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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.
      Shevat 9, 5768, 1/16/2008

      The Real Disgrace... is Ehud Olmert



      With all due respect to the prime minister, the fact that there are still plenty of Jewish youth who are willing to dedicate themselves to reclaiming our ancient patrimony would hardly seem to qualify as a "disgrace." If anything, it should serve as a source of pride and hope, for it demonstrates that true Zionist idealism and love of the land continue to resonate among the next generation.
      A "disgrace" - that is how Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the continued existence of Jewish hilltop communities in Judea and Samaria while speaking to the cabinet this past Sunday.

      Yet rocket salvos from Lebanon and Palestinian terror attacks do not seem to get the premier equally worked up.
       
      As I suggest in the column below, Mr. Olmert is effectivelty engaging in what psychologists refer to as "projection", for the real "disgrace" is when a premier with no mandate, no foresight and no popular support arrogates to himself the right to make fateful decisions in order to save his political skin. 
       

      The Real Disgrace

      By Michael Freund

      This past Sunday brought with it a major new development, one that is likely to affect the future of the entire region: Ehud Olmert is finally upset about something.

      Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, the prime minister lashed out, invoking unusually harsh language to make his point, so much so that it immediately made waves, generating noisy headlines for much of the rest of the day.

      And just what, you might be wondering, was the object of the premier's newfound wrath? No, it was not the Katyusha rockets fired into the northern Galilee from Lebanon last week that had the premier up in arms. Neither do the daily Palestinian attempts to bombard Sderot and Ashkelon seem to have affected his mood.

      Indeed, even as Iran rapidly advances toward nuclear prowess, our fearless leader's blood pressure has remained fairly stable.

      The issue that Olmert chose to single out above all else was none other than the Jewish people's stubborn determination to build and settle the Land of Israel.

      And boy was he fuming.

      Referring to the various hilltop communities that have sprouted up in recent years throughout Judea and Samaria, which the media likes to besmirch by labeling them "illegal outposts," Olmert said it was a "disgrace" that they had not been demolished.

      "The fact that illegal outposts are still standing," he told his ministerial colleagues, "even though the last two governments decided to evacuate them is a disgrace."

      With all due respect to the prime minister, the fact that there are still plenty of Jewish youth who are willing to dedicate themselves to reclaiming our ancient patrimony would hardly seem to qualify as a "disgrace."

      If anything, it should serve as a source of pride and hope, for it demonstrates that true Zionist idealism and love of the land continue to resonate among the next generation.

      Quite honestly, if that is what passes for a "disgrace" these days, then I'm all in favor of more such ignominy. As the famed English actress, Dame Diana Rigg, once wryly put it, "I hope there's still a tinge of disgrace about me." But somehow, I think it is apparent to much of the Israeli public that when Prime Minister Olmert denigrates others as being a "disgrace," he is in fact merely engaging in what psychologists call good, ol' fashioned "projection."

      Or, as the great sage Shmuel pointed out in the Talmud (Kiddushin 70a), he that declares others unfit is essentially revealing his own flaws.

      FOR IN fact the real disgrace is when a premier with no mandate, no foresight and no popular support arrogates to himself the right to make fateful decisions of historic import in a transparent effort to save his political skin.

      With the January 30 Winograd report on the 2005 Lebanon fiasco looming ominously over the horizon, Olmert dispatched Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday to formally begin discussing "core issues" such as the division of Jerusalem and the future of Judea and Samaria with the Palestinians.

      Olmert knows that the only possible way he can avoid political oblivion is to try and position himself as a peacemaker heavily invested in a process with our neighbors, as that will make it more difficult for the Labor Party and the Left to justify toppling him once the report is made public.

      In fact, Olmert's desire to retain power is so strong and deep-seated that he seems to have few qualms about crossing virtually every one of the few red lines that Israel still has.

      Even on the issue of the so-called "right of return" of Palestinian refugees, which has long enjoyed an iron consensus across the Israeli political spectrum, the prime minister has indicated that he is ready to capitulate. As Channel 10 television reported (January 10), Olmert has agreed to allow at least 50,000 Palestinian "refugees from 1948" to "return" to Israel as part of a final peace deal.

      The prime minister's cynical political calculations are also what lie behind his outburst over the "disgrace" of the "illegal outposts" earlier this week. Aides to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is no fan of the outposts himself, were quick to blast the premier, accusing him of trying to torpedo Barak's attempts to resolve the matter peacefully.

