Friday, January 21, 2011

Lebanon Enters a Tunnel, the End of Which Can't be Seen

by Jonathan Spyer

The political crisis in Lebanon precipitated by the resignation last week of ministers affiliated with the Hizbullah- led March 8 bloc is now entering its second stage. The countdown has already begun toward the issuing of indictments for the 2005 murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The indictments are expected to implicate Hizbullah members, including senior movement figures, in the killing.

Hassan Nasrallah, as indicated by his speech earlier this week, is desperately trying to build a Lebanese political fence around his movement, to protect it as much as possible from the impact of its members being indicted for the murder of a popular, mainstream Sunni politician. The March 14 movement of current Prime Minister Saad Hariri is seeking to frustrate this effort by Hizbullah.

At present, the focus of the action is on internal Lebanese political procedure. Hariri has been invited by President Michel Suleiman to stay on as a “caretaker” prime minister. Parliamentary consultations are set to begin to determine the make-up of the next Lebanese government. The result of these consultations is far from certain.

The Hizbullah-led March 8 bloc has made clear that it will be putting forward an alternative candidate for the prime ministership.

Omar Karami, the candidate of this bloc, is a former prime minister, the scion of a prominent Sunni political family in Lebanon, and is closely aligned with the Syrians. Hariri, meanwhile, is at the moment standing firm and looks set to contest the issue.

The March 8 and March 14 (pro-Hariri) blocs are roughly evenly matched in the 128- member Lebanese parliament.

At the moment, therefore, all eyes are on Druse strongman Walid Jumblatt, who controls 11 seats, and who has not yet clearly indicated which side he will support.

The indications are that he will favor Hariri’s leading a renewed “unity” government, although it is not clear if circumstances will make possible the formation of such a government.

If the current consultations fail to produce a quick result, with Hariri continuing as “caretaker” prime minister, then the prospect will open up for increased pressure on the government from Hizbullah. It is at this point that civil unrest, demonstrations and possibly sectarian violence will become a possibility, as Hizbullah seeks to raise the stakes and force Hariri to distance himself from the tribunal.

If, on the other hand, the new government is formed by March 8, this will represent an entirely new situation – namely, the rise to political power of the pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian bloc in Lebanon.

This, however, is widely considered to be a less-likely outcome.

Hizbullah and its backers have little to gain from an open seizure of power. As this issue is decided, international efforts of various kinds are frantically taking place to avoid renewed internecine conflict in Lebanon. Turkey and Qatar are among the regional states involved in these efforts. Saudi-Syrian contacts have not ended, and it is possible that they will yet produce some type of compromise formula.

With all the current maneuvering, two points need to be borne in mind.

First of all, this process is about Hizbullah’s legitimacy, not its physical power. What is at stake is the movement’s attempt to present itself as a patriotic, Arab movement engaged centrally in fighting Israel.

Should it be tainted with the murder of Hariri, the movement will instead come to be seen by millions across the Arab world as an alien, Shia force supported by non-Arab powers and engaging in activities that place it far outside the Arab political consensus.

Hizbullah dreads this outcome, and the possibility of it underlies its present obvious discomfort.

At the same time, what is not at stake is Hizbullah’s real-life dominance of Lebanon.

Whatever the outcome of the present crisis, the undeniable reality that the Iranian-sponsored Shia Islamist movement is the strongest force in the country will remain.

Hizbullah thus finds itself in the unfamiliar position of being without peer in terms of its physical strength, and yet unable to translate this reality at the present time into a situation to its liking politically.

The result is that the irresistible force of Saad Hariri’s (current) refusal to abandon the Tribunal tasked with finding his father’s killers is currently set against the immovable object of Hizbullah’s physical domination of the means of force in Lebanon.

What will be the outcome? As speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri put it in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, Lebanon is currently entering “a tunnel whose beginning we know but whose end we don’t see.”

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Jonathan Spyer

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Hariri Vows to Seek Premiership Despite Hizbullah Pressure

by Staff

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday promised he would seek to be the premier of a new government despite pressure from Hizbullah to step down, Reuters reported.

Talks to form a new Lebanese government were scheduled for next week.

Speaking defiantly of Hizbullah, Hariri told a crowd in Beirut, "They have put aside all solutions and demanded Saad al Hariri be excluded ... we will go to constitutional talks on Monday with me as a candidate," he said.

One week ago, Hizbullah toppled his government and sparked fears that the country's political crisis could descend into street battles.

Hariri's Western-backed government fell last week over a dispute linked to the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Many fear that Hizbullah — widely expected to be indicted by the court — will react violently if accused.

In a televised address, Hariri said he would continue efforts to solve the crisis diplomatically. The most recent talks, involving Qatar and Turkey, failed to reach a compromise.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the   turmoil in Lebanon

"We will go to the consultations and we will give our opinion while committed to my nomination for the prime minister's post," the 40-year-old said, speaking in front of a poster of his father, who was killed in a massive truck bombing along Beirut's waterfront in 2005.

He also appealed for calm, saying: "Any drop of blood that falls from any Lebanese citizen is more important to me than any post."

Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt on Thursday said he is under great pressure not to name Hariri as the government's next premier despite earlier statements of support for him, Lebanese paper an-Nahar reported.

He told members of his party that insisting on Hariri as the country's new prime minister would lead to "catastrophic consequences" for the security of the Druse party, himself, and the Druse population in Hizbullah-controlled areas. He added that things "have become greater than him and his ability to maintain the middle ground in a harsh battle in which Hariri's regional and international backers only resort to statements, while his opponents (Hizbullah) turn to all manners of military and popular pressure," according to the report.

Jumblatt said that he is under pressure to name former Lebanese prime minister Omar Karami in place of Hariri.

Lebanese special police forces tightened security around the government palace and other official buildings Thursday amid growing fears that the country was headed toward violence.

A senior security official confirmed to The Associated Press that the security measures in and around Beirut stem from "concerns of movements on the ground by some parties." The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Special police forces were seen hauling cement barriers around the government house in Beirut and putting up reinforcements around government buildings and banks. Armored personnel carriers deployed to many areas of the city.

Original URL: Staff

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King Abdicates

by Pamella Geller

Congressman Peter King (R-NY) told Politico Tuesday that in his upcoming hearings on radicalization among American Muslims, he was "not planning to call as witnesses such Muslim community critics as the Investigative Project on Terrorism's Steve Emerson and Jihad Watch's Robert Spencer, who have large followings among conservatives but are viewed as antagonists by many Muslims."

Based on this, it appears that this will be a show trial. Between Emerson and Spencer, the whole of it is covered. Emerson knows who all the players are and what groups and cells they are affiliated with. He knows who everyone is and what he's doing. For King to acquiesce in his marginalization is almost criminal. In Spencer's case, it's just as bad. Why wouldn't King discuss the texts and teachings of Islam that jihadists use to justify violence and make recruits?
For King not to avail himself of Emerson's knowledge and Spencer's scholarship is an astounding case of willful blindness.

Methinks Representative King is a wee bit in over his head. I am filled with dread and sorrow at another lost opportunity. Doesn't King know he is going to be smeared and defamed for these hearings no matter what? So why not achieve something? Why not have the courage of your convictions?

The Muslim groups are worried about these hearings with good reason. "On the gonif brent a hittle" -- the Yiddish axiom translated means "on the thief, the hat burns." At the last yearly Muslim Public Affairs Council Conference (December 18, 2010), one of the questions moderator Salaam Al Marayati asked his panel concerned the future hearings of Congressman Peter King. One of the panelists, an attorney named Angela Oh, said that any person subpoenaed should hire an attorney and that the attorney should advise the committee that the person under subpoena would not appear. The other panelists agreed.

One of the other panelists, an attorney named Reem Salahi, made a lot of noise about King and the IRA. I have the feeling that they want the media to exploit this. The entire session was recorded and appeared on the MPAC website.

And so perhaps it is no surprise that Representative King has already conceded key points. But why? How could he in good conscience squander such an important, historic opportunity?

Politico said that "King aims ... to call retired law enforcement officials and people with 'the real life experience of coming from the Muslim community.' Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in the House and a critic of the hearings, will likely be a minority witness, according to both King and the Minnesota Democrat."

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison is infamous for his pro-Hamas rallies and his pilgrimage to the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, paid for by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is testifying, but Emerson and Spencer aren't? What can King achieve?

King is going to call Zuhdi Jasser and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Jasser and Hirsi Ali are perfectly lovely, but to what end? Jasser's Islam does not exist. He does not have a theological leg to stand on. His mosque threw him out. Whatever he is practicing, it's not Islam, and he speaks for no one but himself. Also, Jasser has done some strange things: in May 2009, he made a last-minute effort to quash Geert Wilders' appearance on Capitol Hill under the aegis of Senator Kyl, calling Kyl's office the morning of the day Wilders was supposed to appear and stating that while Jasser had been in the Netherlands, Wilders refused to meet with Jasser because Wilders "doesn't meet with Muslims." That never happened, according to Wilders.

