February 08, 2013


For those who would like to hear me on the radio, I am very pleased to announce that I will be having a weekly appearance on the Middle East Radio Forum, the show is hosted By William Wolf.

The time of the show is 2pm EDT, 11AM Pacific, 9pm Israel, every Sunday. Please feel free to call in if you have any questions about my weekly comments. If you should happen to miss the show then you can go to the MERF web page and listen to me and other guest in the archives.

You can listen to the show by going to the MERF web page

The coming ultra-Orthodox mutiny

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who also serves as deputy prime minister and who occupies the top slot on the Shas Party list, doesn’t mince words. If there is forced conscription of the ultra-Orthodox, Yishai vows, there will be chaos.
Yehuda Shlezinger

Diplomatic and socio-economic issues were pushed aside during the first week of coalition talks. These matters have become marginalized by the push for "equitable bearing of the burden," or as the ultra-Orthodox deem it, "the conscription decree." It's not just any decree, but an edict that will "tear the nation apart," or at least that is what those who are bound to be most affected by the change are warning.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who also serves as deputy prime minister and who occupies the top slot on the Shas Party list, doesn't mince words. If there is forced conscription of the ultra-Orthodox, Yishai vows, there will be chaos.

"There will be marches and processions of thousands, tens of thousands, in the streets," he said. "Thousands of yeshiva students will fill up the jail cells. Military Police officers will be running around aimlessly in Bnei Brak. You'll have a civilian uprising, pandemonium. Worst of all, those who are enlisting today will refuse to enlist en masse."

Is this a threat from Yishai? Actually, it is more like a cry of desperation, or even a plea in the direction of Yair Lapid and his cohorts who are insisting on gaining a passage of legislation that would mandate military conscription for all citizens. Yishai is urging Lapid to engage in dialogue. He's saying, "Yes to reform by mutual agreement, no to reform by dint of coercion."

One of the reasons that the warnings being sounded by the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, are growing more dire by the day is the astonishment at the seemingly temporary — and unlikely — alliance that has been formed between Lapid and Naftali Bennett. This is a worrying development. It was alarming enough to prompt the most senior Torah sages in the ultra-Orthodox community to request a meeting with senior rabbis in the religious Zionist camp. The sages asked the rabbis to remind Bennett that these two streams of Judaism have shared values that are much more potent than the values shared between Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi faction and Lapid's Yesh Atid party.

"I saw the link between Bennett and Lapid," Yishai said. "Then I decided to appeal to the spiritual leadership [of religious Zionism]. The goal wasn't to form a single political bloc or to say, 'You should enter the coalition,' or 'Stay in the opposition with us.' This was motivated by a desire to preserve the world of Torah. There might be a situation in which they will be in the government, and we will be in the opposition. It doesn't really matter, despite the fact that when they entered the government without us, during the second Sharon government, they not only inflicted harm on the world of Torah but also on the Land of Israel by way of the Disengagement Plan."

"Despite everything, I didn't ask for any commitment whatsoever," he said. "I asked them to make sure that the world of Torah is not harmed, and that nobody takes it upon himself to decide who is removed from yeshiva study and who is not. Even if [the religious Zionists] enter the coalition, they best not make any deals that pertain to the world of Torah without our agreement."

Three days before the election, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef labeled Habayit Hayehudi "goyim" and "infidels." Now you are begging them to help you. It's logical that they are disinclined to stand at your beck and call.

"Rabbi Ovadia is a giant in the world of Torah. He is on a higher plane than the rest of us, and there is no one who could explain him or apologize on his behalf. I spoke with the rabbi, and I heard his pain. He said that there is a party known as Habayit Hayehudi ("Jewish home"), and that there are people there who want civil marriages and public transportation on the Sabbath, which is why it can't be called Habayit Hayehudi. He made those statements out of a sense of pain, but he didn't talk about the rabbis or the voters. He spoke about the principle of civil marriage and public transportation on the Sabbath. He was very fearful of the harm that could be inflicted on our traditions and Jewish identities," said Yishai.

