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The Day In Israel: Tues Nov 9th, 2010

The PA is upset, this time over a meeting between the Shin Bet and some Hamasholes and Islamic Jihadniks.

terrorist coffeeThe Palestinian Authority complained to Israel recently that Shin Bet officers were in contact with high-level Hamas members around Jenin, senior Palestinian sources told Haaretz.

The Palestinian sources said that 10 days ago a number of low ranking Shin Bet officers met with senior figures of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Among the Hamas figures was the former Hamas Prisoner Affairs minister, Wusfi Kabha, a Jenin resident; Fadil Busnak a lawyer representing mostly Hamas men, who also resides in Jenin; and A’san Zreydi, an important Hamas figure in the area and a former prisoner. Also at one of the meetings was Adnan Hader, a member of Islamic Jihad from the village of Arabe.

None of the four are considered to be involved in armed resistance and are all recognized as political figures.

According to the Palestinian sources, the Shin Bet officers visited the four in their homes late at night, were permitted to enter and then explained that they did not intend to arrest the four, but to talk “over a cup of coffee.”

Unless the Shin Bet slipped something into their coffee, I can’t see the real benefit of such a meeting.

Do you think it went something like this?

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

8:20PM: Pamela Anderson performs on Israel’s version of Dancing With The Stars.

7:34PM: Good for you, Mr Prime Minister:

“Jerusalem isn’t a settlement – Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the statement by the Prime Minister’s Office read. “Israel has never put any sort of limits on construction in Jerusalem, where some 800,000 people reside, and didn’t do so during the 10-month settlement freeze in the West Bank either.”

5:30PM: Funny Israeli skit on organ donation (note: while it is in Hebrew, non-Hebrew speakers will still understand it)

5:18PM: Seemed like a good idea at the time?

All-expenses-paid trip to Israel   – mistress and nephew included. The miners rescued from the depths of a Chilean mine say they will give an affirmative response to Israel’s invitation to vacation in the country, on the condition that their families can join them.

Two weeks ago, Israel invited the 33 miners who were trapped in a Chilean mine for 69 days to visit Israel over the Christmas holiday.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, who initiated the invitation, wanted to bring the miners and their significant others to Israel for “a spiritual journey in the holy land over the Christmas holiday, during which they would say prayers of thanksgiving for their safe rescue”.

The Tourism Ministry offered them a fully-funded five to seven day stay which would include flights, accommodation and tours of the Christian holy sites.

The initiation was presented by Israel’s ambassador to Chile David Dadon to the governor of the Atacama region, where the miners were rescued.

Last weekend, the governor told the Israeli ambassador that the miners would be happy to come to Israel and sent him a full list of the miners and their family members.

However, the list wasn’t limited to the miners and their partners: It also included a long list of additional names. The list included 33 miners, 31 partners, two mothers of two single miners, the miners’ 33 children, one grandchild, one nephew and one partner’s daughter.

And if that wasn’t enough, one miner asked to bring both his wife and his mistress.

5:16PM: He’s still getting his pension?

5:15PM: In his keynote address to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was heckled by a shmekel.

This is not the first time. I like Netanyahu’s retort from last year.

4:58PM: US President Obama:

“This kind of activity [Israel’s plan to construct 1,300 new homes in East Jerusalem] is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.”

Aussie Dave:

“President Obama is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.”

11:55AM: Photo of the day: Courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson…

Home Front Command Search and Rescue Drill

Home Front Command Search and Rescue Drill

The combat soldiers of the Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue Unit train for a possible combat scenario in central Israel. This unit is comprised of both male and female combat soldiers.

10:38AM: It’s official: Former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri was killed for impersonating John Kerry.

[click on image to enlarge]

john kerry hariri

9:40AM: Here’s video of Stephen Harper’s speech (hat tip: David).

9:38AM: The PA has arrested a blogger for the crime of speaking out against Islam.

Residents of a conservative northern West Bank city were surprised when security forces detained a controversial blogger whose postings on Facebook had infuriated Muslims.

A high-ranking source in the general Palestinian intelligence services told Ma’an that the detainee, who was not identified, was arrested in Qalqiliya. He refused to give specific details and would not identify the detainee. However, Ma’an has learned from other security sources that the man “who claimed divinity” is a 25-year-old university student.

The sources say security services have pursued the man for more than two months until they finally caught him at an internet café in Qalqiliya while updating his Facebook profile on which he claimed he was God and that he was angry with his subjects.

Conservative Muslims had been angrily following the blogger’s postings, many of them altered verses from the Koran, the Muslim holy book, as well as caricatures of the prophet Muhammad that had been published in Danish newspapers. Hundreds of Facebook groups had asked that the man’s account be deleted. After Facebook closed his group, the young man started a blog, Enlightenment of Reason.

