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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.
      Adar Bet 20, 5765, 3/31/2005

      Don't Tread on Us!!

      Few affronts to our national pride are as upsetting and as shameful as the situation on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

      The holiest site to the Jewish people is effectively run by the Muslim Wakf, which does as it pleases, never missing an opportunity to thumb its nose at Israel’s sovereignty over the area.

      Headed by a Palestinian-appointed Mufti, the Wakf has systematically destroyed priceless antiquities dating back to the Temple era with the aim of erasing any evidence of the Jewish presence that once flourished there. They impose severe restrictions on Jews wishing to visit the Mount, and also refuse to allow Jews to exercise their right to freedom of worship there.

      Temple_mount_wall Now, adding insult to injury, Yediot Aharonot reports that Muslim construction workers have carved a half-meter tall inscription of the word “Allah” in Arabic on the Temple Mount’s Eastern Wall (see the photo to the left).

      As archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, a spokesman for the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, told the paper: “This breaks the Antiquities Law; these people are supposed to renovate and fix the wall, not commemorate names (on it), and certainly not names that are irrelevant.”

      But don’t expect Israel’s Government or police to do much, if anything, about this. Driven by fear, Israeli officials have essentially stood by and watched as the Wakf has repeatedly trampled on our national dignity and desecrated the place where Solomon’s Temple once stood.

      In light of such apathy towards our holiest of places –it should come as no surprise that our Government now wishes to turn over territory to our foes and throw innocent people out of their homes.

      After all, those who do not care about our sacred roots in this soil will hardly see anything wrong with uprooting that which has been planted.

      So, as long as this country allows its honor to be sullied in the heart of Jerusalem, with nary a peep of protest, our national humiliation is almost certain to continue to worsen.

      Adar Bet 17, 5765, 3/28/2005

      Hello! Is Anyone Listening?

      If only they would listen.

      If only Israel’s leaders would pay attention, and start taking a little more seriously just what the Palestinians themselves are saying. If they did, they might actually learn a thing or two about just how ill-advised the planned withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria really is.

      Take, for example, the remarks of Hamas leader Ahmad al-Bahar, who told the Jerusalem Post the other day:

      The painful and qualitative blows which the Palestinian resistance dealt to the Jews and their soldiers over the past four-and-a-half years led to the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip… Hamas's heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of the impotent Zionist security establishment. The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance is the only way to pressure the Jews.

      In other words, as far as Hamas is concerned, the “lesson” they have learned from Israel’s plan to withdraw is that violence is the most effective way for them to achieve their objectives. For obvious reasons, that is a very dangerous message – one that is definitely not in Israel’s interests to be sending.

      Moreover, take a look at what Abu-Musab, a senior Palestinian terrorist who serves as commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in northern Gaza, had to say about the current “calm” prevailing in the region: "What’s happening now isn’t considered a calm. It’s merely a warrior’s rest. When the confrontation renews, we’ll be back with methods and tools never before seen."

      Thus, even the current “lull” in attacks, as the terrorists themselves make clear, is merely a tactical ploy designed to give them a chance to rest and fight another day. It does not represent a strategic move by the terrorists away from violence. Nonetheless, the government continues to adopt a softer approach, refraining from carrying out targeted killings of terrorists or large-scale counter-terror operations.

      Anyone_listening I guess that our Government is simply so smart that they feel they need only to listen to themselves – but if past experience is any guide, they would do well to pay attention to what our foes are saying.

      Because unlike our own leaders, the Palestinians usually mean what they say.

      Adar Bet 15, 5765, 3/26/2005

      Land for Smoke

      At last, the truth has finally come out.

      It was nearly a year ago that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon waved a letter from US President George W. Bush before the Israeli public, claiming that the convoluted missive signified American acceptance of Israeli “settlement blocs” in Judea and Samaria. This, the Prime Minister assured us, was a tremendous diplomatic achievement, one that justified far-reaching concessions on Israel’s part.

