Sunday, January 28, 2007

We continue to repeat the tragic mistakes of history!

This is a letter which was published in a Pa. newspaper and was sent to me by a local friend and former resident near Allentown. (See 1 below.)

Elliot Chodoff was the initial speaker in the inaugural Speaker Series, I started and which began last night. Elliot is currently a visiting professor teaching two simultaneous courses at the University of Memphis. The meeting began at 7:30 and at 9:30 the audience of 162 were still asking questions. I decided to tell everyone that wanted to leave to do so and those who wanted to stay could regroup and Elliot would continue his conversation. About 50 remained and Elliot answered questions past 10 PM. To say the initial speech was a success would be an understatement.

Some highlights of Chodoff's comments:

The speech was devoted to answering the critics of the recent Lebanese War and in doing so he took his audience back to 1980 to give them some historical background of how South Lebanon and Hezballah's occupation came to evolve.

Elliot took exception to those who thought the war a total failure but acknowledged, from the git go, the idea of air warfare carrying the day would not work. When I picked him up at the airport before I gave him a quick tour of the city we stopped at The Mighty Eigth Airforce Museum and toured it for about an hour. Elliot noted later that evening that air war fare takes a back seat to land warfare and feet on the ground in terms of winning in a military sense and the former's impact has always been overstated.

In every instance where the IDF's ground forces engaged Hezballah the IDF was overwhelmingly victorious and the Hezballah casualty rate far exceeds what was reported and this is why Nasrallah is not yet able to bring down Siniora's government.

The problem was that a planned response developed in 2002 was not implemented and for this he blames both the Olmert government and eventually Halutz, an airman who ultimately was in control but had not operational experience.

Since the war an intense self-examination has been underway at the corps and small unit level and vast improvement should be expected but he still questions the competency of the most senior officership level.

In terms of the tank losses they were mainly caused by lack of funds for purchasing and training tank commanders in smoke warfare. Budget cuts cost the tank brigades canisters of smoke. Furthermore, the tanks failed to keep going making them harder to hit.

The IAF accomplished its objectives in terms of military targets and dealt Hezballah and Iran a serious weapons and cost set back but were not able to stop all the Kaytusha rockets. This the IDF ground forces could and should have been allowed to do and were not because of Olmert's fear of an increased casualty rate. Elliot, in an aside comment, pointed out Israelis are wiling to accept casualties if there is progress and victory but not one death if there is no progress and he made the same observation about our efforts in Iraq. He further stated, tragic as any death may be , we had suffered very light casualties in Iraq but because the public had concluded no progress was being achieved they have come to conclude even the low casualty rate as senseless.

In terms of the press, and most particularly CNN and the New York Times, he stated Eisenhower would have been discharged within less than a week of The Invasion had he been subjected to today's level of reporting.

In answer to questions from the audience Chodoff suggested we would be better to contain the fighting in Iraq by taking up a perimeter stance and let the Iraqis kill each other in the cities in a controlled way and use most of our forces to contain entry by foreigners into the country. It would cut down on the casualty rate for our forces as well as Iraqi forces and eventually the terrorists in the city would exhaust themselves.

In terms of the "civil war" evolving between Hamas and Fatah it too was to Israel's advantage not to get involved.

High tech has taken over the military but he remains low tech and thus explained the cost equivalency of being able to stop sophisticated missiles but the difficulty in stopping crude Qassam type rockets which, militarily, have little consequence but psychologically disrupt life and spread fear.

In terms of Iran he believes, and has written, that Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs are in control and that student upsurge is overblown in terms of its impact as well as the recent elections. Therefore, it is incumbent upon our nation to respond and stop Iran. Whether this will be the case remains the question. He explained the technical difficulty for Israel and thus stated that eventually if Israel perceived Iran was going to carry out its existential threat Israel should make clear they would take offensive action of a nuclear nature. Deterrence, in the case of Israel's small and concentrated size, is not effective because Israel could not survive both a nuclear attack nor probably be able to respond subsequent to one.

The US has the force capability to level Iran's military, air force, communication infrastructure, nuclear facilities as well as their oil facilities because we have the sustained ability to continue pummeling them for whatever time it takes whereas Israel, though its planes can hit Tehran and return, does not have the manpower to maintain a sustained attacks. In the recent Lebanese War Chodoff pointed out that after four concentrated bombings on Nasrallah's concrete hiding place, though Nasrallah was trapped and could not leave for days, he was not killed. It takes repeated bombings to destroy embedded facilities. Furthermore, Israel would have to traverse Jordan and Iraq air space and the element of surprise would have thus been neutralized. The US can launch from bases surrounding Iran and from off shore carriers etc. We are notr constrained.

In terms of Iraq, though he would not get into a discussion of domestic politics, he pointed our that our involvement in Iraq was not causing an increase in terrorists but should be viewed more as a magnet that was drawing them there and that was a positive and we should recognize and accept that as fact. That said, he did not believe we quite understood the factional nature of Arab society and that Iraq was, at best, only a series of states within a nation and we did not fully comprehend the mentality of various loyalty levels.

In a personal conversation with Elliot he does believe, should GW decide to attack Iraq, that it is within the realm of reasonable expectation we would be joined by Germany, Britain and even France. He and I concur on many things and most particularly that, at some point, the French are going to have it up to their wine sotted brain and will lash back at the growing Muslim population and in a very typically French way, read that to mean - extremely harsh. The French Foreign Legion were never pussy cats.

Chodoff also believes should GW make the decision to attack Iran he might well do it late enough in his term in office so the political implications and fall out will be truncated.

We live in dangerous times. Both Elliot and myself believe the foundation for WW 3 is being laid and history, sadly enough, repeats itself with extreme consistency and we have learned nothing from it.

(Elliot Chodoff is a Maj. in the IDF Reserves. Has a BA and BS degree from SUNNY, a Masters in Sociology from The Univ. of Chicago, is completing his doctoral work for his PHD, is a small weapons and small unit tactical expert. He is married, has four children and lives in the Gallilee.)

1) The Morning Call, Allentown, PA (a Chicago Tribune newspaper)

Logic says we must stay, fight and win in Iraq

Plato wrote, ''Only the dead have seen the end of war,'' and in the 2,400
years since, many people have seen his prophecy fulfilled. Human nature is
the cause, of course, and as long as evil people try to force their will on
others, others will fight back, and that's the short explanation of why
there is war. The only way to avoid war is to let evil men have whatever
they want.

Which brings us to the current war against Islamist terrorists across the
globe, and to the battle of Iraq. What is our objective in Iraq? President
Bush has stated our objective loudly and clearly on numerous occasions: to
help the Iraqi people build a democracy that can sustain and defend itself.
That is proving a difficult task, because terrorists want to rule by the
sword, and will kill anyone to achieve their goal.

Why do most Americans want to pull out of Iraq? Is it because of U.S.
casualties? Is it the economic cost? The mission was/or is wrong? We
want the rest of the world to like us? I believe that it's a combination of
these, which are based on emotion, rather than logic. Let's examine them

First, our forces are all volunteers who are there because they believe in
the mission, and our losses have been very low. If we are really concerned
about saving innocent lives, we should ban drinking and driving. That alone
would save almost 20,000 lives, 80,000 injuries, and $50 billion per year!

Second, the economic cost has been very low, especially because most of the
money flows directly or indirectly into the U.S. economy, which has absorbed
the war cost without a blink. (We spend more on Medicaid, free health
insurance for ''the poor'' than on the entire national defense budget.)

Third, the mission is essential to stopping the growth of Islamist
dictatorships whose leaders promise death to America. The mission has been
obscured by the anti-war drumbeat focused on weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq, false accusations of lying and spying and torture, and other issues
to inflame anti-war passions. But, the mission trumps everything.

Fourth, world opinion does not matter at all, unless the world stops buying
from us, and it certainly won't do that. They may envy us and dislike us,
but they need us. Actually, most of the world today is free because of the
United States. Our constitution, written when there were no free people
anywhere on earth, has been the guiding light for others so that today most
humans live in some degree of freedom, many with great individual freedom
and opportunity.

The framers of our Constitution were wise and gifted men who recognized that
the future would include war. They also knew that wars cannot be won by
committees. Thus, they did not provide for the Congress to command our armed
forces, or for the Congress to decide on strategy and tactics. Article I
Section 1 of the Constitution grants all legislative powers to the Congress,
but no executive powers. That power belongs to the president alone under
Article II Section 2.

Now we have a self-annointed committee of 535 senators and congressmen
attempting to exercise non-existent oversight rights over the
commander-in-chief of the armed forces in time of war. Worse yet, they are
publicly damning the president, his staff, and his generals, claiming
superior knowledge and ability.

Such criticism is appropriate and even helpful if done in private, but not
in full view of the whole world, and in full view of the enemy. Such
behavior by the Congress provides encouragement for the enemy, who see us
as cowardly, and divided. The enemy think that if they can hang on, we will
cut and run.

The Senate Armed Services Committee hearings this week were the most
outrageous I have ever seen. Several Democratic and Republican senators are
using their committee positions to broadcast the most egregious bombast to
the world, criticizing everything we're doing to win this war. Worse yet,
they are doing this for their own personal political ambitions. So, in the
midst of a war, our new commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, has to sit
before the Senators and explain what he intends to do.

