* Livni’s Mossad background exaggerated in international media
* Outgoing Israeli PM Olmert “offers Palestinians 98.1 % of the West Bank”
* Palestinian woman exploits humanitarian checkpoint lane to throw acid at soldier
(Please note there is another dispatch that was posted today too: Iran prepares Salman Rushdie’s coffin, as Hillary Clinton cancels appearance at NY rally against Ahmadinejad.)
1. Tzipi Livni today starts to try to form a new Israeli government
2. Livni’s Mossad background exaggerated in foreign media
3. Netanyahu: “Joining a coalition under Livni is like joining Lehman brothers”
4. Palestinians pleased with Livni’s win
5. Livni favors a quick peace deal with the Palestinians
6. Carnage in Gaza
7. Palestinian woman throws acid on soldier’s face at checkpoint
8. Iraqi MP hounded after visiting Israel
9. Al-Qaeda’s American-born propaganda chief may have died in predator attack
10. And on a lighter note...
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
TZIPI LIVNI TODAY STARTS TO TRY TO FORM A NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT
Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has narrowly won the vote to replace Ehud Olmert as head of Israel’s governing Kadima party. Provided she is able to stitch together a coalition within the next few weeks, she will become Israel’s second female prime minister. Golda Meir, Israel’s first female prime minister, held office from 1969-74.
When voting ended at 10.30 pm local time last night, the pollsters predicted a big win, by 10- to 12-point margins, for Livni. However, by the time all the ballot papers were counted this morning she had won by a mere 431 votes – or just one percent of the ballots cast. 74,000 Kadima members were eligible to vote.
Olmert is only expected to formally stand down once Livni confirms she has formed a working coalition. Olmert’s standing as prime minister never recovered from Israel’s failure to beat Hizbullah, after the Iranian-backed militia attacked Israel in July 2006.
“LIKE CHOOSING BETWEEN TWO SHADES OF GRAY”
Olmert was then embroiled in a series of minor corruption scandals which forced the early Kadima leadership race. Livni’s attempt to broker a coalition agreement will not be helped by the imminent Jewish holiday season during which political activity is normally suspended.
If she fails to create a coalition within 42 days, a general election will be called, according to Israel’s election law.
The election failed to interest the wider Israeli public. Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s best-selling newspaper, said the choice between Livni and her opponent Shaul Mofaz was “like choosing between two shades of gray.”
There were two other candidates, longtime cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter, a former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service. Neither garnered many votes.
LIVNI’S MOSSAD BACKGROUND EXAGGERATED IN FOREIGN MEDIA
Some foreign press have been quick to play up Livni’s past Mossad connections.
For example, a large heading on Monday in The Independent newspaper in London read “Israel: The spy who would be PM.”
And the Times of London started its report yesterday by describing Livni as the “Mossad agent-turned-politician Tzipi Livni.”
In fact Livni, a 50-year-old mother of two, has spent most of her career as a commercial lawyer, and more lately as a politician, serving in various posts, including foreign minister.
Livni’s role in the Mossad was limited to a period when she was in her early 20s and she occupied a safehouse in Paris to give it the semblance of a normal apartment. Foreign news reports suggesting she was on “the frontline of the hunt to bring Arab terrorists operating across Europe to justice” are incorrect.
For example, a recent article in the (London) Sunday Times stated: “From her base in Paris Livni traveled throughout Europe in pursuit of Arab terrorists... She blended in well in European capitals, working with male agents, most of them ex-commandos, taking out Arab terrorists.” This is incorrect.
WHY MENTION SABRA AND SHATILA?
It is also typical of the Times of London’s slanted reporting against Israel that in its news report last night about Livni beating Mofaz to replace Olmert, it couldn’t resist writing about the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon – which was in fact carried out by Christian Arabs not by Israel, and is only one of dozens of similar massacres by Muslim and Christian Arabs against one another throughout Lebanon’s long civil war, and in any case has nothing to do with yesterday’s candidates or vote. (The sections on the Sabra and Shatila massacre have been edited out of the updated Times news report on the election today, after reader complaints.)
Livni also used to work as a waitress in cafes in the Sinai desert, when the area was controlled by Israel.
NETANYAHU: “JOINING A COALITION UNDER LIVNI IS LIKE JOINING LEHMAN BROTHERS”
Many Israelis are angry that Kadima wants to choose a Prime Minister for the rest of Israel without asking the wider electorate. Even among Kadima’s 74,000 party members, there was a very low turnout, at about 50 percent.
Ma’ariv, Israel’s second highest circulation newspaper, says in an editorial: “Don’t let them form a government. Kadima’s random voters are allowed to choose themselves a leader, but not a Prime Minister for us all. For that there are elections.”
Another Israeli newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, writes in an editorial “The state of Israel is being held prisoner by a faction [Kadima] which is destroying our political and security resources, and is engaged in a useless race for political achievements considered as such only by those who shape public opinion.”
The Jerusalem Post asks if Kadima can offer a genuine “third way” alternative to Likud and Labor. The editorial questions whether Kadima is indeed a third way, or simply another dead end.
