Israel’s Right in the ‘Disputed’ Territories

The recent statements by the European Union’s new foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton criticizing Israel have once again brought international attention to Jerusalem and the settlements. However, little appears to be truly understood about Israel’s rights to what are generally called the “occupied territories” but what really are “disputed territories.”

That’s because the land now known as the West Bank cannot be considered “occupied” in the legal sense of the word as it had not attained recognized sovereignty before Israel’s conquest. Contrary to some beliefs there has never been a Palestinian state, and no other nation has ever established Jerusalem as its capital despite it being under Islamic control for hundreds of years.

The name “West Bank” was first used in 1950 by the Jordanians when they annexed the land to differentiate it from the rest of the country, which is on the east bank of the river Jordan. The boundaries of this territory were set only one year before during the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan that ended the war that began in 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish State. It was at Jordan’s insistence that the 1949 armistice line became not a recognized international border but only a line separating armies. The Armistice Agreement specifically stated: “No provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either Party hereto in the peaceful settlement of the Palestine questions, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.” (Italics added.) This boundary became the famous “Green Line,” so named because the military officials during the armistice talks used a green pen to draw the line on the map.

After the Six Day War, when once again Arab armies sought to destroy Israel and the Jewish state subsequently captured the West Bank and other territory, the United Nations sought to create an enduring solution to the conflict. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 is probably one of the most misunderstood documents in the international arena. While many, especially the Palestinians, push the idea that the document demands that Israel return everything captured over the Green Line, nothing could be further from the truth. The resolution calls for “peace within secure and recognized boundaries,” but nowhere does it mention where those boundaries should be.

It is best to understand the intentions of the drafters of the resolution before considering other interpretations. Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in 1967 and a drafter of the resolution, stated in 1990: “Security Council Resolution 242 and (subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution) 338… rest on two principles, Israel may administer the territory until its Arab neighbors make peace; and when peace is made, Israel should withdraw to “secure and recognized borders,” which need not be the same as the Armistice Demarcation Lines of 194.”

Lord Caradon, the British U.N. Ambassador at the time and the resolution’s main drafter who introduced it to the Council, said in 1974 unequivocally that, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.”

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, made the issue even clearer when he stated in 1973 that, “the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” This would encompass “less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel’s prior frontiers had proven to be notably insecure.”

Even the Soviet delegate to the U.N., Vasily Kuznetsov, who fought against the final text, conceded that the resolution gave Israel the right to “withdraw its forces only to those lines it considers appropriate.”

After the war in 1967, when Jews started returning to their historic heartland in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as the territory had been known around the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it, the issue of settlements arose. However, Rostow found no legal impediment to Jewish settlement in these territories. He maintained that the original British Mandate of Palestine still applies to the West Bank. He said “the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors.” There is no internationally binding document pertaining to this territory that has nullified this right of Jewish settlement since.

And yet, there is this perception that Israel is occupying stolen land and that the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to come to the negotiating table. Statements like those of Lady Ashton’s are not only incorrect; they push a negotiated solution further away.

Mr. Ayalon is the deputy foreign minister of Israel.

Source: Wall Street Journal – online.wsj.com

Netanyahu on address by US President Obama

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Bureau)

Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.

That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.

Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.

Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel.

Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace.

Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will also express his disappointment over the Palestinian Authority’s decision to embrace Hamas, a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction, as well as over Mahmoud Abbas’s recently expressed views which grossly distort history and make clear that Abbas seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel rather than end.

Source: mfa.gov.il

Mahmoud Abbas’s formula for war

By Jackson Diehl, Thursday, May 19, 2:30 AM

Middle East diplomacy is settling into a familiar pattern. Desperate to jump-start an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Obama administration and its European allies are piling pressure on Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu, demanding that he offer a plan, concessions — something — that will provide the basis for starting negotiations with Palestinians.

As he has before, Netanyahu has responded, but cautiously and with obvious reluctance. On Monday he gave a speech suggesting that he was prepared to cede most of the West Bank to a Palestinian state — a step forward from his earlier refusal to spell out territorial terms.

