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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Barak’

Why was the IDF (and Karsenty) Abandoned in the Al Dura Affair?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Thirteen years after Israel’s enemies unleashed one of the most damaging fake atrocity stories in military history, the Israeli government has come up with an official report [1.8 mb pdf] to refute the September 30, 2000 France 2 news broadcast, narrated by respected correspondent Charles Enderlin, that claimed to show 12-year old Mohammad Dura shot dead by IDF soldiers.

Oh, we already know and knew almost immediately beyond a reasonable doubt that al Dura was not shot by the IDF, and we almost certainly know that he was not shot at all, by anybody. Persuasive evidence (more persuasive than the official report) is here.

In fact, we can say with confidence that the incident was a fake, set up by France 2′s Palestinian cameraman and local Gaza residents.

But what is difficult to understand is the Israeli diffidence in the face of the vicious allegations.

The immediate response of the IDF was to temporize. From the official report:

On that same day, following the France 2 report, the Spokesperson Unit released a statement which made clear that while it was not possible to determine, based on the footage broadcast by the network, the source of the shots apparently fired at Jamal and the boy, ultimate responsibility lay with the Palestinians for cynically launching armed attacks from within the civilian population. …

But then, at a press conference on October 3, it turned disastrous:

[Maj. Gen. Giora] Eiland, in response to a question regarding Al-Durrah, answered that as a result of the gunfire at the junction, Jamal and the boy “took cover next to a wall, several meters from where Palestinians fired at us. The soldiers returned fire and apparently the boy was hit by our fire.”

Eiland later explained,

I had not seen all the evidence made available to the Israeli army only later…Given the long history of Palestinians exposing their children to danger, I assumed that the main issue in this case would be the question: Why would the Palestinians have exposed their own civilians to danger by firing on the Israelis while a boy and his father were in the crossfire? I did not realize that my words would be used to accuse Israel of cold-blooded murder.

The footage was played and replayed around the world. Two weeks later, two IDF reservists were torn to pieces in Ramallah to shouts of “al-Dura! al-Dura!” The alleged cold-blooded murder became the symbol of the Intifada, and an inspiration for suicide bombers. Daniel Pearl’s murderers and even Osama bin Laden, before and after 9/11, invoked it as justification for their acts.

Meanwhile IDF Maj. Gen. Yom Tov Samia, OC Southern Command, reenacted the incident, examined the relative locations of soldiers and Palestinians, and concluded that IDF bullets could not have hit al-Dura. This was announced at a press conference on November 27, which was almost entirely ignored by the media — and by top officers and Israel politicians. Indeed, the IDF Chief of Staff, Shaul Mofaz, told the Knesset that the investigation was a “private initiative of Samia,” not part of an official investigation.

Why didn’t Mofaz and his boss, Ehud Barak, who was serving as both Prime Minister and Minister of Defense at the time, take up the cause of the IDF and demand, with the maximum possible diplomatic force, that all information related to the incident — including all the footage shot by France 2 on that day — be placed at Israel’s disposal to do a proper investigation?

It didn’t happen, not then and not later, despite the revelation of more and more facts casting doubt on the story that the IDF had shot Dura. In 2005, the PM’s spokesperson to the foreign press, Ra’anan Gissin, asked France 2 for the footage and was turned down. In 2007, the IDF spokesperson tried to get the footage, but again Enderlin refused to provide it. More recently, the French Ambassador was asked “to help,” to no avail. Surely the State of Israel could have done more to defend the honor of its armed forces than to deploy low-level officials.

A French media critic, Philippe Karsenty, who has been defending himself against a libel suit filed against him by France 2 correspondent Enderlin for at least 10 years — he called the presentation “a hoax” — spoke bitterly in 2009 about the treatment he received from government officials:

During all those years, I got the cold shoulder from Israeli officials. With the exception of a few mavericks like Danny Seaman (director of the Government Press Office), Raanan Gissin (Spokesman, Prime Minister’s Office), Shlomi Amshalom, former deputy spokesperson for the IDF, or former ambassador Zvi Mazel, the vast majority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel treated me and others who pursued this case, as embarrassments – conspiracy nuts who they wished would just disappear…

In 2002, when it was still possible to do something immediate, Nissim Zvili was the Israeli ambassador to Paris. He listened courteously but explained to me that he was a friend of Charles Enderlin, the French journalist who narrated the al Dura hoax.