      Well, now we know better.

      As Yediot Aharonot reports:

      Rice denies understandings with Israel

      U.S. Secretary of State tells Washington Post there are is no agreement between Israel and the White House regarding Jewish settlement blocs 

      By Yitzhak Benhorin

      U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called a Washington Post reporter twice Friday to clarify the American position on Jewish settlement expansion, saying Israel and the U.S. have no agreement on the matter.

      The two sides are engaged in talks ahead of a possible freezing of settlement activity, Rice noted, and added the question is a complex one and has not yet been resolved.

      The letter delivered by President Bush to Sharon on April 14 meant to indicate the American leader recognized certain realities, but he did not attempt to conduct negotiations on a final-status agreement, Rice said.

      When Bush’s letter was publicized last year, skeptics immediately pointed out its vague language as well as its insistence that any territorial changes in a final Palestinian-Israeli settlement would have to be acceptable to “both parties” – effectively giving the Palestinians veto power over Israel retaining “settlement blocs”.

      But, as is so often the case, the skeptics were dismissed with a “hush” and a wave of the hand, since no one wanted to rain on Mr. Sharon’s parade.

      Smoke Now, however, after Condoleezza Rice’s clarification, it should be clear that the presidential letter of which Sharon was so proud was little more than a smokescreen – one designed to give the Prime Minister political cover for his decision to withdraw from Gaza and northern Samaria.

      So in exchange for the proposed retreat, Israel will truly be receiving nothing - absolutely nothing - in return.

      Except, of course, for another empty dose of diplomatic smoke.

      Adar Bet 9, 5765, 3/20/2005

      Democracy and its Headaches

      Israeli democracy suffered yet another blow over the weekend, when the army issued decrees barring Jews from moving to the Gaza Strip and Samaria communities slated for expulsion this summer.

      This heavy-handed move undermines some of the country’s most basic civil liberties, such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the right to protest against government policy.

      The IDF is also reportedly planning to declare these areas to be “closed military zones”, thereby making it illegal for any non-residents to be there – a move aimed clearly at limiting the size, and extent, of on-site protests.

      On the surface, this might seem eminently logical – after all, if the government plans on removing the Jewish residents, then why make the task more difficult by allowing others to join them in advance of any withdrawal?

      Tylenol But that argument simply doesn’t hold water for one very simple reason: a government’s job is not to make its own life easier, but to safeguard the freedoms of its citizens. And that includes the freedom to give the government a policy-oriented headache.

      Issuing such over-arching decrees only serves to reinforce the government’s image as plowing ahead with little or no regard for the niceties (and basic requirements) of democracy.

      And in the end, regardless of where one stands on the proposed withdrawal, that is something that no one can, nor should, countenance.

      Adar Bet 7, 5765, 3/18/2005

      The Alarm Clock is Ringing...

      For those basking in the relative calm of recent days, Israel’s Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon set off an important alarm clock Friday, one that should awaken us all from our (largely) media-induced slumber.

      Speaking to a forum of businessmen from Haifa, Yaalon had this to say:

      The terror organizations want the period of calm, but see it as a time to regroup and rearm before the fighting is resumed, without waiving their strategic goals.

      Until I see terror groups disarmed, and [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] fulfilling his commitments to having only one political entity and one law, I cannot say this war is behind us.

      We must not be intoxicated by the relative calm. We must deal with that which lies ahead and can break out soon if the terror infrastructure is not dealt with.

      Of course, this is not what the Government, or much of the Israeli media, would like us to hear, preferring instead to lull the people into a state of complacency. After all, the more distracted everyone is, the easier it will be to move forward with the Gaza expulsion plan.

      So kudos to the Chief of Staff for having the courage to remind us all of the obvious – namely, that Palestinian terrorists remain intent on sowing havoc and murdering innocent Jews.

      Clock And while I doubt that Yaalon’s warning will make much difference, here’s hoping that the public will nonetheless heed his alarm and have the foresight not to roll over and go back to bed.