palestine - they always wanted to - but rather that al-Marri made it through and was allowed to fight by the Palestinians.
There are three ways to interpret this report: 1) as a fluke - al-Marri had a Palestinian wife so he may not have been seen as an outsider; 2) as reflecting a decision by Hamas to allow in a Saudi or two to embarrass the Saudis, or 3) as reflecting a strategic decision by Hamas to accommodate more foreign volunteers. Only time will show which one it is.

Iran and Syria Trying to Replace PLO - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday accused Iran and Syria of encouraging Hamas and other radical groups to establish a new leadership that would challenge the PLO's claim to be the "sole and legitimate" representative of the Palestinians. The PA is an organ of the PLO.
The PA fears that the potential new leadership, which would be headed by Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, would be recognized by several Islamic governments that are unhappy with Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas War Crimes in Gaza (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Evidence of Hamas' war crimes, its exaggeration of civilian casualties and damage to property, its abuse of humanitarian aid and its intimidation of Gaza's residents are finally coming to light.
Civilian casualty figures from Hamas sources include as "children" teenage Hamas fighters and as "women" female terrorists. Most of the casualties were young men in their 20s.
Hamas deliberately used the local population as human shields, a war crime.
Hamas' rocket attacks constituted a double war crime. Not only were they aimed at Israel's civilian population, they were cynically carried out from locations immediately adjacent to homes, schools, hospitals, relief agency warehouses, mosques, public buildings - as well as from the office building that housed foreign media studios.

European Reactions to Israel's Gaza Operation - Tamas Berzi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
At the time of the start of the Israeli airstrikes, the European presidency was held by France. On Dec. 27, the Presidency of the Council of the EU condemned both the Israeli air raids and the Palestinian rocket strikes on Israel from Gaza and called for an immediate end to these activities. The statement also condemned the disproportionate use of force.
On Jan. 1, 2009, the Czech Republic took over the role of the Presidency of the EU. On Jan. 3, the presidency described the Israeli ground operations in Gaza as an act of self-defense.
Israel should try to make the most of the current situation, since the upcoming Swedish presidency, which starts on July 1, 2009, will most likely be a more difficult time for Israel.

Some Tough Questions for Palestinians - Moshe Elad (Ynet News)
There is no doubt that America wishes to bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians. For 60 years, every "aggressive" round of talks started with making demands of the Israeli side and asking us to accommodate the Palestinians while gambling away our security.
Perhaps the time has come for Obama to start the latest "round" with the Palestinians.
Even Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian moderate camp, promises dwellers of Lebanese and Jordanian refugee camps that they will swiftly return to their homes.
On the day where the Palestinians prove that they are no longer dreaming about a return to Haifa, Jaffa, the coastal plain's villages, and the Galilee they will find that the people of Israel are willing to support genuine territorial compromise.
Col. (res.) Moshe Elad served as the head of security coordination with the PA in the Oslo Accord period.

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Fair Use News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

* White House: All Options on Table to Deal with Iran - Ross Colvin
President Barack Obama's administration signaled on Thursday that the U.S. reserved all its options, ranging from diplomacy to military action, to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. "We must use all elements of our national power to protect our interests as it relates to Iran. That includes, as the president talked about in the campaign, diplomacy where possible," Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said. "We have many issues to work through - an illicit nuclear program, the sponsorship of terrorism, and the threatening of peace in Israel are just a few of the issues that this president believes the Iranian leadership must address," Gibbs said. Asked whether Obama's view was that the military option remained on the table, he said, "The president hasn't changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options." (Reuters)
* Account of Israeli Attack on Gaza School Doesn't Hold Up to Scrutiny - Patrick Martin
Most people remember the headlines: "Israeli Strike Kills Dozens at UN School." On Jan. 6, mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces reportedly killed 43 civilians at the UNRWA school where they had taken refuge in Jabalya in Gaza. But the story was not quite accurate. Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. Those who died in the incident were all outside, on the street. Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate. There was no Israeli shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
* Spanish Judge Probes Israel's 2002 Attack on Hamas Terrorist Leader - Daniel Woolls
A Spanish judge on Thursday began an investigation into seven current or former Israeli officials over a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed Hamas terrorist leader Salah Shehadeh - wanted for masterminding suicide bombings - and 14 other people. The judge is acting under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain of crimes against humanity, even if they were alleged to have been committed in another country. The suit was brought by a group of Palestinians. (AP)
See also EU-Funded Palestinian NGO Leading the "Spanish Inquisition" - Gerald M. Steinberg
The Spanish case was initiated by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). With a large budget provided by the European Commission, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and other European governments, PCHR is among the leaders of the anti-Israel demonization strategy. The strategy was developed in the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban Conference, the goal being to use boycotts and legal processes to brand Israel an "apartheid" state, while legitimizing terrorism. During the recent Gaza operation, PCHR issued over 50 statements, most of which included allegations of "war crimes." Israel's Foreign Ministry has pressed European governments to amend their legal codes to prevent NGOs from bringing such cases to court. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Averting Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction
The idea of universal jurisdiction was conceived to stop officials who have engaged in war crimes, like genocide, and who have escaped the law. It should be directed at countries like Iran, where those who incite for mass murder are considered heroes, and not against the U.S., the UK and Israel, who are leading the war on terrorism and have functioning legal systems that prosecute those who really violate the laws of war. View video of a conference on the Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction held in London on November 26, 2008. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

* U.S. Envoy Calls for PA Presence at Gaza Border Crossings - Herb Keinon
Visiting U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell went to Ramallah Thursday and met with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, after which he said that the Gaza border crossings should be opened with a PA presence. "To be successful in preventing the illicit traffic of arms into Gaza, there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods, and that should be with the participation of the Palestinian Authority," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
* Gazans Describe Being Used as Human Shields by Hamas - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Members of a Gaza family whose farm was turned into a "fortress" by Hamas fighters have reported that they were helpless to stop Hamas from using them as human shields. The official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, reported Tuesday: "The hill on which the Abd Rabbo family lives overlooks the Israeli town Sderot, a fact that turned it into an ideal military position for the Palestinian fighters, from which they have launched hundreds of rockets into southern Israel during the last few years. Several of the Abd Rabbo family members described how the fighters dug tunnels under their houses, stored arms in the fields and launched rockets from the yard of their farm during the nights....One family member, Hadi (age 22), said: 'You can't say anything to the resistance [fighters], or they will accuse you of collaborating [with Israel] and shoot you in the legs.'" (Palestinian Media Watch)
* Frequently Asked Questions about the IDF Operation Against Hamas Terror in Gaza
Q: Will Israel cooperate with investigations of war crimes?
A: No official body or organization has presented any evidence of war crimes allegedly committed by Israel. All accusations have been based on rumor, half-truths, anonymous reports from unconfirmed sources, and manipulations of the truth. On the other hand, proven war crimes have been committed by Hamas.
Q: Was there illegal use of phosphorus?
A: During the operation in Gaza there was no illegal use of phosphorus, as confirmed by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jacob Kellenberger.
Q: Did Israel shoot at schools?
A: When IDF forces were shot at, they returned fire towards the source of the shooting. Defensive actions of this type are explicitly allowed under the Geneva Convention. The IDF did not fire directly at UNRWA schools; clearly had a school been targeted directly, it would have been completely destroyed. In the case of the school in Jabalya, both AP and the New York Times confirmed Israel's version that mortar fire came from a position located very close to the building.
Q: What about the civilian casualties?
A: Civilians who tried to flee the fighting were threatened by Hamas gunmen, while many were killed in the crossfire initiated by Hamas. Some civilians were hurt in booby-trapped houses and by bombs placed by Hamas throughout Gaza. These are the real reasons why many civilians were killed.
Extreme caution should be exercised concerning the numbers of civilian casualties reported. Throughout the past year, Hamas has dismissed doctors and nurses identified with Fatah and replaced them with its own supporters. Gaza's hospitals are now staffed only with Hamas supporters and Hamas officials are the primary sources of information. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

