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Posted on on August 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Thanks to Olympic lifting by US Secretary of State John Kerry, with perhaps some secret help from the EU, finally direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians were started in Jerusalem this past Wednesday. Right immediately, the day after, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appeared in the region to remind the two sides that the UN was also part of that now inactive Quartet were the fourth player is Russia – a clear structure built for inaction. Just think what the UN has achieved in all other miserable places in the Middle East – this like Syria, Lebanon, and now fast moving Egypt.

In Syria there is already a number for the dead well above 1.000,000 and in Egypt, without large efforts, that number can be surpassed. So, the UN Secretary General comes to the place that is these days the most peaceful in the region and marks territory.

It is just possible, that behind closed doors, the Israelis and the Palestinians of the West Bank under the Abbas leadership, may indeed be planning an agreement in order to avoid the ISLAMIZATION that is killing the region. It is in the best interest of the two sides to compromise behind closed doors and allow for a process of normalization and economic Sustainable Development in the spirit of the 21st Century to be presented later to the World at large. This clearly without the need of bickering sessions at the UN. No problem – when we reach that stage, the UN will be allowed to bless on the final agreed results. But the UN is no place to obtain any practical results.


Israeli Defense Minister to UN Sec. General: ‘The Only Stable Thing in the Middle East is the Lack of Stability’

August 16, 2013
Reports Zach Pontz

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon meets separately with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, August 15, 2013.

Then Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon met Friday August 16th in Jerusalem with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and warned him of the dire security situation in the region.

“The only stable thing in the Middle East is the lack of stability,” Ya’alon said.

He added that Lebanon based terror group Hezbollah was Iran’s main weapon against Israel, and warned Ban that the Israeli government has detected Hezbollah activity near Israel’s northern border, in violation of UN Resolution 1701.

“This organization is a state within a state. They get weapons from Iran and Syria,” he said.

“I think today everybody understands that the root cause of the instability in the Middle East and beyond has to do with the convulsion that is historic and cultural in nature of which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is merely one of many, many such manifestations,” said Netanyahu.

Ban thanked Netanyahu for his effort to restart peace talks, saying, “I’m here to urge all the leaders to continue along the path to peace and to underscore a shared commitment to walk together to make 2013 a decisive year for Israel-Palestinian peace and peace in the region.”

During his meeting with Ban, Peres also addressed the security situation in the region within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian Authority peace talks.

“Peace is a real need for both parties, none of us have an alternative. The overall situation in the Middle East is quite bleak and if we can achieve an agreement between us and the Palestinians it is good news in a region that needs good news,” he said.


In the meantime – as reported by Avi Issacharoff – the same day:

In Egypt – The military claims that armed Muslim Brotherhood supporters opened fire on the soldiers, killing close to 50 and injuring dozens more. Each side recruited the television channel that supports its agenda. The Muslim Brotherhood was backed by Qatar’s al-Jazeera, which broadcast pictures of corpses and injured protesters in an endless loop, while al-Arabiya, which is funded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which support the Egyptian military, screened a video of supposed Muslim Brotherhood activists wearing masks and firing at unseen targets.

As expected, the bloodshed was condemned by prominent figures in the Arab world and by various political parties in Egypt. Leaders such as Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh — former Egyptian presidential candidate, and a former Muslim Brotherhood activist in his more distant past — who strongly opposed Mohammed Morsi while he was president, criticized the army and their excessive use of violence. Representatives of the extremist al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya organization, the al-Wasat Party and countries such as Qatar, Turkey and Iran, condemned the Egyptian military as well. And to top it all, Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, who was one of the first to stand by the military when protests against Morsi began on June 30, submitted his resignation.

The war for Egypt’s future has returned to international headlines and the Muslim Brotherhood is now demanding that el-Sissi be removed from power in order to restore peace. It is highly unlikely, though, that this will happen any time soon. Right now, Egypt is headed towards the unknown.

The days of Mubarak’s trial-and-error policies and mixed messages are over.

The army has entered a new era of all-out war against Islamic forces in Sinai and against the tunnels connecting the peninsula to Gaza, while at the same time, it is exerting force against the Muslim Brotherhood inside Egypt. The problem is that there are limits to the force and violence that can be applied, as the situation in Syria underlines. The Syrian army has been unable to suppress the opposition against Bashar Assad even as the death toll exceeds 100,000. Unlike in Syria, though, large portions of the Egyptian population support the military’s harsh policies.

Even as violence continues throughout Egypt, the army continues its efforts to destroy Jihadist headquarters in Sinai. Egyptian armed forces attack from the air and the ground and have managed to hit dozens of targets in the last week alone. The problem is that the number of armed activists that identify with al-Qaeda’s ideology is estimated at 3,000. It will be a long time before the Egyptian army will be able to declare victory in Sinai.

In Lebanon – Any four-year-old kid in Lebanon, and certainly in the Shi’ite community, knows who was responsible for Thursday’s attack in Hezbollah’s Dahieh stronghold of Beirut that killed at least 18 people. You don’t need to be an intelligence operative or a Middle East analyst to recognize that extremist Sunni groups operating as part of the Syrian opposition made good on their promise to strike at Hezbollah and its supporters on their home turf.

This was a response to the dominant involvement of Hezbollah in the fighting against the rebels in Syria. On Thursday evening, the “Brigade of Aisha” even issued a statement of responsibility to make it crystal clear to Hezbollah why it carried out the car bombing.

Yet despite this, a whole host of Lebanese politicians, not all of them Sh’iites, rushed to charge that Israel was involved – allegations ridiculous and in Lebanon too are considered an insult to the intelligence — even when they come from President Michel Suleiman, who claimed that the blast bore the fingerprints of the Israelis, or from Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a Middle East’s great opportunists, who leveled similarly ridiculous charges.

These politicians, including Suleiman, are worried that an attack like this will prompt a particularly violent Hezbollah retaliation. In pointing the finger at Israel, they are trying to manufacture a common enemy for all Lebanese. Suleiman, who only days ago demanded the disarming of Hezbollah, understands that an attack like this in Dahieh could eventually lead to a complete takeover by the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon and a cleaning out of all pockets of opposition — be they Sunni extremists or rival politicians.

Like many in Lebanon, Suleiman recognizes that the Syrian civil war, which has intermittently seeped into Lebanon, escalated to a still more dangerous level for his country. It was notable that the internet site of Hezbollah’s TV station Al-Manar was quick to publicize comments by the organization’s number 2, Naim Kassam, who said that Israel is deterred from confrontation with Hezbollah “and checks itself before risking any aggression against us.” This was Hezbollah telling all those politicians, and its own people, that, no, Israel isn’t the problem right now.

So, again, the UN Secretary-General is in Israel to mark Territory, but what has he done to bring attention AND ACTION to the problems of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt – did he campaign in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to get them to stop pushing Islamic extremism?

Also, in Nairobi, Kenya, an airport fire took place on the anniversary of twin blasts at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people in 1998.

Kenya has also seen terror targeted at Israelis. In 2002, terrorists blew up an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, killing 13, and launched an unsuccessful attack on an Israeli plane departing from the airport there.

In May of this year, two Iranians were jailed for life for planning massive bombing attacks on Jewish, Israeli and Western targets in Kenya. Defense lawyers claimed that Israeli security official interrogated the two while in Kenyan custody. Kenya and Israeli security agencies have a long history of cooperation, dating back to the Entebbe hostage crisis in 1976.


Posted on on August 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Op-Ed Columnist at The New York Times writing from Tel Aviv

One-State Dream, One-State Nightmare.

Published: August 12, 2013

TEL AVIV — Let us deal, on the eve of the first direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in almost three years, with the idea of one state. It hovers out there — as dream and as nightmare — and is best laid to rest.

First the dream: That somehow after all the wars and accumulation of hatred, Israelis and Palestinians can learn overnight to live together as equal citizens in some United States of the Holy Land, a binational and democratic secular state that resolves their differences and assures their intertwined futures.

Oh, what a seductive illusion (at least to some). Let’s set aside for a moment that the regional examples of such multiethnic states — Lebanon, Iraq and Syria come to mind — are not encouraging. Let’s set aside that such a state would have a hard time every May deciding whether to mark a Day of Independence for its Jewish citizens or a Day of Catastrophe for its Arab citizens.

Let’s set aside whether the Jabotinsky Streets of the imaginary country dear to the one-state brigade would become Arafat Streets, or vice versa, and whether to have a Begin Avenue or a Grand Mufti al-Husseini Boulevard. Let’s even set aside the fact that the two principal communities would be in constant, paralyzing battle, causing the best and the brightest to go elsewhere in search of opportunity and sanity.

The central issue is this: One state, however conceived, equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state, the core of the Zionist idea. Jews will not, cannot and must not allow this to happen. They have learned how dangerous it is to live without a certain refuge, as minorities, and will not again place their faith in the good will of others, nor trust in touchy-feely hope over bitter experience.

That is the ineradicable legacy of diaspora persecution and of the Holocaust. Emerging in the 19th century from the static ghetto into the Sturm und Drang of the modern world, the Jews saw two principle routes to emancipation: assimilation and Zionism.

The former was seductive. At first it offered rapid advancement, before it became clear that in this very advancement lay danger. It was a wager on acceptance that the Jews of Europe lost to Hitler: No citizen was more patriotic than the prewar German Jew.

Zionism, by contrast, placed no faith in others’ good will. It sought, rather, to usher Jews to the full realization of their nationhood and so, in a sense, normalize them — make them patriotic about something that was their own.

The world, in the form of the United Nations, upheld this quest in 1947, voting for the division of Mandate Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Arab armies went to war — and the rest is history, including the now almost half-century-old occupation of the West Bank and Israeli dominion over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians.

And that brings us to one state as nightmare, which is what Israel, an extraordinary success story in many regards, faces today. The only way out of this nightmare is two states, one Israeli and one viable, contiguous Palestinian state living in peace and security beside it.

I sat with Yair Lapid, Israel’s centrist finance minister, son of a survivor of Nazi-occupied Hungary, grandson of a Hungarian Jew slaughtered in the camps, and he told me of his father’s repeated lesson: that he came to and fought for Israel so that Jews would “always have a place to go to.”

He said: “I have a lot of respect for the ethos of Greater Israel. I grew up in a house using this language. But we do understand that in the long term, if we stay there, that will be the end of the Zionist idea. We cannot live in one state. This will be a version of one state for two nations, and that this is the end of Zionism. Eventually the Palestinians will come to us and say, O.K., you decided we are not going to have a country at all, so we want to vote. If you say no, you are South Africa in its worst days. If you say yes, it is the end of the Jewish country, and I want to live in a Jewish country.”

Lapid argued that the all-the-land absolutists — Economics Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin among them — are, in their rejection of the two-state idea, undermining the idea of a Jewish state over time and so undercutting the core of Zionism and his own father’s life-shaping message. He is right.

Lapid later issued a statement criticizing Israel’s decision to publish construction bids Sunday for more than 1,000 housing units in contested East Jerusalem and several West Bank settlements. “To poke sticks in the wheels of peace talks is not right,” he said, “and not helpful to the process.” Right again.

One state as delusional fantasy of some Middle Eastern idyll and one state as nightmarish temptation involving the indefinite Israeli subjugation of another people are equally unacceptable.

As the Talmud says, hold too much and you will hold nothing.


Roger Cohen ought to have visited with Uri Avnery as well – to get it that some in Israel saw reality for a long time.

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But then we find a different point of view – the one we tend to define as wishful thinking

August 14, 2013
Is convergence the object of the peace process negotiations.

By Ted Belman of Israeli Right-wing Israpundit. That found the following:

“I attended a briefing today by an employee of the government who was very involved with everything going on in J&S {Judea and Samaria}. I will try to interview her on Skype and record it.”

She said many things of importance. This is what I can remember:

1. Israel wants the EU and US Aid to continue financing projects in Area C even if this means that the EU has a say in what, when and why of the projects. Thus we are relinquishing our independence or control for this money. The sad thing is that the money involved is a little over $1 billion dollars, just a third of what we get from the US. Better to forfeit the $1 billion and remain in control of J&S.

2. No one including Kerry has confidence in the peace process so why is Kerry pushing it. That’s because it is a cover for a hidden agenda which she would not disclose.

I believe the hidden agenda is to define what settlements will remain in Israel and what will be abandoned. If they can come to terms on this then Israel would be able to build as much as she wants in the blocs that are ceded to her and will refrain from building in the rest. The Palestinian’s would have succeeded in stopping Israel construction in most of Area C.
Israel would have solved the illegal settlement accusation and would be free to build excessively in what has been conceded to her. Of course this means that she will start incentivising the Israelis in the doomed settlements to start evacuating them. This could be done over a five year period as new homes become available for them to move into. Previous administrations called it “convergence”.

3. Both Israel and the US want Abbas and Fatah to remain in power to prevent Hamas from taking over. It may be that Israel agreed to the prisoner release as an aid to Abbas to enhance his appeal to ward off Hamas. Considering that Abbas agreed to enter negotiations and may have agreed to make an interim deal on housing construction he would need this release to cover his ass.

4. Israel supports the building of Rawabi and the new city near Jericho because it concentrates the Arabs and prevents small enclaves from being built. Thus the plan for the city near Jericho is to house the many Arabs living all throughout the Jordan Valley. This is what Israel is trying to do with the Bedouin sprawl in the Negev.

5. We are really talking about a three state solution, Gaza, Palestine and Israel. Very few expect a reconciliation between Gaza and Palestine. Thus they don’t have to be connected. Abbas keeps spending half his budget on paying former Fatah employees living in Gaza. This is to maintain his influence over Gaza but this is a futile exercise. It won’t go on for ever. Some say we are talking about a four state solution if we include Jordan. To this end, Jordan is involved in the talks.

6.The Palestinians have little interest in their environment, sewage treatment, air quality, town planning etc.

7 College grads in the West Bank (J&S) have an unemployment rate of 28%. They represent a destabilizing influence. Israel is trying to raise GDP believing that the better the economic well being, the less terrorism. Avi Bell took issue with this saying there was no study supporting it.

Currently Jewish births exceed 130,000 while Arab births in Israel and J&S are about 80,000. When we factor in Jewish immigration of 20,000 a year and Arab emigration of 20,000 per year, 150,000 Jews are added to our numbers as against only 60,000 Arabs. Looking real good.


Posted on on August 12th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Our View: ‘Historic’ MoU with Israel must be followed through with actions.

Cyprus Mail, Monday, 12th August, 2013

YESTERDAY’S signing of the memorandum of understanding on energy and water resources by Cyprus, Greece and Israel was hailed as ‘historic’ and in a sense it was. There has never before been such an agreement by the three countries and many view it as the start for greater co-operation and stronger relations.

Israel’s minister for energy and water resources, Silvan Shalom spoke this prospect on Wednesday. He said: “The fact that we are here shows that we do not only work well on (issues concerning) water, but it’s also about geopolitics, strategy and political issues among the three countries.”

President Anastasiades appeared on the same wavelength. In a speech at the opening of a fifth desalination plant, which Israeli companies had helped build, he said the common energy interests could become “the driving force for an enhanced partnership between our two countries.” He also invited Israel to commit to exporting its natural gas from Cyprus’ LNG facility, which is still at a very early planning stage.

While the good intentions exist, so far, most plans of co-operation exist in the realm of theory, nothing tangible having been decided, let alone agreed. The memorandum provides a framework for exploring the feasibility of joint projects – one envisages linking the three countries through an underwater electricity cable, a second would involve an underwater gas pipeline linking the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and the third relates to LNG storage facilities in Cyprus. But these projects might not even be viable – feasibility studies would have to be undertaken.

There is no shortage of ideas for co-operation. During Shalom’s visit there were also reports that the Israeli Electricity Company had proposed to supply Cyprus with cheaper electricity through an underwater cable. And when Cyprus started to produce cheap electricity, the flow could be reversed with Israel buying power from the island. Such an arrangement would make the agreement for the temporary supply of natural gas, that the government is currently negotiating, unnecessary.

While plenty of proposals are floating about, it was only a memorandum of understanding that was signed yesterday. There is a very long way to go before any of the plans take shape and are implemented. When this happens, we can talk about historic agreements, geopolitics and strategy, but at present such talk seems premature. What can be said was that yesterday’s signing of the memorandum was an important first step – a declaration of intent – but the words need to be followed by actions if the ‘historic agreement’ billing is to be justified.


We understand that Muslim held Northern Cyprus is interested as well to participate in these programs which would mean a step away from their total dependence on Turkey and perhaps a step towards normalization of relations between them and Greek Cyprus.


Posted on on August 9th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Israeli Professor to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom.

August 9, 2013…

Israel’s Professor Daniel Kahneman, 79, who received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, has been named one of the 16 recipients of the 2013 United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Thursday.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America’s highest civilian honor, recognizing individuals who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the U.S., world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

The awards will be presented at the White House later this year.

“Daniel Kahneman is a pioneering scholar of psychology. After escaping Nazi occupation [in France] in World War II, Dr. Kahneman immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces and trained as a psychologist. Alongside Amos Tversky, he applied cognitive psychology to economic analysis, laying the foundation for a new field of research and earning the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. He is currently a professor at Princeton University,” the White House’s statement said.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1934, Kahneman spent his childhood years in Paris. After his family escaped the Nazis, he immigrated to Israel in 1948. Kahneman is professor emeritus at Princeton University’s Department of Psychology and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as well as a fellow at Hebrew University and a Gallup Senior Scientist. He is considered one of the world’s foremost researchers in the fields of the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology.


Israel’s Split Personality.

Published as Op Ed at the New York Times: August 8, 2013

JERUSALEM — Israel has just embarked, yet again, on U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.

Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, gives it to me straight: “Netanyahu changed his mind. It was some kind of revolution. Ten years ago he was responsible for the decision of our party against a two-state solution.” He continues: “We have a big argument between him and us on this. I respect his position and he respects mine.” And what is Elkin’s position on two states for two peoples? “Now I don’t believe in it.”

Netanyahu is opposed by his own party. He is opposed by the man who is in effect his acting foreign minister. He is opposed by prominent members of his own government, including Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.

Israel has just agreed to release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill. Elkin says he cannot understand how “to release terrorists and murderers with blood on their hands is something good for peace” but “building a kindergarten in Judea and Samaria is worse for peace.”

The West Bank is referred to as Judea and Samaria by religious nationalists and others committed to holding all Eretz Israel.

The gesture of goodwill comes as Israel Hayom reports that “as of July 1, 2013, the size of the Jewish Israeli population in Judea and Samaria stood at 367,000. In the first half of 2013, roughly 7,700 new residents were added. This is, as noted, a 2.12 percent rise in the population in a six-month period.” So this year, it seems, population growth has been faster in the West Bank settlements than in the rest of Israel.

Do goodwill gestures and settlement expansion make sense? Often Israel’s personality seems split. Its prosperity purrs. Its unease lurks. I listen to friends here. Like Goethe’s Faust, two souls seem to beat within them.

Yakov would be my liberal Israeli composite, an imaginary guy who spends a lot of his week working on a big business project in Turkey (“Don’t believe what you read in the papers”) while developing the killer app that will make his fortune in his spare time. His internal dialogue swings wildly between confidence and disquiet: “Hey, we just sold Waze, a navigation app for smart phones that helps you beat traffic, for over $1 billion to Google and now AOL is paying $405 million for another fruit of Israeli genius — don’t ask me what that does, puh-lease. And, hey, check out the Tel Aviv skyline. See the cranes? This place is Boomland, man. The French are pouring in — they even love our wine!”

Then a darker voice surfaces: “Woke up in a cold sweat. We’re isolated! Same old story, Jews getting blamed for everything. I know we don’t need the European Union, but what’s with cutting off E.U. funding to institutions based or operating over the Green Line? Talk about preempting a negotiation, it’s not like we know where the border is yet…. And Stephen Hawking, canceling his appearance at the Israeli Presidential Conference, how rude is that…. I mean, the Arabs hate us, O.K. The Turks pretend to hate us, O.K. The Persians try their best to hate us, O.K. But we’re part of the West, of Europe, they can’t hate the Jews (again), that’s not O.K.”

