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Most Israelis Think Cast Lead Stopped Too Soon


A survey published Sunday found that two-thirds of Israelis feel that Israel stopped Operation Cast Lead too soon. On the other hand, only one-third thinks that Israel should take control of Gaza. The survey was published by the Harry S. Truman institute for peace at the Hebrew University.

The survey also spoke to Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and found that most believe a Palestinian Authority state will not become a reality in the near future. Most, however, wanted to see a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Terrorist Arsenal of 50,000 Rockets Aimed at Israel


Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists have amassed an arsenal of 50,000 rockets aimed at Israel, United Press International reported. Israel still has no defense against the threat, and the government's highly touted Iron Dome short-range missile defense system is far from being in operation and may not even be practical.

"Even if Iron Dome works perfectly, it is never going to have the firepower in interceptors to credibly intercept most, let alone all," of the rockets, according to the UPI report.

Hizbullah has amassed far more rockets than it possessed before the Second Lebanon War in 2006, despite Israel's agreeing to a ceasefire on the condition that United Nations Interim Forces (UNIFIL) would prevent arms smuggling into Lebanon.

In the south, Hamas continues to smuggle weapons into Gaza despite a similar ceasefire agreement, supposedly conditioned on a cessation of arms smuggling, that the Olmert administration announced when concluding Operation Cast Lead in mid-January.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised two years ago that the Iron Dome short-range missile defense system, along with other systems, would protect Israel from 90 percent of missile attacks, although mortar shells would continue to explode in Israel without interception.

Barak announced in October 2007 that the Iron Dome was near completion and would be in place by 2010. He also has stated that its deployment is a precondition for handing over part of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority.

Last year, officials admitted that the Iron Dome system would not be effective against Kassam rockets fired from less than two miles, meaning that it had no solution for tens of thousands of residents in the Gaza Belt communities, including Sderot.

State Comptroller and Ombudsman Micha Lindenstrauss's recent report of his investigation of the timetable of the Iron Dome system "documented endless delays, indecision, go-it-alone chaotic planning and sheer bureaucratic incompetence," in the words of UPI reporter Martin Sieff.

Mullen Hints U.S. Strike on Iran would Rely on Air, Sea Power


Admiral Mike Mullen, the U.S. military's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hinted in a weekend interview what a U.S. strike on Iran would look like.

Speaking on the Charlie Rose interview show about the possibility of a U.S. strike on Iran, Mullen said "that's a maritime part of the world, where the emphasis would certainly be on those two forces" – i.e., the Air Force and Navy. While Mullen did not say outright that he was talking about a U.S. strike on Iran, the context makes that clear. He denied that there was disagreement between the U.S. and Israel on the subject of Iran.

Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is currently in the U.S. where he will be meeting the heads of the defense establishment, as well as Dennis Ross, the Secretary of State's special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, to discuss the Iranian threat.

Referring to Ashkenazi, Mullen said: "I've been with my Israeli counterpart a number of times and, by and large, we see it the same way... We are in agreement and have been for the better part of six months or so. There was a time that we weren't, but we've actually worked pretty hard to understand where we both are, so I think that generally we're in agreement. But the Israelis for sure believe that the Iranians are on a path and are going to develop nuclear weapons."

Regarding the possibility of an Israel attack on Iran, Mullen said: "What I worry about in terms of an attack on Iran is in addition to the immediate effect, the effect of the attack, it's the unintended consequences. It's the further destabilization in the region. It's how they would respond. We have lots of Americans who live in that region who are under the threat envelope.

Regarding a U.S. attack, Mullen said: "We have the capacity to do it but we are stretched. My ground forces are very stressed, very worn… On the other hand we've got a very strong strategic reserve in our Air Force and in our Navy and in fact that's a part of the world, it's a maritime part of the world, where the emphasis would certainly be on those two forces. And it's not like the Navy and the Air Force haven't been working hard at what we've doing but there's plenty of capacity there."

Mullen hinted that the U.S. was not considering a ground offensive against Iran: "The probability of a significant ground war somewhere else in the world [besides where U.S. forces are currently deployed – ed.] is very slim. If we had another conflict it would be principally our Air Force and our Navy."

Adm. Dennis Blair, the new U.S. director of national intelligence, appeared before a congressional committee in Washington last week and estimated that "there is potential for an Iran-Israeli confrontation or crisis" over Iran's nuclear progress, but said that the Israelis "take more of a worst-case approach to these things."

According to a New York Times analysis on the subject, "The Israelis have seized on the Iranian milestone [the U.N. confirmation that Iran had collected enough nuclear material to produce a bomb - ed.] to redouble pressure on the United States for a tougher stance against Iran and to remind the new American president that their patience has a limit. In fact, Israeli officials have quietly been delivering the message that the diplomacy Barack Obama wants to start with Iran should begin promptly — and be over quickly."