The Gaza War - Strategic and Diplomatic Impact

* What Israel Gained in Gaza - Michael Gerson
In Gaza, Israeli forces, responding to an intolerable provocation, inflicted lopsided casualties on Hamas, which displayed a discrediting combination of cowardice and brutality. Hamas fighters used civilians as shields instead of shielding civilians - and some Palestinians seemed to resent it. Hamas leaders hid in the basements of hospitals while ordering public executions for Palestinian rivals, acting more like members of a criminal gang than a nationalist movement.
"This hasn't solved the problem," retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, told me. "But it has introduced a completely different cost calculation for Hamas." The launching of Hamas rockets against civilians now has a predictable price - the essence of deterrence. According to Daniel Schueftan, a senior research fellow at the University of Haifa, "It is a fairy tale to say there are no answers through coercive force....We have...operational answers that reduce terror to a tolerable level. It is what we do with crime. It is what we do with terrorism." (Washington Post)
* The Strategic Importance of Israel's Gaza Operation - Isaac Ben-Israel
In the Gaza war, the IDF showed that it possesses the means, combat doctrine, and required determination for fighting in a crowded urban area while ensuring minimal casualties among our forces. Most importantly, the asymmetrical rules of the game that Israel appeared to accept in recent years had been broken. Previously, it appeared as though the weak side (Hamas, Hizbullah) could attack Israeli citizens uninterruptedly, while Israel hesitated in utilizing its substantial military power. The recent operation showed that even mosques used by terror groups are no longer off limits for Israeli military power.
The operation's diplomatic achievements include destabilization of Iran's protege in the Mideast. Moreover, most of the Arab world stood by Egypt vis-a-vis Hamas. This recognition of the common interest with Israel against Iran and its emissaries holds immense strategic importance. Furthermore, understandings and agreements on curbing weapons smuggling to Hamas have been signed and secured vis-a-vis the U.S. and most Western European states. (Ynet News)
* No Israeli Apology for Defeating Iran's Islamic Proxy - Amir R. Gissin
It is Israel that would like to see a Palestinian state living peacefully at its side. Hamas wants something else - the destruction of the Israeli state, and the creation of a new extremist Islamic empire throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. Two years ago, Hamas overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza in a military coup, killing 350 and injuring more than 1,000 Palestinians in less than two weeks. This story is forgotten; instead, we keep hearing about Hamas winning the Palestinian election, using this as an excuse for turning 1.5 million Gazans into hostages.
Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, nor their interests. Hamas is a proxy of Iran, who did exactly the same thing three years ago in Lebanon, using its other proxy, Hizbullah, to divert attention from its developing nuclear military program. The writer is consul general of Israel for Toronto. (Toronto Star)
* Tough Choices on Hamas Prompt Arab Disarray - Andrew Tabler and Simon Henderson
Arab support for the Palestinians has been the bedrock of Arab diplomacy for decades, but the recent Israeli military action against Hamas in Gaza has divided those backing PA leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party and those supporting its Hamas rival. On Gaza, Washington should continue to support the Egyptian initiative, which calls for the monitoring of Gaza crossings by the PA and greater Egyptian and international efforts to shut down tunnel smuggling networks. The U.S. should also work to ensure that Arab aid is delivered via the PA, allowing Hamas to gain as little credit as possible during reconstruction. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
* Gaza War Just a Sideshow to Sunni-Persian Conflict - Emanuele Ottolenghi
The Gaza war forced regional players to take sides. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states but Qatar gave Hamas a cold shoulder. Hamas is, after all, a Sunni Arab movement that turned its back on its brothers to embrace the feared and loathed Shi'ite Persian foe. A tacit if grudging alliance is emerging between Israel and pro-Western Sunni rulers. The prospect of an Iran fomenting Islamist revolutions, wars and insurrections around the region under the cover of a nuclear umbrella is infinitely more terrifying than a Jewish state in the Arab heartland. The Arabs need Israel's steel against Iran today. (Ha'aretz)
* Israeli Sanctions on Gaza Meant to Save Peace Process - Martin Kramer
Israel has a compelling strategic reason to keep the sanctions on Gaza in place. (I say sanctions and not blockade, because Israel doesn't control the Egyptian-Gazan border, and so cannot impose a true blockade.) Israel's sanctions are meant to squeeze the "resistance" out of the Hamas regime - and, if possible, to break its monopoly on power in Gaza. Unless these goals are met, at least in part, it's lights-out for any peace process. Sanctions are a perfectly legitimate tool. It was sanctions that ended apartheid in South Africa, kept Saddam from reconstituting his WMD programs, got Qadhafi to give up his WMD, and might stop Iran's nuclear program.
Hamas owes everything not to its feeble "resistance," but to the tendency of the weak of will or mind to throw it lifelines. It's now demanding that the sanctions be lifted, and the usual chorus is echoing the cynical claims of a tyrannical and terrorist regime that shows no mercy toward its opponents, Israeli or Palestinian. Supporters of peace shouldn't acquiesce in another bailout of its worst enemy. It's time to break the cycle, and make it clear beyond doubt that the Hamas bubble has burst. The way to do that is to keep the sanctions in place. (Sandbox)
* Blockade Thwarts Any Postwar Building Boom in Gaza - Alastair Macdonald
"We should have started reconstruction the day the war ended. But we have no supplies," says Gaza builder Anwar al-Sahabani. Peter Lerner, an Israel Defense Ministry official dealing with trade for Gaza, said Israel was helping international aid agencies in their efforts to move in food and other vital supplies. But until Israel was satisfied that cement would not be used by Hamas for fortifications and that steel pipes would be used only for plumbing and not to build rockets to fire at Israeli towns, the embargo on construction material remained. "We are not interested today in rebuilding Hamas, their bunkers. We are not interested in supplying them with pipes that will be used for rockets."
The smuggling tunnels that provide many of the goods in Gaza's stores cannot supply large quantities of building materials. "Let nobody delude themselves that we are going to open the crossings for anything but humanitarian essentials," said Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel's infrastructure minister. "We don't intend to open the crossings before [captured IDF soldier] Gilad Shalit comes home." (Reuters)

Hamas Claims Victory in Gaza War

* Hamas Leaders Believe They Won a Victory - Rory McCarthy
In the past, thousands of Hamas supporters would gather for elaborate rallies. This time the mood was different. Rather than risk one poorly attended central demonstration, Hamas held separate rallies in different towns. In Gaza City, a few hundred tired-looking sympathizers walked behind a truck as slogans were reeled off through a loudspeaker. Hamas leaders believe they won a victory against the might of the Israeli military. This deep inner conviction is shaping the movement's decision-making. In a comparison with the 1967 Six-Day War, Ahmed Yusuf, an adviser in Hamas' foreign ministry, said: "Israel defeated four Arab armies in six days. We lasted 22 days."
Over the past two years the movement's hardliners have come to dominate, and more moderate or pragmatic figures have been pushed to the sidelines. The result is that Hamas appears no closer to making any major compromises. (Guardian-UK)
* Hamas: "Gaza Victory Has Paved the Way to Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa"
Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal said on Jan. 21: "The resistance showed fortitude and became an element equal to [the Israeli army], despite the difference in resources. The firing of missiles continued; our people rallied around the resistance and stood fast. Hamas, which [the Israelis] had set out to destroy, gained strength; the resistance has entered every home and has became an ideal among the Arab nation and worldwide." "The residents of the West Bank must rise up and resist until victory, as happened in Gaza."
Senior Hamas official Isma'il Radhwan stated: "The Gaza victory has paved the way to Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, the Negev, and the West Bank." (MEMRI)
* Hamas Dispenses Politics Along with Aid to Gazans - Karin Laub
A Hamas Cabinet minister carried a carton stuffed with checks worth nearly $2 million into a Gaza tent camp pitched on the ruins of the Salam neighborhood in Jebaliya. But before hundreds of homeless residents could collect, they had to listen to a political speech. Social Affairs Minister Ahmed al-Kurd told them Israel's military machine was defeated. Many complain that political maneuvering - both between Hamas and its West Bank PA rivals, and in the international community - is slowing the delivery of aid to Gaza. Israel said UN trucks are given priority at crossings into Gaza. "Over 40,000 tons of aid have entered Gaza since the cease-fire," said Peter Lerner, an Israeli military official. (AP/Washington Post)

Weekend Features

* Letter to Gaza Resident: I Am the Soldier Who Slept in Your Home - Yishai G.
I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home. I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you. Therefore, I am sure you know that Kassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities. Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods. Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered Gaza, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.
I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. (IMRA/Maariv-Hebrew)
* Thirty Years of Tehran Rhetoric Blocking Road to Peace - Karim Sadjadpour
The Iranian government's feeling towards the State of Israel varies from utter contempt to visceral hatred. Why? After all, Iran is not an Arab country, has no direct land disputes with Israel, has no Palestinian refugee problem, has a long history of contentious relations with the Arab world, and is home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel itself. Why should Iran be a more strident enemy of Israel than Arab nations that have lost hundreds of their sons in wars fought against the Jewish state?
One school of thought says that Iran and Israel are natural rivals for primacy in the Middle East. The other school of thought contends that opposition to Israel is a deeply held ideological tenet of Iran's 1979 revolution. Nothing less than the dissolution of the Jewish state would satisfy Tehran's hardline leadership. When I was based in Tehran with the International Crisis Group, I used to believe that Iran would be capable of altering its approach towards Israel in the context of a broader U.S.-Iran accommodation. I no longer believe this to be the case. A study I did on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, based on three decades' worth of his speeches, confirmed his consistent and disciplined opposition to Israel's existence. The writer directs the Iran Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. (The National-UAE)
* Jimmy Carter's Myopia - Michael D. Evans
Former President Jimmy Carter has just released a new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land. The former president writes that former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin agreed to divide Jerusalem. I found that to be astonishing...especially since Mr. Begin had given me a copy of the letter he wrote to Carter on Sept. 17, 1978, in which he wrote, "Dear Mr. President, ...On the basis of this law, the government of Israel decreed in July 1967 that Jerusalem is one city indivisible, the capital of the State of Israel." According to Begin, Carter informed him that the U.S. government did not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Begin told me he responded, "Excuse me sir, but the State of Israel does not recognize your non-recognition."
Carter viewed PLO leader Yasser Arafat as a "little George Washington." He pens, "We pursued the concept of non-violent resistance of Hamas leaders and gave them documentation and video presentations on the successful experiences of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others." Peace in the Holy Land must include Palestinian militant leader, Marwan Barghouti, the serial killer. Carter calls him the "most intriguing player in the Middle East." (Washington Times)