Finally, consider this: If we win the battle of Iraq, the anti-war
politicians will likely be crushed at the polls in 2008. Thus, they want us
to lose.

John F. Brinson of Weisenberg Township is chairman of the Lehigh Valley Tax
Limitation Committee and producer of ''Pennsylvania Crossfire,'' which
appears weekly on local cable TV.

''Most of the world today is free because of the United States.''

Monday, January 22, 2007

Playing the Gotcha Game-Nero did it!

Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser is the outgoing head of the IDF Intelligence Research Department. I thought a few quotes of his would be of interest. They are in response to an interview he gave when he was a visiting Fellow at The Brooking's Institute's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. (See 1 below.)

Tomorrow, GW will try, once again, to give Americans a wake-up lesson in future Iranian intentions and ambitions but, as H.L Mencken once wrote, Boobus Americanus will probably not grasp the enormity of the challenge. Certainly most Democrats understand the threat but winning and controlling power, by pointing out GW's mistakes, is far more politically productive and inticeing. Playing the "Gotcha Game" is a convenient way to wile away time. Nero did it, so there is plenty of precedence.

Olmert finally succumbs to Peretz's choice of Gabi Ashkenazi as head of Israel's Military. So who is Gabi? (See 2 below.)

We are from the EU and we are here to help! My advice, count your fingers if you shake their hands! (See 3 below.)

Lest we forget, Qassams still fall daily. Some terrorists were obviously out to lunch recently when their unsuccessful launch effort killed them instead. (See 4 below.)

What is this all about? A blip from Janes'. (See 5 below.)

Meanwhile, the Swiss suggest Syria was serious and secret talks did take place. Terry Newman says negotiate with Syria now and Zalman Zhoval disagrees. (See 6 and 7 below.)

Satloff, at Herzliya, shocks the audience, by suggesting Israel in an enviable position. Satloff believes this to be the case because so many Arab nations want to talk to Israel. That is true. The Palestinians want to talk so they can get money released. The Syrians want to talk so they can get The Golan back. The Jordanians and the Egyptians want to talk because that is all they ever do. The terrorists continue to talk with their rocket attacks. Lebanon would like to talk but Hezballah won't let them. The Saudis would talk but they are afraid it would be the end of Mecca if they did and the Iranians are too busy building nuclear weapons to destroy Israel, so they have no time to talk. (See 8 below.)


1) Question: What happens if Hezballah gains more power in Lebanon?

Response: "The struggle between the Siniora government and Hezballah is a microcosm of the region-wide struggle between reformists and anti-Western radicals. If Siniora is toppled, the radicals would win a significant regional victory. And its even bigger than that. Iran is leading the Islamist radical camp in an effort to change the entire world order, which it believes is under Western control...A Hezballah victory would have worldwide repercussions."

Question: Why should the United States be concerned about [Iran]?"

Response: Wiping Israel off the map for Ahmadinjad is just a step toward changing the world order. For him, that order is not just based on the wrong values-namely ,Western values- but it was built to serve Western hegemony. And he and his ilk want to end this hegemony. They are trying to weaken and then destroy all the elements that in their mind undergird the prevailing order.

That's why they defy the UN and its resolutions on Lebanon and Iran; it is part of the world order. In their mind that order is based on the results of WW 2. They question the Holocaust not just because they hate Jews, but because if you say 'There was no Holocaust,' you say there shouldn't be an Israel, which is an important part of the post-WW 2 order. Another part of the order is the superpower's near monopoly over nuclear weapons. We want arms too, say the radicals. North Korea is already there, and Iran is getting close. Since they defy the code of war fighting and look at civilians as legitimate targets, this development is extremely dangerous."

Question: Is Syria's president serious in his calls for peace talks with Israel?

Response: "Assad knows exactly what it takes to show he's serious, but he is doing just the opposite. He supports Hezballah and destabilizes Lebanon. He continues to host the Palestinian terror groups. He continues to let terrorists go through Syria to Iraq. He continues to produce chemical arms.

These are his deeds. Does he know what he has to do? Yes, he does. Can he change? Yes, he can.Is he? No, he isn't."

2) Ashkenazi quit the armed forces eighteen months ago as deputy chief of staff after serving four years as OC Northern Command and 30 years in uniform. Six months ago, he was appointed director general of the defense ministry by Peretz. From 1972, Ashkenazi served in the Golani Brigade. He climbed the ranks to take over its command in 1986. The new chief of staff has a distinguished record as a specialist in large-scale ground and armored battles - in sharp contrast to the general he replaces, Lt. Gen Dan Halutz, who came to the job from command of the air force.

3) EU leaders meet to seek ways to bolster Mideast negotiations

European Union foreign ministers sought ways to bolster the Middle East peace process Monday and were set to push Israeli and Palestinian leaders to live up to commitments to resume negotiations after six years of violence and stalemate.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said ministers were considering how the EU, United States and the UN "can support contacts" between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

A draft statement to be issued by the EU ministers at the end of their talks welcomed the Israel's partial transfer of Palestinian tax and customs revenues worth $100 million to Abbas. Israel froze the transfer of the money after the militant group Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, won elections a year ago.

The EU ministers were also to call for more bilateral talks between Olmert and Abbas "which should lead to meaningful negotiations on the final status" of ties.

However, EU officials readily acknowledge that failure so far between Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas to set up a so-called unity government to head the PA hampers any lasting peace in the region.

The EU aims to step up mediation efforts at a February 2 meeting in Washington of the Quartet of peace makers comprising the EU, U.S., UN and Russia. The Quartet backs a "road map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state.

Separately, the EU foreign ministers said they "stand ready to support" Lebanon at an international donors' conference planned Thursday in Paris. Donors are expected to give around $5 billion in money and loans at the meeting.

The EU also called on Lebanese political factions to find a solution to the current deadlock, which threatens to further destabilize the country after last summer's war with Israel.

Following a tour of the region Sunday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Israel to freeze West Bank settlements and stop constructing the security fence. He hoped "the realities on the ground" brought about by Israeli settlement building would not "prevent a two-state solution from happening."

Solana said he was struck by the growth of settlements and the separation fence cutting into land that Palestinians want for a state.

"I had the opportunity to make a tour along the eastern part of Jerusalem and go to Abu Dis and its surroundings. You get really very shocked every time you go and you see the situation worse, the wall is more extended and settlements are more extended," Solana told reporters in Amman.

The EU official said there was a "window of opportunity" that the international community and the parties to the conflict should seize to revive talks that collapsed in 2001 and have remained deadlocked since Hamas took power.

"We think there is an opportunity now, an opportunity that should not be let go by to open the political process that should end up with the resolution of the conflict," he said.

Earlier on Sunday, Solana said the time was opportune for relaunching peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, thanks to the existence of "political will" on the part of all players he met recently.

Judging by "the talks I have had with different actors in the United States and in the region, I think the political will is there for moving the peace process," Solana told a press conference before leaving for Israel on the last leg of a regional tour.

4) A Qassam rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed Monday afternoon
near a strategic facility in the Ashkelon industrial zone. No injuries or
damage were reported.

The al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad's military wing, claimed responsibility
for the attack.

An Islamic Jihad source told Ynet, "The fire is part of operation 'Red
Rose,' in the course of which we plan to launch hundreds of rockets, most of
them improved Quds-3 type, in response to the Israeli violations of the calm
in Gaza, and the continued arrests and assassinations in the West Bank."

Shortly before noon, a rocket landed near a kibbutz in the western Negev.
There were no injuries or damage.

Three rockets were fired from Gaza Sunday. One landed in an open field
outside the town of Sderot, and the two others fell in open areas in the
northern Negev. No injuries or damage were reported in any of the incidents.

The al-Quds Brigades said they were behind the attacks.

In light of the escalation in Qassam attacks on Ashkelon, Finance Minister
Abraham Hirchson pledged Sunday that a fortified emergency room will be
built at the local Barzilay Hospital.

5) USAF eyes world's largest bomb for B-2A Spirit
By Stephen Trimble

The US Air Force (USAF) may prepare the world's largest bomb - the Boeing Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) - for action aboard the Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit by the end of 2007.

The Air Armament Center said on 17 January that it is "contemplating a quick-reaction capability" to integrate the 20 ft (6 m)-long, 30,000 lb-class (13,600 kg) weapon on the B-2A in a nine-month period starting after contract award.

In July 2006, the Air Force Research Laboratory announced a plan to have Boeing demonstrate the bomb's ability to destroy hard and deeply buried targets before August 2007 and to use the data to inform a decision on whether to launch an acquisition programme in Fiscal Year 2008. Boeing is also developing a special carriage release system for the weapon.

6) Switzerland admits mediating Syria-Israel talks

Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey divulges that her country arbitrated secret peace talks between Israel and Syria, at special press conference for the occasion of her election.

Switzerland mediated the secret peace talks between Israel and Syria which were exposed in the media last week, Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey admitted Monday.

The recently elected Federal Council president revealed her country’s role in the Damascus-Jerusalem contacts during a press conference held for the occasion of her presidential appointment, Swiss media reported.

