Archive for the ‘Olmert’ Category

Israel May Elect Netanyahu; Disappointing Outsiders

February 8, 2009

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, last night launched a concerted final effort to become her nation’s first woman leader since Golda Meir, despite the rightwards shift in public opinion that has threatened to propel Benjamin Netanyahu back into the premiership.

The leader of the centrist Kadima party, who began the closing stages of her campaign with a rally for Druze Arab voters in Galilee last night, issued a direct personal challenge to Mr Netanyahu to agree to the television debate which he has consistently refused.

As polls showing the lead of Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has narrowed to only two seats ahead of Kadima, Ms Livni’s campaign team believes she can overtake her rival by the time Israel goes to the polls on Tuesday.

Mr Netanyahu has emphasised the threats from Hamas and a nuclear Iran in his campaign.

By Donald Macintyre
The Independent (UK)

Israel's Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu smiles during ... 
Israel’s Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu smiles during a meeting with supporters in the northern city of Tiberias February 8, 2009. Surveys predict a narrow win in Tuesday’s vote for hawkish ex-premier Netanyahu, his comeback fuelled by the inconclusive wars in southern Lebanon and Gaza, formerly areas under Israel’s control and now bastions of hostile Islamists.REUTERS/Baz Ratner (ISRAEL)

Ms Livni, who strongly supported the recent invasion of Gaza, but has pledged to continue talks on a two-state solution with the moderate West Bank Palestinian leadership, said there was a public demand from potential leaders “to specify with which policies they plan to cope with the threats, and lead [Israel] to a better future of peace and quiet”. Meanwhile the outgoing Kadima premier, Ehud Olmert, was making what the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, said were “supreme efforts” to leave a positive legacy by securing the release of Gilad Shalit, the army corporal seized by Gaza militants in 2006, before polling day.

Turkish TV reported on Friday that Turkish officials were holding talks in Damascus with exiled leaders of Hamas, which has been seeking a large-scale release of Palestinian prisoners in return.

At the same time Mr Barak, Labour’s prime ministerial candidate, told Channel 1 TV that Cpl Shalit was known to be “well, alive, breathing and OK”.

He added: “You know that I am a fierce critic of the Prime Minister, but in these matters, in these days, he is making a great effort, as am I … in order to expedite the process.” Whether the formidable obstacles to securing the release can be overcome remains to be seen, however.

A Hamas official, Osama al-Muzaini, said talks on the issue had so far made little progress because Israel “remained unwilling to pay the price”.

While Mr Barak warned the release of Cpl Shalit would require “painful decisions” – presumably on a prisoner exchange – the electoral effect, if it happened, would probably be to help Labour and Kadima at the expense of Likud and the increasingly popular Yisrael Beiteinu, led by the hard-right Avigdor Lieberman.

According to the polls, the main features of a relatively lacklustre election so far have been the Likud comeback under Mr Netanyahu from its three-decade low of just 12 Knesset seats in the 2006 election, and the seemingly relentless rise of Mr Lieberman, who could yet prove the kingmaker in forming a coalition after Tuesday.

Polls published on Friday – the last allowed before election day – showed Likud with 25 to 27 seats, just ahead of Kadima, with 23 to 25. Mr Lieberman’s party with 18 or 19, which, if fulfilled in actual voting, would push the once-dominant Labour Party into fourth place.

Most analysts think the rightward shift has resulted from a combination of two factors. One is Hamas’s continued control of Gaza. The other is the stillbirth of the centrist programme under Mr Olmert of withdrawing from settlements and negotiating a peace deal with the moderate Palestinian leadership. This was envisaged at the international Annapolis summit sponsored by President George Bush at the end of 2007.

Read the rest:

Gaza: More Rockets Hit Israel; Gazans Warned of Attack in Response

February 3, 2009

After a rocket attack from Gaza into the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday morning, Israel warned Gazans that an air stike would come soon.

Knowing that Israel has promised a disproportionate response to Hamas rockets, the rockets continue to come from Gaza.

And Hamas is shooting them.

Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said “that if there is rocket fire at southerners, there will be a response that will essentially be disproportionate.”

After Tuesday’s rocket attack, recorded messages, in Arabic, said people who work in tunnels, live near them or are “giving logistical help to terrorists” should evacuate the area immediately, residents said.

On Sunday, the IAF launched strikes against Hamas installations and smuggling tunnels throughout Gaza in response to the more than 15 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel by Gaza terrorists throughout the day.

This aerial view shows the power station and industrial zone of Ashkelon, Israel, in March of 2008.

This aerial view shows the power station and industrial zone of Ashkelon, Israel, in March of 2008.


Netanyahu says Iran will not get hands on nukes

February 1, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s leading candidate for prime minister, said Saturday that Iran “will not be armed with a nuclear weapon.”