The ultra-Orthodox' main bone of contention with Lapid's platform is mainly the manner in which it is presented. The semantics and public comments from Lapid's camp are highly problematic. In closed conversations, the ultra-Orthodox are discussing an increase in the number of conscripts for the military and national service. But Lapid's very blunt statement in which he remarked that the army will be the only one that determines who is conscripted into military service and who is not is a powder keg in ultra-Orthodox eyes. In their view, the issue of raising the quotas is potentially explosive, since it could limit their yeshiva students' options in pursuing a life of Torah study.

"The Jewish people have been persecuted for decades," Yishai said angrily. "What haven't we been forced to endure? Expulsion, inquisition, Holocaust. Still, despite all of this, we have an identity, and this is all due to our Torah. If this wasn't preserved in every corner of the world, we would have disappeared, erased just like the empires that disappeared. We came to the State of Israel. Yet, here, of all places, in a world in which there are no rules as to who studies Torah and who doesn't, here people want to put quotas. Such a thing is unprecedented, and it will not ever come to pass."

Yishai shifts the conversation to changes that are already taking place. "This concept of 'the ultra-Orthodox don't serve in the army' is nonexistent," he said. "The figures show that there are thousands who are waiting to enlist in national service and the haredi Nahal infantry unit. There's even a huge influx of ultra-Orthodox youths going to college. Since the passage of the Tal Law, there's been a steady increase — and the percentages are climbing quickly — of ultra-Orthodox who are integrating into these frameworks. What happened, however, was that the quotas stipulated in the law by the state were never met because the treasury and the defense establishment did not take sufficient action to meet them."

"The Defense Ministry doesn't want a lot of ultra-Orthodox soldiers in the army because it needs to make the necessary contingency plans and this costs a great deal of money," Yishai said. "When the ultra-Orthodox public was offered a platform that met its needs as they pertained to kosher food, the presence of female soldiers, and the content of what they are taught, it agreed to go for it. This was mainly because this was done through agreement and consensus, not by coercion."

"We need to compromise"

Yishai goes to great lengths to point out another interesting tidbit. "Unlike the secular community, the ultra-Orthodox community is growing," he said. "In ten years, the number of ultra-Orthodox and religious soldiers serving in the military will equal the number of secular conscripts."

At the moment, however, you are at a disadvantage. We could have a government without the ultra-Orthodox, one that will approve Lapid's law exactly as it is written. Then what will happen?

"If there is a government without the ultra-Orthodox, but one that finds a solution to the issue of universal conscription that is acceptable to the ultra-Orthodox, there won't be a problem. If this will be a government devoid of the ultra-Orthodox but one that wishes to impose its own solutions on the ultra-Orthodox, then this will create deep divisions among the people. I've stated my willingness to sit in the opposition or to be in the coalition as a minister without portfolio just for the sake of preventing such a fissure."

Will this fissure that you are warning of really resemble the scenario that you described at the beginning of the interview?

"Yes. There is a likelihood of a civilian uprising, with protest marches erupting after every yeshiva student who is called to enlist is put in jail, jails overflowing with yeshiva students, and Military Police in Bnei Brak. Those who stand to gain from this are the extremists, who will say: 'You see? It's impossible to go along with the State of Israel. We need to oppose it.' Those who either enlisted or are thinking of enlisting will recant."

What about the fissure that exists today? There are people who are obligated to serve in the army and others who are exempt.

"This is our main problem. Because of these waves of incitement, we are unable to explain to people that the core group of Torah students is keeping the world afloat. Once the public gains a greater understanding of the significance of Torah study, it will understand that the students are soldiers in every sense of the word. Most of the public understands this. During the days of the Plesner committee, I met with Ehud Barak. We talked about the proposed conscription law just as we were entering the Prime Minister's Office. All of a sudden, a female worker walked by and told Barak, 'Leave him alone. Let him study Torah, it's no less important.'"

At this stage of the interview, Yishai goes on the offensive by lashing out at Lapid.

"He's unwilling to hear anything we have to say," he said of the Yesh Atid chairman. "They've articulated their platform, and that's that. They are stubborn. Someone needs to explain to them that the campaign is over, and that means it's time to put an end to the spin and the sloganeering. Now is the time to form a government. This is what distinguishes between a media figure and a politician, or, to be more exact, a politician and a leader. Lapid is the leader of a party that occupies 19 Knesset seats, so he needs to understand that caution is required when one considers the very delicate fault lines that run through Israeli society."

