Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran—Or I Will

Ya’alon, a former army chief of staff who is slated to serve as Netanyahu’s minister for strategic threats, dismissed the possibility of a revitalized peace process, telling me that “jihadists” interpret compromise as weakness. He cited the reaction to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza four years ago. “The mistake of disengagement from Gaza was that we thought like Westerners, that compromise would defuse a problem—but it just encouraged the problem,” he said. “The jihadists saw withdrawal as a defeat of the West … Now, what do you signal to them if you are ready to divide Jerusalem, or if you’re ready to withdraw to the 1967 lines? In this kind of conflict, your ability to stand and be determined is more important than your firepower.”

216103127_f48d3d0e14_oAmerican administration sources tell me that President Obama won’t shy from pressuring Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue during his first visit to Washington as prime minister, which is scheduled for early May. But Netanyahu suggested that he and Obama already see eye-to-eye on such crucial issues as the threat posed by Hamas. “The Obama administration has recently said that Hamas has to first recognize Israel and cease the support of terror. That’s a very good definition. It says you have to cease being Hamas.”

When I noted that many in Washington doubt his commitment to curtailing Jewish settlement on the West Bank, he said, in reference to his previous term as prime minister, from 1996 to 1999, “I can only point to what I did as prime minister in the first round. I certainly didn’t build new settlements.”

Netanyahu will manage Israel’s relationship with Washington personally—his foreign minister,Avigdor Lieberman, of the anti-Arab Israel Beiteinu party, is deeply unpopular in Washington—and I asked him if he could foresee agreeing on a “grand bargain” with Obama, in which he would move forward on talks with the Palestinians in exchange for a robust American response to Iran’s nuclear program. He said: “We intend to move on the Palestinian track independent of what happens with Iran, and I hope the U.S. moves to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons regardless of what happens on the Palestinian track.”

In our conversation, Netanyahu gave his fullest public explication yet of why he believes President Obama must consider Iran’s nuclear ambitions to be his preeminent overseas challenge. “Why is this a hinge of history? Several bad results would emanate from this single development. First, Iran’s militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella. This raises the stakes of any confrontation that they’d force on Israel. Instead of being a local event, however painful, it becomes a global one. Second, this development would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.

“Third, they would be able to pose a real and credible threat to the supply of oil, to the overwhelming part of the world’s oil supply. Fourth, they may threaten to use these weapons or to give them to terrorist proxies of their own, or fabricate terror proxies. Finally, you’d create a great sea change in the balance of power in our area—nearly all the Arab regimes are dead-set opposed to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. They fervently hope, even if they don’t say it, that the U.S. will act to prevent this, that it will use its political, economic, and, if necessary, military power to prevent this from happening.”

If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Netanyahu asserted, Washington’s Arab allies would drift into Iran’s orbit. “The only way I can explain what will happen to such regimes is to give you an example from the past of what happened to one staunch ally of the United States, and a great champion of peace, when another aggressive power loomed large. I’m referring to the late King Hussein [of Jordan] … who was an unequalled champion of peace. The same King Hussein in many ways subordinated his country to Saddam Hussein when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. Saddam seemed all-powerful, unchallenged by the United States, and until the U.S. extracted Kuwait from Saddam’s gullet, King Hussein was very much in Iraq’s orbit. The minute that changed, the minute Saddam was defeated, King Hussein came back to the Western camp.”

One of Iran’s goals, Netanyahu said, is to convince the moderate Arab countries not to enter peace treaties with Israel. Finally, he said, several countries in Iran’s neighborhood might try to develop nuclear weapons of their own. “Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The Middle East is incendiary enough, but with a nuclear arms race it will become a tinderbox,” he said.

