Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To Free or Not to Free - That is the Question

One of my readers sent me an e-mail “I read today in the Jerusalem Post that maybe some terrorists (in jail) might be released as "exiles" to the Gaza strip. Why would Israel let terrorists go to Gaza and be with Hamas and be able to continue terrorist attacks.?”

In reply I wrote - "This issue is so complex and is creating a conflict in our own hearts and in the hearts of everyone we talk to, it is a subject on every Israelis heart. It appears to be such a simple decision give "them" what they want and get Noam and Aviva's son back home but it isn't."

"This is a decision of Solomonic proportions; how many master terrorists can you release for one young lad? What are the risks? Where should the terrorists be deported to on their release knowing many of them fully intend fomenting hatred wherever they may be? How many Israelis will die as a result of their release?”

The simplistic approach does not work, the demand that they be released and the IDF, Mossad and Shabak be more alert is naive, they do a brilliant job already but the risks change. On the other hand we all need to see Gilad at home with his family since that is what we stand for and who we are.

And as if to give further food for thought we now know that a ballistic analysis of the weapons found in the house of the terrorist Annan Tzubach in Nablus, who was killed along with two other accomplices, the morning of December 26th were the ones used to murder Meir Avshalom Hai. Meir Avshalom Hai, a resident of Shavey Shomeron, was murdered by Palestinian gunfire while driving his vehicle in the area of the village on December 24th, 2009.

During the operation, IDF special forces killed three terrorists responsible for carrying out the shooting: Raed Surkajy, Assan Abu Sharach and Annan Tzubach. When he was killed, Annan Tzubach was armed with a handgun and hiding two M16 assault rifles, an additional handgun, and ammunition.

Nader/Raed A-Gabar Machmad Surkajy, a 40 year old resident of Nablus, is a Nablus Fatah Tanzim activist and has been imprisoned in Israel in the past. Prior to his arrest in 2002, Surkajy was a senior member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and was involved in multiple terror attacks. Surkajy was arrested in April 2002 and was released earlier this year in January 2009.

Assan Fatachi Naif Abu Sharach, a 40 year old Nablus resident, has also been previosly imprisoned in Israel. He is the brother of Naif Abu Sharach, the former head of the Fatah Tanzim in Nablus, who was responsible for planning multiple terror attacks until he was killed by IDF soldiers in 2004.

Annan Saliman Mustafa Tzubach, a 36 year old Nablus resident, a Shahad Al-Aqsa activist and was involved in widespread militant activity within the framework of the Nablus Fatah Tanzim. The group was led by Naif Abu Sharach until his death. Annan served as an arms dealer and supplier. During an attempt to arrest him tonight, Annan was killed after an exchange of fire with the IDF while he was found in a hiding place along with weapons and ammunition. Annan was included in an agreement in which wanted terror suspects were granted amnesty in exchange for ceasing and desisting in all terror involvement.

And that, my friends, is the problem!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


"Since early 2008 it seems that Israel acquired the status of a safe haven, with sharp growth in the movement of capital into the market and the revaluation of the real exchange rate." So says the IMF in its world review.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) praised Israel's response to the recent economic crisis and said Israel had acquired a safe haven status. IMF economists noted that the aggressive monetary expansion executed by Israel, which included non-conventional methods, as well as the adoption of a two-year budget for 2009-2010, were all put into effect at the right time and at the required level.

"Israel endured the great recession well. Growth in Israel was among the first in the world to show a recovery – with a rise in GDP in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2009," the IMF said in a draft annual report".

The IMF also praised the Bank of Israel for being the first central bank globally to raise its key lending rate in over a year (in September 2009) as part of an exit strategy to reverse some of the monetary policies it had pursued in response to the global crisis.

Now that is the reality of Israel. Yes, there are stories concerning the state of Israel Palestinian relations but there is so much good news to report, one feels proud of the country and its achievements in 61 short years.

What will be in 2010? There are so many ideas for improving the quality of life, one can only say we live in exciting times.

NGOs Attack Israel Yet Again

Once again, the financially powerful NGO's have decided to attack Israel with absolutely no reference to the actions of Hamas, an organisation that resolutely advocates the elimination of the State of Israel in its words, its culture and deeds. Israel as a victim of this strategy continues to be portrayed as the ogre.

NGOs – including Amnesty-UK, Trocaire (Ireland), Finn Church Aid, Diakonia (Sweden), Oxfam, Oxfam-NOVIB (Holland), Cordaid (Holland), Christian Aid (UK) – have issued a report “Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses,” to coincide with the one year anniversary of the Gaza conflict. As in numerous earlier publications on this topic, this report reflects the primacy of advocacy and the biased agendas of organizations claiming to promote “humanitarian aid”. Thus reports NGO Monitor

1) The central thesis of the report -- “primary responsibility lies with Israel” to end the blockade -- repeats the unsupported legal claim that Gaza remains occupied, as well as the false allegation of “collective punishment.” As legal scholars note, Gaza cannot be considered occupied, and economic sanctions are not illegal. These tendentious claims were apparently made in order to condemn Israel and create fictitious obligations.