MORE PEOPLE AT PAUL MCCARTNEY CONCERT
Yediot Ahronot says today that, “More people will go to the forthcoming Paul McCartney concert than those who bothered to go to the polls yesterday to choose the person who will likely be the next prime minister.” The editors add: “Let us not be mistaken – the victory still does not assure Livni the premiership. An uneasy period awaits her.”
If general elections were held today, the Likud party, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would likely win. Netanyahu called on other smaller parties not to join Livni in a new coalition, which he predicted would in any case soon collapse. “Joining a Kadima coalition is like joining Lehman brothers,” Netanyahu said.
LIVNI FAVORS A QUICK PEACE DEAL WITH THE PALESTINIANS
Left-wing activists in Israel welcomed Livni’s election as “a boost for the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process as she is one of Israel’s strongest supporters of attempts to reach a quick negotiated agreement with moderate Palestinians.”
Her opponent, Iranian-born Mofaz, a former chief of staff, campaigned on security issues and would likely have taken a much stronger line than Livni against Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah. Many Israelis regard the center-left Livni as naïve on these issues.
Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Sunday evening that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has discussed with the Palestinians transferring 98.1 percent of the West Bank to them. This would mean giving up territory vital to Israel’s ability to defend itself.
PALESTINIANS PLEASED WITH LIVNI’S WIN
Palestinian Authority officials said this morning that they were pleased with Livni’s victory and were looking forward to continuing peace talks with her.
PA officials anxiously followed the Kadima primaries throughout the day yesterday, and like Livni’s associates, were concerned about the low turnout rate. Palestinian sources were concerned that a Mofaz victory would halt the diplomatic process, while a Livni victory was perceived as recipe for continued talks.
A senior PA official told Yediot Ahronot: “We’ll work with anyone, but it’s no secret that working with Livni will be much easier. She knows her stuff so there’s no need to start from scratch with her. We hope very much that she’d be able to put together a coalition so that we can continue to negotiate.”
CARNAGE IN GAZA
Since Monday night at least 12 Palestinians, including at least one young child, have been killed and dozens wounded in fighting in Gaza between Hamas and the Palestinian Dughmush clan. Hamas launched its assault on them shortly after midnight, hours after a member of the Dughmush clan killed a policeman while resisting arrest.
There has been very little reporting about these deaths in the international media and none of the dozens of “human rights” groups which constantly raise money for themselves on the basis of scare stories about Israeli “crimes” in Gaza have apparently had anything to say in the matter.
No doubt these deaths will be added to the death toll of “Palestinians killed by Israel” given periodically by prominent international media, as has happened in the past when Palestinians killed Palestinians.
According to Palestinian media reports, Hamas gunmen “knee-capped” about 30 female members of the Dughmush clan, by shooting them in the knees. This may make it harder for them to have children in future.
A Fatah spokesman condemned Hamas for carrying out an “enormous massacre.” Another Fatah leader, Ziad Abu Ein, accused Hamas of “war crimes” and urged Arab states and western aid groups to stop supporting Hamas.
Eleven people died in early August in another clash between Hamas forces and a separate clan aligned with its Fatah rivals.
PALESTINIAN WOMAN THROWS ACID ON SOLDIER’S FACE AT CHECKPOINT
An Israel soldier stationed at the Hawara checkpoint, south of the West Bank city of Nablus, sustained facial injuries last week after a Palestinian woman poured acid in his face.
The woman was attempting to cross into Israel using a new “humanitarian aid lane,” meant for emergencies and sick people, at which minimal security checks are made. These lanes were increased after Condoleezza Rice insisted Israel do so against the better judgment of Israeli security experts.
In other incidents at checkpoints over the past few weeks, a 16-year-old boy was arrested after he was found carrying two bombs and a knife, and an 18-year old Palestinian was arrested after he was caught carrying six pipe bombs, a rifle magazine and gun powder.
ISRAELI SOLDIER STABBED BY PALESTINIAN IN THE JORDAN VALLEY
A Palestinian man stabbed and moderately wounded an Israeli soldier at the Almog junction, in the southern Jordan Valley. The Palestinian man snatched the soldier’s weapon and fled the scene.
TWO ISRAEL AIR FORCE PILOTS KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH
Two leading Israel Air Force pilots were killed after a “Cobra” type combat helicopter crashed while on a training mission a few days ago near the Israeli kibbutz of Ginegar in northern Israel. Between them they leave eight young children, including 18-month-old twins, without a father.
MORE ROCKET ATTACKS FROM GAZA
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to temporarily close crossings to the Gaza Strip after a Kassam rocket fired from Gaza landed on the outskirts of a Sderot neighborhood on Sunday afternoon, close to Israeli homes. Hamas are meant to be observing a truce with Israel.
Since the period of what has come to be known as the “calm,” there have been 36 mortar and rocket attacks from Gaza. This is in comparison to some 300 incidents registered in the month before the ceasefire.
IRAQI MP HOUNDED AFTER VISITING ISRAEL
The Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat reports that Iraq is “in uproar,” following the news that a Member of Parliament has visited Israel for the second time.