Yakov’s mood swings are sharpest over the conflict. A voice says: “I am completely supportive of the peace process — so long as it does not get to a solution. A solution could be problematic. You have to hand it to Netanyahu, by starting the peace process he has made peace. With Obama! Do I accept the idea of two states? Yes I do. Do I want two states? That is a different question … ”

At which point an angry voice will be raised: “Of course you don’t want two states.
Look what happened when we withdrew from South Lebanon: Hezbollahland!
And when we withdrew from Gaza: Hamasland!
Is that what you want in Judea and Samaria?
You want rockets not just in the south but all over Israel blowing up our children?
Olmert offered everything and still they refused it. You want Jerusalem divided?”

Deep inside Yakov there is a white Ashkenazi Israeli liberal, that dying breed. He knows the Jews are not going away; nor are the Palestinians.
He believes the Jews did not leave the European ghetto to build walls. The Jews did not emerge from millennia of exile to impose exile on another people, did not escape dominion to inflict dominion.
He believes, still, in the possibility of peace through territorial compromise in the occupied West Bank.
“The status quo is unsustainable,” his voice of reason says.

Another rebukes him: “You prefer Syria? You prefer Egypt? Our ‘conflict’ is a haven of Middle East stability.”

Yakov checks his cool Waze app, product of Israeli genius. It shows heavy traffic ahead — bottlenecks, road works, bloody accidents.
He wants the quickest, most peaceful way home. But of course that requires the most elusive of things: agreement on what the Jewish homeland is.


And that brings us to our own position:

Yes, Israel is troubled but when viewing the neighborhood it is nevertheless an island of peace already.

The Arab desert that was sleepy since it was reorganized by the British and the French one hundred years ago, is in effect just waking up. Sure, there are elements in this Arab mass that look to the West as a model of civilization, but then there are masses in each Arab State that want to go back a thousand years instead. The Arab world at large has not evolved yet into the age of Enlightenment and not even Nationalism – instead the people believe that by turning back to true religion they will shake off the oppression of their own dictators – and to make this more generally palatable – hit first any foreigners. Foreign bodies are in their eyes even their own brothers who rather then waiting for the emergence of Islam have seen in Christianity their entree to the civilized world. Most affected being the Copts of Egypt – but then there were many very old Christian sects in Iraq and Syria as well. These communities are being decimated continuously by this wakening Islamic revolution. In Iraq the process is about to end – the country will be clean of any non-Muslims. In Syria it is just going on.

Syria is fractured many-ways and outsiders are pouring in to bolster their preferred sides. In a short time it will be like in Spain in the thirties – it will be the foreigners fighting each other on Syrian soil – and with the US and Russia backing different sides – if not careful – a major conflagration might occur – right there on the door steps of Israel. Who can dare to tell the Israelis to return the Golan Heights to Syria under such conditions. Do the Palestinians have a dream of becoming another Syria? If there is any chance for the Israelis and Palestinians to get together – this can come only when these two sides decide that the Syrian model is even worse and that a model of Israeli-Palestinian trust – in order to avoid the Syrian model requires the end of Hamas militancy – the closing of the door to the Outside Hezbollah movement and a true attempt at making peace based on aq psychology of the best economic joint interests. This is not just a dream – it is Nobel Prize material indeed. Syria is doomed by the Arab World at large and this ought to be the cause of the awakening of the Palestinians who finally ought to get it that their enemies are not just the Israeli invaders but as well the Arab despots that never cared about them but used them for their own methods of shunning internal criticism of the way they exploited their own States.


Posted on on August 9th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Uri Avnery
August 10, 2013

(A shorter version of this article was published yesterday in Haaretz.)

A Federation – Why Not?

AVRAHAM BURG (58) was a member of the Labor Party and for some time the Chairman of the Knesset. His late father was a long-time cabinet minister and a leader of the National-Religious Party, before it became a rabid messianic mob. The relations between Burg sr. and me were quite friendly, largely because we were the only two German-born members of the Knesset.

Burg jr., who still wears the kippah of an observant Jew, joined the Labor Party and was a member of the “eight doves”, a moderate grouping in the party.

Last week Haaretz published an article in which Burg proposed linking the “two-state solution” with a two-state federation. He used the metaphor of a building, the first floor of which would consist of human rights, the second floor would host the two states, Israel and Palestine, and the third the federation.

This brought a lot of memories to my mind.

IN THE spring of 1949, immediately after the signing of the original armistice agreements between the new State of Israel and the Arab countries which had intervened in the war, a group was formed in Israel to advocate the setting up of a Palestinian state next to Israel, and the signing of a covenant between the two nations.

At the time, that idea was considered heretical, since the very existence of a Palestinian people was strenuously denied in Israel.

The group consisted of a Muslim Arab, a Druze Arab and me. After some time, when our attempts to form a new party failed to get off the ground, the group dispersed. (Curiously enough, all three of us later became members of the Knesset.)

We were of one mind concerning a salient point: the borders between the two states must be open for the free movement of people and goods. We did not use the word “federation”, but something like that was on our minds.

After the 1956 Suez war, a new group took up the idea. It was founded by Nathan Yalin-Mor and me and attracted an impressive array of intellectuals, writers and artists. Yalin-Mor was the former leader of the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, branded by the British as the most extreme Jewish terrorist organization and known to them as the “Stern Gang”.

We called ourselves “Semitic Action” and published a document, “The Hebrew Manifesto”, which I still think was and has remained unique: a complete, detailed blueprint for a different State of Israel. It contained among many other things the plan for the establishment of an Arab-Palestinian state alongside Israel, and a federation between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, to be called “the Jordan Union”.

In the 1970s, Abba Eban floated the idea of a Benelux-type solution, a name derived from the federation-like arrangement between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. To my surprise, when I first met with Yasser Arafat during the siege of Beirut in 1982, he used the very same term: “A federation between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and perhaps Lebanon too – why not?” He repeated the same idea, in the same words, at our last meeting, just before his mysterious death.

In the course of time, I dropped the word “federation”. I had come to the conclusion that it frightened both sides too much. Israelis feared that it meant diminishing the sovereignty of Israel, while Palestinians suspected that it was another Zionist ruse to keep up the occupation by other means. But it seems clear that in a small land like historical Palestine, two states cannot live side by side for any length of time without a close relationship between them.

It must be remembered that the original UN partition plan included a kind of federation, without using the word explicitly. According to the plan, the Arab and the Jewish states were to remain united in an economic union.

THE WORLD is full of federations and confederations, and no two are alike. Each one is a unique structure, formed by local circumstances and history. All are based on a covenant – foedus in Latin, hence the term.

The terrible US civil war was fought out between a federation (the North) and a confederation (the South). The federation was conceived as a close union with a strong central government, the confederation as a loose cooperation between semi-independent states.

The list is long. Switzerland calls itself a confederation. Post-Soviet Russia is a federation. Germany is a “federal republic”, and so on.

A federation between Israel and Palestine, with or without Jordan, will have to find its own character, according to its unique circumstances.

But the main point is timing.

Since Burg likened his proposal to a building, it follows that it must be built floor after floor, from the bottom up. That’s how I see it too.

The first floor is the two-state solution. This must be implemented first of all. Any idea about what may come after is meaningless without it.

This means the foundation of the State of Palestine along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as a free, independent and sovereign nation-state of the Palestinian people.

As long as this basic idea is not implemented, and the solution of all the connected problems (“core issues”) agreed upon, nothing else has much meaning.

The occupation is a bleeding wound, and it has to be healed in the framework of peace before everything else. There can be no meaningful talk about federation between oppressor and oppressed. Federation presumes partners of equal status, if not of equal strength.

The two-state solution promises peace – at least the formal peace that puts an end to the hundred-year old conflict. Once this peace is achieved, one can – and should – think about the next stage, the deepening of the peace and turning it into a day-to-day reality that shapes people’s lives.

LET’S ASSUME that this round of negotiations, or some future round, will lead to a formal peace treaty, and an end to all mutual claims, as John Kerry puts it. It’s then that the idea of federation should be considered.

What do we have in mind? A close federation or a loose confederation? What functions are the two sides ready – of their own free will – to transfer from the national to the federal level?

Most probably, Israel will not give up its freedom of decision-making concerning its relations with the world-wide Jewish Diaspora and immigration. The same is true for Palestine’s relation to the Arab world and the return of refugees.

What about foreign relations in general? I believe that in all existing federations and confederations, the central authority is in charge of these. In our situation this constitutes a problem. Military and security matters are even more problematic.

As I see it, a federation will be mostly concerned with economic matters, matters of human rights, freedom of movement and such.

But the main point is this: the negotiations between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine concerning a federation must be free of pressure, conducted in good faith between equals.

WILL THIS be the end of the road to real peace? I like to think that these are only the first few steps.

If the two-state solution is the first floor, and the federation is the second, one may imagine that the third floor will be a regional union, on the lines of the present European Union.

With the current turmoil in our region, it is hard to imagine that the Arab Spring will lead to any kind of stability. But our memory is short. The EU was the direct offspring of the most terrible of all wars – World War II, with millions of Europeans among the casualties.

A regional organization (I used to call it a “Semitic Union”) that includes Israel and Palestine will be advantageous to all partners in a world where regional groupings are playing an ever expanding role.

But the crown of a new order will be some kind of world governance, which is sorely needed even now. I am fairly sure that it will come into being before this century is over. This is no more utopian than was the idea of a European union a hundred years ago, when a handful of far-sighted idealists first brought it up.

At this point in time, there are a host of problems that can no longer be solved on the national, or even regional, level. The saving of our planet from environmental catastrophe. The regulation of a globalized economy. The prevention of wars and civil wars. The safeguarding of human rights everywhere. The achievement of real equality for women. The protection of minorities. The ending of hunger and diseases. All these need a new world order.

Such an order will necessarily be similar to a worldwide federation. This need not mean the disappearance of nation-states. These will probably continue to exist, as they exist today within the European Union, but with diminished sovereignty.

Can such a world order be democratic? It must be. Some day, humankind will elect a world parliament, as Europeans today elect a European parliament which is steadily taking on new responsibilities.

THESE ARE dreams for the future, though it is worthwhile to think about them even now.

But for us, in this small country, the task for today is to achieve peace – the peace between two nations living in harmony in two sister-states.


Posted on on July 24th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

“It is an invitation to all nations, except the United States and, of course, the Zionist entity, which does not recognize Iran’s doing, to participate in the ceremony of the performance of the President being sworn in,” the foreign ministry spokesman said.

Iran announced an August 4 celebration for the swearing in ceremony of recently elected President Hassan Rouhani at the Iranian Parliament, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araghchi said on Tuesday at a weekly press conference, according to state news agency IRNA.

Araghchi said that many other countries welcomed their invitations and would be involved in the ceremony, and added that “the names of the delegations of the countries that will participate at the ceremony will be announced later. “

We expect that Assad of Syria might be coming and Nasrallah of Lebanon.


Posted on on July 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Toothless move? Experts doubt efficacy of Hezbollah blacklist.

July 23, 2013
By Kareem Shaheen
of The Daily Star of Beirut.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, talks with Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, and Malta’s Foreign Minister George Vella during the EU foreign ministers meeting, at the European Council building in Brussels, July 22, 2013 – as per an AP photo.

BEIRUT: The blacklisting of Hezbollah’s military wing is a message warning the party over its involvement in Syria and activities in Europe and would only have a limited effect, experts and analysts said Monday. Few saw a distinction between the group’s military and political wings, saying it would be prohibitively difficult to target military cadres and assets, and arguing that the party had few financial resources in Europe that could be subject to sanctions.

But they said the decision to blacklist the military wing would make it easier to carry out investigations in concert with European intelligence agencies into Hezbollah’s fundraising and militant activities.

“They distinguish between the military and political wing when in reality there isn’t much distinction,” said Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Programme in Chatham House.

“But it’s a way of creating constructive ambiguity to maintain engagement at the same time as sending a strong message.”

The EU maintains contact with Hezbollah on a variety of issues, including the activities of UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force on the border with Israel, and on joint projects between the EU and Lebanon.

Shehadi argued the distinction made it possible for the EU to continue talking to Hezbollah, likening the measure to the U.K.’s decision to distinguish between the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which fought a protracted insurgency against British rule, and its political wing, Sinn Fein, allowing negotiations to end the fighting.

“The introduction of a separation between the military wing and the political wing gives a way out,” he said.

Hezbollah itself does not distinguish between its two wings.

“This is long overdue,” said Matthew Levitt, a former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department. “Hezbollah has believed that it could mix militancy, terrorism, crime on the one hand, and politics and social welfare on the other.”

“They felt that by virtue of being involved in politics they got a free out-of-jail-card and they could blow up buses of civilians in Bulgaria and try to do so in Cyprus, partner with Iran in Syria, and much more,” said Levitt, who testified recently before the EU Parliament in support of blacklisting all of Hezbollah.

But a senior Arab diplomat in Beirut, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the issue, said this distinction meant the decision would have no impact on the ground.

“You cannot distinguish between the civil and military wing of the party,” he said. “How would you define that this person is a member of the military wing? And does the military wing have any exposed assets that you can restrict or freeze? It is very difficult to implement this decision.”

Levitt said the decision would have no impact on Hezbollah finances in Europe since there are few known assets belonging to the military wing there, but he said it would open up avenues for intelligence operations investigating the party and would send a clear deterrent message.

European countries have been reluctant to carry out “proactive” intelligence investigations into Hezbollah since it was not labeled a military organization, said Levitt, who is a senior fellow and director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He has also written a book on the party called “Hezbollah: The Global Footprints of Lebanon’s Party of God.”

Such investigations will now be carried out if a link can be established to potential Hezbollah militancy, he said: “It is very likely that Hezbollah will curtail the amount of its activities in Europe having to do with militancy or fundraising because they know that these investigations are going to be run.”

Further, he said, Hezbollah could no longer treat Europe as a “near abroad” where it could carry out such activities.

He said Hezbollah was already under enormous pressure due to its involvement in Syria and the accusations against four of its operatives by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Domestically, the Arab official said the decision was likely to worsen the political deadlock in Lebanon, increasing what he termed “Hezbollah’s siege mentality” and compelling it to hold onto its political positions.

The party is now unlikely, for instance, to allow the government formation to go ahead without it being represented in the Cabinet.

Experts differed on the impetus and timing behind the decision.

Shehadi said the decision was the result of the party’s implicated in the Burgas bombing last year targeting Israeli tourists, and was part of an ongoing process that began after the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s former military chief, was killed in Damascus in 2008, prompting the party to acknowledge his military role. He is accused of involvement in a number of attacks including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

The Arab diplomat said the timing of the decision was likely the result of a combination of pressure by the U.S. and Israel to compensate for a recent decision by the EU to boycott products made in West Bank settlements.

He said it appeared to be influenced by Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, rather any potential role for the party in the bombing in Burgas.

“I wouldn’t back something like this if there is no strong evidence that the party is involved in terrorist activity on European territory, and until now I can’t say there is enough evidence for an accusation,” he said.

The diplomat said that Hezbollah officials repeatedly said in meetings they had no assets or financial activity in Europe, so that any such freeze would have no impact on the party.

Legally, the decision will represent a greater challenge to the Lebanese government than to Hezbollah, said Chafic Masri, a professor of international law. He said the Lebanese government would have to help the EU distinguish between military and civilian cadres in the party.

Further, only the EU is legally empowered to add individuals to the list.

“It is challenging because now anyone who may be elected as a parliamentary member or selected as a minister will remain subject to the de facto approval of the EU,” Masri said. “This is not just confusing but embarrassing as well to the Lebanese government.”


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star of Berut on July 23, 2013, on page 3.

Read more:…
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::


Israel’s Foreign Ministry had some help from Hollywood in convincing at least one country to label Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization, according to Hebrew-language daily Maariv.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian by birth and the former governor of California, sent a letter to the country’s chancellor, Werner Faymann, to express his belief in the importance of an EU move to blacklist the Lebanese terror organization.

According to Maariv, Austria initially vehemently opposed the move, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Austria Chancellor Feymann and the country’s president Fischer, and with the help of Schwarzenegger was able to convince the Austrians to support the measure.

The decision to put Hezbollah’s military wing on the European Union terror list required the unanimous consent of the bloc’s 28 members and was passed unanimously.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry lobbied several EU holdouts, such as Ireland, in recent months to pass the measure.


Hezbollah and its involvement in Syria have already bankrupted politically Lebanon – this starting with the killing On February 14, 2005 with Syrian involvement of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. His son, Saad Hariri was Prime Minister 2009 – 2011 but for his personal security he prefers to stay in Saudi Arabia from where he manages his family wealth. The Hariris are Sunni Muslim billionaires and it would be dangerous for him to go back again to the Lebanese infighting.

This is described in the same issue of The Daily Star – at…

The United Nations special tribunal (see Special Tribunal for Lebanon) investigating the murder of Hariri is expected to issue draft indictments accusing Hezbollah of murdering Hariri.


The UPDATE is today’s meeting of the UN Security Council and Israel Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ron Prosor, presenting the Israeli case:

To watch the live webcast, please see:

Attached are Ambassador Prosor’s talking points from today’s speech as received from the Israeli Mission to the UN.

Today, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, spoke during the UN Security Council’s Open Debate on “The Situation in the Middle East.” Please find the full text of his remarks attached, as well as a photograph (photo credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine).

In his speech, Ambassador Prosor commends the EU for labeling Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization, but noted that the decision came after decades of allowing Hezbollah to operate freely on European soil. He said: “At long last, having realized how dangerous Hezbollah is and what it is capable of, the EU showed up late to the party to condemn the ‘Party of God.'”

He also said:

• Hezbollah “is as sophisticated as it is interconnected. Any attempt to distinguish between Hezbollah’s military wing and political wing, while politically convenient, is entirely impractical…Not even Harry Houdini could pull off the illusion that there is a difference between these two groups. Europe took a significant step in the right direction, but it must go one step further and demonstrate its unequivocal condemnation of terror.”

Ambassador Prosor also sharply criticized the EU for deciding to limit its funding for institutions in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the Golan. He said:

• “While the United States has been working to bring the parties back to the negotiation table, the EU prefers to table harmful and divisive measures. Just as a window of opportunity opened for the resumption of talks, the EU seemed intent on slamming it shut. Instead of setting a course towards peace, the EU is steering the Palestinians in the wrong direction.”

Finally, Ambassador Prosor discussed the Iranian elections. He said: “For those who thought that the so-called Arab Spring sweeping the Middle East would cause Jeffersonian democracies to sprout, take note. [Hassan] Rowhani may have been given a starring role in the charade of Iranian democracy – but the fundamentalist Ayatollah remains its choreographer, director, and executive producer.” He also said:

“Even with a new conductor, Iran’s nuclear weapons program continues to advance at the speed of an express train. In contrast, the international community’s efforts are moving at the pace of a local train, pausing at every stop for some nations to get off and some nations to get on…The sanctions are working, but they are not enough. You must increase pressure on Iran until it stops all enrichment, removes all enriched material, closes its illegal nuclear facility in Qom, and ends its support for terrorism.”


Statement delivered by UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant to UN Security Council Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East – 23 July 2013

Madam President,

I thank Robert Serry for his briefing and the Permanent Observer of Palestine and the Permanent Representative of Israel for their statements.

The government of the United Kingdom warmly welcomes Secretary Kerry’s 19 July announcement that Israel and the Palestinians have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations.

We pay tribute to the efforts of Secretary Kerry and his team, and commend the leadership shown by both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. The United Kingdom stands ready to do all that we can over the coming months to support the parties and the United States in their efforts to achieve a lasting peace for the Israeli and Palestinian people.