The Times speculated that Israel could be bluffing when it makes signs that it would be ready to act alone, if necessary. "Mr. Obama's top aides suspect that [Binyamin] Netanyahu, Israel's likely next prime minister, will not risk acting alone. It would undercut his relationship with his most important ally before that relationship really gets going. But that's a guess."

"In the race between an Iranian bomb and bombing Iran, we would win," Jeffrey G. Lewis, a nuclear specialist at the New America Foundation, a research group in Washington, told the Times. "We would cave in the roof before they got a bomb's worth of material."

Israel Pushes for Prisoner Swap With Hamas

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's outgoing government is pushing for what many describe as a lopsided prisoner swap with Palestinian militants.

Israel has sent an intelligence chief and a top negotiator to Cairo in a last ditch effort to win the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Egypt is mediating between Israel and the Islamic terrorist group Hamas, which captured Shalit nearly three years ago in a cross-border raid. The soldier is being held in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip but has not been seen since his capture.

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is anxious to close a deal before a new Israeli government takes power in the next few weeks. Olmert told the Cabinet he instructed Israeli negotiators to complete the talks in Cairo. He will convene the Cabinet in special session on Monday, possibly to finalize the agreement.

Under the emerging deal, Israel would release about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. Israel has softened its position and agreed to release top militants responsible for deadly suicide bombings.

There is broad speculation in the Israeli media that a deal could be imminent, but Cabinet Minister Isaac Herzog urged caution. Herzog said Israel does not know what Hamas's demands are and therefore "it would be appropriate to keep expectations realistic."

Hamas would not confirm the Israeli reports of progress. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas has not received anything new from Israel and would not change its positions.

The prisoner swap is a source of hot debate in Israel. While many Israelis support bringing Gilad Shalit home at any price, others believe that lopsided prisoner swaps will bring more terrorism and more terrorist blackmail.

Rabbis Urge Public to Shun El Al


After failing to reach a deal with El Al that would see the company operating separate flights for the ultra-Orthodox sector, rabbis are now calling on their public not to fly with the Israeli company at all, and prefer foreign airlines instead.

Ahead of Passover, the high season for visits in Israel and abroad among haredim, the rabbinic committee on transportation has published a statement urging the public to fly only with airlines that offer movie-free flights, or flights with designated areas that are movie-free. They also included a list of the recommended airlines, and specified which of them also applies a modest dress code for its crew.

Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, who is taking part in the efforts to introduce "kosher flights," told Ynet that negotiations with El Al were ongoing, and expressed hope that an agreement will be struck soon.

Although on El Al's major flights every passenger can turn off his personal TV screen, and on some of the other flights the company operates a "movie-free" zone, the rabbis ordered their followers to refrain from flying with the Israeli airline. Goldknopf explained that "contrary to El Al, these companies screen only movies showing water and scenery, and not dirty movies."

El Al said in response that "there have been no negotiations regarding designated flights for haredim only. There was an attempt by one travel agent to fill an entire flight with haredi passengers, but it fell through. Had he succeeded, El Al might have been willing to look into the possibility of making certain adjustments, as it does when an organized group occupies a whole airplane."

Missionary University to Open Jerusalem Branch


Southeastern University, an Assemblies of God institute based in Florida, is set to officially open a branch for ministerial studies in Jerusalem later this month.

The five-story, 13,250-sq.-ft. structure is to be dedicated as the Jerusalem Studies Center on March 24. Southeastern is reportedly paying $360,000 a year to lease the building, located near the Old City of Jerusalem. Starting in Spring 2009, ministerial students from Southeastern's BA program will be housed at the Center for one semester while they continue their studies, course work and research.

The Jerusalem Studies Center Program, under the auspices of Southeastern's College of Christian Ministries and Religion, offers "courses that cover ministerial studies, history, archeology, and current events," according to university promotional material. The College itself boasts of Southeastern's "70-year heritage of training pastors, missionaries and other church workers."

In an online review of American colleges by, Southeastern University's most common majors are listed as "theology and religious vocations, youth ministry, bible studies, missionary studies, pre-ministerial studies, pastoral counseling, religious music."

The lease for the facility was publicly presented by an apostate from Judaism who adopted Christianity, Attorney Calev Myers, at Southeastern University's 2008 commencement ceremony. In his commencement speech, according to Florida's The Ledger newspaper, Myers "focused more on the need he sees for further action to spread knowledge of Jesus. Southeastern graduates can help Israeli believers in Jesus by educating their congregations, praying for Israel and aligning themselves with Messianic Jewish congregations. ...He urged Jewish believers from around the world to relocate to Israel, as his family did when he was 18."

Israeli law bans missionary activities.

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