Don't Strengthen Hamas - Mark A. Heller (International Herald Tribune)

* If President Obama's special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, allows Hamas to save itself, Hamas and the world view it shares with Hizbullah and their Iranian sponsors will appear even more to be on the winning side of history.
* There is a growing call to "engage" Hamas, presumably on the assumption that a movement founded on the premise that there is no solution to the Palestinian problem "except by jihad" and committed to "raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine" can somehow be sweet-talked into accommodation. There is not a shred of evidence to support this assumption. So Mitchell's task should be to isolate Hamas in order to "disengage" it from Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere.
* Mitchell needs to keep alive the possibility of a viable negotiating process by preventing the re-empowerment of Hamas. Specifically, he should begin to coordinate an effective, multi-pronged effort with America's NATO and regional allies that will 1) prevent the reopening of the tunnels and interdict the supply chains pouring weapons and cash into Hamas hands; and 2) provide direct access for needy Gazans to the outside world and to alternative humanitarian support and reconstruction funding, to be administered by or channeled through a multilateral consortium and the Palestinian Authority.
* There is no doubt that Hamas will resist any steps to bypass and undercut its authority. The response should be that an American-led consortium will not collaborate in the rehabilitation and entrenchment of Hamas power, and that if Hamas insists on standing in the way, it will bear responsibility for failure to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
* Benita Ferrero-Waldner, External Relations Commissioner of the EU, has made clear that while emergency relief will continue no matter what, Europe should not support the reconstruction of Gaza under Hamas rule. America under Obama needs to show the same understanding of the strategic issue at stake.

The writer is principal research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

amidah part 2

New video on chanting the daily amidah

Obama and clintonm think they can sweet talk these guys?

# Ahmadinejad: Obama Must Apologize to Iran - Zahra Hosseinian
Responding to President Obama's offer to extend a hand of peace to Iran, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Wednesday, "Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation." He listed a range of "crimes" such as trying to block Tehran's nuclear program, hindering Iran's development, and other actions by several administrations for more than 60 years. (Reuters)
# To Combat Obama, Al-Qaeda Hurls Insults - Joby Warrick
Al-Qaeda has unleashed a stream of verbal tirades against Barack Obama, each more venomous than the last. Obama has been called a "hypocrite," a "killer" of innocents, an "enemy of Muslims." He was even blamed for the Israeli military assault in Gaza, which began and ended before he took office. The torrent of hateful words is part of what terrorism experts now believe is a deliberate propaganda campaign against a president who appears to have gotten under al-Qaeda's skin. With Obama, al-Qaeda faces an entirely new challenge, as polls show he is well liked throughout the Muslim world.

why no UN resolutions vs Hamas missiles?

Anti-Israel attitudes do not fall into a pattern of normal political hostility of the type directed toward other countries. At their core, objections to Israel are not based on the country's policies but instead rest on Israel's very right to exist.

Hamas is not fighting Israel over a policy difference. Hamas has been quite upfront with its purpose and objectives—the end of the state of Israel and a global war against all Jews everywhere. Understood in this light, Hamas rocket barrages, like its suicide bombers, simply make the affected areas of Israel unlivable, small steps toward the achievement of the group's broader agenda.

Faced with such terror attacks, there is no country in the world that would not have garnered sympathy except Israel. The exceedingly ugly character of the marches and rallies against Israel makes it clear that what we are witnessing is global anti-Semitism.

There is precedent for the Hamas philosophy, the Nazis referred to it as seeking to make the world judenrein.

Anti-Israel protests not only in Europe, but even in American communities like Ft. Lauderdale included chants of "Go back to the ovens" and "The ovens weren't big enough."

The Europeans and their Middle Eastern friends cruelly equated the victims of Nazism with being Nazis themselves. Thus, the Europeans absolve themselves from their own historical guilt.

And the failure of the political elites to condemn such anti-Semitic behavior or even to recognize it fosters, encourages and inadvertently supports the anti-Semites. One British parliamentarian, turning the situation on its head, accused the "the Jews" of exploiting the guilt of non-Jews over the Holocaust to justify Israel's defensive operations against Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

That thugs beat a Jewish girl in Paris while telling her that it was revenge for Israeli attacks on Hamas goes well beyond the traditional bounds of protest. It was clear anti-Semitism reminiscent of similar events in European history.

And the Paris attack was not an isolated event. The Turkish government's recent rhetoric has been so caustic as to make the country's Jewish population fearful for the first time in its more than 500-year history.

In several European countries, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues were vandalized.

The question for supporters and friends of Israel are, why were there no UN resolutions condemning Hamas' unilateral rocketing of Israel?Another question that should be raised is, of all the conflicts in the world, why is this the only one where the issue of proportionality is raised? Does it mean that if there was more Jewish blood shed the response would have been more acceptable?

The lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel can and should expect neither fairness, honesty or justice from the world community. Israel can only depend on itself because anti-Semitism today remains not only tenacious, it is fashionable.

More stalling on Iran while they pursue nukes

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday urged Iran to show "willingness to engage meaningfully" with the world community and said a US envoy would join multilateral talks next week on Iran's disputed nuclear program.

"With respect to Iran, there is a clear opportunity for the Iranians, as the president expressed in his interview, to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community," Clinton told reporters.

"Whether or not that hand becomes less clenched is really up to them. But as we look at the opportunities available to us, we're going to have a very broad survey of what we think we can do," Clinton said in her first news briefing.

"In an interview with Al-Arabiya satellite television network, President Barack Obama said Monday the United States would offer Iran an extended hand of diplomacy if the Islamic Republic's leaders "unclenched their fist."

Obama said he would in the next few months lay out a general framework of policy towards Tehran, in the interview with Dubai-based satellite television network.

Susan Rice, the new US ambassador to the United Nations made her debut Monday when she pledged vigorous" and "direct" nuclear diplomacy with Iran but warned of increased pressure if Tehran refuses to halt uranium enrichment.

The Pope forgives holocaust denier?

NYT Jan 28

On Saturday, the pope revoked the excommunication of four bishops from the St. Pius X Society, including Bishop Richard Williamson, who said in a television interview last week that there was no historical evidence for the Nazi gas chambers. The pope's decision has angered Jewish and liberal Catholic groups, among others.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Aipac briefing

Obama Stresses Hopes for Peace, Support for Israel

Top E.U. Official Blames Hamas for Gaza Conflict

New U.N. Ambassador: U.S. Must Be Firm With Iran

Roadside Bomb Kills Israeli Soldier Near Gaza Border

Iran Seeks to Replenish Hamas' Weapon Stocks in Gaza

Natural Gas Find Could Transform Israel's Economy

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Obama Stresses Hopes for Peace, Support for IsraelIn a television interview with Dubai-based Al Arabiya, President Barack Obama on Monday reiterated U.S. support for Israel and expressed his hopes about the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, The Washington Post reported. "Israel is a strong ally of the United States," Obama said. "They will not stop being a strong ally of the United States. And I will continue to believe that Israel's security is paramount." The president added that the United States "cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them," stressing the need for patience in the quest for peace. Speaking before AIPAC Policy Conference delegates last June, then-Senator Obama issued a similar call for cautious optimism along the "long road to peace." Click here to watch his Policy Conference speech.
Top EU Official Blames Hamas for Gaza ConflictHamas bears full responsibility for the recent violence in Gaza, a top European Union official said Monday during a visit to the coastal strip, Agence France Presse reported. "At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas," Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said at a press conference in Jabalya, a town in northern Gaza. "I intentionally say this here—Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such." Michel was in the region to announce new EU-sponsored aid and development projects for the Palestinians. The United States has also pledged its commitment to reconstructing Gaza in partnership with the Palestinian Authority.
New U.N. Ambassador: U.S. Must Be Firm With IranAmbassador Susan Rice said Monday that the United States would continue to press Iran to halt its illicit nuclear program, as called for in multiple binding U.N. Security Council resolutions, Reuters reported. "We remain deeply concerned about the threat that Iran's nuclear program poses to the region, indeed to the United States and to the entire international community," Rice, the newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "Dialogue and diplomacy must go hand-in-hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council and its continued refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase." Click here to learn about Iran's quest for a nuclear weapons capability.
Roadside Bomb Kills Israeli Soldier Near Gaza BorderOne Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer was killed and three others were wounded on Tuesday when a roadside bomb detonated under an army vehicle, The Jerusalem Post reported. While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred along the Gaza-Israel border, a Hamas leader said his group had not agreed to a cease-fire with Israel and that "the Zionists are responsible for any aggression." An IDF official warned that Hamas would continue to carry out attacks against Israel until a long-term truce agreement was reached. On a related note, Israeli military sources said Hamas fired a Qassam rocket into the sea on Sunday to test the range of rockets left in its arsenal after Israel's recent operation. Click here to learn about Hamas' terrorist activity in Gaza.
Iran Seeks to Replenish Hamas' Weapon Stocks in GazaAccording to Israeli intelligence assessments, Iran has renewed its efforts to supply advanced weaponry to the terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post reported. The IDF is concerned that Iran will provide Hamas with long-range Fajr missiles, which have a range of 43 miles and can easily reach Tel Aviv if fired from Gaza. The IDF believes that it destroyed about 1,200 Hamas rockets during Operation Cast Lead, but estimates that the terrorist group has about 1,000 left in its arsenal, including long-range Grad-model Katyushas. Israeli intelligence officials also believe that Iran has launched an internal probe to determine why Hamas was unable to kill more Israeli soldiers in Gaza and why the terrorist group could not fire more long-range rockets deep into Israel. Iran is a prime backer of Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction.
Natural Gas Find Could Transform Israel's EconomyIsrael could be one step closer to energy independence after drilling companies announced the discovery of "extremely significant" natural gas reserves at an offshore drilling site in the Mediterranean, about 60 miles off the coast of Haifa, Israel, the Web site Israel 21c reported. One massive pocket of natural gas is estimated to contain more than three trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to feed Israel's energy needs for 15 years. "It can contribute a lot to the Israeli economy," said Shaya Segal of Delek Drilling company. "And give us independence with anything that has to do with natural gas." In Israel, that would mean fueling power plants with natural gas, as opposed to coal or oil fuel sources, which produce more pollution. "It's much more environmentally friendly," Segal said.