Few in Netanyahu’s inner circle believe that Iran has any short-term plans to drop a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv, should it find a means to deliver it. The first-stage Iranian goal, in the understanding of Netanyahu and his advisers, is to frighten Israel’s most talented citizens into leaving their country.  “The idea is to keep attacking the Israelis on a daily basis, to weaken the willingness of the Jewish people to hold on to their homeland,” Moshe Ya’alon said. “The idea is to make a place that is supposed to be a safe haven for Jews unattractive for them. They are waging a war of attrition.”

The Israeli threat to strike Iran militarily if the West fails to stop the nuclear program may, of course, be a tremendous bluff. After all, such threats may just be aimed at motivating President Obama and others to grapple urgently with the problem. But Netanyahu and his advisers seem to believe sincerely that Israel would have difficulty surviving in a Middle East dominated by a nuclear Iran. And they are men predisposed to action; many, like Netanyahu, are former commandos.

As I waited in the Knesset cafeteria to see Netanyahu, I opened a book he edited of his late brother’s letters. Yoni Netanyahu, a commando leader, was killed in 1976 during the Israeli raid on Entebbe, and his family organized his letters in a book they titled Self-Portrait of a Hero. In one letter, Yoni wrote to his teenage brother, then living in America, who had apparently been in a fight after someone directed an anti-Semitic remark at him. “I see … that you had to release the surplus energy you stored up during the summer,” Yoni wrote. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s too bad you sprained a finger in the process. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with a good fist fight; on the contrary, if you’re young and you’re not seriously hurt, it won’t do you real harm. Remember what I told you? He who delivers the first blow, wins.”

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Hamas will not officially recognize the Zionist regime

The Prime Minister of Palestine’s legal government announced that Hamas would never officially recognize the Zionist regime.

Ismail Haniyeh emphasized that the Zionist regime is illegal.

Hamas will not show any acts of opposition if a Palestinian nation is created on the lands that were occupied in and after 1967. It will strive to make such a thing happen.

The prime minister stated that Hamas is starting a new era in foundational aspects of the resistance and in Palestinian security. They will rebuild Gaza in such a way that the Palestinian civilians will be able to be protected.

Haniyeh also requested the international community to criminally try the Zionist leaders who committed war crimes against the people of Gaza; war crimes such as using weapons of mass destruction against the oppressed people of Palestine. He wants them to be tried in the International Court in the Hague.

Islam Times

The Defeat of Israel’s army was dealt by the resistance; not diplomacy

Muhsin Bilal

Muhsin Bilal

Syria’s information minister clearly stated that the mythical undefeatable Israeli army was defeated by resistance; not diplomacy.

Muhsin Bilal, Syria’s information minister, said that the trifecto of Olmert, the prime minister, Livni, the foreign minister, and Barak, the defense minister of the Zionist regime was defeated not once, but a few times by the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine.

This Syrian politician added in a conference held last night in Damascus that the defeat of the enemy in the 33-Day-War in Lebanon caused some of the Israeli leaders to resign – including the minister of defense, the head of the army, and the commander of the northern forces.

Bilal stated that the Zionist regime is facing problems in its system and government in addition to rebuilding the army.

This Syrian official stated that the Golan Heights must be freed from the grips of the Zionist regime.

Islam Times

The Zionist Regime created a committee to pressurize Hamas

Zionist media outlets reported that a ministerial cabinet has been established with the sole purpose of pressurizing the Islamic resistance movement called Hamas.

The purpose of this cabinet is to force Hamas to change its policy over the prisoner trades with the Zionist regime and over the freeing of Gilad Shalit, the Zionist soldier that was captured by Hamas.

Daniel Freidman, the minister of justice in Israel, is the head of this cabinet. He has proposed pressuring Hamas by changing how the members of Hamas are treated in Zionist prisons.

If the new cabinet does not hear anything new from the prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, they will announce it in a meeting with Ehud Olmert.

Olmert’s office announced the defeat of the talks between Hamas and Cairo in regards to a prisoner swap.

The office of the prime minister of Israel claimed that Hamas made very heavy demands in response to Israel’s mild demands in regards to the freeing of Gilad Shalit.

