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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.
      Adar Bet 21, 5768, 3/28/2008

      Washington's Obsession with the Palestinians

      Sadly, though, American officials seem to have been spending more time rifling through mini-bars in Ramallah hotel rooms in between meetings with Palestinians, than in tackling the growing spread of nuclear ambition in the Middle East
      Condoleezza Rice is due here in Israel again on Sunday, in yet another attempt to push Israel into making a dangerous deal with the Palestinians.

      There is something obsessive about the manner in which the Bush Administration is devoting so much time and resources to trying to create a Palestinian state.

      A direct result of this mindset is that other, far more important issues, such as Iran's drive toward nuclear weapons and the nuclearization of the Middle East, are not getting the attention that they deserve. As I argue in the column below, this is a dangerous development, and warrants a major "re-think" in Washington's entire approach to the region.

      The Price of Washington's Obsession with the Palestinians
      By Michael Freund

      While the West fiddles, the Middle East threatens to burn. Recent months have seen a renewed surge in American efforts to jump-start the political process between Israel and the Palestinians, as a stream of high-level officials have made their way to the region. We've had visits by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice looks set to be upgraded to "platinum" in whatever frequent flyer program she takes part in. The Secretary of State has already been to Israel twice this year, and it's only March.
      Of course, these labors have thus far failed to achieve anything, other than to send a message to the Palestinians that they can continue to use violence against the Jewish state while hoping to wring out still more concessions at the negotiating table.
      But there is a much deeper, and even greater, cost involved in all the American time and energy that are being expended on cajoling the recalcitrant Palestinian leadership.
      For just as there are a finite number of hours in the day, so too there are a finite number of issues that senior US diplomats can grapple with. And the more time they spend banging their heads against the Palestinian wall, the less they have to devote to a far more pressing matter, one which threatens to shake the foundations of the entire region - the growing danger of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
      Indeed, by focusing so incessantly on the Palestinian issue, American officials seem to have dropped the ball on containing Iran's drive toward nuclear supremacy, and this is having far-reaching consequences.
      Make no mistake. The West's failure to shut down Iran's nuclear program has sent shudders throughout the neighborhood, prompting Arab states from the Persian Gulf to North Africa to begin to seek ways of maintaining strategic parity. Whether you are a Bahraini living in Teheran's shadow, or a Moroccan policymaker in Rabat, the very thought of the ayatollahs with their fingers on the trigger is nothing less than a nightmare scenario.
      THE ARAB leadership knows full well that an atomic Iran would transform the strategic dynamic in the region, further boosting radical Shi'ite fundamentalism and revolutionary triumphalism. It would give Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unprecedented leverage with which to threaten the entire Middle East.
      Moreover, if Iran does become a nuclear power, it will compel the Arab states to adopt even more extreme anti-Israel and anti-Western positions, as they seek to placate the ayatollahs.
      Fearful that America and the West do not have the will to stop Iran, the Arab states, as expected, are now embarking on nuclear programs of their own.
      Several have already announced plans to build nuclear power plants, and others will undoubtedly do so as well out of fear of being left behind.
      Take, for example, Egypt, whose president, Hosni Mubarak is in Moscow this week, where he is expected to sign a bilateral deal that would pave the way for Russia to construct nuclear reactors for Cairo. The Egyptian government is currently facing violent unrest at home, as they can not afford to provide enough subsidized bread to feed the poor. But that isn't stopping them from proceeding down the costly road to nuclear power out of fear of Iran.
      Likewise, on Monday, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that it was establishing a government agency, the Nuclear Energy Implementation Organization, to look into developing nuclear assets. And in an interview earlier this month with the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq, Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud boasted of the "eagerness" of various Gulf Arab states, including his own, to make use of nuclear energy.
      All told, 11 Arab countries have declared an interest in nuclear technology. They are: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Yemen, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt.
      HOW'S THAT for a threat to the stability of the region? Sadly, though, American officials seem to have been spending more time rifling through mini-bars in Ramallah hotel rooms in between meetings with Palestinians, than in tackling the growing spread of nuclear ambition in the Middle East.
      Sure, the Arab states all say that their intentions are "peaceful," and that they seek nuclear power only for the sake of generating cheaper electricity.
      But this excuse is as transparent as it is feeble. We all know from the case of Iran just how easy it is to keep one's nuclear progress, and intentions, under wraps. After all, Teheran's nuclear program was revealed in 2002 only after an Iranian exile group held a press conference and disseminated photographs and data regarding the country's covert nuclear installations.
      It turned out that Iran had been working in secret for 18 years (!!!) on its nuclear program, which it had concealed from the international community and repeatedly lied about its existence.
      What would stop a tightly-controlled dictatorship such as Riyadh from doing the same? Moreover, there is little reason to believe that oil-rich Arab states awash in petrodollars are truly in need of finding cheaper sources of electricity.
      It is not too late to stop this regional rush toward nuclear proliferation, which is still in its initial stages. Tackle the Iranian threat head-on, strip them of their nuclear program, and the Arab states' "excuse" to pursue atomic energy fizzles away.
      But if the Bush administration continues to fritter away its remaining months in office, instead expending precious political and diplomatic capital on the bleak prospects of a Palestinian about-face, it runs the risk of turning this region into a dangerous nuclear powder-keg.
      So the choice before Washington is really very simple. Keep focusing on the Palestinians if you wish, but then don't be surprised if you wake up one day to discover a nuclear Middle East.
      --- from the March 26 Jerusalem Post