The European Union set out clearly its full support for US efforts at yesterday’s Foreign Affairs Council. There is also a vital role for Arab states to build on the constructive steps taken so far to reiterate the strategic importance of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Friday’s announcement is of course only a beginning, not an end. We welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas’ clear commitment to a two-state solution and to work to achieve peace for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Now more than ever, it is vital that both show bold and decisive leadership.

With this new momentum, the Israeli and Palestinian people must be able to trust that progress is possible. This would be undermined by a repeat of recent events such as further settlement announcements, the use of live fire in demonstrations by the Israeli Defence Forces and rockets from Gaza into Israel. We urge all sides to exercise restraint and look forward.

As talks resume, we should not forget Gaza. Gaza must be an integral part of any two-state solution. As our Minister for the Middle East saw last month, for ordinary Gazans the Strip remains a desperately difficult place to live. In the heat of summer, Gazans face very poor living conditions, including regular and sustained power cuts.

It will be important that Gaza benefits fully from any economic package which is being prepared to accompany the political track, including the easing of Israeli restrictions on movements of goods and people. The United Kingdom believes that an improved economy is not only essential for the people, including the children, of Gaza, but firmly in Israel’s security interests.

Current US efforts, and the strong commitment shown by the parties themselves, reflect the best chance for many years of securing peace. We must all unite to help reach our shared goal of a negotiated two-state solution where a safe and secure Israel can live in peace with an independent and viable Palestinian state.

Madam President, turning to Syria.

It was with great dismay that we heard Valerie Amos’ briefing before this Council last week. It is truly shocking that more than 6 million people require humanitarian assistance and that 4 million people are no longer able to meet their basic food needs yet the Assad regime continues to prevent the United Nations from delivering aid effectively inside Syria.

With the death toll now well over 100,000, the situation in Syria gets worse by the day. Since last July an average of nearly 200 people have been killed every 24 hours.

What started off as peaceful protests over two years ago has become a protracted conflict by a murderous regime, aided and abetted by Hizballah and Iran. The Assad regime has continued to ramp up its brutal military offensive over recent months, as witnessed today in Homs, where thousands of innocent civilians are currently trapped in their homes with limited access to food, water or electricity.

Madam President,

The countries of the region have already provided sanctuary to 1.7 million Syrians. More will come. We urge all neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for Syrians to escape the tragic and dangerous situation they are facing at home.

In response, the United Kingdom has doubled its support for humanitarian assistance, bringing the total to over half a billion dollars, including support for Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. G8 countries last month committed over $1.5 billion. Yet, the UN’s $5.2 billion Syria appeal for 2013 is only 35 per cent funded. The needs for aid in Syria will sadly only grow, and without help Lebanon and Jordan risk being destabilised. Member states need to contribute more, and encourage others to do more, now and in the long term.

Madam President,

The continuing deterioration of the human rights situation is also of grave concern. The Commission of Inquiry’s latest report found that the conflict had reached new levels of brutality. War crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue at a frightening rate. We remain at the forefront of the international community in calling for full accountability for all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses. This Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court without delay.

Madam President,

There is a growing body of limited but persuasive information showing that the regime has used and continues to use chemical weapons, including sarin. Use of chemical weapons is a war crime. We call on Syria to allow the UN unfettered access to investigate incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria.

On 17 June, the G8 re-affirmed support for a second conference in Geneva, leading to the creation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers. Yet the regime’s offensive of recent weeks has made it even harder for this conference to take place.

We continue to support the expanded National Coalition and its new president, Ahmed al-Jarba. The Coalition remains the most legitimate and credible representative of the Syrian people. They have made clear their commitment to a future democratic Syria in which the rights of all Syrians are respected. We must not conflate this moderate opposition with terrorist groups.

We must not accept what Assad wants us to believe – that the only alternative to his brutal regime is extremists and terrorists. There are millions of Syrians who want a peaceful and democratic future, and legitimate forces that are fighting for their interests. We should be on their side.

Madam President,

Despite our differences – this Council shares some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria fragmenting, to let the people decide who governs them and to prevent the growth of violent extremism. As a Council we need to recommit to working with the Parties in a meaningful way towards a viable political settlement, based on last year’s Geneva Communiqué.


Posted on on July 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks in Burgas, Bulgaria and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Press Statement to the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Eurasia lists of the US Department of State.
Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 18, 2013

The United States notes that July 18 marks the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, that claimed the lives of six innocent civilians and the 19 year anniversary of the attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85 innocent victims. We extend our condolences to the people of Bulgaria, Argentina, and Israel for the tragic loss of life and call for the perpetrators of these attacks to be brought to justice.


Posted on on May 20th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

The desalination revolution

How Israel beat the drought

This country was on the brink of water catastrophe, reduced to running relentless ad campaigns urging Israelis to conserve water even as it raised prices and cut supplies to agriculture. Now, remarkably, the crisis is over.

By February 26, 2013,
A Christian pilgrim submerged in the Jordan River during a ceremony at the baptismal site known as Qasr el-Yahud near Jericho. (Photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Until a couple of years ago, Israeli radio and TV regularly featured commercials warning that the country was “drying out.”

In one of the most powerful TV ad campaigns, celebrities including singer Ninet Tayeb, model Bar Refaeli and actor Moshe Ivgy highlighted the “years of drought” and the “falling level of the Kinneret.”

As they spoke plaintively to camera, their features started to crack and peel — like the country — for lack of moisture.

Ninet Tayeb in the no-longer-broadcast 'Israel is drying out' commercial (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

So compelling was this ad, so resonant its impact, I hadn’t actually realized it was no longer on the air. Alexander Kushnir put me straight. “We decided it simply wasn’t justified to alarm Israelis in this way any longer,” said Kushnir, who heads Israel’s Water Authority.

How so? Israelis don’t need to watch their water use any more? Isn’t this region one of the world’s most parched? Haven’t we been warned for years that the next Middle East war will be fought over water?

Kushnir’s answers: Yes, Israelis must still be wise with their water use. Yes, emphatically, this is a desert region, desperately short of natural water. And yes, we have indeed been worried for years about the possibility of water shortages provoking conflict.

But for Israel, for the foreseeable future, Kushnir says, the water crisis is over. And not because this happens to have been one of the wettest winters in years. Rather, he says, an insistent refusal to let the country be constrained by insufficient natural water sources — a refusal that dates back to David Ben-Gurion’s decision to build the National Water Carrier in the 1950s, the most significant infrastructure investment of Israel’s early years — led Israel first into large-scale water recycling, and over the past decade into major desalination projects. The result, as of early 2013, is that the Water Authority feels it can say with confidence that Israel has beaten the drought.

Alexander Kushnir, head of the Water Authority (photo credit: Courtesy)

Alexander Kushnir, head of the Water Authority      (photo credit: Courtesy)

Speaking to The Times of Israel from the authority’s offices in Tel Aviv, Kushnir identifies that refusal to “rely on fate” as the key to a genuine strategic achievement — a rare, highly positive change in an age and a region where most of Israel’s challenges appear to be worsening, not receding, much less disappearing.

“How did we beat the water shortage? Because we said we would. We decided we would,” says Kushnir, a big man with a warm smile and a robust Russian accent. “And once you’ve made that decision, you build the tools to reduce your dependence. We’re on the edge of the desert in an area where water has always been short. The quantity of natural water per capita in Israel is the lowest for the whole region. But we decided early on that we were developing a modern state. So we were required to supply water for agriculture, and water for industry, and then water for hi-tech, and water to sustain an appropriate quality of life.”

The National Water Carrier — which takes water from the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) south through the whole country to Beersheba and beyond — exemplified Israel’s ambition. Contemplated even before the modern state was founded, its planning and initial construction were “a dominant feature of the first Ben-Gurion government — an unprecedented investment,” Kushnir notes. “It stressed our desire to achieve a different reality.”

Carrying almost 2 million cubic meters a day nationwide, that supply line, together with water from underground aquifers, kept Israel watered through the 70s. By the 1980s, though “we had a bigger population, bigger needs and the natural resources were overstretched. So we experimented with a small desalination plant in Eilat. And we began recycling purified sewage, and bringing industry into purifying water.”

“Use any superlatives you like,” urges Kushnir, to describe the fact that, today, “over 80% of our purified sewage goes back into agricultural use. The next best in the OECD is Spain with 17-18%. It’s so justified energy-wise, and environmentally as well.”

But even these innovations weren’t enough to meet the needs of an ever-growing population through the 1990s and into the 2000s, the more so when the rains failed. Average rainfall in Israel is about 1.2 billion cubic meters. But in relatively dry years, it can sink to 900 million.

As the gulf between available water resources and needs widened, Israeli agriculture moved away from water-intensive crops and pioneered enormously improved efficiency, with trailblazing drip irrigation techniques. Israel also increased the use of brackish water in agriculture. And all that still wasn’t good enough. “We knew we had to be careful not to hurt our natural resources,” says Kushnir. “Ultimately, we had no choice but to reduce the supply of natural water to agriculture, and to increase prices, which hurt our agricultural sector.”

Plainly, this was no long-term solution. Elsewhere in the region, poorly managed countries were over-drilling, over-using, and risking major damage to natural sources. “In Syria, for instance, they drilled wells everywhere and destroyed aquifers,” he says. “They had irrational, erratic water management and a lack of government policy.” Even before two years of civil war began, Syrians turned on their taps and got nothing most days of the week.

‘We didn’t want to switch off the water to a population in Israel which has enough problems to deal with’

“By 2000 our balance was really strained,” says Kushnir. “We would have had to cut back drastically in agriculture or industry or home use and we weren’t prepared to do that. We didn’t want to switch off the water to a population in Israel which has enough problems to deal with.”

The solution was desalination, on a major scale — the third phase in a water revolution that had begun with the water carrier and continued with recycling. The first large desalination plant came on line in Ashkelon in 2005, followed by Palmahim and Hadera. By the end of this year, when the Soreq and Ashdod plants are working, there’ll be five plants — built privately at a cost of NIS 6-7 billion (about $2 billion).

Israel's desalination plant on the Mediterranean Sea at Ashkelon (Photo credit: Edi Israel /Flash90)

Israel uses 2 billion cubic meters of water per year — which is actually a little less than a decade ago, as efficiencies have been introduced in agriculture (which uses 700 million), and water-saving awareness has permeated. Of that two billion, half will be “artificially” manufactured by year’s end — 600 million cubic meters from those desalination plants, and 400 from purified sewage and brackish water.

“We’re not the world’s biggest desalinators,” notes Kushnir, “but no one has made the shift so fast to a situation where half of its water needs are filled from ‘artificial’ sources. And it means we are now ready for the next decade, without dramatic dependence on rainfall fluctuations.”

Kushnir regards this as a remarkable achievement — “a lesson for the rest of the world,” he says, “or at least those many parts of the world that are grappling with variants of the difficulties Israel has overcome.”

The panicked warnings are over. But that doesn’t mean Israelis should now wash their cars with sloshing abandon, shower for hours, or hose their lawns (if they’re lucky enough to have one) day and night

So the “Israel’s drying out” ads have gone off the air, and the panicked warnings are over. But that doesn’t mean Israelis should now wash their cars with sloshing abandon, shower for hours, or hose their lawns (if they’re lucky enough to have one) day and night.

“In our region, you always have to save water,” Kushnir stresses. “There has to be intelligent water use. But I’m not going to scream at people anymore.”

The campaigns were demonstrably effective; they reduced water use by at least 10 percent, Kushnir says. “In 2000, it was 100 cubic meters per person per year. Nowadays it’s 90. That saved us a desalination plant.”

But Israel can afford to relax, at least a little. “Our job is to ensure that when you turn on the tap, water comes out,” says Kushnir. “Well, we’ve done that. People have to continue to be smart. This isn’t London or Washington, DC. You have to use water as appropriate to our region. There has to be awareness that water is a precious resource, and we have to manufacture much of it, and that costs money. The manufacture also creates carbon dioxide and that affects the environment. So, I’m not trying to scare the public. You want water, here’s water. Use it. Use it as you want, but use it wisely.”

Where does Kushnir stand on global warming? Does he see it impacting annual rainfall? “There are dramatic changes in water fall,” he responds. “We need to be prepared for graver, longer droughts. If we see global warming having more of an effect, we’ll have to increase the desalination factor. If not, we’ll stay at the current fifty-fifty.

“Personally,” he goes on, “I’m a bit skeptical that global warming is a consequence of human activity. There is partial proof that human activity has exacerbated it. [But] it might be normal fluctuations. Remember,” he adds, “I’m supposed to be skeptical when I decide where to spend our billions.”

For all the announced success, should we be concerned that it might have come too late — that desalination should have been implemented earlier, reducing the heavy pumping from the Kinneret and the aquifers?

Shuli Chen, who works for the National Water Authority, stands in the Sea of Galilee to take a measurement of the water level, March 2007. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“Yes, we could have started desalination earlier. The damage to our natural resources would have been lighter,” Kushnir agrees. “We came very close to the black lines in the aquifers and the Kinneret which could have caused multi-year damage. Did we do harm? I hope not. But we’re moving away from the black lines now, even from the warning red lines. The immediate refilling and rehabilitation of the Sea of Galilee looks nice, but the aquifers are the key and we’re still 1 billion cubic meters to the optimal levels. Yet we’re legitimately optimistic.” (As of late February, the Sea of Galilee was at 210.24 meters below sea level, its highest level in seven years, which is a healthy 2.65 meters above the “lower red line” and 1.56 meters below the “upper red line” — the point at which the lake is considered full.)

At the same time as desalination has supplemented natural sources, he adds, Israel has also become more efficient in the collection of rainfall. “As we improve, our aquifers will refill. Our springs will fill up. Then we’ll really have done our bit.”

What about the rest of the immediate neighborhood, those who work with Israel, and those who are hostile to Israel?

Kushnir says Israel supplies an annual 100 million cubic meters in total to the Palestinian Authority (30 million) and to Jordan (70 million), in line with formal agreements. He says the PA has failed to develop all the infrastructure necessary to maximize available water, and would reach “reasonable, appropriate levels” if it did so. “They can take quite a lot from the eastern aquifer. There are natural sources they didn’t develop. It’s detailed in the interim agreements.” He also says that among Jewish settlers in the West Bank, water use is similar to that inside sovereign Israel.

Kushnir says he meets with the head of the PA’s water authority, Dr. Shaddad Attili. “We speak to them all the time and we tell them how we managed, including by purifying sewage.”

Attili, for his part, last October accused Israel of charging “extortionate” prices for the water it supplies, and the PA has claimed that Israel’s refusal to let it drill in various locations above aquifers, as well as disappointing results from the developments it has introduced, force it to continue to depend upon those Israeli supplies.

“Our water market is no longer subsidized by the state,” Kushnir responds, “not since 2007.”

As for Jordan, Kushnir says the two countries work together effectively. Ever since the Israel-Jordan border demarcation was adjusted under the 1994 peace accord, Jordan has allowed Israel to maintain its drilling facilities inside what became Jordanian territory in the south, “and we help them in the north.”

It was King Abdullah’s father Hussein who would warn about water shortages prompting the next Middle East war. As far as Kushnir is concerned, the Israeli-Jordanian working relationship where water is concerned assuages any such worry. “There is such good mutual respect and interest,” he says. “We help each other. [Relatively speaking,] they have water; their challenge is how to deliver it. There’s the Red-Dead project where we can argue about the specifics. They’re thinking of desalination in Aqaba. They have a plan for use of brackish water. They can solve their problems overall, and we’ll be happy to help.
The Israeli-Jordanian water agreement is an example of a deal where both sides benefit.”

A Palestinian man fills a tank with clean water to be trucked to families who don't have safe drinking water at their homes in Gaza City, in 2010 (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

Beyond Jordan, though, has the fear of drought-stoked conflict disappeared? Israel, Syria and Lebanon have long contested water rights, and intermittently accused each other of abuses. Gaza faces acute water shortages.

“We know that geostrategic changes in the region can endanger our water sources,” Kushnir allows. “We certainly can’t afford to give up our natural resources.”

Treading delicately, Kushnir notes that, despite the new successes, the Dead Sea, for instance, is “missing billions of cubic meters.” One day, he muses, “Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel could potentially redirect the waters of the Litani River,” in Lebanon, to begin to address that challenge. “Of course, he adds, with magnificent understatement, “we would have to be in a situation of constructive dialogue.”

For all that Israel’s new water health is legitimately hailed as a remarkable achievement, that utopian vision — of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel engaged in “constructive dialogue” — would seem beyond the foreseeable ambitions of even the most skilled and optimistic of rainmakers.


Posted on on May 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Stone Age


A few weeks ago a military judge, Major Amir Dahan, acquitted four Palestinians of the charge of “attempted murder by throwing stones at vehicles”. He stated that “throwing stones can, under some circumstances, have the character of a lethal offence, carrying the near certainty of a danger to human life – but under other circumstances it might be no more than a prank without the potential of serious damage, by a young person who had barely crossed into the age of criminal responsibility”.This verdict angered Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party, who said in the beginning of last week: “This is no way to render judgment in  Israel. It is about such things that we daily utter the prayer “O restore our judges, as of old”. We should not tolerate even one stone. We must not forgive even one stone . A stone kills”.Later this week, the head of the party joined Ariel. The well known Naftali Bennett, Minister of Economy, made a public call to change the rules of engagement so as to allow soldiers a much lighter trigger finger when facing Palestinians, since “travelling the roads of Judea and Samaria has turned into hell.”The press tycoon Shlomo Ben-Zvi, who a few months ago bought the failing “Ma’ariv” paper, also joined the fray. Already for several days the Ma’ariv headlines are mainly concerned with the stone age which had descended on the West Bank. Ma’ariv devotes pages upon pages to the cry of the settlers, stridently demanding that soldiers finally start shooting and killing  stone throwers. The paper’s reporters gathered the shocking testimonies of soldiers asserting that their hands are tied behind their backs by the military orders. “The best guys, the best fighters, salt of the earth”, reporter Chen Kutas- Bar called them.

Also columnist Adi Arbel of the Institute for Zionist Strategies added his own account of a terrible event he had witnessed. Last week, at noon of the  celebrated Jerusalem Day, several VIPs of the Israeli right wing camp went to the settler enclave at the heart of Silwan Village, to get there the Moskowitz Prize from the multi-millionaire Irving Moskowitz – the well known settler patron who for this occasion left for two days his flourishing gambling business in California. It happened that on their way to this event, the settlers and their friends went through the Palestinian neighborhood of A-Tur on Mount Olive, where a boy of about 18 threw a stone at their bus. And alas, laments the Zionist strategist, nothing happened to this boy , no policeman and no soldier thought of pulling a weapon and opening fire on him. Adi Arbel’s sad conclusion: even after 46 years, East Jerusalem is not under Israeli sovereignty. Well, with that I am not going to dispute.

And what about when settlers gather alongside the highway and throw stones at each passing Palestinian car? What happens when they aim a whole  barrage of stones at a school bus full of Palestinian girl pupils and wound some of them? Should that, too, be treated as a case where even one stone could not be tolerated or forgiven, because “a stone kills”? Is that also the kind of situation where the rules of engagement should be changed and soldiers’ fingers become more loose on the trigger? Or perhaps this is exactly the case where stone-throwing is indeed no more than a prank without the potential of serious damage? Well, it’s no use to pose too many questions to the honorable minister Uri Ariel and to the honorable minister Naftali Bennett and to Ma’ariv publisher Shlomo Ben-Zvi and his well-trained reporters.

By coincidence or not, it was just this week that a military court was hearing the case of a soldier who did not feel that his hands were tied and who had no  particular problem to tighten his finger on the trigger. On 12 January this year – just in the midst of the Israeli elections campaign in which hardly anyone mentioned the Palestinians – this soldier (whose name is not published) was stationed in South Hebron Hills at a point where Palestinians are habitually trying to cross into Israel and find work. Many of them do succeed in their attempt. Unfortunately for the 21-year old Uday Darwish of the town of Dura, this particular soldier did open fire and he was hit and died a few hours later in the hospital, his funeral attended by thousands.

