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Ask the Rabbi
News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
Just the other day, Yossi Beilin was at it again.
In an interview on Israel Radio, the dovish head of the Yahad/Meretz faction in the Knesset spoke about the need to start negotiations with Syria in an effort to reach a peace deal with the Dictator from Damascus, Bashar al-Assad.
It doesn't seem to matter one whit to Mr. Beilin that Assad is a ruthless tyrant who has been busy aiding Hizbullah in Lebanon, the insurgents in Iraq, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Assad's hands may be full of blood, but Beilin just can't wait to shake them anyway.
Nor, it seems, does Syria's beating of the war drums seem to dissuade him. Just yesterday, Syria's Information Minister echoed remarks made by Assad in recent months, threatening that if Israel did not hand over the Golan Heights, Damascus might resort to "other means, which struggling people have used at various points in history, beginning with legitimate resistance".
Similarly, Israel's military intelligence now reportedly believes that Syria and Hizbullah are planning to launch another round of conflict with the Jewish state next summer.
It just goes to show how wrong the left has been in asserting that, "you can only make peace with your enemies." This may be a good sales slogan, but it is intellectually vacuous. The fact of the matter is that you don't make peace with your enemies – you make it with your former enemies. And this is not just an issue of semantics. When someone is out to get you, you can't fool yourself into thinking that smiling at him a couple of times will change his mind.
What Beilin and his comrades on the left fail to understand is that Syria is gearing up for war – verbally, psychologically and militarily. All the evidence points in that direction, and wishful thinking on Israel's part won't make it go away. Hence, Beilin's call for peace talks with a nation that is preparing to strike at Israel is as naïve as it is dangerous.
Have you ever heard of a fighter reassuring his opponent before he gets into the ring that he won't even try to knock him out?
Neither have I – at least until today, that is.
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is reported to have said this afternoon that the Government is planning a large-scale military operation in Gaza in order to stem the tide of rocket attacks against Israeli towns and cities.
But in case you thought that Israel is finally preparing to retake Gaza, as it should have done long ago – well, think again.
Shortly after the meeting took place, Israeli spokeswoman Miri Eisen was quick to backtrack: "We won't change our mode of operation in the Gaza Strip and we will not go back to Gaza. We intend to continue our operation there and carry out pinpoint operations."
And so, in a remarkable act of utter inanity, Israel is essentially telegraphing its intentions in advance to the Palestinians, letting them know that they have little to worry about.
Indeed, instead of employing some creative ambiguity about its objectives, thereby creating additional disarray in the terrorists' ranks, the Government has chosen to calm their fears and reassure them that their hold on power will not be threatened.
So sleep tight, Hamas, and have no fear, for the Government of Israel has just let you know that your terrorist regime is safe for now.
You have got to hand it to Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief.
He may be no friend of Israel, but he certainly can keep a straight face while saying the most ridiculous of things.
And so it was that at a meeting today with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Solana repeated the mantra that the Europeans have been reciting ad nauseum in recent years: Israel must abide by the so-called road map to peace.
Now, Solana is no fool. He reads the newspapers. He surely knows that in the intervening years since the adoption of the road map, a few things have changed here in the Middle East. Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gush Katif and received terror in return, Hamas has come to power in the Palestinian Authority, and Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit remains in captivity somewhere in Gaza.
So for Solana to declare that Israel must nonetheless fulfill its obligations under the road map only underlines once again just how unjust, and downright absurd, the European position on the Middle East truly is. Because essentially what Europe is saying to Israel is: we don't care if the Palestinians keep trying to kill you, just shut up and retreat.
Sorry, Javier, but the days when Europe can force Jews to flee are over. This land belongs to us, and we have no intention of leaving – so start getting used to it. Or, better yet, take your unsolicited advice elsewhere.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad outdid himself once again this past Friday, when he declared before a public gathering that Israel would soon "disappear".