Monday, January 26, 2009

several questions

Shalom Rabbi,

Some more question and thoughts here:

1) I did some reading on Rachel's Thumb and also read Genesis again where Abraham receives the instructions.
Is there any theory why circumcising was chosen as the pact? In other words, G-d could have asked for one finger
or a tooth or for a tattoo. Do you think this was a way to prevent infection so that Abraham's descendants could
be as fertile as possible? There must have been a reason why circumcision was chosen.

Answer These videos may help.

Bris Milah and Jewish Baby namings JewU 47
Mitzvote series 2 Circumcision JewU297

The evidence is pretty conclusive that it prevents infection but i think it has more to do with the organ of procreation and the source of so many problems in society

2) On the Torah readings of this week about Moses, there is a question for discussion in the website:
"Why do you think God hardened Pharaoh's heart?"
So, it is hard for me to think that G-d does "evil" things. Why it is not the Devil that hardened Pharaoh's heart?
Answer: see
Parshat Vaera in Exodus 14/54 JewU333

we do not believe in the devil
see Evil vs good inclination & Freud JewU278
Devil and Judaism/ What do we believe? JewU 180

Q: I understand that it is written on the bible and we cannot complain, the if G-d's idea was to transmit the Passover
teaching, why did not the story end with 7 plagues? ( I am sorry if I am too analytical.) Is it because of the number 10?
10 plagues, 10 Commandments? But then, we have 7 Days and 12 Tribes.

A: there are 10 plagues. the rest are in parashat bo.

4) I watched your video about reincarnation and I confess that it was not clear at the end if we should believe or not.
Since the soul is eternal, it is acceptable that it can have several manifestations that could include to have a body;
on the other hand, if each soul has several bodies, which one will be given back by the time of the Resurrection?
I think one idea excludes the other. Can I conciliate them?

A: there is no one belief. general belief in eternality of the soul, most believe in resurrection . only mystics believe in reincarnation-like rabbi Gail. i don't

5) I read about the things that are forbidden in the Sabbath. Why is driving not allowed? Ok, back in time, they did not
have cars but they were allowed to move. If we are allowed to walk that is essentially to move from a place to another, what is so wrong about driving? It is changing position the same way.

A: we allow driving to synagogue. orthodox don't. it involved combustion which is forbidden.

6) Is the a reason why pomegranate to be so present in Jewish art? Pomegranate is a very efficient abortive fruit,
although it is rich in vitamin-C.

A: thought to have 613 seeeds like the mitzvote and is mentioned in deuteronomy

Questions on women roles and kabbalah

see these videos for a brief explanantion

Must men and women pray separately? jewu 282 Rabbi Jonathan

Women's Rights in Judaism JewU 127 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

Rabbi Gail is a mystic kabbalist, I am not. Theyn never even taught it when I went to rabbinical school. Different aspect of the tradition

Q: Some of this takes a bit of getting used to. I am very accustomed to Orthodox Practices... especially regarding the role of women and mysticism. Whereas I can understand and appreciate the Conservative approach to the role of women, I am still having a difficult time accepting Kabbalah. Does the Conservative Movement require belief in Kabbalah or only acknowledgement of its existence?

A. see these videos for a brief explanantion

Must men and women pray separately? jewu 282 Rabbi Jonathan

Women's Rights in Judaism JewU 127 Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

Rabbi Gail is a mystic kabbalist, I am not. Theyn never even taught it when I went to Rabbinical school. Different aspect of the tradition

Friday, January 23, 2009

Questions and answers

Hello, Rabbi Jonathan.

Q. I've noticed that some substitute "G-d" for "God." Doing a bit of
research it appears that writing His name is itself a sacred act,
preferably done properly and on proper paper.

What is the history of this action? What is the guidance on writing His
name? Do those recommendations apply also to YHVH and Adonai, for example?

A. I don't worry about God since that is not God's name. We never throw out or burn anything that has any name of God in Hebrew. We bury it eventually. Some take a more strict approach, as you note.

I joined the American Jewish Historical Society the other day, and I'm
looking forward to the gift of books they included with my level of
membership. I can't get enough on Jewish American history. Do you have
any recommendations?

A. best book is Prof Jonathan Sarna American Judaism

Questions and answers

Dear Rabbi,

I have some scattered questions:

Q. Is there any official literature for Rachel's Tumb? I have learnt that the place
is as important as the Western Wall. Would Rachel be the equivalent of
a Catholic "Saint"?

A. see

does not have=status to Western Wall. Recent article in jerusalem report mag. says many dispute if she is really in there.

Q. In the prayer's book is there a specific pray for fertility/pregnancy? I am hoping
to be blessed with more children.-
A.Tikva Frymer Kensky wrote a book Motherprayer. Chapter 2 is about that.

Q. Another question is Adam. Officially Judaism starts with the patriarch Abraham, but
before that there was Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, many other generations and G-d
interacted with them, so they knew Him. Why Adam is not the first official Jew?

A. He wasn't Jewish. No covenant with him. Read Genesis 12 and 15 to see the officail brit with God and Abraham

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New video on birkote hashachar

Daily alert

Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at


January 22, 2009
Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Gaza Doctor: Hamas Exaggerated Gaza Death Toll - 600 Killed, Mostly Fighters, Not 1,300 - Yossi Bar (Maariv-Hebrew)
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra Thursday quoted a doctor at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City saying that, despite Hamas and UN claims, most of those killed in Gaza were young men who were members of terror groups.
"The number of deaths was between 500-600...most were young men between 17 and 23 who were recruited into the ranks of Hamas, which sent them to be slaughtered," he said.
Journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi confirmed that only 600 people were killed, and not 1,300 as was widely reported, based on hospital visits and discussions with families of the victims.
"It was strange that the non-governmental organizations, including Western ones, repeated the number without checking, but the truth will come to light in the end," said the doctor.
"It's like what happened in Jenin in 2002," he said. "At the beginning they spoke of 500 dead; afterwards it was clear there were only 54 dead, at least 45 of them fighters."

Hamas Shot from Civilian Neighborhoods - Rod Nordland (Newsweek)
Israel blames Hamas for using housing areas, hospitals, schools and mosques to launch attacks into Israel or against its soldiers, provoking defensive counter-fire that it says is responsible for most of the civilian casualties.
Every one of the residents interviewed in eastern Jabaliya insisted that there had been no provocation from the area, no resistance fighters, and no rocket launchings.
"There aren't any tunnels around here, we are not resistance," said Najah Abd Rabo. Yet not more than 20 feet away from Najah, there was just such a tunnel, which Israeli troops had unearthed. Right in the middle of the road, it had a convincingly camouflaged roof that matched the rest of the road.
Talal Safadi, an official in the leftist Palestinian People's Party, said that Hamas fighters were firing from positions all around Al Quds Hospital in the Tal-al Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City.

Hamas Confirms Executing Fatah Collaborators - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
PA Minister of Social Welfare Mahmoud Habbash accused Hamas on Wednesday of confiscating 63 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid while they were on their way to UNRWA in Gaza.
He also said 19 Palestinians were murdered in cold blood by Hamas during and after Israel's Gaza operation, while more than 60 others were shot in the legs.
See also Hamas Seeks "Collaborators" in Gaza - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
Ehab al-Ghsain, spokesman of the Hamas Interior Ministry, said Wednesday, "The internal security service was instructed to track collaborators and hit them hard....They arrested dozens of collaborators."