"Lapid needs to draw the appropriate conclusions by considering what happened to Kadima, which had 28 Knesset seats," he said. "Then it decided to bang its head against the wall by trying to attain universal conscription. If Lapid adopts an all-or-nothing approach, he will reserve a spot for himself in the Knesset archives. He'll crash and burn. If, on the other hand, he summons leadership, he will understand that compromise is what is needed, and he will acknowledge the importance of Torah study. Then there's a chance of accomplishing something really grand."

"If only Lapid knew of the real data that is available at the treasury and the Defense Ministry, he would change his mind," he said. "He should know that he is now the leader of a party."

There are those in your party who said that Yair Lapid is more dangerous than his father.

"I don't see any difference between Yair and Tommy," he said. "Tommy Lapid boasted loud and clear, 'I don't want Shas in the coalition.' Yair isn't saying that, but he is doing everything to make sure that this is what will happen. When it comes to his thoughts on the ultra-Orthodox, he is exactly like his father. I don't want to say more about a man who is no longer alive, but I do think that they have the exact same philosophy."

Despite the recent developments, Yishai believes that Shas will eventually join the government. "If Lapid refuses to compromise on anything, which is something that isn't seen in politics, then we will either have a government with him and without us, or a government with us but without him. The prime minister needs to decide. We know that we lack the number of Knesset seats to make real threats. We're no longer the kingmakers, but whoever wants a stable government needs to have Shas be a part of it."

"A government without Shas has a short life span. A coalition without the ultra-Orthodox that includes the Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Yesh Atid, Hatnuah, and Mofaz will fall within a year or two. You need to remember that we are talking about a second term for both [Benjamin] Netanyahu and [U.S. President Barack] Obama, and they will have to decide on diplomatic moves. Bennett will not agree with [Hatnuah chief Tzipi] Livni, so it will fall apart. You also have to keep in mind that Lapid is entering the government as a tactical ploy. He said that his goal is eventually to become prime minister."

Lapid refused to comment for this article.

"Shas is a natural, loyal partner," Yishai said. "With us, it will be a much more stable government."

"My family said, 'Quit'"

While Yishai speaks eloquently about the issue of universal conscription, he has much less to say when asked about the elections. The former interior minister is deterred from saying anything that might be construed as criticism of Aryeh Deri, the former Shas chairman who returned to the party and who headed its recent campaign.

"Praise God, we received 11 Knesset seats," he said. "Obviously everyone would like to see his party gain a greater number of Knesset seats, but if we didn't gain this time, we'll gain next time. You have to remember that these were quite complex elections for us."

You picked a fight with everyone. The "1800-CONVERSION" video inflicted harm on Lieberman and the Likud. Rabbi Ovadia slandered Habayit Hayehudi. Yair Lapid was your marked enemy from the beginning. Now, you've got a problem. You are courting those parties.

"We're not courting anyone. What happened during the elections needs to stay there. In every election campaign, there is an emphasis on putting your message into clearer focus and going for every vote you can get. Now we are in the stage of forming a coalition, and so there is a need to act accordingly. We apologized to those who were offended by the '1800-CONVERSION' campaign ad. And I say to all the parties: Let's leave the past behind. We are at a critical stage. Let's see how we can move forward. This doesn't stem from a demand to enter the coalition, but rather it stems from an understanding that there has never been a more controversial issue on the negotiating table that will preoccupy the incoming government."

When asked to comment on remarks made by Yafa Deri, the wife of Aryeh Deri, who was quoted as saying that if her husband had solely occupied the top slot at Shas during the campaign, the party would have attracted more voters, Yishai refused.

"The council of Torah sages made its decision, and that's the important thing," he said. "We are in the post-election period, so I'm not doing any reckoning or score-settling. I'm looking ahead, not backward. I don't deal with this."

Shas officials speak of socio-economic gaps and ethnic discrimination, but the party has been a partner in ten of the past 11 governments in recent years. Still, it seems that there is no change for the better. Perhaps Shas is a part of the problem?

"Shas has made exceptional contributions to reduce the socio-economic gaps that eventually benefited the Sephardi population, but there is still work to do," he said. "During the only government in which we were not a part of, there was nothing that was left unharmed: single mothers, child stipends, the elderly, the disabled. There was awful devastation, and to this day we have been trying to rectify the damage. All of this happened the only time that Shas was not a part of the government. We are a concrete wall, and we minimize the damage."