Although he had not been identified by the PA, supporters of the blogger have indicated that he is 26 years old. He has identified himself as Waleed Al-Husseini and, in an August blog post, defended his beliefs.

“Muslims often ask me why I left Islam,” he wrote. “What strikes me is that Muslims can’t seem to understand that renouncing Islam is a choice offered to everyone and that anyone has the right to do so. They believe anyone who leaves Islam is an agent or a spy for a Western State, namely the Jewish State, and that they get paid bundles of money by the governments of these countries and their secret services. They actually don’t get that people are free to think and believe in whatever suits them.”

He added: “I would like to emphasize that by writing this article, I did not mean to imply that Christianity or Judaism were better than Islam, and the reader should not fool himself into thinking that I only reject Islam among religions, all of which are to me a bunch of mind-blowing legends and a pile of nonsense that compete with each other in terms of stupidity.”

Although secular political beliefs are not uncommon in the occupied Palestinian territories, the expression of views seen as hostile to the dominant religion is viewed by many as incitement rather than free speech.

The positions taken by the blogger were so out of the mainstream that many in Qalqiliya were surprised to learn that he was Palestinian. Even members of his family said the student, who worked as a barber, ought be prosecuted and sentenced, although it was not clear if he had been charged with a crime. It was also not clear if he had a lawyer.

The blogger has received some support online since his arrest.

A Facebook group, “In Solidarity With Waleed Al-Husseini,” responded, “Criticizing religions is pretty much allowed in countries with Muslim majority; people publically criticize Christianity and Judaism in mosques, published books, national and pan-Arab TV stations, and even in public schools. It’s criticizing of Islam that is only not allowed.”

The post added: “Allowing such action is not only double standard, but a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also could make a dangerous precedent that may open the door for further persecution, than already is, for irreligious and other religious minorities in societies with major Muslim population.”

9:18AM: You have to hand it to Pamela Anderson. She’s an optimist.

While in Israel, Anderson also said she plans to use her “powers of seduction” on ultra-Orthodox Jewish lawmakers to get them to ban fur.

8:52AM: G-d bless Stephen Harper.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday delivered a pro-Israel  speech at a parliamentary conference which dealt with ways to fight anti-Semitism. Harper implied that his country did not secure a seat at the United Nations Security Council due to its failure to cooperate with an anti-Israel policy.

The Canadian prime minister stressed that while there is room for fair criticism against the Israeli government, Canada is obligated to come to the Jewish state’s defense when it is attacked by others.

“And like any free country Israel subjects itself to such criticism, healthy, necessary, democratic debate,” he said. “But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.”

Harper said Canada must oppose demonization, double standards and de-legitimization.

“Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israel mob tell us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are in the longer term a threat to all of us,” he said.

“Whether it is at the United Nations or any other international forum, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israel rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of honest broker,” Harper added.

The Canadian prime minister suggested that this was the reason his country lost the recent vote for a temporary Security Council seat, saying “I have the bruises to show for it.”

Harper stated in his speech that “as long as I am prime minister… Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost.”

In his speech, the Canadian prime minister warned that anti-Semitism was on the rise worldwide, including in universities in his own country.

He said the “evolving phenomenon” of anti-Semitism targets Jews by portraying Israel as “the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses perversely the language of human rights to do so.”

“We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is,” Harper concluded.

I’d say that under Stephen Harper, Israel has no better friend in the world than Canada.

6:20AM: Preview for a new Turkish film on Israel’s boarding of the flotilla, which has us talking turkey..and in Turkish.

Can’t say I’m surprised they painted us as evil killers. It’s what they do.

Meanwhile, I am thinking of developing a film about a man and a horse.

6:10AM: In a soon-to-be-released (as in today) memoir, former US President George W. Bush reveals much about his policies regarding Israel, not to mention the “leadership” of former Israeli PM Ehud “Odie” Olmert.

bush olmertFormer US president George W. Bush indicates that both Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas were willing to publicly back Olmert’s proposed peace agreement before Olmert’s ouster as prime minister ruined the deal, according to a memoir to be released on Tuesday.

Bush also excoriates the US intelligence agencies that famously concluded in late 2007 that Iran had halted production of a nuclear weapon, denying him any possible military option, and notes that he rejected an appeal by Olmert earlier in the year to bomb a Syrian nuclear facility.

“We devised a process to turn [Olmert’s] private offer into a public agreement,” Bush writes of the secret peace deal worked out between the then-prime minister of Israel and Palestinian Authority president. “Olmert would travel to Washington and deposit his proposal with me. Abbas would announce that the plan was in line with Palestinian interests. I would call the leaders together to finalize the deal.”

That agreement was to include handing over the “vast majority” of the West Bank to the Palestinians, building a tunnel to connect it to the Gaza Strip, allowing a “limited number” of Palestinian refugees into Israel, establishing Jerusalem as a joint capital and entrusting control of the holy sites to “a panel of nonpolitical elders.”