Key Links
Media Contacts
Back Issues
Fair Use News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

* Obama's First Call Is to Abbas - Tom Baldwin
President Obama placed the Middle East at the forefront of his first hours in office Wednesday. In a flurry of telephone calls from the Oval Office, he vowed to engage immediately in pursuit of a permanent Arab-Israeli settlement. Obama told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that their conversation was his first with a foreign statesman since taking office. Obama also spoke to President Mubarak of Egypt, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and King Abdullah of Jordan. (Times-UK)
See also Obama Stresses Commitment to Stop Hamas Arms Smuggling - Eric Fingerhut
President Barack Obama told Ehud Olmert and three other Middle East leaders he is determined to stop Hamas from smuggling arms. A White House statement said that Obama "emphasized his determination to work to help consolidate the cease-fire by establishing an effective anti-smuggling regime to prevent Hamas from rearming, and facilitating in partnership with the Palestinian Authority a major reconstruction effort for Palestinians in Gaza." (JTA)
See also Egypt: No Foreign Navies in Egyptian Waters to Combat Smuggling
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday his country will not allow foreign naval forces to operate in its territorial waters to prevent weapons smuggling to Gaza. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
* Palestinians Mend Smuggling Tunnels - Nidal al-Mughrabi
Hundreds of Palestinians came to Gaza's border with Egypt Thursday to repair smuggling tunnels bombed by Israel. Residents along the border said shipments had already been moving through several dozen tunnels. Israel has threatened new military action to prevent Hamas from replenishing the rocket arsenal it used to strike southern Israeli towns. (Reuters)
See also Hamas Arms Smuggling Never Stopped During IDF Operation in Gaza - Anshel Pfeffer and Barak Ravid
Some tunnels running under the border between Egypt and Gaza remained in operation even during the fighting. Contrary to media reports, the Israeli air force apparently did not use powerful bunker-busting bombs to destroy the tunnels. (Ha'aretz)
See also Smugglers Get Tunnels Back in Operation - Volkhard Windfuhr and Bernhard Zand
It's clean-up time in southern Gaza as the operators of the tunnels used to smuggle goods and weapons in from Egypt have come to assess the damage caused by the Israeli bombardment. Mohammed is coming up a 26-meter tunnel shaft. "Everything's okay," he reports. "A lot of sand has gotten in, it'll take us a while to shovel it all out. But I managed to get across to the other side. Our friends in Egypt send their regards." (Der Spiegel-Germany)
* Obama Greeted with Hatred and Quiet Hope in Iran - Bill Neely
In Tehran, thousands chanted "Death to Obama," dragging his portrait through the streets and then setting fire to it alongside a picture of George Bush. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's Special Representative, Hossein Shariatmadari, said: "Obama's is the hand of Satan in a new sleeve." "Obama won't make any big change in American policy towards Iran," he told me. At the same time, watching the inauguration on illegal satellite television receivers were Iranians who yearn for a thaw in relations with the West. (Telegraph-UK)

News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

* Israel to EU: Gaza Crisis Won't End Until Captured Israeli Soldier Is Returned - Roni Sofer
The crisis in Gaza will not be resolved so long as (kidnapped IDF soldier) Gilad Shalit remains in Hamas' hands, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday in Brussels. The EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to declare their intention to contribute units, vessels, and technological means in order to curb weapon transfers from Iran to Hamas. (Ynet News)
* UNRWA Schools in Gaza Infiltrated by Palestinian Terrorists - Jonathan D. Halevi
Recent years have seen the gradual takeover of UNRWA educational and welfare institutions in Gaza by Palestinian terrorist organizations, led by Hamas. Just six months after Hamas' general election victory, it won a clear victory in the UNRWA workers committee elections held on 14 June 2006. Suhil el-Hindi, head of the teachers sector at UNRWA schools, operates openly as Hamas' representative. He controls the curriculum in UNRWA schools, the employment of teachers in those schools, and the summer camps.
Hamas Interior Minister Said Sayyam, responsible for Hamas terror operations, who was targeted in the recent Gaza war, was a teacher at UNRWA schools for 23 years. Following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007, parents of students in UNRWA schools wrote to the head of UNRWA charging that scores of teachers at the schools belonged to the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, and requested an urgent investigation. In another example, Awad el-Kik, the principal of an UNRWA school in Rafiah, was also head of weapons and rocket manufacturing for Islamic Jihad in Gaza until he was targeted on 30 April 2008.
It seems very likely that contributions by Western nations to UNRWA pay the salaries of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who are educating the next generation of Palestinians in jihad against Israel and all non-Muslims. Western nations should demand that terror group activists be removed from UN institutions as a condition of continued funding. Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi is a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. (Ynet-Hebrew)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

* Obama Must Choose Which Palestinians to Support - Steven Erlanger
With the rule of Hamas in Gaza apparently unchallenged and its popularity growing in the West Bank, the new Obama administration faces an immediate policy choice: support a Palestinian unity government, as Egypt and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas want, or continue to isolate Hamas and concentrate on building up the West Bank as a political alternative to radical Islam. The issue is urgent because of the international effort to rebuild Gaza while trying to avoid letting Hamas take credit for the reconstruction, as Hizbullah did in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war. The choice goes to the heart of what Obama can accomplish when the Palestinian side remains violently divided. (New York Times)
* Egypt Dominance as Mideast Mediator in Doubt - Cynthia Johnston
Egypt's failure to achieve a negotiated truce in Gaza leaves a question mark over Cairo's future as a preferred Arab mediator. Egypt has long been treated as an indispensable go-between with Israel and Palestinian factions, but Israel ended its military operation in Gaza unilaterally despite Egyptian efforts for a mediated truce.
That came on the heels of a disappointing round of intra-Palestinian talks that failed to reconcile bickering Palestinian groups last year. In addition, it remains unlikely that Egypt will take strong steps on the smuggling tunnels - in part to avoid alienating Sinai Bedouin whose livelihoods depend on illicit trade with Gaza. (Reuters)
* Welcome to the New Middle East - Martin Regg Cohn
As vital as it is to engage the Palestinians, it is no less crucial to enlist the Israelis in a confidence-building process. I covered the Israeli disengagements from the territories in the mid-1990s. Back then, Hamas was disavowing the Oslo Peace Process as a sellout and sabotaging it with suicide bombers. In my interviews with the top Hamas leadership - Mahmoud Zahar, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and Sheikh Ahmad Yassin - there was never talk of two-state solutions or one-state solutions. Rather, their solution was to send the Jews back where they came from.
If the Israelis have taken a hard line now against Hamas, scores of suicide bombings and thousands of missiles later, it is because Hamas responded to the withdrawal from Gaza with an unprovoked assault. Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist (no mere bargaining tactic). And it remains a vexing interlocutor for other Arab partners - notably the Palestinian Authority, the Saudis and Egyptians. (Toronto Star)


Israel's Role as an Asset for the West - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)

* As the smoke clears from the latest round of fighting in Gaza, the perception in the Arab world is that Israel was victorious and that Hamas and its allies suffered a significant setback. It is precisely the extent of destruction wrought by Israel in Gaza, along with the very minor losses suffered by the Israeli side, which make the Hamas claims of having achieved anything at all - let alone victory - ring hollow.
* This time around, the "resistance" model did not seem to work. The rockets did not succeed in creating a sense of siege in Israel's south, but rather declined in number as the operation proceeded. Ground operations were undertaken in the heart of Gaza - successfully, and with few losses.
* Israel acts as the blunt instrument - physically resisting anti-Western forces and thus denting their charisma. This then creates a space whereby pro-Western Arab states can make the case that opposition to the West and to Israel is a road to nowhere. This is precisely the way that radical Arab nationalism was broken in the 1960s, which made possible the eventual achievement of peace between Egypt and Israel. It is in this way that Israel plays a crucial role as an ally and asset for the West.
* The radical Islamist ideology promoted by Iran is likely ultimately to be broken in a similar way.

The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wrong for rabbi to participate?

Orthodox group: Rabbi violated rules by joining National Prayer Service
By Jacob Berkman . January 21, 2009

NEW YORK (JTA) -- The main Modern Orthodox rabbinical association says a
prominent member violated its rules by participating in the National Prayer

A Rabbinical Council of America official told JTA that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein,
the religious leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City, broke
the organization's rules by participating in the service Wednesday at the
National Cathedral on the morning after Barack Obama's inauguration.

"The long-standing policy of the Rabbinical Council of America, in accordance
with Jewish law, is that participation in a prayer service held in the
sanctuary of a church is prohibited," the RCA said in a statement. "Any member
of the RCA who attends such a service does so in contravention of this policy
and should not be perceived as representing the organization in any capacity."

The RCA said that Lookstein's participation was problematic both because the
service was held in the sanctuary of a church, which Orthodox Jews are
prohibited from entering, and because it was an interfaith prayer service,
which the RCA discourages for fear that such participation could allow
missionaries to legitimize their argument that Jews can indeed embrace Jesus.

"To go into a cathedral, in this case an Episcopalian cathedral in the main
sanctuary, is certainly by most accounts not appropriate," the executive
director of the RCA, Rabbi Basil Herring, told JTA. "If one wants to visit the
Sistine Chapel to view the art of Michelangelo it is problematic. There is no
political perspective here that says you should not do it because it is
politically sensitive. Of course it is a purely religious question."

Herring was adamant that the RCA was not taking a political stance, noting
that the organization sent a letter to President Obama congratulating him and
expressing confidence that "with the help of God, you will build on the
respect and good will that you have earned to lead a united country in a
successful confrontation with the daunting challenges that we face both within
and without."

The RCA has been in conversation with Lookstein, but at this point is not
seeking to sanction him, a source familiar with the situation said. But, the
source added, any RCA member can suggest that another member be brought before
a disciplinary board for violating rules. It is not clear if any member
intends to do so.

Lookstein joined six representatives of various religious communities,
including Rabbi Jerome Epstein, the executive vice president of the United
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, in reciting portions of a nondenominational
responsive prayer. Most of the overall service was nondenominational, but
there were a few distinctily Christian reference.