In 2006, Zvili was replaced by Daniel Shek, who refused to shake my hand, and later commented on a Jewish radio that I was defending “conspiracy theories.” When I asked his colleague in charge of communication at the embassy in Paris, Daniel Halevy Goitschel, why he never returned my phone calls, he responded: “the phone doesn’t work at the embassy.” We are not even dealing with a lack of support here. On the contrary, I was being sabotaged.

When I won the case [against another media outlet] in May 2008, Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: “Karsenty is a private individual and no one in the Israeli government asked him to take on his battle against France 2. Karsenty had no right to demand that Israel come to his aid. All calls on the Israeli government to come and ‘save’ him are out of place. He was summoned to court because of a complaint of the French television channel. I don’t see where there is room for the Israeli government to get involved.”

Last December, I went over the evidence with Aviv Shir-On, who now claims to have helped me, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). After two hours he repeated the old MFA refrain, “I’m not convinced.” Let’s say, for the sake of generosity, that Shir-On is just one more timid defender of Israel, so afraid of what “others” might say, that even the judgment of an independent (and hardly well-disposed) French court in favor of his own country, does not give him the courage to speak. So even though I won the case, and the new evidence from France 2 sharpens our argument, I could not count on Israeli officials to help move into a counter-attack. Enderlin, humiliated by the court decision, was allowed to bluff his way back to prominence, and recently, in the Gaza war, lead the journalists’ attack on the Israeli government…

On January 2009, I met Tzipi Livni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and asked her about the al Dura story and the lack of reaction of the Israeli officials. Why didn’t the State of Israel demand that France 2 admit their blood libel following the court decision? I was stunned by her answer: “Well, it happens that we kill kids sometimes. So, it’s not good for Israel to raise the subject again.” (Philippe Karsenty: Israel Losing the Media War: Wonder Why?).

Karsenty was convicted, and the conviction was overturned on appeal — but recently the decision that exonerated him was reversed by France’s highest court.

It’s too late for the Israeli government to help him with his case, but let’s hope it can find the strength at last to support the IDF.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Shabbos in Davos

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Shabbos in Davos. Almost rhymes, like the two are meant to be together.

And so it felt this past weekend at the alpine World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Every year, on Friday night, the Forum hosts a Shabbat meal that, longtime attendants say, started with a handful of people, including leading Israeli economists, but now boasts world leaders and Jewish personalities from around the globe.

One of the principal purposes in my attending the Sabbath meal was my intention of introducing President Paul Kagame of Rwanda – whose government announced at a press conference that we organized in October that they will be opening an Embassy in Israel – to more of the Jewish community. But I also marveled at a great celebration of Jewish observance and pride right in the middle of a renowned global gathering.

We sang Shalom Aleichem, the traditional welcoming poem for both angels and humans. We said the Kiddush blessing on the wine. The Rabbis in attendance were asked to jointly say the Hamotzi blessing on the bread for the assembled crowd. They did it without rancor or division (I’m being humorous here just in case you thought I was making fun of Jewish religious politics).

While the meal featured heads of state, Nobel laureates, and people of world renown, it had a homely feeling where no one in particular was made to feel more important than the next person.

But it was also a nice opportunity to say Good Shabbos and catch up with an assembly of Jewish leaders who were now under one roof, all celebrating God’s holy Sabbath together.

I greeted President Peres of Israel whom I had hosted in Oxford and whom I still visit in Israel. Peres will turn ninety in a few months God willing. Where he gets the Herculean strength to jet set around the world is a mystery that can only be explained by having to be President to seven million Presidents. But he looks and sounds amazing.

When I saw Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defense minister, who had made headlines that morning at the Forum with an interview implying that Israel had shelved its plans to attack Iran, I reminded him of a bizarre meeting. He and I were guests on the Dan Shilon TV program in Israel years ago. I was on talking about my book Kosher Sex that had just been published in Hebrew. He was launching his bid to be Prime Minister of Israel. The TV host started skewering Barak and his wife, asking them if they had read the book. Going further, he asked if they had ever joined the mile-high club. It was an interview to remember. It turned out the Defense Minister did not forget. He smiled and patted me on the back, as if I was privy to some state secret.

A big and very pleasant surprise was seeing Eric Cantor, the House Majority leader, at the dinner. Eric is a very committed Jew who keeps a kosher home and is arguably the most stalwart defender of Israel in the United States Congress. A few years ago, when Eric addressed a Birthright group I was leading, at the Kotel in Jerusalem on Friday night, he walked 45 minutes to dinner at his hosts’ home because he did not wish to drive on the Sabbath in the holy city. His security detail may have had their complaints. But it was inspiring to our Birthright young adults to see the highest ranking Jewish elected official in American history showing such deference to the Sabbath.

