Isarel Reaches Out to International Community


— by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Marcus Sheff and Alan Elsner

19 Washington-based Ambassadors arrived in Israel today as part of a five-day fact-finding mission to Israel and the West Bank organized by The Israel Project. Their first stop was to the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book & Second Temple in Jerusalem, pictured above. (From left: the ambassadors to Washington are from Mongolia, Haiti, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda and Liberia).

The envoys will meet Netanyahu, other Israeli leaders and  Palestinian PM Fayyad. This group includes representatives from four continents.

More after the jump. [Read more…]

Netanyahu to Abbas: Say Six Vital Words “I will accept a Jewish state”

— by Alan Elsner and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, The Israel Project

  • Israel willing to make painful, generous compromises
  • Personal appeal to Palestinian President Abbas
  • Iran nuclear threat a deadly danger to entire world

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, said he was prepared to offer the Palestinians a “far-reaching compromise” if their president, Mahmoud Abbas, uttered six simple words: “I will recognize a Jewish state.”

In a wide-ranging speech punctuated by 30 standing ovations, Netanyahu praised the many thousands of brave young people standing up in the Arab world for democratic rights – rights that Israel’s Arab minority have enjoyed for decades.

He also warned that Iran’s militant Islamic leaders remained determined to build nuclear weapons and time was running out to stop them.

And he appealed directly to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to tear up his recent deal with Iranian-backed Hamas, whose Charter calls for murdering Jews wherever possible, and enter peace talks with Israel to achieve a state.

President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people … and I said, ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state’.

Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end — that they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it.

They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.

Netanyahu made clear that he was willing to give up parts of the Jewish ancestral homeland of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, so that a Palestinian state could be established.

No distortion of history can deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. But there’s another truth. The Palestinians share this small land with us … They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.

This also meant that some settlements would not be inside Israel after the establishment of a Palestinian state, while the major suburbs that have been built close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem would remain Israeli.

Recognizing that a future Palestine had to be economically viable to succeed, Netanyahu said Israel would be generous in the territory it gives up. But he stated once again that he was not prepared to go back to the pre-1967 lines which were impossible to defend and he would not allow Jerusalem to be divided.

Palestinians also had to stop naming public squares after suicide bombers and teaching their children to hate and they had to give up the “fantasy” of one day flooding Israel with the descendants of refugees.

Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

The Israeli leader joined an exclusive club as the fourth world figure to address a joint session of Congress more than once. The other three were Winston Churchill, the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Nelson Mandela.

The first part of Netanyahu’s hour-long address dealt with the wider Middle East region and Iran, where Netanyahu saw the greatest danger to Israel’s peace and security.

The hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us – a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons. Militant [Islam] could exact a horrific price from all of us before its eventual demise.

Iran’s leaders would only be daunted if the West maintained a credible deterrence, leaving all options on the table, Netanyahu said. He added that Iranian leaders who express genocidal aims should be banned from every responsible forum in the world.

Complete text of speech after the jump.
Speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress

May 24, 2011

I am deeply honored by your warm welcome. And I am deeply honored that you have given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.

Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time we were the new kids in town?

And I do see a lot of old friends here. And I do see a lot of new friends of Israel here. Democrats and Republicans alike.

Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations America, Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance!

In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.

My friends, you don’t need to do nation building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves. You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this.

Support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common future. For an epic battle is now unfolding in the Middle East, between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting. Now this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. Millions of young people are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty.

These extraordinary scenes in Tunis and Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet as we share their hopes, but we also must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then. The brief democratic spring in Iran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. This same tyranny smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution, and inflicted on that long-suffering country, the medieval rule of Hezbollah.

So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. Like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less travelled, the path of liberty. No one knows what this path consists of better than you. This path is not paved by elections alone. It is paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.

Israel has always embraced this path, in the Middle East has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.

As the great English writer George Eliot predicted over a century ago, that once established, the Jewish state will “shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right. We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates. You think you guys are tough on one another in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest.

Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We’re proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel!

This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.

Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the Middle East.

Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium, and said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab World. Well, it’s begun to take root. This beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity. For I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.

But while we hope and work for the best, we must also recognize that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity. They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.

Foremost among these forces is Iran. The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.

Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. It will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. But like other fanaticisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact a horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise.