Were you hurt by the return of Deri and the fact that you were removed from your position of party chairman?

"On a personal level, it wasn't easy. On a professional level, it was also difficult to make the transition from being the only chairman of the party who makes the key decisions on his own, to being one of a troika in which everyone is equal. I am a protégé of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and this was the decision that he made."

Did you consider quitting?

"My family told me, 'This is an impossible situation. You should quit.' I wouldn't consider such a thing before talking it over with the rabbi. I came to the rabbi and told him that this was the advice I was receiving. He told me, 'God forbid you would do such a thing.' If it weren't for the rabbi, I would quit. If I were just 'Eli Yishai the politician,' I would quit. Since I'm a public servant, a servant to the rabbi, I cannot quit. This was my test. Any other politician would have quit in that situation, but I am subject to the opinions of the Torah."

Shas threatens the hand that feeds them.

Fine, pass the law that drafts the haredi .

Then if they bring chaos to Israel, cut them off 100%.

No money for their welfare, no medical treatment, no water into their neighborhoods or electricity.

The time has come for the haredi community to make a home in Israel and be a part of all of us.

Or find a new home, outside of Israel.

February 06, 2013

IDF probing deaths of 70 Palestinian civilians

IDF probing deaths of 70 Palestinian civilians

Military Advocate General stresses army under lo legal obligation to conduct inquiry, says probe doesn't suggest any violation of the law during Pillar of Defense, only commitment to international law
Yoav Zitun

The IDF is examining 70 cases in which non-combatant Palestinian civilians were killed during Operation Pillar of Defense, Military Advocate General Danny Efroni revealed on Wednesday.

Major General Efroni said that "immediately after the operation the chief of staff ordered a comprehensive inquiry and a committee to examine the issue."

The IDF said that most cases under scrutiny are examined even though there is no legal obligation to do so, as no complaints were filed.

Efroni stressed that "the existence of the probe doesn't imply suspected foul play, but only an expression of the IDF's commitment to international law and the IDF's honest attempt to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible."

He added that the probe is nearing its completion and that the procedure will be over in a few weeks.

Efroni also referred to the 2010 flotilla incident and the Turkel Committee's probe into it, saying that cases relating to the incident are being examined and are pending the Military Advocate General's decision, adding that they will adopt what is necessary from the committee's decisions.

Palestinians reported 164 fatalities and 1,200 injuries during the Pillar of Defense. The majority of those killed were members of terrorist organizations.

Can we really be so stupid?

I will care about the dead Palestinians after they care about dead Jews.

Until then it is war and in war we need to create even more dead Palestinians.

With all the bombing we killed only 164 people, seems to me we were warning people to get out before we dropped bombs for TV and PR.

Our leaders suck.

IDF orders evacuation of civilian aircraft from Haifa airport

IDF orders evacuation of civilian aircraft from Haifa airport

Citing security concerns, the Israeli Airports Authority has instructed all civilian planes making use of the northern airport to divert to other airports • Lebanese reports: Israeli warplanes conducting mock raids over Nabatiyeh.

Lilach Shoval and Daniel Siryoti and Israel Hayom Staff

Israel ordered all private aircraft out of the Haifa Airport by 11:00 Wednesday, citing security concerns, Army Radio reported.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit refused to elaborate but said "security needs relating to the air space in the area have been addressed."

The airport is operated by the Israeli Airports Authority, who told Israel Hayom that any plane that needs to depart or land at the airport would be allowed to do so. However, Army Radio reported that the IDF had imposed a mandatory evacuation of the airport and has restricted flights for civilian aircraft in the area.

The move may be related to reports out of Lebanon that Israeli warplanes were on Wednesday conducting "mock raids" over Lebanese territory. According to the website of the Lebanese Ministry of Information, "Israeli warplanes were conducting mock raids over the area of Nabatiyeh."

The closure of Haifa airport comes a day after the IDF deployed its third Iron Dome anti-rocket battery in northern Israel, a week after the Israel Air Force, according to foreign reports, bombed an arms convoy and a military research center inside Syria.

Israel has said it could use military action to prevent chemical weapons and advanced arms from Syria slipping into the hands of terrorist groups as a result of the civil war there.