Usama Hamdan, the representative of Hamas in Cairo, said that the Zionist regime is the reason behind the failure of these talks. He added that the Israeli representatives did not say anything new in regards to the prisoner swap.

Islam Times

There is no place for defeat against Hamas

Amos Gilad

Amos Gilad

A high security minister of the Zionist regime emphasized that Hamas will never be quiet until Israel is completely destroyed.

Amos Gilad, the coordinator of government operations in the territories, warned this regime about the strategic dangers of Hamas.

Since the resistance organizations in Gaza and Lebanon are continuing their efforts to destroy Israel, he warned the international community of giving them legitimacy by holding talks with them.

He spoke in a security conference in Tel Aviv. He added: “Hamas is working very logically and they are following the notion that Israel does not have the right to exist.”

Gilad said that Hamas is very fanatical and said that there is no place for defeat in front of them – even if we have to use the strongest military advancement that the world has ever seen in Gaza.”

He confessed to the power of Hamas and claimed: “When Hamas sees Israeli weakness they will break the peace and will be prepared to fight in a Gazan War.”

This security agent emphasized that Hamas is not after peace with Israel, rather they are using the political talks as a deceptive strategy obtaining time.”

Lately, Europe has been whispering the notion of holding talks with Hamas, which Gilad says would only give them international credibility. Recently a European group traveled to Damascus and held talks with Khaled Mashal, the political leader of Hamas.

Islam Times

The purposes of the Riyadh Meeting

The movements of the Saudi Arabian government after the Gaza War, where the Zionist army was defeated, are trying to show that this victory was accomplished by the political efforts of Saudi Arabia and Egypt – enabling the resistance to succeed.

In the last few weeks a few Saudi Arabian officials have travelled to Damascus just as a number of Egyptian have as well. Jordan, by sending an official letter and a political representative, wanted to join forces with them. A few meetings took place chaired by King Abdullah and attended by some Arab heads of state, including the Syrian president. The latest meeting was last Wednesday in Riyadh where King Abdullah, the kind of Saudi Arabia, Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabbah, the prince of Kuwait, and Bashar Asad, the president of Syria attended.

The Saudi king announced in an economical meeting of the heads of Arab states held in Kuwait the day after the Gaza War ended: “Now the time to bury the differences of Arabs has come.” Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister took a step further and said in an interview: “The Kuwait Summit buried the differences of Arabs.” The Syrian president rejected this. Bashar Asad, in an interview with the Emirate newspaper Dar al-Khaleej, said: “We are now trying to make up and we cannot confirm that we do not have any differences with each other.”

Immediately after the meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday, Hosni Mubarak met with King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman. The head of Mubarak’s office stated that it was a continuation of the Riyadh meeting. Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the League of Arab States, entered Damascus. It has been decided that there will be another meeting of Arab leaders in Qatar in the next few weeks.

This shows the unified activities of Riyadh, Amman, and Cairo around one foundational axis. Everyone knows that the Islamic resistance in the region is the biggest problem for the three Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan) and also the biggest problem for the Zionist regime, America, and the west. Since Syria has a strategic relationship with Iran and the resistances in Lebanon and Palestine, it has been given great importance by this group. American and Arab groups have clearly mentioned the possibility of separating Syria from Iran and the resistance and the possibility of establishing two states – Palestine and Israel – in the occupied territories if peace between Syria and Israel is accomplished. The political organization Khawar, close to Washington, announced in the Christian Science Monitor in regards to a conclusion about the political changes in the Middle East that America, through Saudi Arabia, will try its best to put Syria in line with American policies which would necessitate it distancing itself from Iran. This American publication clearly stated that the reason that Israel lost in its war against Palestine was because the Saudi Arabian-Egyptian pole has become weak.

