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      Fundamentally Freund
      by Michael Freund
      An alternative approach to Israeli political commentary.
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      Michael Freund is Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post. Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister´s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He has lived in Israel for the past decade.
      Tevet 7, 5769, 1/3/2009

      A Call to Psalms


      Israeli ground forces have entered Gaza to deliver a blow to the terrorists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

      Now is not the time for political infighting or ideological bickering - rather, we must rally together in support of our troops, the brave young men and women who are fighting against an implacable foe bent on our destruction.

      At times such as these, when our soldiers are in harm's way, each and everyone of us should reach for the most potent weapon in our arsenal - the power of prayer - and plead with Heaven for Divine guidance and mercy. This is a call to Psalms - one that each of us can and should answer.

      The Biblical commentators tell us that Psalm 20 was recited in Jerusalem when the Jewish people went out to war against their enemies (see the commentator Rashi's comments on verse 2).

      Please take a few minutes to say this important Psalm, while having in mind that G-d should strengthen the hands of our soldiers, grant them success in their mission and confer upon them His shield of protection.

      Psalms Chapter 20

      א  לַמְנַצֵּחַ, מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד. 1 For the Leader. A Psalm of David.
      ב  יַעַנְךָ יְהוָה, בְּיוֹם צָרָה;    יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ, שֵׁם אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב. 2 The LORD answer thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high;
      ג  יִשְׁלַח-עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ;    וּמִצִּיּוֹן, יִסְעָדֶךָּ. 3 Send forth thy help from the sanctuary, and support thee out of Zion;
      ד  יִזְכֹּר כָּל-מִנְחֹתֶךָ;    וְעוֹלָתְךָ יְדַשְּׁנֶה סֶלָה. 4 Receive the memorial of all thy meal-offerings, and accept the fat of thy burnt-sacrifice; Selah
      ה  יִתֶּן-לְךָ כִלְבָבֶךָ;    וְכָל-עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא. 5 Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.
      ו  נְרַנְּנָה, בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ--    וּבְשֵׁם-אֱלֹהֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל;
      יְמַלֵּא יְהוָה,    כָּל-מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֶיךָ.
      6 We will shout for joy in thy victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our standards; {N}
      the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.
      ז  עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי--    כִּי הוֹשִׁיעַ יְהוָה, מְשִׁיחוֹ:
      יַעֲנֵהוּ, מִשְּׁמֵי קָדְשׁוֹ--    בִּגְבֻרוֹת, יֵשַׁע יְמִינוֹ.
      7 Now know I that the LORD saveth His anointed; {N}
      He will answer him from His holy heaven with the mighty acts of His saving right hand.
      ח  אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב,    וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים;
      וַאֲנַחְנוּ,    בְּשֵׁם-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר.
      8 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; {N}
      but we will make mention of the name of the LORD our God.
      ט  הֵמָּה, כָּרְעוּ וְנָפָלוּ;    וַאֲנַחְנוּ קַּמְנוּ, וַנִּתְעוֹדָד. 9 They are bowed down and fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright.
      י  יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה:    הַמֶּלֶךְ, יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם-קָרְאֵנוּ. 10 Save, LORD; let the King answer us in the day that we call.

       

       



      Tevet 4, 5769, 12/31/2008

      Nothing Less Than Victory Will Do



      now more than ever we need to raise our voices and make clear to the politicians that nothing short of total victory in Gaza will do
      In recent days, various Israeli leaders have offered a range of differing, and often contradictory, assessments of what the ultimate objective of the current campaign in Gaza is intended to be.
      Indeed, it is hard to escape the nagging feeling that what is really motivating our politicians right now is not bullets, but ballots. With national elections looming in just six weeks, and polls indicating that Labor and Kadima are headed for the opposition benches, both parties have suddenly rediscovered the need to defend the country and its citizens.
      While there is of course reason to rejoice that we are at last defending ourselves, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that our leadership has gotten it right this time. Chances are that even as they pull the trigger, they are keeping a steady eye on the polls.
      Thus, as I argue in the column below - now more than ever we need to raise our voices and make clear to the politicians that nothing short of total victory in Gaza will do.
       

