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The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Israel, US to sign arms memorandum
(Washington says to Israel: Bend over. Israel responds: How far. I get nauseous.)
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is expected to travel to Washington in late July to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Pentagon that effectively gives America veto power over Israeli arms sales to selected countries.
The wording of the memorandum is being hammered out now by a delegation of the Defense Ministry headed by former air force commander Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Herzl Bodinger.
Bodinger arrived in Washington over the weekend together with Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Zvi Shtauber, a former ambassador to Britain and currently head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. Zvia Gross, legal adviser to the ministry is also reportedly part of the delegation.
According to Israel\'s ambassador to Washington, the memorandum would help enhance defense ties.
"Israel\'s willingness to sign the memorandum is not surrender; it\'s a great achievement," Ayalon said in an interview with Globes. "Such a memorandum would have prevented regrettable affairs, such as the Phalcon and the Harpy," Ayalon added, in reference to two weapon systems sold to China that the United States blocked.
Ayalon put a positive spin on the memorandum, saying it would allow upgraded technological cooperation with the United States.
"This settlement will tighten the partnership with the US, and in any case, our interests coincide," Ayalon was quoted as saying. "Close allies of the US, such as the UK and other NATO countries, have signed similar agreements," Ayalon was quoted as saying.
The defense establishment is anxious to bring the matter to a close before the August evacuation of the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.
According to defense sources, Israel will come out of the ordeal with a much-restricted maneuverability regarding arms sales to third parties.
But it will also allow the United States to lift the freeze of Israeli involvement in crucial projects like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The latest crisis with the Pentagon revolves around the radar-hunting Harpy drones that the United States believes Israel is currently upgrading for Beijing. Israel sold China the Harpy, manufactured by Israel Aircraft Industries, in 1999. Some were returned to Israel for routine maintenance, but the United States believes they are being upgraded. The US is opposed to China having these advanced weapons because they could be used against American forces or its Taiwan ally in a possible future showdown.
Israel does not expect the United States to compensate Israel for losing its Chinese arms market and any penalties that may need to be paid to Beijing will likely come from the Israeli taxpayer.
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Ze\'ev Livneh, a former military attach in Washington, said the fact that senior Israeli defense officials have been almost blacklisted by the Pentagon was damaging.
"But I don\'t think the damage is very deep. I believe the strategic links are very deep and fundamental," Livneh told Army Radio. "That said, the relationship existing today is likely to harm the daily operations and perhaps the activities of the defense industries."
Washington has sought clarifications over the matter for months, with senior Pentagon officials singling out Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron in particular for misleading them over Israel\'s arms transfers to China.
According to reported leaks from the Defense Ministry, Yaron is expected to retire following the disengagement so it does not appear to be linked to any American demand. Defense officials have refused to comment on the reports.
"We have to be sensitive to the American\'s strategic interests. Since they see the Chinese as a future strategic threat and a rising superpower, then we have to understand that," Livneh said. "Particularly when we are receiving some $3 million in US aid annually."
Rejectionist leaders plan to move to Gaza after pullout
Leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian radical groups in Lebanon and Syria are planning to move to the Gaza Strip after Israel evacuates the area, Palestinian sources confirmed on Sunday.
The sources said Palestinian Authority officials have been urging Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who spends most of his time in Damascus, to consider moving his office to the Gaza Strip after the completion of the Israeli withdrawal.
Mashaal\'s deputy, Musa Abu Marzouk, and another senior Hamas official, Imad al-Alami, are reported to have expressed their desire to move
Saudi newspaper Al-Watan reported over the weekend that PA Civil Affairs Minister Muhammad Dahlan, who is in charge of coordinating the
According to the newspaper, Dahlan\'s invitation came following US pressure on Syria to close down the offices and bases of Hamas and other Palestinian radical groups.
"We want to see you among us," Dahlan reportedly told Mashaal and his top aides. Nayef Hawatmeh and Khaled Abdel Majid, the leaders of two other
PA officials said that the PLO\'s Farouk Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunis, is also planning to move to the Gaza Strip after the Israeli pullout.
Kaddoumi, who heads the PLO\'s political department and is strongly opposed to the Oslo Accords, was one of the few PLO leaders who refused to enter the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the establishment of the PA in 1994.
"There\'s no reason why these Palestinian leaders should not be allowed to live in the Gaza Strip after its liberation form Israeli
He said the issue was raised recently during talks between PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and representatives of various Palestinian factions in
The PA is demanding that Israel security relinquish control over all border crossings into the Gaza Strip after the disengagement, including the Rafah terminal and the international airport in the southern Gaza Strip.