Now, as Netanyahu heads to Washington, Israelis and Americans are debating, among themselves and with each other, whether Netanyahu has gone far enough (probably not) and whether President Obama should respond by putting his own plan on the table (probably he won’t).

Meanwhile, short shrift is given, as usual, to Netanyahu’s putative partner. Yet the leader of the Palestinian “moderate” branch, Mahmoud Abbas, is not only refusing to make any concessions of his own but is also turning his back on American diplomacy — and methodically setting the stage for another Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Two weeks ago, Abbas blew up four years of U.S.-sponsored institution building, relative peace and growing prosperity in the West Bank by signing a “reconciliation” agreement with the Hamas movement — a deal that probably will obligate him to fire his progressive prime minister, release scores of jailed Hamas militants and bond his security forces with Hamas’s Iranian-equipped army. On Tuesday, he published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he committed himself to seeking a U.N. General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood in September.

It was, as the Times put it in a separate news story, “a declaration of war on the status quo.” Abbas’s new strategy is radically different: The U.N. vote, he wrote, will “pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights bodies and the International Court of Justice” — in other words, sanctions.

Meanwhile, there will be a change in Palestinian doctrine. The new goal will be one on which Abbas and Hamas can agree: not a peace treaty leading to statehood but statehood followed by negotiations, “a key focus” of which “will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees” — whose return to Israel would mean its demise. “Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another,” Abbas declared. This is a formula for war — or “the third intifada,” as Palestinians are already calling it.

The Obama administration and its allies appear suitably alarmed by all this. But their principal reaction so far might be summed up as, “Now we really have to put the screws to Netanyahu.”

“It’s more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table,” Obama declared after a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday. Senior European diplomats who have recently phoned or met with Netanyahu have made clear what that means: Unless he can engage Abbas in negotiations before September, their governments will probably vote for the U.N. declaration of statehood.

Embedded in these demands is what might be called the soft bigotry of wishful thinking about Arab strongmen. U.S. and European leaders indulgently swallow the private assurances they receive from suit-wearing, English-speaking men like Abbas, rather than judging them by their actual behavior. Until this week Western governments have clung to the idea that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is secretly a “reformer,” even as he guns down his own people. Similarly, Obama persists in telling Jewish leaders and members of Congress that “Abbas is ready to make peace”; it follows that Netanyahu is the problem.

The record of the past several years suggests something very different. In 2008, Abbas refused to accept a far-reaching peace offer from Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, even as a basis for discussion; nor would he make a counteroffer. “The gaps were wide,” he later told me in an interview. For two years he has stoutly resisted peace talks with Netanyahu, even while conceding that the nominal reason for his intransigence — Israel’s refusal to freeze settlements — was forced on him by Obama.

Now Abbas is trying to transform the Arab Spring into a mass movement against Israel. It’s a maneuver that he knows will not bring peace, but it spares him, at age 76, from bearing the responsibility for making the concessions — on refugees, for example — necessary for a deal with Israel. If he succeeds, he could trigger not just another intifada but another Middle East war. Preventing this requires urgent and concerted U.S. action — and not just another scrape with Bibi Netanyahu.

Source: WashingtonPost.com

Learning from the “Jewish Spring”

Learning from the “Jewish Spring”

Danny Ayalon

May 17, 2011

It is extraordinary that many supporters of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ have criticized and condemned the only real ‘Spring’ to have successfully brought democracy and freedom to the Middle East. As of last week, the ‘Jewish Spring’ is 63 years old and showing no signs of weakening.

While many take the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in Israel for granted, the details could serve as an inspiration for the region.

Since the expulsion and exile from the Land of Israel by the Romans, the Jewish People have largely only known repression, persecution and massacres. Wherever many of our ancestors lived they yearned for freedom and equality with the nations of the world by returning to the land that they were expelled from two thousand years prior and rejoining the remnant who maintained the Jewish presence in Israel.

The Jewish struggle for full civil and national rights is unparalleled in the annals of time. No other people survived such a long exile with their language, civilization, culture and attachment to homeland intact.