A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world. I want you to understand what this means. They could put the bomb anywhere. They could put it on a missile. It could be on a container ship in a port, or in a suitcase on a subway.

Now the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand. Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Leaders who spew such venom, should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. But there is something that makes the outrage even greater: The lack of outrage. In much of the international community, the calls for our destruction are met with utter silence. It is even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies.

But not you. Not America. You have acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran. History will salute you America.

President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He successfully led the Security Council to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in Congress passed even tougher sanctions. These words and deeds are vitally important.

Yet the Ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. That same year, Muammar Qadaffi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.

My friends, while Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up on our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. Israel wants peace. Israel needs peace. We’ve achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal. I mean that literally. I battled terrorists along both banks of the Jordan River. Too many Israelis have lost loved ones. I know their grief. I lost my brother.

So no one in Israel wants a return to those terrible days. The peace with Egypt and Jordan has long served as an anchor of stability and peace in the heart of the Middle East.

This peace should be bolstered by economic and political support to all those who remain committed to peace.

The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are vital. But they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.

I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace.

This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo.

This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.

But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.

We’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years,

the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves. Prime Minister Fayad has led this effort. I wish him a speedy recovery from his recent operation.

We’ve helped the Palestinian economy by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming. It’s growing by more than 10% a year.

Palestinian cities look very different today than they did just a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks. They even have e-businesses. This is all happening without peace. Imagine what could happen with peace. Peace would herald a new day for both peoples. It would make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility.

So now here is the question. You have to ask it. If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War.

They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… “I will accept a Jewish state.”

Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.

This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv.

These areas are densely populated but geographically quite small. Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.

The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations. But we must also be honest. So I am saying today something that should be said publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, independent and prosperous. President Obama rightly referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as he referred to the future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the Jewish state. Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.

This is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well, that in the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend.

So peace must be anchored in security. In recent years, Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza. But we didn’t get peace. Instead, we got 12,000 thousand rockets fired from those areas on our cities, on our children, by Hezbollah and Hamas. The UN peacekeepers in Lebanon failed to prevent the smuggling of this weaponry. The European observers in Gaza evaporated overnight. So if Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked. Missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute. I want you to think about that too. Imagine that right now we all had less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Would anyone live that way? Well, we aren’t going to live that way either.

The truth is that Israel needs unique security arrangements because of its unique size. Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world. Mr. Vice President, I’ll grant you this. It’s bigger than Delaware. It’s even bigger than Rhode Island. But that’s about it. Israel on the 1967 lines would be half the width of the Washington Beltway.

Now here’s a bit of nostalgia. I first came to Washington thirty years ago as a young diplomat. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: There is an America beyond the Beltway. But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth.

So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.

And when I say tomorrow, I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean – tomorrow. Peace can be achieved only around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end.

I appreciate the President’s clear position on this issue. Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. But it can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace.

And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now again I want to make this clear. Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.

So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this. Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.

My friends, the momentous trials of the last century, and the unfolding events of this century, attest to the decisive role of the United States in advancing peace and defending freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All peoples who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation. Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds, in ancient and modern times alike.

I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world. May God bless all of you. And may God forever bless the United States of America.

Hamas Condemns US Attack on “Holy Warrior” Osama Bin Laden

— Alan Elsner and David Z. Harris

  • Hamas: Killing of “Arab holy warrior” is criminal.
  • Netanyahu: Fight against terror rolls on.

“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”

That was the reaction of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (photo right) to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

While Americans, Israelis and much of the rest of the world welcomed the death of the man who masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States which killed around 3,000 people, Hamas was plunged into sadness. The Iranian-backed terrorist group, whose official charter calls for the destruction of Israel, has fired 328 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians so far this year.

Haniyeh, who acts as Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip, referred to bin Laden as a “spiritual leader” and equated his death with an “American policy based on oppression and bloodshed in the Muslim and Arab world.”

More after the jump.
Hamas, which a few days ago announced a unification agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, refuses to recognize Israel or enter into any peace negotiations with it.

Palestinian officials are scheduled to meet in Cairo on Wednesday to sign a reconciliation agreement and choose a new candidate for prime minister. Senior Hamas officials have already stated that the prime minister of the new unity government should come from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Article seven of the Hamas charter states,

“Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! …there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, called the targeting of bin Laden a “resounding victory for justice, freedom and the common values of all democracies that are resolutely fighting shoulder to shoulder against terrorism.”

