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Archive for January, 2011

Ha’aretz: Israel urges world to curb criticism of Egypt’s Mubarak

Posted by uscsjp on January 31, 2011

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime.

By Barak Ravid

Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. The diplomatic measures came after statements in Western capitals implying that the United States and European Union supported Mubarak’s ouster.

Israeli officials are keeping a low profile on the events in Egypt, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even ordering cabinet members to avoid commenting publicly on the issue.

Senior Israeli officials, however, said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries. The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt’s stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible.

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the situation in Egypt at a special session today in Brussels, after which they are expected to issue a statement echoing those issued in recent days by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama called on Mubarak to take “concrete steps” toward democratic reforms and to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters, sentiments echoed in a statement Saturday night by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.

“The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren’t considering their genuine interests,” one senior Israeli official said. “Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they’re not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications.”

Netanyahu announced at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that the security cabinet will convene Monday to discuss the situation in Egypt.

“The peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these relations will continue to exist,” Netanyahu told his ministers. “We are closely monitoring events in Egypt and the region and are making efforts to preserve its security and stability.”

The Foreign Ministry has called on Israelis currently in Egypt to consider returning home and for those planning to visit the country to reconsider. It is telling Israelis who have decided to remain in Egypt to obey government directives.

 

 

–Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz, 1 January, 2011

 

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israel-urges-world-to-curb-criticism-of-egypt-s-mubarak-1.340238

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Der Spiegel: “Israel Fears Regime Change in Egypt”

Posted by uscsjp on January 29, 2011

Israel Fears Regime Change in Egypt

By Gil Yaron in Jerusalem

Israel is watching developments in Egypt with concern. The government is standing by autocratic Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, out of fear that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood could take power and start supplying arms to Hamas.

Israel is usually a country where politicians have an opinion on any topic, and vociferously so. But in recent days, Israel’s leadership has been unusually silent on a certain question. No one, it seems, is willing to make an official comment on the ongoing unrest in Egypt, where protesters have been holding anti-government rallies. It’s not because Israel does not care about the riots ravaging its southern neighbor — on the contrary, Israeli news channels, normally prone to parochialism, have been closely following recent events in the Arab world, from Tunisia to Lebanon.

Radio, television and newspapers constantly report the courage of the demonstrators in the streets of Cairo, not only relishing the historic spectacle, but openly expressing sympathy with Egypt’s struggle for democracy.

But the Israeli government is keeping quiet. “We are closely monitoring the events, but we do not interfere in the internal affairs of a neighboring state,” was the curt answer from the Israeli Foreign Ministry to requests for comments.

So for journalists looking for quotes, it is a happy coincidence that Israel’s former Industry and Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer resigned from the Israeli cabinet last week and can now freely express his opinions as a member of the opposition Labor Party. “I don’t think it is possible (for there to be a revolution in Egypt),” Ben-Eliezer told Israeli Army Radio. “I see things calming down soon.” The Iraqi-born former minister is a renowned expert on Israeli-Arab relations and is a friend of the Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Ben Eliezer’s statement is consistent with the assessment of members of Israel’s intelligence community and Middle East experts, who point to the strength of Egypt’s army. In his remarks to Army Radio, Ben-Eliezer also explained Israel’s position on the protests. “Israel cannot do anything about what is happening there,” he said. “All we can do is express our support for (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak and hope the riots pass quietly.” He added that Egypt was Israel’s most important ally in the region.

Uneasy Peace

Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979, but the relationship between the neighboring countries remains delicate. Good relations are limited to government circles. The regime in Cairo attempts to curtail the establishment of closer links between the countries’ civil societies. The professional associations of doctors, engineers or lawyers, for example, require their members to declare that they will not contribute to normalizing relations with Israel.

Even 30 years after the peace agreement, annual trade between the neighboring countries only amounts to a value of $150 million (€110 million). (For comparison, Israel’s trade with the European Union was worth around €20 billion in 2009.)

