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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.
      Elul 11, 5766, 9/4/2006

      For once, Abu Mazen is right

      It is a rare occasion indeed when patriotic Israelis find themselves in agreement with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen).

      With his history of empty promises and deceit, including the publication of a book denying the Holocaust, the Palestinian leader can hardly be looked to in order to provide truthful political analysis.

      But in interviews published over the weekend with a British and an American newspaper, Abu Mazen – for once – has hit the nail squarely on the head.

      Addressing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to carry out unilateral withdrawals in Judea and Samaria, Abu Mazen said, “The Israelis say: 'OK, we'll impose a unilateral solution' -- which means that they will postpone, delay ... and they will not solve the problem. After 10 years our sons will feel it is unfair and they will return back to the struggle... Nobody will accept it. The struggle will continue.”

      Abumazen As the Palestinian leader implicitly points out, one of the key weaknesses of Mr. Olmert’s plan is that Israel will be abandoning further territory in exchange for nothing – no agreement, no peace and no end to terror. If anything, Mr. Olmert’s plan will only serve to strengthen the hand of Palestinian terrorists, giving them additional territory alongside Israel’s borders from which to carry out further attacks.

      Abu Mazen’s prediction is that the Olmert plan will lead to war. It is a gloomy assessment – but sadly, it is also likely to prove accurate.

      Elul 4, 5766, 8/28/2006

      Taking a break

      I am off to Russia to visit with the Subbotnik Jews of the former Soviet Union (you can find out more about this intriguing community here), so I won't be posting for the next few days. Please check back on Friday, September 1, when I hope to start re-posting. Thanks.

      Av 30, 5766, 8/24/2006

      What about Israel's Missing Soldiers?

      It has been 10 days now since the UN-mandated cease-fire went into effect in Lebanon, and a key provision of the arrangement remains unfulfilled.

      With the media turning its attention elsewhere, the plight of the three Israeli soldiers being held by Hizbullah and Hamas has largely fallen off the radar screen.

      Families_of_missing_israeli_soldiers_1That, of course, is both outrageous and completely unacceptable.

      It was, after all, the abduction of the soldiers – Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev – by Islamist terrorists which sparked the conflict in the first place. And UN Security Council resolution 1701, which brought about the cease-fire, requires the soldiers' speedy return.

      More importantly, however, is the human dimension. For the Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev families, the war has not yet ended so long as their loved ones remain in captivity. The uncertainty and doubt they are living with each day can not and should not be allowed to continue.

      It is therefore essential that we raise a hue and a cry and demand that pressure be brought to bear on the Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority to ensure the safe return of Israel's missing servicemen.

      With the US and various European nations planning to send millions of dollars to Lebanon to help rebuild the country's infrastructure, there is certainly room to link those funds with the full implementation of the resolution. This lever should be applied forthwith, so that the ongoing nightmare surrounding the fate of the missing soldiers can finally be brought to an end.

      Av 27, 5766, 8/21/2006

      Raising the Flag of Surrender

      Just days after Syria's President spoke openly of "liberating" the Golan Heights by force, a prominent Israeli government minister has now signaled a willingness to surrender to Damascus' demands.

      In a thinly-veiled trial balloon aimed at testing public opinion, Israel's Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said today that he believes that in exchange for peace with Syria, the Jewish state can abandon the Golan.

      White_flag_2That's right – Dichter is ready to hand over the commanding heights of the Golan to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the same guy who helped to arm, train and finance Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon.

      Why the sudden talk of forging a deal with Syria? The government would have us believe that Israel needs to pry Syria away from its alliance with Iran in order to weaken the Axis of Terror in the region.

      That would make sense, except for one small, pesky detail: Syria has no desire, interest or intention of weakening its bond with Teheran.

      In fact, the real reason behind the talk of peace with Syria is far more simple: with calls mounting for the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the failed military operation in Lebanon, the Government is desperate to change the subject. It needs to create the impression that it is on the verge of a historic breakthrough, because that is the only way of staving off demands for its resignation.

      And so, it is cynically trying to turn the same Mr. Assad who was behind Hizbullah's attacks on Israelis last week into a potential peace partner this week.

      Is this good for the country? Of course not. After the government's Lebanon fiasco left Israel looking weak to its neighbors, they have now compounded the problem by signaling a readiness to retreat in the face of Assad's threats.

      What Dichter and others like him have yet to learn is that in the Middle East, raising the flag of surrender only invites further aggression and bloodshed.

      Av 22, 5766, 8/16/2006

      The Real Lack of Intelligence

      With the indecisive conclusion to the fighting in Lebanon, the finger-pointing is now well under way, as Israel's political echelons try to duck responsibility for their abject failure to win the war.

      Some have sought to suggest that the reason Israel did not succeed in eviscerating Hizbullah was a lack of intelligence, in effect trying to shift the blame away from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz and on to the army and the security forces instead.

      Amir_peretzBut as a retired senior US military official has pointed out, the blame for the Lebanon debacle rests squarely Israel's political leadership.

      Read this excerpt from today's Washington Times:

      Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said Mossad knew details three years ago about Hezbollah's Katyusha and other rockets.
          "They knew what they had," he said.
          He said Israel's war plan was undermined by political leaders, not by a lack of intelligence.
          "Israel's plan was that if they were fired upon, they would respond with a [leadership] decapitation program and massive air and ground campaigns into Lebanon," Gen. McInerney said.
          However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not order the decapitation plan and was slow to carry out the ground campaign.
          "It was not the intelligence," he said. "There's no question they did not take the heart out of Hezbollah."

      So, did the military campaign in Lebanon fail to achieve its objectives? Absolutely.

      And who is it that "owns" that failure? Israel's weak-kneed political leadership.

      No matter how hard they might try to pin the blame on others, Olmert and Peretz have demonstrated through their inaction where the real lack of intelligence can truly be found.