      Adar Bet 19, 5768, 3/26/2008

      No surprise here: Palestinians fail to fight terror

      despite the Palestinian failure to halt anti-Israel violence, the Bush Administration is pressing Israel to allow the transfer of still more weapons, ammunition and accessories to the Palestinian security forces
      Well, here is a news-flash that you probably won't be reading all that much about in the Western press.

      Guess what? The Palestinian Authority is not living up to its obligations to fight terrorism against Israel.

      So concluded the American officials responsible for monitoring Palestinian compliance with the Road Map peace plan, according to the Ha'aretz newspaper.

      The paper reports that, "Specifically, the Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to "contain" terror - to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah's rule in the West Bank."

      Nonetheless, despite the Palestinian failure to halt anti-Israel violence, the Bush Administration is pressing Israel to allow the transfer of still more weapons, ammunition and accessories to the Palestinian security forces!

      Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, the US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinians, is reportedly set to submit a formal request to this effect to Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the coming days, and Barak is said to be ready to agree to it.

      Sound absurd? Well - it most definitely is. The Palestinians are allowing terror against Israel to continue - so how do the US and Israel respond? By giving them still more weapons.

      Adar 30, 5768, 3/7/2008

      The Evil We Face

      Take a look at the picture below - at the smiles on the faces, at the flag waving in the air. This is how Palestinians in Gaza reacted last night to the news that a terrorist had murdered 8 young Israelis at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

      Take a good, long look, and accept the cold, hard truth: there is no negotiating with evil. There is no compromise with those who cheer the death of innocent teenagers.

      This isn't about a political dispute or an ideological difference. As far as our enemies are concerned, this is a war of extermination, and they are just going to keep on coming over the hill until only one side is left standing.

      This is the evil that we face.

    • Adar 29, 5768, 3/6/2008

      They had their chance. Now take back Gaza!

      The Palestinians had their chance for autonomy and independence, and they blew it. Israelis should not have to continue paying dearly in blood just to give them another shot.
      Israel continues to pay the price of its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, as Palestinian rocket attacks intensify against southern Israeli towns and cities. In response, the Olmert government undertook a small incursion into the Strip, which failed to halt the barrages and only strengthened Hamas politically. 
      As I argue in the column below, it is not too late to the correct the error of withdrawal and to finally put an end to the terrorist threat. It is time for Israel to retake Gaza, topple Hamas and assert complete control over the area. And while we're at it, let's rebuild the destroyed Jewish communities of Gush Katif.

      They had their chance. Now take back Gaza

      By Michael Freund

      There is a certain country which has been the target of fierce terrorist attacks in recent years, leaving untold thousands of citizens living along its southern border exposed to ongoing violence and cruelty.

      After enduring ceaseless bombings, killings and abductions, the country's leadership decided to take bold action, crossing the frontier over the weekend and eliminating the terrorist group's top echelons, including its second-in-command.

      In case you haven't been following the news, the country in question is Colombia, which sent troops on a cross-border raid into neighboring Ecuador, where they tracked down and killed some of the leading thugs of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terror organization.

      The audacity of the move led Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who backs the FARC brutes, to invoke the Jewish state in his denunciation of Bogota.

      "The Colombian government has turned into the Israel of South America," Chavez said during his weekly Sunday talk show on Venezuelan television. "Colombia is a terrorist state that is subject to the great terrorist, the government of the United States and their apparatus," he added.

      Now with all due respect to Mr. Chavez (and quite frankly, not all that much is due him), he could not be more wrong in his comparison.

      For while Colombia's weekend counter-terror operation was indeed effective, Israel's was anything but.

      Unlike Colombia's raid, Israel's foray into Gaza left it in a worse position than before.

