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Military Intelligence - Next 6 Months Critical Regarding Iranian Nuclear Program


Chief of Army Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aaron Ze'evi-Farkash told a Haifa University audience that the coming six months are critical regarding Iran's nuclear capabilities. According to the senior intelligence officer, it is estimated that this is the period of time required by Iran to achieve nuclear independence. He said Iran could become capable of enriching uranium in six months and develop atomic weapons in two years if the West does not stop it. He said he is trying to impart to the Europeans the significance of the Iranian nuclear threat. "The Iranians can reach Portugal with nuclear weapons."

Israeli and Palestinian Leaders to Meet, but Face Major Challenges

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he could meet soon with newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been invited to the White House for talks with President Bush. Such meetings would be seen as important steps towards re-starting peace talks, but there are many challenges each leader must face in the weeks ahead. Sharon told his newly formed cabinet that he would be calling Abbas to discuss a possible meeting.

Many of the ministers favor resuming talks with the Palestinians and will be pleased with the news. It appears likely such a meeting will take place soon, but whether much can come it remains a question mark. Commentator Akiva Eldar of Ha'aretz said that is because the new Israeli government might not last that long. "It is not very promising for the new government. I am not even sure if they will last until the end of the countdown for the disengagement," he said. "I believe that before the evacuation of the settlements, we are going to see early elections."

Sharon has had to cobble together a coalition of diverse ideological views after an earlier government fell apart over his plan to withdraw Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. Much of his own Likud Party is against the plan and in open revolt, while other nationalist and religious parties also oppose it. So, Sharon is relying on leftist parties to see him through. Many experts wonder how long this will last.

Despite his landslide victory on Sunday, Mahmoud Abbas has problems of his own from other Palestinian terrorists. They have answered his repeated calls for an end to attacks on Israel, by firing rockets and mortars into Jewish settlements in Gaza and into Israel proper. Palestinian analyst Nader Sa'id of Birzeit University said reigning in the "militants" is not a simple task. "Getting rid of rockets is not just a decision by a president who does not really have real authority on the ground," he said. "The authority on the ground and the control here is by Israel, not by the Palestinians."

Sa'id said Sunday's election was a confirmation of the Palestinians' desire to move ahead with peace efforts. But, he said Abbas would have to deliver results. "I think improvements and major tangible achievements in the peace process, real changes on the ground will help him very much," he said. The question in the coming weeks will be how much progress can be made with a Palestinian president with little room to maneuver and a need to deliver change and an Israeli prime minister whose own ability to move forward could be hampered by the fragility of his coalition government.

Israeli Border Plan Could Destroy 3,000 Palestinian Homes

By VOA News

The Israeli military has proposed a plan to destroy up to 3,000 Palestinian homes in the southern Gaza Strip, in order to dig a huge trench meant to halt Palestinian weapons smuggling from nearby Egypt. Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper said the plan presented to the Israeli Attorney General proposes a trench along the three-mile border separating southern Gaza from Egypt.

One scenario calls for a 30-foot-wide trench that would destroy 200 homes. A 40-foot-wide proposal would eliminate 700 homes, while a 90-foot-wide trench would destroy 3,000 homes. Israel began soliciting bids last year for a 75-foot-wide trench authorities hoped to have dug before Israel's planned Gaza withdrawal later this year. The Gaza Egypt border is rife with weapons smuggling and is the scene of frequent fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinians.

NRP Leader: We Won't Participate in Sharon's Civil War


National Religious Party leader Effie Eitam sharply castigated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a Knesset debate, accusing him of spurring a civil war, refusing democracy, weakening the army, and turning his back on his loyal allies. Eitam attacked Sharon very sharply in his Knesset speech, calling the prime minister a "democracy refuser" who is responsible for dividing the nation, weakening the army and acting with ungrateful cruelty towards those who were loyal to him when he most needed it.

"I must tell you, Mr. Prime Minister - and though you are not honoring us with your presence, the words will certainly reach you - that I have served the country for many years on the battlefield, and during difficult and tense moments, but I have never heard from government elements in the State of Israel such unrestrained incitement as that which was heard from your confidantes and coalition partners this week. 'Break their bones!' your confidantes whispered, and the headlines blared it. Whose bones precisely do you intend to break, Mr. Prime Minister? Those of little children? Pregnant women? Civilian protestors?

"Are the residents of Gush Katif, Judea and Samaria truly enemies of the State who wish to destroy it, that their bones must be broken? And who will destroy these bones, Mr. Prime Minister? The soldiers of IDF Battalion 890, who serve as officers and soldiers, the sons and brothers of all of us, of the residents of Gush Katif and Yesha - they should lift their gun-butts and break bones?

"And then I read that we have a Vice Prime Minister [Ehud Olmert], 'Ehud the Cutter.' He says we should 'cut off their hands' - he's the Rottweiler of the government! I would like to tell you, dear Ehud, that some of these children no longer have hands or legs to cut off (a reference to the three Cohen siblings of Kfar Darom, each of whom lost a leg or foot in a terror attack four years ago)...

"You can break our bones, you can cut off the hands and legs of our children, you can take advantage of the volunteer spirit of young paratroopers, to tell them that this is the main mission of the country - to get rid of two caravans from some hilltop - and to bring them to think that they should shoot at simple citizens. But we won't return fire..."

Western Wall Visit for Every IDF Soldier


A new regulation set by IDF Armory Commander, Col. Ehud David, stipulates that every soldier under his command is to be brought on a visit to the Kotel, the Western Wall. Every Sunday, IDF soldiers are brought to different sites around Israel to learn about the history and culture of the nation of Israel from up close.

Col. David decided there was a need to revamp entire IDF educational program after it was revealed that half of the soldiers in the units under his command - many of them new immigrants to Israel - had never visited the Kotel.

He learned from talking to individual soldiers that many were lacking basic knowledge of Jewish heritage and Israel's geography and history. "I saw soldiers didn't know how to draw a map of Israel, didn't know how to recite Hatikva [Israel's national anthem] and didn't know the names of Israel's Prime Ministers," David said. "A soldier must know about all of Israel's wars and recognize the country's borders. There are soldiers that don't have any idea what our struggle with the Arabs is about and things like 'the Peel Commission' mean nothing to them."

Because of this, the educational department prepared an educational program to combine heritage, history and geography to be taught to the soldier's in all the various companies under David's command. As a result, in recent months, soldiers from the unit have taken part in one-day trips to the Western Wall and the Kotel Tunnels, which run along the western wall for the length of the Temple Mount.

"If soldiers come over to me after a tour and say 'Thank you very much,' I feel I have earned my bread," said David. "This is the mission, in my view - to strengthen the Zionism of IDF soldiers and to train them to be even better citizens."

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