And when I interviewed Jasser back in 2007, he referred to Israel as occupied territory in the last five minutes of the interview. He blew his cover. Further, Jasser refutes Islamic anti-Semitism in the interview. He may be well-intentioned, but his approach and theology are just plain un-Islamic. Logan's Warning pointed out recently that Jasser has no following among Muslims and doesn't represent any Islamic tradition. So what's the point?

King probably thinks, as do other conservatives, that Jasser is the voice of reason in our cause of educating Americans about the threat of radical Islam. But in this, Jasser fails miserably. First off, there is no "reason" in Islam. There is only Islam. You cannot question, reason, or go off the reservation in any way. Hence, Jasser cannot educate about the threat, because he obfuscates the truth and has invented the Islam he follows.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is smart, fashionable, and a wonderful speaker. She is a great spokesperson, but she has removed herself from the front lines. She runs with a different crowd now. Yes, she can speak to the brutal oppression of women in Islam, but what can she bring to these hearings? If it's a former Muslim they want to hear from, who better than the world's leading scholar on Islam, Ibn Warraq?

That's all King really needs: Emerson, Spencer, and Ibn Warraq.

What a waste.

Original URL:

Pamella Geller

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Flying the Terrorist Flag in Washington

by Mark Cantora

Sometimes a flag is not just a flag. In the current era of postmodern "whatever-ism," symbolic gestures are largely understood as just that -- a meaningless symbolic gesture. A low Presidential bow to a foreign sovereign is just a bow. The gift of an iPod to an allied sovereign is just a kitschy gift. And on January 18, 2011, a raised Palestinian flag in Washington, D.C. is just a flag -- a little wink and nod to the Arab residents of the disputed territories.

But in the Middle East, a symbol is never just a symbol. Even the smallest of gestures is packed with diplomatic meaning, and the policy ramifications of that gesture are almost always far-reaching.
For example, in the Old City of Jerusalem, a rickety old ladder placed outside a window in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre since sometime around 1852 has remained in the exact same location for 159 years. Why? Because in 1853, the Church's numerous religious sects and factions decided that the use OF and control over the different portions of the Church should stay the same in perpetuity. Any change in the control over the Church since that time is considered by all parties to be a severe provocation.

To the Western mind, this entire situation seems to involve a substantial measure of absurdity. "Surely," most Westerners think "the removal of a five-stepped ladder would not have any practical effects on the division of control over the Church. It's just a ladder." But in the historical-minded culture of the Middle East, this ladder is not just a ladder. It's an important symbol of the region's -- of the world's -- recognition of the power and prestige of different religious sects. Thus, the positioning of this ladder is considered so important that a metal grate has been erected over the window in order to keep anyone from changing the physical position of the ladder -- and the metaphysical positioning of the Church's sects.

A similarly significant issue arises from the unfurling of the Palestinian flag in Washington, D.C.

The Palestinian flag was informally adopted by the PLO terrorist organization after its creation in the 1960s. By the 1970s, the flag had been "officially" adopted as the flag of the PLO. Until the Madrid "Peace Conference" in 1991, the PLO was recognized by the United States as a terrorist organization. However, in 1993, the PLO "officially" renounced terrorism and violence and claimed to be a legitimate representative of the Palestinians and a partner for peace with the Israelis.

Lest anyone be mistaken in believing that the PLO's official renunciation of violence was worth more than the paper it was written on, the PLO commenced the Second Intifada in the year 2000, resulting in the deaths and injuries of thousands of Israelis. The PLO, all public statements aside, today remains very much a terrorist organization dedicated to violent attacks against Israelis and brutal repression against its own population. Just last month, the PLO imprisoned an atheist in the city of Qalqilya, simply because he wrote a blog supporting atheism. The Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, an armed paramilitary sub-faction of al-Fatah, itself an organization of the PLO, continues to attack Israeli citizens on a regular basis.

Thus, the Palestinian flag remains the flag of a terrorist organization, albeit a terrorist organization with more media savvy than its earlier incarnations.

So while numerous public places around the country (rightfully) ban the flying of the Confederate flag, and the courts have interpreted the Constitution as prohibiting most displays of the Ten Commandments, the raising in the nation's capital of a terrorist flag symbolizing the often murderous "struggle" of the Palestinians has now become acceptable.

The current administration has put much emphasis on the so-called "peace process" between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The president has declared that this peace process requires "patience," and his secretary of state has proclaimed that "there is no substitute for face-to-face discussion" between the Israelis and Palestinians. But despite these empty platitudes, the current administration has decided to charge full steam ahead, in lockstep with the Palestinians' new strategy of getting the world to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state in all of the disputed territories.

In the Middle East, symbols matter. The waving of the Palestinian flag in Washington, D.C. sends a loud and clear message to Israel and the world: The United States is now one very big step closer to recognizing a Palestinian state, with or without security for the State of Israel.

And the United States is willing to fly a terrorist flag in Washington to send this profound and unfortunate message.

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Mark Cantora

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Who is Suhail Khan?

by Paul Sperry

Suhail Khan, a Bush administration veteran, has presented himself as a moderate, pro-American voice in the Muslim Community. But new videos cast serious doubt on that image he’s carefully groomed for himself in Washington.

Shockingly, they show this current American Conservative Union board member consorting with radical Muslim Brotherhood leaders-turned-terrorists, while exalting the death culture of jihadists.

Relevance: This self-proclaimed staunch Republican has made inroads into the GOP leadership on the Hill, where he’s lobbied to:

* Block opposition to the Ground Zero mosque;

* Pooh-pooh the threats from Muslim Brotherhood infiltration and the Shariah legal code it seeks to institutionalize in America;

* Downplay the rising tide of homegrown terror and radicalization, which Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., plans to investigate next month during his important Homeland Security Commitee hearings on the subject.

More alarming, Mr. Khan has — unwittingly or not — helped the bad guys infiltrate the government, from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other.

Before 9/11, as White House gatekeeper to the Muslim community, he helped facilitate a White House meeting with Sami al-Arian, even though al-Arian had been under FBI investigation (al-Arian subsequently served time for terrorism and remains under house arrest for refusing to testify in a related terror case). As a Hill staffer in the mid-1990s, moreover, Mr. Khan convinced then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to reserve a room in the Capitol for Muslims to pray. Consequently, according to Fox News, a parade of extremists — including cleric Anwar Awlaki, who the U.S. government now hopes to assassinate for his terrorist work for al-Qaida — led prayers and spoke there.

Mr. Khan is now a spokesman for the Congressional Muslim Staff Association, working with a Muslim convert named Jihad Saleh Williams (of all the Arabic names he could have picked, he chose Jihad). Mr. Khan spends a lot of time on the Hill. He’s briefed GOP leadership staff on various issues and has now cozied up to some of House Speaker John Boehner’s people. He’s even gained the trust of key staffers running the Republican Study Committee, the caucus for conservatives in the House.

None of them knew of his radical ties. Some told me they weren’t even aware he’s Muslim.

Now that the jig is up, Mr. Khan has gone into damage control mode. Last week, in a six-page letter to fellow ACU board members, including chairman David Keene, he tried to explain away the damning videos — which, among other things, show him receiving an award from the notorious Abdurahman Alamoudi, now behind bars as one of al-Qaida’s top fundraisers in America. He claims he had no choice but to speak to Alamoudi’s group, that the Bush White House sent him, blah, blah.

But nobody at the White House forced him to speak in 1999 to the radical Islamic Society of North America, where he sounded at one point much like a jihadist, praising the “mujihadeen” who martyr themselves “for the cause of Islam,” and braying about how “the early Muslims loved death more than the oppressors loved life.” He invoked all the major hotspots of the jihadi circuit at the time: “Bosnia” … “Kashmir” … “Palestine” … “Iraq.” All the while, the video captures Mr. Khan wiping tears of anger from his cheeks. Here is a transcript from that section of his speech to ISNA:

“We are charged by almighty Allah to protect our fellow brothers and sisters and we know of many, so many, here in America and across the globe who are in dire need of protection … A Muslim is a brother to a Muslim. Neither he harms him nor does he hand him to another for harm. … Here in the United States, Muslims are often faced with discrimination, harassment and outright hatred. Mosques are burned. Islamic centers are vandalized, desecrated. Mosques and Islamic centers and schools face constant discriminatory zoning decisions. Muslim families are harassed and hindered from travel from at airports as they are profiled as quote unquote terrorists or security risks. … Our freedoms, my dear brothers and sisters, are under attack. Our freedom to associate with whomsoever we choose, to speak out politically and religiously, to travel, to practice our faith as Allah has instructed us as God-fearing men and women must be protected. And these rights must be defended with all the determination, all the resources, all the unyielding vigilance of the believing mujahid. … This is the mark of the Muslim. The earliest defenders of Islam would defend their more numerous and better equipped oppressors, because the early Muslims loved death, dying for the sake of almighty Allah, more than the oppressors of Muslims loved life. This must be the case where we– when we are fighting life’s other battles. … [W]hat are our oppressors going to do with people like us? We’re prepared to give our lives for the cause of Islam.”