A couple I truly enjoyed meeting was the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and his Israeli-born wife, Dorrit Moussaieff. When I visited Iceland in the summer of 2009 with my family, Icelanders were excited, seeing a Jewish family, to tell us about their Jewish-Israeli first lady. Our arrival in Iceland had increased the Jewish population in the country orders of magnitude and it wasn’t every day they got to see people wearing Yarmulkes. Every time I asked for directions, I heard from Icelanders how proud they were to have an Israeli first lady.

In that summer of 2009, tragedy struck. After a few nights in Reykjavik, I heard the terrible news that Michael Jackson died. I did TV interviews via Skype from remote locations in the country, sometimes right by glaciers. It was the most beautiful scenery imaginable, discussing one of the saddest stories. I related to the President and first lady our unforgettable experience in Iceland. Dorrit said, “Why didn’t you come and visit?” I told her I figured she was busy. “No, you should have visited.” I promised her that I would now definitely take her up on her invitation, especially since I was looking for any excuse to visit Iceland, one of the most beautiful places on earth, again. I discovered in the electric, warm, and engaging personality of Iceland’s first lady someone who could make all that ice melt.

But the nicest part of the dinner was connecting with so many unsung heroes who do their extraordinary work without much fanfare. There was Rabbi Mendy Rosenfeld, who has headed Chabad in Switzerland for three decades and who showed me and my wife hospitality when we were in Switzerland for our honeymoon nearly 25 years ago. There was my former Oxford student, Charles Small, who runs an incredible academic program at leading universities, combating anti-Semitism. And there was my friend Eli Beer, who heads United Hatzalah of Israel, rescuing countless Jewish and Arab lives daily.

And, someone to whom all of us who participated in the magical Shabbos dinner should be grateful, there was Eduardo Elsztain, a well-known Jewish philanthropist who showed me hospitality when I visited Argentina and who has quietly paid for the kosher Shabbat dinner at Davos for many years, introducing the peace, serenity, and togetherness of the Jewish Sabbath as a great gift to some of the world’s most influential people.

Chief of India’s Air Force in Israel for Talks

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Indian Chief of Air Staff Norman Anil Kumar Browne is in Israel for talks with the highest ranking Israeli military officials as ties deepen between the two countries’ defense establishments.

The Times of India reported that India and Israel are seeking new ways to cooperate militarily.  The visit began Sunday with a military ceremony at the Kirya in Tel Aviv and with meetings between Browne and Israel Air Force chief Amir Eshel.

Browne is also expected to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

India and Israel are currently working together to upgrade all of India’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  India is the world’s largest consumer of Israeli defense products.

Browne was India’s first defense attaché to Israel.

Which Prime Minister Built the Most Homes in the Settlements?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

A Channel 10 report on Thursday ranked the various Israeli Prime Ministers, since 1991, based on the amount of actual housing construction that began during their respective terms, inside the Israel’s Settlements.

Who Built the Most and When?**
Rank  Prime Minister            Party    Years      Construction  
1 Ehud Barak Labor   1999-2001 4,292
2 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud   1996-1999 3,194
3 Shimon Peres Labor   1995-1996 2,443
4 Ariel Sharon* Likud   2001-2006 1,826
5 Ehud Olmert Kadima   2006-2009 1,741
6 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud   2009-2012 1,168

*Also destroyed thousands of buildings and homes.
** This chart doesn’t include infrastructure construction, only homes.

Based on information collected by Peace Now, below are the number of government tenders for new settlement housing that were issued, by year for the past decase. We then correlated that information according to who was Prime Minister at the time.

Who issued the most Housing Construction Tenders? 
Year   Prime Minister   Party   Tenders   Subtotal  
2002 Ariel Sharon Likud 689
2003 Ariel Sharon Likud 2508
2004 Ariel Sharon Likud 912
2005 Ariel Sharon Likud 1184  Ariel Sharon
5293
2006 Ehud Olmert Kadima 919
2007 Ehud Olmert Kadima 65
2008 Ehud Olmert Kadima 539  Ehud Olmert
1523
2009 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 0
2010 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 0
2011 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 1009
2012 Benjamin Netanyahu Likud 660  Benjamin Netanyahu 
1669

Again, the information above is for new homes only. It does not include the infrastructure development in the settlements, which Netanyahu, for instance, did a lot of (exact data unavailable at the moment) during this last term as Prime Minister.

Updated:

According to Peace Now, the Netanyahu government also approved dozens of “outposts”, though what Peace Now calls “outposts” are actually neighborhoods of existing Settlements.