According to the report in the Saudi newspaper, Dahlan recently told the leaders of the Syrian-based Palestinian groups that the differences with Israel over the border crossings would soon be resolved.
"By God\'s will, we will resolve these differences over the airport, the sea port and the other border crossings," he was quoted as saying.
He added, however, that, "It\'s not really bothering us, because they can\'t just arrive at the airport. They can\'t come in without our
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.
Knesset Forum focuses on Iran\'s nuclear ambitions
Within days of Iran\'s election of virulently anti-Zionist Teheran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran, after he vowed to continue Iran\'s nuclear program and called Israel an "illegitimate" state, Iran\'s nuclear ambitions will be the focus of Tuesday\'s meeting of the Knesset Forum on the Middle East.
Despite the fact that Iran "probably won\'t [use its nuclear weapons against Israel] immediately, a nuclear Iran coupled with the regime\'s deep involvement in terrorist networks creates a dangerous and unstable situation," Col. (ret.) Dr. Eran Lerman, Director of the Israel/Middle East Office of the American Jewish Committee and a former senior IDF intelligence officer, told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the Forum\'s gathering.
"Iran has an operational terrorist presence on our border in the form of Hizbullah, and it has penetrated deeply into the Palestinian arena through the Islamic Jihad, which is under its control, and through certain members of the Fatah," Lerman said. "The Iranian threat is a function of the regime\'s publicly declared commitment to the annihilation of the State of Israel, a declaration that is accompanied by statements that reflect the most vulgar form of anti-Semitism."
The Forum, a nonpartisan parliamentary group sponsored by the Center for Near East Policy Research and the Jerusalem Project for Democracy in the Middle East, was created to address critical issues for Israeli security in the region. Top experts attending Tuesday\'s hearing at the Knesset include Dr. Jerome Corsi, author of Atomic Iran, who is slated to focus on the strategic implications of Iranian nuclear power and his own work in Washington with the Iranian opposition.
Iranian-born Menashe Amir, Director of the Farsi Department of Voice of Israel Radio, will be speaking about the political realities in Iran after the election of Ahmadinejad. Amir runs a radio show that broadcasts to more than a million listeners inside Iran and to dissidents in other parts of the world, including North America and Africa.
The last speaker, Dr. Ephraim Asculai, Senior Research Associate of the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies and formerly a member of Israel\'s Atomic Energy Commission, will speak on the technical aspects of Iran\'s nuclear program.
The Forum was intended to allow MKs access to top-notch academic expertise from within the parliament. "It is a luxury for a Member of Knesset to be able to attend an academic conference at a university," Forum founder MK Yuri Shtern told the Post. "The idea was to bring that closer, making members more knowledgeable and covering issues not covered by mass media, certainly not covered with the needed depth."
Forum member MK Michael Eitan told the Post that Knesset members have a problem of overload. "We are one of the smallest parliaments in the world. When you take away the MKs serving as cabinet ministers, faction heads and those holding other full-time positions, you\'re left with about 70 full-time legislators. Divide that into 17 committees, all the subcommittees, add 50 to 60 lobby groups, or even more, and there simply isn\'t time."
Knesset Members have not been the only ones to take advantage of the opportunity to hear experts brought in by the Forum. From its very beginning, the Forum opened its doors to the foreign diplomatic corps in Israel. According to Shtern, the responses have been surprisingly positive, with ambassadors and other top diplomats attending Forum meetings. At the first hearing on the education curriculum in the Palestinian Authority, which was held at the Knesset in January 2005, the representatives of over 25 states were in attendance.
Forum coordinator Michael Gribov told the Post that the Forum "is unique not only because it provides information to Members of Knesset and members of the international community, but also because it engages the international community with policy-makers, decision-makers and experts in Israel."
"The issue of Iran is a good example. The way we approach this issue, and the way the United States and Europe approach it, is that Iran is a global concern because proliferation has global consequences. That\'s something we seek to address," Gribov said.
"There is no other briefing of its kind," Shtern said. "This has become a unique contribution of the Knesset to Israel\'s international relations."
The eight Knesset members who make up the Forum represent seven political parties that span virtually the entire range of Israeli politics: Dr. Yuri Shtern (National Union), Michael Eitan (Likud), Chemi Doron (Shinui), Eti Livni (Shinui), Ephraim Sneh (Labor), Avshalom Vilan (Meretz-Yahad), Yitzhak Levy of (Renewed National Religious Zionism) and Yitzhak Cohen (Shas.)
