Mossad’s hidden successes against Iran so far – but they are not enough

May 17, 2009

* IAEA chief: Mideast a “ticking bomb”
* Westerners may be stupid, but Hamas is not
* Leading Egyptian scholar: All pigs must die because they descend from Jews
* Saudi judge: Slapping your wife is ok
* Jewish-Arab pop duo fails to win Eurovision Song Contest

 

CONTENTS

1. IAEA chief: Mideast is a “ticking bomb”
2. Obama sends CIA chief to warn Netanyahu: Don’t surprise me with Iran strike
3. Some of the Mossad’s successes so far in slowing down Iran’s nuclear program
4. Leading Egyptian scholar: All pigs must die because they descend from Jews
5. “Israel is quietly expelling young settler couples from the West Bank”
6. “Netanyahu appoints ministerial committee on developing the Palestinian economy”
7. Palestinian ambassador: “With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse”
8. Israeli airforce practicing MIG-29/F-16 dogfights “for Iran run”
9. Did U.S. aid help Lebanon crack alleged Israeli spy rings?
10. Egypt finds massive Hamas arms cache along Israel border
11. Israeli media frustrated with apparent Obama policy on Middle East

12. Dershowitz to Obama: Don’t use nuclear blackmail on Israel
13. Westerners may be stupid, but Hamas is not
14. Dental sharia in Britain
15. Saudi judge says slapping wife for overspending is ok
16. Iran steps up persecution of Baha’is and Christians
17. Baha’i leaders may face death penalty
18. Fate of hundreds arrested on May Day unknown
19. Jewish-Arab pop duo fails to win Eurovision Song Contest
20. “Why the Obama administration has the Iran problem backwards” (By Alan Dershowitz)
21. “The Hamas ‘peace’ gambit” (By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post)
22. “Israel’s secret war with Iran” (By Ronen Bergman, Wall Street Journal)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

IAEA CHIEF: MIDEAST IS A “TICKING BOMB”

In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has warned that between 10 and 20 countries will likely soon have the ability to construct nuclear weapons unless major powers intervene soon.

“This is the phenomenon we see now and what people worry about concerning Iran. And this phenomenon goes much beyond Iran,” El Baradei said.

Addressing the Middle East situation in particular, he described nuclear proliferation as a “ticking bomb”. The production of weapons-grade fissile material must be banned, he added.

Readers of this website have been repeatedly warned over recent years about the worldwide dangers posed by the almost complete lack of effective international diplomatic action to halt Iran’s nuclear program. I am glad readers of The Guardian have now finally been alerted to the issue.

El Baradei has presided over the IAEA for more than 11 years and is due to retire in November at the age of 67. A bitter diplomatic battle is under way over his successor.

El Baradei also predicted that the next wave of proliferation would involve “virtual nuclear weapons states,” who can produce plutonium or highly enriched uranium and possess the know-how to make warheads, but who stop just short of assembling a weapon. They would therefore remain technically compliant with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty while being within a couple of months of deploying and using a nuclear weapon at any time they wish to do so.

 

OBAMA SENDS CIA CHIEF TO WARN NETANYAHU: DON’T SURPRISE ME WITH IRAN STRIKE

U.S. President Barack Obama this month sent his new CIA chief, Leon Panetta, on a “secret” mission to Jerusalem (which is not secret anymore since the Obama administration quickly leaked it) to warn Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to surprise the U.S. by launching a military operation against Iran’s nuclear program.

The meeting took place two weeks ago in Jerusalem. Obama did not wait for his White House meeting with Netanyahu, scheduled for tomorrow, to deliver his message.

Obama fears that Israel will act soon to stop Iran’s nuclear program before it is too late. On Holocaust Memorial Day last month, Netanyahu again said: “We will not allow Holocaust-deniers to carry out another holocaust.”

Both Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak are not opposed to American dialogue with Tehran, but they believe it should be conducted within a limited timeframe, making it clear to Iran that if it does not halt its nuclear program, more forceful measures will be considered. The Israeli intelligence establishment is dismayed that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates again recently ruled out the use of force against Tehran.