Israeli DM Ehud Barak Quits Politics, Leaves Door Open For Comeback

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

At a dramatic press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced his resignation from politics.

Barak said he would remain in his post until the establishment of the next government, following the January 22 elections. While he dispelled speculation suggesting that he would join up with other parties, Barak left the door open for a comeback by not saying explicitly that he would not return to politics. He said he was “at peace” with his decision, but that it did not come “without its misgivings.”

The political echelon responded quickly to Barak’s announcement, with Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich expressing her sorrow over Barak’s resignation even before the press conference ended.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also voiced his appreciation for the outgoing minister, saying, “I thank him for his cooperation and I very much appreciate his longtime contribution to the security of the state.”

But not all the responses were sympathetic. MK Danny Danon (Likud) issued a statement shortly after the announcement, declaring, “Thank God we are rid of this nuisance.”

Likud minister Yuli Edelstein echoed his colleague’s sentiments, saying, “Today is a day of independence for Likud.”

“Barak will go down in the annals of Israel’s governments as the worst defense minister in the history of the Jewish settlement enterprise. His conduct was rife with egotistical and political considerations, all at the expense of the Jewish settlers,” said Edelstein. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the first opportunity, he will find a reason to return to politics and to his evil ways.”

The Strong Israel faction, headed by rightists Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari, also issued a celebratory response, adding that “now Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman will be able to approve all the construction plans for Judea and Samaria that had gotten bogged down on Barak’s desk. Or, alternately, it may emerge that Barak was only a fig leaf and that it was the prime minister himself who was responsible for the mistreatment of the settlers.”

Some on the other side of the political spectrum were no less critical of the resigning minister. “Barak played a dual role in the political system,” said Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On. “I commended him as the one who normally blocked extreme policies, but sometimes he was the one who spearheaded extreme moves and pushed them forward.”

Hadash Chairman Dov Khenin said, “Ehud Barak was the pillar that made possible the existence of the most extreme rightist government in Israel’s history…. Barak’s political maneuvering cannot mask his culpability for the four difficult years of frozen diplomacy, the damage he caused to the possibility of peace with the Palestinians and the general economic and social deterioration.”

The news even elicited a response from Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, who said Barak’s resignation was proof that Israel’s recent Gaza Strip offensive, which Barak led, had been a failure.

Barak’s political career may have been over even if he had not decided to retire. His small, centrist Independence Party faction was polling poorly and it is possible Barak would not have made it into the next Knesset had he decided to run again.

As prime minister from 1999 to 2001, Barak withdrew Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and offered unprecedented Israeli concessions, including in Jerusalem, to Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians at the unsuccessful Camp David peace summit. In the 2001 elections following the outbreak of the second intifada, Barak was soundly defeated by Ariel Sharon and then resigned as head of the Labor Party.

Barak mounted a political comeback in 2007, recapturing the leadership of a weakened Labor Party. He returned to government as defense minister, a post from which he has emphasized the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and ordered two military operations in Gaza – 2008’s Cast Lead and the recent Pillar of Defense.

– Israel Hayom/JNS; JTA; Jewish Press staff

Don’t Feel Bad! We Didn’t Lose the War!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Albeit all the angry, bitter, and downright nasty articles and blogs which have been written on how Israel was defeated in its latest skirmish with the Hamas – that isn’t the case at all. We’re really the winner! Let me explain:

Firstly, on the simplest level, thanks to the grace of G-d, our casualties were far less than the Other Side’s. Regarding physical damage as well, the devastation on their side was far greater. So, just in terms of the way the military scorecard is usually figured, we were the victors by far.

In reply to the claim that the Hamas received a great boost in their morale in bringing mighty Israel to a cease fire, giving them added incentive for the next round – maybe. But their celebrations of victory are based on fantasy and lies, and their joy won’t last when we hit them ten times as hard the next time.

As far as the truce being a crushing blow to the morale of our own troops – my son and his friends in the army don’t seem any less gung ho about destroying the Hamas the next chance they get, so I think that claim has also been over-exaggerated. Our son was happy to be home for Shabbat, and we were happy too. Along with 30,000 other soldiers and their families.

Don’t accuse me of being a pacifist. Any reader who has been following my blog during the recent Israeli Air-Force exercise in Gaza knows that I would not have had any qualms at all if we had waited for a day when a stiff wind was blowing toward Cairo and dropped a small A-Bomb on Gaza City. But the time hasn’t yet come. Savlenut, my friends. Patience.

