Friday, September 23, 2011

Secret Sale of Bunker-buster Bombs Revealed

Timing is everything in politics and in war. What do you make of this? The news of the sale of 1000 US mini-bunker busters to Israel was broken by Tim Butcher of London's  Daily Telegraph three years ago.  Today, as Abbas makes his case for statehood at the United Nations, the story reemerges on the net. (Perhaps it got lost in the blizzard of American presidential election coverage at the time.)
While publicly pressuring Israel to make deeper concessions to the Palestinians, President Obama has secretly authorized significant new aid to the Israeli military that includes the sale of 55 deep-penetrating bombs known as bunker busters, according to the Daily Beast.
U.S. and Israeli officials tell Newsweek that the GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators—potentially useful in any future military strike against Iranian nuclear sites—were delivered to Israel in 2009, just several months after Obama took office.
The military sale was arranged behind the scenes as Obama’s demands for Israel to stop building settlements in disputed territories were fraying political relations between the two countries in public.
The Israelis first requested the bunker busters in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. At the time, the Pentagon had frozen almost all U.S.-Israeli joint defense projects out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

1000 Nudes Float on the Dead Sea for Photo

Out of the multitude of volunteers for Jewish-American photographer Spencer Tunick's latest art project, only one in three were deemed suitable for posing in the buff on the Dead Sea. During the Sabbath, 1000 unpaid models ranging in age from 20 to sixty-plus, mostly secular Israelis, assembled pre-dawn at Mineral Beach for the epic photo shoot in the salty brine, despite objections from some Orthodox leaders. The artist claims that his stunt demonstrates that Israel is the only Middle Eastern country with enough freedom to allow for such avant garde expression. Apparently, Spencer keeps his tunic on while in the air snapping his subjects, who risk having salt rubbed into any open wound on their bodies. They smiled anyway. The nudes posed in three different ways: in the sea, onshore and covered in Dead Sea mud. According to Ynet News:
Spencer Tunick, 44, currently is one of the leading conceptual artists in the world. Since 1994, he has photographed tens of thousands of people in nude photos shoots in 75 different public sites across the world, receiving extensive media coverage. But according to Dov Litvinoff, a local councilman..." The Dead Sea may be the lowest place on earth, but Tunick's intentions may take it to an even lower level."
Many, many moons are shown in the final photos. (The outtake shown above is from Life Magazine's webpage; click here for a full gallery courtesy of Associated Press). Some enthusiasts hope this mass posing will focus world attention on the Dead Sea, which is in the running to be included in New 7Wonders of Nature, an international online competition for tourism. Tunick wants to highlight the rate at which the water is evaporating from this famous lake-sized sea near Sodom and Gomorrah.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Rachel shops for a home in Judea

Rachel Shabi, a British-Israeli and daughter of Iraqi Jews, disclosed to the Guardian how easy it is for ordinary secular Israelis to become settlers in a "national priority zone". And her undercover revelations about shopping for a new house in one of the 200 developments for Israelis in occupied territory were shortlisted for the prestigious Orwell Prize for political writing. As her friends quip: not too shabby! Here are some excerpts:

The incentives still offered to Israelis to live on Palestinian land are so considerable that, leaving politics aside, it would be silly not to take advantage of them...Almon offers enticingly priced, spacious family homes with a garden and a view. The surrounding neighbourhood, also known as Anatot, sits on a ridge overlooking the Judean hills, near Jerusalem, a blaze of cultivated greenery in the parched landscape. Residents have a relaxed air, and newcomers who have recently relocated from Jerusalem wish they'd made the move years ago...It's a short drive east of Jerusalem, and I've had to cross an Israeli checkpoint, but it's specifically for settler use – a nod, the "right" appearance and Israeli number plates get me waved through...
The separation barrier that cuts into the West Bank for around 80% of its path. The barrier route runs, in some places, up to 12 miles deep into the West Bank, but settlements on the Israeli side of it are, broadly speaking, "consensus settlements" – ones that Israelis assume will be conceded to the Jewish state in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Zionist Construction Zone: Settlements in West Bank Sextuple in 2011

Construction Freeze? Not any more. In the aftermath of learning that the IDF is training and arming settlers, here's the latest. Construction in Judea and Samaria Rises a Whopping 660%! And the light railway is up and running and connecting them to Israel proper. Nearly 75,000 new homes are under construction in all of Israel right now, according to an Israeli government agency. Hat tip to Angela for the link and to reporter David Lev.

With the end of the building freeze, construction has started up in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) communities. In fact, said the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), building jumped 660% in Judea and Samaria during the first half of 2011, as compared to the previous year.

While the statistic was certainly breathtaking, the actual numbers on the ground were less impressive: Construction started on 546 new homes in Yesha communities during the period. Still, it was a sharp improvement over the number of housing starts in the first half of 2010, when only 72 housing starts were announced.

Officials of the Yesha Council said they were pleased with the increase, but that clearly many more new homes were needed. "We need at least 500 new homes a month, not just in half a year, in order to accomodate all the families who want to live in Yesha." Last week, Arutz Sheva reported on how dozens of American families who sought to buy or rent homes in Efrat were unable to do so because of the lack of housing there.

The jump in Yesha construction this year was part of a general trend in all of Israel. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, housing starts rose 14.4% overall during the first half of 2011. But certain parts of the country are set to grow far more than that number implies; for example, there are now 7,950 homes under construction in southern Israel, a 55% increase over the 2,495 home starts in the first half of 2010.

In Asheklon alone, 1,576 new homes are currently under construction – the highest number for any city in Israel. Other cities where building jumped in the first half of 2011 included Kiryat Gat (a 607% increase in housing construction starts), Ramle (252%), Ganei Tikvah (451%), Rehovot (203%), and Yavne (165%).

Even in the already ultra-expensive Tel Aviv and Jerusalem regions, construction was up 28% and 8% respectively. In the north, housing construction starts were up 11.2% during the period.

Altogether, construction began on some 22,000 new homes. The CBS said that by the end of 2011, taking into consideration construction that was started in 2010, there will be some 75,000 new apartments under construction. Those apartments are expected to come “on-line” between the end of 2012 and during 2013, helping to satisfy the high demand for housing, hopefully at more reasonable prices.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Housing Minister Ariel Attias both expressed great satisfaction at the CBS announcement.

“The increasing trend in housing starts reflects the increased successful activity by the government, which we began undertaking as soon as we took power,” Netanyahu said. “The steps we took in the real estate market, including the institution of the Housing Committees Law and the reforms we recently instituted in the Israel Lands Administration, have contributed, and will continue to contribute, to the increased availability of housing – and, as a result, a lowering of prices.”