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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 18, 5768, 12/27/2007

      Shtetl Diplomacy vs. Steroids Diplomacy

      With time running out on the Bush Administration's term of office, pressure is growing on the Israeli government to make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians that threaten the country's national interests.

      Unfortunately, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has chosen to react by embracing "shtetl diplomacy" - which is when the Jewish state reverts back to the age of Jewish powerlessness in 19th century Eastern Europe rather than standing up for itself as it should.

      But what is needed now is not "shtetl diplomacy" but something a little more forceful and assertive.


      Better "Steroids Diplomacy" than "Shtetl Diplomacy"

      by Michael Freund

      At last, here's some good news to cheer us all up: tourism to Israel is on the upswing. And oddly enough, this is thanks in no small measure to the United States government.

      The Tourism Ministry announced last week that in the first 11 months of the year, the number of visitors to the Jewish state soared to 2.1 million, a rise of 24% over 2006.

      And while the press release didn't specify just how many of those pilgrims came bearing US diplomatic passports, it is clear from the headlines over the past few months that the number is anything but small.

      Indeed, it seems that just about everyone in Washington, perhaps with the exception of the White House gardener, has been here for a stay, including Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Middle East envoy Gen. (ret.) Jim Jones and officials from the Department of Homeland Security.

      But of course the hands-down winner of the most frequent-flyer miles over the Atlantic is none other than Condoleezza Rice herself. The Secretary of State has raided the mini-bar at Israeli hotels on seven occasions since the start of the year, including four stopovers since August.

      That's more visits to Israel than most American Jews make in a lifetime. And now, President Bush himself is slated to come here in two weeks.

      As much as some might like to think that this flurry of sightseeing is related to the quality of Israeli hotels and their facilities, the reality of course is quite different.

      The comings and goings are undoubtedly connected to the attempts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, as Washington races against the clock to forge an agreement before the end of George W. Bush's term of office.

      But while the dollars injected into the local economy by these visits are most certainly welcome, we can not overlook the heavy price-tag that comes along with them, as American officials will be pushing Israel to make dangerous concessions.

      The Jewish state has already been put on the defensive over housing construction in Jerusalem, and media reports in recent days indicate that Washington is pressing for the IDF to dismantle Jewish outposts in Judea and Samaria in advance of Bush's trip.

      This is only the beginning, and given the government's propensity to capitulate, we can expect much worse in the coming months.

      To some extent, all this back-and-forth trekking by American officials brings to mind Henry Kissinger's "shuttle diplomacy" after the Yom Kippur War, when he sought to bring about the signing of an interim agreement between Israel and Egypt.

      BUT IN fact what we are witnessing now is something much worse. It is what I refer to as "shtetl diplomacy," which is when the sovereign government of the State of Israel reverts back to the age of Jewish powerlessness in 19th century Eastern Europe and acts accordingly.

      Instead of doing what is in Israel's best interests, such as strengthening the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and putting an end to Palestinian rocket attacks on Sderot and the Negev, the government turns to Washington for its marching orders.

      The result is that our government seems to show more concern for what the US State Department thinks than what the Israeli public deserves.

      This hyper-sensitivity to the sentiments of others, even when it comes at the expense of our national security, was on clear display last week. As the Post reported, Israel has refrained from sharing videotapes with the US Congress which prove that Cairo is assisting Hamas with arms smuggling in order "to avoid infuriating the Egyptians."

      That's right. We're so afraid of what Hosni Mubarak might think, that we don't want to risk offending him, even if he continues to brazenly arm our enemies.

      And as if that weren't absurd enough, Israel also retreated last week from plans to revive a Jewish neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. Less than 24 hours after Haaretz revealed the Housing Ministry's proposal to build thousands of apartments in Atarot, Minister Ze'ev Boim was quick to back-track, with his spokesman admitting the idea had been shelved because of the "peace process."

      The Olmert government seems to have forgotten that a sovereign state is not supposed to behave like a submissive serf, but rather like a proud and independent entity.

      And that is why it is time to try something radically different. Instead of "shuttle diplomacy" or "shtetl diplomacy," neither of which has worked very well, let's take a page out of the sports sections of American newspapers and give "steroids diplomacy" a try.

      As a report issued two weeks ago by former US senator George Mitchell revealed, American baseball players have produced record-breaking results over the past decade thanks in no small measure to the illicit substances, which enhanced their strength and improved their feats.

      Scrawny players were transformed into muscle-bound hulks, while meek performers became fearless competitors on the field of play.

      Doesn't that sound exactly like what Israel's negotiators so desperately need? Sure, steroids are illegal, but then again, matters of legality have never been this government's strongest point.

      Perhaps a little injection of some "Jewish growth hormone," along with an added dose of national pride, would finally do the trick, and help our government to protect the nation's interests rather than forgo them.