A recent incident involving the vice governor of the Sinai Peninsula reveals how many Egyptians think about Israel. After a shark attack off the coast, the official said that it could not be ruled out that the deadly fish had been released by Israeli intelligence to harm Egypt’s tourism industry. After the bloody attack on a church in Alexandria on Jan. 1, a spokesman for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood speculated that Israel could be responsible for the attack, with the intention of sowing discord between Christians and Muslims.

Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the main reasons why official Israel seems to support Mubarak so keenly. It is considered the most popular political movement in Egypt, and its position regarding the peace treaty with Israel is clear: They want it revoked immediately. “Democracy is something beautiful,” said Eli Shaked, who was Israel’s ambassador to Cairo from 2003 to 2005, in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. “Nevertheless, it is very much in the interests of Israel, the United States and Europe that Mubarak remains in power.”

For Israel, more is at stake than the current so-called “cold” peace with Egypt and a few tens of millions of dollars in trade. “Never before have Israel’s strategic interests been so closely aligned with those of the Sunni states as today,” says Shaked, referring to Arab countries whose populations are mainly Sunni Muslim, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The recent publication of the US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks showed what he means: Much of the Arab world, and especially Mubarak, sees Shiite Iran and its allies, such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as an existential threat, just as Israel does.

Potential Serious Danger

“If regime change occurs in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would take the helm, and that would have incalculable consequences for the region,” says Shaked. The Israeli government has noted with concern the fact that, even after 30 years of peace, Egypt’s army is still equipped and trained mainly with a possible war against Israel in mind.

A cancellation of the peace treaty would open up a new front with the 11th largest army in the world, which is equipped with modern American weapons. But what Israel fears more than a — somewhat unlikely — armed conflict with Egypt is an alliance between an Islamist regime in Cairo and Hamas, which considers itself an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Today the Egyptian army tries to stop — albeit hesitantly — weapons smuggling from Sinai to Gaza, the main supply route for Hamas. An Egyptian regime that opened the border with Gaza for arms deliveries would pose a serious danger to Israel.

Shaked considers the West’s demands for more openness and democracy in Egypt to be a fatal mistake. “It is an illusion to believe that the dictator Mubarak could be replaced by a democracy,” he says. “Egypt is still not capable of democracy,” he adds, pointing out that the illiteracy rate is over 20 percent, to give just one example. The Muslim Brotherhood is the only real alternative, he opines, which would have devastating consequences for the West. “They will not change their anti-Western attitude when they come to power. That has not happened (with Islamist movements) anywhere: neither in Sudan, Iran nor Afghanistan.”

Ultimately the choice is between a pro- or an anti-Western dictatorship, says Shaked. “It is in our interest that someone from Mubarak’s inner circle takes over his legacy, at any cost.” In the process, it is not possible to rule out massive bloodshed in the short term, he says. “It would not be the first time that riots in Egypt were brutally crushed.”

—Spiegel Online, 01/28/2011


http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,742186,00.html

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Revolt in Egypt

Posted by uscsjp on January 28, 2011

Egypt protesters defy curfew despite brutal repression

 

“CAIRO (IPS) – Tear gas and smoke wafted through the air of the Egyptian capital on Friday as police moved swiftly to disperse anti-government demonstrations throughout the city.

‘The police are using unprecedented brutality against the protesters, which include women and children,’ says Ghada Shahbender, board member of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights (EOHR).

The government cut all Internet service and mobile lines in Egypt ahead of Friday’s demonstrations, which marked the fourth consecutive day of ‘Day of Anger’ anti-government protests. The communications blackout appears aimed at suppressing protesters from using social networking sites to coordinate their activities or report on clashes with police.

President Hosni Mubarak showed little signs of stepping down after thirty years of rule. Thousands of black-clad riot police occupied major streets, bridges and squares throughout the capital. The army has not yet been deployed…”

 

—Cam McGrath, The Electronic Intifada, 28 January 2011

 

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11758.shtml

 

Also, watch latest developments live on Al Jazeera

http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

 

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Al Jazeera Introduces “The Palestine Papers”

Posted by uscsjp on January 23, 2011

Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents – memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations – date from 1999 to 2010.

