Thursday, June 21, 2007


Nine Kassam rockets landed in Sderot and the surrounding areas on Wednesday night, lightly injuring two residents. This comes as Hamas, which now controls Gaza, says that do not have complete control of the 1.2 million people living there. Other militia factions, Hamas says, are responsible for the rocket attacks.

As a sign of appeasement to those doubting Hamas’ ability to behave in a civilized manner, Hamas has said it would secure the release of Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter held captive by one of the militias. On Wednesday night a member of the militia reportedly holding Johnston was shot dead by masked Hamas gunmen. This was seen by analysts as a reminder to the militia that the reporter be released by the Hamas deadline of early next week or more of the militia would be killed.

Pundits believe that Hamas can control the smaller militias if it wants, but feels that allowing them freedom of movement helps the cause. Hamas can be the good cop, much as Arafat was, and blame the other guys for firing rockets, or setting off bombs, that strike in Israel.

Thomas Friedman, writing in his New York Times column, saw the phenomenon of masked gunmen a failure by the Palestinians. The masked gunman, wrote Friedman, is now the symbol of the Palestinian cause. Masked were used by Palestinians to hide their identity from the Israelis. According to Friedman, the Palestinians should have the courage to face each other in battles without their masks.

Other columnists seem to be in agreement on one issue, that Mohammed Abas (Abu Mazen), the President of the Palestinian Authority, has no authority among the majority of Palestinians. Shmuel Rosner writing in Haaretz, Israel’s prestigious daily newspaper, said that the Bush administration made a serious error thinking that Abu Mazen could have any impact on the Palestinians. According to Rosner Abu Mazen is nothing more than a fantasy cooked up by the Americans to please themselves. Following the ‘coup’ Hamas went from controlling 98 per cent of Gaza to 100 per cent.

The consensus among the columnists seems to be that Israel’s PM Olmert is going along with the US requests to support Abbas since no other alternative to Hamas is on the horizon. The pundits criticize the US for pushing for general elections in the West Bank and Gaza against Israeli advice. Reportedly former PM Ariel Sharon advised against this move. The Americans, wrote the columnists, held the belief that democracy was magical, and once the elections were held peace would break out like a popular song. Instead Hamas won and their song was variations on the ‘destroy Israel’ theme. The US then set about unsuccessfully delegitimizing Hamas. The problem, say the pundits, is that Hamas was duly elected because they are the popular party supported by the masses, and ignoring that fact through the fiction that Abu Mazen is an alternative is silly.

Another columnist wrote that the basic American misconception is that the political conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, or even the West and Radical Islam, fostered the growth of extremism, when in fact it is extremism that fosters the conflict between the West and the Arab world.
A retired Major General in the IDF wrote in the Jerusalem Post that Hamas is simply an arm of the Iranian and Syrian military. This view was supported by a discussion on Israel Radio that said Hamas was incapable of organizing this coup without outside support, be it from Iran or Syria.

The retired Major General wrote that Syria is inundated with Iranian security personnel, so that Syria and Iran together can work to disrupt Israel’s, the American’s, or the European’s plans. The writer claims that Syrian border guards are corrupt, and in exchange for substantial bribes routinely allow Iranians and Iranian weapons in and out of the country. Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas, has his headquarters in Damascus.

Another writer claims it is folly to think that all 1.2 million Gazans are led by a small band of Iranians or Syrians. Gaza wants Hamas in power, plain and simple, says the writer. They don’t need outsiders to stir them up. However no one denies that the outsiders may be better at organizing and executing a coup than the Hamas operatives of Gaza.

The future, according to the retired Major General, is bleak. Israel has no plan to deal with this threat. America believes Abu Mazen is a knight in shining armor who was temporarily knocked off his white horse, and that peace, and the road map, are still viable.

Pundits believe that when Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert talks about the road map, he is only voicing hollow words. Most reasonable people in the US and Israel realize the road map is dead, and that following the Abu Mazen path will only lead to another dead end.

An editorial in the Haaretz newspaper on Thursday called for the release of Marwan Bargoutti. This editorial is part of a campaign waged by Bargoutti followers to secure his release. Bargoutti, once one of Yassir Arafat’s right hand men, ran the Tanzim militia, a youth-oriented militant arm of the PA security forces. Bargoutti was arrested by the Israeli army after the last Intifada, tried, convicted of murder, and sentenced to five consecutive life terms plus forty years.