The meetings and talks amongst the four countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria) and the multiple travels of political figures to and from these countries must bee looked at with precision. The reason for this is that the resistance in the Middle East depends on the strength of Iran and Syria. Any weakness will have foundational consequences in the Middle East. In order to look into this subject, it must be said that:

1. Syria has been struggling since 1967, when the Golan Heights and Jabal Sheikh were occupied by the Zionist regime. These two places were not only strategic and economical, but they were considered a sign of the existence of the government in Damascus. Now, Syria sees an international opportunity and wants to test what would happen by claiming the loss of Golan and Jabal Sheikh. The victory of the resistance in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon increases the world’s need of Syria in the eyes of Bashar. From another angle, Bashar Asad sees the dead-end that the meetings between Arab and Israeli figures in regards to the two-state solution have reached as another opportunity for Syria. The Syrian government does not give clear answers in regards to the questions about whether or not they are ready to change their relationship with the resistance or not. But, they emphasize that the peace process is not possible without the powers of the region – Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine – participating in it.

2. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are holding talks with Syria in order to weaken Iran and the Arab resistance in the region. They believe that if they tempt Syria with financial benefits and the return of the strategic Golan Heights then the chain of resistance in the region will be broken and the ancient Arab movement called nationalism will replace Islam. They believe that nationalism will be enlivened and honor will be returned to these two countries. Some time ago the president of Egypt in a public address stated: “Iran is stealing the Middle East and we cannot remain silent.” If he was more precise he would have stated that Islam has taken over the Middle East and that he must find a way to take control back. At the same time it must be said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have an internal fight as well. Egyptians consider themselves the leaders of the Arab world while Saudi Arabia believes that their status has fallen in the last thirty years.

3. Jordan and Kuwait are playing a supportive role in this movement. They are not that important. But, the presence of Kuwait emphasized the principle role of Saudi Arabia and the presence of Jordan emphasizes the principle role of Egypt. King Abdullah of Jordan and Sheikh Ahmad Sabbah of Kuwait state that they benefits of their countries are in this movement. Jordan expects Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to save it from the economical fall that it is facing along with the whole world.

4. Saudi Arabia and Egypt face many problems in these talks. One of the problems is that they want Syria to trade the relationship that it has with the resistance, which is its strongest point of honor, for a promise to give back the Golan Heights. Bashar, even though he is young, knows well that political talks and promises from Arab governments have never given results. Because of this the president of Syria states that there are differences between the contracts of peace and real peace.

5. America, after the 22-Day-War against Gaza emphasized that Israel cannot fight and must improve their conditions through diplomacy. It seems far-fetched that America is hopeful that Syria will weaken their relation with Iran and the resistance. They believe that they can make Syria change a little bit and make them think about their relationship with Iran and with America. They believe that with this the progress of Islam in the Middle East will be thwarted and the possibility of American management over the region will increase. But, this issue is just American brainstorming.

6. Another side of this issue is the Zionist regime. This regime is in a very weak state right now and does not have the ability to discuss the issue of Golan. If they debate this topic, as Bashar says, they are not ready to agree to anything. The Zionist regime believes in its internal strength and if they give back Golan Heights they will loose their existence – just as retreating from Gaza four years ago caused them to loose their security. In these conditions it is highly unlikely that Saudi Arabia could promise anything more than financial benefits to Syria. Because of this the president of Syria stated, knocking down Saudi Arabia and Egypt: “Peace treaties are nothing more than a piece of paper. But the reality is that 500 thousand Palestinians are in Syria. They must return to their homes and Golan must be given back to Syria. Until this happens there will be no changes.”

Islam Times

The resistance option

Hamas isn’t Hizballah and Gaza isn’t Lebanon. The resistance in Gaza — which includes leftist and nationalist as well as Islamist forces — doesn’t have mountains to fight in. It has no strategic depth. It doesn’t have Syria behind it to keep supply lines open; instead it has Israel’s wall and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s goons. Lebanese civilians can flee north and east, while Gaza’s repeat-refugees have no escape. The Lebanese have their farms, and supplies from outside; Gaza has been under total siege for years. Hizballah has remarkable discipline and is surely the best-trained, most disciplined force in the region. Although it has made great strides, Hamas is still undisciplined. Crucially, Hizballah has air-tight intelligence control in Lebanon, while Gaza contains collaborators like maggots in a corpse.