Perhaps even more remarkably, the reestablished Jewish State created a stable liberal democracy out of a population, the vast majority of whom had never experienced representative government for even one day. While there are those who claim that the lack of democracy in Arab history negates its possibility of success, their Semitic cousins, the Jews, have proven that lack of experience should not prove a barrier.

Moreover, Israel is a bastion of decency and human rights. Our Declaration of Independence is the only such document that actively invokes the universalist principles of the United Nations Charter. Furthermore, Israel’s founding document extended a hand of peace and fraternity to all of our neighbors, even while many at that moment were massing at the Jewish State’s borders in a war of attempted extermination.

If the ‘Arab Spring’ is to succeed it could do worse than learn from the Israel experience. While successive Arab rulers have instilled a ‘scapegoat mentality’ in parts of the population, this must be removed at the earliest opportunity. Arabs have been distracted from the real issues for too long by blaming all the ills of the Middle East on the colonial powers, Israel, the U.S. and the West in general.

The broken bodies and souls that escaped the Holocaust, the excesses of Communism and suppression as dhimms in Arab lands had ample reasons for failure bar one, the determination to succeed, build and look forward.

Israel began its existence as a developing nation with all of the challenges that entails, and many others, like mass immigration, and boycotts and other embargoes laid against it. Nevertheless, Israel met all these challenges and many more, and is a proven success by any measure.

The challenges facing the Arab world are many. The UNDP Human Development Report for Arab states report in 2009 placed the Arab world at the lowest level on the development ladder. The ever-increasing poverty, unemployment, desertification, water scarcity, rising food prices, civil wars, sectarian and ethnic conflicts make the task daunting.

According to the report, the Arab countries will need to create around 51 million new jobs by 2020 just to maintain their current precarious unemployment figures.

Many of these challenges were Israel’s challenges. However, regardless of the fact that Israel had to fight many bloody wars and spend an enormous amount of its budget on defense, Israelis continue excelling in many areas.

Perhaps Israel’s key is not letting our challenges define us. While many around the world associate Israel with war and conflict, Israelis define themselves by their achievements as a society.

We measure ourselves by the most developed and wealthy nations and in areas such as hi-tech, innovation, medicine and finance and others, we compare well. Perhaps our over-achieving has entitled many to criticize us more than our neighbors. However, we started with far fewer resources than any in our region, so if we have reached a high level of development it should be to our credit, not our detriment.

Few understand the yearning for freedom and an end to repression more than the Jewish People. We commend those in the Arab world who have the courage to end their tyranny. However, we should not confuse the start of the process with the process itself. There is a long and difficult road ahead.

I hope Israel can serve as a model for the region. The Jewish Spring is a remarkable story and disproves many of the geographic and historic arguments that seek to excuse failed societies in the Middle East and North Africa.

The West has a role too, the narrative of victimization and the allowance of moral relativism must cease. The Arab world must be deemed accountable as any other, when nations, international organizations and NGO’s hold a people to a different standard; this discourages and does not embolden those that seek change.

Israel remains to this day under the largest magnifying glass of the international community and we have been held to the highest standards, some would say unfairly so. If the Arab Spring is to match the Jewish Spring, it deserves no less.

Source: HuffingtonPost.com

Palestinian rights group accuses PA and Hamas of torture

Report warns against “security mentality” at the expense of rights, rule of law; points to fallen Arab dictators as examples of failed policies.

RAMALLAH – A human rights body on Tuesday accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of torture and arbitrary detention and warned it not to repeat the mistakes of Arab states by allowing security forces to become too powerful.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights, releasing an annual report on human rights in the PA-ruled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, said Hamas was also guilty of torture and arbitrary arrest.

It was the Palestinian organization’s first report since this year’s popular uprisings, fueled by grievances against security forces in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Syria.

“We must avoid the mentality of ‘security first’ at the expense of rights, freedoms and rule of law,” the report said.

“This method is the shortest route to the abyss — the abyss of the police, security regimes which we have seen, and see in live broadcast, in the states around us.”

The commission has criticized the Palestinian Authority for complaints including security screening designed to stop supporters of Islamist Hamas from being employed in the PA bureaucracy.

