Thursday, May 28, 2009

why only milk on shavuot?

Shavuot Quiz

Look in the mirror

Share Email Print Op-Ed: Conservatives must look in the mirror
By Richard S. Moline · May 21, 2009

NORTHBROOK, Ill. (JTA) – I can confidently say that I am one of the first Jewish professionals to have used e-mail.

At one of the first college student conferences I ever ran, a student approached me on the last day to suggest that on the following year’s application, we also ask for e-mail addresses.

“Sure,” I replied. “What’s e-mail?”

That was the start of my encounter with the joys, frustrations and dangers of this medium. And since the day I first started by dialing a number, hearing a long tone, waiting several minutes to connect and waiting even longer to have e-mail pop up on the monitor, I have been receiving e-mails predicting the imminent demise of the Conservative movement.

That was about 18 years ago, and the e-mails keep coming.

Now, of course, the predictions also appear in listservs, on Web sites, in podcasts and blogs, in news releases and notably in the Jewish press. They come from sociologists, demographers, professors, clergy, synagogue presidents and people at the Kiddush table and in the parking lot. It is not unusual for many Jewish reporters to “objectively” refer to the movement as “beleaguered” or “under siege.”

So first, here’s the bad news. Our numbers are shrinking. Our members are getting older. We’re being battered in the press. Our institutions are faltering under the weight of old governance systems and the global economic crisis. We’re fighting among ourselves. [Add your own critique here.]

Now for some good news. More people are learning and studying Jewish texts, Jewish history and Jewish culture. Kids are still going to Israel with USY and Ramah. Our day schools and camps are experiencing what we hope is a temporary decline, but it is clear that they are no longer just for the rabbi’s children. Women are not only in leadership positions, they’re also on the bimah. Laypeople – not just the younger ones (and yes, there are younger ones) – are reading Torah. Conservative Jews are involved not only in their congregations, they comprise much of the leadership of federations and other Jewish organizations. A large number of student Hillel leaders come from Conservative backgrounds. And no matter what they call themselves, many of the independent minyanim are Conservative – they use Conservative siddurim and chumashim and approach text using methods championed by the Conservative movement. [Add your own good news here – I know you have some.]

So if things are good, why are they bad?

Our problems are real, for sure, and we must approach them seriously. The Conservative movement has contributed much to American Jewish life. I do not consider it a failure if one of our own becomes involved in another denomination or organization. It means we’re doing our job – it’s the natural outgrowth of Schechter’s klal Yisrael.

But it does trouble me that we have not successfully created Shabbat communities in most of our congregations. It troubles me that most students do not find the level of commitment in their home communities that they do in USY or Ramah or Koach. It does trouble me that if they do find it, it’s likely not in the Conservative movement, so they may become involved in other communities not by design but by default. And it does trouble me that our clergy and laity become more concerned about institutional viability than about motivating themselves and others to live fully Jewish lives.

What can we do about it? It’s easy to assign responsibility, but it’s courageous to shoulder it. If I were speaking to the key leaders of the movement, professional and lay, I would start by handing each of them a mirror and asking them to take a long, hard look.

It’s easy to blame the institutions – and there is plenty of blame to be assigned to them all. But how many rabbis tell their president that in order to be a more effective leader, the two must study together for an hour every other week? How many presidents tell their rabbi the same thing? How much time do we spend teaching and encouraging people to observe Shabbat or to keep kosher, compared to the amount of time we spend making the bar or bat mitzvah schedule or collecting membership dues?

The business side is important, to be sure, but your shul should be more than a business. Yes, I know your congregation is different. But really it’s not.
If our institutions are out of touch with our members, know that this didn’t happen yesterday. And if you’ve only complained about it, then stop complaining because complaining alone won’t help.

I know people might suggest that because I am employed by one of these institutions, perhaps I am naive, perhaps apologetic, perhaps defensive. Certainly our life experiences color everything, including our opinions. I accept and understand that. I also have to look in that mirror because there are times when I, too, get lost in the politics. So let this serve not only as an admonishment to others but as self-indictment as well.

We all have a lot of work to do. United Synagogue, Women’s League, Men’s Club, Ziegler, JTS, the RA, CA, JEA, JYDA, NAASE, Masorti, Mercaz, Schechter – all of us. We can form coalitions, make demands, threaten, cajole and continue to fight it out in the press. It’s all a smokescreen and doesn’t confront the real issues.

Those e-mails have been coming for 18 years. I predict they will come for another 18 years and beyond – until the technology becomes ancient and something takes its place.

The bottom line is, we can all get along. I’m looking in the mirror and I invite you to join me. We have a lot of work to do.

(Richard S. Moline is the director of Koach, United Synagogue’s program for college students.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

kaddish too soon

Saying Kaddish Too Soon?
By Jonathan D. Sarna
Published May 27, 2009, issue of June 05, 2009.
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‘With a heavy heart we will soon say Kaddish on the Reform and Conservative movements,” Rabbi Norman Lamm, the distinguished chancellor of Yeshiva University, recently proclaimed in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “The future of American Jewry is in the hands of Haredim and the Modern Orthodox.”

Lamm’s triumphalistic prediction has, unsurprisingly, elicited strong and angry responses from Conservative and Reform leaders who consider their movements youthful and vibrant. For a historian, though, the prediction cannot help but call to mind earlier attempts to divine American Judaism’s future.

When Lamm was young, those who followed trends in Jewish life expected to say Kaddish for Orthodox Judaism. A careful study in 1952 found that “only twenty-three percent of the children of the Orthodox intend to remain Orthodox; a full half plan to turn Conservative.” The future of American Jewry back then seemed solidly in the hands of Conservative Jews.

Years earlier, in the late 19th century, Reform Judaism expected to say Kaddish for other kinds of Jews. The great architect of American Reform Judaism, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, titled his prayer book “Minhag Amerika” — the liturgical custom of American Jews — and given the number of synagogues that moved into the Reform camp in his day, his vision did not seem farfetched. Many in the mid-1870s believed, as he did, that the future of American Judaism lay in the hands of the Reformers.

Before then, of course, those with crystal balls expected to say Kaddish for Judaism as a whole in America. One of the nation’s wisest leaders, its then attorney general, William Wirt, predicted in 1818 that within 150 years, Jews would be indistinguishable from the rest of mankind. Former president John Adams likewise looked to the future and thought that Jews would “possibly in time become liberal Unitarian Christians.”

All these predictions made sense in their day. All assumed that the future would extend forward in a straight line from the present. All offered their followers the comforting reassurance that triumph lay just beyond the horizon.

And all proved utterly and wildly wrong.