Aron Heller
Associated Press

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV, Netanyahu said if elected prime minister his first mission will be to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat. Netanyahu, the current opposition leader and head of the hardline Likud party, called Iran the greatest danger to Israel and to all humanity.

When asked if stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions included a military strike, he replied: “It includes everything that is necessary to make this statement come true.”

Iran has denied it is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and says it is pursuing nuclear power for peaceful uses. It also denies it is engaged in terrorism, instead accusing Israel of terrorist policies against the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, which were occupied by Israel after the 1967 Mideast War.

The Channel 2 TV broadcast interviewed all three candidates for prime minister ahead of the Feb. 10 election. The three did not debate each other and appeared one after the other to answer questions posted by Israelis in YouTube videos.

Tzipi Livni of Kadima and Ehud Barak of Labor were both asked about how they intended to deal with the continuing rocket threat from Hamas militants in Gaza. Both took a hard line.

“Hamas was hit like it was never hit before,” Barak, the defense minister, said. “If they try us again, they will be hit again.”

Read the rest:

Leader of the Likud Party in Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, gestures ... 
Leader of the Likud Party in Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, gestures as he speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday Jan. 29, 2009.(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the Natanz uranium ... 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.(AFP/File/Atta Kenare)

Israel urges Turkey to rethink its ties with Hamas and Iran

February 1, 2009

Brushing off fierce Turkish censure of its offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Israel urged Ankara on Sunday to consider cooling ties with the Palestinian Islamists and Iran.

The Israel Defense Forces campaign, which ended in a Jan. 18 truce, triggered protests from Turkey culminating in a shouting match last week between its Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum.


Israeli officials have tried to play down the schism with Muslim, mostly secular Turkey, a key ally of Israel.

Read the rest:

 Israeli President, Turkey PM In “Amicable” Conversation; Some Media Magnifies Dispute

Turkey Tells Obama: Redefine Terrorism; Bush Misunderestimated “Realities” of Middle East, Hezbollah Says

 Diplomatic Conduct Explodes Over Israel, Gaza: Turkey’s PM Hero At Home


More Rockets Hit Israel, “Disproportionate” Response Threatened

February 1, 2009

Militants in Gaza apparently fired four more rockets into Israel Sunday, shaking the already unsteady cease fire.

Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, “The cabinet’s position from the outset was that if there is rocket fire at southerners, there will be a response that will essentially be disproportionate.”

“Two weeks have passed since Israel’s decision to cease its fire in the Gaza Strip, and [the truce] was declared on two basic conditions: A complete halt in rocket fire and a stop to the smuggling of weapons to terror group through the Philadelphi Corridor,” he continued. “Those were the two conditions for the cease-fire and we knew that there was a considerable chance Hamas would continue with the rocket fire.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel's response will be "disproportionate" if rocket attacks continue.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel’s response will be “disproportionate” if rocket attacks continue.

“We won’t return to the rules of the game that terror groups have tried to dictate and we won’t be dragged into a never-ending shooting war,” said the prime minister, stressing that Israel would not allow the rocket attacks to continue.

Israel attacked Hamas in Gaza on December 27 with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks on southern Israel.

More than 1,300 Palestinians died and about 5,400 others were wounded. Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, were also killed in the fighting.

Rocket From Gaza Hits Israel; Isreal Threatens More Military Action

Jerusalem Post:



Sderot police station
The remnants of hundreds of rockets are held at Sderot police station, Israel

Diplomatic Conduct Explodes Over Israel, Gaza: Turkey’s PM Hero At Home

January 30, 2009

It isn’t often that two heads of state show any emotion and a public diplomatic event.  A show of anger: never.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received a hero’s welcome upon his return to Istanbul on Friday following his public spat at the World Economic Forum in Davos with President Shimon Peres over the fighting in Gaza.

Erdogan said he had been insulted. “My responsibility is to protect the honor of the Turkish nation.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Erdogan assured Peres that he wasn’t angry with him, but with the organizers of the forum. The Israeli PM’s office denied Turkish media reports that Peres had apologized to Erdogan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, Prime Minister of Turkey and Shimon ... 
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, Prime Minister of Turkey and Shimon Peres, right, President of Israel during a plenary session on the Middle East Peace at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009.  Erdogan verbally sparred with peres and then stalked off.(AP Photo/Keystone/Laurent Gillieron)

During the forum, Erdogan had become enraged over being cut off by a panel moderator after listening to an impassioned monologue by Peres defending Operation Cast Lead.

Peres’s defense was prompted by harsh criticism leveled at Israel not only by Erdogan, but also by the two other panelists, Arab League head Amr Moussa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“You are killing people,” Erdogan declared to Peres.