Stepping up his previously heated rhetoric, the "tyrant of Teheran" went one step further, warning the US and the West to stop supporting the Jewish state and "to distance yourself from these criminals... This is an ultimatum. Don't complain tomorrow," he said.
It is time we stop kidding ourselves, and start facing facts: war is coming to the Middle East, and Israel had better move quickly to pre-empt our enemies before it is too late.
As I wrote in my column below from the Jerusalem Post, the sand in the hourglass is running out, and our foes are busy preparing for the seemingly inevitable confrontation that lies ahead.
The Coming Middle East War
By Michael Freund
The warning signs are everywhere, yet no one wishes to see them. Israel's foes are gearing up for war, and it's time that we opened our eyes to the danger that confronts us.
The conflict may be just weeks or even months away, or perhaps a bit longer. How it will start is anyone's guess, but make no mistake, a major outbreak of hostilities is almost certainly around the corner.
If this sounds like scare-mongering or even an advanced case of paranoia to you, just take a glance at the newspapers from the past few weeks. If you read them with a discerning eye, you will see exactly what I mean.
For whichever direction one chooses to look, be it north, south or east of us, trouble - major trouble - is brewing.
In Lebanon, Hizbullah is busy rebuilding its expansive terrorist infrastructure after this summer's fighting with Israel. Under the protective shield of UN troops, the group has been welcoming large shipments of weapons from Iran and Syria, and fortifying its bunkers in advance of the next round of conflict.
In a speech delivered last month in Beirut, on September 22, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah asserted that his organization still has "more than 20,000 rockets" and that it had "recovered all its organizational and military capabilities."
Even if we allow for an element of boasting and exaggeration, there are clear signs that Nasrallah is steadily engaged in rebuilding his forces.
Indeed, this past Sunday, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of the IDF intelligence directorate's research department, told the weekly Cabinet meeting that, "There is conclusive and decisive evidence" that Syria is rearming Hizbullah.
"The weapons smuggling from Syria into Lebanon," Baidatz said, "is continuing with official Syrian involvement." He added that Damascus has kept its forces on a war footing, with their artillery and missiles deployed in forward battle positions.
Along these lines, Syrian President Bashar Assad has made a series of public statements in recent weeks, speaking openly about the possibility of military conflict with Israel and his desire to retake the Golan Heights by force.
In an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anba on October 6, Assad said that Damascus was ready for war with the Jewish state. Previously, he insisted that the Golan would be "liberated by Syrian arms," and warned Israel to "seek peace or face the threat of defeat."
TURNING SOUTH toward Gaza, the situation is likewise disturbing. Palestinian terrorists continue to fire Kassam rockets into the Negev on a daily basis, hitting Israeli towns and communities such as Sderot and Nir Am.
Since the start of the year, Hamas is said to have smuggled into Gaza over 20 tons of explosives, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. According to media reports, Hamas has also assembled an armed military force consisting of 7,500 fighters, which is said to include specialized units such as snipers, missile batteries and anti-tank troops.
As Yediot Aharonot military correspondent Alex Fishman recently put it, "The Palestinians are arming themselves to the teeth, building a military force, defensive systems and preparing Hizbullah-style surprises."
Nor is Hamas hiding its intentions. In a statement issued on Monday, the group's Izzadin al-Kassam brigades declared that it has the "means and arms necessary to confront the Zionist enemy with all our force."
Saying they are "totally ready to resist," Hamas added somewhat ominously that, "We have finished preparations to teach the Zionist enemy a lesson it will not forget."
And then, of course, there is the threat from Teheran to our east, where the Iranian president speaks of wiping Israel off the map even as he continues to pursue his nuclear ambitions.
If anyone thinks that Mr. Ahmadinejad is open to compromise, they should take a look at his latest ramblings. Speaking at a mosque in Teheran on Monday, the Iranian leader insisted that he had received a Divine message indicating that his country would prevail. "One day," he said, "I will be asked whether I have been in touch with someone who told me we would win, and I will respond: 'Yes, I have been in touch with God'."