This particular soldier did not assert that army regulations had bound his hands. “This is the first time I encountered a shooting event, it never happened to me before. I never before got to such a situation of standing in front of 30 people I don’t know. Earlier we had been on the border of Egypt where a lot of Sudanese were passing we were always warned that in any group of Sudanese who come to Israel there is the hazard that one would be wielding a stabbing knife or wearing an explosive belt or something like that. ” (As a matter of fact, among  tens of thousands of Sudanese who arrived in Israel until now there had never been any such case…)

The Prosecution wants to treat this case severely, and therefore impose a full  nine months’ imprisonment and also demote the soldier one notch, from Staff  Sergeant to an ordinary Sergeant. However, the soldier’s attorney, Yechiel Lamesh, asked the court to content itself with a term of three months, since “We should send a message to the fighters who risk their lives for us. We should understand and make it clear to them that to err is human and that an error, even a severe one, need not draw upon them the full severity of the law .” The defense attorney also asked that his client not be demoted, so as not to hurt the honor and dignity of this fighter of the Israel Defense Forces.

So, what the appropriate punishment for a soldier who shot and killed (not on purpose) a Palestinian worker who was going to sustain his family? Three months,  or nine months, or something in between? Will he be demoted by one notch, or would the court take care not to hurt his honor and dignity? The Court is to convene again at the end of the month and make clear if they take up the prosecution’s case or that of the defense.

But what about one who did not shoot and did not kill anyone and who in the first place refused to join the army of occupation and wear its uniform and swear allegiance to it? One who altogether refused to get himself into a situation where he would stand armed in front of thirty people whom he has never seen before and have their lives and deaths at the mercy of his finger on the trigger? What is the proper punishment for such a crime of refusal? Half a year? A year? Two years? That is not yet clear.

Half a year has already passed since Natan Blanc arrived at the IDF Recruitment Center on his call-up date, November 19, 2012, and provided the recruitment officer with a detailed and reasoned letter setting out the reasons  for his refusal to enlist. Half a year in which he is going in and out of Military Prison 6, in and out, in and out, in and out and in again.

The army chose not to bring him to a military court, whose proceedings are held in public and where the defendant can have a defense attorney and set out legal arguments and also express from the dock a conscientious and principled position. Instead, Natan Blanc is being repeatedly brought before a military officer who had been authorized to serve as a Judging Officer. A trial by a Judging Officer is a much simpler and easier affair – without the presence of any public, without lawyers and without witnesses and without any complicated legal procedures. Court is held in the normal office of the Judging Officer, with nobody present except the judge and the defendant, and usually lasts all of three to five minutes. In exceptional cases it can drag on up to ten minutes. Natan Blanc has already passed through very many such mini-trials, being sent to jail sometimes for two weeks, sometimes three weeks,  sometimes a month. Each time he gets out of jail and is given another order to enlist and returns again to the office of the Judging Officer. So far he already accumulated 150 days behind bars, which is definitely not the end.

Yesterday, Friday, May 17, 2013, Natan Blanc celebrated his twentieth birthday behind bars at Military Prison 6 in Atlit. The activists of the Yesh Gvul movement came in the afternoon to celebrate with him on the mountain opposite the prison, whose summit was seen from the prison yard by several generations of refusers since the first Lebanon War in 1982. “Let’s celebrate! Come with your friends, bring refreshments and party accessories, especially those which can be seen or heard from very far: balloons, ribbons, signs, noise makers, whistles etc. ” was written in the invitation.  On Tuesday there will be another demonstration, held in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, and the case of Blanc also gets increasing international attention.

Blanc told the military officers and judges that, once released from the army (and jail) he is going to do civilian service at the Magen David Adom medical rescue service. But when is that going to happen? The office of the IDF spokesman was not very forthcoming “A person liable for military service, whose application for exemption on grounds of conscience is denied, must perform a term of military service as set out in the Defense Service Act. One who refuses to do would be treated in accordance with the regular procedures.” Period.

It may very well that the soldier who killed Uday Darwish will be set free earlier.



Ministers blast violence at ultra-Orthodox rally

Deputy finance minister calls protesters’ actions at demonstration against draft law ‘shameful’ and a crossing of ‘all the red lines’ – 10 policemen injured by these draft-refuseniks from the ranks of those claiming the Jewish religion. Are their stones any different?

May 17, 2013,

.Israeli police officers confront ultra-Orthodox demonstrators during in front of the recruiting office in Jerusalem, May 16, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

Israeli police officers confront ultra-Orthodox demonstrators during in front of the recruiting office in Jerusalem, May 16, 2013
(photo credit: Flash90)



Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy on Friday slammed ultra-Orthodox demonstrators who took part in violence at a Jerusalem rally Thursday protesting the universal draft law, claiming that their behavior “crossed all the red lines.”

Levy posted on his Facebook page that the injuring of 10 policemen by the protesters was shameful and unacceptable. He further stressed that the government would continue to promote equality in the burden of army service, and would work against extremists who want to “preserve poverty and discrimination.”


Posted on on March 24th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Linda Pappagallo

Zakaria Café and Sustainable Lebanese Roots


Zakaria cafe beirut lebanon

At the heart of Beirut, Zakaria counters corporate cafe culture with art and heritage

As larger coffee and restaurant chains take over the streets of Beirut and other Lebanese cities, smaller, local cafes are abandoning their businesses as they are faced with too much competition. Walking away from the scene is not only a coffee shop or a local eatery but also a tradition, a culture, art and in some cases sustainability.

Zakaria café is the dream of Layal Boustany, her father, George Boustany, sister, Yara Boustany, and boyfriend, Jawad Taher. Opened in March 2013, they are in the process of creating a relatively novice idea in Lebanon by pushing the “green aspect” at the center of their café culture.

Zakaria café tries to counter this “corporate café culture” in Lebanon by creating a place where all ages, nationalities, and backgrounds feel at home; a place where artists, activists, environmentalists and musicians can meet and share their ideas and art.

“We created Zakaria in the hope that many more small, local cafes will open as well.

We want Beirut to be for the people and to keep the Lebanese culture alive.

Zakaria will merge environmental awareness and sustainability, art, literature, music, poetry, story-telling and debates,”
says Layal Boustany.

zakaria cafe lebanon beirut

Aside from recycling and locally sourcing their produce, Zakaria will also host environmental workshops to get the Lebanese civil society and local NGOs involved as much as possible.

To get involved visit facebook     or call: 009613097372;

Location: Hamra, Estral Center

Images of Zakaria cafe from Layal Boustany


Posted on on March 20th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) – –   is the place for International discussions among representatives of civil society, governments, and organizations on nuclear disarmament & proliferation. This is a main reason for why there is still some value to the UN despite the fact that the UN in incapable of reaching decisions, it is a place like this, outside the perimeter of the UN, but nevertheless a center that was inspired and came into its existence because of the UN, that the bulky and unwieldy UN itself gets its lease for life.

Interesting to note that VCDNP is located in the Andromeda Tower which is just outside the perimeter of the UN Center in Vienna – clearly as a way to allow for the participation of those that UN Member States might want to keep out and thus on a different level – also a further example to how one could improve the performance of deliberations on topics of real interest to the UN organization – just do it outside the reach of forbidding rules or habits.

We post today on VCDNP having planned and hosted a seminar by H.E. Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), titled “The Chemical Weapons Convention: Making Disarmament Happen.” The event was held in the conference room of the VCDNP on Tuesday, 19 March 2013,  1:15-2:30 pm.

The background of the seminar is the very timely – newspapers front page issue, of the chemical weapons of the Syrian arsenal and the danger that they might be used by the Syrian government or by the opponents fighting the government. In the past fifteen years, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have developed a robust verification and monitoring mechanism for chemical disarmament and non-proliferation. With almost 80 percent of the world’s global stocks of chemical weapons eliminated, the questions in focus are – what are the key issues on the agenda of the OPCW today? What are future objectives and activities? How to preserve the Convention and its core mission of the effective prohibition of chemical weapons? These and other issues were addressed by OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü.
The audience, and active participants, came from those involved in issues of nuclear weapons but clearly interested in all aspects of Weapons of Mass Destruction – even if not included under the terms of their own organization. The only limitation mentioned in the announcement was: “Due
to high interest in the event and limited seating, we advise you to register early. We will close registration once maximum capacity is reached.”


Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

OPCW logo

Member states of the OPCW (green); non-Member States (red).
Formation 29 April 1997
Headquarters The Hague, Netherlands
Membership 188 member states
All states party to the Chemical Weapons Convention CWC are automatically members.
8 states are non-members: Angola, Burma, Egypt, Israel, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.
Official languages English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic
Director General Ahmet Üzümcü[1]
Official organs Conference of the States Parties
Executive Council
Technical Secretariat
Budget €74 million [2]
Staff approximately 500[2]

Angola, Burma/Myanmar, and South Sudan have started the process to destroy their Chemical Weapons stockpiles. This leaves only 5 remaining States without intention to join – a main concern now being Syria.

The OPCW works on the basis of countries declaring voluntarily their stockpiles and subscribing to a regime of destroying them. The organization’s present director was Turkey’s representative in Geneva and at NATO. He is only the third director and started his term July 25, 2010, following Rogelio Pfirter of Argentina who served for two terms starting July 25, 2002.

The first director was Jose Bustani – a Beazilian diplomat. His first term started May 13, 1997, but then fell into US disfavor.

The second term of the first Director-general, Jose Bustani, cut  on grounds of financial mismanagement.[17] There is much controversy surrounding the reasons behind Bustani’s removal. Bustani had been negotiating with the Iraqi regime, and was hoping to persuade them to sign up to the OPCW, thus granting OPCW inspectors full access to Iraq’s purported chemical weapons arsenal. If Bustani had succeeded, this would have placed a formidable obstacle in the path of the Bush administration’s war plans, by removing their ostensible motive. Bustani’s supporters insist this was the reason why the US forced him out. The Bush administration claimed that Bustani’s position was no longer tenable, stating three main reasons: “polarizing and confrontational conduct”, “mismanagement issues” and “advocacy of inappropriate roles for the OPCW”. Bustani’s supporters also claim that the U.S. ambassador issued threats against OPCW members in order to coerce them to support the U.S. initiative against Bustani, including the withdrawal of U.S. support for the organization. It has been said that Bustani was bullied out from the OPCW by John Bolton — something that appears consistent with what was said about Bolton’s practices during the U.S. Senate hearings prior to his appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This decision was highly controversial and deemed improper by the International Labour Organization.[18]   Following this he was Ambassador of Brazil to the United Kingdom between 2003 and 2008 and is currently Ambassador of Brazil to France.

The Hague was chosen as the location for the seat of the organization after a successful lobby of the Dutch government, competing against Vienna and Geneva.[12] The organization has its headquarters next to the World Forum Convention Center (where it holds its yearly Conference of States Parties) and storage/laboratory facilities in Rijswijk (on the premises of TNO). The headquarters were officially opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 20 May 1998[13] and consist of an eight-story building built in a semi-circle. There is a memorial to the victims of chemical warfare.

Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü is a Turkish career diplomat who is the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Üzümcü was consul at the Consulate General in Aleppo, Syria and ambassador in Israel. This besides his appointments to Geneva and NATO.
He seems well positioned in this present problem with Syria. The problem is nevertheless that the Convention allows only for sort of an evaluation capability, but there is no effective management of the weapons’ destruction process. When I spoke with him here in Vienna, he told me that just three of the Convention member countries, Albania, India , and Korea (South) have completely eliminated their stockpiles. Now, the newly joining three States will try to do the same. In effect it is just the US and Russia that have very substantially reduced their declared Chemical Weapons arsenals.
Destroying those supplies is difficult and a very expensive undertaking. Facilities exist in Russia and the US and even the metal part s of the weapons have to be burned and there is a problem how to get rid in an environmental acceptable way even of this part of the weapon. The US is building now to sites – in Kentucky and in Colorado – the latter to be put in use in 2015. The Russians will have 4 facilities in 2015. Looking at problematic States – Libya is another one. They have repaired now equipment that can destroy mustard gas and it is expected the stock-piles will be destroyed under OPCW supervision. Syria has no facilities, no means, and at present probably no interest in destroying these weapons. Ambassador  Üzümcü  is looking into beefing up his capability to do an investigation if called upon in Syria – but he cannot send experts into a conflict zone – first a permissible environment has to be created if the inspectors are to be sent out.
What is worse – the Convention did not foresee terrorism as a danger from Chemical Weapons – it is intended to work with consigning States. As such for instance, Japan sends its weapons to China for decommissioning and destruction. States find Chemical Weapons ineffective today – but this is not the way terrorists think.
Also, Qatar (near Doha) and Kenya (near Nairobi) have proposed to establish destruction centers for CW material. The effort is to use the verification know-how and apply it in the context of a verification regime. In effect some 50 countries can handle this through their Chemical industries. A conference is planned for April 8, 2013 to discuss the findings of a report released three years ago. This in order to provide a further report on how to proceed.
Further, Chemicals is one thing – weaponization is something else – the development of delivery systems. Then Chemicals could be considered by some if it is just tear gas. All this makes it more difficult to read the news because much of it could be in the eye of the beholder and here com in the technical personnel of the convention’s verifiers – clearly very important when judging what is known about Syria.


CNN to textbreakingnews  –
Mar 19, 2013.

There is a “high probability” that Syria used chemical weapons against opposition forces, though verification is needed, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday.

 The claims come amid pressure in the West to arm the rebels, long overmatched by the Syrian military and its allies.

 The embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday accused rebels of a deadly chemical weapon missile attack on the town of Khan al-Asal in Aleppo province. The opposition has accused al-Assad’s forces of using such weapons.

 The civil war — which began two years ago after a government crackdown on Syrian protesters — has left around 70,000 people dead, the United Nations says, and uprooted more than 1 million people.

UN chief says chemical weapon use would be ‘outrageous’ March 19, 2013
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “remains convinced that the use of chemical weapons by any party (in Syria) under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime,” the UN said Tuesday.

The comment came after Syria’s government and opposing rebels on Tuesday each accused each other of using chemical weapons for the first time in two years of unrest in Syria.

Ban and Ahmet Uzumcu, Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, “shared deep concern about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria,” the UN said, in a statement following their conversation.

The two men pledged to “maintain close contact as developments unfold.”

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said that the UN was “aware of the report” that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, but said “we are not in a position to confirm it.”

Key Bashar al-Assad ally Moscow said it had “information” from Damascus that rebels had used chemical weapons, while Washington said there was “no evidence” the insurgents had staged their first chemical attack and warned it would be “totally unacceptable” for the regime to use such arms.



Remarks by Deputy Ambassador Philip Parham Deputy Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, on Allegations of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria:

Thank you very much.  Good evening everyone. As Ambassador Araud has said we have raised in the Security Council this afternoon the very worrying reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  And I emphasise reports plural. As Ambassador Araud said, the National Coalition issued a statement today saying that there had been two cases of chemical weapons being used in Syria yesterday, one in the Damascus area and one in the Aleppo area. The Syrian Government has also issued statements about the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Aleppo area and have attributed that to the opposition. The opposition have attributed both the cases they cited to the Government.

Clearly, if chemical weapons have been used, this will be abhorrent. It will be very grave. It will warrant a serious response by the international community. And it will force us to revisit the approach that we have been taking so far. But the facts are not clear at the moment and this is the whole point, and the point that we raised in the Security Council. The facts need to be clarified. But I think on that point it is worth just remembering how many distortions and falsehoods we have seen from the Syrian regime over the last two years. Also remembering that it is the Syrian regime which has stockpiles of chemical weapons and materials in Syria and who are responsible under Security Council resolutions to ensure those are not proliferated. And it is also worth remembering too that we have seen many, many cases, all too many cases of the Syrian regime using heavy weaponry against its own people in an entirely disproportionate and unjustified way.

So what we have is reports and allegations. They are very serious and they need to be investigated. And what we said to our colleagues on the Security Council this afternoon was that we would be asking the Secretary-General to conduct such an investigation, swift, thorough and impartial, of any reports of use of chemicals weapons.

The request which the Syrian Government has apparently made to the Secretary-General is a request about only one alleged instance and the way that they have framed the request prejudges the outcome of the investigation by alleging that it’s the opposition that is responsible for that case of use of chemical weapons. What we want is an impartial, thorough and swift investigation which will come to the truth as far as that is possible. That is what we asked for. I would say also that we found among our colleagues on the Security Council that the vast majority of them supported this and I think will support the request that we put to the Secretary-General.


Q: Have you had any information earlier that the opposition in Syria seized some stockpiles, some chemical stockpiles.  Have you had any of this kind of information? If the allegations were to be proven right or true, have you heard anything about that before? That the opposition seized some stockpiles, chemical stockpiles?

A: No


Q: Ambassador Parham could you tell us what the next step is?  Are you planning to send a letter to the Secretary General signed just by those members of the Council who support a wider investigation of not just the Aleppo incident or are you going to try and see if all the Council members will sign on which from what Ambassador Churkin said doesn’t really sound like a possibility?

A: I think from what you’ve heard that’s pretty clear that Ambassador Churkin is not going to sign the letter and as we have also said speed is of the essence here so it will be a case of a number of a number of us, as many as possible, writing to the Secretary General.


A Syrian Army soldier, wounded in what was said to be a chemical attack, being helped in an area of Aleppo Province. Neither side presented clear documentation.

Syria and Activists Trade Charges on Chemical Weapons

Syria and Activists Trade Charges on Chemical Weapons

George Ourfalian/Reuters

A Syrian Army soldier, wounded in what was said to be a chemical attack, being helped in an area of Aleppo Province. Neither side presented clear documentation.


Related –  Syrian Rebels Pick U.S. Citizen to Lead Interim Government (March 19, 2013)

Published: March 19, 2013


The Syrian government said rebels fired chemical weapons in Aleppo; activists accused the government of the same attack. Neither account was confirmed.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian government and Syrian rebels traded accusations about a lethal attack in the northern province of Aleppo on Tuesday, in which each side in the country’s two-year-old conflict said the other had used chemical weapons.

But neither side presented clear documentation, and two American officials said there was no evidence to suggest that any chemical weapons had been used. A Defense Department official said the claim should be treated with caution, if not outright skepticism.

The first report came from the Syrian state news agency, SANA, which reported that terrorists, its term for armed rebels, had fired a rocket “containing chemical materials” into the Khan al-Assal area of Aleppo Province, killing 16 people and wounding 86. It later raised the death toll to 25.

The news agency displayed photographs of what it said were the victims, but there was no indication in the photographs that they had suffered a chemical attack, like burns or skin discoloration or quarantine measures.

A senior rebel commander and spokesman, Qassem Saadeddine, later accused the government of using chemical weapons in the attack, citing reports of breathing difficulties and bluish skin among victims, but admitted that the reports were secondhand and that he could not provide documentation.

Another rebel commander, Abdul Jabbar al-Okaidi, head of the rebel military council in Aleppo, said in a telephone interview that he had witnessed the attack, describing it as an errant strike on a government-controlled neighborhood by Syrian warplanes flying at high altitude. He said the explosions from the attack emitted what he described as a gas that appeared to cause suffocation, and that some victims had been treated in a rebel field hospital.

The commander ridiculed government assertions that the rebels had chemical weapons. “We don’t even have ammunition for our Kalashnikovs,” he said.

Each side in Syria’s conflict has an incentive to accuse the other of using chemical weapons. President Obama has said that a chemical attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s government would cross a “red line” that could prompt military intervention by the United States.

The Syrian government seeks to portray its opponents as extremists who are a threat to regional stability. Israel has said it would intervene to prevent chemical weapons from falling into the hands of either the rebels or Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group allied with the Syrian government. Use or seizure of chemical weapons by rebel forces would embarrass the United States, particularly now, as President Obama has declared he will not oppose allied efforts to provide them with military aid.

