Sunday, February 24, 2008

Israel News for Today

Israel News Daily 21/02/2008
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi foresees war in the near future

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said yesterday that he could not rule out the chance that Israel will face a military conflict in the near future. Speaking at a graduation ceremony at an officers' training school near Mitzpe Ramon in the south, Ashkenazi said, "There are dangers to our survival on the horizon and great challenges to Israeli security. The IDF needs to ensure a rapid victory in any conflict and I cannot guarantee that we won't need to act in the near future."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also attended the ceremony and used the opportunity to tell the new officers that the lessons from the Second Lebanon War had been learnt and that the army is more prepared at all levels. Olmert added that over the past year the political and military leaders had undergone a complex process to improve their decision making and preparedness for a conflict. "The State of Israel, in its 60th year, is a strong nation, with military might, a known deterrent force for all those who need to know, and a nation of the most impressive accomplishments. Secure in our strength and force, we now march on the path to peace and security," Olmert added.
Israel concerned that Europe may quit boycott against Hamas

Israel's European Union ambassador, Ran Koriel, recently told the Israeli Foreign Ministry of a possible change in EU policy towards Hamas and that Israel is facing mounting international pressure over its handling of the situation in Gaza. Koriel sent a telegram to the Foreign Ministry warning that a complete European policy change could be on the cards and may even include the recognition of Hamas by some European countries. "This activity is in keeping with the European culture espousing concern for humanitarian issues," Koriel wrote in the telegram. "It is even graver in view of the feeling in Europe that Israel and the Palestinians are not succeeding in changing the situation on the ground and not progressing in the peace talks."

Recently, Israel has been receiving strong signals from European and US officials who are frustrated over the lack of progress in the peace negotiations. Envoys of the Quartet to the Middle East met ten days ago and expressed their growing concerns. The meeting was attended by David Welch, Middle East aide to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, European Union peace envoy Mark Otte, UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry; and Russian envoy to the Middle East Sergei Yakovlev. During the meeting, Serry expressed the UN's concern with the humanitarian situation in Gaza and that "due to Israel's siege, even the UN's teams have difficulty entering and leaving Gaza to give aid."
Secretary General Ki-moon calls Ahmadinejad’s comments "intolerable and inexcusable"

Israel's ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday to discuss Iran's latest rhetoric against Israel. Ki-moon called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments labeling Israel a "dirty microbe" intolerable and inexcusable. In the hour long meeting, Gillerman said it was "outrageous for a member state to use racist, Nazi-like statements against another member state." Israel sent a letter to the Security Council in protest of the threats it received from Iran and also requested the meeting with the secretary general.

Gillerman told Ynetnews after the meeting that "The secretary-general was appalled by the Iranians' remarks, even before hearing Ahmadinejad's most recent statement." Gillerman was also referring to remarks made by Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari who referred to Israel as "a cancerous bacteria".

The Israeli envoy used the opportunity with Ki-moon to discuss concerns over Hezbollah's rearmament in southern Lebanon and the issue of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
Media Summary

In the UK and International media today, the Guardian and the Times report on a document that shows how the UK Foreign Office successfully fought to keep secret any mention of Israel in the first draft of its Iraq weapons dossier in order not to damage Britain-Israel relations. The Guardian also carries a lead article on this finding. In addition, the paper runs an article by Middle East editor Ian Black on Israel's nuclear programme. In other news, BBC Online notes that Palestinian leader Yasser Abed Rabbo has said that the Palestinians should unilaterally declare a state if peace talks with Israel fail. The Financial Times reports on Egyptian involvement concerning the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. In other news, several papers note that Chelsea football manager and former Israeli national coach Avram Grant has been sent dozens of anti-Semitic emails and letters, including death threats, since becoming the manager.

In the Israeli press, all papers note that IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi addressed an officers' graduation ceremony yesterday and did not rule out the possibility of a war in the near future. Haaretz notes that Israel's ambassador to the EU, Ran Koriel, has warned the Foreign Ministry that European countries may break the boycott with Hamas and start to recognise the terrorist organisation. The Haaretz website notes the Guardian report on the UK Foreign Office's success in managing to conceal Israel in the 2002 Iraq dossier. The Jerusalem Post and Ynetnews report that Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman met yesterday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the latest Iranian comments against Israel. Ki-moon called Iran's anti-Israel statements "intolerable and inexcusable". Ynetnews reports that residents of the southern town of Sderot affected by continuous rocket attacks from Gaza are moving their protest tent from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in order to raise awareness of their plight across the country.
Comment and Opinion
Condoning genocide
Jerusalem Post, (Jerusalem Post)

'Denying historical facts, especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust, is just not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any state or people. I would like to see this fundamental principle respected both in rhetoric and in practice by all the members of the international community." - UN Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-moon, December 14, 2006

The leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, Muhammad Ali Jafari, wrote to Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah this week: "The cancerous growth Israel will soon disappear... I am convinced that with every passing day Hizbullah's might is increasing and in the near future, we will witness the disappearance of this cancerous growth Israel by means of the Hizbullah fighters' radiation [therapy]."

Next, Iranian Armed Forces chief Maj.-Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi wrote to Nasrallah saying that "Lebanese and Palestinian combatants... [will] continue the struggle until the complete destruction of the Zionist regime and the liberation of the entire land of Palestine."