Other Israeli officials expressed concern that the death of bin Laden could provoke terror groups to retaliate.

Al-Qaeda has “infiltrated the Palestinian territories with help from Hamas,” Abbas confirmed in a 2008 interview.

“I can say without doubt that al-Qaeda is present in the Palestinian territories and that this presence, especially in Gaza, is facilitated by Hamas,” Abbas told the Arabic paper al-Hayat, The Times reported.

Analysts believe that al-Qaeda is trying to establish itself in new areas, particularly Gaza, because it is losing ground in traditional strongholds, such as Iraq.

“Under the Hamas strategic umbrella several salafis and jihadists have proliferated in the Gaza Strip and during the last year have attacked Israeli territory with missiles and rockets, sometimes in coordination with Hamas, sometimes independently,” Ely Karmon, a leading expert at Israel’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism, told The Israel Project.

“In my evaluation these groups will try to revenge Bin Laden’s death by attacking Israel, the best U.S. ally in the region… If these attacks will produce Israeli casualties, they could provoke an Israeli retaliation and a new crisis between Israel and Hamas,” Karmon added.

“This might empower [al-Qaeda] to do more,” Theodore Karasik, the director for research and development at the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis told Al Jazeera.

Referring to the fear of reprisal for bin Laden’s death, Karasik said the younger generation of al-Qaeda is “more vicious” and more willing to take chances.

Andrew White, known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” who runs the only Anglican Church in Iraq, dubbed Bin Laden’s death as “very dangerous” because al-Qaeda “will try to show the world that they can and will still commit terror.” He made the comments on his Facebook page.

U.S. Voters Opposed to Unilaterally Declared Palestinian State, New Poll Shows


— Alan Elsner & Nathan Klein, The Israel Project

  • Majority opposes U.S. recoginition of unilaterally declared Palestinian state.
  • Israel seen to be making efforts for peace, not Palestinians.
  • Voters who say U.S. should support Israel rises.

Some 51 percent of U.S. voters oppose the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state without a signed peace treaty with Israel, a new TIP poll finds. And, 54 percent believe that without a peace treaty, the United States should not recognize a Palestinian state.

The poll was mostly completed before Palestinian terrorists attacked a school bus in Israel on Thursday wounding two people.

More after the jump.
U.S. leaders on both sides of the aisle have also expressed their opposition to a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinian Authority. President Obama’s representative in the U.N., Ambassador Susan Rice, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week: “The tough issues between Israelis and Palestinians can be resolved only by direct negotiations between the parties, not in New York,” referring to U.N. headquarters there.

Republican Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18, R) said in opening remarks, “I ask that the U.S. do all we can to ensure that the Palestinian lobby does not gain member status in the U.N. before negotiating a true peace with our ally Israel.”

Speaking about the theoretical declaration of a Palestinian state, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Founder & President of The Israel Project said: “Many Americans feel that the problem is not territory, but rather the culture of hate that encourages young Palestinians to commit acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians. They do not see how an empty declaration of Palestinian statehood can bring peace until the hatred ends.

Added Mizrahi: “Israeli and Palestinian relations are very complicated with shared power, water, security and refugee issues affecting both sides. These issues must be worked out before there is peace. It is vital to settle all the outstanding issues to the satisfaction of both sides with mutual respect and security.”

Supporting these opinions, 61 percent of voters say that Israel is making an effort for peace, while 53 percent believe the Palestinians are making “not much” or “no” effort.

Neil Newhouse, Republican partner of TIP’s bipartisan polling team, said: “There is a clear perception that the Palestinians are not stepping up to the plate on working toward a real peace agreement.”

Additionally, as political turmoil roils the Arab world, 58 percent of American voters say the United States should support Israel – a jump of seven percentage points since January. This represents a three-point rise since February to the highest level of support for this position since October, 2009. The survey also found an increase in positive feelings toward Israel – and negative feelings toward the Palestinians.

“Instability in the region and recent events in Israel are causing an increase of support for Israel among the American electorate,” said Stanley Greenberg, Democratic partner of TIP’s bipartisan polling team.

The national survey of 800 registered voters was conducted April 5-7, 2011 by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of The Israel Project. The margin of error is +/- 3.46%.