      A quick recap: last week, after months of dilly-dallying, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally mustered the courage to send tanks and troops to pursue Palestinian terrorists who have been firing rockets indiscriminately at the Negev.

      "Israel is at the height of this battle and we will pursue it until the danger threatening residents in the south is over," Olmert vowed shortly after the operation began.

      But then, sure enough, just five days after it had begun, Israel turned tail and pulled out.

      Not surprisingly, a few short hours later, the Palestinians were gleefully firing rockets at Ashkelon, striking a seven-story apartment building and a playground on Monday.

      Naturally, Hamas celebrated Israel's retreat with a large rally in the streets of Gaza, declaring "victory" in what they wryly termed "The Five Day War."

      SO NOW let's consider what exactly Mr. Olmert accomplished with his little operation.

      From a military point of view, the maneuver did not halt the Palestinian rocket attacks or even deliver a punishing blow against those behind them. Politically, Hamas emerged stronger than before, with Gaza's Palestinian population rallying to its defense. And diplomatically, Israel botched efforts to make its case to the international community that it was fully justified in resorting to force to stop the violence being directed against it.

      In other words, Olmert blew it once again, failing miserably to provide Israel and its citizens with the safety and security they so rightly deserve.

      Worse yet, he reinforced the dangerous impression among our adversaries that Israel does not have the will, or the wherewithal, necessary to wage a protracted war for its survival.

      The fundamental problem, of course, is that the government is effectively playing games with the lives of Israel and its citizens. Instead of undertaking a large-scale ground invasion in Gaza to clear out the terrorists and their infrastructure, Olmert seems to favor small, "ping-pong" style strikes, even though these have proven entirely ineffective.

      But merely tapping the ball ad nauseam over the net is not going to solve things. The only way to break out of this deadly mess is for Israel to hit the equivalent of an overhead smash in tennis. We need to strike a decisive and winning blow against the terrorists, and not merely volley back and forth with them at their leisure.

      Let's be honest: after years of retreat, it is time to try something else. For far too long, Israel has been seeking to run away from the Gaza problem, and that has gotten us nowhere. We must stop fleeing and finally face this threat head-on.

      Israel tried turning the territory over to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and he ended up scampering off to Ramallah to save his life when Hamas took over.

      The government then sought to give the Islamists a chance, and that too has resulted in disaster. Those who preached concessions and disengagement have been proven painfully wrong, time and time again, but it is the people of Israel who have been made to pay the price for their folly.

      We need not accept the present situation, nor should we. It is not too late to correct the error of withdrawal, and to finally declare an end to the delusions of reaching a false peace with those who seek our demise.

      Simply put, Israel should reassert complete control over Gaza, topple the Hamas-led regime, arrest and try its leadership, and finally declare that this land is rightfully ours and we shall never again abandon it.

      We should then move quickly to rebuild the rubble of Gush Katif and its once-thriving Jewish communities. This would send a clear message to our foes that they will never succeed in uprooting the Jewish presence from this region. And it is the least Israel can do for the thousands of Jews who were expelled from their homes for nothing in the 2005 pullout from Gaza.

      The Palestinians had their chance for autonomy and independence, and they blew it. Israelis should not have to continue paying dearly in blood just to give them another shot.

      Like it or not, it is time to take Gaza back. Only this time, we must never give it up again. Let the Left mock the idea of returning to Gaza as much as they please. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

      Frankly, I'd rather be Right and alive, than Left and on the run.

      --- from the March 5 Jerusalem Post

      Adar 26, 5768, 3/3/2008

      Playing Ping-Pong with Israeli Lives

      Instead of undertaking a large-scale ground invasion to clear out the terrorists and their infrastructure, Olmert prefers small, "ping-pong" style back-and-forth strikes, which have proven entirely ineffective
      Well, it didn't really last long at all.

      Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza last night after a brief incursion aimed at stopping the mounting Palestinian rocket assaults on Israeli cities in the south.

      Not surprisingly, a few short hours later, a Palestinian rocket struck a 7-story apartment building in Ashkelon, while another slammed into a playground.

      This is tangible proof that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's limited military operation in Gaza failed to achieve its objectives. Instead of undertaking a large-scale ground invasion to clear out the terrorists and their infrastructure, Olmert prefers small, "ping-pong" style back-and-forth strikes, which have proven entirely ineffective, as this morning's attack on Ashkelon demonstrates.

      The problem, of course, is that the government is effectively playing ping-pong with the lives of Israel and its citizens. By not uprooting the terrorist infrastructure once and for all, our leaders are essentially allowing this madness to continue, with tens of thousands of Israelis spending their day racing back and forth to bomb shelters.

      This is no way to run a country.