2) Similarly, these groups blame Israel for ongoing conflict, minimizing the clear responsibility of Hamas for mass terror, and for blatant incitement to violence.

3) The list of “high priority reconstruction materials” on page 7 fails to acknowledge the ongoing threats from Hamas, and the use of such materials for manufacturing weapons directed at Israeli. This “humanitarian” report also ignores the diversion of aid by Hamas officials and makes no reference to the fact that Egypt treats Gaza in the same way.

4) The bias and political goals of these NGO's are reflected in calls for sanctions against Israel alone: “The EU should confirm publicly that the upgrading of relations with Israel is put on hold, pending tangible progress in Israel’s respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, which should include its actions with regard to the blockade of Gaza.”

5) As in the past, this report is also totally silent regarding the continued captivity of Gilad Shalit, clearly in violation of his rights under international law.

NGO Monitor President Prof. Gerald Steinberg commented: “These NGOs are continuing to exploit moral, legal and humanitarian principles in order to promote political warfare against Israel. Many of the claims in this report are not supported by credible evidence, and reflect the double standards that are all too common. Through this systematic bias regarding Israel, these organizations have lost respectability, and the European governments that fund such attacks share responsibility for this abuse.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gazan Child Healed in Haifa

A build up of fluid causing pressure within the eyeball is called glaucoma and it’s not "Good News". When that condition is present at birth then the baby is blind and requires very intricate surgery.

This is what happened to Halla a little girl from the Gaza Strip who was brought to Carmel Medical Center in Haifa (just 5 mins down the road from where I live) at the age of ten months and blind from birth. Ophthalmologists at the hospital performed two operations one after the other, the first, to drain the fluid and the second and more complicated procedure, to implant microscopic tubes to maintain the drainage process.

The fairy tale ending – Halla can see, she reacts to her surroundings, she smiles, she laughs, she’s putting on weight and doing all the things that a ten month old baby should be doing. With all the expenses being met by the Peres Peace Center all her overjoyed parents need to do is take her back home.

This beats all the negative ideology being spewed out on the Gazans radio, TV and newspapers

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Recovery of Tourism to Israel Continues

2.5 million tourists visited Israel in the period Jan-Nov 2009, just 11% less than the same period last year. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, during November alone, 250,600 tourists visited Israel, 4% less than Nov 2008. The CBS statistics also show that the growth in the number of tourists arriving aboard cruise ships continues, with 9,300 arriving in November (3 times more than Nov 2008). The Tourism Minister noted that the statistics testify to the continuing trend of recovery from the economic crisis and this can also be seen in the unprecedented demand from entrepreneurs to invest in hotels.

37 entrepreneurs recently replied to the Tourism Ministry's invitation for grant allocations to establish new hotels and to return buildings once used as hotels to their former use. The Tourism Ministry allocated 300 million NIS to providing grants for entrepreneurs within the framework of the 2009-2010 work plan for this dual purpose. An extra 100 million NIS will be allocated to this program next year in line with demand.

For the first time, the program allows entrepreneurs to receive a grant for converting buildings previously used as hotels back to their former status as well as refurbishing old hotels and, in addition, improves the efficiency of the grant application procedure. In accordance with the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investment in Israel, the Tourism Ministry offers a higher level of participation: 20% of the total investment excluding land costs. The grant requests are currently under review in accordance with the criteria redefined to ensure a more efficient procedure.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Open Letter To The Arab World

Today, 15th December, Asharq Alawsat, one of the largest pan-Arab daily newspapers printed an op-ed in Arabic by the Deputy Foreign Minister of the State of Israel, Danny Ayalon. The op-ed was titled "An Open Letter to the Arab World".

In an historic and unprecedented article, Ayalon calls on the Arab world to accept Israel's extended hand in peace and fraternity. The Deputy Foreign Minister calls on the Arab world to step forward and join with Israel to defeat the forces of extremism and destruction in the Middle East. Iran and its terrorist followers on the one hand and climate change on the other are issues which threaten Arabs and Israelis alike.

It is surely time to look to the future and break with former intransigencies to create a better future for all the people of the region. For us to be able to face these and many other challenges, Ayalon states that we need to break with the paradigms of the past. "The Jewish People are here because of our historical, legal, moral and national rights," Ayalon states. "Israel has gone very far and is prepared to do its part, but we must be met by a willing partner. Without this, the region is doomed to more conflict and will negate the unity of purpose in the Middle East that is necessary to face the mounting challenges from without and within."