The CIA doesn’t take Iran’s nuclear program as seriously as Israel, and some in Washington have already reconciled themselves to living with a nuclear Iran. On many occasions in the past, CIA analyses have been wrong, and the agency has failed to predict epoch-changing events, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 attacks. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would be an epoch-changing event of possibly even greater consequence.

One Israeli official told me: “Mr. Panetta’s time would be better spent in a ‘secret’ meeting with Iranian officials to warn them against continuing their nuclear program.”

 

SOME OF THE MOSSAD’S SUCCESSES SO FAR IN SLOWING DOWN IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM

In an article I attach in full at the end of this dispatch, which appears in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Ronen Bergman, the well-informed intelligence correspondent for the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, outlines some of the “successes” the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, has already had in slowing down the Iranian nuclear program. I have alluded to some of these in past dispatches on this list over recent years.

These include a series of apparent accidents: the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist, the crash of two planes carrying cargo relating to the nuclear project; two labs that burst into flames; and the mysterious accident in July 2007 at the Al-Safir missile factory jointly operated by Iran and Syria.

The Mossad has greatly improved its operational successes since then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed his friend and former military colleague Meir Dagan to head the organization in 2002.

“The Mossad has stunning achievements to its credit, yet the mullahs remain a threat,” notes Bergman, correctly.

Most of the Mossad’s achievements remain a secret. But it is unlikely that Bergman’s piece would have appeared in a major American newspaper at this time, as Netanyahu flies to Washington for his crucial talks with President Obama, and in this form, without the approval of Bergman’s contacts in Israeli intelligence.

In addition to alerting people outside Israel, Bergman’s piece may well have the Israeli leadership in mind. In this respect it performs a similar function to a recent article in Ha’aretz by that paper’s intelligence correspondent Yossi Melman (who also has excellent contacts in Israeli intelligence). Both pieces serve as a warning from the Israeli intelligence community to Prime Minister Netanyahu, urging him not to give in to Obama’s pressure and back away from taking decisive action on the Iranian issue.

“The Israeli intelligence community,” says Bergman, “has penetrated enemies like Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Hizbullah and Hamas. Yet despite former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s willingness to authorize highly dangerous operations based on this intelligence, and despite the unquestionable success of the operations themselves, the overall security picture remains as grim as ever.”

“The bottom line is that excellent intelligence is very important, but it can only take you so far. In the end, it’s the tough diplomatic and military decisions made by Israeli leaders that ensure the security of the state.”

 

LEADING EGYPTIAN SCHOLAR: ALL PIGS MUST DIE BECAUSE THEY DESCEND FROM JEWS

In a sermon on swine flu last week, one of Egypt’s most senior clerics, Sheikh Ahmed Ali Othman, said that “All pigs alive today are descendants of the Jews who were turned into pigs by Allah, as related in the Koran.”

“If pigs were merely animals, they would not face destruction. It is their Jewish ancestry that condemns them to death,” he added.

Following the recent swine flu outbreak, the Egyptian government ordered a cull of the country’s 400,000 pigs, even though the disease is mainly transmitted human-to-human.

An Egyptian health official admitted “the authorities took advantage of the situation to resolve the question of disorderly pig rearing”: in other words to clamp down on the country’s large Christian Coptic minority that rears and eats the pigs. Egyptian Christians rioted following the swine flu cull.

 

“ISRAEL IS QUIETLY EXPELLING YOUNG SETTLER COUPLES FROM THE WEST BANK”

While international journalists and diplomats keep on asserting that Israel is increasing settlements on the West Bank*, the opposite is in fact true, according to a report last week in the leading Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz. “Israel is quietly expelling young settler couples from West Bank,” reported Ha’aretz.

“The near complete freeze on building in the territories has pushed some 1,600 young [Israeli] couples – out of the 2,100 couples who marry each year in the West Bank – to live in communities far from their parents and the towns in which they grew up,” the paper added.

The head of the municipal council of West Bank settlements accused the Israeli government of quietly encouraging the “expulsion” of young Israelis from the territories.

Settler leaders have strongly criticized the Netanyahu government for not “putting an end to the settlement freeze policy of the Olmert and Sharon governments.”