But Hamas is still standing. On the rare occasions when Israel actually fought — rather than just called in air strikes — its soldiers reported “ferocious” resistance. Hamas withstood 22 days of the most barbaric bombing Zionism has yet stooped to, and did not surrender. Rocket fire continued from Gaza after Israel declared its unilateral ceasefire.

Let’s put this in context. In 1947-48 Zionist militias drove out more than 700,000 Palestinians without too much trouble. In 1967 it took Israel six days to destroy the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies, and to capture the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. Zionism’s last “victory” was the expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization from Beirut in 1982 — if it was a victory.

The long and bloody occupation of Lebanon gave birth to new forms of resistance. Where Arab states and armies had failed, popular resistance removed American and French forces from Beirut, and then steadily rolled back the Israelis. The first suicide bomber of the conflict was a Marxist woman of Christian background. The human bomb was a tactic to which Israeli troops had no answer. Hizballah formed, and developed into the power that would drive Israel from almost all of Lebanon by 2000. In 2006 Israel returned, in an effort to finish the resistance once and for all. What happened was a historic turnaround: for five weeks Israeli troops bled in the border villages, and failed to move beyond them. For the first time, the hi-tech, first-world savagery of the Zionist army, supposedly the fourth strongest army in the world, was kept at bay. Israel of course killed far more civilians than Hizballah did, and performed its usual rampage against civilian infrastructure, but in terms of the soldiers in battle, casualties were roughly equal.

There has been a lot of talk, particularly by Arab collaborators, about Hizballah being an Iranian proxy. While Iran does assist the resistance with weapons and funds, the Lebanese resistance is Lebanese, the creation of the villagers of the south and the Bekaa, and the families of the southern suburbs of Beirut. It was the people themselves who turned Zionism back. Even more improbably, the same collaborators now accuse Hamas, a democratically-elected Palestinian Sunni movement, of taking orders from Tehran.

One reason given for this latest massacre in Gaza was Israel’s desire to restore its deterrence after the 2006 debacle. Certainly the Arabs now know (as if they didn’t know before) that any whisper of resistance will be met by the most fanatical violence. Certainly Hamas and others will have to factor this into their tactical decisions. But in strategic terms the Israeli deterrent looks even shoddier than it did a month ago. The Arab peoples are no longer scared of Israel, whatever Israel throws at them. A psychological tipping point has been passed, and this, in the long term, counts for more than nuclear bombs.

Even as Western and Zionist officials grin and hug, the siege of Gaza continues and the people are now facing starvation. However, their suffering seems to have strengthened the resistance. The communities of south Lebanon and south Beirut, those which suffered most in 2006, have redoubled their loyalty to Hizballah.

In spite of Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, in Palestine and throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, Hamas and the resistance option it represents is immeasurably stronger. The ridiculous no-longer-president-of-anything Mahmoud Abbas, and the gangs loyal to Fatah warlord Muhammad Dahlan, are much weaker. It wasn’t Abbas but Hamas political chief in exile, Khaled Meshal who represented Palestine at the Doha emergency summit last month. While the Abbas-Dahlan traitors arrested Hamas activists, and tried (and largely failed) to suppress solidarity demonstrations on the West Bank, the resistance was standing firm against Zionist terror.

In solidarity with the resistance, Palestinians in Israel organized the biggest demonstrations in their history. There is no doubt to which nation these Palestinians belong, especially in the eyes of the main Israeli political parties, which sought to ban Arab parties from standing in the approaching elections on the grounds of “disloyalty” to the apartheid state.