This is the kind of violent rhetoric you’d expect to hear from Osama bin Laden or Awlaki, not any “moderate” Muslim.

In that same 1999 speech, Mr. Khan also expressed disturbing hostility toward federal law enforcement and sympathy for terrorist suspects. At the time he was working for a congressman from a heavily Muslim district in Northern California to eliminate the Justice Department’s use of so-called “secret evidence” to deport Arab immigrants suspected of terrorism. Why would a supposedly rock-ribbed conservative undermine law enforcement’s efforts to fight terrorism?

What’s striking is that even now, with Alamoudi behind bars, Mr. Khan cannot bring himself to call his old patron the al-Qaida terrorist that he is. In his letter of defense to the ACU board, he refers to him as “Mr. Alamoudi” and “gentleman,” but never as terrorist. And “gentleman” is the term he used to describe Osama bin Laden’s deputy on the Fred Grandy radio show recently. Why would he show such deference to a monster responsible for slaughtering nearly 3,000 fellow Americans?

And, again, why would a Republican glorify the death culture of jihadists? Why would a “loyal American,” as he calls himself, accept an award from a known Islamic extremist such as Alamoudi who had talked about “destroying America”?

These are questions members of the Republican establishment who have promoted Mr. Khan to positions of power ought to start asking.

There are other concerns, as well.

Mr. Khan is the first-born son of Mahboob Khan, one of the founding fathers of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in America, which according to its secret founding archives (seized by the FBI in 2004) is in America to “sabotage” it and “destroy” it “from within.”

There is no evidence tying Mahboob Khan directly to the drafting of the archives. However, the same trove of Brotherhood papers lists a mosque he founded — Santa Clara, Calif.- based MCA — as one of “our organizations.”

The “San Francisco Chronicle” has reported that at least twice in the 1990s, his father’s mosque hosted Ayman al-Zawahiri, now AQ’s No. 2, and helped raise money for him — all while Mr. Khan’s father was running the mosque as chairman of the board (as confirmed by the “San Jose Mercury News”). After the “Chronicle” and other major newspapers reported the Zawahiri fundraisers in 2001, Mr. Khan relocated from the White House to the Transportation Department.

Mr. Khan claims the reporting is false, but it’s based on the court testimony of past members of the mosque, and the “Chronicle” has never issued a retraction. Mr. Khan insists his late father was just a “Silicon Valley executive,” “a high-tech engineer in the Bay Area.” But his immigrant father’s work in America involved far more than that, as this video makes clear.

Also in the early 1990s, a leader in his father’s mosque hosted the Blind Sheik (of World Trade Center bombing fame) at his Santa Clara apartment, as I first reported in “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” which exposes the radical Muslim Brotherhood and its American front groups. For some strange reason, two of the most dangerous terrorists on the planet made mecca to, of all places, Santa Clara, Calif., back then. That same mosque leader, Omar Ahmad, whom the “Chronicle” has also described as a “spokesman” for the mosque, also happens to be founding chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He’s now an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-financing case in U.S. history — U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation. Ahmad has told Muslims in the Bay Area that the Quran should replace the Constitution as the “highest authority in America.” He’s also praised suicide bombers who “kill themselves for Islam.”

Mr. Khan’s mother works for CAIR, and is listed alongside Ahmad as a member of the executive committee of CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter. Malika Khan’s chapter last week put up a poster on its website advising Muslims: “Don’t talk to the FBI,” and “build a wall of resistance” against law enforcement.

But that’s not all. According to the “Contra Costa Times” and other local press, Mr. Khan’s family mosque has hosted several Taliban supporters, while raising money — unwittingly or not — for Hamas through its U.S. charitable front, the Holy Land Foundation. The mosque happens to be held in trust by another unindicted Holy Land co-conspirator — the North American Islamic Trust. The government recently blacklisted Saudi-funded NAIT as part of the Hamas fundraising conspiracy. It also happens to be the banker to the Muslim Brotherhood network in America.

But it’s not just the mosque that’s a concern. Mr. Khan’s father also founded the Santa Clara-based American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice, whose chairman defended the Taliban even after 9/11, according to the Associated Press. So what “peace” and what “justice” are we talking about here?

Despite these troubling family ties, Mr. Khan has vowed to carry on his “dear father’s shining legacy,” as he calls it. Before his conviction on terror charges, top Muslim Brotherhood leader Alamoudi said he hoped to see this “son of a dear, dear Brother” in the White House one day as “vice president … Allah Akbar!”

That should give everyone in Washington pause.

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Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “Infiltration” and “Muslim Mafia.”

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Hosting Illegal Aliens From a Terrorist Haven

by Arnold Ahlert

Demonstrating, once again, that the Left has no regard for the safety and security of the American people, House Democrats led by Rep. Al Green (D-TX) have reintroduced a bill that will effectively give carte blanche to Pakistanis illegally residing in the country. The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) bill is targeted toward Pakistanis allegedly affected by the floods which ravaged that country in July of 2010. However, it allows people who do not legally qualify as refugees to remain in the United States for a period of twelve months providing they are Pakistani nationals “who ha(ve) been continuously physically present in the United States since July 22, 2010″ — regardless of their immigration status. Pakistan’s notoriety as an exporter of terrorism makes the TPS bill an exceedingly reckless measure. With it, illegal aliens from a terrorist haven will be given protected status to roam free within our borders and will have the ability to travel to and from their home country.

There is no question that Pakistan was devastated by flooding last July. According to the United Nations, “20,000,000 people, one-eighth of the population, and nearly 62,000 square miles, one-fifth of the country, have been significantly affected by destruction of property, livelihood, and infrastructure.” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, perceived by many Pakistanis as more powerful than President Asif Ali Zardari, characterized the flooding as the “the worst natural calamity of (Pakistan’s) history.” ”As human misery continues to mount, we are seriously concerned with spread of epidemic diseases,” he said at the time.

For many Pakistanis, however, the response by the government to the crisis was unconscionably slow. President Zardari, whose support among his countrymen had already been flagging prior to the crisis (only one in five Pakstanis had a favorable view of him according to the Pew Research Center), refused to cancel a trip to France and Britain during the flooding, and returned to a country in which other entities had filled the leadership vacuum.

One of the entities filling the leadership vacuum was Pakistan’s military. Prior to the emergence of a democratic government in 2008, Pakistan had been under military control for nine years. Since gaining its independence from India in 1947, the country has been ruled by military governments for more than half of its 63 years. When 60,000 troops took part in responding to the floods, the perception that the military was the “real power” in the country once again gained traction. Such perceptions are detrimental to the efforts of the Obama administration, which has long been seeking to promote the idea of civilian government in a country long dominated by military rule.

Even more detrimental to both the Pakistani government as a well as our own, was the response to the disaster by militant Islamic factions. Groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) were extremely active in providing relief, setting up supply camps, taking donations to help the affected, and maintaining a presence in many areas beyond the reach of the government. Their ability to do what the government could not did not garnered sympathy from the public, much of which is convinced that Pakistan’s ruling class consists of politicians who only care about themselves.

Unfortunately, Rep. Green’s TPS bill is a problematic solution at best. Despite its claim that “(G)ranting temporary protected status to nationals of Pakistan is consistent with the interests of the United States and promotes the values and morals that have made the United States strong,” it is inarguable that Pakistan has been a training center for Islamic terrorists determined to wreak havoc in the West. Ramzi Yousef, who orchestrated the first attack at the World Trade Center in 1993 which killed six people and injured more than a 1,000, trained in Pakistan. So did would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid, along with several of the terrorists who killed 52 people in the London subway attack of 2005. Most recently, Faisal Shahzad who was convicted and given a life sentence for attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010, admitted he had received his training in that country as well.

Yet the most searing reminder of Pakistan-originated terror was the devastation wreaked by the 2008 attack in Mumbai by terrorists who killed 166 and wounded over 300 people. Two U.S. lawsuits filed in November 2010 contend that not only were the ten terrorists who precipitated the carnage trained in Pakistan, but that the government’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its director general, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, had participated in the training. Pakistan denies the charges and has indicated that it will not allow Pasha to testify in court.

This is not the first time (nor likely the last) that the ISI has been accused of abetting the very same terrorists that the Pakistani government is officially committed to eradicating. Once again, the seemingly ubiquitous WikiLeaks documents suggested that the Pakistani government is allowing their spy agency, as reported by the NY Times, “to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.” Though such meetings have not been confirmed, American officials contend that such reports are “broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.” In other words, despite all the diplo-speak emanating from the Obama administration, epitomized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s reference to the Pakistani-U.S. relationship as one of “partners joined in common cause”–along with the billions of dollars in aid we have provided to the civilian government–the idea that Pakistan is a staunch ally of the United States is an extremely dubious one at best.