Lamm’s prediction is unlikely to break this depressing streak of failures. Admittedly, Conservative Judaism today faces significant financial, demographic and ideological challenges, but Reform Judaism faced greater challenges 75 years ago, when it was by far the smallest and most divided of our three religious movements. Yet it successfully reinvented itself, winning over to its ranks many Jews whose parents might never have considered Reform Judaism an option. Conservative Judaism, with its new and more youthful leadership, could stage a similar comeback. Orthodox Judaism, ironically, serves as the poster child for what a beleaguered religious movement can accomplish. Its revival over the past 50 years is one of the great stories of postwar Judaism.

At the same time, and notwithstanding the abundant evidence that Lamm might muster on Orthodoxy’s behalf — its prodigious birthrate, its expansive day school movement, the success of Yeshiva University, the remarkable spread of Chabad and more — Lamm’s triumphalism flies in the face of a history that has humbled so many would-be prophets, and glosses over American Orthodoxy’s all-too-real challenges.

Five challenges are especially worth noting:

First, Orthodox Judaism in America has had trouble retaining its members. According to demographer Sergio DellaPergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, it loses more of its members over time than any other Jewish religious movement — understandably so, since it is harder to be Orthodox than to be any other kind of Jew. Since Orthodoxy represents, even by the most generous estimate, only 13% of those who define themselves as Jewish in America, that represents a significant demographic problem.

Second, Orthodoxy in America is suffering from a severe leadership crisis. The greatest of its 20th-century leaders — Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Aharon Kotler, Rabbi Moses Feinstein, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and others — have all passed from the scene. Their successors, who do not carry the mantle of the great pre-war European yeshivas, have not achieved the same breadth of acceptance. Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, who is Soloveitchik’s son-in-law and now the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel, has bemoaned “the current dearth of first-rank gedolim,” or giants, in America. Historically, religious movements that cannot count on indigenous leadership to direct them have not fared well in America — at least not for long.

Third, American Orthodoxy is experiencing a significant brain drain. It sends its best and its brightest to Israel for long periods of yeshiva study, and unsurprisingly, many of them never return. One can think of multiple examples of remarkable Orthodox men and women who might have had a profound effect on Jewish religious life in America but preferred to cast their lot with the Jewish state. Can a movement that sends its most illustrious sons and daughters to Israel truly expect to triumph here in the United States?

Fourth, American Orthodoxy remains deeply divided over the issue of how to confront modernity. This is not a new problem; tensions between “accommodators” and “resisters” in Orthodox life date back to the 19th century. But now, in the absence of broadly respected leaders, the fault lines between Modern and right-wing Orthodox Jews have deepened. The question is whether Orthodoxy can survive as a very broad “big tent” movement or whether, like Conservative Judaism of an earlier era and like so many non-Jewish religious groups that have faced similar challenges, it will ultimately polarize. Big tents have a bad tendency to collapse and split apart, especially in the absence of a strong center. The fact that Orthodox Judaism does not have any strong institutional ties binding together all its factions makes the danger of schism all the greater.

Finally, American Orthodoxy is facing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The crushing losses experienced by some of its most generous philanthropists, the billions of dollars in endowment lost in the Madoff scandal and the projected collapse of numerous day schools suggest that Orthodoxy’s best days may be behind it.

In the world of religion, smugness and self-assurance are usually risky. As Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Mainline Protestant denominations have discovered, success in the present provides no guarantees for the future. If anything, saying Kaddish for other religious movements has often been the first sign of a movement’s own impending decline.

Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and the author of “American Judaism: A History” (Yale University Press, 2004).

Tikkun Lel Shavuot

Friday, May 22, 2009

what is on my mind today?

Hosea 2 is the normal haftarah for this parasha, read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. This year it is not, since we read the haftarah for the next day Rosh Chodesh. Hosea 2 has a very famous paragraph:

Varastich li liolam "I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness/ Tzedek and in justice/Mishpat, In lovingkindness/Hesed and in compassion/Rahamim, I will betroth you to me in faith/Emunah." We say this when we put tfillin on, it is often on Jewish wedding rings. Memorize this verse!!

5 key terms of the brit with God:
Tzedek, Mishpat,Hesed,Rahamim,Emunah
how do these manifest themselves in our lives?

Today is Jerusalem Day-the 1967 Reunification of Jerusalem. Meanwhile everyday Iran draws closer to a bomb, successfully tested a rocket which can reach Israel and our troops in the Middle East, as

Study: 1 in 4 Israelis Might Leave if Iran Gets Nukes

and from Caroline Glick today (sure hope she is wrong) commenting on the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama
"What emerged from the meeting is that Obama's priorities regarding Iran, Israel and the Arab world are diametrically opposed to Israel's priorities. During his ad-hoc press conference with Netanyahu, Obama made clear that he will not lift a finger to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And acting as Obama's surrogate, for the past two weeks CIA Director Leon Panetta has made clear that Obama expects Israel to also sit on its thumbs as Iran develops the means to destroy it. "

There is only one country in the entire world that is not allowed to designate the city it wants as its capital as far as the USA is concerned. Guess which country. Hint-the US Embassy is in Tel-Aviv not Jerusalem even though Jerusalem is Israel's capital.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Attempt to Kill Jews in nY

By TOM McELROY, Associated Press Writer Tom Mcelroy, Associated Press Writer – 26 mins ago
NEW YORK – Four men arrested after planting what they thought were explosives near a synagogue and community center and plotting to shoot down a military plane were bent on carrying out a holy war against America, authorities said Thursday.

The suspects were arrested Wednesday night, shortly after planting a 37-pound mock explosive device in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple and two mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Jewish Center, a few blocks away, authorities said.

Police blocked their escape with an 18-wheel truck, smashing their tinted SUV windows and while apprehending the unarmed suspects.

At a news conference outside the Bronx temple, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly quoted one of the men as saying, "If Jews were killed in this attack ... that would be all right."

James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, the U.S. attorney's office said.

"They stated that they wanted to commit Jihad," Kelly said. "They were disturbed about what happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that Muslims were being killed."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2 state solution?

Monday, May 18, 2009

For the Sake of Clarity - A Thought Experiment


For the Sake of Clarity - A Thought Experiment

A Jerusalem Post Column

May 15, 2009

In Perspective: For the sake of clarity, a thought experiment

May. 14, 2009

He was in his 20s, the young man with the question after my lecture. He
couldn't have asked it more kindly or gently. Without a hint of cynicism or
anger, he expressed what was clearly on the minds of many of the people his
age in the crowd: "Can you justify a Jewish state," he wanted to know, "when
having a Jewish state means giving up on so many of Judaism's values?"