It said torture and arbitrary detention continued in 2010 in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In the West Bank, it said “security considerations have been put in front of all others at the expense of rights and freedoms”, listing the security screening process and the role of the security forces in licensing civil society groups.

Hamas and Fatah, the rival group led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, agreed in April on steps to end their four-year-old feud, including the release of political detainees held by each side.

But Mamdouh al-Aker, who heads the commission, said the impact of the unity agreement had yet to be felt. “It’s business as usual,” he told Reuters. “Nothing has happened on these issues, which are part of the reconciliation,” he said.

PA security forces, retrained with Western support, allowed Hamas supporters to hold a small rally in Ramallah on Friday.

Speaking at a briefing to release the report, Aker added: “It is important for there to be civilian oversight over the security apparatus so that they do not exaggerate in their reports to the politicians.”

He said there were numerous cases in Arab states and other countries which showed that security forces might exaggerate threats to stability to strengthen their own position.

Source: Jpost.com

Middle East peace: The wrong pact

Unity between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is a devastating blow to peace.

The world shared the American people’s gratitude for the special forces who rid us of Osama bin Laden, but there was one flagrant exception.

“We condemn the assassination of an Arab holy warrior,” declared Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas regime in Gaza, who also deplored “the continuing American policy … of shedding Muslim blood.”

This is the same Hamas that has launched hundreds of suicide bombers and thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. Hamas terrorists have held Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, in solitary confinement for nearly five years without a single Red Cross visit. And just last month, they fired an antitank rocket at an Israeli school bus, killing 16-year-old Daniel Viflic. Such atrocities have affected the lives of all Israelis. My own sister-in-law, Joan Davenny, a visiting teacher from New Haven riding on a bus to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was murdered by a Hamas bomber.

In spite of these scars, we still seek the creation of a Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in mutual recognition, security and respect. This is of paramount interest to Israel. We are willing to make painful sacrifices to achieve it and to put forth new ideas for advancing the peace process. And the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, we hoped, would be our partner.

But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, listing a number of preconditions that have never before been demanded by Palestinian leaders and that could never be met by any Israeli government. Instead, he revealed his plan to declare Palestinian statehood unilaterally, without making peace, a violation of treaties with both Israel and the United States. In a recent Newsweek interview, he criticized President Obama for failing to live up to Palestinian expectations and for mishandling the peace process. Then, last week, Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas, an Iranian proxy, dealing a devastating blow to peace.

Indeed, while the world welcomed Bin Laden’s demise, the pact delivered a potent victory to terrorism. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. Both insist that Hamas cannot be recognized — much less engaged in peace talks — without first renouncing violence, accepting Israel’s existence and abiding by all previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has stressed that without meeting these conditions, “We will not deal with, nor in any way fund, a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.” The pact also jeopardizes the progress in Palestinian institution-building and economic development achieved by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whom Hamas bitterly opposes.

Israel does not object to Palestinian unity. On the contrary, we want to negotiate with a Palestinian leadership that speaks for its people in both the West Bank and Gaza. “I’ll negotiate with anyone who wants peace,” Netanyahu said, following the pact’s signing. But can Israel regard as negotiating partners those who speak of its destruction? How can Israelis interact with an organization whose covenant proclaims that “Israel will exist until Islam obliterates it” and “the Day of Judgment will not come until the Muslims fight and kill the Jews.”

The inclusion of Hamas in the Palestinian leadership would seem to put a stop to the already stagnant peace process, but there are still ways to revive it. Under the leadership of the United States and Europe, the international community can uphold the criteria for participation in the process: no terror, recognition of Israel and acceptance of all previous accords. Any attempt to establish a Palestinian state unilaterally must be resisted and Palestinian leaders urged to return to — and remain at — the negotiating table. There, those Palestinian leaders genuinely committed to peace will still find Israeli counterparts and an Israeli public prepared to discuss all the core issues and swiftly conclude a comprehensive agreement.

The pact between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority underscores the need for renewed negotiations now. The Palestinians, along with many Middle East peoples, are at a crossroads. One path turns backward to intolerance and conflict, while the other advances toward freedom and coexistence. The first leads to Bin Laden and his Hamas admirers; the second can still be blazed.