What now? Enough nonsensical talk of peace processes. Peace might be nice, but it isn’t, and never has been, on the agenda. It is time to build a new Palestine Liberation Organization, as elected as possible, to represent all Palestinians, both Islamist and secular, those living in the lands stolen in 1948, the lands stolen in 1967, and those in exile. The Palestinian Authority should be abolished, and the Oslo/Road Map farce officially abandoned. Then Palestinians have to decide what their aims and strategies will be. The two-state solution is no solution. There is a huge amount of work to do. All Palestinians should agitate for the new organization.

Electronic Intifada

Hamas Is Not Going Away

Hamas Rally

Hamas Rally

Despite intensive efforts by Israel, the international community and a number of Arab leaders to weaken and destroy Hamas through economic, punitive and military action, the Islamist organisation continues to be a force to reckon with.

Hamas won free and fair democratic elections in January 2006. The U.S. pushed for these elections, which were monitored by international observers including ex-U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and Israel permitted them to be held.

Hamas has since then been dominant, though it took effective control in June 2007, more than a year after its election victory. The Gaza Strip, which the resistance group controls, took a serious battering during Israel’s 22-day military assault, codenamed Operation Cast Lead.

The coastal territory has also been economically crippled by nearly two years of an Israeli embargo which has hermetically sealed Gaza off from the rest of the world, preventing the import of all but a tiny flow of humanitarian aid and goods.

Israel purportedly carried out the military operation to stop Palestinian rockets from hitting Israeli cities and towns bordering the Gaza Strip.

However, rocket fire on Israel had virtually ceased in the five months of ceasefire between Israel and Hamas which preceded an Israeli cross-border military operation into Gaza on Nov. 4. This operation provoked a barrage of retaliatory missiles on Israel.

Prior to Operation Cast Lead, a delegation of British parliamentarians met with Hamas leaders in Gaza. The parliamentarians were told that Hamas would be prepared to accept Israel’s existence, within the internationally recognised borders of 1967, provided the Jewish state legitimised the rights of Palestinians in return.

Despite the immense scale of death and destruction wrought by Operation Cast Lead, which left over 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians dead, rockets continue to be fired at Israel in spite of disproportionate responses from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

Following the recent ceasefire most of Hamas’s leadership emerged from underground bunkers unscathed. The digging of smuggling tunnels for everyday necessities as well as arms has resumed.

Furthermore, there are also growing signs that the Europeans, some Israelis and previous Arab opponents are resigned to factoring Hamas into any political equation to address a resolution of the conflict.

Last week after several days of intensive diplomatic pressure, the Israeli government managed to stymie a French initiative to weaken the Jewish state’s stance on Hamas.

Following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, France tried to change a pre-written closing statement released by the ministers regarding the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

Paris wanted the statement to say that the EU would be prepared to hold talks with a future Palestinian unity government which included Hamas as long as it agreed to honour the principles of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Additionally, the French delegation to Brussels proposed opening Israeli border crossings into Gaza immediately without any conditions. A previous agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2005 stipulated that the PA had to control the crossings.

However, following intervention by Israel, the Czech Republic – the current holder of the EU presidency – Germany, Italy and the Netherlands pushed the French initiative off the agenda.

Israel viewed the French move as an attempt to get the Quartet for Middle East peace – the UN, the U.S., Russia and the EU – to soften its conditions for international recognition of Hamas.

A senior Israeli official said that since the end of the Gaza operation, his country was concerned about a possible break in European support for the boycott of the Hamas government in Gaza.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, met French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris recently.

During the meeting the Gaza ceasefire was discussed and Kouchner stressed the need for inter-Palestinian dialogue and for the border crossings into Gaza to be reopened.

Kouchner again suggested France was open to the idea of a unity government if Hamas softened its stance.

Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin told reporters in Damascus on Monday that some kind of engagement with Hamas may have to feature in future European Union policy.

Hamas’s erstwhile foe and bitter rival Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls the West Bank, also discussed the issue with French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Paris on Monday.