Here's what he didn't say: Israel is the root of evil in the Middle East.
It's the cause of checkpoints, of roadblocks, of a big ugly wall that runs
along a border no one has agreed to. The Palestinians are desperate, and in
the massive imbalance of power, they have no chance and no hope. Israel is
the nuclear bully in a region that, were it not for Israel's existence,
would no longer be on the front page. To achieve peace in the Middle East,
Israel just needs to be subdued. Break Israel's intransigence, and we'll
finally see progress.

That was his unspoken claim, and now it's also the position of the Obama
administration. At AIPAC's recent Policy Conference, Vice President Joe
Biden and Sen. John Kerry made it clear that for the US to support Israel on
Iran, Israel must settle the Palestinian problem once and for all. It has
been widely reported that Rahm Emanuel, in an off-the-record session, said
precisely the same thing. After decades of tacit agreement that the US would
remain silent about Israel's nuclear capability, a State Department official
publicly suggested that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as
if, on the eve of Iran's going nuclear and with Pakistani weapons in danger
of falling into the hands of the Taliban, Israel's nuclear arsenal is the
world's most serious concern.

A new message is afloat - Israel is the problem, and the US has had enough.
Even the pope couldn't help himself. His comments about the victims of the
Holocaust were so tepid as to be outrageous, but he had no problem calling
urgently for an immediate Palestinian state, as if Israelis haven't tried to
create one for decades.

The young American Jews in my audience, clearly struggling with the morality
of a Jewish state, now have the Obama administration and the pope echoing
all their misgivings.

I have no illusions that all this can be changed overnight, but with the
upcoming Binyamin Netanyahu-Barack Obama meetings putting Israel into the
spotlight once again, I'd like to propose the following thought experiment -
at least to these young American Jews, and possibly to Obama himself.

IMAGINE THAT ISRAELIS decide that by Jerusalem Day, this coming week, they
want a deal. So we take down the security fence. We remove the checkpoints.
We open all the roads, and Gaza's sea and air routes. We agree publicly to
return to something closely approximating the pre-1967 borders, and we
accede to the demands that parts of Jerusalem be internationally governed,
or even put under Palestinian control.

Does this end the conflict? Of course it doesn't. The Hamas Charter calls
not only for the destruction of Israel, but for Islamic war on Jews
everywhere. (Why do we consistently refuse to believe that Hamas means what
it says?) What would change? The noose would tighten. The rockets would be
fired from a shorter distance and the demand for the return of refugees
(thus ending the Jewishness of the state) would persist. As was the case
when Israel left Lebanon in May 2000 or Gaza in the summer of 2005, Israel's
enemies would smell a weakened, bloodied state and would prepare for the
next stage of their war.

But peace would not have come. Much as we all want this conflict to end,
does anyone really doubt that? There is, as honest brokers must admit,
nothing that Israel can do to end this conflict.

NOW, HOWEVER, TRY the opposite side of the thought experiment. Imagine that
the Palestinians decide that they have tired of the conflict, or their
electorate begins its long-overdue rebellion and insists on a settlement. So
the Palestinians, Hamas and Fatah, demand everything Israel's agreed to
above - an end to roadblocks and the wall, an opening of Gaza, a bridge or a
tunnel between Gaza and the West Bank and a return to the 1967 borders.
Let's say that they even insist on Palestinian control of east Jerusalem.

But they also recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. They
agree to an immediate and permanent cessation of hostilities and violence
(this is a thought experiment, after all) and insist that any other
outstanding issues be negotiated and resolved with the US and the Quartet as
intermediaries. And they require Israelis to vote within a month, no longer,
on whether to accept the deal.

Will there be Israelis who object? Will there be residents of the West Bank
who will resist leaving their homes? Yes, there will be. But would an
Israeli plebiscite overwhelmingly approve the offer? Without question. In a
matter of weeks, three quarters of a century of bloodshed and suffering
would come to an end.

This, of course, is not going to happen, because all the new rhetoric
notwithstanding, and all the confusion of today's young American Jews aside,
there's always been one party that's sought peace, and another that's
rejected it. It was true in 1948, and it was true in Khartoum. It's no less
true today.

It's never been up to us, and it's always been up to them.

But this simplistic thought experiment is worth considering not because it
can be implemented, but because it brings one unfortunate truth into stark
focus. Young American Jews ought to take note: Israel cannot end this
conflict. It can weaken itself, but the only way it can bring peace to the
region is to go out of business.

If that is what the peacemakers really seek, we'll see that soon enough,
with frightening clarity.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

saying kaddish for Conservative Judaism

The following letter is a response by Julie Schonfeld to Norman Lamm’s recent interview with the Jerusalem Post on saying kaddish for the Conservative Movement.


By Rabbi Julie Schonfeld

Incoming executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly

New York, NY (May 13, 2009) – One week ago today, I returned from the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC energized not only by the thrilling program but by the realization that out of the 200-plus rabbis in attendance, more than half were my colleagues, ordained by the Conservative movement and now standing at the helms of the leading Jewish communal organizations of the day. They came with delegations of committed Conservative Jews from their congregations and institutions.

During my time in our nation’s capital I also met with the Conservative rabbis who were heading up our new Office of Public Policy and Office of Israel Advocacy, respectively. These initiatives are part of a five-platform agenda of the Rabbinical Assembly which includes Social Justice Partnerships, Interfaith Work and Hekhsher Tzedek -- a star project of the Conservative movement which is focused on creating an ethical certification process for kosher foods.

The enormous popularity and success of Hekhsher Tzedek, which has captured the interest of the Jewish community at large, including many of Rabbi Lamm’s Orthodox constituents who are in agreement with my colleague, Rabbi Morris Allen’s call that we take ethical mitzvot as seriously as ritual ones in the preparation of kosher food. The message we are hearing loud and clear is that the American Jewish community is quite literally hungry to lead lives where the ritual is bound up in the ethical underpinning.

This contribution and others, however, have sadly eluded the notice of Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor of Yeshiva University , who felt moved to publicly declare the need to recite Kaddish for our allegedly-dying movement in a recent Jerusalem Post interview.

It seems that Rabbi Lamm has been so busy making funeral arrangements that he has missed the news of our movement’s great and global vitality. Our seminaries are respected houses of religious learning and pastoral training, drawing new and committed students to the rabbinate. There are exciting congregational developments around the world, especially in Israel and Europe . Our presence in Latin America is critical. Our warm and welcoming synagogues throughout the United States and Canada offer proof that our movement occupies the very heart of Jewish life in North America .