Michael Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Source: LA Times

Schwarzenegger: I love Israel

(Video) Just one day after announcing separation from his wife, actor-politician speaks at Independence Day celebration hosted by Israeli Consulate General in Los Angeles, refers to Jewish state as ‘beacon of democracy and human rights’.

WASHINGTON – Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made headline in the United States on Tuesday night when he spoke at an Independence Day celebration hosted by the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.

It was the politician-actor’s first public appearance since announcing the separation from his wife, Maria Shriver.

In a speech broadcast in the US, Schwarzenegger expressed his love for the State of Israel and for his soon-to-be ex-wife. “It was love at first sight,” the “terminator” said.

Before entering the event, he wished Israel “another 63 years of great joy, peace and a thriving economy and everyone being happy”.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being there many times,” he added, “and have seen it from a bodybuilding point of view, from a tourist’s point of view, from an entertainer’s point of view, from the governor’s point of view, forming trade relationships with Israel in order. I have been a long-time friend of Israel.”

In his speech Schwarzenegger stated, “I love Israel. When I became governor, Israel was the first country that I visited. When I had the chance to sign a bill calling on California pension funds to divest their money from companies that do business with Iran, I immediately signed that bill.

“I knew that we could not send money to these crazy dictators who hate us and threaten Israel any time they have a bad day.”

Schwarzenegger spoke of his love for Israel and for Maria Shriver. “I love my wife, and we both love Israel very much. I want to take a moment and thank our many friends and family for the tremendous amount of support and love that you have given us in the last 24 hours.”

He said that Israel was a “beacon of democracy, human rights and technological innovations” and announced his plan to visit the Jewish state again soon.

Israeli Consul-General Jacob Dayan noted in his speech that when Israel was blasted during Operation Cast Lead, he turned to then-California Governor Schwarzenegger and to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and the two took part in a press conference and defended Israel.

The two officials received merit certificates during the Independence Day event organized by the Consulate at the Skirball Cultural Center in LA.

Source: ynetnews.com

Israel braces for ‘Nakba Day’

IDF boosts West Bank deployment as Palestinians prepare to mark ‘disaster’ of Jewish State’s establishment; police bracing for possible violence within Green Line, Arab-Israelis hold major rally Tuesday.

Independence Day over, ‘Nakba Day’ looming: Israel’s defense establishment is preparing for a possibly turbulent weekend as Palestinians mark what they view as the disaster inherent in Israel’s establishment.

The annual ‘Nakba Day’ will be marked on May 15th, the date of the Jewish state’s inception.

Security officials have been assessing the volatile situation in the past week, and as of Wednesday the IDF will be boosting its deployment throughout Judea and Samaria. The army is preparing for various scenarios, including extreme violence, despite estimations that Palestinian security forces will aim to keep tensions low.

Several IDF regiments will be joining units already in place, in case Palestinian rallies turn violent and prompt dangerous friction with Israeli forces and settlers.

“We don’t want to be surprised or improvise a response at the last moment,” a military official said, while expressing his hope that quiet will prevail throughout ‘Nakba Day.’

Meanwhile, Israel Police officials are preparing for the possibility of Arab Israelis joining the protests and resorting to violence within the Green Line. Police officers fear that planned rallies and marches will turn into mass riots and will discuss the option of boosting police deployment over the weekend.

As opposed to previous years, the Palestinians have been calling for civil disobedience both in the West Bank and outside Israel, in states sharing a border with the Jewish state. The trend got underway with the launch of a Facebook page urging the Palestinians to embark on a third Intifada on May 15.

Elsewhere online, several groups are organizing with the aims of reaching Israel’s borders. One such initiative is being organized by the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt, with university students expected to depart from Cairo Friday en route to the Gaza Strip border.

Tuesday evening, some 15,000 Arab Israelis took part in a ‘Nakba Day rally in the western Galilee region. The event was attended by Arab Knesset members and senior Islamic Movement figures.

Participants held up Palestinian flags and signs with anti-occupation slogans. Cities within Israel’s Green Line, including Kfar Saba and Petach Tikva, just north of Tel Aviv, were also declared as “occupied.” The rally also endorsed the recent Hamas-Fatah unity deal.