      Given the way in which they have been conducting themselves of late, a bit of "steroids diplomacy" might just give our feeble leaders the boost they need to stop retreating and to start fighting for what is rightfully ours.

      --- from the December 26 Jerusalem Post

      Tevet 16, 5768, 12/25/2007

      Defending Israel on the cheap

      the annual budget that Olmert has put forward for 2008 does not include even the minimal amount of funds necessary to protect the people of Israel
      Well, here's a cheerful bit of news to brighten up your day.

      Despite its monumental failure to adequately prepare for, and then conduct, the 2006 Lebanon War, it seems as if the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has now failed to take adequate steps to prepare for the next war either.

      As Labor Party Knesset Member, and former Deputy Defense Minister, Ephraim Sneh pointed out today, the annual budget that Olmert has put forward for 2008 does not include even the minimal amount of funds necessary to protect the people of Israel.

      According to Sneh, the 2008 budget includes no funding to distribute gas masks to the public in case of war, and provides the Home Front Command with a measly one-quarter of the amount it says is necessary to protect Israelis from Palestinian Qassam rocket attacks in the Negev. "The most elementary thing that they need, they're not receiving," he said. 

      Even more worrisome is that the defense budget reportedly does not include sufficient resources to address the threat posed by Iran and its atomic ambitions. "The most imminent threat to the state of Israel is the threat of a nuclear Iran. This threat is growing, yet we do not have the budget to appropriately deal with it," said Sneh.

      Sneh, who is a member of the ruling coalition government, is no back-bencher looking to score political points. His criticism is timely and frightening, and underlines once again just how dangerously incompetent the present government is.

      Instead of investing the resources necessary to safeguard the Jewish state, the premier seems to prefer to do things on the cheap. But when it comes to protecting the lives of Israel and its citizens, a higher standard is called for.


      Tevet 15, 5768, 12/24/2007

      Don't Let Murderers Go Free!

      "Law and Order" is not just a television show - it is a building block of society
      Rockets may still be going off in Sderot, but that hasn't stopped Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from conjuring up new concessions to make to the Palestinians.

      Media reports indicate that Olmert is now considering doing away with yet another Israeli "red line" by releasing Palestinian terrorists with "blood on their hands".

      Or, to put it somewhat less delicately, it seems the premier is ready to let murderers go free.

      On the one hand, this move is hardly surprising. After all, the government has made clear just how desperate it is to get an agreement with the Palestinians, seemingly at any price. And if Olmert and his colleagues are ready to expel hundreds of thousands of innocent people from their homes, divide our capital city and forego our nation's historic heartland, then is anyone really shocked at their readiness to perpetrate still another moral outrage?

      And yet - there is something so elementary, so fundamentally wrong about setting killers free that one would have hoped that at least on this issue some shred of humanity and decency would have prevailed.

      Swinging open the jail cells and letting killers walk is not an act of compassion or even political savvy. It is showing kindness to the cruel, and broadcasting a dangerous message to all of our foes: namely, that they can act with virtual impunity.

      What Mr. Olmert seems to have forgotten is that "Law and Order" is not just a television show - it is a building block of society. And it weakens us all when those who commit the most heinous of crimes are allowed to escape the punishment they so justly deserve.

      Kislev 13, 5768, 11/23/2007

      Stop the Would-Be Hitler of Persia - Bomb Iran Now!

      Are we really prepared to allow the tyrant of Teheran to threaten our very existence?
      With Iran moving ever closer to obtaining nuclear weapons, there are some worrisome indications that the US and Israel may have suddenly developed cold feet about confronting the tyrant of Tehran.
      But now is not the time for cowardice or even for hesitation. The fate of the world is at stake, and as I argue in the column below, there are five good reasons why military action must be taken - and soon - to prevent the would-be Hitler of Persia from threatening the future of Israel and the West.
      Five Reasons to Bomb Iran Now
      By Michael Freund
      Have America and Israel suddenly gone soft on Iran's nefarious nuclear-weapons program?
      Despite sanctions and UN Security Council resolutions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gleefully pressing forward with his efforts to build a bomb, which Israeli military intelligence now believes he will succeed in doing by 2009.
      Indeed, just last Friday, the would-be Hitler of Persia boasted about how Teheran had "defied" Western opposition, and was now "moving toward the peaks of success step by step."
      Yet even as Iran continues to progress down the dangerous road to an atomic arsenal, the tough talk emanating from Washington and Jerusalem in recent months has suddenly and inexplicably melted away.
      And this should have us all very, very worried.
      It was just last month that US President George W. Bush declared at an October 17 press conference that, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
      Bush's statement was followed four days later by an equally emphatic Vice President Dick Cheney, who told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions."
      Now, though, something appears to have changed. Various reports in recent days seem to indicate that US policy may have taken a sharp and terribly treacherous U-turn in the direction of acquiescence.
      According to the Britain's Sunday Telegraph, the US Defense Department has begun updating its deterrence policy based on the assumption that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons.
      The paper quoted a Pentagon adviser as saying that while "military strikes [against Iran's nuclear facilities] might set the program back a couple of years… current thinking is that it is just not worth the risks."
      Similarly, Admiral William Fallon, head of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, told the Financial Times last week (Nov. 12) that a preemptive attack against Iranian nuclear installations is not "in the offing."
      And, as Reuters reported, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is said to have instructed cabinet officials to draft proposals for how to deal with "the day after" Iran obtains the bomb.
      WHAT IS going on here? Are we really prepared to allow the tyrant of Teheran to threaten our very existence?
      It is possible, of course, that these reports are merely part of the overall game-plan, and that they are aimed at lulling the Iranians into a false sense of security prior to a surprise attack on their nuclear installations.
      Alternatively, it might reflect the shifting political realities in the US, where public opinion, goaded on by the mainstream liberal media, has turned against the war in neighboring Iraq.
      But whatever the reality of the situation is, one thing should be clear: Iran can not and must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.
      This is not an issue with shades of grey - it is about as black and white as they come.
      And here are five good reasons why:
      1. An Iranian nuclear arsenal would transform the strategic dynamic of the entire Middle East, shifting the balance of power squarely in the direction of radical Shi'ite fundamentalism.