Rebel factions have accused the government of using chemical weapons many times, with no confirmed cases. The term “chemical weapons” has sometimes appeared to be used loosely to include not just deadly nerve agents like sarin gas but also tear gas and other nonlethal irritants used for crowd control.

The Foreign Ministry of Russia, Mr. Assad’s most powerful international backer, indicated that it was taking the government’s claim seriously, calling the supposed use of chemical weapons by the opposition an “extremely dangerous development” and a new reason to refocus energy on finding a political solution to the conflict.

A Syrian official told state television that the Aleppo attack would be reported to human rights organizations and to countries that support the rebels.

A Reuters photographer was quoted in a report by the news agency as saying that he had visited victims in Aleppo hospitals and that they had breathing problems.

“I saw mostly women and children,” said the photographer, who Reuters said it could not identify out of concern for his safety. “They said that people were suffocating in the streets and the air smelled strongly of chlorine.”

Rebels have long tried, without success, to overrun a weapons plant near Safira, in Aleppo Province, where chemical weapons are believed to be stored. The Syrian government said in December that rebels had plundered supplies of chlorine gas, but the government’s stores are believed by American officials to consist of other types of chemical weapons.

An Obama administration official said the White House had “no information suggesting opposition groups have chemical weapons capability.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad group based in Britain that has a network of contacts in Syria, said that 16 government soldiers and 10 civilians had been killed after a rocket landed on Khan al-Assal. Activists said that the government had tried to hit the police academy there, which had recently been taken by rebel forces, with a Scud missile, but that it accidentally fell on a government-controlled area instead.

In Washington, the White House cast doubt on claims that the opposition had used chemical weapons and said it was evaluating the possibility that the government had used them.

“We’re looking carefully at allegations of C. W. use, chemical weapons use,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. He said the administration was “deeply skeptical” of the assertions by President Assad’s government that the opposition had mounted a chemical attack.

At the State Department, a spokeswoman also dismissed the Syrian government’s claim as an effort to distract from its use of long-range Scud missiles against civilians. The spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said the United States was looking into rebel claims that the government had used chemical weapons and tried to blame its opponents.

Another American official said that officials do not believe a chemical attack took place, but that they are “nervous” about what the Syrian government may be thinking. The officials spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of talking about chemical weapons intelligence.

At the United Nations, diplomats reacted to the unverified reports with caution, although they did not totally discount the possibility. Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the British ambassador, told reporters that “clearly if chemical weapons were used then that would be abhorrent and it would require a serious response from the international community.”

Reporting was contributed by Isabel Kershner from Ramallah, West Bank; Peter Baker, Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt from Washington; Hwaida Saad from Beirut; and Rick Gladstone from New York.


Posted on on March 6th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


by Irith Jawetz, reporting from the UN Headquarters in New York.

On March 5, 2013 the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN has hosted a special event and first of its kind in the UN General Assembly hall – a concert by the world-renowned Israeli-Iranian singer Rita Yahan-Farouz. The performance was titled “Tunes for Peace” .

Among the attendees were Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, ambassadors, celebrities, and Jewish and Iranian community leaders.

The stage, which usually serves as a podium for the top diplomats conducting world affairs was transformed into a full fledged “Music Hall” with music instruments, amplifiers, lights and two big screen TVs.

H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was the first to speak and he started his speech by greeting everybody with the Hebrew word “Shalom”. He said there is no room like this one and it serves to seek peace among nations, preserve Human rights, but sometimes also for concerts. He praised Rita for her desire to reach many cultures through her music, connect people and he hopes this concert will inspire people to strive for peace, justice and Human rights. He thanked the Government of Israel and especially Ambassador Rom Prosor for enabling this important event.

The next speaker was H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, President of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly. He also thanked Ambassador Prosor and mentioned his personal special friendship with the Ambassador. He announced that he will be going to Israel soon and will be visiting Yad Vashem, since a few members of his family, who saved Jews during the Holocaust will be honored as righteous among Nations. This announcement brought a huge applause from the audience. He  mentioned that music has a very important tool for connecting people and nations since biblical times. Music is a universal language and he shares Rita’s hopes that it will bring cooperation between nations.

H.E. Ambassador Ron Proser, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, thanked Secretary General and Mrs. Ban for hosting this important event and said that although Mr, Ban is sometimes soft spoken his voice is being heard around the Globe.
He continued by saying that the events in this hall are not always harmonious, but today Rita will make sure her music will bring everybody together, and he was proud to be her “opening act.”  In conclusion he said that there are usually many rules in this Hall, but not tonight. The audience may get up and sing along and shake the room. His speech brought the audience to their feet.

After the speeches the General Assembly Hall transformed completely and the concert began. Rita came on stage and the audience welcomed her with huge applause. She has a terrific personality and projected it throughout the whole evening.
Rita and her nine-piece band performed her popular hits in both Hebrew and Persian from Rita’s latest album, “My Joys.”

She sang one song in English which was called “Time for Peace.”

The album, which has received widespread international acclaim, interweaves the Iranian melodies of Rita’s childhood with the rich tapestry of contemporary Israeli music. She introduced herself by saying that she was born in Tehran and emigrated with her parents at the age of eight. She credited her mother for her remarkable singing career by telling us that her mother used to sing the whole day long, even while cooking or doing chores around the house.

Rita mentioned that she hopes that her UN concert, “Tunes for Peace,” will build bridges, foster inter-cultural dialogue, and connect people to people – the very foundations upon which the United Nations was established.

The concert lasted about an hour and brought the hall to its feet.  The audience definitely following Ambassador Proser’s closing words in his speech  “Let’s Rock the Hall”.

Let us all hope that politicians will follow Rita’s example!


Some of our older postings on RITA in NEW YORK:

SustainabiliTank: UPDATED: RITA – the Iranian-Israeli cultural…/rita-the-iranian-israeli-cultural-tre…

Feb 22, 2013 – Matthew writes: Israel Plans UN Concert by Iranian-Born Singer Rita, the Viva Vox choir, invited to perform a concert at the UN by General

SustainabiliTank: RITA from Israel, last Sunday night at the Town…/rita-from-israel-last-sunday-night…

Nov 14, 2012 – RITA from Israel, last Sunday night at the Town Hall in New York City, Such as In 2006, Rita put on a show called One (in English) which ran


Posted on on February 21st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2013,  6:30 – 7:45 PM

New York University Downtown – Woolworth Building, Room 430
15 Barclay Street (bet. Broadway and Church Street)
New York, NY

Contact Information: Email –


Alon Ben-Meir, professor of international relations, journalist, and author, hosts leaders from around the world in conversations that probe critical global issues and explore the policies designed to address them.

H.R.H Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United Nations

PRINCE ZEID: A PHOTO TRIBUTE from MaximsNewsNetwork by Dr. Max Stamper. PHOTO:  Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations, addressing the 111th plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the question of equitable representation on an increase in the membership of the Security Council at UN Headquarters. 11 July 2005. United Nations, New York. UN Photo: Rick Bajornas

Prince Zeid is now Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a post he held previously from 2000-2007 then was away 2007-2010.

In 2006 Prince Zeid, at 42, was the youngest candidate to run for the position of United Nations Secretary-General, to replace Kofi Annan.

The selection of the S-G normally rotates from one world region to another, and in that year it was Asia’s turn to head the world body, with Jordan being classified as an Asian country by U.N.’s definition, even though it is on the far western edge of the region.

Despite Jordan’s size and location within Asia, the Prince was one of the most highly respected and well-liked candidates in the International Community and his candidacy gave the opportunity to have a Muslim leader as the world’s top diplomat.  However large East- and South-Asian countries prevailed and the selection went to Ban Ki-moon.

From 2007-2010 he was Jordan’s Ambassador to the United States of America; then in 2010 he returned to the UN.

Currently, Prince Zeid is Jordan’s “Sherpa” on Nuclear Security. From September 16, 2010 to March 7, 2012, he was the Chairman of the Country-Specific Configuration (of the UN Peacebuilding Commission) for Liberia.

From 2002-2005, he was the first President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He was also Chairman of the Working Group on the Crime of Aggression at the Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala.

While at the UN he chaired the Consultative Committee for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) from 2004-2007 and, from 2004-2006, he was the Advisor to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Personnel.

In 1989, he received his commission as an officer in the Jordanian desert police (the successor to the Arab Legion) and saw service with them until 1994.

Prince Zeid holds a B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University (Christ’s College) and has served as an officer in the Jordanian military.

Prince Zeid is a member of the Advisory Committee to the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation.

He was also a member of the World Bank’s Advisory Council for the World Development Report 2011.

His publications include: ‘A Nightmare Avoided: Jordan and Suez 1956’ in Israel Affairs (Winter 1994), and ‘Religious Militancy in the Arab Middle East: Threats and Responses 1979-1988’ in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs (Spring 1989).


Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein was born 26 January 1964 in Amman, Jordan to Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid head of the Royal Houses of Iraq and Syria and pretender to the Iraqi throne and his Swedish-born wife Margaretha Inga Elisabeth Lind, henceforward known as Majda Raad.

The father, Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid was born 18 February 1936 in Berlin where his father, Prince Zeid (the grandfather) was Iraqi ambassador at the time.

Thus grand-father and -mother were  Prince Zeid bin Hussein, of the Hashemite House, and Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid (Fakhr un-nisa), a Turkish noblewoman. Upon the death of his father on October 18, 1970, he inherited the position as head of the Royal Houses of Iraq and Syria. Ra’ad has lived in London and Paris. The Kingdom of Jordan has confirmed his style as His Royal Highness and Prince.

Raad’s paternal first cousin once removed was Faisal II, the last king of Iraq, who was killed in a bloody coup d’etat on 14 July 1958 (Crown Prince Abd-al-Illah was also killed). Following the regicide, Prince Zeid, Raad’s father, took the representation of Iraqi monarchy as the next heir, and was recognized as the Head of the Royal House of Iraq by his remaining agnatic co-heirs of Jordan. They continued to live in London, where the family resided during the coup, as Zeid was the Iraqi ambassador there.


The current Ambassador to the UN, Zeid the son of Ra’ad the son of Zeid the son of Hussein Kink of Heijaz, speaks a perfect British English and seems to be steeped in Western thinking.

He feels that troubles in the Middle East could be eased by turning to non-partisan thinkers or scientists, insulated from political elements, who could present ideas to find ways for solutions. Given the depth of feelings, specially when it comes to Jerusalem, there is no other way out – he said.

Now the situation seems to cry for above approach even more then ever. Now we have more construction by Israelis and the threat of a reaction by the Palestinians going to the International Criminal Court – the ICC. If these issues are moved to the courts this is the end of the search for a two-States solution, he said. There was an Arab peace plan, then there was the 2002 blow up in Netanya – and that was it. Israel stated to seek security in a garrison State surrounded by walls. A garrison democracy that does not talk to anyone while there seems a lack of trust in authority on the Arab side. Can the President’s trip to the region on March 20th help now – by starting something? A vehicle that the Arab side could see as acceptable to some issue? He added – a vehicle for “all of us” not just the Palestinians.

Professor Ben-Meir added that the Jewish Community in the US was “holier then though” and has sympathy for the settlements – I do not think that these people understand the hole Israel is digging for itself – he said. Diplomacy cannot solve this. Time has come for the sides to wake up.

The Ambassador thinks that someone could come and declare what every factor should do – this to avoid the going to ICC. Here Ben-Meir reminded that the danger from Iran shows that time is not on the side of the Israelis nor the Palestinians. There will be serious consequences if we do not solve the problems now. A problem he said is that there is so much mediocrity in public officials today. We cannot name ten people we trust, maybe even not five – he said.

Here I had a chance to ask something I was contemplating for a while – the difference between a de facto acceptance of a situation and grudgingly try to do some moves to peace, or rather a recognition de-jure of a situation, and then try to adjust. What if the Arab States that rejected 65 years ago the right of Israel to exist as an independent unit within an Arab world. would declare that they do now recognize this right and accept it?

Above, without being a declaration of Peace, so it does not indeed give up anything of real value, nevertheless removes the psychological obstacle that in 1948 led the Israelis to believe that nothing they would do for peace will help, when considering the absolute negation of their rights to existence as declared by the Arab side.

The Ambassador answered that something big should be contemplated, if not exactly what I suggested, but nevertheless something that can jump-start a new way of seeing the situation – so he thanks for the idea.

Start with a dramatic step he said. Also,  from his own experience as a negotiating intermediary – he would always summarize the common points and write them up as a starting point for next day’s negotiations – this in order to move by incremental steps to show progress.


I had then further chance to talk with the Ambassador and ended the evening happy that I was in the academic environment of the NYU, considering that actually I had first intended to go this evening to the event at the Asia Society that I posted about earlier in the day. I did not get in there as the public relations office at the Asia Society gives no hoot about people that like to ask questions on the record. The meeting there was seemingly sold out to their regular membership with little access to the press. That meeting had also a good panel and was about Iran, but I doubt that it was as free and forthcoming as our event here.

It seems that with outside help some generic peace plan could be forged for the Middle East.


Posted on on February 20th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

photo by Teri Pengilley
Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdul Azizat in her London home in Acton, a suburb of West London as she looks when visiting Saudi Arabia.

Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (Al Saud meaning The House of Saud) is an in-house critic of the élite that runs Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was created in a struggle that stretched from 1902 when Al Saud conquered Riyadh – till 1932 when they finally replaced the Hashemites that have been installed with British help. The importance of the Kingdom grew immensely  when President Roosevelt was told by Texas oilmen that Saudi oil is needed for the American post-war economy, and in 1945, on his way back from Yalta, Roosevelt met King Ibn Saud on the cruiser Quincy, in the Great Bitter Lake part of the Suez Canal,  to seal an oil for security agreement.

The oil country is an absolute monarchy, and the land is viewed as the property of the the House of Saud.

The oil state boasts now a 15,000-strong royal family, but it is rare for a voice from within its ranks to become part of the growing clamor for reform in the desert kingdom.

As the youngest daughter of the country’s second king, Saud the son of Abdul Aziz, and thus only a member of the third generation to the Kingdom since it was established, and niece to its current ruler Abdullah, she is from the highest echelons of the Saudi monarchy. Just as her privileged status gives her considerable authority in the debate about change, so this carefully dissenting royal has much to lose if her actions incur the displeasure of Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative regime.

But then Basma Bint Saud is no ordinary Saudi princess. A 48-year-old divorcee and a successful businesswoman, owning among other enterprises a restaurant in Jeddah and five additional lines of restaurants in progress, she has spent the last five years in the country building as well a career as a journalist and a blogger, confronting head on sensitive subjects from the abuse of women and poverty in the world’s second biggest oil exporter, to the chilling effect of the mutawa, the kingdom’s draconian religious police. Her website is

Her success at shining light on problems in Saudi society (a Facebook fan page has 25,000 followers), led her to conducting her campaign not from her birthplace in the capital, Riyadh, or her previous home in Jeddah, but from a recently-acquired house in the west London suburb of Acton which she shares with three of her five children.

The princess underlines that she was not forced to leave Saudi Arabia and goes out of her way to emphasise that her criticisms do not relate to her octogenarian uncle, King Abdullah, or the other senior members of the monarchy. Instead, the focus of her anger are governors, administrators, and plutocrats, who run the country day to day.

Amnesty International, January 2012, accused the Saudi authorities of conducting a campaign of repression against protesters and reformists following the revolutions that swept the Arab world, during which Riyadh sent troops into neighbouring Bahrain, so calls for greater political freedom from Shi’ites were stamped out. The impression of increased authoritarianism was not allayed by detention in October of three young Saudi film makers who posted on the internet a documentary about poverty in Riyadh.

Princess Basma insists she is no “rebel,” nor an advocate of regime change. She says – “The problems are because of the ruling ministers. We have ministers who are incapable of doing what has been ordered from above – because there is no follow up – because there are no consequences.
If you are poor man and you steal, your hand is cut off after three offenses. But if you are a rich man, nobody will say anything to you.”

“We have 15,000 royals, she said, and around 13,000 don’t enjoy the wealth. You have 2,000 who are multi-millionaires, who have all the power, all the wealth and no-one can even utter a word against it because they are afraid to lose what they have.”

Speaking fluently with a neutral English accent picked up as a teenager in the UK – Basma admits she is the product of a not only a privileged upbringing, but on top of this an atypical one, for a Saudi princess.

She is the 115th – and last – child of King Saud, the eldest surviving son of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch Abdul Aziz.

King Saud was overthrown in 1964 by his brother, Faisal, and left for exile in Europe. Basma’s mother, a Syrian-born woman who was chosen for her future husband when she visited Mecca on the haj at the age of 10, took her children to the Middle East’s then most cosmopolitan city, the Lebanese capital of Beirut, where the young princess was schooled by French nuns among Christians, Jews and Muslims who did not adhere to the austere Wahhabi branch of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia.

When Lebanon’s civil war broke out in 1975, the family fled for Britain, where she attended a Hertfordshire girls’ school, and an international college in Oxford, before spending two years studying in Switzerland. It was a very different existence from the closeted upbringing normally led by young Saudi royal girls.

She explained how, at the age of 17, she joined one of the first visits to post-Mao China by foreign students, describing vividly how her group were taken to a farm and treated to a delicacy in the form of the brains of a live monkey chained and slaughtered at the table. She said: “Some girls screamed and fainted. Others were sick. I went to the car and refused to go back into the building. China was like visiting the moon.”

Equally alien was the land of her birth when she returned in early 1980s. Upon entering the royal court (“I was very careful, very nervous to behave correctly”), she found a cut-off society which, paradoxically, was more relaxed than present-day Saudi Arabia.

She said: “If China was like the moon, then arriving in Saudi Arabia was Mars. At least you can see the moon from Earth. It was a completely secluded society, but I wouldn’t say backward – not as backward as it is now. It was much more open and tolerant. You wouldn’t hear people saying ‘go to prayer’, ‘go and do this and that’.

“This is the atmosphere you have now. It is such a non-tolerant atmosphere, even of other sects. Any other sect that doesn’t actually belong to our community is thought to be – I’m not going to be sharp but very specific – not the true Islam.”

It is an intolerance which she claims pervades Saudi society, fromented by the mutawa, otherwise known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices, ironically founded by her father to act as a check on traders charging inflated prices.

“Our religious police has the most dangerous effect on society, she said – the segregation of genders, putting the wrong ideas in the heads of men and women, producing psychological diseases that never existed in our country before, like fanatacism. The mutawa are everywhere, trying to lead society to a very virtuous life that doesn’t exist. Everthing is now behind closed doors.”

Amid regular accounts of executions  – Amnesty International last week described as “truly appalling” the death penalty carried out on a Saudi woman for “sorcery and witchcraft – Basma makes the point that human rights abuses happen to both genders but fall disproportionately on women.

As a result, she is slightly bewildered by the focus on the continuing prohibition on Saudi women, who cannot go to university or take a job without a male guardian’s permission, to being allowed to drive.

“Why don’t we actually fight for a woman’s right even to complain about being beaten up. That is more important than driving.
If a woman is beaten, they are told to go back to their homes – their fathers, husbands, brothers – to be beaten up again and locked up in the house.
No law, no police will protect them.

“We are overlooking essential rights of a human being – the right to mix between the sexes, to talk and study freely… We have got human rights but they are paralyzed. They are completely abstract, for the media and the western world.”

The princess, who divorced from her Saudi husband six years ago and went into business setting up a series of restaurant chains in Jeddah, which she wants to expand into Britain, has not been afraid to air such views in Saudi Arabia, writing in newspapers and websites on issues from the mutawa, to women’s prisons and clothing.

She eschews what she describes as the expected “sleep by day, live at night” leisured life of Saudi princesses and rather preoccupies herself with setting up a charity to fight poverty in the Arab world by offering a Fair Trade-type deal to artisans which will include access to education and health care.

But in a country where doctrine and adherence to orthodoxy can be everything, Princess Basma is aware of the hostility generated by a woman speaking out. She has studied Islam in depth, becoming a scholar of the faith’s great texts to give her the authority to challenge the teachings of Saudi imams. Armed with the evidence of scripture, she has rebuked the authorities in writing on issues from driving to the doctrinal basis for the requirement that women cover up in public.