And our camping and school system could not be stronger and more in demand. If any of our schools are feeling the pinch, it is an indication of the nation’s economic crisis as a whole… not our movement’s failure.

As I prepare to assume my post as executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly this summer, I am excited and optimistic at this very moment of transition into new leadership. With Chancellor Arnold Eisen directing the Jewish Theological Seminary and Rabbi Steven Wernick heading The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, we are prepared to energetically bring the Conservative Movement forward into the new century.

My advice to Rabbi Lamm is -- save your Kaddish. The imminent demise of Conservative Judaism is a tired and false mantra. Instead, I would suggest that you direct your attention to working cooperatively within the Orthodox community to build for the Jewish future. This, and not eulogizing the institutions where Jews live their lives, ought to be the work in which we jointly and cooperatively engage.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld

Incoming Executive Vice President

The Rabbinical Assembly

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

cry » Opinion » Columnists » Article
May 7, 2009 22:20 | Updated May 8, 2009 15:12
Column One: Obama's green light to attack Iran
By CAROLINE GLICK [Recent columns]
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Arctic winds are blowing into Jerusalem from Washington these days. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's May 18 visit to Washington fast approaches, the Obama administration is ratcheting up its anti-Israel rhetoric and working feverishly to force Israel into a corner.

Using the annual AIPAC conference as a backdrop, this week the Obama administration launched its harshest onslaught against Israel to date. It began with media reports that National Security Adviser James Jones told a European foreign minister that the US is planning to build an anti-Israel coalition with the Arabs and Europe to compel Israel to surrender Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

According to Haaretz, Jones was quoted in a classified foreign ministry cable as having told his European interlocutor, "The new administration will convince Israel to compromise on the Palestinian question. We will not push Israel under the wheels of a bus, but we will be more forceful toward Israel than we have been under Bush."

He then explained that the US, the EU and the moderate Arab states must determine together what "a satisfactory endgame solution," will be.

As far as Jones is concerned, Israel should be left out of those discussions and simply presented with a fait accompli that it will be compelled to accept.

Events this week showed that Jones's statement was an accurate depiction of the administration's policy. First, quartet mediator Tony Blair announced that within six weeks the US, EU, UN and Russia will unveil a new framework for establishing a Palestinian state. Speaking with Palestinian reporters on Wednesday, Blair said that this new framework will be a serious initiative because it "is being worked on at the highest level in the American administration."

Moreover, this week we learned that the administration is trying to get the Arabs themselves to write the Quartet's new plan. The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi pan-Arab newspaper reported Tuesday that acting on behalf of Obama, Jordanian King Abdullah urged the Arab League to update the so-called Arab peace plan from 2002. That plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights and accept millions of foreign Arabs as citizens as part of the so-called "right of return" in exchange for "natural" relations with the Arab world, has been rejected by successive Israeli governments as a diplomatic subterfuge whose goal is Israel's destruction.

By accepting millions of so-called "Palestinian refugees," Israel would effectively cease to be a Jewish state. By shrinking into the 1949 armistice lines, Israel would be unable to defend itself against foreign invasion. And since "natural relations" is a meaningless term both in international legal discourse and in diplomatic discourse, Israel would have committed national suicide for nothing.

To make the plan less objectionable to Israel, Abdullah reportedly called on his Arab brethren to strike references to the so-called "Arab refugees" from the plan and to agree to "normal" rather than "natural" relations with the Jewish state. According to the report, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was expected to present Obama with the changes to the plan during their meeting in Washington later this month. The revised plan was supposed to form the basis for the new Quartet plan that Blair referred to.

But the Arabs would have none of it. On Wednesday, both Arab League General Secretary Amr Moussa and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas announced that they oppose the initiative. On Thursday, Syria rejected making any changes in the document.

The administration couldn't care less. The Palestinians and Arabs are no more than bit players in its Middle East policy. As far as the Obama administration is concerned, Israel is the only obstacle to peace.

To make certain that Israel understands this central point, Vice President Joseph Biden used his appearance at the AIPAC conference to drive it home. As Biden made clear, the US doesn't respect or support Israel's right as a sovereign state to determine its own policies for securing its national interests. In Biden's words, "Israel has to work toward a two-state solution. You're not going to like my saying this, but not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement."

FOR ISRAEL, the main event of the week was supposed to be President Shimon Peres's meeting with Obama on Tuesday. Peres was tasked with calming the waters ahead of Netanyahu's visit. It was hoped that he could introduce a more collegial tone to US-Israel relations.

What Israel didn't count on was the humiliating reception Peres received from Obama. By barring all media from covering the event, Obama transformed what was supposed to be a friendly visit with a respected and friendly head of state into a back-door encounter with an unwanted guest, who was shooed in and shooed out of the White House without a sound.

The Obama White House's bald attempt to force Israel to take full blame for the Arab world's hostility toward it is not the only way that it is casting Israel as the scapegoat for the region's ills. In their bid to open direct diplomatic ties with Iran, Obama and his advisers are also blaming Israel for Iran's nuclear program. They are doing this both indirectly and directly.

As Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel made clear in his closed-door briefing to senior AIPAC officials this week, the administration is holding Israel indirectly responsible for Iran's nuclear program. It does this by claiming that Israel's refusal to cede its land to the Palestinians is making it impossible for the Arab world to support preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Somewhat inconveniently for the administration, the Arabs themselves are rejecting this premise. This week US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the Persian Gulf and Egypt to soothe Arab fears that the administration's desperate attempts to appease the mullahs will harm their security interests. He also sought to gain their support for the administration's plan to unveil a new peace plan aimed at isolating and pressuring Israel.

Parashat Behar Behukotai

With whom to make peace exactly?

Pope calls for Palestinian state and then this
"Pope Walks Out after Muslim Cleric Accuses Israel of "Slaughter" - Yair Ettinger
The head of the Palestinian Sharia court, Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, fiercely denounced Israeli policy in the presence of Pope Benedict on Monday at an interfaith conference in eastern Jerusalem. After the pope was informed of the political nature of al-Tamimi's speech, delivered in Arabic without simultaneous translation, he left the conference. Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, charged with coordinating the pope's visit to Israel, said, "It is a shame that the extremists were those who represented the Palestinians and the Muslims in this important event." (Ha'aretz) "

Ok Mr POpe and UN and Mr President of USA, with whom exactly is Israel supposed to make peace? Abbas won't agree thaT ISRAel will be a Jewish state, and he has little power and Hamas says any Israel, no matter how shrunken, is not acceptable.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Daily Alert


May 11, 2009
Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Did U.S. Help Lebanon Crack Alleged Israeli Spy Rings? - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
Lebanon arrested five people over the weekend suspected of belonging to an intelligence cell transmitting information about Hizbullah to Israel, the most recent arrests in a two-month crackdown apparently aided by American training and equipment.
Lebanese security sources attribute the recent arrests to better-trained personnel and access to more sophisticated equipment.
The U.S. has provided $1 billion in aid since 2006, including $410 million in security assistance to the Lebanese military and police.
Israel has expressed reservations about American aid to the Lebanese army and security services, saying that any aid is liable to serve Hizbullah's interests.