      The aides assert that Barak reached a deal with leaders of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria that would entail the voluntary relocation of certain outposts, but that Olmert has repeatedly sought to undermine the understandings, preferring instead to use force.

      "It seems as though the prime minister is actually seeking a violent confrontation with the settlers for political gain," Barak's associates told Haaretz (January 14), adding, "This sort of frivolity could end in violence."

      Hey, but as far as Olmert is concerned, a few broken Jewish bones and some nasty cerebral concussions seem like a small price to pay when compared with the political capital he might possibly reap from confronting the settlers that everyone loves to hate.

      James Madison, one of America's founding fathers, once wrote, "Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power." And it is that abuse, which Mr. Olmert has so artfully been practicing, that is truly the greatest disgrace of all.

      --- from the January 16 Jerusalem Post



      Shevat 4, 5768, 1/11/2008

      The Real Occupation



      if there is anyone who should be considered an "occupier" in the territories, it is Mahmoud Abbas and his illegitimate regime.
      It is time for Israel and its supporters to finally muster up the courage to acknowledge the cold, hard truth - the West Bank and Gaza are "occupied territories."

      These areas are administered by a cruel and heartless regime, one that has no mercy on its perceived foes, targeting them with derision, humiliation, and even military force.

      Little concern is shown for the lives of the innocent, as ruthless measures are employed with the aim of driving the residents from their homes, making them so miserable that they will have no choice but to leave.

      This occupation is a menace to the entire region, destabilizing it and undermining any chances for a lasting peace between Arabs and Jews. There is no choice but to bring about an end to this colonialist enterprise, and to dismantle the occupation once for and all.

      Or, put more simply: Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have got to go.

      For, if there is anyone who should be considered an "occupier" in the territories, it is Abbas and his illegitimate regime.

      Over the past 14 years, the Palestinian Authority has transformed large swaths of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza into hothouses for terrorism and violence. It has targeted Jews living in these areas, seeking to compel them to leave by shooting at them, firing mortar rounds at their communities, detonating explosive devices as their cars pass by and invading their homes.

      The PA has set new standards of corruption, misusing foreign donor money for unsavory purposes, and cultivating a culture of death and suicide among their own people. They have thwarted all efforts to end the century-old Arab- Israeli conflict, preferring instead to resort to the rifle.

      Under the PA's rule, the Palestinian-occupied territories have become an irritant to the entire Middle East, threatening to plunge it into another round of bloodshed and violence.

      BUT THERE is a far deeper, and more compelling reason, why the PA should be considered an "occupying power": It has taken control of land that does not belong to it.

      Regardless of what the United Nations or even George W. Bush might say, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza are the patrimony of the Jewish people. History, quite simply, is on our side.

      Hundreds of years before the advent of Islam, the territories were home to vibrant Jewish communities. David, king of Israel, was born and raised in Bethlehem, while the prophet Amos foretold the future in the hills near Tekoa, southeast of Jerusalem.

      Ancient synagogues and burial sites dot the landscape, all serving as physical testimony to the Jewish presence in these areas. Politicians may lie, but 2000-year old stones do not.

      Visit Shilo, capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, in Samaria. Take a look at the ruins of King Herod's palace at Herodion, in Judea. Stop by the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and you will see with your own eyes that these areas were Jewish long before the sword of Islam was ever unsheathed.

      To suggest that Israel has no right to this land, or that it has taken someone else's territory, is simply an affront to truth and to history. If you do not accept the Bible as proof, then look to the archaeologists, who will gladly point out the evidence to you.

      Even after the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the people of Israel sent into exile, Jews continued to live in these areas, albeit in smaller numbers. Hebron was home to a continuous Jewish presence up until 1929. Only once their neighbors massacred them were they forced to flee.

      Gaza - yes, Gaza - also has a long and rich Jewish history. The Hasmonean king, Yochanan, brother of Judah the Maccabee, took Gaza in 145 BCE, and his brother Shimon sent Jews to settle there. In the fourth century of the common era, Gaza served as the primary port of commerce for the Jews of the Holy Land.

      Nearly 40 years ago, on the outskirts of Gaza City near the sea, Egyptian archaeologists discovered a mosaic floor from an ancient synagogue. According to the inscription, it had been built in the sixth century, or 1400 years before the establishment of the PLO.