      The Politics of Airstrikes

      By Michael Freund

      The operation in Gaza is just a few days old, but Israel's leaders already seem confused about the objective.

      Echoing the lack of strategic clarity that characterized the conduct of the Second Lebanon War, our decision-makers have wasted little time in offering a series of muddled, and often contradictory, assertions regarding the goal of the present campaign against Hamas.

      This does not bode well for the days and weeks to come.

      Speaking in the Knesset on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was adamant, declaring that "we have an all-out war against Hamas and its kind." This would clearly seem to indicate the IDF intends to obliterate the terrorist movement and remove it from power.

      After all, what else could "all-out war" mean, other than reentering Gaza and flushing out the Hamas regime?

      But Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in US television interviews on Sunday, offered an entirely different perspective. On NBC's Meet the Press, she insisted that "our goal is not to reoccupy the Gaza Strip." And when asked by Fox News if Israel was planning to topple the Hamas regime, Livni said, "Not now."

      But wait, it gets better.

      Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Channel 10 television the other day that the present operation would only cease once Hamas is removed from power. "We will stop firing if someone takes responsibility for what happens there - anyone except Hamas," he insisted.

      So which is it? Is the current campaign aimed at removing Hamas or simply delivering a blow to its terrorist infrastructure?

      It would be comforting to think the different messages being offered are all part of a well thought-out plan aimed at confusing the enemy.

      Comforting, but extremely naïve.

      For if past experience is any guide, the more likely scenario is that the government does not have a clear sense of what it hopes to achieve on the battlefield.

      NOW DON'T get me wrong. I am all in favor of the use of force against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Just last week, I wrote about the need to reassert complete military control over Gaza, put Hamas leaders on trial for war crimes and rebuild and repopulate the ruins of Gush Katif.

      But it is hard to escape the nagging feeling that what is really motivating our politicians right now is not bullets, but ballots. With elections looming in just six weeks, and polls indicating that Labor and Kadima are headed for the opposition benches, both parties have suddenly rediscovered the need to defend the country and its citizens.

      Bear in mind that Livni has been foreign minister since May 2006, and Barak has served as defense minister since June 2007. During that period, literally thousands of rockets, mortar shells and other projectiles have been fired at the South, and yet the government refrained from taking concerted action to stop it.

      Indeed, since January 1, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 3,000 Kassam rockets and mortar rounds at communities in the Negev.

      And yet, the military campaign only began on December 27.

      So the question remains: What took so long?

      Sure, the so-called cease-fire with Hamas was in effect until December 19. But that was a cease-fire in name only, one which the terrorists brashly and repeatedly violated.

      On June 12, for example, Hamas fired a barrage of more than 50 mortar shells, Kassam and Katyusha rockets at the South. Similarly, on November 14, it bombarded towns in the Negev. Yet in neither instance did Israel undertake a large-scale military operation.

      So it seems somewhat odd that precisely 45 days before the elections, with their fortunes sagging at the polls, Barak and Livni suddenly seem compelled to act to stop the rocket fire.

      And not surprisingly, it is already paying political dividends, at least for Barak's Labor Party. On Sunday, Channel 10 reported the results of a poll which was conducted after the air strikes on Gaza the previous day. It showed Labor soaring to 16 seats from a projected 10 in earlier surveys. That is a gain of 60 percent in just a matter of days.

      YOU MIGHT be wondering why any of this matters, as long as the IDF is getting the job done in Gaza. But that is precisely the point. If in fact this current operation is guided by political calculations, rather than straightforward military and security considerations, you can rest assured that it will end as soon as the political objective is achieved, with strategic concerns coming in a distant second.

      And so, rather than achieving all-out victory, which is what is so desperately needed, we might very well find ourselves in a situation where Hamas is battered, but left standing, or perhaps replaced with a corrupt and hostile Fatah-run regime. In either scenario, it will only be a matter of time before the rocket fire returns, just as it has in the past.

      So while there is of course reason to rejoice that we are at last defending ourselves, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that our leadership has gotten it right this time. Chances are that even as they pull the trigger, they are keeping a steady eye on the polls.

      So now more than ever, we need to raise our voices and make clear to the politicians that nothing short of total victory in Gaza will do. It is time to reverse the disaster of the August 2005 pullout, and restore control over the area. Anything less will only mean continued turmoil and terror.