According to the Israeli military, the deployment of a third Iron Dome battery in the north was part of the system's operational implementation program at sites around the country.

Two Iron Dome batteries were deployed in Haifa and Safed over the past week, as tension on the northern border increased due to the situation in Syria.

Overall, Israel has five operational Iron Dome batteries. In the coming months, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems will deliver a sixth Iron Dome battery (with upgraded interception capabilities).

Meanwhile, fierce violence continued in Syria on Tuesday. Arab media outlets reported that rebels battled Syrian soldiers in Damascus and its suburbs on Tuesday and that 85 people were killed around the country.

The Syrian military also reportedly surrounded and shelled the city of Daraa in the southwestern part of the country.

Syrian opposition sources said on Tuesday that rebels had successfully gained control of Syrian military checkpoints and roadblocks on major highways across the country.

February 05, 2013

Men of Torah - Men of War

Religious Zionist leaders chide Bennett over embrace of Lapid

Rabbi Tzefania Drori: If Naftali Bennett doesn't take Torah into account on haredi enlistment issue, it will end his political career • First round of coalition talks concludes • Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah party could be among first to join coalition.
Yehuda Shlezinger and Mati Tuchfeld

Haredi rabbis hope to persuade religious Zionist rabbis to sway Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett away from an alliance with Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid.

Some leaders in the religious Zionist community are unhappy over Habayit Hayehudi chief Naftali Bennett's apparent embrace of Yair Lapid, the head of Yesh Atid, ahead of coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rabbi Tzefania Drori, the municipal rabbi of Kiryat Shmona and a leading religious Zionist figure, issued a warning to Bennett on Monday over the issue of drafting haredim into the military.

"If [Bennett] decides on these issues alone, without considering the Torah's opinion, it will be the end of his political career," Drori said.

A number of meetings have been held in recent days between religious Zionist and haredi leaders. Haredi rabbis are hoping to convince the spiritual patrons of Bennett and the Habayit Hayehudi to stop Bennett's move toward Lapid, particularly on the haredi enlistment issue.

One of the religious Zionist rabbis involved in the meetings told Israel Hayom: "The haredi world was shaken in the recent election and there are now two choices: either try to force haredi enlistment or talk to reach an agreement. Naftali [Bennett] needs to relax his embrace of Lapid. We are not against Torah study. We are for opportunities to equalize the national service burden. We can't go too far."

The religious Zionist rabbis have told Bennett, "You are not Lapid."

MK Uri Ariel, representing Habayit Hayehudi in coalition negotiations, said on Monday, "We won't support the [haredi enlistment] outline Lapid is proposing. There are improvements and amendments that have been passed on to [Yesh Atid]. They have agreed to some of them, such as excluding women from the [conscription] law. The intention is not to impose [haredi enlistment] by force."

Shas MK Ya'akov Margi said on Monday that "the Torah of Israel is stronger than any sort of political deal. Yair's late father [Tommy Lapid] said no to the haredim, but Yair is setting conditions that would leave us out [of the government]. If you ask me who is more dangerous, Yair is much more dangerous than his father was."

On Monday, the first round of coalition talks between Likud-Beytenu and potential coalition partners was completed.

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said, "If I were in the place of the prime minister, I would want United Torah Judaism and Shas in the coalition. We are veteran and stable parties that don't feed off headlines in the press."

After the first round of talks, it is believed that if Lapid does not show more flexibility, Netanyahu would prefer to leave Lapid out and form a government with Shas, United Torah Judaism, Habayit Hayehudi, Hatnuah and Kadima.

Habayit Hayehudi officials expressed anger during the campaign over Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's statement that Habayit Hayehudi was a "house of gentiles and heretics." As part of a rapprochement effort, Eli Yishai, one of Shas' top political leaders, said on Monday that Yosef's words were directed only against those who support civil marriage and non-Halachic conversions.

Meanwhile, it appears that Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah party, with six Knesset seats, could be among the first to agree to enter Netanyahu's coalition. Hatnuah officials met with Likud-Beytenu officials on Monday. Hatnuah demanded an executive role for Livni in leading diplomatic negotiations, a demand to which Netanyahu is unlikely to agree. But a compromise could be reached in which Livni joins, but does not lead, diplomatic efforts. Livni also wants a more equal distribution of the national service burden and a reform of the system of government, but her main demand for joining the coalition is diplomatic progress with the Palestinians.