      These are hard facts. They cannot be denied or argued away. When Jews now seek again to live in these areas, then, they are doing so not as foreign occupiers, but as indigenous residents returning home. They are merely continuing in the paths of their ancestors, walking where they walked so very long ago.

      So to all those who say "End the Occupation" - I couldn't agree with you more. Let us remove Mahmoud Abbas and his regime, and return the land to the Jewish people, its original owners, once and for all.



      Shevat 2, 5768, 1/9/2008

      An Appeal of Faith to US President Bush: Bomb Iran



      Please, Mr. President: Don't walk out of the White House in January 2009 without having stopped Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Don't leave the fate of Israel and the West hanging in the balance
      US President George W. Bush is arriving in Israel today for a three-day visit - and the timing could not be more crucial. The clock is ticking, and Iran is moving inexorably towards building the Bomb.
       
      In the article below, I appeal to the President - from one man of faith to another - to take military action against the Ayatollahs in order to stop their atomic pursuits.

      For if Tehran is allowed to start producing nuclear weapons, they will spread nuclear terror far and wide, placing the future of Israel - and all of Western civilization - in doubt.
       

      Mr. President, the world's fate is in your hands

      by Michael Freund

      Dear President Bush,

      Welcome to Israel. It has been 10 years since your last visit, and your return to the Holy Land could not have come at a more critical time.

      There is a storm gathering in the region, one that threatens to engulf not only Israel, but the United States too. Freedom and democracy, liberty and tolerance, everything we hold dear is now in jeopardy, as the Tyrant of Teheran continues to march forward down the road toward Armageddon.

      The clock is ticking, yet no one wishes to hear. The countdown to a nuclear Iran has begun, and with each passing day the nightmare scenario draws closer to becoming a reality.

      Mr. President, I am gripped by a sense of fear. I fear for the future of Israel and the entire Jewish people, as the would-be Hitler of Persia readies to do battle against us with the most horrific of weapons. I fear for the future of the West, because few seem to appreciate the enormity of the danger that is looming just over the horizon.

      And I fear for the future of the world, because if Iran's fundamentalists get their hands on a nuclear weapon, it will only be a matter of time before they share their new arsenal with their terrorist allies abroad.

      Hence, Mr. President, I am writing to you because I am convinced that you do understand the gravity of the situation, and I pray in my heart that you will not let it stand.

      I appeal to you now, not as a newspaper columnist nor as a political analyst, but as one man of faith to another: Please bomb Iran and dismantle its nuclear weapons program, before it is too late.

      I KNOW you believe, as I do, that it is the Lord God of Hosts Who guides the destiny of men and of nations. And I know you believe, just as I do, that He has raised you up and placed you in a position of power precisely at this decisive moment, in order to serve as His faithful instrument in this world.

      The God of history has chosen you, Mr. President, just as He did Winston Churchill, and He has entrusted you with a sacred mandate: to save the world from the designs of a madman.

      Less than 1,000 miles to the east of us, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is building an Iranian Auschwitz. Instead of firing up gas chambers, he is installing centrifuges. And in place of Zyklon-B gas, his agent of choice will be uranium. The threat to the existence of the Jewish people, and that of the entire Western world, is no less dire than it was six decades ago in Europe.

      If the ayatollahs are allowed to start producing nuclear weapons, they will spread nuclear terror far and wide, placing the future of Western civilization in doubt. Indeed, the Persian executioner has already made it abundantly clear that he plans to wipe Israel and its millions of Jews off the map. And he has also made it equally manifest that the West's turn is next.

      The answer to this challenge lies not in the halls of the United Nations nor in the capitals of Europe. And we cannot rely on Russia or China to do what is right for the sake of humanity.

      Here in Israel, our own leaders are weak. They have lost their way, and they are no longer anchored in faith. As we saw two years ago in the Lebanon war, they stumble about as though walking in darkness, seemingly oblivious to the danger that stalks us all.

      THERE IS only one person now, Mr. President, with the ability to stop this terrifying scenario from coming to pass, and I believe that person is you. The mighty arm of the United States, stretched out in faith and in force, can stop the menace of a nuclear-armed Iran from becoming a reality.