(* In criticizing Israel, Western government officials and New York Times editorial writers tend to treat every report and statistic released by left-wing Israeli NGOs and activist groups as if they were true.)

 

NETANYAHU APPOINTS “MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON DEVELOPING THE PALESTINIAN ECONOMY”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has formed “a ministerial committee on developing the Palestinian economy and improving the Palestinians’ quality of life.” Netanyahu requested that the committee, headed by former Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, help speed up the development of several economic projects in Jenin, Jericho and at the Qasr al-Yehud baptismal site, in coordination with the Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

Separately, Netanyahu has approved the transfer of NIS 50 million to banks in the Gaza Strip in order to help pay Palestinian Authority salaries – this despite his having severely criticized former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for similar actions in the past.

Many in Israel have opposed such cash transfers, asserting that Gaza’s Hamas rulers benefit from it, both directly and indirectly.

 

PALESTINIAN AMBASSADOR: “WITH THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION, IN MY OPINION, ISRAEL WILL COLLAPSE”

Mahmoud Abbas’s “moderate” Fatah ambassador to Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, said in a TV interview in Beirut last week:

“With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse... They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status... and Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward.”

These kinds of comments by senior Fatah officials are quite common, but most Western media refuse to report them.

 

ISRAELI AIRFORCE PRACTICING MIG-29/F-16 DOGFIGHTS “FOR IRAN RUN”

Israel Air Force (IAF) pilots are flying MIG 29 jets and conducting practice dogfights against the IAF’s F-16 fighters, Israel’s Channel 2 television revealed last week.

The MIG 29, developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, is one of the best and most complex fighter jets used by various Arab states and by Iran. It was developed to counter American-made jets such the F-16 or F/A-18.

The jets were loaned to Israel by an unnamed foreign country. The experiment is meant to prepare IAF pilots for missions where they might have to fight a foreign airforce.

The leaked report is the latest of several to the media, which have also been reported on this website. They are believed to indicate Israeli preparedness to engage in any conflict with Iran, should that become necessary.

 

DID U.S. AID HELP LEBANON CRACK ALLEGED ISRAELI SPY RINGS?

The authorities in Beirut last week arrested another 11 Lebanese citizens suspected of belonging to intelligence cells transmitting information about the Iranian-controlled Islamic terrorist group Hizbullah to Israel. These were the most recent arrests in a two-month crackdown apparently aided by sophisticated equipment that America has supplied to the Lebanese army, according to Ha’aretz.

The United States has provided $1 billion in aid to Lebanon since 2006, including $410 million in security assistance to the Lebanese military and police.

Israel has expressed reservations about this American military aid, saying that much of it ultimately finds its way into Hizbullah hands.

U.S. officials have said they would review aid to Lebanon depending on the results of the June 7 election, which could oust the U.S.-backed government.

 

EGYPT FINDS MASSIVE HAMAS ARMS CACHE ALONG ISRAEL BORDER

Reuters reported on Friday that the Egyptian security forces have uncovered hundreds of weapons and explosive devices hidden along the Sinai Peninsula’s border with Israel. 266 rockets, 43 mines, 51 mortar shells, 21 hand grenades and at least three anti-aircraft missiles were found. They were believed to be destined for use by Hamas in Gaza. (Even though most Western news media subscribe to the Reuters News agency, few papers have reported on this enormous arms find.)

Last week, the head of Israeli military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, told a parliamentary committee that despite impressive efforts by the Egyptians, the smuggling of arms into Gaza is continuing.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustakbal reported on Friday that Egyptian forces arrested four members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard suspected of organizing an espionage ring on Egyptian territory. The ring was apparently headed by an Iranian intelligence official who entered Egypt using a forged Iraqi passport, according to the report.

***

The young Canadian-born Israeli army medic who was killed following a riot by Palestinians near Ramallah last week has been named as 20-year-old Noam Rechter-Levy. He is the first IDF casualty in the West Bank in 20 months, though several Israeli civilians and children have been murdered in the West Bank during that time, as well as traffic policemen.

 

ISRAELI MEDIA FRUSTRATED WITH APPARENT OBAMA POLICY ON MIDDLE EAST

A series of editorials in the Israeli media in recent days have been sharply critical of the Obama administration.