Which brings us to the most questionable aspect of the TPS legislation, Section 4, paragraph (c):

“Consent To Travel Abroad–The Secretary of Homeland Security shall give the prior consent to travel abroad…to an alien who is granted temporary protected status pursuant to the designation made under this section, if the alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Secretary of Homeland Security that emergency and extenuating circumstances beyond the control of the alien require the alien to depart for a brief, temporary trip abroad. An alien returning to the United States in accordance with such an authorization shall be treated the same as any other returning alien provided temporary protected status under section 244 of such Act.”

Translation: Pakistanis, including those here illegally due to their “protected status,” can travel back and forth to Pakistan, as long as they “satisfy” the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of “extenuating circumstances” or an “emergency.” That would be the same DHS which has routinely tortured definitions, such as the war on terror (an “overseas contingency operation), suicide bombers (“man-caused disasters”), and Islamic radicals (unnamed “insurgents”). The same DHS whose leader, the clueless Janet Napolitano, claimed “the system worked” when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a Christmas Eve jetliner in 2009 was foiled by a fellow passenger. The same DHS which would have been forced to reconcile more carnage in Times Square–caused by a terrorist who went to Pakistan for training–once again foiled by an ordinary citizen without an iota of government help. The same DHS that is fully aware that training camps run by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT, Army of the Pure) the Pakistan-based jihadist group responsible for Mumbai, are still in business training future terrorists–in a country with a shaky civilian government possessing nuclear weapons.

Yet more importantly, Rep. Green’s bill is the fourth attempt to grant Pakistanis Temporary Protected Status. According to, two previous attempts were undertaken in 2005 and 2009. In December of 2010, a bill identical to Mr. Green’s, prepared by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Green, and eight other members of Congress, died in the lame-duck session. Assuming is accurate, the first two attempts to grant Pakistanis protected status occurred long before there were any floods in Pakistan, which undercuts the rationale Mr. Green, et al., are using to get this current incarnation enacted into law.

Thankfully, the three previous bills died when the 109th and 111th Congresses adjourned, and latest one has been tabled by the 112th. But one can only marvel at the mindset of politicians who, while rightly sympathetic to a humanitarian crisis, appear to be in utter denial of Pakistan’s major role in facilitating international terror. And their apparent faith in a Homeland Security Department to maintain faultless security with respect to Pakistani nationals traveling to Pakistan–and then back to the U.S.–borders on absurd. Self-preservation is presumably an instinct. Have we reached a point where political ideology trumps such an instinct in the minds of some of our elected officials?

Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website,
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Hariri Indictment Spikes Lebanese Tensions

by IPT News

The United Nations' Special Tribunal for Lebanon handed over its first sealed indictment to The Hague Monday. Although its contents remain sealed, the Jerusalem Post reports that Hizballah's reaction indicates that it and its Iranian sponsors may be held responsible for the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Hizballah is treating the indictment as a political act by America and Israel, and is threatening to throw the small but diverse Middle Eastern nation back into civil war.

The indictment "marks the launch of the judicial phase of the tribunal's work. For the first time, a legal case has been launched by an international tribunal against those responsible for a political assassination in Lebanon," said chief tribunal prosecutor Daniel A. Bellemore in a video statement. "This step has been taken at the request and on behalf of the People of Lebanon and in fulfillment of a mandate from the United Nations Security Council."

Justice has a cost for Lebanon, where the tensions are at a boiling point. Schools in Beirut , the capital, were temporarily closed and small gatherings occurred in Hizballah-dominated neighbors in the southern neighborhoods of the city. "The gatherings this morning may signal preparations to mobilize in relation to the indictments handed down," a security official said. The Lebanese army spread its forces across the battle lines of central Beirut in response.

The indictment, sent to a pre-trial judge, is only the first step of Bellemare's promise to "do everything that is humanly and legally possible to ensure that the truth emerges and that those responsible for the crimes … are brought to justice." Hizballah and Iran don't see the action the same way, and the Iranian proxy has taken several steps to paralyze the Lebanese government from taking action against it.

Eleven ministers linked to the Hizballah-directed March 8 Alliance resigned from the national coalition government last week and forced its collapse. Hizballah argued that a transitional authority didn't have the legal right to receive an indictment, and attempted to delegitimize an international indictment as "politicized" and "serving US and Israeli interests in Lebanon and the region."

"The Lebanese are already divided over the legal and structural aspects of the [tribunal], which the opposition regards as another political tool in US and Israeli hands to target the country and the resistance," said the terrorist group in an article on its news website, Al Manar. "The resignation of the government raises question marks on the fate of the international tribunal and the indictment which, if issued now, will find no official authority to receive it."

Iran's reply to the indictment was decidedly quieter, with nothing mentioned about its alleged role, but some veiled threats. Iran's state-run IRIB featured an editorial, calling the tribunal a U.S. effort to "target the country's grassroots groups for their opposition to Washington's interference and their firm resistance to Israeli designs." The article contained no comment on the possible involvement of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened the U.S. and Israel during a recent speech to supporters in the Iranian city of Yazd, but stopped short of calling for Iranian involvement in the indictment. "With these actions, you are damaging your reputation. Stop your interference," he said. "If you don't stop your sedition (in Lebanon), then the Lebanese nation and regional countries will cut your nasty, plotting hand."

Despite Iran's silence to the formal legal action, Khamenei had previously registered his total disregard for the tribunal. "This court is a kangaroo court and every verdict it issues is rejected," declared the Iranian Supreme Leader on December 20th. "We hope influential sides in Lebanon will act prudently, so the issue will not be turned into a problem."

And regardless of what the indictment holds, Hizballah's trump card comes from its powerful military apparatus.

In the last internal confrontation, a 2008 clash between the group and Lebanon's central government, Hizballah rapidly seized significant sections of the capital Beirut as well as half of country's territory. The battle was precipitated by the discovery of the government's discovery and effort to shut down a private communications network run by the terrorist organization, as well the attempt to remove Beirut airport's security chief, Wafic Shkeir, for spying on behalf of Hizballah.

Hizballah has leveled more than a veiled threat against Lebanese sovereignty. Al-Manar television cited a Hizballah source who "stressed that anything may happen after the indictment in the 2005 assassination case of former Premier Rafiq Hariri is announced."

Renewed violence also threatens the country's Arab Christians. Saudi Arabia pulled out of mediation efforts to resolve the political crisis in Lebanon, calling the circumstances "dangerous."

"If the situation reaches separation or partition of Lebanon, this means the end of Lebanon as a state that has this model of peaceful cohabitation between religions and ethnicities and different groups," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told Al Arabiya television. "It would be a loss for the whole Arab nation."

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IPT News

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Europe's Muslim Lobby

by Soeren Kern

Europeans often fantasize about America's so-called Jewish lobby, which they claim has a chokehold over American finance, media and politics and is responsible for all manner of conspiratorial evil. But few Europeans like to talk about the growing influence of Europe's Muslim lobby, a conglomeration of hundreds of Muslim political and religious organizations -- many of which are media-savvy mouthpieces for militant Islam that openly pursue anti-European, anti-Western and anti-Semitic agendas and often receive financial support from Islamic fundamentalist countries like Saudi Arabia.

In a Europe where Islam is the fastest-growing religion, and where the number of Muslims has tripled over the past 30 years, Europe's Muslim lobby is becoming increasingly assertive and skilled at pressuring European policy-makers into implementing countless pro-Islamic policies, especially ones that institutionalize Islamic Sharia law. Muslim lobby groups are, in fact, transforming European society in ways unimaginable only a few years ago; critics say their ultimate goal is nothing less than the Islamification of Europe.

Some of the most effective Muslim lobby groups are located in Britain, home to one of the largest Muslim communities in Europe, and include organizations such as the Muslim Council of Britain [MCB], Britain's largest Muslim umbrella body with around 500 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities and schools. It recently pressured the British government into adopting Islamic law and giving Sharia courts full powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The British government has quietly sanctioned the powers for Sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence. Whereas previously, the rulings of Sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims, rulings issued by a network of five Sharia courts are now enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Sharia courts with these powers have been set up in Birmingham, Bradford, London and Manchester and the network's headquarters are located in Nuneaton, Warwickshire; and two more courts are being planned for Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Overall, at least 85 Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in Britain, almost 20 times as many as previously believed. A study by the Civitas think tank found that scores of unofficial tribunals and councils regularly apply Islamic law to resolve domestic, marital and business disputes, many operating in mosques. The study warns of a "creeping" acceptance of Sharia principles in British law.)

Although the MCB, which represents half of the country's 3 million Muslims, presents itself as the moderate face of Islam in Britain, the group has its origins in the extreme orthodox politics of Pakistan. The MCB and some of its affiliates sympathize with, and have links to, conservative Islamist movements in the Muslim world, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood and Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami, a radical party committed to the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan ruled by Sharia law.