      Mr. Bush, I think of you often, and when I do, I am guided in faith to the sixth chapter of the Book of Judges in the Bible. When Israel's existence was threatened by the Midianites, God called upon Gideon, son of Joash, to step forward and take command, and to wage war against the aggressors. But Gideon remained uncertain of what to do, wondering whether God had forsaken His people and if war was truly the right course. To this the Lord responded clearly and unequivocally: "Go with this, your strength, and you will save Israel… for have I not sent thee?"

      Mr. President, that message is as compelling today as it was then, and I believe it is clearly directed to you too.

      The decision you face is not an easy one, and I do not mean to suggest otherwise. But in the case of Iran, there can be no room for retreat, or for shrinking from the task at hand. The stakes are simply too great.

      SURE, THE critics will try to tear you down, just as they have been doing since the day you were elected. They will heap scorn on you, call you a warmonger, and worse, and denigrate you and your family for many, many years to come.

      But please don't allow them to deter you or to drive you to despair. You know as well as I do that the only verdict that counts, the only one that truly matters, is the one that is penned in Heaven, by He who calls out to us each and every day and declares: "I am the Lord, and there is none else" (Isaiah chap. 45).

      Mr. President, in 12 months' time you will leave office. In the greater scheme of things, I am convinced that your legacy will depend largely on the decisions you make in the coming few months regarding Iran.

      I urge you, I plead with you: Don't walk out of the White House in January 2009 without having stopped Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Don't leave the fate of Israel and the West hanging in the balance.

      Of course, regardless of what you decide, God will save His people Israel. Deliverance comes from Him, and Him alone. But each of us must do our part to help bring it about.

      You have been entrusted from Above with a special opportunity, with a distinctive role to play. It is a tremendous responsibility that the Creator has placed upon your shoulders, but it is also a sacred mandate.

      I DO NOT envy the dilemma that you face. But you have been put in a unique position to bless Israel, and through it, all of humanity, by removing the nuclear sword from the hand of the Persian executioner.

      I, along with many others, will be praying for you, and I hope that you take this message to heart.

      Be strong and of good courage. And may the spirit of the Lord be upon you.

      God bless.

      --- from the January 9 Jerusalem Post



      Tevet 25, 5768, 1/3/2008

      A Major Escalation in Gaza



      The government's policy of impotence has now emboldened the Palestinians to go a step further as they begin to use longer-range Katyushas in addition to the Qassam rockets that have become their trademark.
      Palestinian terrorists in Gaza did today precisely what everyone knew they would eventually do - take their rocket attacks against the Jewish state to another level.

      This morning, they launched a 122mm Grad-type Katyusha rocket from Gaza which hit the northern outskirts of the Israeli city of Ashkelon. This is the farthest north yet that Palestinian projectiles fired from Gaza have hit, and it clearly shows that all of Ashkelon is now within range.

      Thankfully, no one was killed or injured in the attack, but that does not take away from the seriousness of this development. For over two years, Israel has done virtually nothing to stop Palestinian rocket attacks emanating from Gaza, even though they have made life impossible for thousands of Israelis living in Sderot and the Negev.

      The government's policy of impotence has now emboldened the Palestinians to go a step further as they begin to use longer-range Katyushas in addition to the Qassam rockets that have become their trademark.

      This incident can not and must not be ignored. A government's primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens - everything else is secondary. It is time for Israel to move back into Gaza with full force in order to uproot the terrorist infrastructure once and for all.

      Failure to do so will only give the Palestinians more time to prepare the next act of escalation.



      Tevet 23, 5768, 1/1/2008

      Is Israel Talking to Hamas?



      Have we become so morally numb that negotiating with murderers no longer infuriates us?
      As unbelievable as it may sound, nothing should surprise us anymore.

      In a speech on Monday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas revealed that Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey had told him that Israel and Hamas have been holding secret talks in Switzerland.

      According to Abbas, they have been discussing a proposal in which Israel would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders in exchange for a 15-year long ceasefire.

      The news was met with virtual silence - no confirmations, no denials, no outrage in the press. Nada. Nothing.

      Have we become so morally numb that negotiating with murderers no longer infuriates us?

      It is simply unconscionable that Israel would talk with an organization dedicated to its destruction, one that is actively engaged in terror attacks against the Jewish state on an ongoing basis. Unconscionable, and pointless too.

      After all, as the failed Oslo Accords demonstrated all too well, talking with with terrorists only adds fuel to the flames.