Yediot Ahronot says that “Obama’s slogan – two states for two peoples – repeats itself every few years like a broken record… The Palestinians are already divided into two states; one has a stable terrorist leadership, the other a leadership that is living on borrowed time… the Israeli Government should be prepared, to politely say ‘No, thank you,’ even if the American patron is disappointed.”

Ma’ariv says it is “troubled by the apparent assumption by the Obama administration that to counter Iran depends on progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front with an almost Messianic faith that ‘two states’ is the magic solution to that problem.”

The Jerusalem Post comments on what may be the U.S. administration’s seeming resignation to the inevitability of a nuclear-armed Iran, and insists that “Israel isn’t arbitrarily trying to ‘switch’ the discussion away from the Palestinians to Iran. It is warning that a nuclear-armed Iran is the overriding threat – to Israel, the Arabs and the West.”

 

DERSHOWITZ TO OBAMA: DON’T USE NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL ON ISRAEL

In an article (attached in full further down this dispatch), titled “Don’t blame Israel: why the Obama administration has the Iran problem backwards,” Alan Dershowitz says Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel are making a “dangerous” mistake linking Israeli efforts toward establishing a Palestinian state with efforts to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Favoring a two-state solution, which will take time since there have been few indications so far on the Palestinian side of willingness to compromise, should not be linked to the threat from a nuclear Iran, says Dershowitz, who is a longtime subscriber to this email list. The Iranian nuclear threat “is existential and immediate for Israel, and poses dangers to the entire region, as well as to the U.S.”

Dershowitz recalls what Hashemi Rafsanjani said to an American journalist: He boasted that an Iranian nuclear attack would kill as many as five million Jews [virtually the entire Jewish population of Israel], whereas even if Israel retaliated in kind, Iran would probably lose only fifteen million people, which Rafsanjani said would be “a small sacrifice from among the billion Muslims in the world.”

It would be far easier for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians if it did not have to worry about the threat of a nuclear attack or a dirty bomb. It would also be easier for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank if Iran were not arming and inciting Hamas, Hizbullah and other enemies of Israel to terrorize its population with rockets and suicide bombers.

In this respect, the Obama administration has it exactly backwards. “There are other ways of encouraging Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. Nuclear blackmail is not one of them,” Dershowitz says.

 

WESTERNERS MAY BE STUPID, BUT HAMAS IS NOT

In the second full article below, Charles Krauthammer writes in The Washington Post:

“Westerners may be stupid, but Hamas is not. It sees the new American administration making overtures to Iran and Syria. It sees Europe, led by Britain, beginning to accept Hizbullah. It sees itself as next in line. And it knows what to do. Yasser Arafat wrote the playbook.

“With the 1993 Oslo accords, he showed what can be achieved with a fake peace treaty with Israel – universal diplomatic recognition, billions of dollars of aid, and control of Gaza and the West Bank, which Arafat turned into an armed camp. In return for a signature, he created in the Palestinian territories the capacity to carry on the war against Israel that the Arab states had begun in 1948 but had given up after the bloody hell of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

“… Netanyahu is reluctant to agree to a Palestinian state before he knows what kind of state it will be. The Palestinians already have a state, an independent territory with not an Israeli settler or soldier living on it. It’s called Gaza. And what is it? A terror base, Islamist in nature, Iranian-allied, militant and aggressive, that has fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortar rounds at Israeli civilians.

“If this is what a West Bank state is going to be, it would be madness for Israel or America or Jordan or Egypt or any other moderate Arab country to accept such a two-state solution. Which is why Netanyahu insists that the Palestinian Authority first build institutions – social, economic and military – to anchor a state that could actually carry out its responsibilities to keep the peace…”

 

DENTAL SHARIA IN BRITAIN

A Muslim dentist in Britain is refusing to treat female patients unless they wear traditional Islamic dress, the (London) Daily Mail reported last week.

Omer Butt, 32, said that unless non-Muslim women put on head scarves, he would not register them or their families at his government-funded National Health Service clinic, it was claimed.

At least two patients were left in pain after they declined to follow his self-imposed rules, according to complaints about Butt submitted to the British Dental Council.