Far from promoting moderate Islam, the MCB's real objective, critics say, is to help Muslims in Britain become more radical in their beliefs.

Among other positions, the MCB believes death is the appropriate penalty for apostasy and homosexuality. The group recently endorsed a pro-Hamas declaration that calls for Jihad against Jews and Israel, and condones attacks on British troops. The MCB also regularly makes headlines for boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies in Britain; it is also campaigning for the establishment of an alternative Genocide Memorial Day that will "incorporate similar tragedies."

Another Muslim group, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee of the United Kingdom (MPACUK), has the outspoken aim of mobilizing Muslim voters to affect the outcome of British elections. During the general elections in 2010, MPACUK was pivotal in de-seating six members of parliament (MPs) who were perceived as being not sufficiently pro-Muslim.

During the 2005 general elections, MPACUK launched a smear campaign against Labour Party MP Lorna Fitzsimons. MPACUK distributed a leaflet claiming that Fitzsimons had done nothing to help the Palestinians because she was Jewish. Another leaflet said: "Lorna Fitzsimons is an ardent Zionist and a member of the most powerful anti-Muslim lobby in the world, the Israel lobby."

Fitzsimons is not in fact Jewish, and MPACUK later withdrew the leaflet. But MPACUK did succeed in unseating Fitzsimons; ever since then, many British MPs have been bending over backwards to appease Muslim voters.

MPACUK recently worked with Britain's Channel 4 television to produce a documentary titled "Operation Muslim Vote." With the aim of pressing for a larger participation of Muslims in British politics, the documentary tells the story of two MPACUK activists who head to northern England to take on the safe seats of several "pro-Zionist war mongering MPs."

MPACUK's website says its work is defined by the core principle of anti-Zionism: "MPACUK opposes the racist political ideology of Zionism and aims to counter the influence of the Zionist lobby. Openly available evidence demonstrates a Zionist agenda to dominate the Middle East and push a 'clash of civilisations' between Islam and 'The West'. We therefore believe that anti-Zionism is a strategic priority to counter the greatest and most urgent threat facing the Ummah [the Muslim Diaspora]."

Its website also says Muslims in Britain should be pro-actively engaged in mainstream media and politics as the most effective way to "reviving the fard (obligation) of Jihad."

Muslim lobby groups have also pressed the British government to enact the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which creates a new crime: intentionally stirring up religious hatred against people on religious grounds. Predictably, the new law has established new limits on free speech in a country where the politically correct elite routinely seek to silence public discussion about the escalating problem of Muslim immigration.

The growing power of Europe's Muslim lobby was most recently demonstrated by the European Union's decision in mid-December to quietly abandon a new measure that would have required halal (religiously approved for Muslims) meat products to carry a label to help non-Muslim consumers identify their origins. With the exponential growth of Europe's Muslim population, thousands of tons of religiously slaughtered halal meat is now entering the general food chain, where it is being unwittingly consumed by the non-Muslim population.

By bowing to Muslim pressure groups -- such as the World Halal Forum Europe and the Halal Monitoring Committee -- and dropping the halal labelling requirement, the EU is effectively establishing Sharia law as normative for Europe's meat industry. The halal controversy, in which Muslim lobby groups are seeking to impose the requirements of Islam, not just on their own people, but also on the rest of society, illustrates how the rise of Islam is influencing the daily lives of hundreds of millions of non-Muslim Europeans.

In France, which has the second-largest Muslim population on the continent after Germany, several Muslim lobby groups are vying to represent the country's estimated 4.1 million Muslims. The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) serves as the official interlocutor with the French state in the regulation of Muslim religious activities, and as such it is the de facto representative of all French Muslims before the national government. The other main Muslim lobby groups are the Rally for French Muslims (RMF),backed by Morocco, and the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Germany, home to Europe's largest Muslim population in absolute terms, the powerful Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), itself a branch of the Turkish government's religious affairs authority, has succeeded in persuading the city of Cologne to approve the construction of a new mega mosque. The futuristic mosque will hold up to 4,000 worshippers, and will have a large dome and two 55-meter (180 feet) minarets, each as tall as 18-story office towers. The 4,500-square-meter (48,000-square-foot) mosque, which has a price tag of €20 million ($26 million), is being financed by donations from more than 800 Muslim groups inside and outside Germany. Critics of the project say the mosque is a deliberate effort to spoil Cologne's skyline by taking attention away from the city's Gothic cathedral, a globally famous Christian landmark.

In recent months, Muslim lobby groups have also persuaded the German government to adapt Germany's secular education system so that it caters to Islamic preferences. The German Education Ministry has, for example, agreed to fund Islamic studies at several state universities to train Muslim prayer leaders and religion teachers. Germany's Education Minister, Annette Schavan, says: "We want as many imams as possible to be educated in Germany. Imams are bridge builders between their congregations and the communities in which their mosques stand." She states further that Germany would need 2,000 imams and teachers if all 16 states offered Islam courses.

Elsewhere in Germany, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Muslim lobby groups are working with the Culture Ministry to design Islam-friendly classes for public schools. The new guidelines recommend cancelling all school trips during the month of Ramadan; taking into account the sensitivities of Muslims when planning internships and school events; and assigning less schoolwork during Ramadan because fasting could lead to loss of performance and concentration among Muslim students.

In the German state of Lower Saxony, the German Muslim Central Council is urging the Education Ministry to include Islam in its schools' core curriculum as part of a politically correct initiative to counter growing anti-Islam sentiments in the country. In Berlin, the Ministry for Education, Science and Research recently published a guide called "Islam and School," which gives teachers practical advice on how to avoid offending Muslim students.

In Scandinavia, the Muslim Council of Sweden, an umbrella organization of Islamic groups in the country, is pressuring the Swedish government to implement special legislation for Muslims in Sweden. The demands include: the right to specific Islamic holidays; special public financing for the building of mosques; a demand that all divorces between Muslim couples be approved by an Imam; and that Imams should be allowed to teach Islam in public schools.

As Europe's Muslim population grows, Muslim lobby groups are also exerting significant influence on European policy in the Middle East, resulting in a notable hardening of official European attitudes toward Israel. Several European countries, for instance, eager to maintain good relations with local Muslim communities, are laying the political groundwork for the EU to recognize a Palestinian state, possibly as early as October 2011,even if negotiations for a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not concluded -- a total abrogation of the UN's signed Oslo accords.

In December 2009, the EU adopted a resolution that for the first time explicitly calls for Jerusalem to become the future capital of a Palestinian state. The move not only reflects the EU's efforts to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations, but in December 2010, an influential group of former EU leaders and officials published a letter urging the EU to implement sanctions against Israel.

Europe has also been "ground zero" for a series of anti-Israel lawsuits which exploit the legal principle of universal jurisdiction in order to harass current and former Israeli political and military leaders, with the twin aims of tying Israel's hands against Palestinian terror and delegitimizing the Jewish state. Such "lawfare" is often aided and abetted by Muslim lobby groups in Europe by means of financial and logistical support.

The steady demonization of Israel by European officialdom is also affecting the European street, where the line between valid criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is becoming dangerously blurred. A survey conducted by the University of Bielefeld, for example, shows that more than 50% of Germans equate Israel's policies toward the Palestinians with Nazi treatment of the Jews, and that 68% of Germans say that Israel is waging a "war of extermination" against the Palestinian people. In terms of Europe as a whole, an official EU poll shows that the majority of Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.

Another report commissioned by the EU's Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (now called the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights) found that Muslim immigrants are largely responsible for the sharp increase in anti-Semitic violence in Europe.

Predictably, Muslim lobby groups pressured the EU into preventing that report from being released to the general public.

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Soeren Kern

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Ending Al-Qaeda in North Africa

by Ahmed Charai

For the sake of international peace and security, the time is ripe to resolve a longstanding conflict over territory in North Africa that has become a major breeding ground for terrorists. The western Sahara, a 101,000 square mile strip held by Morocco, has been subject to guerrilla raids by a paramilitary organization known as the Polisario during a war that lasted 30 years and isn't entirely over. Backed by the junta that rules Algeria, Polisario militia police a network of refugee camps in the south Algerian desert where abject poverty and corruption cause thousands of deserters to leave each year. Many have joined Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a deadly organization that exploits the lawlessness of a no-man's land between the Arab Maghreb and the horn of Africa known as the Sahel.

To try and end this deadly cold war-style standoff, UN diplomats have been shuttling between Algeria, Morocco, and the Polisario camps for years, but without success. Cynics even suggest they are vested in the perpetuation of the conflict because they want to keep their jobs. In any event, there is a new and rare opportunity that won't last forever for a diplomatic solution, and it behooves the UN, the United States, the local players, and the international donor community to take advantage of it.

Morocco, for starters, wants to reach a compromise settlement because of the exorbitant toll the conflict has taken on its economy. The western Sahara offers few natural resources beyond a modest phosphate industry and some fishing grounds. Moroccans are tired of subsidizing the region. International donors, for their part, are weary of propping up the Polisario camps with endless funds: less money is available, and more demanding humanitarian disasters elsewhere are more compelling. So both sides face economic pressure to accept change.