The stiffest resistance to Bargoutti’s release comes from the right-wing of Israeli politicians. But Avi Dicter, Minister of Security, seemed to hint that if Barghoutti would numerate what he planned to do to bring peace if he were to be released from prison, someone might consider the appeal. So far nothing has come out publicly.

What seems clear is that no short-range solution is on the horizon. Ex-President Jimmy Carter has stated that the world cannot ignore Hamas and must recognize that entity. A columnist writing in the Jerusalem Post criticized Carter, pointing out that Carter allowed Ayatollah Khoumeni to come to power. The analysts say this was because Khoumani was a “holy man” and Carter believed that God was showing his hand through Khoumani. The result of Carter’s delusion was the kidnapping of an embassy filled with US citizens, and the rise of radical Islam. One pundit believed it was time for Carter to keep himself busy counting peanuts, and stay out of things he didn’t understand, which was anything other than counting peanuts.

In the near future Hamas is expected to reach some accommodation with the Palestninan Authority. According to press reports Hamas was never short of money. While the US stopped financing Hamas, they still received huge sums from outside sources, both Arab and European. Hamas is not expected to come begging to the PA to make ‘sholem.’

Some analysts even expect Hamas to make a move in the West Bank, use their popular support to seize control from the PA. Should this happen, Israel will be surrounded by Westbankistan on one side and Hamastan on the other, with Hezbollahstan in the north.
Time will tell if these expectations come true.

Esteemed Haaretz military columnist Zev Shiff died on Wednesday at the age of 74. Shiff was the dean of Israel’s military correspondents, and considered the most knowledgeable journalist in Israel on security matters. Considered a ‘mench’ Shiff wrote about what he knew to be true, and sometimes kept back facts that would have made a good story, brought him greater fame and glory, but harmed Israel. The who’s who of Israeli journalism turned out for his funeral.

Shiff, whom his friends called “Wolfy”, and his accurate, informative, level-headed reports will be missed.

Jerusalem will be the venue for a Gay and Lesbian parade on Thursday. The parade will march down King David Street to Liberty Bell Garden. Streets will be blocked off to prevent anti-parade demonstrations and protesters. Ultra-orthodox youth have been burning garbage and tires in their neighborhoods for the past week trying to create enough noise to effect the cancellation of the parade. The Jerusalem Post today reported that the United Jewish Communities have contributed over $200,000 to the Jerusalem-based Gay and Lesbian Committee which has organized the parade. In the past parade an ultra-orthodox man jumped out of the crowd and stabbed one of those in the parade.

Sunday, June 17, 2007



Hamas has taken control of Gaza. A fundamentalist Islamic entity now controls that southern border with Israel. Many Israeli newspapers and radio shows are referring to the new reality as “Hamastan” or “Gazastan.” According to retired General Doron Almog, this move was to be expected. Interviewed on Israel Radio, Gen. Almog, who was once in charge of the Southern Command, said that the exchanges between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority had to be resolved with either the PA or Hamas taking absolute control. It turned out that Hamas made the move successfully.

On Thursday Hamas sent in its forces to invade the PA offices, including that of PA President Mohamed Abbas. One of the leaders of the PA security forces was captured while fleeing Gaza with his family. He was dragged from his car beaten, called a ‘Heretic” several times and then riddled with 45 bullets.

Other Hamas activists went from one PA leaders home to another, arresting or killing whomever they caught. A masked Hamas man armed with an automatic rifle was photographed in the office of PA president Abbas, standing defiantly on his desk.

Hamas fighters also raided the home of the late PA chairman Yassir Arafat, looted it of valuables and trashed what was left. Similar scenes were reported in the homes of PA leaders who had managed to flee to Ramallah.

The corruption and inefficiency of the PA, which was reportedly responsible for the rise of Hamas, was also blamed for allowing the Hamas ‘coup’ to succeed. According to the Haaretz newspaper, the PA fighters in Gaza did not resist the Hamas “military coup.” Rather fled their offices or sat quietly in their homes until the rampage was over. An anonymous PA leader said the PA fighters knew their leaders had fled to the safety of Ramallah, or Europe, so saw no reason to risk their own lives when the PA hierarchy was not risking theirs.

