Newsletter : 4fax0914.txt
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One may show solidarity with Gush Katif by sending a News Year's greeting card on line,
at no charge. By visiting the Gush Katif Hebrew website, one may select one of a number of
virtual greeting cards, fill in the email address of the intended recipient, add a
message, click and send.
Netanyahu Calls for a National Referendum
By IsraelNationalNews.com, VOA News and Ha'aretz
In a surprise move, Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during a pre-Rosh Hashanah
toast called for a national referendum on the government's decision to move forward with
the Gaza expulsion plan. Netanyahu was careful not to directly confront Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon, who has already expressed his adamant objection to a national poll, stating
he "suggests" the idea of a referendum, not making it an ultimatum for his support of the
Netanyahu announced that he was confident that most of the nation would back a simple
referendum - "Are you in favor or opposed to the government's decision to accept the Gaza
plan?" - stating confidently this would provide the push needed by the cabinet to expedite
Netanyahu's surprise call Monday came hours after tens of thousands of settlers and
their supporters demonstrated in Jerusalem late Sunday to protest the withdrawal plan.
Under the plan, all Jewish settlers would be withdrawn from Gaza and four small enclaves
in the West Bank by the end of 2005. Despite opinion polls showing strong Israeli public
support for the withdrawal, analysts say Sharon does not favor a referendum on it because
a vote would delay the pullout.
Vice Prime Minister (Likud) Ehud Olmert, an ardent supporter of the prime minister and
the Gaza expulsion plan, called Netanyahu's call for a national referendum "dishonorable."
He added that the senior minister's statements only serve to discredit Likud.
Iran May Have A-Bomb Production Capability Next Year
By Ha'aretz and Reuters
Israel's chief of military intelligence said in remarks broadcast on Monday that if
Iran's atomic program is allowed to continue, Tehran will have the capability to
independently develop nuclear weapons by early next year.
In a Sunday speech to the Israel-Jordan Chamber of Commerce, MI chief Aharon
Ze'evi-Farkash said, "If the processes continue as we are currently seeing them, the
coming half year with respect to Iran will determine if Iran will achieve in the spring of
2005 an non-conventional capability in the sphere of nuclear research and development,
that is, it will no longer require external aid to reach an unconventional capability.
This does not mean that it will have a bomb in 2005. It means that it will have all the
means at its disposal to build a bomb."
If Iran is not stopped, apparently by international efforts, he continued "this may
drag the region into a nuclear domino effect."
Chalabi's Party Fires Senior Member for Visiting Israel
By VOA News
The party of former Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi has suspended one of
its most senior members for visiting Israel.
Officials in the Iraqi National Congress said Mithal al-Alusi was suspended, because
his visit took place without the knowledge or agreement of the party leadership. It also
said his statements to the Israeli press do not reflect the party's position.
Al-Alusi went to Israel to attend a conference on terrorism. The Israeli newspaper,
Ha'aretz, quoted him Monday as saying many elements in Iraq are interested in diplomatic
ties with Israel.
The FBI Broke the Rules
By Robbie Sabel (Ha'aretz) Commentary
The Franklin affair raises the question about the transfer of classified information
from diplomats to foreign elements. If the matter involves Israeli diplomats, this sort of
act is ostensibly a disciplinary violation of the service regulations, as well as a
criminal violation. The Penal Code forbids the transfer of any information that came into
the possession of an employee "by virtue of his position." In the event that the
information is "secret," the law calls for a more severe punishment.
The reality is that there is little chance for an Israeli diplomat, or any diplomat, to
carry on a significant dialogue with foreign elements without seemingly committing such a
crime. The Israeli diplomat who refers only to published information and public-relations
releases in his conversations with foreign elements will very quickly lose his value as a
In the case of the United States, he will no doubt receive a warm invitation at the end
of the conversation along the lines of, "We must have lunch," which means, in local
parlance, "You're wasting my time and I have no interest in meeting with you again."
Diplomatic contact means an exchange of assessments and data. At the same time, there are
accepted rules for such conversations; you don't hand over the classified document itself,
and you don't use a recording device.
The issue at hand relates to intentions of the government of Iran and its progress in
the development of missiles and conventional weapons. It is highly important for Israel to
hear assessments from authorized sources in friendly countries. These officials will, of
course, also want to hear the Israeli assessments. If the Israeli diplomat responds merely
by quoting from The New York Times, or with a regurgitation of the Israeli government's
condemnation of Iranian policy, he will have a hard time setting up another meeting.
A significant portion of background material given to Israeli diplomats in world
capitals is classified material of one sort or another. Outwardly, the diplomat cannot
give one iota of this material to a foreign element, unless he receives the consent of the
authorized agency. Based on the law in Israel, it is not clear who that authorized agency
is (except as relates to published reports, in which case the agency is the military
censor), and there is no practical opportunity to prepare in advance for every nuance of
What, then, are the mechanisms that enable the continuation of diplomatic contacts but
prevent the serious leak of secret information? One, a country must rely on the common
sense of its diplomats and their discretion. Two, the diplomat reports to his country on
every such conversation, including what he himself said. Additionally, there is usually a
report from the foreign element to his own state - hardly any diplomatic conversation is
truly "off the record" - and American diplomats submit full reports on their conversations
to any agency that might have an interest in the subject.
Intelligence officials in Israel and elsewhere at times designate sensitive material
with a special notation that it should not be used. Based on this notation, one would
conclude that the intelligence agencies take into account that classified material that is
not so designated can in fact be used as background material in conversations.
Any overly zealous security officer could have, at one time or another, lodged a
complaint against nearly every Israeli diplomat for giving away classified material
without explicit authorization. In fact, Israeli security officers use their discretion.
As for the FBI, the Franklin affair is showing itself to be the product of interference by
an enthusiastic investigator who was unaware of the rules of diplomatic dialogue.
Employees of AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobby in the United States, have always been part
of this diplomatic exchange as well. With great prudence, the lobby works in cooperation
with the American administration to avoid collisions. Most of its work is with Congress,
partly based on the fact that when it comes to Israel and the Middle East, AIPAC is
capable of supplying members of Congress and their aides with precise and updated
The congressman may vote and speak out in favor of Israel out of sympathy for Israel or
as a response to appeals by Jewish voters, but he will do so only after his aides are
convinced that the information in their possession is credible. Representatives of both
the Israeli Embassy and the American administration have always conducted briefings and
exchanged assessments with AIPAC experts.
Other embassies in Washington work the same way - the British Embassy, for instance,
has a tradition of effective activity in Congress, parallel with a close relationship with
the American administration, even more so than is the case for U.S.-Israel relations. For
whatever reason, the FBI broke this gentlemen's agreement on the rules of the game.
(The author has held various positions in the foreign service, including that of legal
counsel and diplomatic counsel at the Israel Embassy in Washington.)
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