As if all this were not enough, there have been persistent reports in recent months about a growing al-Qaida presence in the territories, as the international terrorist group seeks to position itself for launching strikes against the Jewish state.
And so, Israel now finds itself surrounded by an arc of hate stretching from Beirut and Damascus in the north, to Teheran in the east, and back to Gaza in the south. Along each chord of this arc, our foes are diligently arming themselves and preparing for battle, both verbally and in practice. It seems safe to assume that these coordinated efforts are no coincidence, and that they are all linked to the seemingly inevitable confrontation that is looming over the region regarding Iran's nuclear program.
Just as Iran sought to send a message to Israel and the US this summer by provoking an outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon, so too Teheran now appears determined to lay the groundwork for a much greater, and far more ambitious, flare-up, one that would threaten to consume the entire region. The Iranians presumably view this as their trump card, thinking that it will give them the means of forestalling a possible US or Israeli attack on their nuclear facilities.
As a result, they have been working to strengthen the extremists throughout the region, who share their desire to hit America and Israel. In all probability, they are merely waiting for the opportune moment with which to set in motion the next provocative act, which will be aimed at igniting the entire Middle East.
HOW SHOULD Israel react to this growing threat? First, we must learn the lesson of this summer's Lebanon war, which was disastrous precisely because we sat back and allowed our enemies to build up their military infrastructure over time.
Instead of making this same mistake once again, Israel should take whatever steps are necessary to interdict weapons shipments to the terrorists, seal off their supply routes, and hit hard at those who are sending them the weapons in the first place.
Second, the government needs to begin seriously contemplating the possibility of launching preemptive and wide-ranging military strikes. Our foes are openly preparing for war, so why should we allow them the luxury to choose when it starts?
Passivity and indecisiveness cost us dearly in the past, and especially in Lebanon this summer. We can not allow ourselves to play by the enemy's rules, or even by his schedule, should this scenario once again come to pass.
I truly hope that I am wrong, and that diplomacy and common sense will somehow prevail. The last thing Israel needs right now is another painful conflict, and we should all pray to G-d for His mercy and intervention.
But as in the past, our enemies may leave us with no other choice but to fight. This time around, let's just make sure we are ready for the challenge.
If you haven't heard much about what's happening in Gaza lately, don't be fooled into thinking that all is quiet on Israel's southern front.
Palestinian terrorists continue to fire Kassam rockets on a daily basis from Gaza into Israel, even if the media hardly bothers to report it. Just today, in fact, two rockets hit the Israeli town of Sderot, leaving one woman injured and seven others requiring treatment for shock.
But even more worrisome is what's taking place behind the scenes and just below the surface. As an article in Ha'aretz makes clear, Hamas is busy preparing for nothing less than war with Israel.
Furthermore, Hamas has been aiming to improve the weapons in its arsenal: "By increasing the range of its missiles, the deadly force of their warheads and above all, by using high-quality blast explosives, Hamas hopes to heighten the threat to the northern and western Negev from the direction of Gaza," the report says.
"If Hamas succeeds in improving the rockets in its possession, it will be able to store them for months, as opposed to just days, as it does now. That would enable the organization to fire massive salvos at the Negev for days at a time during periods of escalation, as Hezbollah did in northern Israel during the second Lebanon war."
And so, while our own political leaders hem and haw as to what to do, Hamas is taking advantage of Israel's indecisiveness and laying the groundwork for an ugly confrontation in the future.
But instead of waiting for this to happen, instead of giving Hamas time to prepare, wouldn’t it make more sense for Israel to strike now?
Must we repeat the mistakes that preceded this summer's Lebanon war, when Israel sat back and allowed Hizbullah to build up its army and its defensive positions in advance of the conflict?
Is anyone in our leadership paying attention?