Mohamed Dahalan, head of the PA security forces, was in Egypt recovering from surgery on two ankles, but returned to Ramallah on Thursday to meet with PA President Abbas. Dahlan, a favorite of the US and Israel, has be conveniently absent from Gaza during the troubles of recent days.

PA President Abbas officially dissolved the current Hamas government, and appointed Salam Fayad, who holds an American passport, as head of the new trim Emergency Government with an 11 member cabinet, devoid of Hamas members. The EU and others have said they would support the new government formed by President Abbas, but they would also continue paying salaries to Hamas related employees in Gaza.

Hamas spokesmen have called this a ‘coup’ by PA President Abbas, and deny the legitimacy of the new government. In a move to strengthen the PA position in the West Bank, PA security forces raided Hamas offices and arrested Hamas officials, including judges serving in the PA courts in the West Bank.

The PA has long been in control of the West Bank, with the help of the IDF, while Hamas has been strong in Gaza. Recently PA President Abbas was considering the possibility of new election for Prime Minister, a move which Hamas was adamantly against. Hamas feared that it would not have a majority in new elections, since many of the Gaza residents were disappointed with Hamas’ ability to govern Gaza, receive foreign aid, and bring peace to the city.

Israel’s military and political commentators believe that now, without the presence of a PA security force opposing them, Hamas may sweep through Gaza and neutralize the various armed gangs. This may result in the release the BBC hostage Alan Johnston, progress in the release of Gilad Shalit, and a long-term cease-fire of Qassam rockets into southern Israel.

This new Hamas control over Gaza comes after nearly a week of fierce fighting between the PA and Hamas which left over 90 people dead, hundreds wounded, and hospitals filled to overflowing. During one gruesome murder Hamas marched a handcuffed PA security forces leader up to the 18th floor of a Gaza high-rise and tossed him over the side.

Many in Hamas view the PA as ‘heretical’ since they are not Islamic fundamentalists. The new Hamas entity in Gaza is separate and distinct, as of now, from the West Bank and the PA.

According to David Horowitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post, Israel supplies Gaza with seventy per cent of their electricity and much of the water. Can Israel now realistically decide to cut off the electricity and water to Gaza? This is the quandary in which Israel now finds itself. Israel Radio reports that Hamas leaders still declare their intention to never recognize the legitimacy of Israel, yet Israel now must keep the Hamas government in power by supplying Gaza with power and water.

The ‘coup’ by Hamas in Gaza precipitated the hurried appointment of former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak as Defense Minister to replace Amir Peretz. Barak served in previous governments as the Defense Minister, and Chief of Staff of the IDF. Barak will be sworn in on Monday, and immediately replace present Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

Barak defeated Ami Ayalon, his rival for the leadership of the Labor Party, in a run-off election held last Tuesday. As head of the Labor Party Barak is now in a position to dictate terms to Kadima’s leader PM Ehud Olmert, whom he has vowed to replace as Prime Minister.

Barak ran for Labor Party leadership on a ‘strong man’ campaign, billing himself as a military man who could deal with Israel’s enemies, the Qassam rockets, and Hamas. A report in Sunday’s Haaretz newspaper says that Barak is planning a massive invasion of Gaza to eliminate the Gaza threat.

Other political analysts think this is hollow talk. Israel, they say, is not interested in assuming responsibility for the welfare of one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel would much prefer a multi-national force to step in and deal with the crises, much as the UN did in southern Lebanon. However the same analysts admit that no Arab government will send troops to such a force, certainly not Egypt, which they say is more than slightly responsible for the problems in Gaza by allowing the free flow of weapons and ammunition to Hamas.

Hamas took over the “Philidelphi” route on Sunday, effectively taking control of the Gaza Egypt border from the Egyptians. Israeli military analysts find this quite disturbing, since larger weapons, anti-aircraft missiles and longer range rockets, will now flow wholesale over ground, not in dribs and drabs through tunnels in the sand. The Hamas arms buildup will only intensify in the coming days and weeks, they say.

Ehud Barak, according to an analysis in the Jerusalem Post, is positioning himself as the strong, silent, slightly mysterious Israeli incarnation of Charles DeGaulle, who was called back to power to deal with the crises of Algeria. Barak, they say, will act decisively, and harshly, with Hamas, appear to be the savoir of Israel, and be swept back into power as the Prime Minister. Barak has already warned PM Ehud Olmert that he will call for Olmert’s resignation as soon as the final Winograd commission’s findings are published. The findings are expected to be harshly critical of Olmert, the last of the triumvirate who ran the War in Lebanon II to still be in power.