Meanwhile, there's nothing like the threat of mega-terrorism to focus erstwhile enemies on a shared solution. Algeria and Morocco are acutely aware that they, even more than the Europeans and Americans, are targets for Al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates. Combating such groups has become an interest shared by the United States, the EU, and the Maghreb – bringing together Washington and revolutionary Algeria, for example, in a way that would have been unimaginable back when the Polisario was created. A corollary of the terrorist threat is that no one wants a new failed state in North Africa. The Polisario's fantasy of a desert dictatorship, coupled with its poor governance which inspires thousands to flee each year, discredit the organization's pretenses to become a state.

Finally, the Europeans and the Maghreb states are far more aware — and wary — today of the consequences of a failure to develop their economic potential. For the European side of the Mediterranean, a growing Maghreb economy and freer political institutions relieves immigration pressure. Similarly, all the Maghreb states need the benefit of trade to deal with a young and too often idle work force. Yet regional trade remains minuscule. The Algeria-Morocco border is closed pending resolution of the Sahara issue. That needs to change.

Viewed together, these factors bolster the case for Morocco's offer of autonomy for the western Sahara, which was placed on the table back in 2007 but ignored by Algeria and the Polisario ever since. The plan would give Saharans meaningful self-rule under Moroccan sovereignty. It's a valuable chip for Chris Ross, America's latest UN envoy to the region, to play – if the United States, EU, and international donors apply sufficient financial and political pressure on the parties to take it seriously. These global players have the option of withholding aid to the Polisario and forcing Algeria to pay for its militia an desert camps.

If negotiations fail, these causes for optimism will tumble like dominos as Morocco weighs imposing autonomy on the Sahara unilaterally, effectively giving up hopes for a negotiated settlement. This move would have the effect of hastening the outflow of deserters from the Polisario camps to Morocco, though many would continue to enter the no-man's land that is dominated by Al-Qaeda. Morocco's unilateral option would sponge up some refugees but by no means all of them – an answer to the problem of terrorism in the Sahara, but far from an ideal one.

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Ahmed Charai

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

IDF: Bil'in Protester Died of Medical Malpractice

by Yaakov Katz

Jawaher Abu Rahma, the woman who Palestinians claimed died in late December as a result of breathing IDF-fired tear gas during an anti-security barrier demonstration near Bil’in, died from the medical treatment she received at a Ramallah hospital, an IDF probe into the incident has concluded.

Abu Rahma, IDF sources said on Saturday, did not participate in the demonstration but was inside a house about 500 meters away. She was, however, evacuated to a hospital in Ramallah later in the day and treated for an ailment whose nature remained unclear.

“According to our findings, Abu Rahma died as a result of the medical treatment,” a source in the Central Command said Wednesday.

Medical documents obtained by the IDF show that Abu Rahma received unusually high doses of atropine, a medicine that is commonly used as an antidote to agents such as nerve gas. Israeli gas mask kits used to be distributed to the public with atropine shots inside.

According to the IDF’s findings, Abu Rahma died of complications from medical treatment that had not been connected to tear gas.

The IDF also uncovered documentation indicating that Abu Rahma may have been suffering from cancer and had been hospitalized several weeks before her death.

The IDF probe included an analysis of the demonstration and involved experts from the IDF Medical Corps who examined documents received from the Palestinians.

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Yaakov Katz

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Killings of Newborn Babies on the Rise in Pakistan

by Hasan Mansoor

In this photograph taken on December 6, 2010 a Pakistani volunteer gives the final bath to the corpse of a infant in a private charity's morgue in Karachi. In the conservative Muslim nation, where the birth of children outside of marriage is condemned and adultery is a crime punishable by death under strict interpretations of Islamic law, infanticide is a crime on the rise.

Photograph by: RIZWAN TABASSUM, AFP/Getty Images

KARACHI, Jan 18, 2011 - The lifeless bodies of two tiny babies are being given their final bath before burial in Karachi, after they were left to die in the southern Pakistani city's garbage dumps.

"They can only have been one or two days old," says volunteer worker Mohammad Saleem, pointing at the two small corpses being gently washed by his colleagues at a charity's morgue.

In the conservative Muslim nation, where the birth of children outside of marriage is condemned and adultery is a crime punishable by death under strict interpretations of Islamic law, infanticide is a crime on the rise.

More than 1,000 infants - most of them girls - were killed or abandoned to die in Pakistan last year according to conservative estimates by the Edhi Foundation, a charity working to reverse the grim trend.

The infanticide figures are collected only from Pakistan's main cities, leaving out huge swathes of the largely rural nation, and the charity says that in December alone it found 40 dead babies left in garbage dumps and sewers.

The number of dead infants found last year - 1,210 - was up from 890 in 2008 and 999 in 2009, says the Edhi Foundation manager in Karachi, Anwar Kazmi.

Tragic tales abound.

Kazmi recounts the discovery of the burnt body of a six-day-old infant who had been strangled. Another child was found on the steps of a mosque having been stoned to death on the orders of an extremist imam who has since disappeared, he says.

"Do not murder, lay them here," reads a sign hanging outside the charity's Karachi base where it has left cradles in the hope that parents will abandon their unwanted children there, instead of leaving them to die.

"People leave these children mostly because they think they are illegitimate, but they are as innocent and loveable as all human beings," says the charity's founder, well-known humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Most children found are less than a week old.

Khair Mohammad, 65, works as a watchman in the charity's vast graveyard in the city outskirts. It is dotted with tiny unnamed graves.

"We acquired this land to bury children after another plot was filled with hundreds of bodies," he says.

The death toll is far worse among girls, says manager Kazmi, with nine out of ten dead babies the charity finds being female.

"The number of infanticides of girls has substantially increased," Kazmi says, a rise attributed to increased poverty across the country.

Girls are seen by many Pakistanis as a greater economic burden as most women are not permitted to work and are considered to be the financial responsibilty of their fathers, and later their husbands.

A Pakistani family can be forced to raise more than one million rupees (11,700 dollars) to marry their daughter off.

Edhi says that up to 200 babies are left in its 400 cradles nationwide each year and that it handles thousands of requests for adoption by childless couples.

Abortion is prohibited in Pakistan, except when the mother's life is at risk from her pregnancy, but advocates say that legalisation would reduce infanticide and save mothers from potentially fatal back-street terminations.

According to Pakistani law, anyone found to have abandoned an infant can be jailed for seven years, while anyone guilty of secretly burying a child can be imprisoned for two years. Murder is punishable with life imprisonment.

But crimes of infanticide are rarely prosecuted.

"The majority of police stations do not register cases of infanticide, let alone launch investigations into them," said lawyer Abdul Rasheed.

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Hasan Mansoor, AFP

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The Man Who Stopped the Freeze

by Ilene Prusher

On a clear day, Dani Dayan can look out the bedroom window of his two-story home and see the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv, just 20 miles away. But as we sit in his open and airy modern living room on a chilly winter day, with a eucalyptus tree swaying in the breeze and an ancient-looking wine press in the sprawling green yard, Tel Aviv seems a world away. The neighborhood’s serenity belies the fact that Dayan’s home is in the settlement of Maale Shomron in the northern West Bank, far beyond the separation barrier and deep in territory that may very well someday be part of a Palestinian state.

At a time when settlements are perceived as a major obstacle to a two-state solution by much of the world—and by many Israelis eager to resolve the long-standing conflict—Dayan insists that Israelis will rue the day, if it ever comes, when his home and community are not part of the Jewish State. “It’s either me and my family or a belligerent Palestinian state,” says Dayan, a clean-shaven, bareheaded secular Israeli who speaks in an accented English that reveals his roots in Argentina, where he lived until he was 15. A two-state solution, he continues, “wouldn’t improve the situation for a single Israeli or Palestinian.”

As the very public face of the Yesha Council, what Dayan thinks matters. Yesha, an umbrella organization of muni-cipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and formerly the Gaza Strip, is one of Israel’s most influential lobbies. Known by the acronym for Yehuda, Shomron and Aza, the Hebrew equivalents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it is made up of 15 elected settlement municipal leaders and ten community leaders. Its mandate is to assist Jewish settlements in every possible way, working, for example, to acquire bullet-proof ambulances and buses, and pushing the Israeli government to provide roads, electricity and water to the settlements.

The Council serves as the political arm of the estimated 300,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements and wields power far beyond what its relatively small numbers would suggest: The group was instrumental in exacting a public promise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the ten-month settlement building freeze that expired in September would not be renewed, in defiance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to restart Middle East peace talks. So far the Yesha Council been successful in preventing the freeze from being reinstated, which is likely to remain the case now that Obama’s foreign policy hand has been weakened by the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Israeli government even turned down America’s hefty December offer of 20 F-35 jets, worth $3 billion, in exchange for reinstating the freeze.