 

SAUDI JUDGE SAYS SLAPPING WIFE FOR OVERSPENDING IS OK

Agence France-Presse reported from Riyadh last week that a Saudi judge told a seminar on domestic violence that it is okay for a man to slap or smack his wife if she has engaged in what he called “lavish spending”.

In his speech, Jeddah judge Hamad al-Razine said: “If a person gives 1,200 riyals ($424) to his wife and she spends 900 riyals ($318) to purchase an abaya [the head-to toe black shroud Saudi women have to wear in public] from a brand shop, and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment.”

 

IRAN STEPS UP PERSECUTION OF BAHA’IS AND CHRISTIANS

“The systematic persecution of Baha’is and Christians in Iran intensified last month,” reported the German daily Die Welt (May 4, 2009). The paper listed several specific cases of the arbitrary arrest and harassment of Baha’is and Christians, dozens of whom were arrested without charge last month and are being held in unknown locations.

On March 8, 2009, the Islamist Parliament passed a budget of $3 million for the country-wide fight against “Baha’i s, Sufis and devil worshippers”. By “devil worshippers” the Iranian government means youths who listen to Western pop music or dress in non-Islamic fashions.

“International Christian Concern” also reported that “Iranian officials have dramatically stepped up the persecution of Christians. Some of them are said to have been tortured, some to have died in prison as the result of this torture.”

For reports on the ongoing mistreatment of Baha’i and other minorities in Iran, please see previous dispatches on this email list/website. Senior editors at Die Welt are longtime subscribers to this email list.

 

BAHA’I LEADERS MAY FACE DEATH PENALTY

Radio Farda reported (May 12) that seven Baha’i leaders who have spent the last year in jail may soon face new charges of “spreading corruption on Earth” that could lead to the death penalty. [In Persian here, with photos of the charged Baha’is.]

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon on Friday asked Iran to release the seven Baha’i leaders, who were originally arrested on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel. He also asked Iran to stop harassing the Baha’i minority.

 

FATE OF HUNDREDS ARRESTED ON MAY DAY UNKNOWN

An Iranian labor activist said on Friday that hundreds of demonstrators arrested on May Day are being held without charge in the infamous Section 209 of Tehran’s Evin Prison. They have been denied visits from their families and lawyers. [In Persian here.]

Meanwhile, the mother of Iranian trade union leader Mansour Osanlou said his health has severely deteriorated since he was jailed without charge in 2006, and he is now in critical condition. Western media have been virtually silent about his case, apart from various trade union publications.

By contrast, a great deal of Western political and media attention was devoted to the arrest, brief incarceration, and subsequent release this month of NPR and BBC journalist Roxana Saberi. This aids the Iranian regime in not focusing on the far greater numbers of people wrongly held in prison, tortured, and murdered in Iran, which the mainstream Western media does its best to avoid mentioning.

 

JEWISH-ARAB POP DUO FAILS TO WIN EUROVISION SONG CONTEST

The joint Jewish- and Arab-Israeli pop duo that reached the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow last night, came in 16th place. (There were 42 countries participating.)

Achinoam Nini (also known as Noa), an Israeli Jew, and Miri Awad, a Christian Israeli Arab, performed the song “There Must Be Another Way” in English, Hebrew and Arabic. This is the first time that an Arab and Jewish duo has ever performed together at Eurovision, one of the most-watched television events in the world.

The Russian television co-host described the entry as “the most politically correct in the history of Eurovision.” Israel has won the competition three times, the last time being Dana International’s victory in 1998.

Last night’s runaway winner, Norway, was the most popular song to win Eurovision since Swedish group Abba won the competition with “Waterloo” 25 years ago, catapulting Abba to international fame.

Abba’s Waterloo victory at Eurovision can be seen here:

Alexander Rybak’s victorious song for Norway at Eurovision last night, “Fairy Tale,” can be seen below. (Rybak was actually born in the Soviet Union, in Minsk, now the capital of Belarus and moved to Norway as a child.)