I am reminded of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s reaction when the United Nations voted in 1947 to partition the Palestine of the British Mandate which sliced Eretz Yisrael into pieces and awarded a truncated area to the Jews. When the news came over the radio that a Jewish State would be formed, a spontaneous joy swept over the country. People rushed out from their homes to dance in the streets. But Rav Tzvi Yehuda was crushed. The Land of Israel has been divided! Large portions of the country had been placed in foreign hands! Half of Jerusalem, Hevron, Shilo, Yericho, Shechem, and the other side of the Jordan River! Multitudes of Israelis were dancing through the streets, but in his staggering sorrow, Rav Tzvi Yehuda remained in his home. The Land of Israel had been divided! It was impossible for him to feel glad. He felt as if he himself had been cut into pieces.

The following day, Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Harlop, a close student and friend of Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, came to visit him in the old house on Yafo Street in Jerusalem. They sat in the room which Rabbi Kook had used as his study and huddled together, distraught over what had occurred. Then, finding encouragement in each other, and raising themselves up to Rabbi Kook’s famous all-encompassing vision, they quoted the verse of Psalms, “This is the Lord’s doing. It is wondrous in our eyes.” Finally, Rav Tzvi Yehuda mustered the strength to go out to the Nation, realizing, with faith in Hashem, that is was God’s doing, and that with the passing of time, the newborn Nation would overcome the great difficulties and gradually return to all of its Land – to Hevron, to the Temple Mount, to Shechem, to Gaza, and to the other side of the Jordan.

During the recent operation in Gaza, we wrote that the Redemption of Israel was a process which develops gradually over time, little by little, like the emerging of dawn, stage after stage, in the wars which Israel must fight against its enemies who strive to block out its light, in what is known as “the Footsteps of Mashiach.” While we would like to see our salvation and victory occur all at once, Presto, with one wave of Mashiach’s wand, the Master of the World, who is also the Master of War, has decided otherwise. After the trauma of our national disintegration in our exile in foreign lands, Hashem rebuilds our Nation gradually, war after war, development after development, slowly bringing us back to our true selves, the proud lions of Judah, completely devoted to Hashem and His Torah, not only as individuals, but as a proud Torah Nation in Israel.

Ehud Barak Retiring from Politics

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters in Tel Aviv this morning: “I decided to retire from politics and not to run in the coming elections.” Barak added: “I joined the army in 1959, and for 47 years served the people of Israel as best I could. I will finish the job when the next government takes office and will spend more time with my family. I got all I could out of my engagement in politics, which was never an object of desire for me, and I feel that new people should be encouraged to take up senior positions. Turnover in positions of power is a good thing.”

As poll after poll has been showing that Barak’s Knesset list Atzmaut (Independence) was in danger of not making it past the blocking percentage, there were speculations in political circles that Barak would try and get himself into a secure position on the list of one of the major political parties. But as most Likud ministers declared their open aversion to his inclusion on their list, and as Labor, which he deserted to join the Likud government, was in no mood to take him back, Barak’s future was becoming murkier and murkier over the summer and into the political autumn.

That’s when Defense Minister Barak began a campaign that was intended to distinguish between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a campaign that reached full throttle over the PM’s open conflict with the White House over attacking Iran. After appearing to be of one mind with Netanyahu on the urgent need to stop the Iranian nuclear program, Barak distanced himself from that view and sounded more like the Pentagon officials he had been debating a short while before.

As other parties were organizing for the coming elections, it seemed that Barak was courting all of them, with the possible exception of the National Religious party and the Ethiopians. Labor’s Ofer Eini, the landless Tzipi Livni, the Likud’s Prince Hamlet Moshe Kahlon, nouveau-Golda-Meir Shelly Yachimovich, and even Czar Liberman, all spent some face time with Barak these past couple of months, and all, apparently, rejected his advances.

Barak’s decision will be accepted with a deep sigh of relief by folks who live in Judea and Samaria, who were subject to the Defense Minister’s unyielding attempts to chip away at Jewish settlements, including many cases in which his nod would have meant the difference between Jewish families being evicted from their homes or being allowed to continue living in homes they had purchased legally.

Barak has also been a bulwark against Netanyahu’s adopting the Levi committee’s recommendations which came down to applying Israeli law in places where Israelis live in Judea and Samaria.

In Hebron, in Migron and in many other Jewish towns and villages, Ehud Barak will not be missed. But Netanyahu’s choice for Barak’s replacement at the ministry of defense should signal what kind of policy the next government will pursue regarding the “disputed territories.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ehud-barak-retiring-from-politics/2012/11/26/

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