How did the Council stave off a seemingly good opportunity toward what many believe is the only path to peace? Not by amassing messianic-looking armed men wearing sandals and kippas—the dominant image of the Yesha Council in the past and the most persistent picture of the Jewish settler movement in the eyes of the world—but with a high-pressure campaign that included thousands of pre-recorded, computerized phone calls targeting members of the Knesset, central figures in Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and other political movers and shakers.

This new approach is the influence of Dayan, a former IDF major and secular high-tech tycoon who sold his software company in 2004 and threw himself full time into settlement politics. Since becoming chair in 2007, he has worked to transform the council into a Washington-style lobby armed with the latest marketing tools. “We carefully timed a surgical campaign,” says Dayan of the Council’s efforts to prevent the freeze extension. “It was very effective and quite unprecedented. I know for sure that it influenced the prime minister. We showed that we still have political leverage and capabilities.”

Coupled with the phone campaign—albeit to a government that is sympathetic to its cause—is a public relations effort targeted at everyday secular Israelis, most of whom live on the other side of the Green Line and have few ties, personal or otherwise, to the settlements or historic sites such as the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. More importantly, they have come to accept the inevitability of a two-state solution. “I wouldn’t call it PR,” Dayan says hesitantly. “It’s more like hasbara,” the Hebrew word that has come to mean public diplomacy. “We’ve shifted our focus,” he says. “We’re working to negate stereotypes. The Yesha Council was traditionally involved in promoting the interests of our communities, but we neglected the educational component of our task and failed to reach the Israeli public. The Israeli public needs to understand the historical link we have to the territories.”

To convince Israelis that holding on to the West Bank is in their interest, Dayan recently hired a new director-general for Yesha, Naftali Bennett, another high-tech veteran with a law degree who served as then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff from 2006 to 2008. It is notable that he does not live in the West Bank, but in the rather bourgeois Tel Aviv suburb of Ra’anana. “Our main challenge in the next couple of years is to move public opinion,” says Dayan of his selection, which was approved by Yesha’s executive committee amid some controversy. “And in that, Naftali knows the client best.”

Bennett, who refers to the settlements as “suburbs of Tel Aviv, and beautiful ones, at that,” has polished and near-perfect English—thanks in part to his American parents and five years spent working in New York. In an effort to give influential figures a first-hand view of a West Bank that is decidedly different from the one they see on the nightly news, the Council treats Israeli celebrities to tours of the settlements, complete with wine and organic cheese tastings. The organization’s Hebrew website has a section on local cafes, restaurants and vineyards to attract Israeli tourists to a part of the country they’ve never cared to explore. “They come to Yesha and see the peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs,” says Bennett. “They see the vast amount of land available for Jews and Arabs. And they can only see all of this from being there—not from talking about it.”

Dayan and Bennett have also spearheaded a social media campaign to bring attention to Yesha. In August, Yesha co-sponsored a Wikipedia-editing course to help incorporate the settler narrative into entries on the popular online encyclopedia and further polish their image abroad. Together, an estimated 100 volunteers learned how to edit entries about Jewish claims to the West Bank, as well as contentious terms like “occupation.” “We have to battle Islamic groups that try to hurt Israel through the Internet,” says Bennett. To that end, the Yesha Council also established Yisrael Sheli [My Israel] earlier this year, a pro-settlement Facebook group with more than 15,000 members, which Bennett says is the largest Israeli online group to focus on national issues. “If you compare us to Peace Now, we are double their size,” he says of Yisrael Sheli.

But Dayan has an even more Herculean task to contend with than persuading Israelis that the settlements are vital. It has fallen on him—a man who prefers his iPhone to a gun––to hold the fractured settler movement together after what was a political and moral catastrophe for Yesha: its inability to prevent Ariel Sharon from uprooting 8,000 settlers in the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. In the settlers’ lexicon, this is referred to as girush—an expulsion—meriting the same term as Spain’s expulsion of the Jews in 1492. The Council’s traditional support base is rife with internal political divisions and includes extremists who believe violence is more effective than lobbying and public relations. Gershom Gorenberg, a longtime observer of the settlement movement and author of The Accidental Empire, observes 30 years after Yesha’s founding: “Dayan has chosen to sit on top of this volcano.”

In the spring of 1968, a rabbi named Moshe Levinger requested permission from the Israeli government to spend the week of Passover with 40 or so of his followers in Hebron, newly acquired by Israel through its victory in the 1967 War with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The group rented rooms in the Park Hotel, held their Seder and then stayed; Levinger sent a note to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s Labor-led government announcing that approximately 30 families would be settling the “lands of their forefathers.” Caught off guard, the Israeli government moved the “settlers” to the Hebron military base for protection and eventually granted them permission to create a Jewish neighborhood on the outskirts of Hebron, in a move that then-Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan labeled “blackmail.” Called Kiryat Arba, another name for Hebron in the Bible, Israel’s first government-sanctioned West Bank settlement was born.

Levinger’s move led to the 1974 creation of Gush Emunim or “Bloc of the Faithful,” a movement founded by students of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Kook and Gush Emunim’s other leaders believed that territory won in the Six-Day War had been brought into Israel’s hands for a purpose: to settle the bibilical homeland with Jews returning from the Diaspora, which would, in turn, hasten the coming of the Messiah.

That some of these territories—such as the West Bank and Gaza—were inhabited by more than a million Palestinians was viewed by Gush Emunim as a temporary, even irrelevant, state of affairs: The local Arabs would leave, be absorbed, or be outnumbered, much as they had been prior to 1948. Regardless, withdrawing from the territory was unconscionable, and settling it was declared a national duty, Israel’s own Manifest Destiny.

In 1980, Yesha was established as the practical arm of the settler movement, which was closely identified with the dati leumi [religious Zionism] movement—an Israeli hybrid of modern Orthodoxy with right-wing Zionism. Yesha—which redefined Gush Emunim’s goals in secular, political language—aimed to reposition the movement as one guided by hawkish realism rather than religious duty. Yesha attracted secular as well as religious Israelis, although most of its leaders have been religious.

Its founding coincided with the first right-wing government in Israel’s history. Between 1977 and 1983, Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s administration considered settlement expansion a kind of raison d’ĂȘtre. According to one U.N. report, Begin pledged in 1981 “that as long as I serve the nation as prime minister, we shall not abandon any area in the territories of Judea, Samaria, the Gaza District and the Golan Heights.” Indeed, his support was not just lip service; funds flowed to establish new settlements and existing ones were expanded.

In 1984, the new National Unity government led by the Labor Party’s Shimon Peres reversed course, announcing a freeze on all new settlement activity. Nevertheless, expansion continued unabated: By the end of 1985, the settler population in the West Bank and Gaza stood at 42,000, a 100 percent increase from just two years earlier. Growth continued, even under the administrations of subsequent Labor-led governments, in large part because Israeli leaders are forced to make deals with parties supporting the settlers in order to forge coalitions.

Yesha led the anti-Oslo Accords fervor that many believe set the stage for the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a right-wing religious Zionist. In 1996, the Council threw its significant political weight behind Benjamin Netanyahu, whom it considered a staunch supporter, for prime minister. Following his victory, the group openly identified a four-year goal of 50 to 70 percent growth in the settlement population, but Netanyahu, at least publicly, proved to be a less-than-reliable ally. Only months after his election, in the aftermath of Palestinian riots over a new archaeological tunnel under the Temple Mount, Netanyahu met with Yasser Arafat in Washington to express his commitment to the Oslo peace process and froze settlement construction. Two years later, at a summit at the Wye Plantation in Maryland, Netanyahu handed control of 13 percent of West Bank territory over to the Palestinian Authority in an agreement the Yesha Council called “treason” before back-pedaling to the milder “surrender.”

Ariel Sharon, a long-time settler ally, became prime minister in 2001. He regularly met with the Council to discuss its security concerns, praising the settlers “who bravely face Palestinian terrorism on a daily basis.” But in 2003, when Sharon announced that Israel would unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and four West Bank settlements, his friendship with the Yesha Council came to an abrupt end.

Shaken by Sharon’s betrayal, young settlers took to the streets and threatened to close off Israel’s major highways, which would have effectively brought the country to a standstill. Yesha leaders, however, eschewed illegal and violent methods, and also condemned rabbis who called on soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate the Gaza settlements, leaving many settlers frustrated. “There was a feeling among some settlers that if the Yesha council supported calls for conscientious objection, they could have created an uprising that would have prevented the disengagement,” says Chaim Levinson, a reporter who covers settlements for Haaretz.

Why did the council choose a more moderate path, paving the way for a mild-mannered man such as Dayan to become chairman? Its leaders were loath to see the State of Israel, which they had fought so hard to be a part of, slide into civil war. But their moderation came at a price and began the slow—and some say inevitable—process of alienation between the council and the movement’s more zealous ranks. “People began to feel that the Yesha council no longer represented them,” says Levinson. “They saw them as part of the system.”