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

IRAN THREAT IS FIRST PRIORITY

Don’t blame Israel: why the Obama administration has the Iran problem backwards
By Alan Dershowitz
New York Post
May 9, 2009

“The task of forming an international coalition to thwart Iran’s nuclear program will be made easier if progress is made in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has said, according to sources in Washington. Israeli TV stations had reported Monday night that Emanuel had actually linked the two matters, saying that the efforts to stop Iran hinged on peace talks with the Palestinians.” – Jerusalem Post, May 4

Rahm Emanuel is a good man and a good friend of Israel, but in a highly publicized recent statement he linked American efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons to Israeli efforts toward establishing a Palestinian state. This is dangerous.

I have long favored the two-state solution, as do most Israelis and American supporters of Israel. I have also long opposed civilian settlements deep into the West Bank. I hope that Israel does make efforts, as it has in the past, to establish a Palestinian state as part of an overall peace between the Jewish state and its Arab and Muslim neighbors.

Israel in 2000-2001 offered the Palestinians a state in the entire Gaza Strip and more than 95% of the West Bank, with its capital in Jerusalem and a $35 billion compensation package for the refugees. Yasser Arafat rejected the offer and instead began the second intifada in which nearly 5,000 people were killed. I hope that Israel once again offers the Palestinians a contiguous, economically-viable, politically independent state, in exchange for a real peace, with security, without terrorism and without any claim to “return” 4 million alleged refugees as a way of destroying Israel by demography rather than violence.

But the threat from a nuclear Iran is existential and immediate for Israel. It also poses dangers to the entire region, as well as to the US – not only from the possibility that a nation directed by suicidal leaders would order a nuclear attack on Israel or its allies, but from the likelihood that nuclear material could end up in the hands of Hezbollah, Hamas or even Al Qaeda. Recall what Hashemi Rafsanjani said to an American journalist:

[Rafsanjani] “boast[ed] that an Iranian [nuclear] attack would kill as many as five million Jews. Rafsanjani estimated that even if Israel retaliated by dropping its own nuclear bombs, Iran would probably lose only fifteen million people, which he said would be a small ‘sacrifice’ from among the billion Muslims in the world.”

Israel has the right, indeed the obligation, to take this threat seriously and to consider it as a first priority. It will be far easier for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians if it did not have to worry about the threat of a nuclear attack or a dirty bomb. It will also be easier for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank if Iran were not arming and inciting Hamas, Hezbollah and other enemies of Israel to terrorize Israel with rockets and suicide bombers.

In this respect, Emanuel has it exactly backwards: if there is any linkage, it goes the other way – defanging Iran will promote the end of the occupation and the two-state solution. Threatening not to help Israel in relation to Iran unless it moves toward a two-state solution first is likely to backfire.

After all, Israel is a democracy and in the end the people decide. A recent poll published in Ha’aretz concluded that 66% of Israelis favored a preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, with 75% of those saying they would still favor such a strike even if the US were opposed.

Israel’s new government will accept a two-state solution if they are persuaded that it will really be a solution – that it will assure peace and an end to terrorist and nuclear threats to Israeli citizens. I have known Prime Minister Netanyahu for 35 years and I recently had occasion to spend some time with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. I am convinced that despite their occasional tough talk, both want to see an end to this conflict.

Israelis have been scarred by what happened in Gaza. Israel ended the occupation, removed all of the settlers, and left behind millions of dollars worth of agricultural and other facilities designed to make the Gaza into an economically-viable democracy. Land for peace is what they sought. Instead they got land for rocket attacks against their children, their women and their elderly. No one wants to see a repeat of this trade-off.

Emanuel’s statements were viewed with alarm in Israel because most Israelis, though they want to like President Obama, are nervous about his policies toward Israel. They are prepared to accept pressure regarding the settlements, but they worry that the Obama Administration may be ready to compromise, or at least threaten to compromise, Israel’s security, if its newly elected government does not submit to pressure on the settlements.

Making peace with the Palestinians will be extremely complicated. It will take time. It may or may not succeed in the end, depending on whether the Palestinians will continue to want their own state less than they want to see the end of the Jewish state. Israel should not be held hostage to the Iranian nuclear threat by the difficulty of making peace with the Palestinians. Israel may be rebuffed again, especially if Palestinian radicals believe that such a rebuff will soften American action against Iran. In the meantime, Iran will continue in its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

That cannot be allowed to happen, regardless of progress on the ground toward peace with the Palestinians. These two issues must be delinked if either is to succeed. There are other ways of encouraging Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. Nuclear blackmail is not one of them.