The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials.

Al Jazeera will release the documents between January 23-26th, 2011. They will reveal new details about:

  • the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount;
  • the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;
  • details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;
  • and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, Al Jazeera will not reveal the source(s) or detail how they came into our possession. We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity.

We believe this material will prove to be of inestimable value to journalists, scholars, historians, policymakers and the general public.

We know that some of what is presented here will prove controversial, but it is our intention to inform, not harm, to spark debate and reflection – not dampen it. Our readers and viewers will note that we have provided a comments section in which to express opinions. In keeping with our editorial policies, we reserve the right to excise comments that we deem inappropriate, but all civil voices will be heard, all opinions respected.

We present these papers as a service to our viewers and readers as a reflection of our fundamental belief – that public debate and public policies grow, flourish and endure when given air and light.

 

http://english.aljazeera.net/palestinepapers/2011/01/201112214310263628.html

 

Also From Al Jazeera:

Israel: The Ugly Truth

There was that jarring week in December – a protest against Arab-Jewish couples, a south Tel Aviv march and demonstration against migrant workers and African asylum seekers, the arrest of Jewish teenagers accused of beating Palestinians and the expulsion of five Arab men from their home in south Tel Aviv. It left me with the question: What is next?

It is impossible to predict the future. But there are signs that violence, perpetrated by citizens, could be spreading.

In mid-January, dozens of young Jews attacked Muslims at a mosque in Yafo or Jaffa, the historically Arab city just south of Tel Aviv. An Israeli media outlet reports that the youth, who were armed with stones and Israeli flags, shouted “Mohammed is a pig” and “Death to Arabs” just as the Muslims were preparing to pray.

When the police arrived, they did not arrest any of the assailants.

And just a few days before that march in south Tel Aviv, seven Sudanese men were attacked in Ashdod, a coastal city in the south of Israel.

According to Israeli media reports, someone threw a flaming tyre into the apartment the men shared. Five suffered from smoke inhalation, two were hospitalised.

Another alarming act of violence took place in south Tel Aviv that same night. The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an Israeli NGO, reports that three teenage girls – Israeli-born, Hebrew-speaking daughters of African migrant workers – were beaten by a group of Jewish teenagers. The attackers, one of whom was armed with a knife, allegedly called them “dirty niggers”. One of the girls needed medical treatment for her injuries.

“It’s worth noting that the girls had already experienced such violence in the neighbourhood,” Poriya Gal, the spokeswoman for the Hotline for Migrant Workers, says. “But they chose not to report it to the police out of the fear that they would be attacked again.”

Another frightening indicator of the mood here: In south Tel Aviv, on the day of the protest, a number of afterschool programmes closed early so that children could get home safely before the demonstration began. Administrators were worried that the children might otherwise get caught up in the march and attacked by protestors.

Because asylum seekers are often reluctant to ask for help – and they are unlikely to turn to the police – it is hard to determine the precise number of racially motivated attacks.

But the African Refugee Development Committee (ARDC) reports that asylum seekers are increasingly being evicted from their homes, despite the fact that they have paid rent. And the committee has been alerted to another alarming trend. Dara Levy-Bernstein of the ARDC says: “There have been a lot of [asylum seekers] complaining about being stopped by police or soldiers – we’re not entirely sure which – but they’re people in uniform who have been taking their visas and tearing them up.”

Some argue that asylum seekers and Palestinians represent distinct issues that are distinctly complicated. In some ways, they do. But the police or soldiers who tear asylum seekers’ visas are the same people who fail to arrest Jewish citizens for throwing stones at Muslim worshippers. And it boils down to something very simple: How Israel, and some of its citizens, views those it considers ‘others’.

Turning away the other

When I ask Orit Rubin, a psycho-social coordinator at ASSAF Aid Organisation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, if she has noticed a rise in violence, she asks me to define violence.

While she has not seen an increase in physical attacks, she has recently received reports from Sudanese café and pub owners who say that police have entered their places of business and sprayed tear gas into the air, without any provocation.