Footage of Corporal Avi Bieber Refusing Expulsion Orders Released
13:43 Jun 28, \'05 / 21 Sivan 5765
(IsraelNN.com) The video footage of Corporal Avi Bieber refusing to take part in an IDF operation aimed at preventing Jews from living in Gush Katif can be viewed by clicking on http://www.jewish-mail.com/itamar/gush/seruv.wmv
Here is a transcription;
Avi Bieber; Mesarev Pkudah - I am refusing the order
Reporter; What happened?
Avi Bieber; They are beating Jews here - Thats what happened
Reporter; Where are you from? Whats your name?
Avi Bieber; Avi Bieber - I live in the Yishuv of Tekoa - This is not right - This is not justice (just)
Bieber, who immigrated to Israel with his family from Passaic, New Jersey in 1996, has become a hero in anti-disengagement circles for his public declaration against expelling and beating Jews. He appeared on the front pages of Israel\'s major papers Monday and was quoted as saying, "I immigrated to Israel and joined the IDF to defend the Jewish people, not beat Jews or expel them from their homes."
Bieber Faces Nearly Two Months in Prison
Corp. Avi Bieber, who has received calls of support nationwide for being the "first disengagement refuser," is to be tried in Be\'er Sheva today by the deputy commander of the Gaza region.
Bieber was arrested on Sunday after refusing to participate in the violent suppression of protestors seeking to prevent the IDF from demolishing abandoned structures near the Gush Katif community of Shirat HaYam. The army felt that the structures were to be used to house opponents of the expulsion/retreat plan.
As Biber was being led away from the scene, a reporter asked him what was going on. "They\'re beating up Jews, that\'s what\'s going on," he said, visibly upset. "It\'s not right. It\'s not right and it\'s not just."
Bieber had requested to be tried before a military tribunal, which would have enabled him to have legal defense. His lawyer, Shai Galili, said he was not allowed to view any of the material beforehand, nor speak with any witnesses to the event.
The 19-year-old, who immigrated with his family from the U.S. at the age of 10, and who was described by his relatives as "q! uiet" until this week, is being charged on two counts, each of which carries a possible 28-day sentence: refusing orders and unbecoming behavior. The army has threatened to make an example out of him, with senior officers speaking of the need to deal harshly with disengagement-refusers.
"When he spoke to us last night," Avi\'s father Ralph said today, "he told us that we should hold our heads up high and be proud of him, and that he\'s willing to pay the price for what he did... We really are very proud of him."
Over 50 people gathered this morning outside the IDF Gaza headquarters, where it was originally thought Bieber would be tried, to support Corp. Bieber. The supporters cheered loudly for him, until police forcibly broke up the demonstration, arresting one activist in the process.
The trial was then moved, however, to an IDF base in Be\'er Sheva. When this news was learned, anti-expulsion activists quickly lined the road, holding orange signs in support of! the teenager-turned-hero.
Ralph Bieber said that he has received calls of support from all over the country. "The phone hasn\'t stopped ringing since Sunday," he said.
"The first act of destruction in Gush Katif saw the first cracks appear in the anti-Zionist uprooting mechanism," said a statement from the "Jewish Heart" organization, which provides legal assistance to soldiers who choose to refuse to participate in the Disengagement Plan.
Twelve other soldiers in Bieber\'s unit said afterwards that they would not participate in any further missions of this sort. "No one told us in advance that this was our mission," one of them told the Hebrew news site Ynet. "The soldiers are talking among themselves and saying that we were basically tricked..."
The soldier said that the 12 were tried by the Battalion Commander. "We didn\'t exactly refuse orders," he said, "but just said that if there is another one like this, we simply won\'t do it... Two of the sol! diers were crying with tears in their eyes [during the destruction]... They told us to stand with guns around our neck, with cartridges in our weapons; we\'re used to standing against Arabs like that, not against Jews."
The Orange Cell of Haifa University and Technion students announced its support of the soldiers "refusing to take part in the crimes against the Jewish Nation and and the fulfillment of blatantly illegal orders... We call upon all IDF soldiers to learn from them and follow their path. Only in this way we will restore the IDF to its mission of being the people\'s army and not that of the Sharon family."
Just this morning, Itzik Kleinman, a soldier in the IDF Technology and Logistics Branch was sentenced to 14 days in prison for expressing anti-disengagement views on a television program. Atty. Galili, representing Kleinman, said he would appeal the sentence.
Compiled by Volvi