Hatnuah's coalition negotiator Yossi Kotchik said, "Hatnuah won't be a fig leaf."

If Hatnuah joins the coalition, Netanyahu could also bring in Shaul Mofaz's Kadima Party, which has two seats. Mofaz wants to join the coalition and his main demands are on the national service burden and the state budget. Within Likud-Beytenu, however, there is concern that the person in charge of Kadima is not Mofaz, but rather former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"Mofaz is interested in joining [the coalition], but the question is whether he will get the green light to do so from Olmert," a Likud-Beytenu official said.

Netanyahu was set to meet on Tuesday with Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, who has said her party would remain in the opposition. Despite this, associates of Yachimovich said there are a number of issues on which she could cooperate with Netanyahu during the next government's term.

Netanyahu may ask Yachimovich to support an equitable enlistment law. Such support could be necessary to pass the law if the ultra-Orthodox parties oppose it.

Rabbi Drori, give me a break.

You say Bennett must consider the Torah's opinion, on drafting the haredim .

We can't take the world of any Rabbi on what this means because, money, power and politics come into play on both sides of the issue.

So let us look at the men of the Torah, men greater than me and I am sure the Rabbi would say greater than him.

Avraham fought wars with men greater than us and closer to G-D.

I will not go through the whole list of men, but let's take King David and his men kept Torah better than any haredim in Israel today.

They fought, in wars to save Jewish lives.

So let's save lives, draft all but the best and the brightest, and build a future together.

Hear Yoni Live


Show time 7pm tonight Pacific time.

Dereliction of duty

Dereliction of duty

Op-ed: UNRWA created a culture of dependence, radicalism within Palestinian refugee camps it is supposed to protect
Nicole Brackman

One of the stories obscured by recent revelations about the breadth of devastation in the two-year-old Syrian civil war is that of the Palestinian refugees of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. Yarmouk, the largest of nine official Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, has been targeted by both the Assad regime and rebel forces - killing many and forcing the reported exodus of at least half of its 150,000 residents (according to UN estimates). As recently as January 8, fighting in and around the camp killed 5,000 of the over 60,000 people killed over the past few months.

Complicating events further, many Palestinians have allied themselves with either the Assad regime's supporters, or rebel supporters, intensifying the internecine violence within the camp itself. Divisions have tended to reflect religious and secular fault lines within the Palestinian ideological spectrum. Secular/socialist groups like the PFLP-GC align with the Assad regime (as longstanding supporters) while Ikhwan/Hamas supporters side with the rebel militias. Yet, in a telling warning, the Assad regime cautioned the Palestinians not to aid the insurgency in its fighting against the regime with the hope of maintaining their historical support.

As a demonstration of "good will" Abbas met with UN chief Ban Ki-moon to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria's civil war to the Palestinian areas, or now the "state of Palestine." Consequently, Ban Ki-moon acted as the messenger and was told by the Government of Israel that they would agree "to the return of those refugees to Gaza and the West Bank, but on condition that each refugee ... sign a statement that he doesn't have the right of return (to Israel)."

The offer was flatly rejected; the Palestinian narrative views all of Israel as Palestinian land. Further, such an action may subvert that sacrosanct element of Palestinian ideology - the demand for "right of return" - which, at its core is a rejection of Jewish sovereignty. The unwillingness to entertain a pragmatic solution such as Ban Ki-Moon's offer reflects over six decades of Palestinian and Arab policy and is, in fact, both the genesis and perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee 'crisis' in the first place. It is precisely this type of event which intentionally creates and reinforces the intractability and radicalization of the Palestinian refugee population.

Though the fighting in Yarmouk and Syria is the most acute example of the simmering cauldron of Palestinian ideological violence, it is by no means the only one. Disturbingly, such activity regularly takes place at Palestinian refugee camps not only in war zones like Syria but also in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. As an UNRWA camp, Yarmouk is purportedly under the protection of United Nations auspices. Yet like several other UNRWA camps over the last several years, its inhabitants have not been well served by the organization. As an organization UNRWA has failed its constituency on every level – in terms of budgetary support; education; and protection from infiltration by extremist elements who instigate violence.