But then Olmert was forced to resign his premiership because of corruption allegations, and Abbas “didn’t want to make an agreement with a prime minister on his way out of office,” Bush relates.

The 497 pages of Decision Points detail the difficult choices Bush made over the course of his two-term presidency, including on Iraq, Afghanistan and the economic crisis. While he occasionally expresses compunction, as when he acknowledges, “I regret that I ended my presidency with the Iranian issue unresolved,” he mostly justifies the decisions he made and draws positive lessons even from adverse outcomes.

Even though the peace deal between Olmert and Abbas was never sealed and has been followed by many more months of stalemate, Bush says that at the same time as he felt disappointment that an agreement hadn’t been reached, “I was pleased with the progress we had made.”

When it comes to his push to include Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the US, in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections of 2005 – which the Islamist movement won – Bush remains resolute.

“America could not be in the position of endorsing elections only when we liked the projected outcome,” he explains, adding that the vote “forced a decision in Hamas” about whether it would govern or revert to violence.

Following Hamas’s coup in Gaza in 2007, Bush notes his support for Israel’s blockade excluding only the most basic humanitarian needs from Gaza so Palestinians there “would see a vivid contrast between their living conditions under Hamas and those under the democratic leader, Abbas.”

Bush’s tone is less sanguine when it comes to Iran and the first presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his professed messianism combined with verbal attacks on Israel and the Holocaust. “I started to worry we were dealing with more than just a dangerous leader. This guy could be nuts.”

Amid his rising conviction that Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapon, Bush settles on a policy of sanctions and multilateral diplomacy while stressing, “Military action would always be on the table, but it would be my last resort.”

But he expresses outrage at learning that his own intelligence agencies had undercut that option.

He describes the “eye-popping declaration” on the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate judging with “high confidence” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program.

“Israel and our Arab allies found themselves in a rare moment of unity. Both were deeply concerned about Iran and furious with the United States over the NIE,” he says of the report’s immediate backlash.

Bush told King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia soon afterward, “The NIE was produced independently by our intelligence community. I’m as angry about it as you are.”

Bush speculates that the intelligence agencies were trying to avoid the mistakes made in Iraq – when they had been over-zealous in their intelligence conclusions – but he concludes, “whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact – and not a good one.”

Bush writes positively about the importance of the US relationship with Israel and the Jewish state’s justified concerns over its security, relating how a helicopter ride he took with Ariel Sharon, “a bull of a man,” in 1998 while he was governor of Texas made him “convinced that we had a responsibility to keep the relationship strong.”

At one point his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, even referred to him as the first “Jewish president” after his landmark speech in 2002 calling for a democratic Palestinian state run by a new leadership, i.e. not by then-president Yasser Arafat.

“Shortly after the speech, Mother called,” Bush relates. “‘How’s the first Jewish president doing?’ she asked. I had a funny feeling she disagreed with my policy. That meant Dad [former president George H.W. Bush] probably did as well.” Even so, Bush “laughed off the wisecrack,” though he knew he was in for criticism for taking a position his vice president, secretary of defense and secretary of state opposed.

Still, Bush doesn’t shy away from pointing to disagreements he had with Israel during his tenure, including criticism of Olmert’s handling of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Bush notes that he was supportive of Olmert going after Hizbullah following its cross-border attack on IDF soldiers.

He also held the international community at bay to give time for Israel to badly damage the terrorist group and its backers in Damascus and Teheran.

“Unfortunately they mishandled their opportunity,” he says, pointing to Israel bombing campaigns “of questionable military value,” including of sites in northern Lebanon.

Bush also castigates Olmert for declaring that he wouldn’t attack Syria, a major Hizbullah patron.

“Removing the threat of retaliation let Syria off the hook and emboldened them to continue their support for Hizbullah,” he chides. Eventually, as more of the world shifted against Israel, Bush lifted his opposition to a UN-brokered cease-fire, to avoid alienating the international community he wanted to join him in isolating Syria and Iran.

His esteem for Israel’s military capabilities was only restored after, he states, Olmert authorized a pinpoint operation on a nuclear site Syria was constructing in 2007. Bush describes how Olmert urged the US to take out the target, but Bush wanted to use diplomacy instead to pressure Syria.

Once the attack was completed, Bush urged Olmert to make it public to use it against Damascus, but Olmert wanted to keep it quiet so as not to provoke a Syrian backlash.

“This was his operation, and I felt an obligation to respect his wishes. I kept quiet, even though I felt we were missing an opportunity,” Bush writes.

“The bombing demonstrated Israel’s willingness to act alone. Prime minister Olmert hadn’t asked for a green light and I hadn’t given one. He had done what he believed was necessary to protect Israel,” Bush writes.

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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