      Israel did not start this conflict, nor did we seek it out. But we know how to end it, so let's make sure that, once and for all, that is what we do.

      --- from the December 31 Jerusalem Post



      Tevet 3, 5769, 12/30/2008

      Stop Aid to Hamas



      Why on earth is Israel allowing aid shipments to be sent to Hamas under the guise of "humanitarian support"?
      Speaking at a special session of the Knesset on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak did his best to sound tough.

      "We have an all-out war against Hamas and its kind," he said, as if to suggest that the government will stop at nothing less than the demise of the terrorist regime now ruling Gaza.

      But less than 24 hours later, Barak himself issued a mystifying order granting permission for 100 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter the Hamas-controlled territory. The trucks are carrying food and medical supplies that were donated by Jordan and Turkey, and will be allowed to pass through even though the border crossings with Gaza are ostensibly closed. 

      What is going on here? Why on earth is Israel allowing aid shipments to be sent to Hamas under the guise of "humanitarian support"?

      If the goal is truly to dismantle the Hamas regime, then there is simply no rhyme or reason for such "gestures" to be made. Israel should stop all aid to Hamas, humanitarian or otherwise, and compel the thugs to capitulate.

      Until then, the only thing that should be entering Gaza is the Israel military, so that once and for all the nightmare of Qassam rocket fire can at last be brought to an end.



      Kislev 30, 5769, 12/27/2008

      The Politics of Airstrikes



      the obvious question that comes to mind is: what took so long for Israel to act?
      Israel today launched Operation Cast Lead, with a series of airstrikes against dozens of Hamas targets throughout Gaza. Initial reports indicate some 200 Palestinians were killed, and government officials said the operation would continue.

      It is of course refreshing to see the Jewish state finally taking action to defend itself after Palestinian terrorists in Gaza had made life unbearable for tens of thousands of Israelis in the south of the country.

      Since the start of the year, Palestinians in Gaza have fired more than 2,900 rockets and mortar shells at Israel. That is an average of eight rockets per day, every day, since January 1. This is simply intolerable, and no country in the world would put up with such a situation.

      So the obvious question that comes to mind is: what took so long for Israel to act? Why wasn't more done to stop the rocket fire 3 or 6 or 9 months ago?

      And the equally obvious answer is: elections are looming in just over 5 weeks, and if the polls are accurate, Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Labor party is going to get walloped. Barak's approval ratings are remarkably low, and he is immensely unpopular with the public. And there is no better way to boost those poll numbers than by flexing some muscle and appearing firm in the fight against terror.

      One can only hope that Israel will not bend to international pressure and cut short the operation before it achieves its goals. And those should be nothing less than the toppling of the Hamas government and the reassertion of complete Israeli military control over Gaza. That, after all, is the only way to prevent a renewal of the threat to the south.

      But don't hold your breath - because as much as the current campaign is militarily-motivated, it is being guided by politicians. And as we know all too well, they have a tendency to put their own interests before those of the country they were elected to defend.



      Kislev 7, 5769, 12/4/2008

      Treachery and Tyranny in Hebron


      Israel's government today sent the security forces into Beit Shalom in Hebron and forcibly evicted its residents, despite overwhelming evidence that the building was legally purchased from its previous Arab owner.

      In a shocking display of ruthlessness, the government has trampled on the property rights of the Jewish owners, tossing to the wind one of the foundations of democracy and civil society.


      What happened today in Hebron was an outrage. It was an act of treachery and tyranny by a caretaker government with no mandate and no moral justification.
      Make no mistake - this travesty was carried out for purely political motives. The Labor party and Kadima are both sagging in the polls, and fear that parties such as Meretz will steal their thunder and their votes.

      Since there is no better way to try and win the hearts and minds of the far-left than by sending in baton-wielding troops to smash up "the settlers", that is what took place today - broadcast live courtesy of Israeli television.

      Whatever one thinks of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, all can and should agree that what happened today in Hebron was an outrage. It was an act of treachery and tyranny by a caretaker government with no mandate and no moral justification.

      Shame on those who made the decision - and shame on us, the public, for not raising our voices more loudly to prevent it from happening.