Every International Catastrophe Has Its Silver Lining


International Community Rallies Round Israel as Fires Rage
— Alan Elsner and Jennifer Packer, The Israel Project

  • 42 dead – toll expected to rise
  • Turkey, Egypt and Jordan among those sending aid
  • Massive Russian firefighting plane on the way

Turkey, Egypt and Jordan were among many countries rushing help to Israel to combat the nation’s worst-ever wildfire which has killed 42 people, destroyed homes and villages, consumed forests and is still threatening the major port city of Haifa.

“We are talking about one of the worst disasters in the country’s history. This is hard day for the entire nation,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Egypt, Jordan and Turkey were quick to offer help to the Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and thanked him for his country’s help.

“We very much appreciate this mobilization and I am certain that it will be an opening toward improving relations between our two countries, Turkey and Israel,” Netanyahu said. It was his first conversation with the Turkish leader since the flotilla incident soured relations between the traditional allies earlier this year.”

With several people listed in critical condition and others reported missing, the death toll was expected to rise.

More after the jump.
Emergency services evacuated more than 15,000 people from their homes as flames swept through at least 5,000 acres of woodland. Police arrested two people, residents of a Druze village, on suspicion of setting fires. The Jerusalem Post said they were detained after being seen hurling Molotov cocktails in a forest on a Carmel mountain hilltop.

Israelis watched helplessly as their homes were destroyed by flames hundreds of feet high. Firefighters said one village was burnt to the ground.

The IDF sent soldiers and equipment, including helicopters, bulldozers, medics and army units to combat the blaze. More help came from Greece, Bulgaria which sent 100 firefighters, Spain, Azerbaijan, Romania Russia, Cyprus, France and Britain. The United States also offered aid. Israel is better known for sending its own rescue teams and medical personnel to other countries to help in their disaster-relief efforts.

“The Russians are sending and we are waiting for the biggest firefighting plane in the world… an Antonov with huge firefighting capacity,” Lieberman told Israel Radio.

One of the main country’s highways was closed as trees smoldered and smoke billowed toward the Mediterranean coastline and flames closed in on a hotel and a spa south of the city.

“The size of the fire is huge, the wind is very strong and there is a problem accessing the mountains and valleys,” said Yoram Levi, a spokesman for Israel’s fire and rescue service. “We don’t have big aircraft that can carry a large amount of water. It is not enough for a large-scale fire.”

“As rescuers and firefighters continue in their work, the United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to the disaster,” U.S. President Barak Obama said at a candle-lighting ceremony on Thursday marking the Jewish Chanukah holiday.

Jewish organizations in the U.S. and beyond have launched campaigns to help the victims. The Jewish National Fund, which planted a large percentage of Israel’s forests, called for public support.

American firefighters are on alert to join the operation. The Israel Emergency Volunteers Project will coordinate any call up for the volunteers who have been fully trained under the auspices of the EVP.

The Israeli cabinet met on Friday to discuss the crisis with questions being asked about Israel’s preparedness for such disasters.

Wikileaks Shows Arab States Fear Iran, Not Israel

— Alan Elsner and Jennifer Packer

  • Netanyahu: Time for Arab world to speak openly about Iran threat
  • Iranian missiles could strike European capitals
  • Iran also backing Terrorist Groups in Yemen


Publication of some 250,000 classified diplomatic cables by the Wikileaks website has exposed the fact that Arab states see Iran and its nuclear weapons program and not Israel as the real threat to Middle East stability and their own security.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the documents reinforced what Israel has been saying for years about the Iranian nuclear program.

“More and more countries, governments and leaders in the Middle East and the wider world understand that this is the fundamental threat,” Netanyahu said at a news conference in Tel Aviv. “I hope the leaders will have the courage to say to their nations publicly what they’ve said about Iran.”

More after the jump.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded that the leaks were deliberately released as part of a psychological warfare campaign against his country.

But an analysis from Reuters puts the truth in stark terms:

“The revelation confirm the depth of suspicion and hatred of the Shi’ites among Sunni Arab leaders, especially in Saudi Arabia, the leading Sunni power and which regards Iran as an existential threat.”

“Iran should take note of the distress that its nuclear program is causing in the region — this is not something that should be ignored,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center.