Making Contact
Ex-diplomat: Israeli officials don't want Syrian talks / Moran Zelikovich
Former Foreign Ministry director who was involved in talks with Syrian officials, slams gov't officials for denying knowledge of talks, attempt to downplay significance: 'There was a chance, the Syrians were interested – but Israel wouldn't meet with them'
Full Story
“The secret talks, which are no longer secret after being made known in the media last week, were in fact arbitrated by a Swiss mediator,” she revealed.

Former Foreign Ministry Director General Dr. Alon Liel was the Israeli representative at the unofficial talks, opposite Ibrahim Soliman , a Syrian American with close ties to Damascus.

Speaking to reporters at the Netanya Academic College last week, Dr. Liel admitted that the talks were mediated by a European country, whose identity he refused to divulge.

“Our only way of ascertaining that our counterparts were serious was sending someone to Damascus nearly every month to verify this,” Liel explained. He described the mediator as “a super-professional, super responsible European dignitary.”

Confirming Liel’s statements, Calmy-Rey said Monday that the mediator was in Syria at present, adding that Switzerland’s foreign affairs secretary would depart for Damascus next week.

Calmy-Rey served as Switzerland’s foreign minister last year and made multiple visits to Israel . She was known to make frequent non-neutral, activist comments which were not always well-received in Israel, and which contradicted the neutral stance of previous Swiss foreign ministers.

She made particular efforts to advance the recognition of Magen David Adom by the International Red Cross.

Her activism earned criticism within Switzerland as well, as her activism was often perceived as deviated from her country’s traditional policy of neutrality. She currently holds the topmost position in Switzerland’s political system.

The Swiss government, which represents the state’s various cantons, comprises a multi-party coalition, making up a seven-member executive council which is newly elected each year.

'Syria sincere about peace'
In a rare interview with Ynet from his home in a Washington suburb this weekend, Syrian representative in the talks Ibrahim Soliman said that talks were held with the knowledge and support of the administrations in both Jerusalem and Damascus.

"Syria wanted to make peace with Israel, Syria wanted to build relations with the United States; President Assad said time and again that he wanted to have good relations with the United States. He extended his hand in friendship and peace to Israel and the US, and they turned him down,” Suleiman said.

Soliman was scheduled to address the Israeli public for the first time next week, in a speech at the Herzliya conference, as the special guest of Dr. Uzi Arad, chief diplomatic consultant to the prime minister during Benjamin Netanyahu’s term. However, when his efforts were publicized, Soliman, who believes strongly that media exposure sabotages diplomatic negotiations, decided to cancel his visit.

7) Engage Syria; Isolate Iran
Western dialogue with Syria could benefit both sides
by Terry Newman

The West wants to isolate Iran, weaken Hamas and Hizbullah. Syria wants to be brought in from international isolation. The time is right for Western engagement with Syria.

Assad’s cards are the strongest they have been since his ascent to power. He maintains close contacts with Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah - and is often the glue between Iran and the latter. As Western pressure on Iran increases, Assad knows his strategic value to the West increases. But this is a fragile position.

As soon as Iran acts it will be too late. Assad will be forced to go with Iran and the West will be more interested in combating the effects of Iran rather than preventing its threat. So Assad is trapped into a corner. He must push for peace or for war. He has a window in which to determine the future of Syria.

Another Opinion
Syria hallucinations / Zalman Shoval

Assad knows the probable price of peace – the end of his support for Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah, limited democratization, recognition of Lebanese sovereignty and full relations with Israel. And, he knows the gains – strategic alliance with the West and Western-leaning Arab states, and the return of the Golan Heights to Syrian sovereignty. He is weighing these two and appears to be showing willingness to pay the price.

Is Assad a Jeffersonian democrat? No. A Machiavellian realist comparing the fates of Saddam and Gaddafi? Perhaps.

Benefits to the West

From the Western perspective, the prime benefit of engaging Syria is isolating Iran. The Iranians are threatening to go nuclear and remake the Middle East in their image. They have spent the last 27 years sending their emissaries throughout the Middle East - spreading their vision of Islamic revolution.

Much of this has been possible due to the acquiescence and sometimes overt support of the Syrian regime. As the US-led coalition plans its withdrawal from Iraq, the threat of Iran filling the vacuum is all too real. A pre-emptive attempt to confine Iran to its borders is the most sensible and realistic strategy to check the spread of Shiite radicalism and instability throughout the region.

Further, Syria’s eastern border with Iraq is the key entry point for Sunni fighters to enter Iraq and spread instability. Assad is the only power with the ability to control and limit this movement. Again, only engagement of Syria will achieve this essential Western goal.

The end of Syrian support for Hizbullah would have a devastating impact on the organization – resulting in a two-fold benefit: First it would give Lebanese democracy a better chance to stabilize. And second, it would remove Hizbullah’s capability to act with impunity in South Lebanon, which ignited the summer war.

The expulsion of Hamas' leadership from Damascus will effect a strategic realignment within the Hamas movement – strengthening its more moderate leadership in the Palestinian territories. This would encourage the moderates within Hamas to embrace the demands of the international community and reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

A Syrian rejection of Iran and Hamas would also strengthen the role of Egypt in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This is a strategic interest of both sides of the conflict and the West. Israelis and Palestinians know that the mediation provided primarily in the past through Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has been successful. And, from a Western perspective, the Egyptian government remains a key ally in checking Iran and the fight against extremism throughout the Middle East.

From a pro-democracy perspective, engaging Assad is also preferable. The continued bloodshed in Iraq has shown that democracy is best promoted in fractious Middle Eastern societies through pressurising existing regimes rather than sudden regime change. Assad can be squeezed at present.

I remember on a visit to Lithuania meeting with then Prime Minister Brazauskas. He had been head of the Communist Party but following the fall of the Berlin Wall he reinvented himself as head of the Social-Democratic Party. He was a leader. And the policies of the party he led were less important than the leadership itself.

Similarly, Assad has slowly absorbed the leadership principle. His key aim is to maintain his leadership rather than impose a dictatorship. Gradual reform through the pressurising of Assad from above and encouraging free-speech from below is the best means to get the democratic message through. So ironically, the best way to support democracy in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria will be through the engagement of a dictator in Syria.

The UK, US and Israel – democracies committed to combating terrorism – are most effective when acting together. Current UK-US policy in the Middle East is primarily focussed on stabilizing Iraq. Israel should act now or it could be left in a worse-case scenario where the West engage Syria as Israel watches from the sidelines and is forced into a less beneficial peace treaty.

Benefits to Syria

For Syria, the West and western-supporting Arab states are its natural sphere of activities. The ruling Baathist party drew its influence from Western political ideology. Syria borders western-looking Lebanon and Turkey. The French language is spoken by many. And, only 50 years ago, Syria was part of a single country with Egypt.

The realignment to Iran was more circumstantial than ideological. Following Syria’s implication in the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, Arab nations withdrew further support from Syria forcing her further into the hands of Iran. So, Syria is looking for an "extended hand" from the West.

Assad’s promises of reform - economic and political – have failed to bear fruit. The frustrated population of Damascus is desperate for legal versions of Microsoft Windows and for high-speed internet, for good hamburgers and chips with a crunch, for decent cars and disposable income. A strategic realignment with the West would provide Syria with these goods, satisfy the population and give Assad a quick fix to his failed policies

Syrians are also well aware of the price they paid for their Cold War misalignment. It has set them back decades. Assad knows the pros and cons of Western alignment. He studied in London – not Moscow! And Syrians look in envy at the Egyptian development that resulted from their realignment to the West in the 1970s. The world is drawing up lines again, and the thought of sitting on the anti-Western bench again is chilling for many.

Finally, Syria will regain the Golan Heights. This is a high price to extract from Israel. But Assad knows that with world pressure he can achieve this goal which eluded his father.

Assad needs a place to land in the West. The West needs Assad to isolate Iran, weaken Hamas and Hizbullah. Would engagement definitely succeed? Maybe. Would Assad be able to deliver? Perhaps. But, it is worth testing his intentions? Definitely. So engage Syria and isolate Iran.

8) Analyst says Israel 'in enviable position'
US academic: For first time in history, all Arabs want to talk to you
By Yaakov Lappin

Israel is in "an enviable position" due to the unprecedented number of Arab states and organizations who wish to speak with it, according to US analyst Dr. Robert Satloff, who made the comment Monday evening at the Herzliya Conference.

Academic: Israeli-Arabs want end of Jewish state / Yaakov Lappin
There is no way to accommodate demands of Israeli-Arabs, short of replacing Israel with an Arab state, says Dr. Dan Schueftan
Full Story

His view would likely surprise many Israelis, but Satloff, who is the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he could not remember a time when Israel was in a more enviable position.

"It's my view that Israel does not know what an enviable position it has found itself in," Satloff said, adding: "For the first time in which I can recall, all Arabs want to talk to you. Arabs who like you, and those who don't like you, want talk to you. Those with malicious intentions, and those who do not have malicious intentions. All of them want to talk to you. You have the choice of who you want to speak to, and in which order. That is an enviable position."

Addressing the recent controversies created by US public figures that have come out against Israel, such as Jimmy Carter and John Mearsheimer, Satloff said: "Israel remains deeply supported by American people. On a popular level that foundation is strong. On an elite level it's weakening."