Dayan was voted chairman in the aftermath of the disengagement when the Council, reeling from its defeat, was in shambles.
He had been devoted to the cause since the 1970s, first as an activist in Tehiya, an ultra-nationalist party founded in 1979 in reaction to the Camp David Accords. It was there he met his wife, Einat—today she is in charge of public relations for the Ariel University Center of Samaria—and early on they made their politics as a couple clear. When they married, they set up their chuppah on the ramp leading to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount—“with more policemen than guests,” quips Dayan. “Yes, it was a statement. We are both political creatures. I think marriage should reflect our beliefs.” His brother, Aryeh Dayan, a prominent left-leaning Israeli journalist, did not come to the ceremony and has never been to Dayan’s home in Maale Shomron.

Although Dayan describes himself as essentially “an urban guy,” he and Einat preferred the hilltops of Judea and Samaria—the biblical terms for the West Bank—to the hip neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. Although many Israelis buy homes in settlements for a higher quality of life and lower cost of living made possible by financial incentives, the Dayans’ decision was an ideological one. “There are more important things in life than being near good restaurants and the opera house,” says Dayan. “We thought that the best thing for the State of Israel and its security is being here. So we decided to move to Samaria.”

They chose Maale Shomron, founded in 1980 and now home to about 150 families, in part for its mix of religious and non-religious Jews. “Our way of life is almost completely secular,” he says, “but we didn’t want to live in a secular ghetto.”

But it is, in other ways, quite isolated. For years, residents of Maale Shomron had to drive through the Arab city of Qalqilya as well as several Palestinian villages. The bypass road—which was built in the mid-to-late 1990s and passes the Arab village of Azoun—has for several years had the third-highest rate of stone-throwing incidents in the West Bank, Dayan says. But there was never a time—even during the height of the second Intifada—when he wouldn’t go out on the roads. He refused to get his car outfitted with bulletproof glass on principle, he says, so as not to give in to fear. But like most kids in settlements, his 17-year-old daughter, Ofir, who has two years left of high school, takes a bulletproof bus to school. Dayan calls this “an infringement on human rights” as much as anything Palestinians endure.

Dayan, who serves as chairman without pay, is passionate about why he devotes his time and energy to the settlement cause. A Palestinian state, he says, would be a “launching pad for attacks on Israel” and would essentially spell the end of normal life in the Jewish state. Dayan believes that the territories are crucial to Jewish identity, religious or not. As he puts it, “King David never walked in Tel Aviv, but he did reign in Hebron.”

Dayan has been praised for his leadership of Yesha. “He is leading Yesha to become again a major factor in the Israeli political scene,” says one colleague, “and it hasn’t been easy.” Adds Chaim Levinson: “Dayan is very popular and people are satisfied with his leadership.”

That said, some settlers are vocal about their concerns. “After the terrible failures in the disengagement, our expectations of Yesha are very low,” says Boaz Haetzni, who lives in Kiryat Arba, the original settlement on the outskirts of Hebron. “Yesha will not be able to lead another popular campaign like Kfar Maimon,” where masses of people came out, night after night, to demonstrations against the disengagement plan in 2005, Haetzni says. “If Yesha calls now, people will not answer. Yesha can concentrate on lobbying and getting their message across and building settlements, because this they know how to do. Lots of groups are working without the Yesha Council, and avoiding it entirely. Everybody has his own agenda.”

Indeed, a growing number of radical settler factions have effectively split off from the settler mainstream in the wake of the disengagement and are no longer taking marching orders from the Yesha leadership. These are the fringe groups that create shocking headlines when, for example, they go out on rampages, burning down a mosque or cutting down Palestinian olive trees—incidents that are on the rise, according to B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. It doesn’t much matter that Dayan himself says this behavior is “terrible and flawed morally.” The “price tag” policy, so dubbed by settlers who have vowed to exact a price from Palestinians (by attacking them or destroying their property) every time Israeli soldiers attempt to dismantle so much as an illegal settlement outpost, has continued unchecked.

Although Dayan and the settlement leadership have not condemned such behavior, they have distanced themselves from it, further alienating the splinter groups. “I think the reaction of Yesha to the settlement freeze is too weak and inappropriately calm,” says Haetzni, 53, who moved to Kiryat Arba in 1973 with his parents; his father, Elyakim Haetzni, was a major activist in the post-1967 settlement movement and served in the Knesset. “We don’t like extremism, but when the situation is extreme, a moderate response is madness.”

The younger Haetzni is one of the leaders of a settler group called Homesh First, which has been sending young activists to Homesh, one of four small West Bank settlements that were evacuated along with all of those in Gaza in 2005. Some young settlers have succeeded in returning, living in caves and wooden shacks. During the day there is a small yeshiva functioning there, Haetzni says. The army has tried to remove them, but has more or less relented.

Another sharp Yesha critic is Daniella Weiss, the mayor of the Kedumim settlement. Although it’s not far from Maale Shomron as the crow flies, it is quite a distance, ideologically speaking. Weiss, a firebrand figure in the settlement movement for decades, has a renewed following among young people disenchanted with the establishment—and delighted with the thought of taking over an uninhabited hilltop just as Zionists did in the 1930s. They call themselves Neemanei Eretz Yisrael—those loyal to the Land of Israel. Their handiwork may look to the rest of the world like a naked land grab—the settlement watch project of Peace Now has documented the existence of nearly 100 outposts outside of the 121 recognized settlements in the West Bank, some bearing no more of an official name than “Hilltop 836”—but many settlers see Weiss’s foot soldiers, who sometimes live without basic amenities such as running water, as a rare example of Israel’s waning pioneer spirit.

“The only thing that matters now and that is worth talking about is building new outposts,” Weiss says. “The most important thing today is to initiate new outposts all over Judea and Samaria.” She, too, says Yesha has become irrelevant. “The Yesha Council lost their right to be the head of the communities of Judea and Samaria after the destruction of the Gaza settlements. They haven’t regained their credibility, and I don’t think they ever will.”

The willingness of Weiss and others to flaunt the law is a symptom of a larger problem. “The settler ideology is fractured now,” says Gershom Gorenberg. “There’s a dissonance, and either you pretend it isn’t there, or you decide which side of it you’re on. For people on one side, any means are kosher,” he says, adding, “Dayan is a leader who doesn’t know if he should disavow the radicals or not, because he needs their support.”

Can Dayan keep the increasingly powerful tide of a two-state solution at bay? After all, the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration and even Netanyahu, according to the historic speech he gave at Bar-Ilan University in June 2009, believe in the inevitability of a two-state solution.

As he sits in his living room, with a modern painting mounted on the wall behind him, Dayan insists that a peace agreement that requires some form of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is inconceivable. “I refuse to answer the question of how such a withdrawal will be received by our public,” he says. “I put 200 percent of my thoughts into how to prevent such a withdrawal.”
Instead of pursuing conflict resolution, he says, “Israel should opt for conflict management.” By that, he means improving conditions for Palestinians and encouraging economic growth. The Palestinian refugee camps, he says, need to be rehabilitated so that “fourth-generation Palestinians aren’t kept in squalor as a bargaining chip.” Stability will also draw business to the area, so that an Israeli taxi driver from Tel Aviv can bring his car to a mechanic in Ramallah, he says.

Dayan’s vision includes economic integration but not Palestinian statehood. “The ones to blame for that are the Palestinians themselves, so my conscience is clear,” he says. “We are on solid moral ground. We took control of those areas in a defensive war intended to annihilate Israel.”

The raw demographic figures that worry so many other Israelis—that by 2020 Arabs will outnumber Jews from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—don’t interest Dayan. “This conflict does not have a solution in real numbers,” Dayan says. “If security prevails, we can achieve economic prosperity and human rights. We need security and it must be in Israeli hands.”

To hear Dayan speak, it sounds like a zero-sum game, but some observers believe that Yesha is relying on the tried and true strategy of “facts on the ground,” should Israel give up most of the West Bank in a final status agreement: The highly populated settlements, which are costly and difficult to dismantle, are more likely to be kept. Already the effects of this strategy have been profound. Vast areas beyond the Green Line have become part of the consensus position on what land Israel will keep and what land will be returned. In December, The New York Times reported “a settlement-building boom” that had produced 2,000 new housing units in the three months since the freeze was lifted, with 3,000 more units “in the pipeline,” largely in territory outside the “consensus” settlements.

From Dayan’s point-of-view, anything remains possible: Settlers will return to Gaza someday, which is why Yesha continues to keep the ayin in its name representing Aza—Gaza. And he wants his daughter Ofir to be among the “hilltop youth,” as they’re known, but still be a woman of the world. “I would like her to establish an outpost on a very distant hilltop in Judea and Samaria, but I would also like her to know the road to the cultural centers of Israel well, and to be able to enjoy a trip to London or Paris,” Dayan says. “You don’t have to choose between Hebron and Tel Aviv. You can have both.”

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Ilene Prusher

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