Anti-Baath Iraqi MP Mithal al-Alousi, head of the Democratic party, visited Israel last week. While there he called for the establishment of a joint intelligence network with Israel and the U.S.
I met Alousi last week, and on his previous visit to Israel in September 2004. When word of that visit got out, his two sons were murdered by Baath Party sympathizers in 2005, as reported on this website at the time. Former Iraqi Culture Minister Asaad al-Hashemi was found guilty in absentia last month and sentenced to hang for involvement in the killings.
A Shi’ite MP called the current visit “an act of treachery against the Iraqi nation.” Another MP said that Alousi’s visit to Israel had “crossed all red lines” and was a “provocation of Iraqi and Arab sensibilities.”
Given the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other prominent Palestinian politicians visit Israel all the time, it is difficult to understand the ferocity of their reaction.
Agence France-Presse reported that Iraq’s parliament on Sunday lifted Alousi’s immunity and banned him from traveling outside Iraq or attending sessions of the assembly. The decision against Alousi, the only member of his own independent political party in the parliament, was taken by acclamation.
Alousi is one of several Iraqis that subscribe to this email list.
Among previous dispatches on this subject, please see:
* Mithal al-Alousi: Paying a heavy price for recognizing Israel’s existence (Feb.10, 2005)
* Iraqi official wishes “shana tova” to the Israeli people (Sept. 15, 2004)
The following editorial is from The New York Sun:
Al-Alusi and Israel
September 16, 2008
The events in Baghdad involving the trip to Israel by a member of Iraq’s parliament, Mithal al-Alusi, are shaping up as quite a test. On Sunday, members of Iraq’s parliament moved to strip Mr. Alusi’s parliamentary immunity from prosecution in order to charge him with treason for visiting the Jewish state.
Mr. Alusi has attended this same counter-terrorism conference for the past four years. The law under which he is to be prosecuted is a 1969 statute dating back to the initial Baathist purges of Israeli agents. The moment is a clarifying one. Will Iraq become a model of freedom for the Middle East, or will its politics devolve into the same cycle of corruption and violence that plagues its neighbors?
When we reached Mr. Alusi in Baghdad he was in good spirits. He told us he sought to explore an alliance of nations – America, Israel, Kuwait, Iraq – that are victims of Iranian aggression. “The real problem was because I was saying Iran is a problem and we need to free ourselves from the Iranian danger. I was calling for an alliance of Iran’s victims,” he said. Mr. Alusi says that for too many years the regimes in the Middle East have used the Jewish state as an excuse for their own misrule. “I have visited Israel before. I have been open about this. I won elections, my party is more popular now because of this than before,” he said.
Mr. Alusi spent the day Monday campaigning on the issue and says he has received overwhelming support. We would not count him out. He made his name in the Iraqi opposition by briefly taking over Iraq’s embassy in Berlin in 2002 and spent time in a German prison for his beliefs. He lost two sons at the hands of terrorists inside Iraq’s government and has survived multiple assassination plots. What a turnabout and a victory it would be if a visit to Israel actually made an Iraqi politician more popular.
AL-QAEDA’S AMERICAN-BORN PROPAGANDA CHIEF MAY HAVE DIED IN PREDATOR ATTACK
Attacks by unmanned U.S. predator aircraft have caused carnage among the middle ranks of al-Qaeda terrorist leaders in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.
Adam Gadahn, originally from California – also known as Azzam al-Ameriki – has been credited with helping transform al-Qaeda’s al-Sahab propaganda wing into a slick operation which communicates in fluent English.
He was al-Qaeda’s best-known Westerner and became the poster boy of would-be jihadis around the world who are radicalized on the Internet.
Last week leading intelligence experts said that he may be dead. I first reported this on this website in March, but other mainstream newspapers have reported on this only in the past week
Gadahn, whose birth name is Adam Pearlman, is of Jewish origin, but converted to Islam before moving to Afghanistan. After he joined al-Qaeda, his family disowned him.
Gadahn is one of a small but active number of extreme self-loathing Jews or people of Jewish origin who have dedicated themselves to demonizing Jews and trying to destroy the state of Israel.
AND ON A LIGHTER NOTE...
Because this website so often contains very serious, depressing stories, I occasionally send items of light relief.
* Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton open Saturday Night Live together. (One should bear in mind that NBC slants left and is therefore unfair on Hillary Clinton, and even more so on Sarah Palin, but generally avoids even the hint of ridiculing Barack Obama.)
* Sarah Palin’s first political ad.
* Obama satire of the movie “Downfall” (certainly not to everyone’s taste, and in response to the videos comparing John McCain and Hillary Clinton to Hitler which Obama supporters posted earlier in the campaign).
* And, away from politics, it is a pleasure to rewatch The Zimmers, the world’s oldest pop group (other than the Rolling Stones). The grandfather of a subscriber to this email list is a leading member of the band. The lead singer is 90-years-old, the lead guitarist is 83, and the backing chorus include pensioners aged 99 and 100. The Zimmers’ “My Generation” was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios in London, where the Beatles recorded many of their hits. I first sent it on this list last June shortly after it was released. I note it has now been watched almost 5 million times on YouTube.