Arabs 'begging US to deal with Iran'

The American analyst said he has surveyed Arab opinion from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, and found that although the Iraq invasion was unpopular, "they are begging us not to leave."

"They are begging us to stop Iran. To prevent an Iranian nuclear acquisition, and stemming Iranian influence. We remain the most powerful player in region."

Satloff's view was contradicted by Dr. Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, who said: "The US era in the Middle East is over." He cited US policies such as the Iraq war, and the "unwise emphasis on elections" as leading to the end of American dominance in the region.

Haass, who was former head of policy planning at the US State Department, also criticized Israel for not negotiating with Syria, saying: "I don't understand the reticence of diplomacy." He added that negotiations were non-binding, and that it was pointless to place preconditions on talks.

The United States should engage in direct negotiations with Iran over stabilizing Iraq and Tehran's nuclear program, he added.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Should freshman run the fraternity house?

Elliot Chodoff's partner, Yisrael Ne'eman, questions his country's endemic political corruption? Ne'eman could just as easily have written about the political system in the United States which is driven by money, power,greed and outsized egos. But then that is the ingredients of politics. At this time in history, it appears more blatant in Israel but tell that to the Native Americans who were stolen blind by some crafty corrupt Republicans. (See 1 below.)

Stratfor's, George Friedman, has written an interesting piece about Iran and the tensions within, which range from a belief now is the time to strike because the United States is weak and bogged down in Iraq and caution because the United States might be stronger than their opposite number believe.

In his article Friedman suggests we do not believe we can establish the kind of government in Iraq we would like and the Iranians believe, in time, their dominance will prevail. What eventually will prove to be the case is driven by the varying interests of great powers but Friedman concludes Iran hrstorically has acted more cautiously than its rhetoric would imply.

Perhaps Friedman intended to focus only on Iran and the US but I found his failure to bring Israel into the picture was a mistake. I am not suggesting Israel will be able to act unilaterally but continued taunting of Israel by Iran and Iran's continued funding of surrogate terrorism which threatens Israel will have its consequences whether we like it or not. (See 2 below.)

While at the gym today after finishing my exercise regimen I decided to relax for a minute and picked up an issue of Town and Country. The cover had been torn off but it was obviously, based on the articles, published before the November elections.

I have not read this magazine for more years than I like to count but I always remembered the writing was good and it still is. What really was revealing was the total and complete liberal slant. Then I began to look at the advertisements and the articles featuring bejeweled royalty and their hob-nobbing American admirers going about raising funds for various charitable causes and I understood. Town and Country maybe always was a publication for our nation's "snobbies" but now it even aligns with their politics. Article after article either bashed GW and his administration or was critical of everything and anything he and his party were about.

I have concluded T and C is the comic book of the intelligentsia. There were pages of ads for outrageously expensive watches, jewelry, cars and clothing. The kind of baubles and items the wine and cheese set adorn themselves as they scramble to make understated statements of how wealthy they are, how poor is their taste or how vapid their lives. One of the featured articles was about the power struggle for Mr. Astor's granddaughter's wealth by members of her family whom the article quoted others as saying were a bit boorish.

Later this evening I then read Ne'eman's article (See 1 below.) and I was reminded again of how vulgar the political scene is as it becomes increasingly driven by wealth and greed - he very readership T and C strives to reach. It is so "in" to be out.

Rome may not have been built in a day because the rot, that eventually brought it down, took time to accumulate but when it started to collapse it did not take long.

Gen Halutz, the Israeli Chief of Staff, finally fell on his sword and resigned. I suspect my friend knew in advance that this was coming and I suspect others will follow. In the long run the soul searching going on within Israel's military ranks will prove refreshing and might be just what the doctor ordered. My candidate for Chief of Staff would be to return Gen. Moshe Ya'alon. (See 3 below)

Now if Olmert would do the same. (See 4 below.)

US ambassador to Israel Richard Jones told the Jerusalem Post in an
exclusive interview on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
"picked up" Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's ideas about a need to provide a
"political horizon" during her recent visit here.

Jones said it was important to give both sides "an idea of what we're
talking about, what we are getting into."

Rice is expected back in the region within a month for trilateral
discussions with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Jones stressed these would not be
"negotiations," but rather "discussions" of all the major issues that would
have to be dealt with during the final stages of implementing TRM.

Last month, Livni came out with the idea of holding talks with the
Palestinians about a future state, before implementation of the first stage
of TRM. The idea behind this was to give the Palestinians an
incentive to implement the first steps of TRM in order to reach
these goals.

Jones said he had no knowledge of any tract to agreement worked out
between Israeli, Syrian and US non-governmental officials. He said, however,
the US position regarding Syria is that it should not be rewarded for
its intransigent behavior. Jones said the Israeli government was "not
chomping at the bit" to advance negotiations with the Syrians, but,
added, the US was not standing in Jerusalem's way.

Is it not amazing that the lives of people turn on two words - negotiations versus discussions?

Now that Osoma has decided to explore running for the presidency he should resign from the Senate and enroll somewhere and learn how to govern. It is scary that someone with so little experience believes, because he wrote a book, has a nice smile, has become the darling of the media and knows how to kiss babies feels qualified to run our nation. Have recent presidents so diminished the Oval Office, even freshmen believe they should run the fraternity house?

Are we ready for another possible Carter?


1) Israel 2007 – Endemic Corruption?
By Yisrael Ne’eman

We in Israel and the Jewish world need to face some very unpleasant facts about ourselves. Our present political leadership in the State of Israel appears to be almost hopelessly corrupt. All politics is known for its “wheeling and dealing” but Israel 2007 is slipping towards an abyss we never believed could exist in the Jewish national movement. Somehow we always “knew” of such behavior happening to other peoples, but never to ourselves. For a people who were to be “a light unto the nations” we are far from being a light unto ourselves.

So what went wrong? In a word – materialism and its negative exponential – greed. Spirituality may be sidelined but it is far from dead as it continues to reside within the hearts of many Jews. Unfortunately, increasing numbers are taking their cues from the political elite (or should it be “delete”). A philosophical material understanding of the world is not negative in its own right, both Adam Smith and Karl Marx believed that wealth accumulation, redistribution or whatever the major force in socio-economic development, whether it be capitalist or socialist was being done for the good of society. By taking either theory or a bit of both as the best economic model(s) for developing the secular states in our present “age of nationalism” the rising nations of the West and later elsewhere used these ideas as tools for the betterment and advancement of their peoples. Zionism did the same, whether it was the socialism of Ben Gurion and the Labor Zionists or the capitalism of Jabotinsky and the Revisionists (or even Weizmann’s general Zionists). Such theories were a means to an end in nation building and especially in the Jewish national cause when the Zionist movement collected persecuted Jewish communities from around the world, brought them back to the ancient homeland and built a modern nation state. It was a means to an end, the end always being what is best for the Jewish People.

Unfortunately, the means is now an end in itself as excessive material well being (gluttony) and political power become their own ends as they are narrowed down to the individual. Whether one is a socialist or capitalist is unimportant. The unity of purpose through the spiritual understanding – also known as “the spirit of the People” is forgotten when leaders seek their own personal well being along with that of their friends and family at the expense of the society they are elected to represent.

The revered Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook already during the Mandate Period had great doubts about political behavior when he wrote concerning the delay of the Jewish national redemption that “our soul was disgusted by the dreadful sins that go with political rule in evil times,” in reference to the 2000 year Jewish exile. He hoped for a time of purity and holiness for then the Jewish People would achieve redemption. He lived to see the evils perpetrated by both communism and fascism in their initial stages.

Those who are greedy need to be in power to satisfy their appetites and conveniently forget there is a Jewish People out there, their only worry being how to jockey for power and win the next election. Those involved in long term planning are not in politics, such as the water (Mekorot), electric companies or best yet, the Jewish National Fund. Unfortunately, here too some are earning exorbitant salaries at public expense.

Just to recap a bit. The president, Moshe Katzav is facing criminal charges for sexual misconduct and possibly rape, the PM Ehud Olmert is being investigated for quasi-legal land deals, bribe taking and illegal appointments to civil service posts and just this past week the Finance Minister Avraham Hirshzon is being accused of financial irregularities when he headed the National Labor Union (Likud) faction. Although not charged with any crime, the Defense Minister and former labor union boss Amir Peretz has been known to sign up massive numbers of new members to the Labor party just before the primaries to ensure his own victory. It is true he was not the only one, but that does not justify such behavior. In the background is the jail sentence to be served by Omri Sharon for election fraud and illegal fundraising done for his father Ariel Sharon in his bid to win the Likud party leadership in 1999. Enter former PM Ehud Barak who wants a shot at the Labor Party top spot in the upcoming May primaries. He was notorious for developing non-profit organizations for campaign fundraising, giving them fictitious charters and breaking the election rules, at least in spirit. These are just the well known stories.

Now we have a major investigation into the Tax & Customs Service where political appointees and high powered businessmen appear to have orchestrated a partial takeover of the state revenue service. The police are still investigating. Those involved were all from the Likud at one point or another, whether they are in Kadima today, such as PM Olmert, who is considered by many to be among the most corrupt politicians in the country or if they remained in the Likud, like those supporters of former foreign minister Sylvan Shalom and the deceased minister Yitzhak Moda’i. Eitan Rob and Jackie Matza are the new superstars in the deepening morass. In short, the Likud (and Kadima of today) central committee captured much of Israel’s civil service. Only recently have political appointees to civil service jobs come under judicial scrutiny. Better a late investigation than none at all.

