Friday, August 22, 2003

22 August 2003

Dear Friends and colleagues,

My last communication provoked more comments than usual. I wish to share with you some of them.

This is my last communication from Israel for the time being. Tomorrow night my family and I are scheduled to leave for Baltimore.

Best wishes,


Comments on my August 2003 analysis

From Prof. Robert O'Neill, Chair, Australian Strategic Policy, Canberra, Australia

-----Original Message-----
From: Mr Robert O'Neill []
Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2003 2:50 AM
Subject: Re:August 2003 - Israeli Politics: On the Hudna


From Canberra, where I have some meetings of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (which I chair), much sympathy and many thanks for your welcome appraisal.

What you have to say on Iran is deeply disturbing - both from the
perspective of Israel's security and the level of commitments that the US already has taken on.

Best wishes in difficult times,



Iran is a fascinating country. When Khatami was elected president, many "experts" spoke about his moderation, and that he will bring new ideas into the fundamentalist regime. Well, apparently he might be moderate comparably to the other candidates, but in liberal-democratic term the guy is a zealot. He tries to be on good terms with everybody, and hence the changes he introduced are marginal.

I met a few people who visited Iran. They all depicted same stories, about how the ground is boiling; western norms that are wide spread among the younger generations; alcohol and parties that are similar to what you see in the western world, all this with the tacit consent of the authorities, very much aware of what is going on and understand that if they will fight against this substantial trend they might lose everything.

I don't really think that any of the so-called "experts" knows what will happen in this country. There are conflicting trends, and the undercurrent struggle is powerful. Israel, and so should the entire western world, should be alert of the developments in Iran.

All best,


From Prof. Efraim Karsh, Head, Mediterranean Studies Programme, Kings College, Lonodn.

Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 8:00 PM
Subject: Re: August 2003 - Israeli Politics: On the Hudna


I usually dont comment but guerrilla war? What guerrilla? By any professional definition killing innocent civilians is terrorism. As Thatcher told Bush in 1990, this is not the time to go wobbly. What we have is a vicious war of terror aimed at nothing short of leading to Israel's destruction, not the "liberation" of the "occupied territories". This is evident to anyone who follows their media, press, official statements, etc. Best, efraim

Hi Efraim,

You are right. This act is an act of terror. However, this is not the only way they fight us. As you may well know, they also attack soldiers, resorting to methods of guerrilla warfare. We do agree it is a vicious war.

All best,


Rafi –

They hardly attack soldiers. If you check the number of fatalities and casualties, soldiers attacked as soldiers (as opposed to a 19-year-old going on a Haifa bus while on vacation) will account to a paltry number, far less than 10 percent. With all due respect, having studied this war closely, and publishing a book on it in a month, guerrilla warfare is the inverse of the truth. Efraim.

From Prof. Charles Sprung, Head, Intensive Care Unit, Haddassah Ein Karem, Jerusalem.
Your comments are read although I… may disagree with some of your opinions. Last night was one of the worst I've experienced. Seeing the babies in the trauma room was just too much even for a "hardened" intensivist who has been caring for these victims of terrorists for the last few years.
The other item I would add which was nightmarish was finding out the next day after being up most of the night caring for the patients that 4 (one husband and wife) of 6 of my patients were not able to attend the funerals of their young children that were buried that day. We also had to let the conscious ones know the tragic news.

Leon Willems of the Dutch TV asked me whether I am still in favour of the WALL.

Hi Leon,

I was and am in favour of the idea of the fence/wall. However, I had no idea that Sharon will try to change the borders by the introduction of the fence. It was supposed to be along the Green Line, but it is not. I am in favour of a fair deal for both sides. If the deal is unfair to one of the sides, then one can assume that that side will be unhappy and will sabotage any peace negotiations. Sharon fails to understand this. A great pity indeed for all people concerned, Israelis and Palestinians.

All the best,


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Israeli Politics: On the Hudna

August 2003

Dear friends and colleagues,

Yesterday there was yet another attack on the city of darkness. The city that was used to be called "city of light" and "city of gold" was subjected more than any other city in Israel (possibly in the world) to abhorrent terrorist attacks since the opening of the 2000 guerilla warfare.*1 Some sixty (60) terrorist attacks were launched on Jerusalem during the past five years. Yesterday's was most atrocious. The toll until now is 18 people dead, including six children; 137 people injured, including 30 children; the youngest is 1 month old.

The same day, twenty people were killed in the UN Headquarters in Baghdad. The Iraqi swamp charges more and more bodies. It will not end until the last American soldier leaves Iraqi soil. Support for Bush is said to be eroding. I suspect the American people will not accept dozens of casualties on a monthly, possibly weekly, basis. The Vietnam memory is still quite vivid.

Back to Israel. In a bloody blow, the hudna came to an end. The hudna meant a relative quiet, not a complete one, and now we are back to the vicious and futile cycle of blood. Since the cease fire declaration of 29 June 2003 until yesterday's attack six citizens and one foreign worker were killed; twenty seven citizens were injured. More than 200 terror incidents were recorded, mostly in the occupied territories (more than 150 in the Gaza Strip; 90 in the West Bank), including 132 incidents of shooting. The SHABAC claims it was successful in halting 36 bombings. It failed to halt the last attempt. Interestingly, many of the incidents were issued by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs, a fraction which belongs to the FATACH, Arafat's bastion of power. Do you believe they would be active without Arafat's backup? Well, I don't. As said, Arafat has a vested interest to fail Abu Mazen. Israeli intelligence estimates that Arafat controls sixty percent of the security organizations. The other attacks were launched by the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

The Hamas and the Islamic Jihad no doubt took advantage of the hudna period to reassemble their forces, accumulating weapons and reorganizing themselves. Our security forces keep a close eye and every once in a while tries to capture or target their military heads. Yesterday's attack came to revenge the targeted killing of Muchammad Sider, head of the Islamic Jihad in Hebron.