Here is the link to the Arabic article

Click here for the English translation of the full text

Friday, December 11, 2009

Haifa's "Holiday of Holidays" Festival

Last weekend saw the opening of the 16th Haifa Festival “Holiday of Holidays" This festival commemorates Ramadan, Chanukah and Christmas for the multi-cultural population of the city.

Every weekend in December hundreds of events will take place in all areas of culture, art, music, dance and food. The neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas becomes a giant pedestrian area along in which there are many food stalls and numerous works of art displayed on walls or roofs of buildings.

The neighborhood is filled tens of thousands of residents of both Haifa and the surrounding areas. Many of those taking part in the cultural events practice every year to celebrate the events in Haifa.

The "Holiday of Holidays" is the celebration of Haifa. A member of the Knesset and the Haifa Mayor, who opened this years events said that the blessing of the “holidays is the holiday” celebration is, in effect, the character of Haifa and only Haifa could dream of, initiate and produce such a holiday.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Booming Palestinian Economy

The Coordinator of the Israeli Government Activities in the Territories (or COGAT) is a unit in the Israeli Ministry of Defense that deals in coordinating civilian issues between the Government of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinians.

If we look at much of the economic data that is available from COGAT, we see an economic boom that must be the envy of the world.

• The Palestinian national product: A 5.6% increase in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the corresponding quarter last year, and a 5.4% increase in the second quarter of 2009, compared with the corresponding quarter in 2008.

• Unemployment in the West Bank: A drop from 19% in the first quarter of 2008 to 17.7% in the first quarter of this year. A drop from 18.2% unemployment in the second quarter of 2008 to 16.4% in the second quarter of 2009.

• Unemployment in the Gaza Strip: A drop from 45.5% in the second quarter of 2008 to 36% in the second quarter of 2009.

• Growth: In an interview with WP and Newsweek in October, Fayyad related to "8% growth in 2009, if not more," and described the growth as "very good." Special Quartet envoy Tony Blair mentioned the possibility of a double-digit growth rate in 2009.

• Stock market: A 12.5% rise since the beginning of the year.

• Foreign investments in the West Bank: A six-fold increase (!) compared with the corresponding period last year, as a result of the economic conferences that were held in Bethlehem and Nablus, and of the improved security in the area (this figure was provided by the Palestinians and the Joint Economic Conference held on September 2).

• Truck traffic between Israel and Judea and Samaria: A 41% increase in the first half of 2009 compared with the corresponding period last year. There was a 22% increase in the crossing of goods into the Gaza Strip between September and October, and an additional 14% increase from October to November (source of data: COGAT).

• Palestinian sales to Israel: From 2007 to 2008 there was a 6.8% increase, from $530 million to $566 million. In the first quarter of 2009, there was an 8% increase, from $136 million to $147 million (source: Central Bureau of Statistics).

• Palestinian purchases from Israel: From 2007 to 2008 there was a 25% increase, from $2.6 billion to $3.25 billion. In the first quarter of 2009, there was a decrease of 9.5% compared with the corresponding quarter in 2008, from $796 million to $720 million (source: Central Bureau of Statistics).

• General Palestinian foreign trade (including with Israel): Imports in 2008 totaled $3.7 billion, of which 72% was from Israel. This is a 20% increase compared with 2007. Imports in 2008 increased by 3%, and reached $529 million. The PA’s total trade in 2008 was $4.3 billion  a 17% increase compared with 2007.

• Energy: There was a 29% increase in gasoline consumption and a 7.6% increase in diesel fuel consumption in the first half of 2009, compared with the corresponding period last year (source: COGAT).

• Imports of cement: In the first half of 2009 alone, 18% more cement was imported than in all of 2008 (source: COGAT).

• Vehicle purchases: There was a 44% increase.

• Tourism: In 2008 there was a 93% increase in the number of tourists in the Bethlehem area (about one million tourists), and a 31% increase in the Jericho area (about half a million tourists). The number of hotel stays in the third quarter of 2009 was 136,000  a 42% increase compared with the corresponding quarter last year.

Even in Gaza, the so-called "humanitarian crisis" is being overplayed by the media with the encouragement of Hamas

Marc Otte, European Union emissary to the Middle East, to the working group for Middle East affairs in the European Parliament said on November 24:
- There has been an economic improvement in the West Bank, primarily due to removal of the checkpoints.
- There is no shortage of equipment or cement for construction in Gaza, and Hamas is controlling the resources.
- - Hamas dismissed employees of the systems and appointed its own people, and that is the reason that there is no construction in Gaza.
- The prevailing economy in Gaza is not an official economy but rather an economy of tunnels; there are no shortages in Gaza, but there is a problem of unemployment, primarily for civilians who are not close to Hamas and have no buying power.
- The security fence has proven its effectiveness in the fight against terrorism.