Both former Chief of Staff of the IDF Dan Halutz, and out-going Defense Minister Amir Peretz have resigned. Olmert, considered an astute politician, has so far refused to step down from the prime minister’s seat, claiming that he did nothing wrong, and that Israel in fact won the War in Lebanon II. Recently former Defense Minister and Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz said he told the Winograd commission that his advice was ignored during the war, and he wasn’t even invited to crucial meetings.

Meanwhile, two Katyusha rockets fell on Kyriat Shmona on Sunday, causing no injuries or damage. Reportedly five rockets were fired but three fell in Lebanon, some near UNIFIL positions. Lebanese police sources believe the rockets were fired by Palestinians not Hezbollah. This was the first rocket attack from Lebanon since the war ended last summer.

Analysts believe this heating up of the northern border with Lebanon is meant to relieve the pressure on Hamas in the South. It is unclear if Israel will respond to these attacks in the north, and if they do with what force. Kiryat Shmona was hard-hit during the 34-day Second Lebanon War, during which Hezbollah fired some 4,000 Katyusha rockets at towns and cities across northern Israel.

Some columnists point out that Ehud Barak was reared on strategic strikes against enemy targets, not wholesale bombardments. Barak, they say, is more the type to have a sniper draw a bead on the foreheads of Hamas leader Khalid Mashal, who sits in Syria, and Sheik Nasrallah, in Lebanon, than to launch a full scale offensive.

Barak is scheduled to take control of the Defense Ministry on Monday. With Hamas consolidating their power in Gaza, and the Palestinians reportedly firing at Israel from Lebanon, most likely with the active assistance from Hezbollah, Barak will have his work cut out for him. As much as U.S. President George Bush, and U.S. Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice would like to support PA President Mohamed Abbas, some pundits believe this is just more American wishful thinking. Abbas, they say, is a weak leader who let Gaza slip through his fingers, and can do nothing to regain it. Some pundits believe that the best Israel can hope for now, is to neutralize the threat in the South, and in the North, before Al Queda and Iran decide Israel is too weakened to defend itself and launch an intelligent, well-thought out multi-front attack whose goal is to establish an Islamic state stretching from Gaza to Syria, and probably beyond.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Year Later

Four men from the Islamic Jihad terror organization unsuccessfully attempted to kidnap an Israeli soldier nearly a year after a similar move resulted in the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, still in terrorist hands somewhere in Gaza.

At about 1:00 PM on Saturday, four men driving a white jeep with TV and PRESS written on it approached the Kissufim border crossing between Israel and Gaza. The men exited the jeep and opened fire on an Israeli outpost. Luckily the outpost was unoccupied at the time.

Soldiers from the Givati’s Rotem unit quickly responded to the attack. The four terrorists took flight, one hiding in an empty water main. He was discovered by a Belgian Shepard, part of the Oketz dog unit of the IDF. When the dog entered the pipe the terrorist opened fire, killing the animal, but exposing his position. The terrorist, Mohamed Jabri, 21, of Gazi, a member of Islamic Jihad, was killed in the gunfight.

The other three terrorists escaped back into Gaza. Criticism was leveled at the commanders of the operation for not pursuing the terrorists into Gaza and apprehending or eliminating them.

Israel has responded to the latest attacks on the army and the rocket attacks on Sderot with precision strikes against Gaza targets, including brief incursions by the Israeli army. This tactic has been the one Israel’s Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi thinks is the most effective in dealing with the terrorist threat. Ashkenazi, however, has reportedly suggested expanding the attacks against the terrorist targets in Gaza, including sending in a significantly larger force.

Many military analysts think this tactic is a mistake, since it would only give Hamas and other Gaza based terrorists a reason to join forces against Israel. Currently the power-struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has resulted in scores of dead and injured among the Palestinian fighters.

Another consideration is the threat of attack by Hezbollah from the North. A British Newspaper, the Sunday Times, reported that Hezbollah has rebuilt its network of bunkers in Southern Lebanon working under the noses of the UN peace-keeping forces station in Lebanon to prevent just such an action. According to the report Hezbollah has as many as 20,000 rockets, including those with enough range to strike at Tel Aviv.