The most common problem Rubin sees is African children that are being refused the public education that they are legally entitled to. Right here in Tel Aviv – the supposed bastion of Israeli liberalism – five children from two Eritrean families were recently refused registration.

And for four months, four Eritrean children have been turned away from a school in Bnei Brak, a religious suburb of Tel Aviv, because they are not Jewish. Rubin says she has written to the minister of education about the matter. She is still waiting for a response.

And then there are those who are illegally denied medical care. Rubin remarks: “This morning I got news from [our field worker] in Eilat that a pregnant woman was sitting at a medical clinic and the doctor came out and said ‘I’m not taking care of Sudanese’ and they asked her to leave.”

Rubin adds that the doctor’s refusal of treatment was even more shocking because the woman had insurance, something many asylum seekers lack.

The same day I interview Rubin, I meet an Ethiopian asylum seeker in Ashkelon who tells me that he recently sought medical help after he was attacked on the street by a Jewish Israeli. He was bleeding when he arrived at the hospital. And he was turned away.

Testing the water

It might seem sensationalist to draw conclusions about violence and discrimination from such examples. But it is important to recognise these trends early on and act on them, before they have a chance to lay root.

Yohannes Bayu, the founder and director of the ARDC, points out that the Israeli rabbis’ edict against renting and selling property to Arabs came months after a similar letter was posted in south Tel Aviv.

“It started there, with the refugees,” Bayu says. “And nobody responded. And then it was, ‘Let’s expand that’ and [the rabbis] came up with [the edict against] the Arabs.”

So if there is not a strong response to what is happening in south Tel Aviv now, Bayu says: “It’s obvious that [things] can go to another level. This is what happened in Germany and many other places.”

When asked if he hopes that the government will step in and help prevent an escalation, Bayu answers: “They’re the ones who started it.”

He points towards the remarks of Eli Yishai, the interior minister, that migrants bring “a profusion” of diseases and drugs to Israel – claims that fly in the face of ministry of health data proving that migrants have low rates of illness.

Other government employees, including a Tel Aviv city council member, have blamed foreigners for increasing crime even though a recent Knesset report proves that asylum seekers are actually much less likely to be involved in criminal activities than Israelis.

And both migrant workers and asylum seekers were targeted by a government campaign of advertisements depicting “real Israelis” (read: paid actors) who did not have work because of “foreigners”.

“First, they [the government] try to create this fear among the public, to create this discrimination, and then the result is always violence,” Bayu says. “That’s my biggest fear.”

Fear of the unknown

Rubin agrees that the problem is rooted in the government. But she also adds that it says something about society.

“I think that some of it is not just Israel. It’s human nature to fear what you don’t know, to fear what is different.”

Rubin pauses.

“Me, personally,” she continues, “I was brought up in a home of Holocaust survivors and I was always taught that Israelis are different … that they have learned from experience and will be weary before they slide into racism. But, you know, it’s not like that.

“Part of it is that we forgot what happened in the Second World War was human. Humans were doing it – not beasts, not monsters, but humans.”

Reflection of the West

It is too easy to demonise Israel, in part because the government, the army and some of the people do things that make it so easy.

But one of the ugliest truths about Israel – a truth that must be faced in both the US and Europe, where xenophobic and anti-Islamic sentiments are also on the rise – is that Israel offers the Western world a reflection of itself.

Of course, it is an exaggerated, hyperbolic image. But it is a picture of nationalism gone wrong. It is a picture of what can happen when a state believes that its very survival depends on maintaining a certain demographic balance. It is a picture of what happens when any country believes that those who change these numbers are an existential threat.

And it is getting more and more frightening here by the day.

Mya Guarnieri is a Tel Aviv-based journalist and writer. A regular contributor to Al Jazeera English, her work has also appeared in The Guardian and The Huffington Post, as well as other international media outlets.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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CounterPunch: “Wikileaks Cables on Gaza Onslaught”

Posted by uscsjp on January 20, 2011

US was Cheerleader for Massacre

Wikileaks Cables on Israel’s Gaza Onslaught

By KATHLEEN CHRISTISON

CounterPunch has accessed Wikileaks’ file of cables on Israel’s Gaza assault two years ago (Operation Cast Lead, December 27, 2008 through January 18, 2009). Though the cables often  simply rehash Israeli press reporting, providing  little new insight into Israel’s attack or the planning behind it, they show with pitiless clarity  the U.S. government to be little more than a handmaiden and amanuensis of the Israeli military machine.