Lookstein said he was satisfied with his decision to participate.

"After consultation with people who are absolutely committed to halacha, I had
originally decided to do it because I felt it was a civic duty to honor the
new president of the United States. That is why I originally agreed to do it,"
Lookstein said. "But the people who spoke to me about it indicated it was an
important contribution to the Orthodox community because it is only right for
the Orhtodox community to be supporting the president in a visible way when he
is being supported by representatives of the Conservative and Reform

Lookstein said he did not want a conflict with his colleagues in the RCA and
did not anticipate one.

"I would be very sad if that happened," he said.

Lookstein said he had two conversations with Herring about his participation.
In the first, Herring tried to dissuade Lookstein from participating. In the
second, he did not.

"Had I pulled out it would have been something of an insult from the Orthodox
community, which was at least the way I felt," Lookstein said.

He also said that he heavily weighed the halachic implications of his move,
and though he would not ordinarily participate in an interfaith prayer
service, especially one in a church, in this case he felt "there were other

"If I reached a decision to do it, since I am very careful about shmirat
mitzvot, you should conclude that I felt halachically this was the right thing
to do," Lookstein said. "I am not going around and making a decision for the

Lookstein, who read a religiously neutral statement scripted by National
Prayer Service organizers, called the experience very moving.

He also met Obama after the reading and recited to the new president the
blessing Jews say when they come into the presence of a king -- only after
Obama gave him permission.

"I thanked him for his support of Israel and I urged him to remember the
unforgettable statement he made in Sderot, where he said, 'If anybody would
shoot rockets into my house while my daughters were sleeping, I would do
anything in my power to make sure they wouldn't do it again,' " Lookstein
said. "He responded with a clear assent."

The other four religious representatives to read part of the prayer were
Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America; the Rev.
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu
Temple Society of North America; the Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook, senior pastor of
the Bronx Christian Fellowship in New York City; the Rev. Carol Wade of the
Washington National Cathedral; and Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of the
Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston.

Earlier in the program Rabbi David Saperstein, the Reform movement's top
representative in Washington, was to recite Psalm

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Yes it is anti-semitism

Yes, it's anti-Semitism
By Jeff Jacoby

Let's say it for the thousand-and-first time: Every negative comment
about Israel is not an expression of bigotry. Israel is no more immune
to criticism than any other country. But it takes willful blindness not
to see that anti-Zionism today -- opposition to the existence of Israel,
rejection of the idea that the Jewish people are entitled to a state --
is merely the old wine of anti-Semitism in its newest bottle

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hamas uses human shields

Hamas Using Gaza Civilians as Human ShieldsThe White House on Tuesday condemned Hamas for using Gaza civilians as human shields, hours before the Associated Press carried eyewitness reports of Hamas fighters firing at Israeli soldiers from a school run by the United Nations before Israeli troops returned fire. The incident came amidst reports that the terrorist group had been hiding in hospitals, storing weapons in mosques, schools and homes and forcing fleeing residents back into their homes at gunpoint to act as human shields. The Iranian-backed terrorist group has been documented firing rockets from other UN-run schools and heavily populated areas, and its fighters have hijacked ambulances for use as personnel carriers in the hopes of avoiding the Israeli military. "For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry," Hamas MP Fathi Hammad told Al-Aqsa TV last February. "This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahedeen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine." Israel takes considerable steps to prevent civilian casualties—dropping flyers, calling residents and firing warning shots, among other measures—but it faces extreme difficulty in fighting an enemy that both targets innocent Israelis and hides behind its own civilians.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

President Bush and Sen Norm Coleman and me

As President Bush leaves office, and most liklely Sen Norm Coleman most likely losing his Minn reelection bid, we say goodbye to two of them most fervent supporters of Israel ever in US history. It was Sen Coleman who made it possibloe for my meeting with President Bush, detailed at this site with pictures

God bless them for this holy work-whatever else you think about their governance,

Death and Mourning


The Talmud in Tractate Berachot 17a states: “When Rabbi Yochanan finished the Book of Job, he used to say: ‘The end of man is to die, and the end of beast is to be slaughtered, and all are doomed to die. Happy is he who has been brought up in the Torah, and whose labor was in the Torah, and who has given pleasure to his Creator, and who grew up with a good name.’ ”

Rabbi Milton Steinberg, in his book “Basic Judaism,” p. 160, states: “Death cannot be and is not the end of life. Man transcends death in many naturalistic fashions. He may be immortal biologically through his children, in thought through survival of his memory, in influence by virtue of the continuance of his personality as a force among those who come after him, and ideally through his identification with the timeless things of the spirit. When Judaism speaks of immortality, it has all these in mind, but its primary meaning is that a person contains, independent of the flesh and surviving it, his consciousness and moral capacity, her essential personality – a soul.”

Life is sacred.

Its beginning and end are mysteries.

Both birth and death touch the fringe of the Divine and, therefore, have religious rites attached to them.

“The soul is yours, and the body works for you.” Hence our concern when the mortal body reaches its end.

1) On hearing of the death of a person, one should say: “Baruch dayan emet,” affirming an awareness that God’s governing of the universe includes death as well as life. Death does not negate Divine providence, but it is rather an illustration of God’s Being. Judaism has surrounded death with practices that include tender regard for the dying, deep concern for the family, and an affirmation of basic religious principles.

2) The principle of kavod ha-mayt is important in modern day situations such as autopsy, embalming, cremation, exhumation, transplantation of parts of the human body, and viewing the body prior to the funeral.

3) The period between death and burial is called aninut, and the person who is mourning is called an onen. The onen is exempt from all religious obligations such as tefillot and putting on tefillin, and is forbidden to indulge in luxuries like wine and meat.

Why? Haosek b’mitzva patur min hamitzva. Since the bereaved is involved in the commandment of taking care of the needs of the deceased, nothing should distract him, and it is a breach of kavod ha-mayt not to attend to the deceased.

Since today societies and funeral homes care for the needs of the deceased, such exemptions are not necessary, and the performance of religious precepts is to be encouraged.

4) Reverence of the body is shown by the purification of the body which is usually done by members of the Hevra Kadisha. The washing is done accompanied by the recitation of psalms, and warm water is used. All parts of the body are washed. This process is called tahara.

5) A person whose body has been mutilated should not be washed, but should be buried without tahara and in the blood-stained clothes he wears.

6) Dressing up the deceased in fine clothes is frowned upon, and plain shrouds, tachrichin, should be encouraged. According to the Talmud, this custom was established so that the poor not be embarrassed and so that no display of wealth be shown.

7) Burial in the ground is in conformity with the verse in Genesis 3:19: Ki affar ata, v’al affar tashuv. The prevailing custom is to employ an aron – coffin. Just as with the shrouds, the coffin is to be simple boards.

8) Tradition frowns upon viewing the body or leaving the coffin open. (Compare the Jewish tradition with other funeral practices, especially those of public officials.)

9) The general rule is that the burial should be done as soon as possible and not be delayed. Waiting for family – sons, daughters – is permitted and should be done, especially since the delay is minimal with rapid means of travel and communication.

10) In conformity with the ancient tradition, see Samuel II 1:10: “One should rip his garment on hearing of the death of a dear one.” Today this is limited to those relatives who are required to mourn.

11) Distinction is made between father and mother on one side and other relatives on the other. The rip in the garment for parents is on the left side, closest to the heart (Why??), while for others it is on the right side. (What difference does the rip make to the community?) This rip is called kriyah.

12) Today a custom is to cut into a necktie or a sweater, or a shirt pocket, or the neck area of a blouse. Often a ribbon is attached to the garment. (Do you think we should keep this approach or return to the former idea of ripping the garment itself? Why?)

13) The funeral service does not have a prescribed format.

14) A hesped, eulogy, is usually given, but the Talmud warns: “Just as the dead shall be called to account, so shall the eulogizers be called to account,” to prevent over praise as well as understatement for the deceased.

15) After the coffin is placed in the grave, members of the family should put shovelfuls of earth over the coffin. (What is the reason for the family’s participation in this facet of mourning? Think psychologically...)

16) On returning to one’s house, hands should be washed before entering.

17) Suicides are not to be mourned for in the traditional manner. (What questions does this bring up for the family’s needs and desires? What is the definition of a suicide? What should we do today? YOU be the rabbi.)

The Mourning Itself

Step by Step

Shiva-Shloshim – Shana First Year – Yom Hazikaron (Yahrzeit)

18) In Pirke Avot, the rabbis say that a bereaved cannot be reached because of the shock at the time of death. Only later, after the funeral and after a realization begins to set in, can the mourner be consoled, spoken to, and slowly brought back to the previous pattern of life. Pirke Avot 4:18.

19) A week-long period is dictated for consolation of the mourner – shiva.

20) Shiva is obligatory on father and mother, daughter and son, sister and brother, husband and wife.

21) Shiva begins immediately after burial for seven days. The Talmud in Moed Katan presents the principle that part of a day is not like a full day – miktzat hayom k’kulo. Therefore, the last day is not a full day. Usually only a short period after Shaharit is required.

22) Covering of all mirrors in the house has been a custom. (Why? Could you suggest – or guess – superstitious reasons for this? Should the custom be continued?)

23) A ner, candle, is lit and remains alit for the full shiva. The candle flame is a symbol of the soul. As a flame is attached to the wick, so is the soul attached to the body.