In one key document King Hamad of Bahrain “argued forcefully for taking action to terminate the Iranian nuclear program, by whatever means necessary. “That program must be stopped,” he said. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,” he said.

“The cables reveal how Iran’s ascent has unified Israel and many longtime Arab adversaries – notably the Saudis – in a common cause,” The New York Times said. “The United States had put together a largely silent front of Arab states whose positions on sanctions and a potential attack looked much like Israel’s.”

Among the important revelations in the documents, as published by The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel are the following:

  • Saudi King Abdullah repeatedly urged the United States to destroy the Iranian program. “He told you [Americans] to “cut off the head of the snake,” the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir said, according to a report on Abdullah’s meeting with the U.S. general David Petraeus in April 2008. Abdullah told a US diplomat: “The bottom line is that they (the Iranians) cannot be trusted.”
  • Officials from Jordan also called for the Iranian program to be stopped by any means necessary while leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as “evil,” and an “existential threat.”
  • Iran has obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that could let it strike at Western European capitals and Moscow.
  • Crown Prince bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi said in one cable: “Any culture that is patient and focused enough to spend years working on a single carpet is capable of waiting years and even decades to achieve even greater goals.” His greatest worry, he said, “is not how much we know about Iran, but how much we don’t.”
  • Kuwait’s military intelligence chief told Petraeus Iran was supporting Shi’ite groups in the Gulf and extremists in Yemen.
  • The United States failed to stop Syria from supplying arms to Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, who have amassed tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel. One week after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised a top State Department official that he would not send new arms to Hezbollah, the United States it had information that Syria was providing increasingly sophisticated weapons to the group.
  • Iran smuggled weapons to Hezballah in ambulances and medical vehicles in violation of international conventions. Hamas also used such vehicles for military and arms-smuggling operations.
  • Iran withheld from the International Atomic Energy Agency the original design documents for a secret nuclear reactor.

Here are some sources for the raw materials:

Hezbollah Arsenal “Many More than 40,000 Rockets”

  • Iranian generals “increasingly regular visitors to Lebanon” says Israel.
  • Hezbollah hides weapons among civilians in southern Lebanon.
  • Fears that Hariri report will implicate Hezbollah, bring civil war.

The buildup of rockets by Iran-backed Hezbollah is more substantial than media reports have suggested, The Israel Project has learned. In line with reportage, Israeli intelligence understands that Hezbollah has amassed in excess of 40,000 rockets in the immediate vicinity of the Israeli-Lebanese frontier.

More after the jump.
However, in Israel’s assessment the Shi’ite Hezbollah also has a considerable stockpile in other parts of Lebanon. The 40,000 weapons are located in hiding places in villages throughout southern Lebanon in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. The resolution, which led to the 2006 ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, calls for the Lebanese government to be the sole bearer of arms in the south of the country.

Israel fears Iran is playing an ever-larger role in Lebanon. There has been a noticeable increase in visits by Iranian military and political leaders over the last two years according to Israeli officials. Tehran is spreading its sphere of influence to include both Hezbollah and Beirut.

Hezbollah gets short- and long-range missiles in three main ways: by sea, by air and via the Syrian border. Iran and Syria are the main suppliers of Hezbollah’s weaponry, while Hezbollah has also obtained Russian rockets, in Israel’s estimation.

“Iran and Syria both pose significant conventional security challenges and these conventional challenges intersect with the asymmetrical threats posed by Hezbollah…whose rockets indiscriminately target Israeli population centers,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew J. Shapiro in July 2010.

The Lebanese border towns that face Israel are heavily Shi’ite. Hezbollah stores weapons in underground bunkers and in buildings among the civilians there. Public buildings doubly serve as Hezbollah lookout points.

United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is not allowed to enter private properties, making it difficult for UNIFIL to monitor weapons smuggling.

The Israel Defense Forces has published videos filmed by drones and from fixed positions showing explosions at three weapons depositories close to the frontier.

Israel is watching the border particularly closely at the moment fearing that Hezbollah may choose to launch rocket attacks in the next few weeks. Jerusalem believes it may do so in order to deflect attention away from the eagerly-anticipated publication of the findings of the U.N. inquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Reports have circulated implicating Hezbollah in the assassination. Drawing Israel into a military campaign Hezbollah believes would move attention quickly away from the Hariri report.