Other disturbing reports in the press warn that Syria is preparing an all out war with Israel in the near future, perhaps as early as this summer. However, two military affairs reporters, one for the daily Haaretz newspaper, and the other for Israel Brodcasting Authoritiy’s Channel 1, told Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet morning news show anchor Aryeh Golan that they checked all their sources in the Israeli military and could come up with no proof that such an attack was in fact imminent.

The Haaretz reporter speculated that the rumors of war were started by people connected to Labor Party leadership hopeful Ehud Barak. The Labor Party run-off election is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. Apparently the Barak camp believes that a security crises with Syria, or rumors of one, would result in Labor Party loyalists voting for Barak, who was a former Minister of Defense and former Israeli Chief of Staff. The reporters found no other basis to the media reports that Syria was planning any attacks.

Ami Ayalon, Barak’s rival for the Labor Party race, is the former head of the Israeli Navy, and former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s FBI. Ayalon has teamed up with Israel’s much criticized Minister of Defense Amir Peretz, the current head of the Labor Party. In the first round of the Labor Party elections Peretz came in third behind Ayalon, and Barak, each of whom came in with nearly 40 percent, to Peretz’s 22 per cent. However recent polls show that Ayalon has lost points since Peretz announced his support. Peretz, pundits believe, is now an albatross around Ayalon’s neck.

Likud party leader Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is the only serious contender to run against the Labor Party winner, should General elections for Prime Minister be held soon.

Meanwhile, controversy circles around the rumored Peace talks with Syria. According to press reports Syria has made overtures to the Olmert government to begin talks. Olmert has apparently expressed his willingness to give up the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

The Golan Heights was also the subject of long arduous negotiations with the current Syrian President’s father. Those talks ended abruptly when Israel refused to give up a demand of access to a strip on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Syria demanded all or nothing. Hafez Assad, the then President died shortly after. His son Bashir is reportedly interested in beginning the negotiations once again.

But it is not clear if the supposed negotiations are only for media consumption or are real. Syrian President Bashir Assad has said that he is prepared to go to war with Israel if negotiations do not resume. Many Israeli analysts think this is an insincere gesture on Assad’s part, meant to portray Israel as intransigent.

Israel’s army has been training hard since the last War in Lebanon. Military analysts still doubt if Israel is prepared on an organizational level to fight another war. It is the same reticence that applies to any Israeli action in Gaza. Until Israel exhibits a military competence which can act not only as a psychological deterrence to her enemies but a real one, analysts believe Israel is best staying out of the fray in Gaza, and Lebanon.

The West Bank is considered another theater of operations in which Israel has been operating with significant accomplishments. Leaders of the various terrorists organizations have been captured or eliminated in the last few months as Israel’s defense forces act with efficiency and near impunity.

But the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel, is not Gaza, but a muddy swamp with booby-traps strategically laid out waiting for the Israeli tanks and troops to roll in. Israel hopes to find some sort of formula, applying economic and political sanctions on Hamas, in an effort to decrease the rockets falling on Sderot, and neutralize Hamas as a governing entity. So far nothing substantive has come of these efforts.

Another dark vision of Israel was offered by former Labor Party MK Avrum Burg, who served as Speaker of the Knesset and head of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Burg has written a book in which he says that unless Israel gives up the idea of a Jewish State it is doomed.

Burg, son of Yosef Burg, a religious politician who served as a cabinet minister in many Israeli governments, encouraged Israelis to hold dual citizenship. Burg himself is married to a French woman, has French citizenship and said he voted in the last French election.. In an interview that appeared in the weekend Haaretz magazine, Burg said that Israelis had lost a Jewish identity. That they had to understand that without a Jewish identity they were doomed. Burg, who is now reportedly a ‘successful businessman’ said that he believes the separation fence was a huge mistake. He thought Israel had lost the ability to find humanity in people. Burg more or less compared the present Israeli policies to those of a fascist state.

Burg, who had teamed up with left-wing Labor, now Metetz politician, Yosi Beilin before he left politics, was mixed up in a few financial scandals since leaving office, but none resulted in indictment. Burg claims he was innocent of all charges. Once considered a leading contender for the leadership of the Labor Party, one of Shimon Peres’ bright young men, before resigning from active politics, Burg had sunk so low in popularity among the Labor party, mainly for his extreme left-wing views, that he had lost the chance of a “safe seat” in the general elections.