See also New Lebanese Security Unit Cooperating with Hizbullah - Andrew Wander (Daily Star-Lebanon)
More than 17 suspected spies have been arrested since January, prompting the leader of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) Ashraf Rifi to declare their capture "the strongest security strike against the Israeli Mossad."
Increased intelligence sharing between Hizbullah and a new, specialized ISF counter-espionage unit - for the first time openly admitted by Lebanese security officials - has given authorities an advantage in the fight against Israeli espionage operations in the country, experts said.
See also Israel's "Sleeper Cells" Were Building Hizbullah Database (AFP/Daily Star-Lebanon)

Hamas Leader Rejects Two-State Solution (UPI)
Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, who lives in Syria, called a two-state solution unacceptable because Hamas cannot envision living with Israel in peace, the Kuwait news agency KUNA reported Saturday.

U.S. Confident Israel Is Not Rushing to Attack Tehran - Mohammed Almezel (Gulf News-UAE)
Israeli talk of a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is just "rhetoric responding to similar rhetoric coming out of Iran," a Gulf official quoted Dennis Ross, President Obama's special advisor on the Gulf and South West Asia, as saying when he toured the region last month.
"According to Ross, Israel will not move unless they are convinced Iran poses a clear and present danger to its national security and will not do that without seeking U.S. approval," the Gulf official said.
He said all parties believe there will be no real movement before the Iranian presidential elections, set for June 12.

See also If Israel Attacks Iran, 49% Say U.S. Should Help (Rasmussen Reports)
49% of Americans say that if Israel launches an attack against Iran, the U.S. should help Israel.
The Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 37% believe the U.S. should do nothing, while just 2% believe the U.S. should help Iran.
Last summer, just 42% said the U.S. should help Israel, while 46% said the nation should do nothing.
66% now say that preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons is more important than preventing war between Iran and Israel, up from 52% last July.

Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Yanir Yagana (Ha'aretz)
Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at Israel on Sunday evening.

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* Terrorist Traffic Via Syria Returns - Karen DeYoung
After a long hiatus, the Syrian pipeline of suicide bombers headed for Iraq and operated by al-Qaeda is back in business. The revival of a transit route that officials had declared all but closed comes as the Obama administration is exploring a new diplomatic dialogue with Syria. Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, told Congress late last month that the al-Qaeda in Iraq pipeline through Syria had been "reactivated." While the flow of foreign fighters through Syria reached a high of 80 to 100 a month in mid-2007, most of them would-be suicide "martyrs," in December the traffic reached an all-time low, into the single digits. More recently, the estimate has risen to 20 a month. (Washington Post)
* U.S. Renews Syria Sanctions Despite Outreach to Damascus - David Gollust
The Obama administration has renewed economic sanctions against Syria despite its efforts at diplomatic outreach with the Damascus government. State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood said Friday, "I think this shows you we still have some very serious concerns about Syrian behavior and activity in the world....We've said to you before our concerns about what Syria is doing in Iraq, its support for terrorist groups." Syria has long been listed by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism for supporting Hizbullah militants in Lebanon and playing host to senior officials of Hamas. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and White House National Security Council Middle East Adviser Daniel Shapiro visited the Syrian capital last week. (VOA News)
See also Biological Weapons Facility Replaces Syrian Nuclear Reactor - Orly Azulai
Syria has rebuilt the structure that housed the nuclear reactor that Israel destroyed and turned the place into a facility for the production of chemical and biological weapons, CBS News reported Sunday, quoting U.S. intelligence sources. The two American envoys who visited Syria last week were aware of the report and presented satellite photos to the Syrians, who denied it.
As a result, Obama decided that Syria had done nothing to justify the removal of sanctions. The revelation of Syria's plan to develop biological and chemical weapons joins a series of disagreements that has brought the Syrians and Americans to a stalemate at this point. The chief disagreement involves Israeli-Syrian negotiations: The Syrians insist that Israel must first agree to the return of the Golan Heights prior to the start of negotiations. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 11May09)
See also Why Obama Renewed Sanctions on Syria - Zvi Yehezkeli
U.S. intelligence determined that the main source of funding and training of suicide bombers in Iraq is in Syria. There is evidence that Syrian intelligence is directly involved in preparing the attacks. (Israel TV Channel 10/Nana-Hebrew)
* Netanyahu Meeting with Obama Decides Mideast's Future, Says Jordan's King Abdullah - Michael Binyon and Richard Beeston
President Obama's meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu next week has become the acid test for the U.S. administration's commitment to peace in the Middle East, King Abdullah of Jordan said Sunday. The king traveled to Damascus Monday to urge President Assad to join the Arab efforts to seek a settlement with Israel, based on the Arab peace plan adopted in 2002.
Brokered by the Americans, this would be the most comprehensive deal attempted since the opening of the Madrid conference in 1991. It would offer Israel immediate benefits, such as entry visas to every Arab country, the right of El Al, Israel's national airline, to overfly Arab territory, and the eventual recognition of Israel by all 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In return, the Israelis would have to put an immediate stop to the building and expansion of settlements and agree to withdraw from territories occupied since 1967. The two most sensitive issues - the future status of Jerusalem and the right of return by Palestinians who fled in 1948 - would be negotiated within the framework of the peace plan. (Times-UK)
See also Arab Peace Offer Is Not Negotiable
The Arab League and Syria have shot down a U.S. suggestion that the Arab peace initiative be changed to make it more palatable to Israel. Several Arab diplomats said this week that the Americans are asking Arab states to drop demands for a right of return for Palestinian refugees and agree to either resettle them in the host countries or in the Palestinian territories. Arab foreign ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo last week rejected the request, said Jordan's foreign minister. "The ministers renewed their commitment to the initiative as it is without change," Nasser Judeh said. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
* U.S. Security Advisor: We Will Work Hard Towards a Two-State Solution - George Stephanopoulos
U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday: "We understand Israel's preoccupation with Iran as an existential threat. We agree with that. And by the same token, there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution." (ABC News)
See also McCain: U.S. Shouldn't Dictate Israeli-Palestinian Policy - William McQuillen
The U.S. shouldn't dictate to Israel how to proceed with a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration flexibility to proceed in its own, Senator John McCain said Sunday. "I'm not sure the timing is right, right now, with a new government in Israel, for us to dictate to them their policy," McCain told ABC's "This Week." (Bloomberg)

