Monday, August 07, 2006

40 - Oh, I mean 1.....

I wonder if this will actually get any coverage, guess not since it is buried in the following article.

"Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Monday that one person was killed in an Israeli airstrike on the southern village of Houla, not 40 as he had earlier reported."

Lebanon proposes plan to end violence
Two Israeli strikes kill 17 people; Hezbollah fires 140 rockets

Monday, August 7, 2006; Posted: 9:47 p.m. EDT (01:47 GMT)

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Israeli strikes shook Beirut at daybreak and nightfall on Monday, while Lebanon proposed changes to a draft U.N. resolution aimed at halting the Israel-Hezbollah conflict that left some 800 people dead.

Lebanon's government agreed to dispatch 15,000 troops to its southern border as part of a peace agreement if Israeli troops leave the country, a government spokesman said late Monday.

Lebanon's proposed changes would have Israeli troops hand over their current positions to the U.N. Interim Force In Lebanon as they withdraw. UNIFIL would then give control to Lebanese forces.

As the Lebanese Cabinet convened, an Israeli strike hit a south Beirut street on the edge of the city's mostly Christian eastern district, killing 10 people and wounding 65, security sources said.

The strike hit a building near a mosque in the upscale southern suburb of Shiyah, officials with the security forces said.

It was not clear whether the blast was the result of an Israeli airstrike or shelling from warships off the Lebanese coast. The Israel Defense Forces has not said what it was targeting.

Video of the scene, aired on Lebanese TV, showed rescuers digging for survivors in the rubble of the collapsed building.

The strike came shortly after Israel warned residents south of Lebanon's Litani River to stay off roads after 10 p.m., Israeli military sources said. The IDF warned residents it "intends to intensify its attack against Hezbollah."

Earlier Monday, an Israeli airstrike killed at least seven civilians near the southern city of Sidon, Lebanese officials said.

The IDF in recent days had dropped leaflets on Sidon, urging civilians to evacuate.

Israeli warplanes also struck the southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold, shortly before dawn.

Israel is attempting to establish a buffer zone between Israel and the Litani -- about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the border -- to halt the Hezbollah cross-border rocket attacks.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Monday that one person was killed in an Israeli airstrike on the southern village of Houla, not 40 as he had earlier reported.

Lebanese media reported 65 survivors were pulled from the rubble, more than half of them children.

The airstrikes, which pummeled Houla's Hamamir neighborhood near the main mosque, destroyed at least six homes and caused fires to engulf the area, a law enforcement source said.

The IDF said it has warned residents for the past two weeks to leave.

CNN crews in the southern Lebanese port of Tyre reported hearing "a series of heavy explosions" south of the city early Monday.

The area has been a launching point for Hezbollah's Katyusha rockets, about 140 of which were fired into Israel on Monday, the Israeli military reported.

Israeli commandos Monday raided an apartment complex in Tyre that they had attacked two days earlier, The Associated Press reported. Five people were feared dead in Monday's attack.

Israeli commandos also landed on a hilltop south of Tyre, Lebanese security officials told AP. About 30 commandos fought Hezbollah in close combat in a bid to destroy rocket launchers, the officials said.

The AP reported that Israeli attacks killed 49 people Monday, noting that such tallies have been difficult to confirm.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed by an antitank missile in fighting near the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, while a third died battling Hezbollah in the same area, the Israel Defense Forces reported.

And the IDF said its troops suffered more casualties near the town of Debel late Monday, but no details were released.

Israel also said it had shot down a Hezbollah drone on Monday.

Monday was the 27th day of fighting. So far the conflict has resulted in 98 Israeli deaths, including 35 civilians, the IDF said; in Lebanon, security forces put the death toll at more than 715, most of them civilians.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in a taped address to an American Jewish charity, said Israel was prepared to pay "a terrible price" to battle Hezbollah now rather than face a strengthened foe later.

Olmert called on the "solidarity and partnership" between Jewish communities overseas and the people of Israel for support.

Disagreement on U.N. approach

Siniora's Cabinet, which includes two ministers from Hezbollah, made its decision on troop deployment unanimously, ministers said.

The deployment of Lebanese national troops to the south is part of the U.S.- and French-backed peace plan under discussion at the United Nations. Hezbollah has effectively controlled southern Lebanon since Israel withdrew in 2000.