Abbas too called for a unity Palestinian government and said Hamas’s inclusion was imperative as long as it recognised his supreme authority.

On Monday Sarkozy also met Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani, whose Persian Gulf country has emerged as a regional mediator since helping to resolve a political crisis in Lebanon last year. Al-Thani insisted Hamas should not be sidelined from peace efforts.

“We must work for a government of national unity between the Palestinians. There should not be efforts to delete or distance one of the Palestinian parties present on the ground,” Al-Thani told reporters.

Israeli columnist and analyst Akiva Elder noted in the daily Haaretz that Israel’s continual denial of the reality of Hamas as a legitimate political entity was short-sighted.

For 20 years Israel has tried to destroy the movement using carrots and sticks alternately. The only difference between the ruling Kadima party’s leader and minister of foreign affairs, Tzipi Livni, and the more right-wing opposition Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu is the size of the clubs to be used, argued Eldar.

“Precisely because of the many children killed in Gaza, Cast Lead has been assured a place of honour in the ethos of the struggle of the Palestinian David, armed with primitive Qassams, and the Israeli Goliath, with his F-16s,” said Eldar.

“When they hear the proud declarations of Israel’s leaders, to the effect that deterrence has been restored, Hamas’s leaders certainly laugh themselves to death, and not just because of the rockets that continue to fall on the people of Ashkelon.

“The threat of a few more bombs on Gaza deters them like the death penalty deters a suicide bomber on the way to carry out an attack,” said Eldar.

Only a long-term ceasefire, it seems, accompanied by a real diplomatic context, can pull the rug of popular support out from under Hamas and restore it to its natural proportions.

IPS

Leader’s letter to Hamas

Sayyid Ali Khamenei

Sayyid Ali Khamenei

The following is the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei’s letter to Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in which the Leader praises the bravery of resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip.

In the Name of God the Compassionate and the Merciful

To the Hamas leader Ismail Haniya

“Peace be unto you and so may the mercy of Allah and His blessings”

The 20-day perseverance of you, the courageous resistance fighters and the people of Gaza against one of the most atrocious war crimes in the history of the world has hoisted the flag of glory overhead the Islamic Ummah. You have proven that Muslim hearts filled with confidence in God and the Day of Judgment, which will not bow to oppression, can create such heroism that will bring the arrogant powers of the world and their well-equipped armies to their knees.

The army, which you have managed with your perseverance to keep outside Gaza City for the past 20 days, is the same army that took large portions of three Arab states in just six days.

You must be proud of your unshakable faith in God almighty and his promises, of your courage, patience and sacrifices, as today, the whole of the Muslim world is proud of it. Your resistance has brought shame on the US, the Zionist regime and their supporters in the United Nations and in certain Islamic countries.

Today, not only Muslim nations, but also many European and American nations have acknowledged your righteousness. In our eyes, you are victorious today and with the continuation of your resistance, you will further bring shame to the enemy.

You must remember that “Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor has He become displeased,” and that “Soon your Lord will give you so that you shall be well pleased,” God willing.

But even so the atrocities committed in Gaza and the death of innocent Palestinians, especially the children, has deeply saddened us. Our entire nation is in mourning because of the crimes committed by the occupiers of Palestine which are broadcast from our television channels everyday.

I pray to God for a speedy victory. As God almighty never goes back on his promises and has said “And surely Allah will help him who helps His cause; most surely Allah is Strong, Mighty” and “Those who strive, strive for their own good”….

Those among the Arab world who have committed treachery must know that a fate no better than that of the Jewish people involved in the battle of the clans will befall them, as God almighty has said “He also brought down their allies among the people of the scripture from their secure positions.”

The nations of the world stand beside the people and resistance fighters of Gaza. Any government that goes against the will of its nation will further distance itself from its people and the fate of such government is obvious.