As Moshe Gorali pointed out in this week’s Ma’ariv weekend magazine, corruption in the civil service is more dangerous than on the political level. Here it becomes endemic and the entire system breaks down. Politicians can more easily be replaced; a civil service suffering from criminal rot brings down the entire infrastructure, meaning the state itself.

Never has the country faced such a sickening array of scandals and abuse of power. Should it become an existential threat to the State of Israel, it may very well be life threatening to the Jewish People since a strong state entity is the best insurance for the continuation of the nation. So where did it all start?

Most likely with the education system and the values projected by those in leadership positions - twenty, thirty and forty years ago. In the main, both parents and the school system forgot to teach our children the essence of Jewish being and why we are here in the Land of Israel. Too many people got sidelined chasing after money and power. Those children grew up and became our political leadership.

2) Rhetoric and Reality: The View from Iran
By George Friedman

The Iraq war has turned into a duel between the United States and Iran. For the United States, the goal has been the creation of a generally pro-American coalition government in Baghdad -- representing Iraq's three major ethnic communities. For Iran, the goal has been the creation of either a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad or, alternatively, the division of Iraq into three regions, with Iran dominating the Shiite south.

The United States has encountered serious problems in creating the coalition government. The Iranians have been primarily responsible for that. With the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June, when it appeared that the Sunnis would enter the political process fully, the Iranians used their influence with various Iraqi Shiite factions to disrupt that process by launching attacks on Sunnis and generally destabilizing the situation. Certainly, Sunnis contributed to this, but for much of the past year, it has been the Shia, supported by Iran, that have been the primary destabilizing force.

So long as the Iranians continue to follow this policy, the U.S. strategy cannot succeed. The difficulty of the American plan is that it requires the political participation of three main ethnic groups that are themselves politically fragmented. Virtually any substantial group can block the success of the strategy by undermining the political process. The Iranians, however, appear to be in a more powerful position than the Americans. So long as they continue to support Shiite groups within Iraq, they will be able to block the U.S. plan. Over time, the theory goes, the Americans will recognize the hopelessness of the undertaking and withdraw, leaving Iran to pick up the pieces. In the meantime, the Iranians will increasingly be able to dominate the Shiite community and consolidate their hold over southern Iraq. The game appears to go to Iran.

Americans are extremely sensitive to the difficulties the United States faces in Iraq. Every nation-state has a defining characteristic, and that of the United States is manic-depression, cycling between insanely optimistic plans and total despair. This national characteristic tends to blind Americans to the situation on the other side of the hill. Certainly, the Bush administration vastly underestimated the difficulties of occupying Iraq -- that was the manic phase. But at this point, it could be argued that the administration again is not looking over the other side of the hill at the difficulties the Iranians might be having. And it is useful to consider the world from the Iranian point of view.

The Foundation of Foreign Policy

It is important to distinguish between the rhetoric and the reality of Iranian foreign policy. As a general principle, this should be done with all countries. As in business, rhetoric is used to shape perceptions and attempt to control the behavior of others. It does not necessarily reveal one's true intentions or, more important, one's capabilities. In the classic case of U.S. foreign policy, Franklin Roosevelt publicly insisted that the United States did not intend to get into World War II while U.S. and British officials were planning to do just that. On the other side of the equation, the United States, during the 1950s, kept asserting that its goal was to liberate Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union, when in fact it had no plans, capabilities or expectations of doing so. This does not mean the claims were made frivolously -- both Roosevelt and John Foster Dulles had good reasons for posturing as they did -- but it does mean that rhetoric is not a reliable indicator of actions. Thus, the purple prose of the Iranian leadership cannot be taken at face value.

To get past the rhetoric, let's begin by considering Iran's objective geopolitical position.

Historically, Iran has faced three enemies. Its oldest enemy was to the west: the Arab/Sunni threat, against which it has struggled for millennia. Russia, to the north, emerged as a threat in the late 19th century, occupying northern Iran during and after World War II. The third enemy has worn different faces but has been a recurring threat since the time of Alexander the Great: a distant power that has intruded into Persian affairs. This distant foreign power -- which has at times been embodied by both the British and the Americans -- has posed the greatest threat to Iran. And when the element of a distant power is combined with one of the other two traditional enemies, the result is a great global or regional power whose orbit or influence Iran cannot escape. To put that into real terms, Iran can manage, for example, the chaos called Afghanistan, but it cannot manage a global power that is active in Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously.

For the moment, Russia is contained. There is a buffer zone of states between Iran and Russia that, at present, prevents Russian probes. But what Iran fears is a united Iraq under the influence or control of a global power like the United States. In 1980, the long western border of Iran was attacked by Iraq, with only marginal support from other states, and the effect on Iran was devastating. Iran harbors a rational fear of attack from that direction, which -- if coupled with American power -- could threaten Iranian survival.

Therefore, Iran sees the American plan to create a pro-U.S. government in Baghdad as a direct threat to its national interests. Now, the Iranians supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003; they wanted to see their archenemy, former President Saddam Hussein, deposed. But they did not want to see him replaced by a pro-American regime. Rather, the Iranians wanted one of two outcomes: the creation of a pro-Iranian government dominated by Iraqi Shia (under Iran's control), or the fragmentation of Iraq. A fragmented Iraq would have two virtues. It would prove no danger to Iran, and Iran likely would control or heavily influence southern Iraq, thus projecting its power from there throughout the Persian Gulf.

Viewed this way, Iran's behavior in Iraq is understandable. A stable Iraq under U.S. influence represents a direct threat to Iran, while a fragmented or pro-Iranian Iraq does not. Therefore, the Iranians will do whatever they can to undermine U.S. attempts to create a government in Baghdad. Tehran can use its influence to block a government, but it cannot -- on its own -- create a pro-Iranian one. Therefore, Iran's strategy is to play spoiler and wait for the United States to tire of the unending conflict. Once the Americans leave, the Iranians can pick up the chips on the table. Whether it takes 10 years or 30, the Iranians assume that, in the end, they will win. None of the Arab countries in the region has the power to withstand Iran, and the Turks are unlikely to get into the game.

The Unknown Variables

Logic would seem to favor the Iranians. But in the past, the Iranians have tried to be clever with great powers and, rather than trapping them, have wound up being trapped themselves. Sometimes they have simply missed other dimensions of the situation. For example, when the revolutionaries overthrew the Shah and created the Islamic Republic, the Iranians focused on the threat from the Americans, and another threat from the Soviets and their covert allies in Iran. But they took their eyes off Iraq -- and that miscalculation not only cost them huge casualties and a decade of economic decay, but broke the self-confidence of the Iranian regime.

The Iranians also have miscalculated on the United States. When the Islamic Revolution occurred, the governing assumption -- not only in Iran but also in many parts of the world, including the United States -- was that the United States was a declining power. It had, after all, been defeated in Vietnam and was experiencing declining U.S. military power and severe economic problems. But the Iranians massively miscalculated with regard to the U.S. position: In the end, the United States surged and it was the Soviets who collapsed.

The Iranians do not have a sterling record in managing great powers, and especially in predicting the behavior of the United States. In large and small ways, they have miscalculated on what the United States would do and how it would do it. Therefore, like the Americans, the Iranians are deeply divided. There are those who regard the United States as a bumbling fool, all set to fail in Iraq. There are others who remember equally confident forecasts about other American disasters, and who see the United States as ruthless, cunning and utterly dangerous.

These sentiments, then, divide into two policy factions. On the one side, there are those who see Bush's surge strategy as an empty bluff. They point out that there is no surge, only a gradual buildup of troops, and that the number of troops being added is insignificant. They point to political divisions in Washington and argue that the time is ripe for Iran to go for it all. They want to force a civil war in Iraq, to at least dominate the southern region and take advantage of American weakness to project power in the Persian Gulf.

The other side wonders whether the Americans are as weak as they appear, and also argues that exploiting a success in Iraq would be more dangerous and difficult than it appears. The United States has substantial forces in Iraq, and the response to Shiite uprisings along the western shore of the Persian Gulf would be difficult to predict. The response to any probe into Saudi Arabia certainly would be violent.

We are not referring here to ideological factions, nor to radicals and moderates. Rather, these are two competing visions of the United States. One side wants to exploit American weakness; the other side argues that experience shows that American weakness can reverse itself unexpectedly and trap Iran in a difficult and painful position. It is not a debate about ends or internal dissatisfaction with the regime. Rather, it is a contest between audacity and caution.

The Historical View

Over time -- and this is not apparent from Iranian rhetoric -- caution has tended to prevail. Except during the 1980s, when they supported an aggressive Hezbollah, the Iranians have been quite measured in their international actions. Following the war with Iraq, they avoided overt moves -- and they even were circumspect after the fall of the Soviet Union, when opportunities presented themselves to Iran's north. After 9/11, the Iranians were careful not to provoke the United States: They offered landing rights for damaged U.S. aircraft and helped recruit Shiite tribes for the American effort against the Taliban. The rhetoric alternated between intense and vitriolic; the actions were more cautious. Even with the Iranian nuclear project, the rhetoric has been far more intense than the level of development seems to warrant.