· Before, during and after the Gaza Operation, Israel acted to enable the entrance of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. Israel ensured the orderly operation of the electricity, communications and water infrastructures, including bringing in equipment and repair teams to repair water and sewer facilities during the operation, and to repair turbines and parts of the Gaza power station after the operation, including a two-month stay by a Siemens team, which conducted repairs and maintenance work at the power station, etc.

· Supply of gasoline: In August, Israel renewed the supply of gasoline for private use, according to the standard determined by the High Court of Justice as the threshold sufficient for humanitarian needs. While the minimum quotas determined by the High Court of Justice are only partially filled because of the debts owed by the gas stations in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, a decision was made in the summer by the Coordinator to meet the threshold set by the High Court of Justice: 800,000 liters of diesel fuel and 75,400 liters of gasoline per week are approved for transfer as the minimum for use for private transportation.

· Supply of cooking gas: In general, cooking gas has been transferred to the Gaza Strip without restriction before, during and, of course, after the operation. Due to security reasons which jeopardize the continued operation of the terminal, Israel was recently compelled to reduce to a minimum the operation of the gas terminal at Nahal Oz depot and, for that purpose, an alternative was built for the transfer of cooking gas at Kerem Shalom. To some extent, this reduced the ability to transfer cooking gas to the Gaza Strip, and now action is being taken to increase the capacity at Kerem Shalom for a quick solution to the problem. As a rule, the transfer of the gas is coordinated with the Palestinian Fuel Administration Authority in Ramallah. The Authority pays for the transferred fuel (by means of tax offset) and is responsible for collecting the money from the gas stations in the Gaza Strip.

· Diesel fuel for the power station: The transfer of 2.2 million liters a week (financed by the European Union) continues. It is important to note that the flow of diesel fuel to the power station took place throughout and after the operation.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Strawberry Fields Forever

The Huffington Post reports from World Focus on Qalqilyah, an unlikely site for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation -- a Palestinian town in the West Bank, it's home to the wall Israel built to keep out Palestinian attacks. But it's now also home to a growing strawberry fields planted by Israelis and Palestinians working together, World Focus' Arieh O'Sullivan reported.

Backed by international donors and the
Peres Center for Peace, the purpose of the strawberry fields is to boost the Palestinian economy, with Israeli farming experts providing irrigation equipment and training, O'Sullivan said.

"We hope that the strawberry crop can be identified as a peace product that was grown by cross-border activity," said a project manager at the Peres Center for Peace.

The plan is to market the strawberries in Europe for Christmas and to sell them to Ben & Jerry's, O'Sullivan reported.

The visit by Israeli agricultural trainers wasn't entirely without politics, as it was monitored by Palestinian security forces. However, both sides seemed to have good intentions.

"Our hope here is that if this situation will continue, that Qalqilyah will stop being the capital of terrorism and bombing it was before and will become a capital of strawberries," an Israeli liaison officer, said.

For a video of the project and interviews with the farmers and advisors go to

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Freeze - Peace or Appeasement?

The government announced freeze on building construction in Judea and Samaria is resulting in a lot of debate on whether this is simply an attempt at appeasement of the Obama administration or a real attempt to get the Palestinians arond the negotiating table.

Yoram Ettinger writing in a local paper ssems to express the fears of so many of the average citizen, he writes:-

1. A freeze will not soften – but will intensify - President Obama's criticism of "settlements" in particular and Israeli policy in general. For instance, Prime Minister Netanyahu's June 14, 2009 Two-State-Solution-speech triggered exacerbated pressure by Obama. Moreover, Netanyahu's willingness to exchange hundreds of Palestinian terrorists for Gilad Shalit was followed by US pressure to release more terrorists.

2. A freeze will not moderate – but will whet the appetite of - the PLO (
Abbas) or Hamas (Haniyeh); it will radicalize their demands and fuel their terrorism. Former Prime Minister Barak's sweeping concessions, offered to Arafat and Abbas in October 2000, were greeted by the PLO-engineered Second Intifada. Furthermore, Prime Minister Olmert's unprecedented offer of concessions (including the return of some 1948 refugees) was rebuffed by Abbas.

3. A freeze re-entrenches the misperception of Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria as an obstacle to peace. It diverts attention and resources from the crucial threat to peace: Abbas-engineered hate education - the manufacturing line of terrorists - and Arab rejection of the existence – and not just the size – of the Jewish state.

The full article can be read at,7340,L-3812533,00.html