They must remember that the Commander of the Faithful Ali ibn Abi Talib has said “Living a life of defeat is death and a death with dignity is life.”

I salute you and the resistance fighters of Gaza and the oppressed and resistant people of Gaza.

Aside from the Islamic Republic of Iran’s efforts to aid you, which we have viewed it as our duty, I pray for you day and night. I wish you patience and victory from God almighty.

“Peace be unto you and unto every pious person and so may be the mercy of Allah and His blessings”

Seyyed Ali Khamenei

Insight-info

700 Palestinian Refugees Forced To Flee

Gaza

Gaza

Israeli tanks thrust deep inside Gaza City last night as ferocious fighting raged in dense residential areas with terrified families fleeing along streets echoing with gunfire, although many others were trapped in their homes.

Israeli shelling set fire to the UN headquarters, a hospital, a school and a building used by the media, leading to widespread international protests and renewed calls for a ceasefire in the conflict which has so far cost 1,073 Palestinian and 13 Israeli lives. A senior Hamas leader, the Interior Minister Said Seyyam who was responsible for thousands of security agents, was killed in an Israeli raid which flattened his brother’s home.

Three members of UN staff were injured when three Israeli shells hit the headquarters, setting it on fire. Thousands of tonnes of desperately needed food and humanitarian supplies were destroyed and about 700 refugees given shelter in the building had to be evacuated. UN officials said the shells were white phosphorus, believed to have been responsible for burns suffered by some Palestinian civilians.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on a peace mission to the region, said: “I conveyed my strong protest and outrage to the Defence Minister and Foreign Minister and demanded a full explanation.”

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, apologised for the shelling but claimed Hamas fighters had opened fire from the centre. “It is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place, but the consequences are very sad and we apologise for it,” he said. “I don’t think it should have happened and I’m very sorry.”

John Ging, the director of operations for the UN relief agency, UNRWA, in Gaza described the Israeli claim about a Hamas presence as “nonsense”. He added: “It’s a total disaster for us.” Mr Ging said the UN had warned the Israelis the compound was in danger from shelling that had begun overnight, and provided them with GPS co-ordinates to prevent an attack.

The Al-Quds hospital was also hit by shellfire when Israeli tanks moved further into the city. A tower housing the Reuters agency and other media outlets was also hit. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the damage caused to the Al Quds hospital is “completely and utterly unacceptable based on every known standard of international humanitarian law”.

The hospital is in the Tal Hawa district, a packed residential area. Streams of people fled from the fighting, carrying what belongings they could on foot, by car, and, in some cases wheelbarrows after homes were demolished and set ablaze. Mahmud Tejan Hussein drove away with seven members of his family. “Bullets started hitting our house and I decided that we must get away from here. There are Israeli tanks in the area now and we might get blocked off if we wait. But I do not know where we are going to go. We wanted to go to the UN office, but that has been attacked. Wherever we go, the fighting will follow us.”

Musah Mohammed, 36, who stayed at his home in an apartment block, said: “We cannot go out. There is shooting in the street. My mother is ill and she is old; we cannot leave her here. People are shouting to each other from balconies crying that they need help. We have no electricity and very little food and water. We are very afraid; we do not know what will happen next.” It was unclear whether the escalation was a final push before a ceasefire, as peace talks continued yesterday in Cairo where Israel’s chief negotiator Amos Gilad arrived to hear the Hamas response to an Egyptian initiative.

Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, said a “momentum” was building up on the talks. “Ultimately, we want to see a long-term sustainable quiet in the south, a quiet that’s going to be based on the total absence of all hostile fire from Gaza into Israel, and an internationally supported mechanism that will prevent Hamas from rearming,” he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Mr Olmert by phone that Washington would sign an agreement on measures to stop Hamas from rearming after a ceasefire. The Egyptian proposals call for an immediate ceasefire, resumption of humanitarian aid, an Israeli pullout and the reopening of the border between Israel and Gaza under international supervision.

Insight-info

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