        An atomic Iran will be able to threaten the region and the world with nuclear blackmail and destruction, and they will use that leverage to further their fanatical and revolutionary aims.
      2. A nuclear-armed Iran will pose an existential threat to Israel, and ultimately to the West too. Iranian leaders have repeatedly and explicitly promised to wipe Israel off the map and to strike at the United States.

        Teheran has been backing up its words with actions by steadily improving its ballistic missile capability. The Shihab-3 missile, with a range of 1,200 km, can hit all of Israel as well as US military targets in the Middle East. Iran is busy developing the Shihab-4, with a range of 2,000 km, that will put parts of Europe within striking distance. Teheran is also striving to build even longer-range intercontinental missiles that can hit the US as well. All of these weapons have the ability to deliver atomic warheads.
      3. If Iran goes nuclear, it will inevitably tilt the neighboring Arab states further in the direction of extremism, as they seek to mollify the nuclear-armed ayatollahs. Whatever limited chances there might be of drawing at least some Arab states into the moderate camp are likely to be stymied rather quickly.
      4. Failure to take action against Teheran will trigger a region-wide nuclear arms race, as countries throughout the Middle East will seek to achieve strategic and military parity.

        A number of states, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have already announced plans to build their own nuclear power plants, and others will undoubtedly do so as well out of fear of being left behind. Permitting Iran to go nuclear essentially paves the way to a Middle East that will be brimming with atomic weapons.
      5. If Iran were to develop "the bomb," what is to stop them from putting it into the hands of one of the myriad anti-Israel and anti-American terrorist groups that they support, such as Hizbullah or Islamic Jihad? Do we really want to take a chance that terrorists might at last be able to get their hands on nuclear weapons? This is not some "neocon nightmare scenario" or "warmonger wishful-thinking."
      It is the cold, hard reality staring us all squarely in the face, unless Washington or Jerusalem takes military action, and soon.
      CRITICS ARGUE that an attack on Iran would be logistically difficult, politically dangerous, and would result in some very serious consequences.
      But as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the New York Times (November 9), "The choice is not between the world as it is today and the use of force. The choice is between the use of force and Iran with nuclear weapons." And when looked at in those terms, it becomes quite obvious that there really is no choice at all: the US and/or Israel must bomb Iran. They must act to remove the nuclear sword from the hand of the Persian executioner.
      And they should do so now - before it is too late.

      --- from the November 21 Jerusalem Post

      Kislev 10, 5768, 11/20/2007

      Rewarding the Murderers

      Once again, Israeli weakness has only served to encourage further Palestinian aggression
      The Palestinians demonstrated once again yesterday just how truly interested they are in peace, when gunmen belonging to Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction murdered a 29-year old Israeli in a drive-by shooting in Samaria.

      A spokesman for Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade proudly claimed responsibility for the act of terror, boasting to journalists that it was "a response to Israeli crimes".

      The attack, not surprisingly, came just hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Mahmoud Abbas to offer him still more concessions prior to the upcoming Annapolis conference.

      And so, once again, Israeli weakness has only served to encourage further Palestinian aggression. After all, the Palestinians see that they can resort to violence with impunity, and use the threat of terror to pressure the Jewish state into still further capitulation.

      The government barely even reacted to the incident, mumbling something about the need for the Palestinians to fight terror - as if after 14 years of Oslo, there is any chance of that happening......

      And that is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all - namely, that it doesn't seem to occur to anyone in power that by giving away vital strategic assets, they are merely rewarding the murderers for their acts of violence, as well as setting the stage for still more to come.