But Siniora's government has objected to other elements of the plan, arguing that it does not call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanese territory or resolve other outstanding Israeli-Lebanese disputes.

Monday's proposal does not call for Hezbollah to disarm, but the Cabinet said it would allow only Lebanese government troops and U.N. peacekeepers to operate south of the Litani River, Finance Minister Jihad Azour said.

Israel has long supported the idea of Lebanon's army taking control of the border from Hezbollah. But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel expects to see details presented at the United Nations, questioning whether Hezbollah would be disarmed.

An Arab League delegation was heading to the United Nations to request changes in the draft peace plan before the Security Council votes on the proposal.

The current plan would have the Security Council call for an end to the fighting, followed by a second resolution later that would establish an international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.

Lebanon prefers a single resolution that would deal with a cease-fire and all of the political issues rather than a two-phase approach that the Lebanese Embassy's charge d'affaires in Washington, Carla Jazzar, said would give Hezbollah a pretext to continue fighting.

The Lebanese proposal calls for Israel to hand over the disputed territory of Shebaa Farms to the United Nations, "pending delineation of the border."

And it would bolster UNIFIL rather than creating a new peacekeeping force with more robust rules of engagement.

CNN's Paula Hancocks and Matthew Chance contributed to this report.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Raising Martyrs in Southern Lebanon

'We are ready to strap explosives to our children and send them to Israel'
By Colin Freeman in Tyre
(Filed: 30/07/2006)

Nayfa Muhanna's childbearing days are long over, her husband having taken a second wife to produce the younger half of his huge clutch of 16 children.

Now, though, after Israeli -helicopter missiles destroyed the family farmhouse and wiped out their entire tobacco crop, she finds herself feeling broody again.

"It is our duty as mothers to start producing more boys to help the resistance," she said, to cheers from other residents in their refugee camp in the -southern Lebanese city of Tyre, where all 19 family members pitched up a fortnight ago. "We want them to be martyrs for their country in the fight against Israel."

Nobody could accuse the family of not doing its bit for the "Party of God".

Asked about the fighting in their village of Majdel Zoun, just a few miles from the Israeli border, Nayfa, 47, proudly mentions that her brother "disappeared" that day - not a suggestion that he is buried under rubble, but a coded way of stating that he has slipped off to join Hezbollah's forces.

The next time she sees him he may well be in a coffin. Yet, if so, there appears to be no shortage of family members willing to replace him on the front line. "I am very excited about defending my country," said her oldest son Mahdi, who is just 15. "If I do not, and others do not, then who will?"

After two weeks of Israel's military offensives on the southern Lebanese border, a whole new generation of youngsters like Mahdi is being groomed to follow in their uncle's footsteps.

Mahdi has dreamed of joining Hezbollah ever since he was 10, yet until two weeks ago the "enemy" has never been more than a vague presence at border fences.

Now, though, he and thousands of other children who are too young to remember the last major Israeli incursion 10 years ago have witnessed a new one first-hand, yielding a fresh crop of traumatised young minds that Hezbollah's propaganda machine can mould.

The Israeli army psy-ops leaflets airdropped into the border villages, which caricature Hezbollah leaders as cowardly snakes who send followers needlessly to the slaughter, are unlikely to win them over, especially not with so many of their parents spurring them on.

"We are ready to strap explosives to our children and send them to Israel," said Naim Mussalmani, 35, a farmer who fled the village of Shaitiah, on Tyre's outskirts. "My own brother exploded himself against the Israelis in 1998. Our women and children are ready to go out and fight if needs be."

In the past two weeks, the normally peaceful Mediterranean holiday resort of Tyre has been flooded with refugees fleeing the farming villages dotting the Israeli border as they become battlegrounds for fierce clashes between Hezbollah guerrillas and their Israeli foes.

The port city offers limited security as a safe haven: the crash of Israeli ordnance into the surrounding hillsides shakes Tyre's buildings relentlessly, and the sky over the deserted luxury marina hums constantly with jets and drone spyplanes.

Town Hall officials estimate that more than two thirds of Tyre's population of 270,000 have fled the city, leaving it more deserted than a rundown holiday resort in midwinter.

Shops are shuttered, rubbish lies festering in stinking piles, and the only signs of life are in the schools and government buildings where villagers from the border areas have sought safety.