The cables make clear, were any further disclosure needed, exactly where the United States stands with respect to Israel’s unprovoked attacks on Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors.  Although Operation Cast Lead took place in the last days of the Bush administration, ending two days before Barack Obama was inaugurated, every Obama policy in the succeeding  two years – including the administration’s repudiation of the Goldstone Report detailing Israeli atrocities and war crimes during Cast Lead – has demonstrated a striking continuity of support for Israeli actions.

The cables give a notably one-sided account of the assault.  Because they take their daily reporting primarily from the Israeli media, the cables keep a tally of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza and dramatically describe “burned dolls and destroyed children’s toys” at an unoccupied kindergarten in Beer Sheba hit by a rocket, but make virtually no mention of Israel’s intensive air and artillery bombardment of Gaza, including its civilian population.  There are no reports of burned Palestinian babies or very few of destroyed property in Gaza.  Even the western media provided more accurate coverage of Palestinian casualties than this.

The U.S. embassy cables did provide some information on Palestinian casualties, but the reporting was minimal.  In one cable buried in the collection, approximately ten days into the assault, western press reports are cited giving a single report of 530 Palestinians killed.  This was at a point when the cables counted five Israelis having been killed.  Israeli casualties were totted up repeatedly.  This roughly 100-1 ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed persisted throughout the operation, but this is not noted in the U.S. cables.  In a few instances, U.S. consular officials report the views of a few Gazans, frankly conveying Palestinian distress, but even here, when one Gazan reports that his town is increasingly being assaulted by Israeli fire, the cable qualifies his report by referring to “what he termed ‘indiscriminate’ Israeli fire.”

Whenever the cables mention a specific location in Gaza having been attacked or destroyed, including hospitals and mosques, the cables repeat Israeli claims without questioning them; on January 2, for instance, it is reported that the Israeli Air Force destroyed a mosque “reportedly serving as a weapons depot and communications hub.”  The embassy reports, without a hint of skepticism, the Israeli claim midway through the operation that Hamas operatives were reconstituting “certain command and control capabilities” at Shifa Hospital in Gaza by disguising themselves as doctors and nurses.

The earliest of this collection of cables reveals U.S. bias by reporting several days before Cast Lead began that pressure had been building in Israel for a “response” to rocket attacks from Gaza, “since Hamas announced the end of the ‘tahdiya’ truce agreement December 19.”  This effort to place responsibility for the hostilities on Hamas ignores the fact, which was no secret to those following the situation at the time, that it was Israel that had violated the truce, in effect since the previous June, on November 4 when it launched an unprovoked incursion into Gaza and killed several Palestinians.  Hamas’s action in ending the truce weeks later was a response to Israel’s violation.

The most blatant evidence of U.S. bias – and the only instance of analysis or policy advice in this collection of cables – also comes before the operation began.  “Our recommendation,” Ambassador James Cunningham writes on December 22, “is that USG start with putting the blame on Hamas for the illegitimacy of its rule in Gaza, its policy of firing or allowing other factions to fire rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian targets, and its decision to end the ‘tahdiya’ calming period.”  Cunningham seems to confuse cause and effect: even were Hamas rule illegitimate, which it was not – Hamas having been democratically elected three years earlier – it is not a common presumption that political illegitimacy justifies a massive military assault.  And particularly not when, as the U.S. had to know, Hamas did not provoke the hostilities.  Cunningham goes on to recommend support for “Israel’s right to defend itself.”  Hamas apparently has no such right to defend Gazans from Israeli attack.

The embassy burnishes its conscience by “emphasizing our concern for the welfare of innocent Palestinian civilians and the U.S. readiness to provide emergency humanitarian relief.”  This is the only mention of innocent Palestinian civilians in the entire collection of cables.