 

THE PEACE OF THE GRAVE?

The Hamas “peace” gambit
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
May 8, 2009

“Apart from the time restriction (a truce that lapses after 10 years) and the refusal to accept Israel’s existence, Mr. Meshal’s terms approximate the Arab League peace plan …”
-- Hamas peace plan, as explained by the New York Times

“Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”
-- Tom Lehrer, satirist

The Times conducted a five-hour interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal at his Damascus headquarters. Mirabile dictu, they’re offering a peace plan with a two-state solution. Except the offer is not a peace but a truce that expires after 10 years. Meaning that after Israel has fatally weakened itself by settling millions of hostile Arab refugees in its midst, and after a decade of Hamas arming itself within a Palestinian state that narrows Israel to eight miles wide – Hamas restarts the war against a country it remains pledged to eradicate.

There is a phrase for such a peace: the peace of the grave.

Westerners may be stupid, but Hamas is not. It sees the new American administration making overtures to Iran and Syria. It sees Europe, led by Britain, beginning to accept Hezbollah. It sees itself as next in line. And it knows what to do. Yasser Arafat wrote the playbook.

With the 1993 Oslo accords, he showed what can be achieved with a fake peace treaty with Israel – universal diplomatic recognition, billions of dollars of aid, and control of Gaza and the West Bank, which Arafat turned into an armed camp. In return for a signature, he created in the Palestinian territories the capacity to carry on the war against Israel that the Arab states had begun in 1948 but had given up after the bloody hell of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Meshal sees the opportunity. Not only is the Obama administration reaching out to its erstwhile enemies in the region, but it begins its term by wagging an angry finger at Israel over the Netanyahu government’s ostensible refusal to accept a two-state solution.

Of all the phony fights to pick with Israel. No Israeli government would turn down a two-state solution in which the Palestinians accepted territorial compromise and genuine peace with a Jewish state. (And any government that did would be voted out in a day.) Netanyahu’s own defense minister, Ehud Barak, offered precisely such a deal in 2000. He even offered to divide Jerusalem and expel every Jew from every settlement remaining in the new Palestine.

The Palestinian response (for those who have forgotten) was: No. And no counteroffer. Instead, nine weeks later, Arafat unleashed a savage terror war that killed 1,000 Israelis.

Netanyahu is reluctant to agree to a Palestinian state before he knows what kind of state it will be. That elementary prudence should be shared by anyone who’s been sentient the last three years. The Palestinians already have a state, an independent territory with not an Israeli settler or soldier living on it. It’s called Gaza. And what is it? A terror base, Islamist in nature, Iranian-allied, militant and aggressive, that has fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortar rounds at Israeli civilians.

If this is what a West Bank state is going to be, it would be madness for Israel or America or Jordan or Egypt or any other moderate Arab country to accept such a two-state solution. Which is why Netanyahu insists that the Palestinian Authority first build institutions – social, economic and military – to anchor a state that could actually carry out its responsibilities to keep the peace.

Apart from being reasonable, Netanyahu’s two-state skepticism is beside the point. His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, worshiped at the shrine of a two-state solution. He made endless offers of a two-state peace to the Palestinian Authority – and got nowhere.

Why? Because the Palestinians – going back to the U.N. partition resolution of 1947 – have never accepted the idea of living side by side with a Jewish state. Those like Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who might want to entertain such a solution, have no authority to do it. And those like Hamas’s Meshal, who have authority, have no intention of ever doing it.

Meshal’s gambit to dress up perpetual war as a two-state peace is yet another iteration of the Palestinian rejectionist tragedy. In its previous incarnation, Arafat lulled Israel and the Clinton administration with talk of peace while he methodically prepared his people for war.

Arafat waited seven years to tear up his phony peace. Meshal’s innovation? Ten – then blood.