With few humanitarian convoys able to reach them because of damage to the main road from Beirut, living conditions for the diaspora are grim. The luckier ones are crammed into long established Palestinian refugee camps, while the less fortunate are billeted in school classrooms, living off aid packages and with little access to washing facilities.

Worst off are those still trapped in the villages, unable to access even Tyre's meagre sanctuary because of the house-sized scoops that Israeli missiles have gouged in the narrow country roads.

Yet, despite the privations it has caused, there is little tangible sign of the Israeli campaign undermining support for Hezbollah.

Among those from the villages, where nearly every house flies a Hezbollah flag, nobody queries the movement's fateful decision to kidnap two Israeli soldiers, nobody blames it for the death and destruction it has provoked, and nobody even expects the organisation to look after them in the consequent chaos.

"The Government of Lebanon is not taking care of us properly," said Mr Mussalmani. "We have to look to our Palestinian brothers, who are refugees of Israeli aggression themselves, to help us out.

We do not ask Hezbollah for medicine or help. That is needed for their fighters, who are giving their blood for the nation. The whole of southern Lebanon are now ready to become martyrs."

The women standing around him in headscarfs shouted their agreement.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Photos that damn Hezbollah

Chris Link
July 30, 2006 12:00am

THIS is the picture that damns Hezbollah. It is one of several, smuggled from behind Lebanon's battle lines, showing that Hezbollah is waging war amid suburbia.

The images, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Herald Sun, show Hezbollah using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy-calibre weapons.

Dressed in civilian clothing so they can quickly disappear, the militants carrying automatic assault rifles and ride in on trucks mounted with cannon.

The photographs, from the Christian area of Wadi Chahrour in the east of Beirut, were taken by a visiting journalist and smuggled out by a friend.

They emerged as:

US President George Bush called for an international force to be sent to Lebanon.

ISRAEL called up another 30,000 reserve troops.

THE UN's humanitarian chief Jan Egeland called for a three-day truce to evacuate civilians and transport food and water into cut-off areas.

US SECRETARY of State Condoleezza Rice returned to the Middle East to push a UN resolution aimed at ending the 18-day war, and:

A PALESTINIAN militant group said it had kidnapped, killed and burned an Israeli settler in the West Bank.

The images include one of a group of men and youths preparing to fire an anti-aircraft gun metres from an apartment block with sheets hanging out on a balcony to dry.

Others show a militant with AK47 rifle guarding no-go zones after Israeli blitzes.

Another depicts the remnants of a Hezbollah Katyusha rocket in the middle of a residential block blown up in an Israeli air attack.

The Melbourne man who smuggled the shots out of Beirut and did not wish to be named said he was less than 400m from the block when it was obliterated.

"Hezbollah came in to launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets," he said.

"Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was totally devastated.

"It was carnage. Two innocent people died in that incident, but it was so lucky it was not more."

The release of the images comes as Hezbollah faces criticism for allegedly using innocent civilians as "human shields".

Mr Egeland blasted Hezbollah as "cowards" for operating among civilians.

"When I was in Lebanon, in the Hezbollah heartland, I said Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending in among women and children," he said.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Annan's Claims On Casualties May Unravel

BY BENNY AVNI - Staff Reporter of the Sun
July 27, 2006

UNITED NATIONS — An apparent discrepancy in the portrayal of events surrounding the deaths of four unarmed U.N. observers in Lebanon threatens to unravel Secretary-General Annan's initial accusation that Israel "deliberately" targeted the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.

A Canadian U.N. observer, one of four killed at a UNIFIL position near the southern Lebanese town of Khiyam on Tuesday, sent an e-mail to his former commander, a Canadian retired major-general, Lewis MacKenzie, in which he wrote that Hezbollah fighters were "all over" the U.N. position, Mr. MacKenzie said. Hezbollah troops, not the United Nations, were Israel's target, the deceased observer wrote.

A senior U.N. peacekeeping operation official who briefed the press yesterday, however, said that on the day the deaths occurred, the only "known Hezbollah activity was 5 kilometers away."The official's briefing was conditioned on anonymity, but the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Jane Holl Lute, supplied the Security Council with similar information at an earlier briefing yesterday.