Rhetoric influences perceptions, and perceptions can drive responses. Therefore, the rhetoric should not be discounted as a driving factor in the geopolitical system. But the real debate in Iran is over what to do about Iraq. No one in Iran wants a pro-U.S. government in Baghdad, and blocking the emergence of such a government has a general consensus. But how far to go in trying to divide Iraq, creating a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and projecting power in the region is a matter of intense debate. In fact, cautious behavior combined with extreme rhetoric still appears to be the default position in Tehran, with more adventurous arguments struggling to gain acceptance.

The United States, for its part, is divided between the desire to try one more turn at the table to win it all and the fear that it is becoming hopelessly trapped. Iran is divided between a belief that the time to strike is now and a fear that counting the United States out is always premature. This is an engine that can, in due course, drive negotiations. Iran might be "evil" and the United States might be "Satan," but at the end of the day, international affairs involving major powers are governed not by rhetoric but by national interest. The common ground between the United States and Iran is that neither is certain it can achieve its real strategic interests. The Americans doubt they can create a pro-U.S. government in Baghdad, and Iran is not certain the United States is as weak as it appears to be.

Fear and uncertainty are the foundations of international agreement, while hope and confidence fuel war. In the end, a fractured Iraq -- an entity incapable of harming Iran, but still providing an effective buffer between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula -- is emerging as the most viable available option.

3) IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz announces his resignation
By Amos Harel

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz on Tuesday night announced his resignation as head of the military. The deputy chief of staff, Moshe Kaplinsky, will act as the interim head of the armed forces.

Senior General Staff officers welcomed Halutz's decision, saying it was
necessary in view of what has come to light regarding the IDF's wartime functioning. "The time has really come," a general who played an active role in the war told Haaretz on Tuesday night.

"[Former GOC Northern Command] Udi Adam indicated the proper moral path with his decision [to resign]. Now Halutz joins him as well - and the inquiries show only the tip of the iceberg regarding Halutz's functioning during the war."

Ehud Olmert's bureau said the prime minister knew ahead of time of Halutz' intention to resign, and had asked him reconsider. Olmert accepted the resignation, however, once he became convinced of Halutz' determination to do so, and expressed deep regret at the decision.

Halutz' decision to step down comes against a backdrop of failures in IDF functioning, his own performance and the performance of the army during the war against Hezbollah in July and August of last year.

Two weeks ago, Halutz said he would resign if the government-appointed Winograd committee of inquiry found him responsible for the mishandling of the war in Lebanon. The Winograd committee is also separately looking into the conduct of Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

"If the committee hands down an unambiguous sentence, it would obligate me [to resign]," Halutz had said. The resignation, however, comes before the committee has released its conclusions.

Senior IDF officers testified before the Winograd committee that they considered Halutz responsible for the failures of the war. The officers told the members of the panel that the IDF had made a rushed recommendation to go to war, without preparing the units needed and without devising an exit strategy.

In his letter of resignation to the prime minister and defense minister, Halutz said the responsibility of command led him to the decision that he must remain in the army until internal military investigations had been completed, and the lessons learned from the war incorporated into the IDF's 2007 strategic plan.

Given that this process was completed at the start of January, Halutz asked to resign his post, effective immediately.

In his letter to Olmert, Halutz wrote: "For me, the word responsibility has great meaning. My view of responsibility is what led me to remain in my post until this time and to place this letter on your desk today... Since the echoes of battle ceased, I decided to act responsibly according to the best traditions and values from home and from my service in the IDF."

Halutz said that after the conclusion of the inquiries "I feel proud that I completed what I set out to do. After these thorough processes, I am sure the IDF will be ready to meet the challenges ahead."

Halutz had since the end of the war resisted calls for his resignation, both from the public and within the army.

"I see that there are a number of people who are longing for me to resign. I have no intention of yielding and if you ask me the question again, I will give you the same answer," he told reporters several weeks ago.

"I am not on 'A Star is Born,' and I am not being voted on by SMS. I have not heard those who appointed me call for me to go, when they tell me to do so, then I will respond."

Halutz' successor
In the near future Peretz will have to present the cabinet with a candidate to be the next chief of staff.

Kaplinsky is an obvious choice for the position, but also mentioned are Ground Forces Commander Benny Gantz, and reserve major-generals Gabi Ashkenazi (who is currently the Defense Ministry director-general), Shlomo Yanai and Ilan Biran.

The July-August assault on Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas drove them from Israel's northern border but failed to retrieve the two soldiers whose abduction had sparked the conflict, prompting many Israelis to call for a purge of the top brass in hope of restoring Israel's military superiority in the region.

Retired IDF general Dan Shomron recently submitted the findings of a probe he conducted into the war's execution.

The report, released in part last month, criticised IDF commanders for poor organization during the war, but stopped short of calling for Halutz's resignation.

Halutz, a former Israel Air Force chief, came under criticism for relying heavily on aerial barrages in the first part of the war, which caused extensive damage to Lebanon's infrastructure, while Hezbollah launched around 4,000 rockets into Israel.

Halutz was made chief of staff in June 2005, just before Israel launched its unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

The appointment raised eyebrows as it meant early retirement for the chief of staff at the time, Lieutenant-General Moshe Ya'alon, who had publicly warned that the Gaza plan would embolden Palestinian militants sworn to Israel's destruction.

4) MKs call on Olmert to resign in wake of Bank Leumi probe
By Mazal Mualem

Knesset members from across the political spectrum called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday to resign or suspend himself after the state prosecution ordered police to open a criminal investigation of Olmert's involvement in the state's sale of a controlling interest in Bank Leumi.

As in previous recent incidents in which Olmert has found himself at the center of a political storm, top Kadima officials did not rush to his defense. Other politicians who did not comment on the controversy included the contenders for leadership of Labor, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former prime minister Ehud Barak, whom Olmert would like to see replace Peretz as defense minister.

"It can't be that the crucial state matters will be run by someone who is entirely involved in saving himself," said MK Yossi Beilin, chairman of Meretz. Beilin called on Olmert to suspend himself immediately and transfer his prime ministerial authority to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who bears the title of acting prime minister, until the investigation is over.

Beilin warned that if Olmert does not suspend himself, then Meretz-Yachad will initiate proceedings in the Knesset requiring him to do so.

MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), who is chairman of the Knesset State Control Committee, called on Monday for the PM to step down. He said that after the Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander said he would suspend those under investigation in the Tax Authority, it was fitting for Olmert to step down.

Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said Tuesday, "Olmert has to go."

Labor MKs said the investigation signals the end of Olmert's rule.

"The decision brings the end of the government closer," said MK Danny Yatom, who is running for the leadership of Labor.

He said a key issue in the party primaries will be the candidate's ability to rehabilitate the government and lead it to elections.

MK Ami Ayalon, another candidate for Labor chairman, said the party should prepare for the possibility of early elections, with the central issues being the fight against corruption and restoration of public confidence in the political system.

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) called for new elections, saying only that would bring a halt to the government's endless failures.

MK Yoel Hasson, one of the few Kadima members who defended Olmert, said: "The comments by senior economic and Bank of Israel officials, led by [Bank of Israel] Governor Stanley Fischer, who reinforced and praised the involvement and conduct of [then-]finance minister Olmert should constitute a guarantee that the police investigation will be completed quickly, and at the end, it will become clear that the prime minister strengthened the economic system."

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Realism - will it ever drive our diplomatic inititaives?

As long as Sunni-Shia sectarian antipathy was directed elsewhere its more virulent strain was accepted by the Arab/Muslim world. However, when it spilled over the banks in 9/11 and we responded in Afghanistan and Iran causing their historical hatred of one another to spill into their streets threatening many of the Shia ruled autocratic fiefdoms, their leaders are now complaining and fearful.

These sheikdoms maintain our "failed" efforts in Iraq have put them in harms way. They seem unwilling to recognize their own tolerance of hate filled sermons and centers of twisted education might have some connection to that of which they complain.

The US has spent the blood of its youth and untold billions helping others. We have been doing the world's heavy lifting for decades and it has gotten us much scorn and criticism - some deserved, much not.

Though we cannot withdraw from the world it might prove instructive if we lowered our profile, curbed our involvement and let the world function more or less on its own. In fact, we could begin by lowering our funding of the UN and let the French have a go at it. The problem is, Russia and China would like nothing better and are already making inroads, particularly the latter in Africa. So we have to stay engaged. The question is whether we can as domestic support erodes and results are hard to achieve.

The Israelis learned, to their dismay, unilateralism does not work. Maybe one day we will discover our own efforts to deny reality and coddling are the basis of so many of our own self induced disappointments. Sec. Rice is going to the region again and it would be constructive if she took her blinders off and looked at the consequences of our diplomatic wishful thinking.

One of Israel's more liberal newspapers attacked Peretz, and for that matter Olmert as well, for being more interested in power than serving the critical defense needs of the nation. (See 1 below.)

Dennis Ross, who was there and involved, takes Jimmy Carter to task for purposeful ambiguity and playing with Mid East maps. (See 2 below.)


