|Southwest Asia News Digest
Hamas Does Have a Perspective for Peace
On March 3, during a visit to Moscow, the head of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Meshaal made clear that Hamas has a perspective for peace negotiations with Israel, after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "I want to say here in Moscow that if Israel declares readiness and shows commitments to withdraw from the lands occupied in 1967, ensure the return of refugees, dismantle [Jewish] settlements, demolish the demarcation wall, and release prisoners, our movement will make steps toward peace," stated Meshaal. He said that Hamas wants peace, "but a peace based on justice and the recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. This peace should be founded on the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territories and the end of the occupation."
Meshaal called the talks with Lavrov "constructive and open," and said that any international aid provided to the Palestinian Authority would go to the Palestinian people and be used to "bring life in Palestine to normal." For his part, Lavrov said, "The Hamas delegation gave us firm assurances that its main aim to regional peace and preventing an explosion of the situation that would lead to an impasse."
Ex-Israeli Spy Boss: Don't Cut Funds to Hamas-Led Gov't
It would be foolish to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority because of Hamas, said Gen. Shlomo Gazit (ret.), former head of Israeli Military Intelligence speaking at a forum sponsored by the Middle East Institute. "First of all, they will get the funding elsewhere. Secondly, if you don't push them, they may start to develop a more practical turn of mind. It's impossible that this won't happen." Gazit had previously explained that Israel did not feel any national security threat coming from the Palestinians. "Of course, the terrorism will not disappear. But it's like the common cold, it's always around. But it is not an existential threat to Israel.
"We don't even take too seriously Iran developing a nuclear capability. There is one serious threat: losing the character of the Jewish state. The main concern of the Israeli public today is the demographic trends. Unless we settle this situation by agreement, we will cease to have a Jewish majority." The solution, he said, is separation. "That is why Sharon, the prime mover for the settlement movement, decided to build the wall and was prepared to give up Gaza and the West Bank. The fence should be built, but then all the settlements outside the wall will have to be dismantled," Gazit, who had also served as the Israeli Defense Forces commander in the Occupied Territories, said.
"We had the Palestinian election and Hamas won 40-44% They are in principle a majority, and we have to deal with them. If you wait for Hamas to fall in love with Israel, you will wait forever." He went on to explain that Hamas may even be easier to deal with than Fatah, referring to the PLO faction headed by Yasser Arafat. "They have no right-wing opposition to deal with," as did Arafat and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he said. "We have to deal with practical problems. If we agree that we live side-by-side, and if we start working on natural economic interests, we can forge a working relationship. Practical coexistence may turn into harmony but that is a dream for the future."
Russia Pursues Broad Contacts Among Muslims
Speaking to EIR on March 7, a senior Israeli intelligence source said Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a very sophisticated game in the Middle East. Echoing EIR founder Lyndon LaRouche's own assessment of Russia role as a key player on the strategic chess board, the source said Russian policy towards Iran is aimed at securing a strong presence, not only among Iranians, but among other Shi'a elements in the region.
Furthermore, by inviting Hamas to Moscow, Russia was not only demonstrating that it is prepared to play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, outside the confines of the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediatorsRussia, the UN, the U.S., and the European Union. The source pointed out that Hamas represents an entry point for the Russians into the Muslim Brotherhood, out of which Hamas originates. That connection extends into the Muslim Brotherhood networks in Jordan and Egypt.
The source saw President Bush's trip to India as an effort to counterbalance Russian influence in the region. The source said it seems that Putin wants to revive a so-called "bi-polar" or multi-polar world.
Mofaz Threatens To Assassinate Hamas Leader
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz threatened to assassinate Palestinian Authority Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh, if Hamas carries out terror attacks. "If Hamas as a terror organization faces us with this challenge the state of Israel confronting a terrorist organization, no one there is immune; not just Ismail Haniyehno one there is immune," Mofaz told Israel's Army Radio on March 7.
Mofaz made the remarks within hours of an Israeli "targetted assassination" of two Islamic Jihad members which led to the killing of two children and another civilian. An Israeli rocket was launched at an ice cream truck in which the two were said to be riding. Now, even the Israeli military fears that a reprisal attack will be made by Islamic Jihad. Continuing threats like this from Mofaz, who allies himself with the Kadima party of acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, are designed to sabotage a possible durable ceasefire, and future discussions with Hamas. Such statements also serve the interests of Likud candidateand Dick Cheney's choice for Israeli Prime Minister-Benjamin Netanyahu. (For further analysis, see this week's InDepth, "In Israeli Elections, It's Shultz/Cheney vs. Sanity," by Dean Andromidas.)
Israeli Right Wing to U.S.: We'll Hit Iran if You Don't
The message from Dick Cheney's friends in Israel, among the far right, is that if the United States does not stop Iran's nuclear program, the Israeli "breakaway ally," will take care of the problem. With the election looming on March 28, warmongering statements against Hamas, and against Iran, are being made daily.
On March 9, speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, in answer to a question on whether Israel had a contingency plan in case the international attempts to stop the Iranian nuclear program fail, replied, "The state of Israel has many drawers, containing all it needs in order to defend our citizens.... We do not intend on turning a blind eye to any threat that we may face, and we will do everything so that the threat is not realized." Mofaz was in Germany meeting with Defense Minister Franz Joseph Jung.
Then, on March 10, the Israeli press reported on a speech given in Washington, D.C., by former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, at the neo-con Hudson Institute, where he said that Israel had a military option against Iran. Ya'alon gave a detailed description of Israel's potential military capabilities against Iran's nuclear sites, although he admitted that the programs are spread out over many sites. He said Israel could overcome the Iranian air defense systems and carry out strikes against several dozen targets, which he claimed were used for nuclear development. If a military attack was required, he said, the U.S. and European air forces should participate as well.
Ya'alon is a backer of Likud candidate Benjamin Netanyahu and could be Israel's next Minister of Defense if Netanyahu is elected. He is currently a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. According to the Jerusalem Post March 10, several former and active-duty Israeli military officers have visited Washington in recent weeks to push for a military strike against Iran.
Ya'alon's comment evoked a response from former Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliyahu (ret.), who said such comments could lead other countries to back off from containing Iran, because they will conclude that Israel is capable of its own action.
Adding to the war cries, the Jerusalem Post, quoting unnamed Defense Ministry sources, reported that the Israeli government doesn't think the U.S. is doing enough to stop Iran's nuclear program.
"America needs to get its act together," the official said. "Until now, the U.S. administration has just been talking tough, but the time has come for the Americans to begin to take tough action." The source called for tough sanctions that would hurt the Iranian population. "Only once the people understand that their government is bringing upon them a disaster, will they realize that Ahmedinejad's regime needs to be replaced.... If the people start to suffer, then they will understand that a change in government is needed."
AIPAC Boasts of Fundraising 'Windfall' from Franklin Case
On March 5, the New York Times noted that AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), seems to be recovering nicely from the blow of the indictment of two of its top officials in the Larry Franklin espionage case; and in fact, by claiming that it is under attack, it has found the indictments to be a "fundraising windfall." The Times also reports that AIPAC likely got caught as part of a U.S. government electronic monitoring of Israeli operations inside the U.S. going back to 1999.
Of course, AIPAC is being aided by Vice President Dick Cheney and one of his lead "chicken-hawks," John Bolton, both of whom addressed the recent AIPAC convention. Defense analyst Larry Franklin, who pleaded guilty to passing classified information to Israel, and was sentenced to 12 and 1/2 years in prison, was one of Cheney's operatives in the Pentagon, where he worked for neo-conservative Douglas Feith.