"To our knowledge, unlike the vicinity of some of our other patrol bases, Hezbollah firing was not taking place within the immediate vicinity" of the base that was hit Tuesday.

Based on reporting by the U.N.'s peacekeeping chief, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Mr. Annan alleged in Rome Tuesday that the incident was an apparent "deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a U.N. Observer post in southern Lebanon." Although Mr. Annan began to backtrack yesterday, his spokeswoman, Marie Okabe, said he stood by the accusation.

Mr. MacKenzie, who after retiring from the Canadian military became a politician, had a very different interpretation. "I happen to know" the now-deceased Canadian U.N. observer, Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, Mr. MacKenzie told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in a radio interview yesterday.

"We've received e-mails from him a few days ago and he was describing the fact that he was taking fire within, in one case, three meters of his position ‘for tactical necessity — not being targeted,'" Mr. MacKenzie said he wrote.

In one such e-mail, obtained by The New York Sun, Hess-von Kruedener wrote about heavy IDF artillery and aerial bombardment "within 2 meters of our position." The Israeli shooting, he added, "has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity."

The correspondence between the trooper and former commander amounted to "veiled speech in the military," Mr. MacKenzie, who once commanded the U.N. troops in Bosnia, told the CBC. "What he was telling us was Hezbollah fighters were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them, and that's a favorite trick by people who don't have representation in the U.N. They use the U.N. as shields knowing that they cannot be punished for it."

A spokesman for the peacekeeping operation department, Nicholas Birnbach, told the Sun yesterday that when the U.N. official told reporters that there was no Hezbollah activity within three miles of the U.N. camp, she was referring only to the Monday incident and not to the time period of several days earlier described in the UNIFIL observer's e-mail.

Mr. Birnbach, however, declined to produce a UNIFIL report that would back up Ms. Lute's assertion that there was no Hezbollah activity in the immediate vicinity of the post, which was manned by three other observers beside Hess-von Kruedener.

Mr. Annan and the peacekeeping official yesterday said they now "accept" Prime Minister Olmert's conveyance of regret over the incident. They also said they accept Mr. Olmert's characterization of it as a "tragic mistake," the official said. Ms. Okabe, however, told the Sun yesterday that Mr. Annan would not retract his assertion that Israel deliberately targeted the post.

Mr. Annan and Ms. Lute yesterday welcomed Mr. Olmert's announcement that Israel would launch an investigation, which "we believe should be done jointly with the United Nations," Ms. Lute said.

France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, who holds the Security Council presidency, said yesterday he too would like to see a joint investigation, which he said would be beneficial to Israel, adding credibility to the results.

Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador, Daniel Carmon, told the Sun, however, that while the IDF would welcome "any U.N. input," it did not intend to launch a joint investigation. "We will conduct a thorough investigation and inform the U.N. of the results in detail," he said.

The council yesterday attempted to agree on a statement on the deaths of the U.N. observers, but the American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, objected to any condemnation of Israel. Mr. Bolton also warned against using the incident as a "backdoor way of getting a cease-fire or other larger political and military questions," he told reporters.

Mr. Annan has called for "immediate cessation of hostilities." During yesterday's council briefing on the UNIFIL incident, Ms. Lute said, "I reiterate" that call.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

6 Keys to Peace, By MICHAEL ELLIOTT

Time Magazine

Sunday, Jul. 23, 2006
6 Keys to Peace
It isn't rocket science, but the playbook for bringing stability to the Middle East requires American commitment, Israeli restraint, Arab flexibility--and a little luck in Iraq

With a few bland words -- "this Sunday I will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where I will meet with Prime Minister Olmert and his leadership and with President Abbas and his team"--U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week linked her office not just to one summer's crisis but also to the careers and reputations of those who preceded her in high office.

Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, James Baker, Madeleine Albright and others found themselves dragged into the business of trying to bring peace to the Middle East. Year after year, decade after decade, a region that is sacred to three religions and the home of sublime landscapes--yet drenched in blood and covered in the dust of bombed-out rubble--brings those who live in more comfortable neighborhoods back to its old quarrels. Canada, the saying goes, is a nation with too much geography and not enough history. The Levant is the world's un-Canada--a small sliver of land in which ancient grievances are played out again and again as if they held the key to understanding tomorrow.