1) Cowards at the top

If the country's defense is in the hands of the wrong minister, and if everyone in the government recognizes this, the public should not be concerned by who is heading the Labor Party at the end of May - but by who is filling the defense portfolio tomorrow morning. The lack of public responsibility among elected officials, foremost Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, can go only so far. The breakdown in their relations illustrates the government's disconnect from what is really important for the country, and the extent of the selfishness of those in power.

The claim that the defense portfolio "belongs" to the Labor Party due to the coalition agreement is shameful - since the head of the party took the job upon himself, knowing nothing about it, and has proved he is incapable of assessing his skills and limitations, lacks the candor to admit it, and is unwilling to relinquish the post to a more appropriate person.

Amir Peretz destroyed his own career, and he is not worthy of compassion or understanding - only disposal from office. Since Labor is a party with working institutions, is not built around the passing popularity of a charismatic leader, has already recovered from factionalism and the assassination of its leader, and knows how to put forth an agenda and offer new leadership - it should not make do with the anomaly of Ehud Barak declaring his candidacy for "the party leadership and the post of defense minister."

This is not the way a parliamentary system is structured, nor is it how a government should function. Peretz, assisted by his party, must leave his post, and someone worthy should replace him immediately, regardless of the results of Labor's May primaries. Labor will hold internal elections, and the winner will be a candidate for prime minister. The public will follow the developments in the party, and decide how to vote accordingly.

If the prime minister had some leadership qualities, he would have replaced the defense minister a long time ago. Given that Peretz is not regarded as a successful defense minister - not by members of the government, or even the other Labor ministers - it can be assumed that if Olmert were to present Peretz with an ultimatum and ask him to take a different portfolio, Labor would not leave the coalition.

However, that is not how scores are kept in the government. Barak announced he is a candidate for defense minister so he wouldn't be seen as a threat to Olmert; Peretz announced he would not step down so that he could maintain his power before the Labor primaries; and the entire government is sitting and waiting for the five members of the Winograd Committee to do the work the government was elected to do.

This cowardly behavior, which lacks any semblance of statesmanship, is sufficient to show all of them as unworthy of serving in the government. It is impossible to negotiate with the Egyptians, the Palestinians or the Chinese, and to make promises regarding military preparations against the Iranian bomb, when a minor thing that needs fixing is not being fixed.

2)Dennis Ross: Carter mispresents maps to hide Arafat's rejection of peace
Don't Play With Maps
By DENNIS ROSS The New York Times January 9, 2007


I BECAME embroiled in a controversy with former President Jimmy Carter over
the use of two maps in his recent book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid."
While some criticized what appeared to be the misappropriation of maps I had
commissioned for my book, "The Missing Peace," my concern was always

I was concerned less with where the maps had originally come from - Mr.
Carter has said that he used an atlas that was published after my book
appeared - and more with how they were labeled. To my mind, Mr. Carter's
presentation badly misrepresents the Middle East proposals advanced by
President Bill Clinton in 2000, and in so doing undermines, in a small but
important way, efforts to bring peace to the region.

In his book, Mr. Carter juxtaposes two maps labeled the "Palestinian
Interpretation of Clinton's Proposal 2000" and "Israeli Interpretation of
Clinton's Proposal 2000."

The problem is that the "Palestinian interpretation" is actually taken from
an Israeli map presented during the Camp David summit meeting in July 2000,
while the "Israeli interpretation" is an approximation of what President
Clinton subsequently proposed in December of that year. Without knowing
this, the reader is left to conclude that the Clinton proposals must have
been so ambiguous and unfair that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was
justified in rejecting them. But that is simply untrue.
In actuality, President Clinton offered two different proposals at two
different times. In July, he offered a partial proposal on territory and
control of Jerusalem. Five months later, at the request of Ehud Barak, the
Israeli prime minister, and Mr. Arafat, Mr. Clinton presented a
comprehensive proposal on borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and
security. The December proposals became known as the Clinton ideas or

Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent
Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West
Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them. Jerusalem's status
would have been guided by the principle that what is currently Jewish will
be Israeli and what is currently Arab will be Palestinian, meaning that
Jewish Jerusalem - East and West - would be united, while Arab East
Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state.

The Palestinian state would have been "nonmilitarized," with internal
security forces but no army and an international military presence led by
the United States to prevent terrorist infiltration and smuggling.
Palestinian refugees would have had the right of return to their state, but
not to Israel, and a fund of $30 billion would have been created to
compensate those refugees who chose not to exercise their right of return to
the Palestinian state.

When I decided to write the story of what had happened in the negotiations,
I commissioned maps to illustrate what the proposals would have meant for a
prospective Palestinian state. If the Clinton proposals in December 2000 had
been Israeli or Palestinian ideas and I was interpreting them, others could
certainly question my interpretation. But they were American ideas, created
at the request of the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I was the principal
author of them. I know what they were and so do the parties.

It is certainly legitimate to debate whether President Clinton's proposal
could have settled the conflict. It is not legitimate, however, to rewrite
history and misrepresent what the Clinton ideas were.

Indeed, since the talks fell apart, there has emerged a mythology that seeks
to defend Mr. Arafat's rejection of the Clinton ideas by suggesting they
weren't real or they were too vague or that Palestinians would have received
far less than what had been advertised. Mr. Arafat himself tried to defend
his rejection of the Clinton proposals by later saying he was not offered
even 90 percent of the West Bank or any of East Jerusalem. But that was
myth, not reality.

Why is it important to set the record straight? Nothing has done more to
perpetuate the conflict between Arabs and Israelis than the mythologies on
each side. The mythologies about who is responsible for the conflict (and
about its core issues) have taken on a life of their own. They shape
perception. They allow each side to blame the other while avoiding the need
to face up to its own mistakes. So long as myths are perpetuated, no one
will have to face reality.

And yet peace can never be built on these myths. Instead it can come only
once the two sides accept and adjust to reality. Perpetuating a myth about
what was offered to justify the Arafat rejection serves neither Palestinian
interests nor the cause of peace.

I would go a step further. If, as I believe, the Clinton ideas embody the
basic trade-offs that will be required in any peace deal, it is essential to
understand them for what they were and not to misrepresent them. This is
especially true now that the Bush administration, for the first time, seems
to be contemplating a serious effort to deal with the core issues of the
Of course, one might ask if trying to address the core issues is appropriate
at a moment when Palestinians are locked in an internal stalemate and the
Israeli public lacks confidence in its government. Can politically weak
leaders make compromises on the issues that go to the heart of the conflict?
Can the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, compromise on the right of
return and tell his public that refugees will not go back to Israel? Can
Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, tell his public that demography and
practicality mean that the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will have
Palestinian and not Israeli sovereignty?

The basic trade-offs require meeting Israeli needs on security and refugees
on the one hand and Palestinian needs on territory and a capital in Arab
East Jerusalem on the other. But producing such trade-offs won't simply come
from calling for them. Instead, an environment must be created in which each
side believes the other can act on peace and is willing to condition its
public for the difficult compromises that will be necessary.

So long as mythologies can't be cast aside, and so long as the trade-offs on
the core issues can't be embraced by Israelis or Palestinians, peace will
remain forever on the horizon. If history tells us anything, it is that for
peace-making to work, it must proceed on the basis of fact, not fiction.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Always said victimhood paid. Now we have the figures!

GW's speech Wednesday is the last straw, so to speak. There is little the Democrats can or will do, other than grumble, but if his new strategy does not begin to bring results he will eventually be forced to retreat. The WSJ lead editorial tried to put the matter in perspective today and also published a different view in an op ed piece written by the former Sec. of The Army and a Johns Hopkins Professor entitled "OUR ONLY HOPE.".

If PM Maliki gets tough with Cleric Sadr, highly problematical, that would go a long way towards helping GW to ultimately accomplish his goal of a liberated and less conflictual sectarian Iraq society. I argued a year ago that Sadr should have been arrested and tried for treasonous activities. Face him then or face him later but in the end he must be faced. The same is true for Iran and Syria.

There are some issues you cannot duck and doing so prolongs problems. Furthermore, it serves to weaken your position when you eventually have to face them. The adage about putting off today etc. comes to mind.

Shin Bet has published a report which states 14% of the suicide bombers had been granted Israeli citizenship. That would be the equivalent of about 42 million Americans - equal to the population of about half the entire southern states (See 1 below.)

I have stated for years, victim hood pays well. We now have some new statistics. The U.S. taxpayer has been taken for another ride. (See 2 below.)

If and when the next war begins from Gaza and the West Bank, Israel might be facing Katyushas instead of Qassams. (Seee 3 below.)

Many many years ago Upton Sinclair wrote about the Chicago Stockyards and the outrageous employment of under age youth and the terrible working conditions. Has WalMart replaced the Chcago Stockyards? To hear some politicians you would think so. But a new poll reveals railing against WMT does not have the same political sting.

I do not understand why we love to attack the successful in this country simply because they are successful. No doubt any successful company makes mistakes and engages in some abuses but the vindictiveness against WalMart is beyond logic. It is pure populism. WMT benefits their customers by offering good products and service at a low cost. When they open a new store people line up for blocks seeking employment.

It would seem politicians would be wiser to pick another fight based on polling but then politicians are often tone deaf or maybe I am missing something.(See 4 below.)