Not to be outdone, on Wednesday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a rally broadcast on state television, "World powers have created a black and dirty microbe named the Zionist regime and have unleashed it like a savage animal on the nations of the region." Speaking of the late Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mugniyeh, Ahmadinejad said, "They assassinate pure and pious people and then they celebrate it."

The silence from the nations of the world in the face of this blatant endorsement of terror and incitement to genocide is deafening, giving the lie to oceans of pious rhetoric.

Just weeks ago, for example, the UN noted the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, established in 2005 by a General Assembly resolution. Once again, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for "rededication" to "applying the lessons of the Holocaust to our lives."

Just what are those lessons? The late US Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, said what Ban should have said. Already too sick to attend the UN event, his daughter read his warning: "Just as an earlier dictator pledged to destroy the Jews of Europe, so a new one is threatening to destroy the Jewish state. It is the responsibility of the entire world community... to prevent another Holocaust, wherever it may occur, and to keep the memory of the killing of six million Jewish people alive as the State of Israel faces constant attacks, and must fight each day for its very survival."

This, indeed, is the obvious, yet unspoken lesson for today. Iran openly backs Hizbullah, openly hosts Hamas leaders and openly calls for Israel's destruction. Nor are these genocidal intentions "only" rhetorical. They are already being carried out in practice, in the form of daily missile attacks and other terrorist acts, ongoing weapons buildups and - topping it all off - through Iran's race to full nuclear weapons capability.

The stunning global silence in the face of incitement to and preparation for genocide testifies to a belief that all this is "just" Israel's problem - as if an existential threat to one small state is not of sufficient concern. Yet the eminent Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer, in a discussion paper on the UN Web site, explains why, once again, a threat to the Jewish people is also a global one.

'World War II... [was] initiated by Nazi Germany, largely for ideological reasons: one, the desire to rule Europe, and through it, the world, and thus achieve a global racial hierarchy... of the Aryan race on top, and everybody else under them... [Two,] they saw the Jews as the Satan that controlled all of Germany's enemies... It is no exaggeration to say that World War II, and the death of tens of millions, the destruction of countries and cultures, the torture and death of children and adults, was caused in part by hatred against Jews,' he wrote."
Israel's weapons - a diplomatic no-go area
Ian Black, (Guardian)

"Nuclear weapons are seen as the last resort of Israel's security, the so-called "Samson option" to be used in desperation - like the biblical character who died with his enemies when he brought down the temple on the heads of the Philistines.

Developed secretly from 1956 after France built a nuclear reactor at Dimona in the Negev desert, the weapons were seen by Israel's first generation of leaders as designed to prevent a second Holocaust - an argument that was translated into a formidable arsenal outside any international controls. Seymour Hersh, the American writer, has reported that the words "Never Again" were welded, in English and Hebrew, on to the first Israeli nuclear warhead. Apocryphal or not, the story hints at the thinking behind the programme.

Israel, unlike Saddam Hussein's Iraq, never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the 1970 agreement which allows countries to develop civilian nuclear power in exchange for forgoing weapons. These are supposed to be the preserve of the five permanent members of the UN security council. In recent years India, Pakistan and North Korea have swelled the ranks of the weapons states, but unlike them Israel has never come out of the nuclear closet, preferring a policy of so-called nuclear ambiguity - keeping its enemies guessing.

Israel's official line has always been that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East. But fears about the nuclear ambitions of Iran - led by a Holocaust-denying President Ahmadinejad - have reinforced domestic support (and perhaps international tolerance) for retaining its arsenal. In diplomatic terms, this has long been a no-go area for the US, Britain and others.

The closest it has come to using a nuclear weapon was in October 1973, when Egypt and Syria caught Israel by surprise and caused it heavy losses in the first days of the Yom Kippur war. By the mid-1980s when whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the Dimona reactor, gave his sensational inside story to the Sunday Times, the expert assessment was that Israel had up to 200 nuclear warheads and the ability to "deliver" them by plane, missile and submarine. If true, that makes a country of 7 million people the world's fifth or sixth ranking nuclear power.

In 1991, when Saddam launched his Scud missiles at Israel, there were fears he might be able to hit the heavily-guarded Dimona reactor. This month there were jitters when a Palestinian suicide bomber struck a shopping centre in the town.

In September Israeli warplanes launched a raid on northern Syria on a site rumoured to have been a nuclear reactor. The attack was variously interpreted as being designed to restore Israel's deterrent capability and to send a signal to Iran about what could happen if it did pursue a nuclear weapons programme."

Quotes of the Day
Israeli European Union Ambassador Ran Koriel (Haaretz)

This activity is in keeping with the European culture espousing concern for humanitarian issues. It is even graver in view of the feeling in Europe that Israel and the Palestinians are not succeeding in changing the situation on the ground and not progressing in the peace talks.

Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman (Ynetnews)

The secretary-general was appalled by the Iranians' remarks, even before hearing Ahmadinejad's most recent statement.

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi (Jerusalem Post)

There are dangers to our survival on the horizon and great challenges to Israeli security. The IDF needs to ensure a rapid victory in any conflict and I cannot guarantee that we won't need to act in the near future.

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