Rice's trip this week marks an implicit recognition by the Bush Administration that there are some burdens that every U.S. presidency has to bear. It is not that Bush has ignored the Middle East; on the contrary, he is fighting a war there, and the commitment of the President to advance the cause of democracy in nations that have long been autocracies amounts to a policy of revolution. But in six years, Bush's team has studiously avoided the habits of the past: shuttle diplomacy, Camp David summits, special envoys. To Bush & Co., those things are naive, incremental, Clintonian. But whether he likes it or not, the President--and his Secretary of State--is deep in the Clinton woods now; the very least that well-wishers can do is point them toward pathways through the thickets.

In truth, Bush and Rice know those paths well. Everyone does. There is no mystery to the theory of peace in the Middle East; it's the practice that has proved so difficult. But it is worth setting out the keys to peace that--with time, patience and goodwill in an area where they are in chronically short supply--might one day allow people to concentrate on building a better life for their children rather than scurrying into bolt-holes and shelters. Here are six of them.


IT IS EASY TO SEE WHY ANY U.S. administration would want to stay out of Middle East peacemaking. Those who have tried have had little to show for their pains. Jimmy Carter's successful effort to broker a peace between Egypt and Israel at Camp David in 1978 did nothing for his political fortunes. In 1983, during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, 241 members of the U.S. armed forces died after the bombing of a military barracks in Beirut--killed by a suspected Hizballah faction. And Bill Clinton left office bitterly disappointed that all his intelligence and charm were insufficient to bring about a comprehensive settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

But Rice's trip is evidence that the U.S. is involved in the Middle East, whether it wants to be or not. That is not, for once, because it is the world's sole superpower, the policeman to which those in any tough neighborhood eventually turn. It is because the U.S. has a unique relationship with Israel and is committed to guaranteeing its security. That means Washington can talk to the Israelis and, occasionally, convince them that their best interests require them to talk to those whose motives and behavior they despise.

As the scale and ferocity of the fighting in Lebanon stunned the world, nations lined up to accuse Israel of a "disproportionate" response to Hizballah's raid two weeks ago, when it kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. But few initially were in doubt as to who started the fight, and it wasn't Israel. "I'm not any more fond of violence or the prospect of a major war than anyone else," says a French official involved in counterterrorism. "But how could Israel not respond to this provocation in a most forceful way?" Even the Saudis, never quick to grant Israel favors, disavowed Hizballah's actions in a remarkable statement that implied that Hizballah should "alone bear the full responsibility of these irresponsible acts and should alone shoulder the burden of ending the crisis they have created." King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt likewise condemned Hizballah for "adventurism that does not serve Arab interests."

There is little mystery about why Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan--all Arab states with predominantly Sunni Muslim populations--would distance themselves from Hizballah. The Lebanese organization is a Shi'ite fighting force, founded and bankrolled by Shi'ite--and non-Arab--Iran. As Tehran flexes its muscles in the region, pursuing technology that could enable it to build nuclear weapons and watching as Shi'ite forces gradually dominate Iraq, Arab powers have become worried. That gives the U.S. an opening. Administration officials say one purpose of Rice's trip is to create an "umbrella of Arab allies" opposed to Hizballah. "She's not going to come home with a cease-fire but with stronger ties to the Arab world," says a U.S. official. "What we want is our Arab allies standing against Hizballah and against Iran." It was, perhaps, the prospect of such an alliance that led Rice last week to say, "What we're seeing here, in a sense, is the birth pangs of a new Middle East."


LIKE ANY BIRTH, THIS ONE WON'T BE EASY. The leading Sunni Arab states, if they are to join the U.S in opposition to Hizballah and Iran, are likely to ask for something in return, and it is not hard to divine what it would be: a full-hearted U.S. commitment to revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

For the Arab states, it is axiomatic that a second key for curing the ills that have plagued the region is peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Settle that, many believe, and economic development will proceed apace, extremist groups will lose their reason for being, and public support for violence will evaporate. Even if some of those claims are far-fetchedwhat, precisely, has Israel done that would explain the woeful economic performance of the Arab world for a generation?they are deeply held and widely shared. "Terrorism," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the U.S. Congress in 2003, "will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Here it is that the poison is incubated."