However, it appears that there is no consensus on the Arab side, after the Islamic Movement walked out of the event because a female singer took the stage.

Speaking at the event, MK Ahmed Tibi said: “In 1948, ethnic cleansing was carried out through the destruction of 531 villages, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands, and the pulverizing of the Palestinian people.”

Referring to the so-called Nakba Law, aimed at combating displays rejecting the Jewish state’s existence, Tibi said: “This is an open wound in our heart, a narrative that is alive and kicking, and no law would change that. The Nakba Law deserves to be violated, and that’s what we did.”

Source: Ynetnews.com

Shin Bet: Gaza arms smugglers operating freely since fall of Mubarak

Shin Bet says in report the Egyptian government is preoccupied with stabilizing the county, allowing smugglers to operate almost entirely hindrance-free; Bedouins reportedly a major group smuggling weapons to Gaza.

Smugglers transporting arms into the Gaza Strip are operating almost freely after a change of leadership in Egypt, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said Friday.

A report by the domestic intelligence agency said with Egypt’s new leaders preoccupied with stabilizing their country, “governance in Sinai is not high and this allows smugglers to operate almost without hindrance.

“Today the Egyptian regime’s attention is focused on stabilizing the new government and this eases the Sinai smugglers’ task,” the report said.

The Sinai forms a huge desert buffer zone between Egypt and Israel, which sealed an historic peace treaty in 1979 after fighting two wars against each other in less than a decade.

The Bedouin people of the Sinai, for whom smuggling is a major source of income, was the group mostly involved in getting weapons into Gaza to supply the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which controls the enclave and other smaller militant groups, it said

It also reaffirmed Israel’s belief that Iran, in seeking to strengthen its influence in the region, was supplying Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants with “choice military-grade weaponry.”

It said hundreds of rockets with a range of 20-40 kilometres (12-25 miles), at least 1,000 mortar bombs, some anti-tank missiles and tons of high explosives and raw material to make high explosives had entered Gaza since the start of 2010.

Outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, who hands over the role to his successor Yoram Cohen on Monday, said in a rare speech earlier this week: “In Egypt it is very hard to assess what will happen in the elections expected in the summer … it’s not a good idea to rest on our laurels.”

Even under the rule of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who was considered a partner of Israel in the Middle East, “Egyptian actions did not significantly reduce the scale of munitions smuggling,” the report said. But matters have now worsened.

The Shin Bet report said munitions were transported from Iran to Sudan, across Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and through smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip.

Sudan accused Israel of launching an air strike in April near Port Sudan airport that killed two people. Khartoum has close ties with Hamas, but denies giving it direct support.

Israel is also suspected of carrying out an air strike on an arms convoy in eastern Sudan in 2009 for which it has neither admitted nor denied responsibility.

Source: Haaretz.com

Bin Laden’s Death & Double Standards

In response to the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, world leaders justifiably issued statements of support for the American operation. The international consensus is that justice has been served, a major blow has been delivered against terrorist forces, and the world is a safer place – even in recognition of ongoing threats from Al-Qaeda.

When Israel killed Hamas co-founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004, the global response was much different. In fact, the commonly used term was “condemn”, as country after country asserted its opposition to targeted killings – both in principle and in this specific case.

Brian Smith of the Montreal Gazette published a compelling piece today on this glaring double standard – click here to read more. At the same time, The Israel Project, a highly reputable non-profit organization based in Washington and Jerusalem, issued a side-by-side comparison of international reactions to the two killings.

In his uncompromising pursuit of “holy war”, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin ordered numerous attacks against civilians, including a horrific suicide bombing campaign that lasted for years. Under Yassin’s leadership, hundreds of Israelis were murdered by Hamas. His killing was a matter of life-and-death for Israelis – a policy of self-defense no less than that of the decision to kill bin Laden.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Yassin’s own organization, Hamas, issued its own statement following bin Laden’s death – condemning the killing of what they consider “an Arab holy warrior”.

Source: cicweb.ca

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