But the eruption of democracy movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria has brought an abrupt end to her reporting from Saudi Arabia. This summer, officials began to suggest she “edit” her work. She said: “The first time they took out some sentences. The second time, paragraphs. The last time, they told me to change the whole article or the editor who published it would go to prison. I didn’t want to send anyone to prison on my behalf.”

Even though she insists her work was carried out until recently with the blessing of King Abdullah, here is a princess treading a narrow line.

Following the death in October of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz, the 86-year-old heir to the throne, Saudi Arabia is still ruled by the ageing and conservative generation of her uncles, who she says have given her “very strong hints” that her criticisms are not currently being met with approval.

Sitting close to a photomontage of the Saud dynasty which shows her father as a young man next to her grandfather and beside the boy Prince Nayef, the 78-year-old head of the interior ministry, who is de facto ruler, Basma underlines her respect for her father’s ruling brothers.

She said: “I am still an obedient citizen and I will always be behind the royal family. But I will never be quiet about what is happening on the ground. The unfairness of the distribution of wealth, about the power that has been unevenly given to people because they have complete obedience to those above them.

“I owe my uncles everything and what I owe them most is to tell them the truth. My mistake, my ruin is going to be insisting on telling the truth even if they don’t like it. Because I think they need to hear it, especially from one of their loyal, royal own.”

As for now, having started in Jeddah a Restaurant business, the princess has now in the works six different lines of restaurants in the West. This in itself being an amazing feat for a Saudi woman who at home in Saudi Arabia would not have been expected to act on her own, literally, on anything. But this is only the beginning.

Her Royal Highness is involved in a Western style preoccupation with philanthropies. In her interest in the fate of women and the upbringing of their children, she is involved in projects that help women develop an economic base for their well-being. She has the correct instinct that you do not give a fish to a hungry person – but you ought to teach him or her to fish in order to have an independent life. As such she is involved in development projects in Africa and is all ears about opportunities all over the globe – be it even here in the United States. Important that success stories get known, and that some of these activities reach her own home country and the Middle East in general. She looks at the refugee camps and wants to see there positive developments to replace the money waste that did not lead to results. She wants to explain to her own family at large the importance of empowering Saudi women in order to improve the lot of all Saudis – this in order to create a State that is not just dependent on one commodity – oil. At Gloria’s home here in Manhattan, she was listening to other women involved in this sort of philanthropy, or in outright business, and in many cases expressed interest to follow up with them.


Based on a January 3, 2012 article by Cahal Milmo of the Guardian and on my having had the honor to meet the Royal Highness in New York, February 18, 2013 at the home of Society and Diplomatic Review Publisher Ms. Gloria Starr Kins.

The initial article by Cahal Milmo was “Royal runs campaign for change in her homeland from a suburb in west London” and was published by the Guardian of the UK.


please see also the excellent video interview article of July 4, 2011 posted by MEMRI (Arabic spoken with English written  translation):

MEMRI: Saudi Columnist Princess Basma bint Saud bin Abd Al-Aziz

Video Clip 4, 2011
#3014 – Saudi Columnist Princess Basma bint Saud bin Abd Al-Aziz Aal Saud Describes the



Posted on on February 9th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

A Faceless Teenage Refugee Who Helped Ignite Syria’s War.

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

A boy now living in Jordan, who was part of a group whose arrest and torture helped start Syria’s uprising.

Published: February 8, 2013

AMMAN, Jordan — In a listless border town, the teenager goes unnoticed, one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the Syrian civil war, dashing across villages and farms to land in Jordan, just five miles from home.

But this young man carries a burden — maybe an honor, too — that almost no one else shares.

He knows that he and his friends helped start it all. They ignited an uprising.

It began simply enough, inspired not so much by political activism as by teenage rebellion against authority, and boredom. He watched his cousin spray-paint the wall of a school in the city of Dara’a with a short, impish challenge to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist, about the spreading national revolts.

“It’s your turn, doctor,” the cousin wrote.

The opening episodes of the Arab uprisings are growing more distant, the memory of them clouded by fears about what the revolutions have wrought. In Egypt’s chaos, activists talk of a second revolution, and in Tunisia a political assassination this week has imperiled one of the region’s more hopeful transitions. Then there is Syria, where tens of thousands of people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have fled the country and the idea of the nation itself is disappearing amid cycles of sectarian bloodshed.

That war’s brutality has made it difficult to recall, let alone celebrate, the uprisings’ beginnings. After the graffiti, the teenager and his friends were arrested and tortured, setting off demonstrations that, looking back, were the first days of the civil war. Two years later, the boys remain mostly unknown, none celebrated like Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit seller whose self-immolation started the Arab uprisings, or Khaled Said, the young man whose beating death at the hands of the Egyptian police helped start a movement for change.

Some of the boys from Dara’a are refugees, like the teenager in Jordan, now 17, who agreed, along with his father, to speak as long as his name was not revealed. They said they were protecting relatives left behind in Syria, but their reluctance also came from shame: the boy’s father had given him up to the police, to spare a second son, and the teenager informed on three of his friends to try to avoid the torture he suffered anyway.

Given all that has happened, to his family and his country, the teenager said he had no regrets. “Why should I? It’s good that it happened,” he said during a meeting arranged by other refugees from Dara’a. Speaking of Mr. Assad, he said, “We found out who he really is.”

It began with the graffiti.

The government, nervous as leaders were being toppled around the Arab world, reacted furiously to the slight, arresting the teenager and more than a dozen other boys and then torturing them for weeks.

The boy’s relatives, neighbors and hundreds of others in the city gathered for protests demanding the release of the boys. Security forces opened fire on the crowds. They calculated that zero tolerance would head off an escalation. They were wrong.

The details of the teenager’s story could not be independently corroborated, but its outlines matched accounts by a few of the other boys from Dara’a who have spoken about that period. Three former residents of the city, including two who lived in the same neighborhood as the teenager and his family, confirmed that he was among the boys arrested in March 2011.

Recounting those days, the teenager said he passed a sleepless night after his cousin’s acts of defiance. It was not just the graffiti: the cousin had set fire to a new police kiosk the same day in another act of lashing out. The teenager and his friends did not talk much about politics, but the language of dissent was everywhere on satellite television. Small protests had begun to flare in Damascus. “It was the right time,” the teenager said.

The next morning, he noticed intelligence agents at a school and had little doubt about why they were there. “We knew what we did,” he said.

Over the next few days, the police, the military and the military police roamed the city “day and night,” storming the homes of suspects. The teenager said he went into hiding. “I thought it would pass,” he said. But it did not.

When the police finally knocked on the family’s door, the officers threatened to take a different son. If the father gave up the teenager, the agents promised, he would be held for only a few days. The father complied and took his son to the local security headquarters. The boy started crying, and begging to be taken home. But the father left his son behind. “You are to blame for anything that happens to him,” his wife said when he returned home.

The abuse began as soon as the teenager arrived at a prison in the town of Suwayda, where he was beaten during his interrogations. “Are you the one who wrote it?” the interrogator asked, more a demand than a question.

The teenager said he dropped out of school when he was 8. “I don’t know how to write,” he told the interrogators for three days until, desperate for the abuse to stop, he confessed to spray-painting the phrase, though he had not. He also gave up the names of three other boys who were there that day. Within two weeks of the arrest, the father received a call to go to Dara’a Omari Mosque for a protest, in part to demand the release of the boys. About 10 people had already gathered there. The father said he and the other parents were convinced that if they did not protest, “they would have taken more children.” The demonstration grew, and soon he saw most everyone he knew in the city.

It is impossible to say how things might have turned out had the Assad government taken a more accommodating stance toward the protest. Activists from Dara’a still insist that the pressures could have been contained, compromises reached, even after years of violent repression. Any such hope quickly passed as the deaths began to mount.

“People became uncontrollable,” the father said.

Sometime after the protests in Dara’a started, the father heard that the boys would be freed. The teenager, unaware of the spreading revolt, said he was put on a minibus with other boys from Dara’a and sent home. When he arrived, his father said, “I didn’t recognize him.”

His son fled to Jordan about a year ago, where he spent his time looking for work as a day laborer, and dreaming about returning to fight the government in Syria.

About two months ago, he heard that his cousin who wrote the graffiti and somehow managed to avoid arrest had joined the rebels as a fighter — and had been killed.


Posted on on February 5th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

100 imams to commemorate Holocaust in France.

Following visit to Yad Vashem, Muslim leaders to hold memorial in Drancy, where Jews were held before being transported to extermination camps

February 5, 2013, 3:00 am

JTA — Some 100 imams will commemorate the Holocaust at a memorial monument near Paris.

Monday’s event is planned for Drancy, a suburb of the French capital where tens of thousands of Jews were confined in 1942 before being transported to extermination camps during the German Nazi occupation, according to a report in the French daily Le Figaro. The paper called the event unprecedented.

Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy and a veteran activist for dialogue between Muslims and Jews in France and against anti-Semitism, will host the imams.

Manuel Valls, France’s interior minister, also is scheduled to attend the event, which Le Figaro reported is the initiative of Chalghoumi and the French Jewish novelist Marek Halter.

In explaining the goal of the event, Halter recalled a landmark visit by 19 French Muslim leaders, many of them imams, to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum.

“This had a huge impact in Israel and the Arab World,” Halter told Le Figaro. “The objective is to re-create this at Drancy.”

Since the second intifada of 2000, France’s Jewish population of approximately 550,000 has experienced an increase in anti-Semitic violence, mostly by Muslim extremists. Last March, Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old French-Algerian Islamist terrorist, killed four Jews at a Jewish day school in Toulouse.

“We are in a period of crisis, and tensions take the form of violence,” Halter said. “We need to soothe the tensions. It’s a time bomb.”


Australian, Hezbollah suspected in Burgas bus attack.

Bulgaria to present report Tuesday on probe into bombing, blaming Lebanese terror group and Iran for deaths of five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver.

By February 5, 2013…

The coffins of the five victims of the Burgas bombing arrive at Ben Gurion airport (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

The coffins of the five victims of the Burgas bombing arrive at Ben Gurion airport (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

Bulgaria will reportedly blame Iran and Hezbollah on Tuesday for a bombing that claimed the lives of five Israelis and a Bulgarian over the summer. An Australian is also suspected in the bus attack.

Sofia has been mum thus far on placing blame for the July 18 attack on a bus at the Burgas airport, though Israel publicly pointed its finger at Hezbollah and its patron Iran immediately after the attack.

The interior minister of Bulgaria is expected to brief top officials on the investigation into the bombing thus far and announce the findings of the probe, which has yet to produce any arrests, later Tuesday.

Two Western officials told the Associated Press an Australian is a suspect in the bus attack.

The officials are familiar with the investigation and spoke Tuesday only on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the news media.

The Wall Street Journal, citing US and European officials briefed on the report, said Lebanese Shi’ite terror group Hezbollah would take the brunt of the blame, along with Iran, which will be accused of ordering the attack.

Five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed in the bus bombing at the airport outside the popular Black Sea resort town of Burgas, and another 30 people were injured.

The anticipated report may push the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terror organization — something Israel and the United States have urged. European heavyweights Germany and France have not designated Hezbollah as a terror group.

Naming Hezbollah a terror organization could have far-reaching political ramifications that officials fear would disturb Lebanon’s fragile peace and cause confrontations between the EU and Syria and Lebanon, the Wall Street Journal reported. The EU would also need to reevaluate its relatively open-door policy for Hezbollah’s members and funds via the continent.

The US and Israel accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards of masterminding a string of terror attacks aimed at Israeli and American nationals in India, Thailand, and Georgia over the past two years. Iran and Hezbollah denied any involvement in those attacks — which were speculated to be retaliations for what Tehran claimed was Israel’s assassinations of leading Iranian nuclear scientists.

Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov was set to announce the results of the interim progress report of the attack Tuesday after a high-level security meeting between the prime minister, top cabinet members and military officials. It was not yet clear if the report would reveal which individuals were behind the terror attack. The White House was also expected to issue a statement after the release of the report.

Last month, the lead investigator in the case was dismissed after she told a Bulgarian newspaper that all three suspects were foreigners, with no local accomplices. The investigator, Stanelia Karadzhova, told Bulgaria’s 24 Chasa daily that one of the suspects had been identified and that an arrest warrant had been issued.

Karadzhova said new evidence suggested the bombing was not intended to be a suicide attack, as previously believed. Karadzhova said the bomber either pushed the detonator by mistake, or that somebody triggered the explosives remotely.

This image taken from security video provided by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry on Thursday, July 19, 2012, purports to show the unidentified bomber, center, with long hair and wearing a baseball cap, at Burgas Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, on Wednesday, July 18, 2012. (photo credit: Bulgarian Interior Ministry/AP)This image taken from security video provided by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry on Thursday, July 19, 2012, purports to show the unidentified bomber, center, with long hair and wearing a baseball cap, at Burgas Airport on July 18, 2012. (photo credit: Bulgarian Interior Ministry/AP)

In December, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said both he and US President Barack Obama knew who the bombers were, but more solid evidence was needed to build a case.

In January, Bulgarian police said they identified one of a trio of terrorists involved in the bombing, but that they were still searching for the suspect and did not release his name.

The suspect acted with the bomber, known under the alias Jacque Felipe Martin, as well as another accomplice, known under the alias Ralph William Rico.

The real identities of Martin and Rico had not yet been discovered, according to Bulgaria’s Sofia news agency. Investigators also suspect there may have been a fourth or fifth accomplice.

Bulgarian police have maintained all those involved were foreigners, but have not publicly said placed blame on anyone.

In November, an Interpol official said he was worried by the lack of progress in the case. Ronald Noble told Bulgarian TV the lack of progress was “abnormal.”

Dimitar Bechev, head of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the New York Times that it seemed as if Sofia had delayed naming names to avoid upsetting the EU’s relations with Hezbollah.

“If you factor in the suspicion that there are political implications beyond Bulgaria’s borders, it’s completely understandable that they’ve been playing for time,” he said.


Posted on on November 18th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

This is a very good analysis of the situation in Gaza where it seems that Hamas is pushing against – both – Israel and Egypt – and might yet preempt the West Bank in gaining recognition as a semi-State leading to an eventual THREE STATES SOLUTION of this otherwise intractable situation.


Special Edition: Hard Questions, Tough Answers with Yossi Alpher on the Gaza Conflict.

November 18, 2012

As the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, APN is sending our supporters a special update from Israeli Security Expert Yossi Alpher on his analysis of the causes and potential consequences of the crisis. Don’t miss APN’s resources to keep you apprised of daily developments through News Nosh, our summary of Israeli media, and our other resources on the website.

The War In Gaza

Q. Why did Israel choose the current timing to respond with a major military campaign to rocket attacks from Gaza? Had there been a significant increase in those attacks?

A. In recent months Hamas, after long abdicating the rocket firing to Islamic Jihad and various Salafists, again took the lead in attacking Israel. Not just by rockets, but also through attacks on and through the green line fence into Israel. Some 800 rockets were fired at Israel during 2012 prior to the Israeli response. Repeated Israeli warnings and threats directed toward Hamas were ignored. That’s why this campaign is directed specifically at Hamas and its military leadership.

The timing of Israel’s response probably also has something to do with Israeli elections, though no government minister will acknowledge this. The situation in southern Israel was becoming unbearable for one million people, and both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak undoubtedly saw this as a political liability with elections near. Nor could they postpone this until too close to elections, lest that too become a liability.

Another rationale for the timing could be to place the PLO initiative for United Nations General Assembly recognition, scheduled for Nov. 29, in a different perspective. PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is asking the UN for recognition of a state that includes Gaza, yet he obviously does not control Gaza. Gaza is a warlike quasi-state attacking Israeli civilians–the very opposite of the Palestinian Authority under Abbas.

Q. But if Hamas is launching or consenting to the attacks on Israel, why does it not take into consideration that Israel has a much stronger military capacity? Even with new varieties of rockets, Hamas will never match Israel’s capacity to wreak destruction on the Gaza quasi-state.

Of course Hamas knows Israel is stronger. But it also knows that Israel won’t take the one measure that would close Hamas down once and for all: re-conquering the Gaza Strip, thereby angering the entire world and placing nearly two million civilians under direct Israeli rule. Hamas also likes to play the underdog–guerilla or “resistance” style. It has tens of thousands of cheap rockets to attack the Israeli civilian population. And its fighters ostensibly do not fear martyrdom.

But most of all, Hamas feels empowered to challenge Israel by the tacit support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Hamas–the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood–sees itself, not without reason, as the vanguard of the rise to power of the Brotherhood in the Arab Middle East by democratic vote. Hamas won its vote in early 2006, then took over Gaza by force in mid-2007. Hamas expects its fellow Brothers, led by Egypt, to support it as it fights “their” war. It has been trying for months to persuade Egypt to recognize Gaza as an independent or quasi-independent Palestinian state and to shower economic and military aid on it. But Egypt–even Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood–is wary of taking on Gaza as a protectorate and, in effect, releasing Israel of its “responsibilities” toward the Palestinians.

In this sense, this little war is very much about Egypt. Israel and the United States are testing whether Egypt under the Brotherhood will behave responsibly and opt for peace and quiet by demanding of Hamas a ceasefire, so the Egyptian leadership can set about collecting the billions of dollars it needs to keep Egypt afloat economically. Hamas is testing to what extent Egypt will back it up with threats against Israel, possibly even by radically downgrading relations with Israel. On Saturday, Egyptian PM Kandil led a delegation into Gaza, where he offered lavish verbal support but promised only medical supplies. He apparently also began discussing a ceasefire.

Q. Indeed, aren’t Egypt and the international community working for a ceasefire?

A. The Egyptians, Turks, Qataris and Hamas met on Cairo in Sunday precisely toward this end. According to some reports, a senior Israeli official was also there. All four of these Muslim actors, it should be noted, represent the vanguard of political Islam in the Middle East. The Turks and Qataris aren’t Muslim Brothers but are close to the movement, with the Turks casting themselves as a role model for Arab regimes and Qatar using its purse-strings to play an independent role that has lately included a royal visit to Gaza and generous financial aid.

Israel and Egypt are also in close touch with the Obama administration and European leaders regarding a ceasefire. President Obama has reportedly placed heavy pressure on Egypt’s President Morsi to rein in Hamas. France’s foreign minister was in Israel today. And United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday. All are apparently urging Netanyahu to avoid a ground war in favor of a quick ceasefire.

Q. What positions are Israel and Hamas presenting to all these mediators regarding ceasefire conditions?

A. Broadly speaking, Israel wants a verifiable Hamas commitment to cease all attacks from Gaza–meaning to police other, more extreme organizations’ activities as well as its own–and close down its arms importing and indigenous arms production projects. Hamas reportedly wants an end to all aspects of the Israeli blockade of the Strip as well as an end to Israeli preventive security measures on the Gaza side of the border fence. Presumably, both Israel and Hamas are making security and other demands on Egypt as well. And each side wants to end up in a situation where it proclaims victory.

Q. Are these demands achievable?

A. Israel is backing up its demands with escalation. Most recently, it expanded its list of targets for air and naval attacks to include Hamas government institutions (after Hamas fired a rocket in the direction of Jerusalem and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh claimed they were aiming for the Knesset) as well as rocket-firing positions and other military institutions placed by Hamas deliberately in the midst of the Gazan civilian population. By Sunday, Israel was calling up large numbers of reserves and threatening a ground operation.

Hamas was responding with rockets and bravado. Morale appeared to be high in Gaza, uplifted by clips of Tel Avivians running for cover (and reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes Israel tick; but that’s another story). If matters continue this way, at some point, inevitably, a large number of Gazan civilians could become casualties, thus embarrassing Israel and bringing down upon it heavy regional and international pressure.

Hence it’s almost certain that at the end of the day, one way or another, this will end in yet another limited ceasefire that falls short of both sides’ aspirations.