There is little disagreement among states in the region or outside it about what an ideal peace between Israel and the Palestinians would involve. Since before World War II, most reasonable observers have known that sooner or later, two states--one with a Jewish majority, one with an Arab one--would share the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. That was the basis of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the last year of the Clinton Administration; it was acknowledged by the meeting of Arab states in Beirut in 2002, when they committed themselves to "normal relations" with Israel if it withdrew to its pre-1967 borders; it was the basis of the road map adopted by the U.S. and other powers in 2003; and it was accepted, finally, by Israel's old warrior Ariel Sharon, although he ultimately lost faith in negotiations and adopted a policy of unilateral "disengagement" from the Palestinians. As Sharon's heir and successor, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also knows that one day a Palestinian state will come. The belief is nearly universal. "We know we can't wind this up with guns and tanks," Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told TIME. "The final solution has to be done diplomatically."

But 2006 is not 2000, when negotiations at Camp David got mired in the devilish details of a deal--how Jerusalem would be governed, how much land Israel would retain on the West Bank, how Palestinian refugees should be handled. Since then, Israel has seen suicide bombers flock to its cities from the West Bank and watched rockets sail into its towns from Gaza and Lebanon, areas from which it had withdrawn all its soldiers--in the case of Lebanon, a full six years ago. Within that context, it isn't the details of a two-state solution that matter now; it is something much more elemental. Israel needs to know that in any deal with the Palestinians, its people will be safe.


FOR THAT REASON, THE THIRD KEY TO PEACE is to find a way to convince Israelis that they and their children can sleep easy at night. And here Israel finds itself in a dilemma. The Jewish state's superb armed forces never failed when asked to fight against massed armies in conventional wars. But Israel is not fighting a standard war now; with Hamas and Hizballah, it is battling against cells of well-trained militias energized by religious fervor. Armies surrender when their leaders tell them to; guerrillas just slip back to a safe house and wait to fight another day. Worse, today's irregular foes live in villages, hide in houses and are sheltered by civilians (or force civilians to shelter them).

All that means that Israel has to fight a war that inevitably results in terrible and visible damage to towns and cities--and costs innocent lives. In the court of world public opinion, that is a fight Israel ultimately can never win. Worse, precisely because the collateral damage of such a war is so immense--witness the areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into a wasteland of shattered masonry--Israel risks creating a new generation of Arabs that hates it with a passion. By trying to guarantee its security today, Israel may be merely threatening its security tomorrow.

In any two-state solution, Palestinians would control the West Bank. But the need to maintain Israeli security has compelled some observers to rethink how an Israeli withdrawal from the region should be handled. Dennis Ross, Middle East envoy for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton, criticizes the way Israel left Gaza last year. "The withdrawal," says Ross, "should not have taken place unless the Palestinians were going to create the security force to ensure security on their side, so that there weren't attacks out of Gaza into Israel." Given all that has happened, says Ross, Olmert will be able to pull out of the West Bank only if one of two conditions are met: "Either his withdrawal is geared only to [Israeli] settlers and not soldiers ... or the Palestinians are able to put together a credible security force."


BY LEAVING SOLDIERS IN THE WEST BANK after any withdrawal, Israel might hope to guarantee security on its eastern border. But the same tactic wouldn't work to the north; nobody is going to countenance Israel's occupying a swath of southern Lebanon again (as it did from 1982 to 2000) to deny Hizballah room from which to fire its rockets--least of all Israelis themselves, who are horrified by the idea of a re-occupation. That is why the fourth key to peace is to stabilize Lebanon. In part, that means propping up the fragile government of technocrats led by Fouad Siniora and pumping donors to help Lebanon rebuild itself (again)--which will be the focus of a high-level international meeting in Rome this week. But it also means ensuring that Hizballah can no longer use its strongholds in the south to threaten regional peace. That explains why Rice has been at pains to insist that her mission is not to restore the status quo ante but to change the game in Lebanon so that Hizballah is out of the picture. Rice and other top U.S. officials do not expect that Hizballah will be completely disarmed by Israel anytime soon; but they would not be sorry to see its power sufficiently undermined so that other nations can contribute to what Rice calls the "robust" force that will be needed to police the border when hostilities cease.