Institutional blindness

Many of the refugees from Syria have crossed over the border into Lebanon, seeking respite from the fighting. Yet the experience of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is anything but calm - the largest camp there, Ein el-Hilweh - the most radical of any of the Palestinian refugee camps - is permeated by ideological extremism and violence. As recently as last November, at least three people were killed in a clash there between supporters of the Iranian-backed Islamist terror faction Hezbollah, and Salafists (rival Islamic jihadists). As the administrators of the camp, UNRWA has been abysmally impotent at curbing the violence over the last decades, or blocking the permeation of radicalism within the camp (including its educational facilities).

All in all, despite rapid changes in countries across the Middle East following the Arab Spring that western observers hoped would lead to increased openness and democracy, Arab governments (many driven by Islamists) are still ignoring the needs of their own people while attempting to deflect all the region's troubles on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Even in UNRWA refugee camps within the Palestinian Authority's jurisdiction - an area which should enjoy the close cooperation of the governing authority with the UN agency - UNRWA has been notoriously incompetent at administering its own bureaucracy. The agency has managed to alienate Palestinians not residing in the camps or under the aegis of the UNRWA mandate. In December, as reported by Ma’an News Agency, "The heads of popular committees in refugee camps across the West Bank met recently in Ramallah and agreed to escalate protests against UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency). Demonstrators were expected to force the temporary halt of operations at all UNRWA offices to protest the dismissal of over 100 staff at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the committee chairman said." Those protests led to the agency closing three more offices due to threats to the safety of its employees; one violent clash ended with a "female employee (being) treated badly by protesters."

Earlier this week, in an illustration of how a culture of unhealthy dependency has been fostered among UNRWA camp residents, Palestinians violently clashed with their own security forces, protesting an end to the exemption of refugee camp residents from paying their electric bills.

The scope of the failure of UNRWA to advocate effectively or protect the residents of its camps is second only to its duplicity in aiding the perpetuation of the refugees' plight. Whether its institutional blindness is willful or merely a result of radical cooptation and negligence, the agency mandated with the task of 'providing assistance, protection, and advocacy' to Palestinian refugees has become an empty shell. Worse, it has created a culture of dependence and radicalism within its camps and continues to contribute to the failure of the integration of refugees as citizen participants even in the Palestinian Authority, where Palestinians are autonomous.

The devolution of events in Yarmouk and the violence of the protests in the West Bank demonstrate the impotence of UNRWA and its obsolescence.

Asaf Romirowsky PhD, who co-authored the article, is an adjunct scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Middle East Forum. Nicole Brackman PhD is a historian who writes extensively on Israeli and Middle Eastern politics

The article is correct, there has been a dereliction of duty.

Not by UNRWA, but rather by Bibi for evening thinking about allowing any of the Palestinians into YESHA.

I don't care how many Palestinians are butchered by Assad or by the rebels, not my problem.

The reverse is true, everyone that is killed in Syria is one less problem for Israel down the road.

So no tears in my eyes when Arabs kill Arabs.

February 04, 2013

Iran could build nuclear bomb in 4-6 months, expert says

Iran could build nuclear bomb in 4-6 months, expert says
Still, there’s time for military or diplomatic action, says former head of military intelligence, and an Israeli attack wouldn’t mean regional war
By Mitch Ginsburg February 4, 2013, 1:25 pm Updated: February 4, 2013, 7:57 pm

Iran has what it needs to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of four to six months, and the civil war in Syria, contrary to the prevailing military assessment, has improved Israel’s national security standing, Amos Yadlin, the head of the Institute for National Security Studies, said Monday.

“Iran has completed in the last two years two components that… give it all of the necessary means to manufacture a nuclear weapon as soon as it chooses to do so,” Yadlin, a former Israeli army intelligence chief, told journalists at a presentation of the INSS’ annual report on Israel’s strategic status.

Regarding Syria, he said that the destruction of its “modern, formidable army,” is a “positive strategic development” that overshadows the dangers of dwindling state control on Israel’s northeastern front.

The assessment, which resembles the sort of briefing Yadlin once gave annually to Knesset as the head of the IDF’s military intelligence directorate, also touched on the erosion of the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the diplomatic and public relations battle against deligitimization and the need for either an accord with, or unilateral action against, the Palestinians.