News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

* Pope Benedict XVI Arrives in Israel - Eli Senyor
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Israel from Jordan on Monday as part of his first papal visit to the Middle East and a self-proclaimed "pilgrimage of peace." "I take my place in a long line of Christian pilgrims to these shores," he said at the airport. "I come, like so many others before me, to pray at the holy places, to pray especially for peace - peace here in the Holy Land, and peace throughout the world." "Anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world. This is totally unacceptable. Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found," he added. (Ynet News)
* Prime Minister Vows to Improve Palestinian Economy - Zvi Lavi
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he is committed to improving the economic status of Palestinian Authority residents and that all bureaucratic obstacles to this end should be removed if they were not linked to security issues. "There is a lot of bureaucracy in our relationship with the Palestinians, as amongst ourselves, and we have to work to decrease it," he said. (Ynet News)
See also Israel Removes More Roadblocks in Ramallah Area
The removal of two roadblocks in the Ramallah area on Sunday allows free movement of vehicles between the city of Ramallah and the villages to its west and east. Over 140 checkpoints have been removed throughout Judea and Samaria in the last year. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

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

* The Vatican, the Jews, and the Palestinians - Shlomo Avineri
The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s not only absolved the Jewish people of collective guilt for crucifying Jesus, but recognized the continuing covenant between God and the Jews, paving the way for recognizing the legitimacy of their existence. This transformation, in turn, enabled the Vatican's recognition of the State of Israel.
Yet even today, when the idea is raised of matching Israeli recognition of a Palestinian nation state with Palestinian recognition of Israel as the home of the Jewish people, the moderates in the Palestinian Authority respond with unqualified refusal. This is deeply rooted in Palestinians' unwillingness to recognize that in 1948 they made an enormous, tragic mistake in their refusal to accept the UN partition plan and the decision to respond to it with force. Even today they are unable to accept the principle of partition. The Palestinians are willing to talk about two states, but not for two nations, since that would imply recognition of the Jews as a people. (Ha'aretz)
* Obama, Netanyahu, and Iran - Elliott Abrams
Israelis see an Iranian bomb as an existential threat. They cannot be sure an Iranian leader waiting excitedly for the Mahdi's return will be using game theory and mathematical calculations to decide whether it's sensible to strike the Jewish state. Even former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom European diplomats view as a wonderful moderate, called Israel "a one-bomb country."
U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell seems impressed by the Arab preoccupation with Iran rather than with the Palestinians. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to get it too. With the Palestinians split between Fatah and Hamas, the old "peace process" is increasingly irrelevant to real world crises. There is a critical struggle under way right now in the Middle East, but it is not between Israelis and Palestinians; it is the people aligned with us - including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the PA, Israel and the UAE - against Iran, Qatar, Syria, Hizbullah and the Palestinian rejectionist groups. The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was the deputy national security adviser overseeing Near East and North African affairs from 2005 to January 2009. (Wall Street Journal)


Israel Still Looks Good, Warts and All - Greg Sheridan (The Australian)

* The Israel I know, which I have visited for weeks at a time, which I experience through its literature and media and the Israeli citizens I have met, bears no relation to the Israel I see in most of the Western media. That Israel of the Western mind (and indeed of the Arab mind) is a hateful place: right-wing, militaristic, authoritarian, racist, ultra-religious, neo-colonial, narrow-minded, undemocratic, indifferent to world opinion, indifferent especially to Palestinian suffering.
* Yet the Israel I know is mostly secular, raucously, almost wildly democratic, has a vibrant left wing, having founded in the kibbutz movement one of the only successful experiments in socialism in human history. It is multi-ethnic, there is a great stress on human solidarity, there is due process. And I've never heard an Israeli speak casually about the value of Palestinian life.
* The Israel I know is a Western democracy, often under siege. I see a society striving for the good, certainly not beyond criticism, but overall behaving as well as any comparably sized Western society would or could in all the circumstances.
* Nobody declares Saudi Arabia an illegitimate state because it has no democracy or human rights, and its doctrinaire Wahhabi Sunni establishment rules over a marginalized Shia minority. Nobody declares Turkey an illegitimate state because it has a disgruntled Kurdish minority, some of whom certainly aspire to statehood. Even North Korea, the most extreme Stalinist gulag on earth, is constantly reassured that the West accepts not only the legitimacy of its state, but does not even seek regime change. Only the legitimacy of Israel is routinely questioned: a special standard for the Jewish state.
* Since 1977 Israel has given up territory equivalent to three times its size in exchange for peace with various neighbors. This was land acquired in defensive wars that made a contribution to Israeli security. Israel may be guilty of many things but a refusal to compromise is not one of them.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stop the Iranian bomb

what can you personally do to stop the Iranian bomb?

1. Put up a banner in the shull that says
Stop the Iranian bomb. Ask us how (or see the table for instructions how to help)

2. what can you personally do to stop the Iranian bomb? Send this to your members

Lawmakers Introduce Iran Sanctions Bills

The legislation would limit Iran's ability to import and produce refined petroleum products.

House and Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation that would reinforce American diplomatic efforts with Iran with the threat of tougher sanctions if Iran rejects U.S. overtures and continues to enrich uranium in defiance of the international community. The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) would limit Iran's ability to import and produce refined petroleum products by requiring the president to impose sanctions on companies providing refined petroleum to Iran or helping Iran expand its own refining capacity. IRPSA would limit Iran's access to and raise the price for refined petroleum within Iran. This could have a dramatic effect on the Iranian economy because Iran imports about 40 percent of its refined petroleum. The legislation was introduced in the House on April 30 by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and in the Senate on April 28 by a broad group of 27 senators. The lead Democrat on the bill is Sen. Evan Bayh (IN) and the lead Republican is Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ).

Call your Congressperson and Senators. Ask them to cosponsor it and if they have, thank them!!!!!!
It takes 5 minutes and is important

Easy to find out how to contact them at

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DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
May 6, 2009

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Report: Arabs Formulating New Peace Plan (Jerusalem Post)
A group of Arab leaders led by Jordan's King Abdullah II is formulating a new peace offer at the behest of U.S. President Obama, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Wednesday.
The offer will reportedly call for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the Old City designated an "international zone." The question of borders will be resolved with land swaps.
Some of the descendants of Palestinian refugees from Israel's War of Independence in 1948 will reportedly be allowed to return to the Palestinian state, while others will be naturalized in their countries of residence in the Arab world.
The report said Obama had requested that the plan outline a "timetable for normalization and the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and the Arab world."
See also Quartet to Unveil New Mideast Peace Plan (AP)
The U.S.-led Quartet of Mideast mediators is working on a new strategy for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and is expected to present it in five to six weeks, Quartet envoy Tony Blair said Tuesday.
"This is a framework that is being worked on at the highest level in the American administration, (and) in the rest of the international community," Blair said.