Getting those forces in place may be easier said than done. When Israeli officials are pressed on who, precisely, might man the border and face down the remnants of Hizballah, they throw out names--Turkey, Egypt, "the Europeans"--in a way that suggests the plan has not yet been thought through. Israeli officials take refuge in the hope that other nations will recognize that Iran, Hizballah's sponsor, is sufficiently dangerous to regional peace that defanging its proxy becomes something that every sensible party would want to do. "Iran," says Peres, "is trying to make a mockery of world institutions." That thought leads to the fifth key to peace--and perhaps the hardest of all to pin down.


THE ONE FACTOR THAT TRULY DISTINGUISHES this summer's crisis from earlier ones is the realization that Iran is a central player. Among Israelis, it is generally assumed that Hizballah had Iran's encouragement when it kidnapped the soldiers. And that view isn't held just in Jerusalem. "There isn't the slightest degree of ambiguity or doubt as to Iran's role in this," says a French foreign-affairs official. "How much coincidence could there be in Hizballah kidnapping the Israeli soldiers on the same date that ministers met in Paris to decide what measures to take on the Iranian nuclear issue? None, in our opinion." Avi Dichter, Israel's Internal Security Minister, calls on other countries to help Israel show that "Iran's strategy has failed in Lebanon" and claims that if Iran is not faced down, it will try to destabilize oil states in the Gulf.

Assuming Iran was indeed behind Hizballah's raid, what happens next? The U.S. and other powers are discussing how to rein in Iran's nuclear program, and it may be easier to jointly impose sanctions now that Iran is viewed as responsible for mayhem in Lebanon. But what then? Take a look at a map. Iran is an oil-rich nation that borders Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq, among others. It has a strategic position in Eurasia that cannot be wished away. European officials talk of a "constructive dialogue" with Tehran that involves recognizing it as an important regional power while maintaining the right to sanction it if it breaks the nuclear rules. But Israel--along with many supporters in the U.S.--thinks dialogue with a nation whose leader has said that Israel "must be wiped off the map" is a waste of breath. The U.S., meanwhile, has had few substantive talks with Iranian officials for the past 26 years--and it is anything but clear what levers Washington and its allies think they can pull if Iran really does seek a position of hegemony in the region. Yet even if Iran was to be contained or if it changed its tune, it is hardly certain that Hizballah would follow suit. There is even less reason to think Hamas would. Israel's Dichter claims that Iran made its first overtures to Hamas in 2001 and that Khaled Mashaal, the Syrian-based leader of Hamas, is a "frequent flyer between Damascus and Tehran." But Hamas is a Sunni organization rooted in Palestinian resistance. It doesn't need Iran's encouragement to fight Israel.


THERE IS, FINALLY, THE MATTER OF IRAQ. The original U.S. hopes for Iraq were not implausible: a successful democracy there would indeed help bring stability to the whole region. But the failure of the U.S. to impose order in Iraq after the invasion of 2003 has emboldened all those who believe that further spasms of violence will force Washington and its allies to give up their push for fundamental change. And there are worse possible outcomes. Iraq could become the launching pad for a full-on war between Sunni and Shi'ite, with Iran entering the fray on the Shi'ite side and the Arab states defending Iraq's Sunnis. In the bitter Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, more than a million people were killed or wounded--and any repeat of that carnage would take place in the context of a region where at least one power, Iran, is determined to develop nuclear weapons.

Seen in that light, there's little wonder that Rice is off on her travels. Her predecessors may have found their shuttles around the Middle East both vexing in their detail and disappointing in their outcome. But they knew that for the U.S. and the world, staying at home was more dangerous still. Rice and her boss, it seems, have got that message.
With reporting by With reporting by Mike Allen, Elaine Shannon, Mark Thompson / Washington, Lisa Beyer, Tim McGirk / Jerusalem, Bruce Crumley / Paris, Scott MacLeod / Cairo

Charles Krauthammer on Gaza

Time Magazine

Sunday, Jul. 2, 2006
Remember What Happened Here
Gaza is freed, yet Gaza wages war. That reveals the Palestinians' true agenda

Israel Invades Gaza. That is in response to an attack from Gaza that killed two Israelis and wounded another, who was kidnapped and brought back to Gaza ...which, in turn, was in response to Israel's targeted killing of terrorist leaders in Gaza...which, in turn, was in response to the indiscriminate shelling of Israeli towns by rockets launched from Gaza.