The hypocrisy is glaring.  The U.S. bias shown here is obviously not at all a new phenomenon.  But here it is in black and white—or, more accurately, in pin-stripe: diplomacy as cheerleader for massacre and genocide (a term used by not a few Jewish and other commentators during the Gaza assault).  Such atrocities are all right in U.S. eyes if Israel commits them, but Hamas is not allowed.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and the author of several books on the Palestinian situation, including Palestine in Pieces, co-authored with her late husband Bill Christison.  She can be reached at kb.christison@earthlink.net

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The Economist: “Please, not again”

Posted by uscsjp on January 9, 2011

First, from Democracy Now!:

“WikiLeaks: Israeli Corruption at Gaza Crossing Exposed

In the latest news from WikiLeaks, a newly disclosed classified U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006 reveals that Coca-Cola and other U.S. companies have complained that a key Israeli cargo crossing for goods entering the Gaza Strip was rife with corruption. The memo indicates that Israeli officials asked a Coca-Cola distributor to pay more than $3,000 to get a truckload of merchandise through the Karni Crossing. Other companies that had complained about the corruption include Procter & Gamble, Caterpillar, Philip Morris, Westinghouse, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and Dell.

Israeli Troops Kill 65-Year-Old Man in Home Raid

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops killed a 65-year-old Palestinian civilian named Amr Qawasme in a pre-dawn house raid earlier today in Hebron. Amr Qawasme’s wife, Sopheye, said the troops stormed into his bedroom while he was sleeping.

Sopheye Qawasme: ‘He wasn’t even awake. They just entered the door and shot him right away. I had gone to pray. When I came back, they told me. I have no idea how they just broke into the house and shot him. They came at me and put a rifle to my head, and they shot him again.’

The Israeli military confirmed that Amr Qawasme was a civilian, but said the raid was justified because a member of Hamas was living in the building.

Ex-Mossad Chief: Iran Nuclear Program Set Back Many Years

In Israel, the outgoing head of Mossad said Thursday that he does not believe Iran will have nuclear weapons capability before 2015. Meir Dagan said Iran was a long way from being able to produce nuclear weapons, following a series of failures that had set its program back by several years…”

–Democracy Now!, 7 January, 2011

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/1/7/headlines#8

See Also this conservative-leaning but informative piece from The Economist:

The United States, Israel and the Arabs

Please Not Again!

“NO WAR, no peace, is the usual state of affairs between Israel and its neighbours in the Middle East. But every time an attempt at Arab-Israeli peacemaking fails, as Barack Obama’s did shortly before Christmas, the peace becomes a little more fragile and the danger of war increases. Sadly, there is reason to believe that unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive such war for many years.
One much-discussed way in which war might arise stems from the apparent desire of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons at any cost, and Israel’s apparent desire to stop Iran at any cost. But fear of Iran’s nuclear programme is only one of the fuses that could detonate an explosion at any moment. Another is the frantic arms race that has been under way since the inconclusive war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon. Both sides have been intensively preparing for what each says will be a ‘decisive’ second round.

Such a war would bear little resemblance to the previous clashes between Israel and its neighbours. For all their many horrors, the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009 were limited affairs. On the Israeli side, in particular, civilian casualties were light. Since 2006, however, Iran and Syria have provided Hizbullah with an arsenal of perhaps 50,000 missiles and rockets, many with ranges and payloads well beyond what Hizbullah had last time. This marks an extraordinary change in the balance of power. For the first time a radical non-state actor has the power to kill thousands of civilians in Israel’s cities more or less at the press of a button.

In that event, says Israel, it will strike back with double force. A war of this sort could easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran. For the moment, deterrence keeps the peace. But a peace maintained by deterrence alone is a frail thing. The shipment to Hizbullah of a balance-tipping new weapon, a skirmish on the Lebanese or increasingly volatile Gaza border—any number of miscalculations could ignite a conflagration…”

–The Economist, 29 December, 2010

http://www.economist.com/node/17800151

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