Cynics believe that Burg’s statements, which he made in conjunction with the Israel Book Week, where the publication of his book was announced, was a publicity stunt to sell copies of his work.

However, his statements were covered by every TV station and just about every newspaper, and were the subject of many discussions over Shabat tables. It was the first time a man of Burg’s stature has said that a Jewish state was not viable, and issued a warning to Israelis to get or keep dual citizenship.

Given the disinformation, if that’s what it is, about a war with Syria, the IDF’s inability to neutralize the threat of rockets from Gaza and missiles from Lebanon, that the political leadership seems mired in corruption, deceit and self-interest, perhaps Avrum Burg has struck a chord that will find favor among many Israelis.

Most of those interviewed disagreed with him. Israel was a nice place in a lousy neighborhood. Peace was not on the horizon. Hanging tough was the only solution. For those who wanted to, exile was the option, as Burg suggests. Only in that way could a Jew remain a Jew, with the moral Jewish fabric intact, otherwise the coarse, cruel, crude Israeli behavior had by necessity to take over in order to withstand the pressures of Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, and others. Of course, few Israelis are willing to leave Israel, or become observant Jews, as Burg is. But a bunch will undoubtedly buy his book. Perhaps that was his goal anyway. Burg apparently doesn’t want the publication of his book to be like that tree that falls in the forest with no one around to hear it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

C-RAM or War?

According to Israel radio, for the first time after weeks of daily rocket attacks, not a single Qassam rocket was fired into Israel overnight Sunday and during morning hours Monday. However, according to the Haaretz daily newspaper, three mortar shells and a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in open areas in the western Negev on Monday. There were no reports of casualties or damage.

Israel radio also reported that earlier Monday, the Israel Defense Forces sent ground troops and more than 15 tanks backed by helicopters into the Gaza Strip, pushing about a mile into Palestinian territory in what military sources called "defensive activity to negate threats," The operation reportedly focused on an area inside the Gaza border near the Sufa crossing in the southeastern Strip.

The troops took over houses in the area, searched them, and arrested a number of suspects, it said, adding that military bulldozers excavated areas used by gunmen as hiding spots.

The Jerusalem Post reported today that the British were implementing a successful anti-rocket device in Iraq that, according to the report, could effectively prevent Qassam rockets from landing in the beleaguered Negev town of Sderot.

Reportedly, Britain's Ministry of Defense has ordered the rapid-fire cannon called the C-RAM (Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar), originally designed to defend navy ships from missiles. The system reportedly has a 70 percent to 80 percent success rate in intercepting incoming shells and rockets. The 20mm cannon is controlled by radar that detects and locks in on incoming enemy projectiles.

The C-RAM is manufactured by Raytheon and is already in use by the Americans to protect the Green Zone in Baghdad. According to military experts, four C-RAM systems - at a cost of $15 million a piece - could effectively defend the town of Sderot from Qassam rockets.

"It is a system that has proven to be quite successful," said Uzi Rubin, missile expert and former director of the Defence Ministry’s Homa Missile Defense Agency. "It disturbs me that nothing was done for years to locate and procure or develop a system that works."
Israel’s Ministry of Defense however, has refused to order the C-RAM , which theoretically at least could protect Sderot, hit by hundreds of Qassam rockets over the past three weeks. Israel's Defense Ministry said it is investing its resources in the "Iron Dome" - an antirocket missile system under development by the Israeli Rafael Armament Development Authority. The “Iron Dome” is not expected to be operational until 2011.
Sources in the Defense Ministry said the C-RAM system was checked by its Research & Development Directorate (MAFAT) and was found to be unsuitable for Sderot. While recognizing the C-Ram's relatively high success rate, defense officials told the Post the system could only protect isolated areas of several hundred square meters.
One pundit speculated that a wealthy supporter of Israel might put his or her money to good use by donating a unit. Should the UJC decide to have an emergency campaign to protect Sderot, each Jewish community in America might be able to donate a unit, or part of one. Tie in Keren Hayesod and the Jewish communities outside the USA, like Canada, Britain, Argentina, Brazil, and others, and it’s possible that Sderot residents might be able to sleep peacefully again.

Another pundit speculated on the cost of a unit compared to the cost of mounting a military campaign to stop the Qassam rockets from continuing to rain down on the Negev. A military invasion of Gaza would cost hundreds of millions of shekels, perhaps billions, as the ill-rated War in Lebanon II did. Effective costs could be saved using this system, not to mention eliminating of risk to the lives of young Israelis soldiers who would have to fight their way through Gaza looking for illusive Qassam factories, launch sites, and terrorists.