Of all the conflicts in the world, the one that seems the most tediously and hopelessly endless is the Arab-Israeli dispute, which has been going on in much the same way, it seems, for 60 years. Just about every story you'll see will characterize Israel's invasion of Gaza as a continuation of the cycle of violence.

Cycles are circular. They have no end. They have no beginning. That is why, as tempting as that figure of speech is to use, in this case it is false. It is as false as calling American attacks on Taliban remnants in Afghanistan part of a cycle of violence between the U.S. and al-Qaeda or, as Osama bin Laden would have it, between Islam and the Crusaders going back to 1099. Every party has its grievances--even Hitler had his list when he invaded Poland in 1939--but every conflict has its origin.

What is so remarkable about the current wave of violence in Gaza is that the event at the origin of the "cycle" is not at all historical, but very contemporary. The event is not buried in the mists of history. It occurred less than one year ago. Before the eyes of the whole world, Israel left Gaza. Every Jew, every soldier, every military installation, every remnant of Israeli occupation was uprooted and taken away.

How do the Palestinians respond? What have they done with Gaza, the first Palestinian territory in history to be independent, something neither the Ottomans nor the British nor the Egyptians nor the Jordanians, all of whom ruled Palestinians before the Israelis, ever permitted? On the very day of Israel's final pullout, the Palestinians began firing rockets out of Gaza into Israeli towns on the other side of the border. And remember: those are attacks not on settlers but on civilians in Israel proper, the pre-1967 Israel that the international community recognizes as legitimately part of sovereign Israel, a member state of the U.N. A thousand rockets have fallen since.

For what possible reason? Before the withdrawal, attacks across the border could have been rationalized with the usual Palestinian mantra of occupation, settlements and so on. But what can one say after the withdrawal?

The logic for those continued attacks is to be found in the so-called phase plan adopted in 1974 by the Palestine National Council in Cairo. Realizing that they would never be able to destroy Israel in one fell swoop, the Palestinians adopted a graduated plan to wipe out Is rael. First, accept any territory given to them in any part of historic Palestine. Then, use that sanctuary to wage war until Israel is destroyed.

So in 2005 the Palestinians are given Gaza, free of any Jews. Do they begin building the state they say they want, constructing schools and roads and hospitals? No. They launch rockets at civilians and dig a 300-yard tunnel under the border to attack Israeli soldiers and bring back a hostage.

And this time the terrorism is carried out not by some shadowy group that the Palestinian leader can disavow, however disingenuously. This is Hamas in action--the group that was recently elected to lead the Palestinians. At least there is now truth in advertising: a Palestinian government openly committed to terrorism and to the destruction of a member state of the U.N. openly uses terrorism to carry on its war.

That is no cycle. That is an arrow. That is action with a purpose. The action began 59 years ago when the U.N. voted to solve the Palestine conundrum then ruled by Britain by creating a Jewish state and a Palestinian state side by side. The Jews accepted the compromise; the Palestinians rejected it and joined five outside Arab countries in a war to destroy the Jewish state and take all the territory for themselves.

They failed, and Israel survived. That remains, in the Palestinian view, Israel's original sin, the foundational crime for the cycle: Israel's survival. That's the reason for the rockets, for the tunneling, for the kidnapping--and for Israel's current response.

If that history is too ancient, consider the history of the past 12 months. Gaza is free of occupation, yet Gaza wages war. Why? Because this war is not about occupation, but about Israel's very existence. The so-called cycle will continue until the arrow is abandoned and the Palestinians accept a compromise--or until the arrow finds its mark and Israel dies.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Israel Accused: 50 concise responses

Israel faces many accusations. Here are concise responses to 50 of them, in which provide the background and the context for Israel's policies.

Am Yisrael Chai

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dear Mr. President

Check out this song by Pink & the Indigo Girls: Dear Mr. President.

Monday, February 13, 2006

ADL's Upcoming Ad

Here is an ad that the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) will run in the February 13th edition of the International Herald Tribune.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

World's Smallest Political Quiz

Very eye opening!!

Take the quiz here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

hmmm... so you think we are free now??!!

We REALLY need to wake the rest of America up!

Unfathomed Dangers In Patriot Act Renewal

Homeland Security To Confiscate Bank Safe Deposit Box Contents

I honestly have not check much further into these, however I did hear the same 2 topics on Free Talk Live