Q. Some Israelis argue that Hamas military leader Ahmed Jaabari should not have been targeted in Israel’s opening salvo; that he was engaged in an attempt to achieve a long-term ceasefire and was a figure of moderation.

A. Obviously, if you oppose the entire notion of targeted assassination with its heavy moral ramifications, the Hamas military leader should not have been targeted. But a succession of Israeli (and American) governments have adopted this tactic and consider it both effective and acceptable in wartime. As for Jaabari himself, even as he was ostensibly involved in ceasefire discussions he was sponsoring escalated Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians and building up a murderous arsenal for use against Israeli civilians. In my view, he was fair game and his death a genuine blow to Hamas.

Q. Apropos the likely outcome, how is this operation, dubbed Pillar of Cloud or Pillar of Defense, different in its objectives and its operational profile from the two previous IDF offensives against neighboring non-state actors, the Second Lebanon War in summer 2006 and Cast Lead in 2008-9?

A. Apropos the names of the operation, note that Pillar of Cloud is a murky name reminiscent of the biblical “pillar of fire”, while Pillar of Defense is a more PR-conscious name for use by Israeli public diplomacy. So far, “Pillar” has avoided use of ground forces or artillery, obviously in the hope of reducing highly problematic Palestinian civilian casualties. Air force bombing and rocketing techniques, especially by drones, have been refined admirably toward that same end.

This operation, accordingly, opened with the targeted assassination of a single prominent Hamas military figure, Jaabari, whereas Cast Lead opened with a kind of “shock and awe” approach that featured a controversial attack on a parade of Hamas civilian police. Both Pillar of Defense and the Second Lebanon War opened with a largely successful attempt by the Israel Air Force to eliminate the enemy’s stores of long-range rockets so as to limit to the greatest extent possible the geographic extent of the enemy’s rocket offensive.

Another difference concerns war aims. Cast Lead of 2008-9 was presented to the Israeli public on several occasions as an attempt to eliminate Hamas rule from Gaza. This corresponded with the declared aim of the economic blockade of Gaza that began in 2007. Not just the Kadima government of the day harbored these aims; prominent Labor supporters from the political left at one point petitioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Barak to go all the way, re-conquer Gaza and reinstall the PLO in power there (at the tip of Israeli bayonets, thereby totally discrediting the PLO) in the hope of facilitating a peace process.

Now, war aims are ostensibly more realistic. Accordingly to Barak, then as now defense minister, the objective this time is to cease rocket fire, eliminate Hamas militants and weaponry, and protect Israeli civilians. In other words, Hamas can remain as long as it stops attacking Israelis. Personally, I doubt that under current circumstances even these objectives can be attained and maintained over any period of time.

On the truly positive side, this operation takes place under the “cover” of the Iron Dome anti-rocket missile system, which has effectively reduced Hamas’ capacity to really hurt the Israeli civilian rear. This gives IDF war planners breathing room, relatively free of public pressure, to try to achieve their objectives. Accordingly, it may be said to actually relieve the IDF of the need to attack aggressively and seek retribution for Israeli losses.

Amir Peretz, who was minister of defense during the Second Lebanon War and bore much of the criticism for that campaign’s seeming failure, deserves great credit for having insisted on developing Iron Dome to protect Israeli civilians from rocket attack despite the opposition of the traditional security community with its emphasis on offense rather than defense. Peretz, former mayor of Sderot and former head of the Histadrut labor union, showed how a “civilian” defense minister with a strong socio-economic background can see things differently, to the benefit of the overall war effort. And two American presidents, Bush 43 and Obama, deserve credit for having helped finance the Iron Dome project.

One final and ironic comparison: the Second Lebanon War, waged by Peretz and PM Ehud Olmert, was roundly criticized in Israel for its indecisive outcome, with Hezbollah, Iran, and the Arab public trumpeting claims of victory over Israel. Yet since that war ended more than six years ago, Hezbollah has not lifted a finger to attack Israel–an apparent tribute to the deterrent success of Israel’s war effort. In contrast, Cast Lead was seen as a triumph that rehabilitated Israel’s deterrent profile. Yet its deterrent effect lasted barely a few months. Of course the two movements, Hezbollah and Hamas, are different entities operating under very different circumstances, particularly with regard to the “Arab spring”: Hezbollah supports Syria in opposing the wave of Sunni Islamist revolution; Hamas is part of that wave.

Q. Apropos Hezbollah and Syria, are they connected to the current Gaza war?

A. Neither Syria nor Hezbollah has in any way intimated they would intervene to support Hamas. Here it’s helpful to recall that Hamas has, in recent months, broken with Syria and Iran and moved into the triumphant Muslim Brotherhood orbit with its fellow Sunnis. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is also firing rockets from Gaza and at times opposes Hamas’ weak attempts to exercise control over it, does retain links to Iran and Syria. But PIJ is not a major factor and the only relevant question connected with it is whether and when Hamas will behave in Gaza like the sovereign it aspires to be and take control over all aggressors there.

All in all, at the regional level, the current Gaza conflict is about how the emerging Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Gaza, Egypt and North Africa will deal with Israel. At least until now, it is not about Iran and Syria.

Q. Your assessment seems to reflect a sense of pessimism regarding the long-term effect of anything Israel does against Hamas.

A. Neither Israel nor anyone else confronting a non-state actor motivated by an extremist Islamic outlook has found a viable strategy for dealing with it. Look again at Barak’s war objectives (above) and note that they are tactical, not strategic. Israel has to confront the fact that it has no effective strategy for dealing with Hamas: economic blockade has failed; re-occupying the Strip would be hugely counterproductive. The only strategy Israel has not tried is talking to Hamas, which in any case refuses to talk to Israel and proffers outlandish conditions for agreeing merely to a permanent ceasefire (e.g., return to Israel of five million Palestinian refugees). I don’t know whether such a strategy of engagement, with the aim of long-term coexistence, has any chance of success, but I still feel it is worth a try.

Note, though, that to engage Hamas directly without preconditions means abandoning the “Oslo” conditions agreed with the United States and European Union. It also means, in effect, telling the PLO in the West Bank, Israel’s peace partner, that it is no longer understood to represent Gaza, thereby implying a three-state reality or solution and not a two-state solution. And as noted, such a gambit could very possibly fail, if only due to Hamas’ out-and-out rejection of all the elements of peaceful recognition and coexistence established by 20 years of the Oslo process.

With the spread of political Islam on Israel’s borders, an attempt at engagement with Hamas may be the best one can hope for by way of a strategy. Obviously, Israel’s political leadership, left as well as right, is not there.

Q. Finally, now that rocket attacks have reached the Tel Aviv area where you live, what are your thoughts?

A. First of all, civilian morale is extremely high. I’ve taken shelter outside my home twice, in each case ending up meeting interesting people for exactly two minutes and going on my way; three grandchildren in Tel Aviv appear to be taking this in stride. But in the Tel Aviv area, the few rocket attacks thus far are more a source of curiosity than anything else. In the south, the accumulated trauma of, for those closest to Gaza, 12 (!!) years of rocket attacks is something else entirely. Thus not surprisingly, Israelis from the northern Negev attach extremely high hopes to this campaign, egged on by government rhetoric to the effect that this is the war against Hamas to end all attacks forever.

As we’ve seen, that is probably not a realistic aspiration. Already, after over 1,000 targets have been attacked in Gaza, more than 51 Palestinians and three Israelis killed, and at least 270 rockets successfully intercepted, Israelis are inevitably asking where this is going.

Readers are also referred to two op-eds by Yossi Alpher published since the war began and available at the following links:

Strategic Dimensions Of Attacking Gaza

The Israel-Palestine Conflict Won’t Go Away

To keep up with developments on the ground in Israel, subscribe to News Nosh now!


Posted on on November 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Uri Avnery

November 17, 2012

Another Superfluous War

HOW DID it start? Stupid question.

Conflagrations along the Gaza Strip don’t start. They are just a continuous chain of events, each claimed to be a [or “in”] “retaliation” for the previous one. Action is followed by reaction, which is followed by retaliation, which is followed by …

This particular event “started” with the firing from Gaza of an anti-tank weapon at a partially armored jeep on the Israeli side of the border fence. It was described as retaliation for the killing of a boy in an air attack some days earlier. But probably the timing of the action was accidental – the opportunity just presented itself.

The success gave rise to demonstrations of joy and pride in Gaza. Again Palestinians had shown their ability to strike at the hated enemy.

HOWEVER, THE Palestinians had in fact walked into a trap prepared with great care. Whether the order was given by Hamas or one of the smaller more extreme organizations – it was not a clever thing to do.

Shooting across the fence at an army vehicle was crossing a red line. (The Middle East is full of red lines.) A major Israeli reaction was sure to ensue.

It was rather routine. Israeli tanks fired cannon shells into the Gaza Strip. Hamas launched rockets at Israeli towns and villages. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushed to their shelters. Schools closed.

As usual, Egyptian and other mediators went into action. Behind the scenes, a new truce was arranged. It seemed to be over. Just another round.

The Israeli side did everything to get back to normal. Or so it seemed. The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister went out of their way (to the Syrian border) to show that Gaza was off their minds.

In Gaza, everybody relaxed. They left their shelters. Their supreme military commander, Ahmad Ja’abari, climbed into his car and drove along the main street.

And then the trap closed. The car bearing the commander was blown up by a missile from the air.

SUCH AN assassination is not carried out on the spur of the moment. It is the culmination of many months of preparation, gathering of information, waiting for the right moment, when it could be executed without killing many bystanders and causing an international scandal.

Actually, it was due to take place a day earlier, but postponed because of the bad weather.

Ja’abari was the man behind all the military activities of the Hamas government in Gaza, including the capture of Gilad Shalit and the successful five-year long hiding of his whereabouts. He was photographed at the release of Shalit to the Egyptians.

So this time it was the Israelis who were jubilant. Much like the Americans after the Osama bin-Laden assassination.


THE KILLING of Ja’abari was the sign for starting the planned operation.

The Gaza Strip is full of missiles. Some of them are able to reach Tel Aviv, some 40 km away. The Israeli military has long planned a major operation to destroy as many of them as possible from the air. Intelligence has patiently gathered information about their location. This is the purpose of the “Pillar of Cloud” operation. (“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way – Exodus 13:21).

While I am writing this, I don’t know yet how the whole thing will end. But some conclusions can already be drawn.

FIRST OF All, this is not Cast Lead II. Far from it.

The Israeli army is rather good at discreetly drawing lessons from its failures. Cast Lead was celebrated as a great success, but in reality it was a disaster.

Sending troops into a densely populated area is bound to cause heavy civilian casualties. War crimes are almost inevitable. World reaction was catastrophic. The political damage immense. The Chief of Staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi, was widely acclaimed, but in reality he was a rather primitive military type. His present successor is of a different caliber.

Also, grandiose statements about destroying Hamas and turning the Strip over to the Ramallah leadership have been avoided this time.

The Israeli aim, it was stated, is to cause maximum damage to Hamas with minimum civilian victims. It was hoped that this could be achieved almost entirely by the use of air power. In the first phase of the operation, this seems to have succeeded. The question is whether this can be kept up as the war goes on.

HOW WILL it end? It would be foolhardy to guess. Wars have their own logic. Stuff happens, as the man said.

Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the two men in overall command, hope the war will wind down once the main aims are achieved. So there will be no reason to employ the army on the ground, enter the Gaza Strip, kill people, lose soldiers.

Deterrence will be restored. Another truce will come into force. The Israeli population surrounding the Strip will be able to sleep soundly at night for several months. Hamas will be cut down to size.

But will this whole exercise change the basic situation? Not likely.

Ja’abari will be replaced. Israel has assassinated dozens of Arab political and military leaders. Indeed, it is the world champion of such assassinations, politely referred to as “targeted preventions” or “eliminations”. If this were an Olympic sport, the Ministry of Defense, the Mossad and the Shin Bet would be festooned with gold medals.

Sometimes one gets the impression that the assassinations are an aim by [in] themselves, and the other operations just incidental. An artist is proud of his art.

What have the results been? Overall – nothing positive. Israel killed Hizbollah leader Abbas al-Moussawi, and got the vastly more intelligent Hassan Nasrallah instead. They killed Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin, and he was replaced by abler men. Ja’abari’s successor may be less or more able. It will make no great difference.

Will it stop the steady advance of Hamas? I doubt it. Perhaps the opposite will happen. Hamas has already achieved a significant breakthrough, when the Emir of Qatar (owner of Aljazeera) paid Gaza a state visit. He was the first head of state to do so. Others are bound to follow. Just now, in the middle of the operation, the Egyptian prime minister arrived in Gaza.

Operation “Pillar of Cloud” compels all Arab countries to rally around Hamas, or at least pretend to. It discredits the claim of the more extreme organizations in Gaza that Hamas has gone soft and lazy, enjoying the fruits of government. In the battle for Palestinian opinion, Hamas has gained another victory over Mahmoud Abbas, whose security cooperation with Israel will look even more despicable.

All in all, nothing basic will change. Just another superfluous war.

IT IS, of course, a highly political event.

Like Cast Lead, it takes place on the eve of Israeli elections. (So, by the way, did the Yom Kippur war, but that was decided by the other side.)

One of the more miserable sights of the last few days has been the TV appearances of Shelly Yachimovich and Ya’ir Lapid. The two shining new stars in Israel’s political firmament looked like petty politicians, parroting Netanyahu’s propaganda, approving everything done.

Both had hitched their wagons to the social protest, expecting that social issues would displace subjects like war, occupation and settlements from the agenda. When the public is occupied with the price of cottage cheese, who cares about national policy?

I said at the time that one whiff of military action would blow away all economic and social issues as frivolous and irrelevant. This has happened now.

Netanyahu and Barak appear many times a day on the screen. They look responsible, sober, determined, experienced. Real he-men, commanding troops, shaping events, saving the nation, routing the enemies of Israel and the entire Jewish people. As Lapid volunteered on live television: “Hamas is an anti-Semitic terrorist organization and must be crushed.”

Netanyahu is doing it. Adieu, Lapid. Adieu Shelly. Adieu Olmert. Adieu Tzipi. Was nice seeing you.

WAS THERE an alternative? Obviously, the situation along the Gaza Strip had become intolerable. One cannot send an entire population to the shelters every two or three weeks. Except hitting Hamas on the head, what can you do?

A lot.

First of all, you can abstain from “reacting”. Just cut the chain.

Then, you can talk with Hamas as the de facto government of Gaza. You did, actually, when negotiating the release of Shalit. So why not look for a permanent modus vivendi, with the involvement of Egypt?

A hudna can be achieved. In Arab culture, a hudna is a binding truce, sanctified by Allah, which can go on for many years. A hudna cannot be violated. Even the Crusaders concluded hudnas with their Muslim enemies.

The day after the assassination, Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in mediating Shalit’s release, disclosed that he had been in contact with Ja’abari up to the last moment. Ja’abari had been interested in a long-term cease-fire. The Israeli authorities had been informed.

But the real remedy is peace. Peace with the Palestinian people. Hamas has already solemnly declared that it would respect a peace agreement concluded by the PLO – i.e. Mahmoud Abbas – that would establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, provided this agreement were confirmed in a Palestinian referendum.

Without it, the bloodletting will just go on, round after round. Forever.

Peace is the answer. But when visibility is obscured by pillars of cloud, who can see that?


What’s New in the Gaza-Israel Battle.

by Rami G. Khouri Released: 17 Nov 2012

BEIRUT — The latest flare-up of fighting on the Gaza-Israel front has generated the usual round of statements and bravado on both sides, but among the predictability of developments are also some important new elements. Three of these are in the Arab world, which is not surprising, given the historic changes taking place across the region. The responses from Israelis and the United States government, on the other hand, appear depressingly consistent with Zionism’s history of reliance on military force as the main instrument of dealing with Palestinians and Arabs, and Washington’s structurally pro-Israel position in the conflict.

The first and most important thing to say about the rekindled killing across the Israel-Gaza border is its sheer futility and waste. Neither side has the ability to completely wipe out the other, for that is what would be required to end this conflict for good. That will not happen, as both sides have proven over the past 35 years or so, since Hamas’ emergence in Palestine. Yet they are willing and able to keep fighting, despite the tremendous cost to their people.

More killing and destruction will not resolve this conflict, but a lack of a fair and negotiated resolution also means that more killing and destruction are inevitable. We should note three important new dimensions of the conflict on the Arab side, about the constantly improving technical capabilities of Palestinian resistance groups, the emergence of more radical Islamist groups over time in Gaza and around the region, and the impact of public opinion and the new, legitimate, governments in power in some Arab states. All three together suggest that a shift in the strategic balance of power may be underway in the Middle East, with huge implications.

The more advanced rockets in the hands of Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza that reached Tel Aviv Thursday generate a significant new dimension of psychological fear in Israel that mirrors the fear and tension that Israel’s aerial attacks have long inflicted on Palestinians and Lebanese. The ability of Palestinians today to fire rockets deeper into Israel, and, presumably, with more accuracy in due course, is just one indicator of the fact that time is not on Israel’s side. As long as the crime of dispossession and refugeehood that was committed against the Palestinian people in 1947-48 is not redressed through a peaceful and just negotiation that satisfies the legitimate rights of both sides, we will continue to see enhancements in both the determination and the capabilities of Palestinian fighters — as has been the case since the 1930s, in fact. Only stupid or ideologically maniacal Zionists fail to come to terms with this fact.

It is important to note the remarks by Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh Thursday night that Gazans and Palestinians everywhere will keep struggling for their national rights, with the key issue for them being the Palestinian right of return. His comments, and the resurgence of fighting, only remind everyone that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about what happened in 1947-48, not only what happened in 1967. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius noted correctly this week that, “It would be a catastrophe if there is an escalation in the region. Israel has the right to security but it won’t achieve it through violence. The Palestinians also have the right to a state.”

The second major new element in this round of fighting is the steady expansion of militant Islamists in Gaza, such as Islamic Jihad and other small groups, who make Hamas look like a relative softie. The rockets being fired into Israel emanate from several Salafist Islamist groups that have sprung up in Gaza alongside Hamas in the last decade. This mirrors trends across the Arab world, where Salafists are serving in newly elected and legitimate parliaments. This also should serve as a wake-up call to the reality that has reigned since the 1960s: If Israel does not come to terms with the political groups that now hold power in Palestine and Arab states, it will surely have to deal with more militant ones in the future.

The third new element is the changed environment in Arab public opinion around the region, where young new governments more accurately reflect the sentiments of their citizens vis-à-vis the Palestine issue. We should keep our eyes on how Tunisians and Egyptians, in particular, react to the Gaza situation. They will not go to war with Israel, but they are likely to find new and meaningful ways to express real support for Palestinians, which will increase the political pressure on Israel.

Where this combination of new elements leads us over time is not yet clear. I hope it eventually pushes all sides to acknowledge that only a fair, negotiated, resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian and wider Arab-Israeli conflicts can serve the legitimate rights of all concerned, in a way that rockets in Gaza and Tel Aviv never will.

Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon. You can follow him @ramikhouri.








Israel’s Shortsighted Assassination.

By GERSHON BASKIN for The New York Times as an OP-ED Contribution.
Published: November 16, 2012


AHMED AL-JABARI — the strongman of Hamas, the head of its military wing, the man responsible for the abduction of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit — was assassinated on Wednesday by Israeli missiles.

Why? Israel’s government has declared that the aim of the current strikes against Gaza is to rebuild deterrence so that no rockets will be fired on Israel. Israel’s targeted killings of Hamas leaders in the past sent the Hamas leadership underground and prevented rocket attacks on Israel temporarily. According to Israeli leaders, deterrence will be achieved once again by targeting and killing military and political leaders in Gaza and hitting hard at Hamas’s military infrastructure. But this policy has never been effective in the long term, even when the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was killed by Israel. Hamas didn’t lay down its guns then, and it won’t stop firing rockets at Israel now without a cease-fire agreement.