In the interest of objectivity I own 582 shares.


1) Shin Bet: 14 percent of suicide bombers had Israeli citizenship
By Gideon Alon

38 of the 272 suicide bombings in Israel (roughly 14 percent) were carried out by terrorists that had received Israeli citizenship in the context of family reunification, a Shin Bet official told the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Monday.

The committee met Monday in order to discuss the extension of a temporary law that prevents family reunification between Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza and Israeli Arabs due to security reasons.

The Shin Bet official said the figures show it is imperative that the government extend the temporary law, which will expire January 16.

Deputy Attorney General Mike Blass also said it is absolutely necessary to extend the law, because security threats have not decreased. Justice Ministry attorney Yochi Gansin said there has been an increase in the involvement of women in terrorist attacks, including married women, widows, and educated women.

Nearly all of the MKs who participated in the deliberations were harshly critical of calls to extend the temporary law. The committee's chairman, Labor MK Raleb Majadele, demand the committee be presented with statistics on the involvement in terror of Palestinians who received entry permits, and not just those who received citizenship as a result of family unification.

Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin called the law "a terrible law, a draconian law that has no place in the book of laws," while Hadash MK Dov Khenin said: "It is a bad law that harms human and civil rights."

Ra'am-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi said the "rationale behind the law is not security but demographics."

Attorney Oded Peler from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said the association opposes extending the law, saying it constitutes collective punishment, blatantly violates individuals' constitutional rights to personal freedom, dignity, equality, and privacy, and harms family life.

This is the fourth time the Knesset has been asked to extend the temporary law.

In the summer of 2005, the law was amended allow Palestinian males over the age of 35, and women over the age of 25, to begin the family reunification process. In addition, the amendments expanded the army's authority to grant entry permits for periods over six months for the purpose of medical treatment.

In May, an expanded High Court of Justice panel approved the temporary law in a 6-5 vote. The court determined, however, that arrangements must be put into place in order to put greater emphasis on humanitarian concerns.

Among the dissenting votes was former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, who argued that the "worthwhile objective of increasing security does not sanctify serious harm to the lives of thousands of Israeli citizens."

The new version of the law will change the response to humanitarian exceptions. For instance, the interior minister will determine the maximum annual quota of individuals that will receive entry permits for humanitarian reasons on the basis of a professional committee's recommendation.

In such cases, the Palestinian individuals in question may be granted not only entry permits, but also may be given temporary resident status, which will allow them to work legally.

The new version of the law would also grant the interior minister the authority to reject any citizenship request filed by residents of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon.

2)What Did the Palestinians Do with Their "Marshall Plan"?[Squandered millions]
by Ben-Dror Yamini
The Palestinians have bought themselves a place of honor on the list of
unfortunates in the world. A well-oiled public relations campaign has turned
them into a nation of victims. Misery pays. One of the countries hated by
the Palestinians the most, the United States, has since 1993 helped them
more than any other nation in the world, according to World Bank figures.
From 1994 to 2004, the U.S. provided the Palestinians with $1.3 billion, the
EU $1.1 billion, and Japan $530 million. In addition to direct aid, the U.S.
is also the largest contributor to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian

In 1992, the Palestinian per capita GDP was $2,683 per person. If there had
not been terror, the Palestinian economy could have grown during the 1990s
into one of the leaders in the Middle East. The money was used for three
major purposes: perpetuation of the refugees as victims, purchase of weapons
and explosives, and corruption. Opportunities to achieve independence and
prosperity were rejected for the ultimate goal: the removal of Israel from
the map.

In relation to their numbers, the Palestinians have received more aid than
provided by the Marshall Plan after World War II. Since the Oslo agreements,
the Palestinians in the territories have received $5.5 billion, or $1,300
per person. By comparison, in the Marshall plan, each European enjoyed only
$273 (in today's numbers). Above all, the guilt lies with those who gave
these huge sums without having the Palestinians undergo a period of recovery
from their futile dreams of the destruction of Israel. The result is,
primarily, the continued destruction of Palestinian society.

3) Palestinian terror cells seek to acquire Katyusha technology

A number Palestinian terror cell members have recently left the Gaza Strip and traveled abroad to learn how to manufacture and effectively launch short-range Katyusha rockets, high-ranking defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

According to the officials, the new rockets, with an estimated range of over 35 kilometers, could reach the southern cities of Kiryat Gat, Netivot and Ofakim.

A senior IDF officer said the terrorists who traveled abroad were those responsible for the development and firing of Kassam rockets at the western Negev. The terrorists have decided, the officer said, to begin using Katyusha rockets against Israel, since the Kassam has exhausted itself technologically.

"The Kassam cannot be further upgraded, and the Palestinians need a new weapon," the officer said. "The cells have traveled abroad to learn about the Katyusha rocket and how to manufacture it back in the Gaza Strip."

While the officer refrained from revealing the cell members' destination, Hamas terrorists have been known to travel to Lebanon and Iran for training with Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

While the Kassam has been the IDF's current and immediate focus, a high-ranking defense official said Monday that it was necessary to begin preparing for the possibility that the Palestinian terror organizations in the Gaza Strip would also soon obtain rockets with even longer ranges than that of the Katyusha.

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza are also known to have a small quantity of old Soviet-era Grad-type Katyusha rockets, some of which have been fired at Israel - although without reaching their maximum range of close to 30 kilometers. During the war in Lebanon, close to 4,000 rockets - mostly short-range Katyushas - landed in northern Israel.

As a result of the new intelligence, the Home Front Command has stopped formulating protection and defense plans based on the Kassam threat, and has updated all of its databases and now runs simulations and tests protective measures against the larger Katyusha rocket.

In May, the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a Katyusha rocket attack on the Gaza-belt community of Netiv Ha'asara.

Unlike the homemade, short-range Kassam rockets frequently launched at Israel, Islamic Jihad said the Grad version of the Katyusha was 2.8 meters long, weighed 66 kilograms and had a caliber of 122 mm. It carried a 17-kilogram warhead, the group said, and had a range of 18 to 30 kilometers.

4) Poll: Critique of Wal-Mart is a Political Loser
By Peter Brown

Democratic presidential candidates who attack Wal-Mart due to concerns about the ill effects of globalization, the firm's business practices and its pay for workers are hurting their own election prospects.

That's the message from new polls in Ohio and Florida, the two most important swing states in presidential elections.

Simply put, the poll results raise this question: Why have Democrats chosen to highlight their opposition to the nation's largest employer.

Three-in-four voters say attacks by politicians on Wal-Mart won't affect their voting behavior. But among those who say it will, those people are much more likely to vote against a candidate who skewers Wal-Mart than they are to vote for him.

Quinnipiac University polls of more than 1,000 voters in each of those states last month found that Wal-Mart is viewed very favorably by the electorate, and especially by independent voters who generally decide close elections.

A plurality of voters also believes that Democrats who attack Wal-Mart are doing so to curry favor with organized labor, which is unhappy with the firm because its stores are non-union.

Even self-identified Democrats say their local communities are better off for having a Wal-Mart in their area, although in Ohio, union families are more likely to have mixed feelings about the company.

Many Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, have not just been critical of the nation's largest retailer, but used it as a campaign prop.

Bashing Wal-Mart has become almost a stock part of their rhetoric, arguing that the company doesn't treat its workers well, and hurts communities because a side effect of offering its low prices is driving down wages.

To determine the effectiveness of that message, the independent Quinnipiac Poll asked voters in Ohio and Florida whether anyone in their household had shopped in a Wal-Mart in the past year.

In Florida, 91 percent answered affirmatively; in Ohio 86 percent.

But not only do these voters shop there, they overwhelmingly see the company as a positive force in their community, and by a solid margin as a good thing for the country. The difference probably reflects a concern about the outsourcing of American jobs, since Wal-Mart imports a large percentage of its goods from overseas.

In Florida, by a 72-16 percent margin, voters think Wal-Mart has a positive rather than negative effect on their area. By a 61-25 percent margin, they feel that way about the firm's affect on the country. In Ohio, by 65-23 percent voters think it has been a positive force in their area, 52-37 percent for the country.

By a ratio of four-to-one, 56-14 percent, Floridians view Wal-Mart favorably. The figures for Florida Democrats aren't much different, 54-15 percent.

Ohioans see the firm favorably 44-24 percent, although in the roughly one in five Ohio households in which there is a union member, Wal-Mart is viewed negatively 40-31 percent. However, those union households believe by a 53-28 percent margin that Wal-Mart has been positive for their area.

In Ohio 77 percent, and in Florida 78 percent, say a candidate's attacks on Wal-Mart would not affect their voting behavior. But among those who say it matters, the view is decidedly negative about such candidates.

In Ohio, twice as many voters, 14 percent, said attacks against Wal-Mart make it less likely they would support such a candidate than the 7 percent who said it made them more likely. Among independents, that margin was 13 percent to 4 percent.

In Florida, 16 percent said they would be less likely to support such a candidate, compared to 4 percent who said they would be more likely to support him. Among independents, it was 18-4 percent.

Of course what a presidential candidate says about Wal-Mart doesn't rank high on voters' list of priorities, but it is interesting that Democrats, and not just those running for president, have decided to declare verbal warfare on the company.

At least on the surface, it does not seem to make political sense.