Israeli newspapers began the countdown of Abu Mazen regime. Abu Mazen was never popular on the Palestinian streets. In all polls he received 3 percent or less of the support prior to his nomination, and this percentage did not rise since he became prime minister. He knew he lacks ability to control the streets and the various organizations, hence insisted on Dachlan nomination to the ministry of security. Dachlan does not have the power, or the will, or both to fight down the various guerilla organizations. The hudna was not due to Dachlan abilities but rather due to tactical decision on the part of the security/terrorist organizations to lower profile (indeed, this is one of the major concerns: the line between the security organizations and the terrorist organizations is quite blurred within the Palestinian Authority). American and Israeli intelligence are unified in their opinion that very little was done to curb terrorism.

Recently, the Israel government approved 22 more housing units for settlers in Gaza in violation of the American-sponsored peace plan. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis are playing a double game, talking about compromise while giving away very little. The negotiations require great strides, and none are in sight. Further violations of the agreement, provocations and recriminations lead to more death.

The Israeli economy is still shaky. Unemployment continues to rise. The new extensive taxes and the cuts in welfare benefits brought about deflation. I had an interesting talk with Ben Zion Zilberfarb, the former General Director of the Finance Ministry, who confirmed that Israel has the highest rate of taxes in the world, outside Scandinavia. The security budget is 35 billion shekels per year. It is difficult to develop an economy with such a considerable sum dedicated to defence. In addition, the USA grants Israel every year a large sum of money for security purposes. With the American presence in Iraq, the Finance Ministry that tries to cut anywhere and everywhere is preparing for the most important battle of all: cuts in the Defence Ministry. It is not going to be easy, as defence is a "sacred cow", and the government is always reluctant to go against its generals. God forbid, something might go wrong, and then it might even be too late to say: "We told you so".

In a perfect timing for this battle between the two ministries, the country's most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, began a series of articles on the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the most traumatic war in the history of modern Israel. Detailed revelations are published on the "internal wars" between the generals during the war with Egypt and Syria. This war between egos took its tool. Hundreds of soldiers were killed due to lack of communication, disobeying orders, and mutual disrespect, not to say contempt between the heads of the army, especially but not solely between the commander of the Southern border Shmuel Gorodish, and one of the heads of the fighting battalions, General Ariel Sharon.

Sharon is fighting now another battle relating to his financial affairs with some millionaires in Israel and South Africa. His two sons, Gilad and Omri, continue to uphold their right to keep silent during police interrogation upon their lawyers' advice, knowing that any word they might say might incriminate them and their father. Sharon took large sums of money, claimed to be "loans", from some of his friends in order to conduct his political campaigns. The police are not quick to believe that those "loans" were ever returned and unsure whether they were used solely for political purposes, not personal. One of those millionaires, Dudi Appel, is a Likud political activist who has deep interests – political and business – in who become government minister. Mr. Appel has spent more hours in the corridors of police stations than the Knicks cheering after victories. Until now, he was quite successful in his struggle with the law and order authorities. The present affair is concerned with a small, deserted Greek island that Mr. Appel wanted to buy in order to transform it into a resort area. He used Sharon's connections to pull some strings with the hesitant Greeks. In return, so it is alleged, Appel pledged to pay Gilad Sharon (the younger son) $20,000 for "consultancy" services. Sharon Jr. has BA in economics and works in the family farm. He, no doubt, has impressive qualifications and thoroughly deserves such a salary.

Anyway, Sharon spends more and more time trying to clear the name of his family, at the expense of conducting governmental affairs. A recent public poll shows that 51 percent of the public give Sharon "Not good" grade in integrity. Still, the public draws a distinction between Sharon the citizen and Sharon the Prime Minister. Sixty percent conceive Sharon as a reliable prime minister. In Hebrew we say: "Nistarot darchei haboreh" (God's ways are mysterious").

Another concern in Israel nowadays is Iran. It is estimated that by the end of 2005, early 2006, Iran will possess nuclear weapons. The intelligence warns that Iran might obtain nuclear capacity even sooner from an "external" player, such as North Korea, the Ukraine or another country. Israel certainly does not wish to have such a threat in our region. Deep in heart, some key players in Israel wish an American involvement in Iran as well. The US will not be quick to open another front, especially not when so many question marks hinge over its involvement in Iraq.

Iran and Syria unleash the Hezbullah in Lebanon every once in a while. On 10 August there was yet another artillery attack on the north of Israel. A sixteen year-old boy from Shlomi was killed, and four other citizens were injured. This was the first civilian casualty since Israel evacuated Lebanon in 2000. Our northern border has always been a major concern, and will continue to be as long as the Hezbullah is active and kicking.

With my best wishes,


* 1. The violent campaign that started at the end of September 2000 is anything but a popular uprising. The Palestinians, for their propaganda interests, call this campaign the el-Aqsa intifada, second to the 1987 intifada. I think we play into their hands when we resort to this terminology. To me this is a guerilla warfare orchestrated from above, and unlike the 1987 uprising, the Palestinians were resorting to live weapons from the very first day.

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