 

THE MULLAHS REMAIN A THREAT

Israel’s secret war with Iran
The Mossad has stunning achievements to its credit, yet the mullahs remain a threat
By Ronen Bergman
The Wall Street Journal
May 16, 2009

Those who leaf through the secret files of any intelligence service know what grave mistakes bad intelligence can lead to. But they also know that sometimes even excellent intelligence doesn’t change a thing.

The Israeli intelligence community is now learning this lesson the hard way. It has penetrated enemies like Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet despite former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s willingness to authorize highly dangerous operations based on this intelligence, and despite the unquestionable success of the operations themselves, the overall security picture remains as grim as ever.

In 2002, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed his friend and former subordinate, Gen. Meir Dagan, director of the Mossad. Gen. Dagan found the organization lacking in imagination and shying away from operational risks. Mr. Sharon, who knew Gen. Dagan from his days as head of a secret assassinations unit that acted against Fatah in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s, told the general that he wanted “a Mossad with a knife between its teeth.”

Gen. Dagan transformed the Mossad from top to bottom and made the organization’s sole focus Iran’s nuclear project and its ties to jihadist organizations. He put tremendous pressure on his subordinates to execute as many operations as possible. Moreover, he built up ties with espionage services in Europe and the Middle East on top of Israel’s long-standing relationship with the CIA.

In tandem with Gen. Dagan’s Mossad revolution, other Israeli military intelligence has also made outstanding breakthroughs. The Shin-Bet (Israel’s internal intelligence service), in cooperation with the military, has made huge strides in its understanding of Palestinian guerilla organizations.

The results have been tremendous. During the last four years, the uranium enrichment project in Iran was delayed by a series of apparent accidents: the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist, the crash of two planes carrying cargo relating to the project, and two labs that burst into flames. In addition, an Iranian opposition group in exile published highly credible information about the details of the project, which caused Iran much embarrassment and led to International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.

On July 12, 2006, thanks to precise intelligence, the Israeli Air Force destroyed almost the entire stock of Hezbollah’s long-range rockets stored in underground warehouses. Hezbollah was shocked.

In July 2007, another mysterious accident occurred in a missile factory jointly operated by Iran and Syria at a Syrian site called Al-Safir. The production line – which armed Scud missiles with warheads – was shut down and many were killed.

In September 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor built by Syria and aided by North Korea in Dir A-Zur – despite Syria’s significant efforts to keep it a secret. With indirect authorization from a very high ranking Israeli official, the CIA published incriminating pictures obtained by Israel of the site before it was bombed. These photos convinced the world that the Syrians were indeed attempting to manufacture a nuclear bomb.

In February 2008, Hezbollah’s military leader, Imad Mughniyah, was killed in Damascus. In August of that year, Gen. Mohammed Suliman, a liaison to Hamas and Hezbollah who participated in the Syrian nuclear project, was assassinated by a sniper.

In December 2008, Israel initiated operation Cast Lead, which dealt Hamas a massive blow. Most of its weapons were destroyed within days by Israeli air strikes. (Israel also knew where the Hamas leadership was hiding, but since it was in a hospital Mr. Olmert refused to authorize the strike.) In January 2009, Israeli Hermes 450 drones attacked three convoys in Sudan that were smuggling weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip.

These are all excellent achievements, but did they change reality? Mostly not.

The destruction of the Syrian nuclear reactor seems to have put a temporary end to President Bashar Assad’s ambitions of acquiring a nuclear weapon. However, the public humiliation caused by the site’s bombing did not sway him from supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and hosting terrorist organizations.

Even worse, the heads of Israeli intelligence are now losing sleep over recent information showing that attempts to delay the Iranian nuclear project have failed. Despite some technical difficulties, the Iranians are storming ahead and may possess a nuclear bomb as early as 2010. Hezbollah, although weakened by the 2006 war and Mughniyah’s assassination, has become the leading political force in Lebanon.

On the southern front, despite the convoy bombings in Sudan, the trafficking of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip continues. Hamas’s standing among Palestinians has strengthened. And if a cease-fire is negotiated between Hamas and Israel it would be perceived as a victory for Hamas.

The bottom line is that excellent intelligence is very important, but it can only take you so far. In the end, it’s the tough diplomatic and military decisions made by Israeli leaders that ensure the security of the state.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.