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The Day in Israel: Tues Feb 17th, 2009

Click refresh to see new updates during the day.

Following news that an IDF investigation found that the number of palestinian civilian fatalities from Operation Cast Lead was grossly exaggerated, the UN is now going to compile its own report.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

8:52PM: Besides stealing humanitarian aid, Hamas has also apparently stolen a large stockpile of unexploded weapons fired by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead.

8:08PM: Introducing UNRWA’s supa-dupa Gaza revival plan!

A UN agency serving Palestinian refugees has unveiled a $345 million emergency plan for the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA revealed its “Gaza revival plan” in a meeting in Jordan on Tuesday. The plan calls for rebuilding the coastal strip and outlines specific mechanisms for providing food, shelter, health care and education to Gaza’s population.

UNRWA’s Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayed said donor nations like the US have pledged to provide about half of the needed money.

Of course, the other half will come from the proceeds of those illegal humanitarian aid sales.

6:20PM: It dawned on me why Nassur the palestinian terror bear seemed so familiar.

5:30PM: I just read in one of the Israeli papers that neither Likud nor Kadima have the numbers required for a coalition.

Likud has the support of:

  • Shas – 11
  • Ichud Leumi (National Union) – 4
  • The Jewish Home – 3
  • United Torah Judaism – 5

When added to Likud’s 27 seats, they now have a potential 50 of the 120 Knesset seats

Kadima is worse off. They have only their own 28 seats. Even if Yisrael Beitenu (15) agreed to join them, this would bring them to 43.

3:50PM: Qureia for the straight guy dole line.

3:45PM: The PA has accused UNRWA of illegally selling aid.

As-Sarraj, part of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry in Gaza not to be confused with the separate Ministry of National economy of the de facto Hamas government in the same area, said UNRWA has been caught selling rice and sugar to local merchants without coordinating with the ministry first.

When contacted, UNRWA spokespeople said they had not heard of any such accusations and were unaware of any ongoing investigations of Gaza staff.

As-Sarraj said UNRWA employees were involved in bringing truckloads of goods into the Gaza Strip under title of the agency and selling them to the private sector, and called the act “illegal.” He said he brought the accusations to UNRWA’s attention Monday night.

“We seized three truckloads of rice and sugar [being sold to] merchants of the private sector through UNRWA, and the [PA] coordination committee had no idea. UNRWA does not have the right to use its special position [in the Strip] to engage with the private sector.”

Isn’t it interesting how UNRWA are never “aware” of any of these allegations, whether it be the allegation of Hamas stealing aid or this new one?

2:47PM: Huh?

2:42PM: Hamas has reportedly agreed in principle to a deal on Gilad Shalit before a truce is reached.

1:03PM: The UK’s Daily Telegraph reports that Israel has launched a “covert war” against Iran as an alternative to direct military strikes against their nuclear programme.

It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime’s illicit weapons project, the experts say.

The most dramatic element of the “decapitation” programme is the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran’s atomic operations.

Despite fears in Israel and the US that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its ability to build atom bomb, Israeli officials are aware of the change in mood in Washington since President Barack Obama took office.

They privately acknowledge the new US administration is unlikely to sanction an air attack on Iran’s nuclear installations and Mr Obama’s offer to extend a hand of peace to Tehran puts any direct military action beyond reach for now.

The aim is to slow down or interrupt Iran’s research programme, without the gamble of a direct confrontation that could lead to a wider war.

A former CIA officer on Iran told The Daily Telegraph: “Disruption is designed to slow progress on the programme, done in such a way that they don’t realise what’s happening. You are never going to stop it.

“The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach. We certainly don’t want the current Iranian government to have those weapons. It’s a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks.”

Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, the US private intelligence company with strong government security connections, said the strategy was to take out key people.

“With co-operation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear programme and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain,” she said.

“As US-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the Obama administration’s outreach to Iran, and as the political atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert activity against Iran is likely to result.”

Mossad was rumoured to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran’s Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported “gas poisoning” in 2007.

Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli “hits”, intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the programme, according to Western intelligence analysts.

“Israel has shown no hesitation in assassinating weapons scientists for hostile regimes in the past,” said a European intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. They did it with Iraq and they will do it with Iran when they can.”

Mossad’s covert operations cover a range of activities. The former CIA operative revealed how Israeli and US intelligence co-operated with European companies working in Iran to obtain photographs and other confidential material about Iranian nuclear and missile sites.

“It was a real company that operated from time to time in Iran and in the nature of their legitimate business came across information on various suspect Iranian facilities,” he said.

Israel has also used front companies to infiltrate the Iranian purchasing network that the clerical regime uses to circumvent United Nations sanctions and obtain so-called “dual use” items – metals, valves, electronics, machinery – for its nuclear programme.

The businesses initially supply Iran with legitimate material, winning Tehran’s trust, and then start to deliver faulty or defective items that “poison” the country’s atomic activities.

“Without military strikes, there is still considerable scope for disrupting and damaging the Iranian programme and this has been done with some success,” said Yossi Melman, a prominent Israeli journalist who covers security and intelligence issues for the Haaretz newspaper.

