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Dienstag, 24. März 2009

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Israel paid high price for little achievements in Gaza

By Moshe Arens
Tue., March 24, 2009 Adar 28, 5769
Last update - 06:42 24/03/2009

The allegations that some of the Israel Defense Forces units that participated in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip deviated from the IDF's standard of ethics need, of course, to be investigated. But it is also high time to ask ourselves what was actually achieved during that operation, and whether there is any reasonable relationship between the costs incurred by Israel and those achievements.

At first sight, the Israeli public was relieved to see the IDF operating in Gaza, well trained and well equipped, unlike the way it appeared during the Second Lebanon War. Israelis were encouraged when the dire predictions that a ground operation in the Gaza Strip would lead to hundreds of casualties among our troops turned out to be groundless. A sign that the IDF had been well prepared for this operation.

But what was the result? The operation did not put an end to the rocketing of Israeli towns and villages in the south, nor did it bring about the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. However, the cost for Israel was not inconsiderable. Israel has paid and continues to pay a high price in the ledger of world opinion for the massive destruction left behind in the Strip and the resulting distress of the civilian population there. That is going to haunt Israel for some time and will, no doubt, lead to considerable hesitation when Israel will be required to respond to the Hamas terrorists' next provocations in the Gaza Strip.

In comparison, the achievements seem close to zero. The operation was halted while rockets were continuing to land in the south with the lame excuse that there was nothing further to be done, and the IDF was withdrawn after having accomplished next to nothing.

The fiasco of the Second Lebanon War is frequently blamed on Amir Peretz, who entered the Defense Ministry with little prior experience in military matters, and inherited a chief of staff, Dan Halutz, who was convinced that air power was the answer to everything. That theory was demolished during five weeks, while Israelis in the north were getting hit by Hezbollah rockets launched by the hundreds against Israel.

An almost audible sigh of relief could be heard from the Israeli public when Ehud Barak, a former IDF chief of staff with a previous tenure as defense minister under his belt, took over from Peretz. He inherited a chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, an experienced foot soldier of sterling reputation. Now matters of defense seemed to be in the best of hands. But we were to be disappointed.

Barak's handling of the Hamas rocket problem had a most inauspicious beginning. For months, while rockets were raining down on Israeli towns and villages, we were told that the correct thing would be done at the right time, and that every passing day was bringing a ground operation closer. The next step was the conclusion of a "cease-fire" with the Hamas terrorists that, according to Barak, was going to lead to intensive negotiations for Shalit's release. As should have been expected, Hamas utilized the "cease-fire" to introduce additional weapons, and especially longer-range rockets, into the Gaza Strip, while Gilad Shalit continued to languish in Hamas captivity.

When Hamas continued to launch rockets against Israel despite the "cease-fire," Operation Cast Lead was finally launched, based initially on heavy aerial bombardments with the attendant collateral damage to civilians and civilian property, and only then were ground troops hesitantly introduced. They were withdrawn before the objectives that should have defined their mission had been accomplished, amid a renewed call by the defense minister for a "cease-fire" with the Hamas terrorists.

Strangely enough, there were great similarities between the Second Lebanon War directed by Peretz and the Gaza operation directed by Barak. Common to both is the erroneous idee fixe that the IDF operation had in both cases succeeded in restoring Israel's deterrence posture. The fact of the matter is that Hezbollah is today much stronger than before the Second Lebanon War, occasional rockets continue to fall on northern Israel, and the threat in the north has not dissipated by any means. Hamas continues to rearm and threaten, while occasional rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The lesson that terrorists cannot be deterred but need to be disarmed has to be learned again and again.

Two successive military failures for Israel are more than enough. We need some new strategic thinking to deal with the serious dangers facing us.


28 hurt in clashes over rightist march in Arab town

By Yoav Stern, Nadav Shragai and Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondents
Last update - 13:06 24/03/2009

28 people were wounded on Tuesday during clashes between police and demonstrators protesting a march by far-rightists near the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.

The far-rightists began the march at 10:00 A.M. and ended it about 45 minutes later. The clashes, however, continued for some two hours after the march had been concluded.

Deputy police commissioner Shahar Ayalon and fourteen other policemen were wounded by stone-throwing demonstrators; twelve Umm al-Fahm residents were hurt in scuffles with police, according to Magen David Adom emergency services. .......

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Time to believe Gaza war crimes allegations
By Amira Hass
Tue., March 24, 2009 Adar 28, 5769
Last update - 12:39 24/03/2009

Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has difficulty believing the soldiers' testimonies that they intentionally harmed Palestinian civilians, because the Israel Defense Forces is a moral army, he said on Sunday.

On the other hand, he believes the soldiers because they "have no reason to lie." Then again, Ashkenazi is convinced that if what they said is true, these are isolated incidents.

Ashkenazi reacted like most Israelis - as though the reports, including those in Haaretz and Maariv, were the first about the Gaza offensive that were issued by someone other than the military spokesman or the military reporters, who rely on him for their information.

But ample information was available from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, based on statements collected from hundreds of people in the Gaza Strip in January and February. .....


Poll: 32% of U.S. Jews say Lieberman as FM will weaken link to Israel
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent
Tue., March 24, 2009 Adar 28, 5769
Last update - 12:09 24/03/2009

32 percent of American Jews say that Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman's appointment as Foreign Minister would weaken their personal link to Israel, according to a poll whose results were released Monday.

The poll, commissioned by dovish Washington pro-Israel lobby J Street, said the respondents said this would happen because his positions "go against their core values." The proportion of respondents who said this under the age of 30 was even higher, standing at 40 percent.

In addition, the poll revealed that 41 percent of American Jews favor an attack on Iran if it acquires nuclear weapons, 40 percent oppose, and 16 percent chose neither.
The poll also showed the overwhelming majority of American Jews (76 percent) favor a two-state solution as the preferred way to end the Middle East conflict.

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New anti-terror strategy warns of chemical attack threat
Anti-terror document says changing technology makes prospect of chemical or biological attack more realistic
Alan Travis, home affairs editor, Tuesday 24 March 2009 11.38 GMT
Article history
Changing technology means the prospect of a chemical or biological terrorist attack in Britain is now more realistic, says the government's updated counter-terrorism strategy published today.
It also discloses that serious preparations are under way in the UK to protect against the use of roadside bombs and other "novel homemade explosives" imported from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The document confirms that the government intends to challenge radical views that "reject and undermine our shared values and jeopardise community cohesion" and it will do this by supporting groups and projects through the £70m-a-year Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) programme.
The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said the government had no intention of outlawing such views or criminalising those who hold them, but she added: "We will not hear these views in silence. We should all stand up for our shared values and not concede the floor to those who dismiss them."………..


US lawmaker: missile threat from Iran exaggerated

By Associated Press | Monday, March 23, 2009 | | U.S. Politics
WASHINGTON — A candidate for a top nonproliferation post in the Obama administration played down today the threat from Iran’s long-range missile program as a reason to build a European missile defense system.
Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher is under consideration to be undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, a position that has involved shaping policy on U.S. missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic. As chair of a congressional military appropriations panel, she has been a critic of U.S. long-range missile defense systems.
Her comments come as the Obama administration is reviewing the European missile defense plans and has signaled to Russia that it is willing to reconsider them, if the threat from Iran recedes. Russia has adamantly opposed the European plans, which it believes would undermine its nuclear deterrent and encroach on its interests……….