Should the efficacy of Qassams, and perhaps even Scuds from Hezbollah, be eliminated, the requisite need to neutralize them would also evaporate.. Add to the equation Syria’s threat to invade Israel from the north should Israel invade Gaza, and mix in Hezbollah’s reaction to such an invasion, and the price of each C-RAM unit starts to sound like shopping at WalMart.

However, as seen by the last War in Lebanon, many Israelis are suspicious that the Ministry of Defense has lost its edge. The debacle in Lebanon, they say, proves this. Reorganization of the army is underway, but doubts remain that the decision makers who have sat so long in the various Defense Ministry offices are still there, like Jabba the Hutt, the unsightly blob of Star Wars fame who controlled much of went on in the galaxy’s underworld.

Perhaps the contracts with the Israeli companies who supply the military have become so sweet, with the crumbs falling into the mouths of anyone near them, that security has taken a backseat to commerce. Or perhaps its just simply hubris; the patriotic belief that the Israeli companies can do the job, and there’s no need for outside sources.

Raytheon, it must be remembered, also made the famous “Patriot” anti-missile system, which was the only system that even came close to protecting Israel when Saddam Hussein sent his Scuds hurling into Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan back in 1991.

The Patriot wasn’t much, but it was all Israel had. Now the Arrow system, developed by Israel and the USA, is supposedly capable of doing the same job as the Patriot, but much much better. Hopefully, that system will nevr be put to the test.

Meanwhile the residents of Sderot are under attack. The Israeli army is making small moves into Gaza, the stakes are being raised.

The current struggle for the leadership of the Labor party will influence the way the missile threat is handled. Former PM Ehud Barak, who was also a former Minister of Defense, and a former Chief of Staff, is the front runner for the head of the Labor Party. His chief opponent, in this upcoming second round of voting, is former admiral Ami Ayalon, once head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s FBI.

Israelis are thirsty for a man with military experience to run the country after the failure of the technocrats during the last war. However, both Ayalon and Barak were part of the culture that led to the debacle in Lebanon. Barak pulled out unilaterally from Lebanon. According to many analysts this one-sided withdrawal without a quid pro by Hezbollah or the Lebanese government only encouraged Israel’s enemies, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and even Iran, to entertain the notion that Israel could be pressured into concessions, and even defeated in battle.

Barak was also rumored to be part of the “newthink” that espoused cutbacks in Israel’s military capability, since the Middle East was on the verge of peace, with no substantive enemies. Since his defeat in his last bid as Prime Minister, when Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu sent him into political retirement, Barak has reportedly made a small fortune representing various American and Israeli business entities. Labor party loyalists find this streak of capitalism a stain on Barak’s socialist credentials, since the Labor party is ostensibly the repository of Israel’s moderate socialist thought.

Ami Ayalon was also part of the military, and then the Shin Bet. His political philosophy was also peace oriented. At one point he teamed up with Palestinian professor Sari Nusseibeh, scion of a famous aristocratic Palestinian family, in starting dialogue between the two sides. Many observers saw this move as utopian wishful thinking. However, Ayalon is a new face in the upper echelons of Labor Party leadership, and many are willing to give him a chance.

Still, faced with the threat of Iran’s bombastic leader’s constant claim that he’s going to wipe Israel off the map; with Syria threatening War, or Peace talks, depending on which day it is; with Hezbollah reportedly readying for another strike, with Syrian assistance, this summer, and with Hamas ignoring any entreaties for peace, Israel seems to be in dire need of an experienced military leader to face what appears to be an imminent existential threat..

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that Israel emerged victorious from the last War in Lebanon. All those military men, the Generals and Colonels who resigned after the war saying they’d failed, and lost, apparently disagreed with him. Olmert’s right-wing rival Netanyahu is the only other candidate on the horizon, besides Ayalon and Barak.

All but Ayalon have served as Prime Minister. None distinguished themselves with anything approaching success or wisdom. Given the alternatives, it seems just buying the cheap C-RAM anti-rocket system is a good choice, especially if it keeps the lid on Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, by denying Israel’s enemies an excuse to start another war: a war that Israel appears unprepared to fight, due to obdurate military strategies, and poor leadership.