Israel May Exit Lebanon Border Village - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Israel's security cabinet is expected to convene Wednesday to discuss the IDF's pullout from the northern part of Ghajar, a village which straddles the Israeli-Lebanese border, over the next few weeks.
Ghajar is split by the international border between Lebanon and the Israeli-held Golan Heights, which was part of Syria before the Six-Day War. Its residents are Alawis, a Shiite sect of Islam to which the majority of Syria's ruling elite belong.
Since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Jerusalem has been in talks with the UN to find a way to transfer control over the northern part of the village to Lebanon.


Palestinian Mortar Fire from Gaza Continues (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian terrorists on Wednesday morning fired three mortar shells at Israel from Gaza.


Joint Command Set Up at U.S. Radar Base - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
The IDF has set up a joint command center at the base in Israel's Negev desert that is home to the American X-Band radar, deployed last October to bolster defenses in the face of Iranian threats.
When the radar was first set up, Israel was told that it would not be allowed to maintain a presence at the base.
Several months ago, the Americans changed their position and allowed an Air Force major from the Air Defense Division to maintain a permanent presence at a joint command center inside the base.
The base is operated by some 100 American soldiers from the European Command.

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Peres: Israel Supports Two-State Solution, Iran Engagement
Israel is on board with key elements of President Obama's agenda in the Middle East, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Tuesday after meeting with Obama at the White House. "[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu said he will cooperate (with) the commitments of the previous (Israeli) government. The previous government accepted the Roadmap (to Middle East peace). In the Roadmap, you'll find the attitude to the two-state solution," Peres said. He also said that if Obama wants to engage Iran, the Israelis are willing to back him.
Responding to an Israeli media report that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had said that greater U.S. assistance in deterring Iran's nuclear ambitions hinged on peace talks with Palestinians, officials said Emanuel's comments were not meant to pressure the Israelis. Sources said Emanuel told AIPAC members that America's Arab allies, in particular Jordan, would find it easier to support tougher sanctions on Iran if there were progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace. (FOX News)
See also Peres: Israel Can't Stop Natural Growth in Settlements - Ron Kampeas
Israel cannot control natural settlement growth, Israeli President Shimon Peres told Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday. Peres said he told Biden that "Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have children or get married." (JTA)
Ahmadinejad, Assad Meet in Damascus, Vow to Back "Palestinian Resistance"
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday. Ahmadinejad also spent time with the leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian radical groups based in the Syrian capital. Ahmadinejad boasted that "Those who one day called Iran and Syria part of 'the axis of evil' now want to develop relations with Iran and Syria." He also contended that the Syria-Iran alliance had achieved "victories" in preventing "the big powers' offensive to dominate the region."
"Syria and Iran have been from the very beginning united and in agreement to stand on the side of the Palestinian resistance," Ahmadinejad added. "We see that the resistance will continue until all occupied territories are liberated." (AP/New York Times)
U.S. Wants Israel, India in Anti-Nuclear Arms Treaty - Louis Charbonneau
India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel should join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the global pact meant to limit the spread of atomic weapons, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said Tuesday. "Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea...remains a fundamental objective of the United States," Gottemoeller told a meeting of the signatories of the pact. (Reuters)
See also Israel: Signing NPT Won't Prevent Nuclear Armament - Roni Sofer
An Israeli official on Wednesday criticized a U.S. call for Israel to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), citing the pact's failure to prevent countries from obtaining nuclear arms. "It is therefore hard to understand why there should be such an insistence on a treaty that has proven its inefficiency," a senior official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. The official said the treaty had not stopped Iraq and Libya from trying to obtain nuclear potential, and that "This miracle cure (NPT) has not prevented any country from acquiring nuclear arms, as we can see in the case of Iran." "We are baffled by the U.S. insistence that (Israel sign the NPT)." (Ynet News)
See also below Commentary: Secret U.S.-Israel Nuclear Accord in Jeopardy - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
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PA and Hamas Reject Israeli Prime Minister's Call for Peace Talks - Khaled Abu Toameh and Hilary Leila Krieger
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas on Tuesday rejected Prime Minister Netanyahu's call "to resume peace negotiations without any delay, without any preconditions." PA officials in Ramallah said the PA would not resume peace talks with Israel as long as Netanyahu did not change his policy toward the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
UN Secretary General: UN Report on Gaza War Not Legally Binding - Barak Ravid
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said a damning UN report on Israel's conduct in its recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza was not legally binding. In a letter he agreed to attach to the report at the request of Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal, Ban condemned Hamas' cross-border rocket fire on Israeli civilians that sparked the conflict which was ignored by the UN committee report. Ban also commended the Israel Defense Forces for its close coordination with the UN during the operation. He added there would be no further reports by the UN on the subject. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

Secret U.S.-Israel Nuclear Accord in Jeopardy - Eli Lake
President Obama's efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel's nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials say. For the past 40 years, Israel and the U.S. have kept quiet about an Israeli nuclear arsenal that is now estimated at 80 to 200 weapons. Israel has promised not to test nuclear weapons while the U.S. has not pressed Israel to sign the nuclear NPT, which permits only five countries - the U.S., France, Britain, China and Russia - to have nuclear arms. The accord was forged at a summit between Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Nixon on Sept. 25, 1969, and commits both the U.S. and Israel never to acknowledge in public Israel's nuclear arsenal. Israeli defense doctrine considers the nuclear arsenal to be a strategic deterrent against extinction. (Washington Times)
See also Breaking Faith with Israel - Editorial
Will the U.S. sell out its strongest ally in the Middle East to cozy up to its worst enemy? America treats Israel and Iran differently because they are fundamentally different. Israel is a dependable U.S. ally and a free liberal democracy. Iran is a long-standing enemy of the U.S., is directly or indirectly responsible via Iraqi insurgents and others for more deaths of U.S. service members than any country since the Vietnam War. Its people suffer under an oppressive theocracy. We approve of an Israeli nuclear force for the same reason we approve of a British, French or American nuclear force: We know it will serve peaceful purposes. We oppose an Iranian nuclear force for the same reason we oppose a North Korean nuclear force: We know it will not serve a peaceful purpose. Any attempt to establish parity between Israel and Iran on the nuclear issue is dangerous and naive. Pressing Israel to make its suspected nuclear arsenal into a bargaining chip only weakens our allies without defanging our foes. (Washington Times)
Dropping Espionage Charges Against Former AIPAC Lobbyists - Walter Pincus
The Justice Department on Friday formally dropped its four-year-old case against two former pro-Israel lobbyists for allegedly conspiring to violate the 1917 Espionage Act. The two lobbyists had been charged in August 2005 with conspiring to disclose national defense information to people not authorized to receive it - the first time that civilian, non-government employees had been prosecuted under the act. The same charges technically could be applied to academics, think tank analysts and journalists who seek and receive security information in conversations every day.
In a March 27 letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., asking the Obama administration to review the case, the defendants' attorneys wrote that they would show that the information relayed to their clients was not classified defense information but material already in the public domain and "not potentially damaging to national security." To demonstrate that, the lawyers wrote that two of the government officials who prosecutors said passed classified information to the defendants "have told both us and/or government investigators that they were authorized to speak with our clients and knew full well (and even intended) that our clients pass the information on to others."
The defense lawyers also said the testimony of J. William Leonard, the most recent former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, which is responsible for the government-wide security classification system, would "establish that the information was innocuous and that the defendants had every reason to believe that their conduct was innocent." (Washington Post)