24) As a part of the return to normalcy, a meal is to be prepared for mourners. The Seudat Havra’a, meal of consolation, is for people who often have guilt feelings that they are still alive and the relative is dead. The feeling of loneliness must be countered by friendship and concern for the people around. Eggs, symbolic of the continual circle of life and death never-ending, are served as the basis of the meal.

25) The mourners should sit on low stools or seats or pillows as a sign, not only of their physical but especially of their emotional state.

26) The mourners should remain in the house during the entire seven days. Services and meals should all be in the house in which they sit. (What if there is not enough room in the house for all the people to sleep over?)

27) On Shabbat, the mourner goes to the synagogue, but cannot receive an aliya or act as the shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) except if it is his/her profession.

28) There is no mourning on the Shabbat, except what is done in private, in one’s heart and mind. Shabbat counts as one of the seven days.

29) Mourners should make every effort not attend to their business or go to work for the entire seven days.

30) If the financial loss is irreparable, then after the third day it is permitted. Mourning should be observed as much as possible. (What conditions would bring a mourner to work?)

31) A doctor who is a mourner may visit patients if the confidence of the patient is to be maintained, although it is preferred that other doctors cover the responsibilities for the mourner.

32) Participation in festivities, weddings, listening to music is not permitted for mourners.

33) The mourner should wear non-leather shoes during the week. Leather shoes are both a symbol of wealth and come from a living animal which was killed to make the shoes.

34) Anointing (use of cosmetics, perfumes, lotions) is forbidden as a luxury and conscious concern for one’s own body.

35) Haircuts and beard shaving should not occur during the week. They serve as a public display of mourning.

36) Sexual intimacy, one of the physical pleasures, is to be avoided during the shiva.

37) The normal and natural greeting – Shalom, Hello, how are you? – is not to be used because the condition of the mourner does not warrant such a question when the answer is obviously not good.

38) Visiting the mourners is a mitzvah, consoling the mourners – nechum avaylim.

39) Upon completion of the shiva, the mourner is told to go out and walk around. This is the first coming- back into the world, the sun shining back into one’s life.

40) For the next 23 days, the mourner, while returning to work, observes some restrictions as a mourner in shiva. Festive occasions are avoided: weddings, dances, movies, theater. (Would a news or information show on TV be permitted to the mourner to view?) (What about a serious concert, opera? What if you play a musical instrument for a living?)

41) Shaving is to wait until the completion of the 30 days unless business responsibilities dictate a clean-shaven appearance.

42) Mourners may not marry within the 30 days.

43) A mourner for wife and husband must wait a period of the passing of the three pilgrimage festivals – Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot – before marrying. (Exception is made when little children are involved who require a mother’s love and a father’s fellowship. What does this exception have to say for Jewish Law’s rigidity, changeability, sensitivity?)

44) Mourning continues by children for their parents for a “full year.” The Kaddish is recited for 11 months. (Why is Kaddish recited for a month less than the mourning period?)

45) The Mishna teaches that the Shabbat counts as part of the shiva and does not cut off the observance of the shiva. The festivals (Pesah, Shavuot, Sukkot) cut off the mourning period and are not counted among the days of mourning. (Talmud Moed Katan 19a.)

· No observance of mourning on Shabbat – after Shabbat, mourning is resumed.

· If the mourning has begun before Yom Tov, the festival cuts off the remainder of the shiva, as if it had been accomplished.

· Shiva can never be observed without a Shabbat, while it can be with no festival interference. There can never be a full shiva if Shabbat cut off the mourning completely so only the festival is counted as being able to fully cut off the shiva observance.

· The term v’samachta b’hagecha, “and you shall rejoice in your holiday”, is used for festivals, and it is suggested that that is impossible if one must observe mourning. Whereas for Shabbat we are told to fulfill oneg, and you shall delight in the Shabbat, which can be done when private mourning is permitted.

46) The days of Yom Tov do count as part of the shloshim – 30 days. For example: If one begins shiva one day before Pesach, then at the onset of Pesach he would stop shiva (counts as seven even though), not observe mourning on Pesach (counts as eight more) and only have 15 days after Pesach.

47) The festival also cuts off the rest of the shloshim. For example: If one began shiva before Rosh Hashanah, then Rosh Hashanah cuts off the shiva and Yom Kippur cuts off the shloshim.

48) If the death occurs during the intermediate days -- Hol Hamoed – then the entire shiva and the shloshim are pushed off until after the entire holiday, and then a full 30 days are observed. The same applies if the death was on the Yom Tov itself, on the principle that no mourning occurs on the holiday and therefore nothing has been cut off, so all is observed. (A toughy for the rabbis to explain and the mourners to observe.)

49) If one is a far distance from the death and hears of the death after the shloshim, one is required to observe only one hour of mourning. If before the 30 days are completed, then a full shiva must be observed.

50) Each year on the anniversary of the death of the parent or relative, a solemn day of prayer, meditation and the recitation of the Kaddish at the Maariv, Shaharit and Mincha services take place. It is called Yahrzeit and a candle is once again lit.

May we each live full and productive lives. May we appreciate and observe the laws and traditions of Jewish mourning. May we find strength, comfort and consolation in the wisdom of Judaism.

Prepared and summarized by Rabbi Moshe Edelman

My Video on this week's parasha

Monday, January 5, 2009

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January 5, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Intelligence Agencies: Hamas Feels Existential Threat - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
Israel Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin told the political echelon on Sunday: "The Hamas leadership abroad is stressed, working to obtain a ceasefire and disappointed by the Arab countries failing to stand by its side. The situation of the leadership in Gaza is similar."
"A real threat exists today on the Hamas enterprise in Gaza. The leaderships in Gaza and abroad feel an existential threat."
Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said, "Hamas understands that violating the lull was a strategic mistake."


Hamas Using PA Arms to Battle IDF - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas claimed Sunday that it was fighting against IDF troops in Gaza with weapons confiscated from the Palestinian Authority in the summer of 2007.
They said Hamas has all the weapons that Israel, the U.S. and other countries had given forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas. This includes tens of thousands of rifles and pistols, heavy machine guns, night-vision goggles and bulletproof vests, as well as vast amounts of ammunition.
Hamas had also seized dozens of armored vehicles used by Abbas' forces.
Hamas also claimed that dozens of members of the rival Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, had volunteered to fight alongside Hamas units.


IDF Soldier Escapes Kidnapping Attempt in Gaza (Jerusalem Post)
An IDF soldier managed to foil an attempt to kidnap him during night operations in Gaza Sunday, Israel Radio reported.
Soldiers entered a house which they knew was used as a Hamas command center, and discovered entrances to several tunnels.
One of the soldiers followed the gunmen into a tunnel and managed to contain several Hamas fighters in a firefight while underground, before teaming up with his comrades again.
The military assesses that the Palestinian terrorists were trying to lure the soldier to go after them alone into the tunnel in an effort to kidnap him.


Israel Is Doing the U.S. a Favor By Taking On Hamas - William Kristol (New York Times)
An Israeli success in Gaza would be a victory in the war on terror - and in the broader struggle for the future of the Middle East.
Hamas is only one manifestation of the rise of a terror-friendly and almost death-cult-like form of Islamic extremism.
Israel is doing the U.S. a favor by taking on Hamas now. If Israel were now to withdraw under pressure without accomplishing the objectives of severely weakening Hamas and preventing the reconstitution of a terror-exporting state in Gaza, it would be a triumph for Iran.


U.S. Jewish Leaders Taste Sderot Trauma - Haviv Rettig Gur (Jerusalem Post)
Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on a solidarity visit to Sderot Sunday rushed into a fortified police building following the sounding of a "Color Red" siren as a Kassam rocket hit a few dozen meters from where they held meetings.
"We all live with a sense of suppressed rage," said Kenneth Bialkin, former chairman of the conference.
"You can't look at this and not wonder how the world can stand by and watch as Jews are attacked for being Jews, by people who want to destroy them."
"How do people not understand there is no justification for the course Hamas is taking?"