Jerusalem Post:


Around 3,000 supporters welcomed Mr Erdogan’s return to Istanbul, waving red and white Turkish flags and declaring the PM a hero.  See:

Obama Launching First Diplomatic Mission To Middle East

January 25, 2009

The day Barack Obama became President of the United States, Israeli tanks were rumbling out of Gaza and Palestinians were piled up awaiting burial. Unitid Nations storehouse were in ruins.  Accusations were flying that Israel had used white phosphorus — a substanced banned for use in populated areas by civilized people.   It would be difficult to make the other top priorities of the world scene more important than the festering and violent disputes of the Middle East. Despite Russia-Georgia, North Korea, disagreements with China, Pakistan, troubles in Afghanistan and other disputes, Barack Obama is squarely and rightly facing the Middle East….


President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East will come to Israel Wednesday for talks on keeping alive a fragile Gaza cease-fire and reviving Mideast negotiations, an Israeli foreign ministry official said Saturday.

It is the new administration’s first direct move into Mideast peace efforts.

By STEVE WEIZMAN, Associated Press Writer

George J. Mitchell will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior Israeli officials, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because Washington has not officially announced the trip.

George Mitchell, US President Barack Obama's newly named ... 
George Mitchell, US President Barack Obama’s newly named Special Envoy to the Middle East.(AFP/Saul Loeb)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced Mitchell in his new role Thursday. His appointment is seen as signaling a renewed push under the Obama administration for a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mitchell will also visit Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at their headquarters in the West Bank, the official said.

The official said Mitchell will discuss restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, and ways to impose an effective arms blockade against the Hamas militants who rule Gaza and have been firing rockets into Israel for years.

The arms embargo and the opening of the blockaded territory’s borders are key to sustaining separate cease-fires by Israel and Hamas.

Tzipi Livni (Left) with Hillary Clinton

Read the rest:

Israel Failed: Tunnels in Gaza Again Filled With Supplies, Diggers

January 22, 2009

Israel wanted to stop Hamas from sending rockets into Israel.  Israel also wanted to stop the flow of rocket parts and other supplies into Gaza by tunnel.

Israel pounded the tunnels by air for over 20 days.  Israel made an agreement with the U.S. and others to make sure rockets didn’t ever reach Gaza again.

But the tunnels have re-opened.

In the last 24 hours, CBS News, The Jerusalem Post and other news sources are saying the Gaza tunnels are again filled with supplies and more diggers are making repairs and improvments.

The last Israeli troops left Gaza on Tuesday.
“For the tunnels, nothing will be as it was before,” Livni told public radio. “Things must be clear — Israel reserves the right to react militarily against the tunnels once and for all.

“If we have to act, we will do so, we will exercise our right to legitimate defence, we will not leave our fate … to the Egyptians, nor to the Europeans nor to the Americans,” she said.

During its massive 22-day offensive on Hamas in Gaza, Israel bombed hundreds of tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border, destroying 150 of them, according to Defence Minister Ehud Barak who on Wednesday issued a warning similar to Livni’s.

“If we are forced to, there will be more attacks,” Barak said on public television.

“During the operation that we have carried out in the Gaza Strip we have destroyed 150 tunnels, including some which were targeted several times,” he said.

The tunnels are used to smuggle supplies and weapons into the coastal strip that Israel has kept sealed to all but basic humanitarian supplies since Hamas seized power in June 2007.

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

Israel Says Tunnels Brought Weapons Into Gaza: U.S. Paid $23 Million In the Deal

A Palestinian boy looks up from the entrance of a smuggling ... 
A Palestinian boy looks up from the entrance of a smuggling tunnel on the Palestinian side of the border between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt and Rafah in the south of Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009. During its offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israel said it destroyed most of the hundreds of tunnels in repeated bombing runs by Israeli jets. But Wednesday, smuggling was under way again.(AP Photo/Eyad Baba)


The Jerusalem Post:

As security envoy Amos Gilad prepared to meet Thursday with Egyptian officials to discuss a long-term truce with Hamas, fighting arms smuggling, and lifting the blockade on the Strip, goods were being smuggled into Gaza from Sinai on Wednesday.
Four days after Operation Cast Lead ended, AP Television News footage showed Palestinian smugglers filling a fuel truck with gas that had come through a tunnel from Egypt.

The footage also showed workers clearing blocked tunnels, and bulldozers carrying out other repairs.

Read the rest:

U.N. Chief in Gaza, Rebuilding ‘Will Cost Billions’

January 20, 2009

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon entered the war-battered Gaza Strip on Tuesday to assess the damage following Israel’s three-week long bombardment.

Rebuilding the thousands of homes and buildings damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip during the three-week conflict will cost billions, the UN has said.

Ban met with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert earlier today.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday said that Hamas was fully responsible for the damage caused during Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza and must not be allowed to lead reconstruction efforts.

“Hamas bears full responsibility for the destruction in the Gaza Strip and the harm to innocents, therefore, Hamas must not be allowed to lead the reconstruction process in the Strip and receive any kind of legitimacy from this,” Olmert told visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.



Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) meets U.N. Secretary-General ... 
Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) meets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem in this January 20, 2009 picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO). Confronted by stark scenes of destruction, Ban visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and Israel was poised to withdraw its troops before the U.S. presidential inauguration later in the day. REUTERS/Avi Ohayon



UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is appalled by Israeli attacks on a UN compound in Gaza after seeing the destruction for himself.

Mr Ban said that those responsible should be held accountable and demanded a “full investigation” through proper judiciary systems.

He was speaking in front of the smouldering remains of the UN food warehouse destroyed by Israeli shells.

He said he would do all he could to help the population of Gaza.

Appearing stern and at times angry, Mr Ban called the attacks “outrageous” and demanded guarantees that it would never happen again.

Read the rest:


Telegraph (UK)
Residents of the Gaza Strip have taken their first close look at the large-scale destruction across their crowded territory.

First estimates by independent surveyors said Gaza lost nearly $2 billion in assets during Israel’s three-week war on Hamas, including 4,100 homes, about 1,500 factories and workshops, 20 mosques, 31 security compounds and 10 water or sewage lines.

Most Palestinians are furious at Israel over damage like that in Rafah, in Gaza’s south, but there are signs that Gazans feel such pain that they will rein in Hamas.  Photo: Eyad Baba/Associated Press

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been left homeless and 400,000 people still have no running water, a UN report said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will visit Gaza on Tuesday to inspect the damage.

A fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants is holding, allowing many Palestinians to return home to assess the damage.

Many Gazans seemed overwhelmed, saying they didn’t even know where to start with the cleanup.

The return of civilians comes as Hamas declared victory over Israel but the Islamic group vowed to replenish its arms stockpiles in the wake of the 22-day onslaught on Gaza.

Ismail Haniya, the deposed Palestinian prime minister and political leader in Gaza, said the “armed resistance” had triumphed by surviving the Israeli operation.

Joe Biden You Rascal: You Got Your Dream Job With Limited Risk, Accountability

January 20, 2009

Joe Biden was first offered the job of Secretary of State, his wife said yesterday.

Either by contrived intent or grand accident of  history (and in this case maybe “his story”  of Joe Biden)  Jill Biden said on “Oprah” yesterday, “Joe had the choice to be secretary of state or vice president.”

Her husband, the Vice President-elect,  “shushed” her.

Oprah, and the audience, chuckled.  The Vice President-elect then blushed, grimaced awkwardly and eventually gave his wife a hug, saying: “That’s right … go ahead.”

Her husband turned to his wife with his finger to his lips and a “Shhhh!” that sent the audience into laughter. Left, Jill Biden with Oprah (R) and the Vice President elect.

This may have been a true “gotcha” moment and it may have been contrived for TV; but why anyone would do that is beyond me.

Joe Biden has never had a real job of weight, character testing, decisions and life or death, and  gravitas.  He has always been the Senator from the smallest state in America, Delaware.

Nothing against Joe Biden, a great guy by most accounts, and nothing against Delaware.

But Joe Biden was a Senator in the 1970s just after I came here and he never left.

He rose to be Chariman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and ran for President in his own right twice as we recall; losing out in the early going both times.

And he said a ton of stupid things along the way….

You’d think his charmanship of the prestigious Foreign Relations Committee would make him the perfect Secretary of  State but maybe not: that job requires one to actually meet, impress and persuade people like Olmert of Israel and Ahmadinejad of Iran.

A woman named Hillary got the meaty job. 

President-elect Obama named Joe Biden head of the “White House Task Force on Working Families”…. a title never before used and one where his foreign relations “expertise” probably won’t get into his way….

Joe Biden has pretty much stopped impressing people outside Delaware…

And then there is all this talk about a “lesser” role for the vice president.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden will chair a new task force aimed at helping working families.

Above: Former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, will chair a new task force aimed at helping working families. He’ll have a “lesser role” than Dick Cheney, Obama spokesmen say.

A spokeswoman for the Vice President-elect said “Biden had no intention of continuing the practice started by Vice President Cheney of regularly attending internal legislative branch meetings — he firmly believes in restoring the Office of the Vice President to its historical role.”

Let’s be honest, children.  The traditional and historical role of the Vice President of the Uited Sates is to stand in the corner, go to funerals the president doesn’t want to attend and await the death of his boss.

John Nance Garner said while he was vice president that the job “wasn’t worth a bucket of warm piss.”

That’s the traditional “lesser” role of the vice president.

And the office of Vice President is mostly “no risk” except “God forbid” …..

Our prayers and wishes go to Joe Biden.  But biggest prayer to Barack Obama.

By John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

 Obama’s New Vision for Vice President Joe Biden
Biden Off Mic: “Gimme a f*&$#ing break”

Photo: Getty Images