Spanish Judge Went Too Far: Targeting Gaza Terror Mastermind Not a War Crime - Robbie Sabel (Ynet News)

A Spanish court is seeking to indict senior Israeli figures involved in targeting Salah Shahade. The notion of war crimes was not meant for these kinds of cases. There is no doubt that the objective, killing a terrorist, was legitimate. War crimes cases normally refer to the deliberate and cold-blooded killing of civilians, and not to considerations in respect to which means should be used against a legitimate target. Any military operation may entail civilian casualties if the military target is close by, and military officials need to make an effort to minimize the number of citizens involved.
This case presents a question of professional judgment regarding the proper means, yet in no way does it argue that Israel embarked on the operation in order to kill civilians. Therefore, what we see here is the misuse of the universal authority to look into war crimes, and we can assume that the Spanish authorities themselves would appeal the judge's decision: The legal system is supposed to deal with criminal matters and not with the military operations of other states.
We should expect to see continuing efforts by hostile elements to harass Israeli commanders at various courts worldwide. The only way to prevent it is to act via the various governments. Foreign governments are aware that the IDF is an organized army that operates in line with international law, and that Israel is home to an independent judiciary. Israel is attempting to prompt every state to promote legislation that would prevent the courts from acting based on complaints with a political bent.
The writer, an international law lecturer at Hebrew University, is a former Foreign Ministry legal advisor.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Report 1 from Aipac 2009

I’m at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington and am repotting on the first day.
Arrived Sunday AM. First plenary featured the (Hispanic) Mayor of LA and an African American Detroit Minister both articulating their great support for Israel. Then a panel featured Former CIA Director Woolsley, Congresswoman Jane Harmon of Calif., IDF Air Force Head etc.
Woolsey-every president since Carter has tried to engage the Iranans and none have worked. Persians invented chess. Only possibility short of military is very serious sanctions.-cut off their importation of refined petroleum products.
Harmon-Congress has tried actions vis-à-vis Iran for 20 years, has not worked. Favors military option if these don’t work.
IDF Air Force head-Air Force must content with changes in region including nuclear proliferation and radicals taking over nations-Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran. We must contemplate a nuclear Iran’s impact on moderate regimes in region.

Another speaker-we must make oil what salt has become. Before refrigeration, wars were fought over salt. Now who cares where salt comes from. Goal- make oil irrelevant.

Syria-will NEVER realign from Iran and Hezbolah. It’s a pipedream. Syri is the capital of terrorists.

Pakistan-now has 60-100 nukes . Taliban will probably take it over. That is a far bigger concern now.

One speaker thought a deep disagreement between the USA and Israel on Iran will be the major issue next year at the AIPAC Conference.

A panel on the Palestinians-
David Mikovsky-He believes key now is demarcating the boundaries of the eventual Palestinian state while building Palestinian infrastructure. Show moderation pays or the PA is cooked and Hamas will take over West Bank too.
Unilateralism is flawed-Israel pulled out of Gaza without agreement and missiles flow.
75% of settlers could be absorbed live in 4.4% of the west Bank. Swat land and let them stay. Tell the other 70,000 settlers their land will be Palestine. It will remove a major irritant to USA.
Alternative to Palestinian Authority are not Hadassah ladies so it better work with the PA. PA now handling law and order well, so Israel moved troops in Gaza operation from west bank to Gaza.
Aaron David Miller-former State Dept. advised 6 Sec. of State
“America is failing in the Middle East. Last 16 years have gone backwards in US influence. Solving conflict is unimaginable-Land, Jerussalem, refugees, security.
Since Palestinians have 2 opposed polities and geographies (Gaza under Hamas and W.B. under PA), no Palestinian leader has authority to make a deal. Besides Iran will intrude in process through Hezbollah and Hamas to prevent deal.

Obama has a “yes we can “ atitude as all new administrations do./ Region will say “no you won’t.” For any chance: 1. Leaders must take risks. Like Rabin and Sadat. 2. See the urgency of the matter. 3. See a doable deal.
3 Options: 1. Israel will make no deal with Palestinians till Iran issue is solved or 2. no bold options or 3. Like JFK-idealism without illusions.

Netanyahu’s aid Ron Dermer:
Netanyahu always has been right. Thought 2000 Camp David Barak Arafat meeting would lead to violence because of Barak giving away so much and it did-Intafada 2.
2005 he resigned wek before gaza because believed unilateral pullout would lead to missiles. He was mocked. Called Israel’s prophet of doom. He believes Hezbolah war of 2008 and Gaza fight 2008 were because of Gaza pullout and showing weakness.

He believed his biggest error last time as Prime Minister was no national unity gov. He now has with Barak.
He has warned the world daily for 9 years about Iran, before anyone else.

1996 half of Israel thought he was obstacle to peace-that Israel needs to make more concessions. Today Israel does not believe it.
When PA talks a bout 2 states-they don’t mean one Muslim and one Jewish. They mean 2 Arab with millions of “refugees” flowing into Israel making it majority Arab. Netanyahu will never agree to that (PA must agree one state is Jewish homeland) and never allow Palestinians entity to have army, control air rights and make treaty with Iran. They otherwise can govern themselves.

When Netanyahu PM, only 35 Israelis killed by suicide bombers.
Netanyahu does not think fact that Palestinians will soon outnumber Israelis in Israel is main issue since there are 300 million Arabs around.

More later