Mossad and Western intelligence operations have also infiltrated the Iranian nuclear programme and “bought” information from prominent atomic scientists. Israel has later selectively leaked some details to its allies, the media and United Nations atomic agency inspectors.

On one occasion, Iran itself is understood to have destroyed a nuclear facility near Tehran, bulldozing over the remains and replacing it with a football pitch, after its existence was revealed to UN inspectors. The regime feared that the discovery by inspectors of an undeclared nuclear facility would result in overwhelming pressure at the UN for tougher action against Iran.

The Iranian government has become so concerned about penetration of its programme that it has announced arrests of alleged spies in an attempt to discourage double agents. “Israel is part of a detailed and elaborate international effort to slow down the Iranian programme,” said Mr Melman.

But Vince Canastraro, the former CIA counter-terrorism chief, expressed doubts about the efficacy of secret Israeli operations against Iran. “You cannot carry out foreign policy objectives via covert operations,” he said. “You can’t get rid of a couple of people and hope to affect Iran’s nuclear capability.”

Iran has consistently asserted that it is pursuing a nuclear capability for civilian energy generation purposes. But Israeli and Western intelligence agencies believe the 20-year-old programme, which was a secret until 2002, is designed to give the ruling mullahs an atom bomb.

As for my opinion, I think such covert operations are definitely a possibility, but then again so is spreading such a story just to keep Iran second guessing. As they say, just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not really out to get you.

9:52AM: Still on the subject of Pe’er’s exclusion from the Dubai Tennis Championships, the Tennis Channel has decided not to televise the event this week in protest.

9:50AM: The NY Times has an article on the disgraceful barring of Israel’s Shahar Pe’er from the Dubai Tennis Championships.

But here’s the excerpt I want to focus on:

“It’s a complicated world we live in,” Scott said, and always thorny when it comes to Israelis and international sport.

We have seen Olympic officials turn into ostriches when Iranians have packed up their gym bags when matched against an Israeli. When it comes to basketball, a sport Israel loves and happens to be pretty good at, its teams are relocated to Europe, a region it has almost no chance to survive.

Umm, it looks like the NY Times have their ostriches as well.

Consider Maccabi Tel Aviv’s record in the Euroleague.

  • 13-time finalists (1977, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008)
  • 5-time winners (1977, 1981, 2001, 2004, 2005)

(hat tip: Graeme).

9:06AM: Israeli genocide = epic fail.

Sudanese refugees dance and play music during a joint wedding ceremony for three couples in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, Feb. 16, 2009. Thousands of Africans, including hundreds from war-torn Sudan have sought refuge in recent years in the Jewish state, arriving across the border illegally from Egypt (AP)

At least those not shot in the back by Egyptian soldiers.

At work, there are a number of Sudanese refugees working in the kitchen, so I know we are providing them also with employment and the means to sustain themselves.

8:57AM: Excellent video showing the parallels between the Nazis of WWWII and the Islamic Nazis of today.

6:08AM: Speaking of Lieberman, Ha’aretz reports that he and Kadima chief Tzipi Livni are working to form a “civil front” to counter the right-wing and “ultra-Orthodox” (their words, not mine) parties which Likud has been wooing in the coalition talks.

6:04AM: Occasional Israellycool contributor Elder of Ziyon delivers the goods with this video, asking the question on everyone’s lips.

6:00AM: Another surprising “endorsement” for Yisrael Beitenu’s Avigdor Lieberman.

In July 2000, while he was justice minister in Ehud Barak’s cabinet, Yossi Beilin agreed to a request by Mohammed Dahlan and Mohammed Rashid, who were members of the Palestinian delegation at Camp David, that they meet urgently.

Beilin didn’t know either of them at the time, but he assumed that the purpose of the meeting, slated to take place at a Jerusalem hotel, was to discuss Camp David. Barak had described the two as very moderate at the summit. Toward the end of their meeting, which was mostly devoted to what had taken place at Camp David, Dahlan asked to remain for a one-on-one with Beilin.

Beilin’s surprise turned to amazement when the subject turned to Aryeh Deri. “I called for this meeting because you are the Israeli justice minister and the fate of Aryeh Deri (who withdrew from politics after being convicted of taking bribes in 2000) is in your hands,” Dahlan said. “I am telling you that you are about to miss a rare opportunity for peace if you don’t see to it that he receives a pardon. Overall, there are two people the Israeli peace camp doesn’t understand and is missing out on big time: Aryeh Deri and Avigdor Lieberman. These two could be the key to peace, but instead of drawing them closer, you are pushing them away.”


In an interview with Haaretz on Monday, Beilin again recalled that meeting at the Jerusalem hotel. He said that although it never occurred to him to respond positively to Dahlan’s surprising request, he saw to it that Barak was informed of the conversation. “Daring to request such intervention on the part of the justice minister surprised me with respect to Deri,” Beilin said. “With respect to Lieberman, Dahlan’s description of him as a man of peace also surprised me. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone pay heed to Dahlan with regard to Lieberman. Not then and certainly not now. I know that Lieberman is characterized as pragmatic, but he is mainly cynical.”

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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