Thursday, August 30, 2007

Twisting and Spinning

A fifteen-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber was caught carrying two explosive devices that the Israel Army says he planned to detonate in an attack on an Israeli army position near Gaza. The arrest took place at night, between August 28th and August 29th, when soldiers spotted a Palestinian youth approaching them. Reportedly the IDF had intelligence information about an impending attack. The teenager was taken for questioning by security forces. In a statement to the press the IDF said it “regrets that terrorist organizations make frequent use of children and youth, in order to execute attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.”
This arrest comes after three Palestinian children were killed on Wednesday by IDF tank fire in a field just outside of Gaza. The three children, aged between twelve and ten, were near a rocket launcher that had just been used to fire at Israelis in the Western Negev. It is unclear if the children were merely playing in the field, or sent to recover the rocket launchers.
An IDF announcement stated that the army had targeted several Qassam launchers in the Beit Hanun industrial area, which the army claims is a favored spot for rocket attacks against Israeli targets. The IDF statement said that so far nearly 300 Qassam rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel from the Gaza strip in the last month.
According to informed sources Hamas and Islamic Jihad have begun to use children to retrieve the launchers knowing the Israeli sensitivities concerning the death of civilians. Some analysts believe that Hamas and other terrorist groups use these children as bait, hoping for a public relations coup when the children are injured or killed. Last week two other children were killed by IDF fire in similar circumstances.
An article in the Israeli Maariv newspaper stated on Thursday that Russia was behind the recent fears of an Israeli attack against Syria. The newspaper said that Russia had been feeding Syria with information that Israel was on the verge of an invasion in order to stir up tension in the region.
However, Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's political-security division, told the Yideot Achranot newspaper’s on-line Ynet on Thursday that “The Russians were not the main source in inciting and relaying information according to which Israel was planning to attack Syria in the summer,” Gilad said the reports of Russian interference were “only partly true.”
Gilad said that Israel had reassured both Syria and Russia that no attack was being planned. According to the report Israel also expressed concern over Russia’s growing involvement in the region, including the sale of sophisticated weapons systems to Syria, some of which reportedly reach Hezbollah.
A new twist was added to the Israeli complaints over the Wakf’s digging of a utility trench on the Temple Mount. As if to spin the controversy in a different direction Islamic firebrand Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, said Thursday that Israel is planning to build a new temple near the Al-Aqsa mosque. Salah called on Arab and Muslim nations to "prevent the division of the Al-Aqsa by Israel."
Salah has often incited Arab followers to radical actions by his words. Historians point out that what Israel calls the Temple Mount is not only revered by the Jews as the heart of the Jewish homeland, but by the Moslems. Approximately 800 years after the destruction of the second Jewish Temple by the Romans, the Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple Mount by a sheik trying to get attention from the rulers in Mecca. The shrine was built over the legendary rock Abraham nearly sacrificed Issac, and where approximately 2,800 years later Mohammend was said to have launched himself to Heaven on his winged steed, The Al Aqsa mosque was built hundreds of after the Dome of the Rock.

Scholars point out that until the 19th century Jerusalem was an ignored dusty backwater in the Arab world, and the Temple Mount a third-rate Moslem Holy site. Only the return of Jewish settlement to the region brought Jerusalem back to prominence. Both the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque now sit above the remains of the first and second Temples, which is, according to Israeli archeologists the greatest Jewish archeological site in the world.

However the Wakf refuses to allow Israel to excavate. The Wakf was put in charge of the Temple Mount after Israel seized the old city of Jerusalem in 1967. Since then Israel has slowly lost any control over the area. Any Israeli move towards the site now illicit calls for a Holy War.

According to analysts, Salah is reportedly using the claim of Israel’s intention to build a new temple to cover up the press flap over the latest Israeli complaints against Wakf’s digging above the ruins of the Jewish holy sites. Political analysts now say that Israel made a huge blunder allowing the Wakf control over the Temple Mount after the ’67 Six-Day War.
Finance Minister Roni Bar On today announced he was not extending the contract of accountant-general Yaron Zelekha, who is set to complete a four year stint in October, even though Zelekha's contract allows him to continue for a fifth year if he wants to.
Zelekha testified against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi scandal investigation. Zelekha also recently published a comprehensive plan to fight corruption. Zelekha released the plan without informing his superiors at the Finance Ministry.
Finance Minister Roni Bar On is an old political pal of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Bar On was appointed to replace another political pal, Avraham Hershson, who resigned under a cloud of improper behavior, embezzlement and illegal smuggling of foreign currency. Pundits believe that PM Olmert wants to excise Zelekha from the Finance Ministry before he can do any more harm.
Zelekah reportedly said in response that, "The attempt to discontinue my tenure is illegal. It was carried out without authority and does not bind me. I will not allow a group of people suspected of criminal offenses to deter me from my mission to guard the public's treasury." State Comptroller Lindenstrauss is expected to oppose Zelekah’s ouster. Lindenstrauss has said that that anyone who exposed corruption in the State of Israel would receive full protection under the law. The Movement for a Better Government has said it would fight to keep Zelekah in office.
Russian-Israeli Billionaire Arkady Gadyamack appeared at a guest before a Knesset committee yesterday, and continued his fusillade against the Olmert government. He was seen on Israel Television telling the committee that the government was run by self-interested politicians only interested in perpetuating their own power, and accumulating money for themselves.
The Justice Minister Daniel Friedman reportedly caved into ultra-Orthodox demands when he agreed to redraft the inheritance laws to exclude gay couples as legal entities. Retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel headed a public commission appointed in 1999 to reform the 1965 inheritance law. In the spring of 2006 Turkel’s committee proposed changing the definition of a couple from "husband and wife" in order that it apply to both gay and heterosexual couples.

Justice Minister Friedman decided to limit the proposed inheritance law to "a man and a woman who lead a family life in a joint household." According to gay rights groups Friedman bowed to pressure from the Sephardi Shas party.
Meanwhile Shas has made noises about leaving the coalition if PM Olmert signs any agreements on dual statehood with Palestinian President Abu Mazen. If Shas follows through with the threat new elections would be a foregone conclusion. However according to press reports Israel Beitainu’s Avigdor Leiberman doesn’t believe any agreement will be reached.
An editorial in the Maariv daily newspaper, however, says that a peace agreement with Abu Mazen would be Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's last opportunity to look good in the history books. Maariv’s editors encourage PM Olmert to exploit the “historic opportunity being offered him.” The paper contends that while peace would save Olmert politically, time is running out to implement any agreement. Most analysts however consistently stress that neither PA’s Mohammad Abbas (Abu Mazen) nor Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert have the public support to carry out any far-reaching agreements.
Former Defense Minister during the War in Lebanon II, Amir Peretz closed political accounts on Thursday when he commented on his one-time colleagues and friends. On Ehud Barak, now Labor party leader and Minister of Defense, “He humiliates people.” On PM Olmert: “His emptiness worries me.” On former Chief of Staff and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz: “He did not act to prepare IDF for war.” On Labor party big-shot “Faud” Ben-Eliezer: |”He betrayed me.” On himself: “I erred when I accepted Defense Ministry.” Pundits add that Peretz reached his conclusions too late to do either himself or the country any good.