When we were negotiating with Hamas to release Mr. Shalit, members of the Israeli team believed that Mr. Jabari wouldn’t make a deal because holding Mr. Shalit was a kind of “life insurance policy.” As long as Mr. Jabari held Mr. Shalit, Israelis believed, the Hamas leader knew he was safe. The Israeli government had a freer hand to kill Mr. Jabari after Mr. Shalit was released in October 2011. His insurance policy was linked to their assessment of the value of keeping him alive. This week, that policy expired.

I believe that Israel made a grave and irresponsible strategic error by deciding to kill Mr. Jabari. No, Mr. Jabari was not a man of peace; he didn’t believe in peace with Israel and refused to have any direct contact with Israeli leaders and even nonofficials like me. My indirect dealings with Mr. Jabari were handled through my Hamas counterpart, Ghazi Hamad, the deputy foreign minister of Hamas, who had received Mr. Jabari’s authorization to deal directly with me. Since Mr. Jabari took over the military wing of Hamas, the only Israeli who spoke with him directly was Mr. Shalit, who was escorted out of Gaza by Mr. Jabari himself.

(It is important to recall that Mr. Jabari not only abducted Mr. Shalit, but he also kept him alive and ensured that he was cared for during his captivity.)

Passing messages between the two sides, I was able to learn firsthand that Mr. Jabari wasn’t just interested in a long-term cease-fire; he was also the person responsible for enforcing previous cease-fire understandings brokered by the Egyptian intelligence agency. Mr. Jabari enforced those cease-fires only after confirming that Israel was prepared to stop its attacks on Gaza. On the morning that he was killed, Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance. This draft was agreed upon by me and Hamas’s deputy foreign minister, Mr. Hamad, when we met last week in Egypt.

The goal was to move beyond the patterns of the past. For years, it has been the same story: Israeli intelligence discovers information about an impending terrorist attack from Gaza. The Israeli Army takes pre-emptive action with an airstrike against the suspected terror cells, which are often made up of fighters from groups like Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees or Salafi groups not under Hamas’s control but functioning within its territory. These cells launch rockets into Israeli towns near Gaza, and they often miss their targets. The Israeli Air Force responds swiftly. The typical result is between 10 and 25 casualties in Gaza, zero casualties in Israel and huge amounts of property damage on both sides.

Other key Hamas leaders and members of the Shura Council, its senior decision-making body, supported a new cease-fire effort because they, like Mr. Jabari, understood the futility of successive rocket attacks against Israel that left no real damage on Israel and dozens of casualties in Gaza. Mr. Jabari was not prepared to give up the strategy of “resistance,” meaning fighting Israel, but he saw the need for a new strategy and was prepared to agree to a long-term cease-fire.

This war is being presented in Israel, once again, as a war of “no choice.” The people of Israel are rallying around the flag as would be expected anywhere in the world. The United States government has voiced its support of the Israeli operation by stating, “Israel has the full right to defend itself and protect its citizens.” It certainly does, but we must ask whether there is another way to achieve the same goal without the use of force.

Israel has used targeted killings, ground invasions, drones, F-16s, economic siege and political boycott. The only thing it has not tried and tested is reaching an agreement (through third parties) for a long-term mutual cease-fire.

No government can tolerate having its civilian population attacked by rockets from a neighboring territory. And the firing of thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel must end. There was a chance for a mutually agreed cease-fire. The difference between the proposal I drafted in cooperation with my Hamas counterpart and past proposals was that it included both a mechanism for dealing with impending terror threats and a clear definition of breaches. This draft was to be translated and shared with both Mr. Jabari and Israeli security officials, who were aware of our mediation efforts.

In the draft, which I understand Mr. Jabari saw hours before he was killed, it was proposed that Israeli intelligence information transmitted through the Egyptians would be delivered to Mr. Jabari so that he could take action aimed at preventing an attack against Israel. Mr. Jabari and his forces would have had an opportunity to prove that they were serious when they told Egyptian intelligence officials that they were not interested in escalation. If Mr. Jabari had agreed to the draft, then we could have prevented this new round of violence; if he had refused, then Israel would have likely attacked in much the same way as it is now.

The proposal was at least worth testing. Moreover, it included the understanding that if Israel were to take out a real ticking bomb — people imminently preparing to launch a rocket — such a strike would not be considered a breach of the cease-fire and would not lead to escalation.

Instead, Mr. Jabari is dead — and with him died the possibility of a long-term cease-fire. Israel may have also compromised the ability of Egyptian intelligence officials to mediate a short-term cease-fire and placed Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt at risk.

This was not inevitable, and cooler heads could have prevailed. Mr. Jabari’s assassination removes one of the more practical actors on the Hamas side.

Who will replace him? I am not convinced that Israel’s political and military leaders have adequately answered that question.

Gershon Baskin
is a co-chairman of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Shalit.


Posted on on November 14th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

RITA is her stage name. The real name is – Rita Yahan-Farouz (English: Jahanforuz).  She was born March 24, 1962 in Tehran and though living in Israel since she was 8 years old, now at 50, over the internet, she is the hottest thing in Iran. She loves both her countries that formed her culturally.

Last night Rita told us that her talent to sing she got from her mother who back home would sit on the floor with her feet stretched out in front of her and put little Rita on a pillow and rock her and sing lullabies, while at the same time using her hands to clean peas or whatever chores she had to do. Mother had a nice voice but could not sing in public because those days women could not sing in public, and to the sound of a general chuckle from the audience Rita joked saying – now it is different in Iran. Mother would sing nevertheless at events of their extended family.

Rita began her career in 1980 as part of a musical troupe during her service in the Israeli Army. Then in 1982, she attended the “Beit Zvi” school of acting. Her first exposure to the general public in Israel was at the 1986 Pre-Eurovision Song Contest which decided who would represent Israel in the upcoming European song contest. Rita did not win, but her song,”Shvil habricha” (the Escape Path), along with her provocative performance, garnered much interest. That same year, Rita starred in an adaptation of My Fair Lady and released her self-titled debut album, Rita, which went triple platinum, selling over 120,000 copies. In 1987, she released the English language album Breaking Those Walls under the name of Rita Farouz. That album contained a couple English versions of her Hebrew songs from the first album as well as original material. Despite going gold (20 000 copies) in Israel, that album was not an international success.

In 1988, Rita released her second album, Yemei Ha’Tom (Days of Innocence), which was produced by her husband, Rami Kleinstein,  and which included a song by noted Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin.  In 1988 and 1989 she was chosen as Singer of the Year by Israel’s national radio station and her name skyrocketed.

Rita did not put out many records. She turned to other activities as well. Such as In 2006, Rita put on a show called One (in English) which ran for a month at the Israel Trade Fair – it was a lavish affair including lasers, flamethrowers, 3-D images, smoke machines and forty dancers, acrobats, and actors. Over 100,000 tickets were sold.

In spite of this she is the best selling Israeli artist of all times – with 37 of her songs having entered the national charts – more then any other Israeli singer. She was named “top female singer in the past 60 years” during a special countdown for Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008. Besides many Best Song of the Year and Best Israeli Singer of the Year prizes, Rita also got the 1994 MTV award for best video for “Zippor Zara” (which I have difficulty translating as it could mean Foreign Bird or Strange Bird). She is indisputable Queen of Live Performance in Israel and embarks on long tours filling venues to their capacity. So it was last night.

June 22, 2011 Rita released her first single in her childhood Farsi (Persian) language – “Shane” – the success was phenomenal. The song is based on traditional Persian folk music, but modernized with a more pop and techno dance beat. Iranians of all ages have responded “overwhelmingly,” including sending her positive emails and writing on her Facebook page. She started a two years project to create a full album with songs of her childhood in Persia. The result is titled “MY JOYS”- a modernized version of her family songs from her own childhood.

Most Westernized popular music, including hers, is banned in Iran, which filters the Internet. However fans have been downloading or buying bootleg copies of her albums. Iranians living outside Iran have “flooded” her recording studio with messages of admiration, especially after the release of the new 2012 album, “All My Joys,” also in Persian, likewise popular among Israelis which caused it to go “gold” in Israel within three weeks of its release.

Rita writes: “This album is my own private vision – as a girl, born in Iran, who grew up in Israel and is now singing in the language of the country considered to be one of our greatest enemies.”

“In the light of the many touching emails I’ve been receiving from all over the world – especially those from Iran, I truly believe that it’s us – the little people – those who can break down the walls that are built by extreme regimes – with small gestures of love.”

When I was a child growing up in Iran, Israeli singers would come to perform in the country. My family and I never had enough money to go and see these shows, but I’d see them on TV, and my dream today is that one day I can go and perform in the country of my birth.”

” I want to introduce the world to the real and immensely rich Iranian culture. Extreme regimes are so temporary compared to the eternity and endless richness found within the Iranian culture. The Iranian people are family-oriented – pleasant, modest and very courteous. In my personal musical way, I want to introduce the world to the Iranian’s real face, as much as I can – “love” being the only logical solution.”

“RITA – MY JOYS” – the Farsi language recording includes:

SHANE (Comb) – My heart built a nest in your hair and please do not use a comb that hurts my heart.

GOLE SANGAM (My Flower of Stone) – If you do not send rays like the sun, I will freeze and turn into dust, if you do not reach out to me like rain, I will wilt.

SHAH DOOMAD (The Bridegroom the king) – The presents to the bride and her agreement. The bridegroom is a flower and his character good and warm.

DAR IN DONYA (In This World) – Love made me act crazy but I know her sweetness.

GOLE MARYAM (Flower that Exalts) – A feast to the heart.

SHANEHAYAT (Your Shoulders) – Your shoulders that allow me to cry give me the courage to wait.

KABUTARE SEFID (White Dove) – My White Dove for whom did you leave me – even when you are not before my eyes you are in my heart – if you do not know how I feel you probably never loved.

OSTA KARIM (God Have Pity) – I do not allow myself even to breeze without him, I wish I were among those that ask – what is love?

BEEGHARAR (Lack of Peace) – I have no peace until I return to your door – I want you to know that I am dying for you.

MREYTE YA MREYTE (It is not in me) – There is nothing left in me – it is finished. The quiet night the cold moon.

MOBARAK BAAD (Good Luck) – This night of lights and blessings – the bride and bridegrooms fresh from the Hamam. Do not touch the bride’s hair – it has expensive pearls – a wedding of kings.


Rita, the most viewed Israeli Singer/Performer of the last two decades, and the best selling Israeli Artist of all times – now she is taking over also the peoples’ choice in the Muslim world – she is effectively becoming an underground peace emissary in that complicated part of the world – this because she simply sings and talks of real people’s feelings.

But more then that – she is a bridge between the country from which her family had to get out and the country that received them – with the daughter growing up while absorbing both cultures. That is the model of an immigrant enriching the country that absorbed her, while retaining the culture of the country she left. Without any doubt – she is now completely Israeli, but she also helps decrease the demonization of the two cultures in each others eyes. More then that, also in the Arab countries Rita is appreciated because she mastered the beat of the whole region, and helps bring the region in contact with western music innovation as well.

At The Town Hall in the Broadway Theater Section of Manhattan, the place was filled not only by Israelis, but present was a mixed audience that included Arabs and Iranians. Next to me was sitting an Arab-Israeli woman – I know because she was speaking Hebrew – and she was accompanied by seemingly an outside Arab. At the reception I saw an older couple that I do not know their origin – perhaps Turkey or Lebanon. You just do not ask an inappropriate question that could expose people in today’s climate.

So far as Israel is concerned, Rita’s family arrived in 1970 – at the start of the rise in Iran of Ayatollah Khomeini, and before the Iranian Islamic Revolution 1978-79. They were refugees from an Islamic country in a process that started 1948 when Israel declared its Statehood, followed by an unofficial exchange of population that caused about equal numbers of Jews from Islamic countries to leave in response to the conditions that caused Arabs to leave Israeli territory. Iran, a non-Arab Muslim country, was slower in this process – but nevertheless was part of this process as well. The situation is similar to what happened also in 1948 – the break-up of the Indian subcontinent into Pakistan and India.

While all other refugees got absorbed into their new host countries by their ethnically related groups, it was only the Palestinian Arabs that remained homeless because there was no will to absorb them. Israel never understood that this process – the refusal of the Arab States to absorb the refugees that came from Palestine – something that the UN willingly supports now for 64 years – had to be stressed as a balance to its own absorption of the Jewish refugees that found their haven in  Israel. Rita comes now and reminds us of this a-symmetry, and what amazes us is that the country of her origin, though an enemy of Israel, is populated with a new generation ready to recognize true value, and their own, when it comes their way.

To get further views about Rita, we include the Wall Street Journal cross-blog that includes material from Beirut, that tells about Rita – as she is viewed from across the border fence:


Iran and Israel Can Agree on This: Rita Jahanforuz Totally Rocks

Jewish Star Remakes Persian Oldies in Tel Aviv and Her Fans in Tehran Can’t Get Enough.

The Wall Street Journal blog from Beirut- June 3, 2012.


[RITA] Joshua Mitnick / The Wall Street JournalRita performed Persian songs at a packed concert in Ashkelon, Israel, in May.

Music-loving Iranians craving nostalgic Persian songs of a bygone era, or the upbeat dance music that is banned in their Islamic state, have new darling: Rita, the Israeli singing sensation.

Rita Jahanforuz, 50 years old, is Israel’s most famous female singer—and suddenly she’s big in Iran. Iranian-born and fluent in Persian, Rita, as she is universally known, moved to Israel as a child and has lived there ever since. Her latest album, “All My Joys,” revives old-time Persian hits, giving them an upbeat Mediterranean flavor that caters to the Israeli ear.

Israeli’s singing sensation, Rita, has won an underground Iranian fan base after releasing an album in Persian. In an exclusive interview, WSJ’s Joshua Mitnick talks with the star about how she’s become a goodwill ambassador for two countries that are sworn enemies.

The album went gold in Israel in just three weeks, despite being sung entirely in Persian. It also propelled Rita onto the music scene in Iran, where she was all but unknown outside of Iran’s small Jewish population.

Now, from nightclubs in Tel Aviv to secret underground parties in Tehran, Israelis and Iranians alike go wild when the DJ plays her hit “Beegharar,” or “Restless.”

Rita’s fans within Iran, where the government heavily filters the Internet, use tricky software to furtively download her songs online. Bootleg CD sellers in the back alley of Tehran’s old bazaar wrap her albums in unmarked packages and hush any inquiries when asked if they sell her music.

Rita Jahanforuz’s Music

“Shhh…don’t mention Israel. Just say music by ‘Rita Khanum,’ ” which means “Ms. Rita,” said a young man named Reza selling bootleg music CDs and DVDs of Hollywood movies.

The governments of Iran and Israel are each other’s sworn enemies, and within Iran it is considered a taboo to publicly endorse anything that has to do with Israel. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said Israel should be wiped off the map. Israel has said it would consider pre-emptively bombing Iran to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon.

Rita, however, with her striking beauty and bubbly demeanor, has emerged as an unexpected bond between ordinary Iranians and Israelis—part cultural ambassador, part antiwar spokeswoman. A picture of Rita with the banner, “Iranians we will never bomb your country,” is posted on her Facebook page.

[RITA-Ahed]Rita Jahanforuz

“These days, people only know the language of war and violence and hatred,” said Rita, referring to Israelis’ view of the Persian language, during a recent interview in Tel Aviv. After she started receiving emails from Iranian fans, she realized music can “puncture the wall” of tension.

Rita’s family immigrated to Israel in 1970. She grew up in a suburb near Tel Aviv listening to her mother sing melodies from their homeland as she cooked in the kitchen.

Her singing career kicked off when Rita joined a band in the Israeli army in the 1980s. She rose to stardom quickly, singing solo and mostly in Hebrew or English, packing concert halls and performing for Israeli officials and foreign delegates.

A year ago, she decided to revisit what she tells audiences is the “soundtrack of my childhood” by adapting Persian classics that most Iranians know by heart. Her 2011 single “Shaneh” is based on a traditional song that Iranian grandmothers are known to whisper to their grandchildren as they comb their hair. An homage to a lover, it includes lines such as, “Oh, love, don’t comb your hair because my heart rests in its waves.” Rita reworked the song, staying true to the lyrics but giving it a more modern sound, somewhere between pop and Jewish gypsy music.

Iranian fans responded overwhelmingly, bombarding her with emails and messages online. “Rita, I want one of these concerts in Iran. You have an amazing voice and you are another pride for Iran,” wrote an Iranian fan on one of her videos on YouTube.

In September, when Rita visited Radio Ran, a Persian-language Internet radio station based in a Tel Aviv suburb, the studio was flooded with calls from Iranians around the world.

In an Israeli television interview, speaking of her Iranian fans, she joked that if she ever traveled to Iran, she would like to sing a duet with Mr. Ahmadinejad, “Maybe I can soften him with my feminine charm,” she said.

Iran’s government has taken notice. Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps, wrote last July that Rita is Israel’s “latest plot in a soft war” to gain access to the hearts and minds of Iranians.

Iranian hard-line websites and blogs expressed particular displeasure at Rita for sending a message to Iranians this past March for the Norouz New Year, via a video posted on the Persian website of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Norouz messages are considered highly political and usually a tactic used by politicians like President Barack Obama and Iran’s opposition leaders.

“I hope that we all live alongside each other by dancing and singing because this is what will last,” Rita said in her Norouz message.

In May, Rita performed a sold-out concert in the city of Ashkelon, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, singing mostly Persian songs. Fans crowded the stage and danced the aisles.

After the show, concert goers said they were swept away. “Listen, I’m not Persian,” said Meir Kanto, a 72-year-old farmer. “But the culture is so colorful and so beautiful, from my perspective, let them conquer us. It wouldn’t hurt.”

In Tehran, guests at a recent engagement party jumped to their feet shimmying their hips and shoulders when Rita’s voice echoed from the speakers, mixing the rhythms of an old and uniquely southern Iranian song to techno dance beats. Even middle-age couples joined in.

“She is singing from her heart. So what if she is from Israel?” said Manijeh, a 43-year-old relative of the bride who asked that her surname not be published. “We love her.”


NOWRUZ IS THE PERSIAN NEW YEAR – the Persian day of rebirth in spring. Today, the festival of Nowruz is celebrated in many countries including Israel.

Nowruz with different spelling shows up in official calendars in 11 countries –  Iran,  Azerbaijan, Tajikistan,  Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Autonomous Region of Kurdistan (part of Iraq), Albania, and Georgia.

There are more than 187 million people celeberating Nowruz nationally (total population of the eleven countries). Today, more people celebrate outside than inside Iran – a country of 75 Million people.

Further – while not a national holiday, there are many more countries or regions that celebrate Persian New Year, such as Crimea, India, France, Republic of Tatarstan (part of Russian federation), United States,  United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Israel, Germany,  Lebanon, China, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Pakistan, Sweden…


UN Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day of Nowruz – 21 March 2012:

For three thousand years of world history and for three hundred million people today, Nowruz unites regions and nationalities, religions and languages to share in the renewal of life on the first day of Spring.

Nowruz is a day for family and friends, for festive meals, for dancing and singing. It is a day to celebrate the value of mutual respect and the aspiration for harmony held by all societies. It is a moment for cleansing and rebirth, an opportunity to renew wishes of peace and goodwill.

Each Nowruz showcases the world’s diversity and offers an opportunity for deepening the ties that bind us all together. This is why Nowruz was recently added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The shared effort behind that step also led the United Nations General Assembly to declare 21 March as the International Day of Nowruz.

At a time of global change and uncertainty, including in many regions where Nowruz is celebrated, the message of peace that lies at the core of this observance is especially important. My thoughts are with those communities observing Nowruz under difficult circumstances. This holiday is a reminder that we share a common fate and must work for a better future for all.

Let us join forces to celebrate the rebirth of life and express our commitment to building a safer, more peaceful and just global community. This is the promise of Nowruz — and our task together throughout the year.

Ban Ki-moon


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