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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.
      Iyar 9, 5766, 5/7/2006

      Will the Left Ever Learn?

      This has got to be one of the biggest cases of "we told you so but you just didn't want to listen" in recent memory.

      After months of trying, Palestinian terrorists today finally succeeded in hitting the heart of Ashkelon with a Qassam rocket fired from northern Gaza.

      Qassam_in_ashkelon The explosive projectile, which was fitted with a double engine to increase its range, landed on the grounds of a high school, causing damage to the building. Thank G-d, no one was hurt in the incident.

      But that in no way diminishes the gravity of the attack. As Ashkelon mayor Roni Mehatzri said today, "a city with 120,000 people is not supposed to live under a threat of rockets."

      This is precisely what opponents of last year's Gaza withdrawal said would occur after Israel retreated from the area – that it would strengthen Hamas, lead to a rise in Palestinian terror, and place Ashkelon in range of rocket fire from the Strip.

      But the media and the "experts" all refused to listen, derisively mocking Israel's Right for "fear-mongering". Now, after today's attack, how many of them do you think will come clean and finally admit just how wrong they were to support the Gaza retreat?

      My guess is: not many – and probably not any.

      Iyar 7, 5766, 5/5/2006

      A Memorable Anniversary

      Talk about an inauspicious start.

      Ehud Olmert’s new government was sworn into office on Thursday, pledging to divide the Land of Israel and turn over still more territory to the Palestinians.

      Yet hardly anyone appears to have noticed that Thursday also marked precisely 12 years since the infamous signing of the May 4, 1994 Gaza-Jericho Accords, when Israel agreed to pull out of those areas and transfer their control to Yasser Arafat.


      That ceremony, you might remember, rapidly dissolved into an embarrassing comedy of errors when Arafat refused to sign one of the maps, prompting a great deal of diplomatic discomfiture that was broadcast live around the world. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was host of the Cairo-based event, turned to Arafat and exploded in anger, shouting at him "Ya kalb!" ("You dog!"). Eventually, Arafat relented and signed the deal, paving the way for years of intensified Palestinian terror and additional Israeli withdrawals.

      Now, here we are, a dozen years later, and has any of this really changed? The Palestinians still don’t want peace with Israel, even as the Government in Jerusalem pushes forward with plans for still more concessions.

      I’d like to think that the timing is merely a coincidence, that it isn’t a sign of some sort or an ominous omen that portends further retreats for our beleaguered country.

      But deep down, I fear, that is where things may be headed, because despite all that has happened here over the past decade, our political leaders refuse to learn from their mistakes.

      Hopefully, Mr. Olmert will take a moment or two to consider the past - and maybe, just maybe, the anniversary of Israel's previous error in Cairo will somehow illuminate his path.

      Iyar 5, 5766, 5/3/2006

      Olmert's Giveaway to Hamas

      The elections may still be three weeks away, but that hasn’t stopped Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from agreeing to make yet more concessions to the Palestinians.

      Wimpythumb_1 Avi Dichter, a former head of Israel’s General Security Service who is now running for the Knesset in Olmert’s Kadima party, confirmed media reports that Olmert is planning a major unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria after the March balloting.

      The retreat would include the uprooting of dozens of Jewish communities, and the forcible expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes.

      Among the communities slated for destruction are Elon Moreh, Yitzhar, Itamar, Shilo, Psagot, Tekoa, Tapuah, P'nei Hever, Nokdim, Ma'on and Otniel.

      The “logic” behind this move – if one can call it that – is that Olmert believes that Hamas will not talk with Israel, so he feels he must take unilateral steps to draw the country’s final borders.

      In other words, Olmert is giving Hamas a choice: either negotiate with us or else we will have to give you even more territory from which to attack us. Take it or leave it.

      Wow, he sure knows how to drive a hard bargain.

      G-d help us all.

      Iyar 4, 5766, 5/2/2006

      Look Who's Funding Terror Now...

      In a decision as obtuse as it was inexplicable, Israel’s cabinet today decided to transfer hundreds of millions of shekels in customs and tax revenues to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA).

      Womansigningcheckimage The funds will allow Hamas to pay the January salaries of the PA’s 135,000 employees, thereby forestalling the PA’s economic collapse.

      One of the reasons given for the decision is that Israel is obligated by agreements signed with the Palestinians to transfer the funds.

      Of course, Hamas itself has never recognized those agreements nor agreed to live by them – but why should that stop Israel from bankrolling its avowed enemies?

      It is simply mind-boggling that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would agree to fill the coffers of the PA at a time when it is being taken over by the masterminds of anti-Israel suicide terror.

      After all, there is no way of knowing where those funds will end up, as the PA hardly has a stellar track record when it comes to financial transparency and accountability. Who is to say that the 240 million shekels being handed over won’t go – at least in part – to fund still further attacks against the Jewish state?

      Moreover, such a step only serves to undermine the case that Israel has been trying to make in recent weeks both to Washington and Europe. After pushing the international community to isolate the newly-elected Hamas regime, how can Israel now justify keeping such a regime afloat?

      If Olmert has a clear policy on how to deal with Hamas, he is doing quite a good job of keeping it a well-guarded secret.

      Iyar 3, 5766, 5/1/2006

      The Rockets' Red Glare... in Sderot

      Well, it was just another quiet Friday today in the Israeli town of Sderot.

      As of this writing – before noon - only 1 Palestinian rocket has hit the city thus far, while a second one landed in an open field elsewhere in the Negev. I guess the terrorists decided to sleep in late this morning.

      The fact of the matter is that for much of the past year, the Palestinian rocket fire has been ongoing, as has the lack of coverage in the Western media.

      And this helps to explain, at least in part, the willingness of so many governments to continue backing PA President Mahmoud Abbas, even as he has done nothing to halt attacks against the Jewish state.

      With little public awareness, and even less outrage, about the persistent Palestinian assaults against Israel, there is little political price to be paid, it seems, for backing Mr. Abbas.

      Abbas_supporters_2And so, as Reuters revealed today, Washington has agreed to give Abbas another $86 million to bolster his so-called security forces – the very same armed units that are rife with terrorists and their sympathizers and which permit the attacks on Sderot to continue.

      The ostensible reason for doing so is to strengthen Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas, but that is short-sighted thinking to say the least. Backing one bad guy just because he is a little less evil than the other bad guy is hardly a morally compelling, or strategically sophisticated, policy vision.

      The result of this approach is quite clear: Mr. Abbas sees that he is rewarded no matter what he does – or doesn't do – so why should he bother to stop attacks on Israel?

      And so, once again today, the red glare of the rockets hitting Sderot continues.