Useful Reference:

Number of Wounded in Attacks from Gaza More Than Doubled in '08 - Matthew Wagner (Jerusalem Post)
Rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza wounded 947 in 2008, compared with 464 in 2007 and 227 in 2006, according to a report by Hatzalah.
A total of 1,683 Kassam rockets fell in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

Israeli Forces Push Farther into Gaza - Sudarsan Raghavan and Griff Witte
Israeli ground forces backed by air and naval power moved farther into Gaza Sunday, targeting areas from which Hamas fighters are launching rockets. One Israeli soldier was killed and another wounded during a battle near Jabalya. A senior Israeli military officer said, "Most of the resistance we faced is from mortars and other things but not from fierce Hamas fighting." Some of the "other things" were improvised explosive devices. "There are a lot of obstacles on the ground. Hamas is using methods that were imported from Iran and Hizbullah."
Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Olmert, said the operation would end "when Israel understands that the civilian population in the south of the country will no longer be on the receiving end of Hamas rockets." (Washington Post)
U.S. Remains Firmly Behind Israel - Ben Feller
From the White House to Capitol Hill, U.S. officials remained firmly behind Israel. Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Israel did not seek U.S. approval before a ground operation against Hamas in Gaza. "They have said, now, for a period of months...that they didn't want to have to act, where Gaza was concerned," Cheney said. "They had gotten out of there three years ago. But if the rocketing didn't stop, they felt they had no choice but to take action. And if they did, they would be very aggressive, in terms of trying to take down Hamas. And that's exactly what's happened."
Sens. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin - the top two Democrats - and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell all described Israel's actions as understandable. "I think what the Israelis are doing is very important," Reid said. "I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away." Said McConnell: "Hamas is a terrorist organization. Imagine in this country (the U.S.) if somebody from a neighboring country were lobbing shells at our population. We'd do exactly the same thing. I think the Israelis are doing the only thing they can possibly do to defend their population." (AP)
Israel Hinges End of Gaza Operation to Closing Tunnels - Adam Entous and Dan Williams
Israel has conditioned any halt to its Gaza offensive on international backing for new fortifications and monitoring on the Egyptian border to prevent Hamas from rebuilding tunnels and rearming, officials in Jerusalem said. Israel's assault in Gaza has included several air force sorties in which "bunker buster" bombs were dropped, designed to collapse the secret underground passages. The Israeli government has said it wants assurances that they will not be dug anew after any ceasefire. "The issue of rearming is fundamental. We want to prevent Hamas from being rearmed like Hizbullah was after the Lebanon war," a senior Israeli official said.
Israel wants any monitors to be heavily armed and equipped to search and destroy tunnels. "Theoretically, if those 9 miles are denied to Hamas as a resupply route, then Hamas is going to find it very, very difficult to govern, let alone smuggle in Grad and Katyusha rockets," said Matt Levitt, a former senior U.S. Treasury official. (Reuters)
Israeli President: No Ceasefire - George Stephanopoulos
In an interview, Israeli President Shimon Peres rejected international calls for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces. "The idea that Hamas will continue to fire and we will declare a ceasefire...does not make any sense." "They did things that are unreasonable," he said of Hamas. "They are shooting endlessly without reason or purpose." "We don't intend to occupy Gaza or crush Hamas but crush terror," Peres said. "Hamas needs a real and serious lesson. They are now getting it." ("This Week"-ABC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

Next Stage of Gaza Operation: "Root Canal" for Terror - Hanan Greenberg
Some 40 IDF soldiers were wounded in clashes, and over 50 Palestinian gunmen were killed in the first day of the ground operation in Gaza, according to the Israeli army. In Sunday's cabinet meeting, the ministers were informed that 73% of the 300 rockets fired on Israel in the last week were launched from areas that have now been seized by the army. (Ynet News)
See also The Target: Hamas' Army - Ron Ben-Yishai
Hamas sustained grave blows from the air, yet its leadership has not yet shown willingness to reach a long-term and stable ceasefire agreement on terms acceptable to Israel. The IDF will continue ground operations until a truce is secured. The IDF will focus on causing casualties among Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam fighting force. Another target is the fortified defensive system built by Hamas both below and above ground. In order to raze these targets, the IDF needs to gather additional intelligence - mostly via human sources within the Palestinian population. (Ynet News)
See also Inside Gaza - Yaakov Katz
According to Palestinian sources, Israeli units in Gaza have taken up positions in Sajaya, Beit Lahiya, Jabalya and al-Atatra, which are being scoured for Hamas gunmen and infrastructure. Troops moving through fields and orchards are being led by dogs from the IDF's K-9 unit that are trained to sniff out booby-traps. There has been fierce resistance from well-entrenched gunmen, with anti-tank missiles, mortar barrages, heavy machine gun fire and roadside bombs. (Jerusalem Post)
50 Palestinian Rockets Hit Israel on Sunday, Wound Four - Yanir Yagna and Yuval Goren
Gaza militants shot 50 rockets into Israel on Sunday, including seven rockets that struck Sderot and a Grad rocket that struck Ashdod. Four people were wounded. (Ha'aretz)
U.S. Seeks to Formulate Ceasefire Agreement - Roni Sofer
The U.S. has launched an international effort, which includes Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians, to formulate a ceasefire agreement that would neutralize Hamas' influence in the region, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem reported Sunday. According to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Israel is interested in a ceasefire agreement that would include a stop to the rocket fire and the terror emanating from Gaza, as well as to Hamas' military buildup. The release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will also be stipulated as one of Israel's terms for a halt to the fighting in any agreement.
A senior source in Jerusalem said Sunday, "Contrary to the empty moves initiated by various countries, including the humanitarian ceasefire initiative promoted by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the American initiative is based on the agreement of the four elements that surround the only geographical territory in the world that is ruled by a terrorist entity - Gaza." The official said that Olmert has made it clear to the Americans and other world leaders that Israel's conditions were not negotiable, and that if they are not obtained through a diplomatic course, they would be secured through the military operation. (Ynet News)
See also Diplomacy to Buy IDF "a Few More Days" - Herb Keinon
The IDF has a "few more days" to carry on with its Gaza offensive and weaken Hamas before facing intense pressure from the international community for a cease-fire, senior diplomatic officials said Sunday. Israel wants time to seriously weaken Hamas militarily, and then put into place a mechanism on the Egyptian border - possibly some kind of agreement that would allow American engineers to help combat arms smuggling - that would keep Hamas from rearming. Israel is not currently interested in linking the Gaza operation to attempts to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas, bring Gaza back under PA control, or bring the PA back to the Gaza border crossings. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Israel's Gaza Dilemma - Max Boot
Achieving total victory in Gaza would require Israel to wage war in the way that America fought Germany and Japan - all out until the enemy has no more capacity to resist. Then it would have to occupy the land and impose a peace at gunpoint to ensure that Gaza could never again be a launching point for attacks. None of this is beyond the Israelis' military capacity. Yet the odds are that they won't do it.
The Russians have inflicted World War II-level carnage in Chechnya since the mid-1990s, and they don't care what anybody else says. But Israel is not Russia - or Algeria or Burma or Syria or any other state that has taken a scorched-earth approach to counterinsurgency in recent decades. For all the accusations of brutality that are routinely flung at Israel's armed forces, their conduct has been exemplary by historical standards. They have shown far less propensity for indiscriminate killing than did European states in the 1950s when confronting insurgencies in such places as Kenya, Cyprus, Vietnam and Algeria.
The tragedy for Israel is that Hamas is the choice of the local people. The odds are that once Israeli troops leave, Hamas will rebuild its infrastructure, forcing the Israelis to go back in the future. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Wall Street Journal)
The Three-State Option - John R. Bolton
Given the current landscape, we should ask why we still advocate the "two-state solution," with Israel and "Palestine" living side by side in peace. Let's start by recognizing that any two-state solution based on the PA is stillborn. Instead, we should look to a "three-state" approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. Having the two Arab states re-extend their prior political authority is an authentic way to extend the zone of peace and build on governments that are providing peace and stability in their own countries. "International observers" or the like cannot come close to what is necessary; we need real states with real security forces.
Without a larger Egyptian role, Gaza will not achieve the minimal stability. Objections to this idea will be manifold, and implementation difficult. But either we do better, conceptually and operationally, or Iran will be happy to fill the vacuum. The writer, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was U.S. ambassador to the UN. (Washington Post)
Israel Is on Firmer Ground Against Hamas - Lawrence Freedman
The current operation in Gaza is a direct consequence of the 2006 war in southern Lebanon. As in 2006, Israel is responding to a cross-border provocation and is fighting in territories it once occupied but then abandoned in the hope of a quieter life. Hamas, long a follower of Hizbullah when it comes to strategy, believed that it too could mount a regular rocket barrage against Israel with impunity. Israel knows that if it fails again, it will have severely reduced any deterrent against future rocket attacks. So in addition to the immediate objectives, this war is about restoring deterrence - and especially the credibility of the IDF. Politically, Hamas has put itself into a position where a ceasefire will be seen as a defeat, because this will require accepting that it must stop firing rockets. The writer is professor of war studies at King's College London. (Financial Times-UK)

Israel's Gaza Strategy - Martin Kramer (Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies-Shalem Center)

Unlike the Lebanon war of 2006, this war has been planned in advance, and every stage has been war-gamed. After the Hamas takeover in June 2007, Israel imposed a regime of economic sanctions on Gaza. The West Bank enjoyed an economic boomlet while Gaza languished under sanctions, with zero growth - reinforcing the message that "Islamic resistance" is a dead end.
The Israeli operation is meant to impress on Hamas that there is something far worse than the sanctions - that Israel is capable of hunting Hamas on air, sea, and land, at tremendous cost to Hamas and minimal cost to Israel, while much of the world stands by, and parts of it (including some Arabs) quietly applaud.
Hamas assumes (probably correctly) that its Palestinian opponents fed Israel with much of the intelligence it needed to wage precision warfare against Hamas. There is likely to be a vicious settling of scores as soon as a cease-fire is in place, if not before.
The temptation to "engage" Hamas has grown, which means skirting the Quartet's insistence that Hamas not be "engaged" until it accepts past PA-Israel agreements, recognizes Israel, and renounces armed struggle. Legitimation of Hamas could seal the fate of the "peace process," and give "resistance" the reputation of a truly winning strategy.
Israel is united in pursuing its war of demolition against Hamas. Its aim is not only to stop the rockets from falling in southern Israel, but to move a long stride forward toward a change of regime in Gaza