Yadlin said Iran’s race toward the bomb would require a 4-6 month sprint during which Iran would try to enrich its uranium to military grade. That, in the current climate, is a risk the country is not willing to take, he said.

Calling the final sprint for the bomb “the last strategic mile,” Yadlin assessed that Iranian leadership is looking to shorten the break-out period and waiting for a crisis and a subsequent lapse in international attention in order to progress.

He said it was unclear why Israel’s red line had shifted from Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s earlier formulation – of 3,000 centrifuges underground at the facility in Fordo (Iran currently has 2,700, he said) – to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s formulation of sufficient medium grade uranium for a single bomb, but noted that “the Iranians can cross the red line of the prime minister whenever they decide.”

Yadlin said that if forced to choose between allowing Iran to attain the bomb and bombing Iran, he would recommend the latter, but argued that the choices had not yet been that whittled down to such extremes. Instead he called for a middle road that might force an agreement that would “turn the Iranian clock back 2-3 years,” and allow for “face-saving, symbolic uranium enrichment in Iran.”

Barring that, he suggested that the confrontation could reach a head in 2013.

After dismissing any comparisons between Iran and North Korea, calling the latter “a Chinese puppet,” and arguing that the former, Iran, represented a clear national security threat to the United States, he said that if Israel chose to strike in Iran, “the Iranian reaction – and there will be a reaction, because they will not be surprised like Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad – will be calculated and limited.”

Turning to Syria, the former head of IDF intelligence dismissed what he called “the black headlines,” and contended that the ongoing civil war along Israel’s border is, in the final tally, good news for Israel. He suggested five possible outcomes of the war: One, Assad refrains from antagonizing Israel and Turkey, and manages to maintain Russian protection and in that way survives. Two, the civil war “continues forever. Three, Syria disintegrates into three sectarian states – Allawite, Sunni and Kurd. Four, a largely Sunni state emerges. And five, a “full disintegration” of all sovereignty, reminiscent of Somalia.

“In each one of these developments Israel is less threatened than two years ago when I was still head of intelligence,” he said.

In an interview after the briefing, Brig. Gen. (ret) Shlomo Brom, a former head of the IDF General Staff’s planning division and a senior fellow at INSS, said that he disagreed with this assessment. Bands of terror operatives would hold fewer weapons, he allowed, but they would be very difficult to deter. Shrugging, he said of the disagreement, “we are not China,” and said it was likely that there were similar differences of opinion today within the General Staff.

Discussing Israel’s peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt, Yadlin called them one of “the pillars of national security.” He said the strength of the agreements had been eroded in 2012 but that, in Egypt, even the Muslim Brotherhood realizes that “going to war with Israel is counter-productive.”

In Jordan, he said, people could look over one shoulder at Iraq and the other at Syria and see why revolution might not be in their best interest. “The King,” he said of Abdullah, the ruler of Jordan, “is handling the reforms in the best way.”

In the West Bank, he suggested, Hamas had little chance of taking the seat of government from Fatah by force but contended that change could be ushered in at the polling booths, which would explain why the PA has been “saying elections will be next year for the past four years.”

He estimated that the chances for peace were low but that, in order to “achieve the moral high ground,” Israel had to submit “a decent, moral proposal to the Palestinians.”

If the Palestinians refuse the offer, he said, Israel would “win the blame game,” and then would have to conduct a “unilateral shaping of borders.”

The “disengagement” from Gaza, he said, “was maybe not such a mistake,” but that Israel would have to draw three major lessons from that 2005 withdrawal: it would have to occupy the Jordan Valley and bar weapons from entering the West Bank; the withdrawal would have to be up until the security barrier, incentivizing further talks; and Israel would have to strive for maximal coordination.

An Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, or perhaps even the premise of one, would, he said, allow Israel to forge closer ties to the Sunni world, including Turkey, in its campaign against Iran.

Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has “a history of 100 years and will be the main issue in the next 100 years.”

I shake my head at the lack of judgement shown here.

First he ignores one possible regarding Syria, it becomes a religious Islamic revolutionary state. Which in my mind is the most likely scenario.

Regarding the Palestinians, how can you be so stupid as to not see no matter what Israel does. The world will never give us the high ground. We should be in a position of the high ground right now if the world was moral.

In closing bomb Iran, as soon as the government is formed.

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