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Olmert: I Attacked Syrian Reactor, Barak Opposed Me

Syrian nuclear reactor 2002

Syrian nuclear reactor circa 2002

A fascinating political power struggle is being played out in Israel, between Ehud Olmert and allies and Ehud Barak.  The fight involves Olmert’s political legacy as he faces serious corruption charges which threaten to tarnish or destroy his reputation, and also involves bitter interpersonal and political rivalries among all the parties.  But most fascinating of all is that this enormous battle is happening in the context of Israeli military censorship which is attempting to keep a very irksome genie in its bottle.

A little background: for several years up until its destruction in 2007, Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance.  Those hostile to Iran have also claimed that it was supporting the construction costs.  When Israel discovered the project, a huge battle ensued within the Israeli political-military echelon about what to do.  Ehud Barak, defense minister, opposed attacking the reactor.  Though I’m not privy to his specific arguments or concerns, attacking it would’ve amounted to a huge provocation against Syria, possibly led to reprisals, and torpedoed the Israel-Syria peace talks mediated by Turkey.

Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, wanted to bomb the site and was supported by the chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi.  By parting ways with his boss, the defense minister, Ashkanazi, poisoned his relationship with Barak.  Though Israel did end up attacking and destroying the reactor with very little cost in political or military fallout.  It was viewed as an enormous success by a country that had seen its vaunted military deterrence evaporate in the face of failed attack on Lebanon in 2006.  Such success may’ve emboldened Olmert to agree to launch Operation Cast Lead two years later, in a failed attempt to destroy Hamas.

syrian nuclear reactor site

Before and after: after the bombing, Syria razed the entire complex

Until now, Israel has been very careful not to take credit for attacking the Syria site.  It has, much like the cat that swallowed the canary, remained silent while everyone else speculated about the perpetrator.  Syria too has become a willing conspirator by maintaining its own silence (though for radically different reasons).  The internal maneuvering among political camps inside Israel has revealed a secret the nation has hitherto not wanted known.

What makes this case even more interesting is that, as I wrote, the IDF military censor has intervened energetically in the fracas.  Here is a directive it sent to Israeli media outlets today:

The censor asks that any information concerning the battle between Olmert and Barak regarding security matters be submitted for approval.  It is prohibited to report on any political analysis about Olmert’s statements which allude to the attack on the Syrian reactor; even if you attribute such reports to foreign sources.

The censor was responding to this earlier report on Voice of Israel radio:

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to attack Ehud Barak, also defense minister in his government, saying that he could not write about security subjects in his new book, and that he did not characterize who initiated daring security operations and who frustrated them in a slippery manner.  Our political correspondent explains that this is apparently an allusion to the attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor, perpetrated, according to foreign sources, by Israel.  Olmert spokes at a conference organized by the Geneva Initiative.

CORRECTION: Thanks to the reader who pointed out to me that the headline for the article below clearly indicated that this was a fictional interchange which Melman created.

Further, Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with Haaretz security correspondent Yossi Melman (Hebrew) last month and said:

The real reason Barak can’t stand me is that I opposed him and went with Olmert on several strategic matters about which it’s too early to tell.  I will permit myself to say that it concerns the bombing of an important enemy facility.  Barak opposed it.  But the prime minister and I made the decision to act, against his advice.  And we saved the State of Israel from an even greater threat than the one posed by Iran.

Yediot Achronot is excerpting passages from the new book (Hebrew) in its Yom Kippur supplement.  The autobiography has not yet been published.  If anyone knows the name of the book, let me know.

In a way, it’s not surprising that Olmert should be all but confirming the Israeli attack.  After all, he was the first prime minister to break protocol and admit that Israel had nuclear weapons.  For this, he was roundly chastised by the military censor and others.  It appears that the prospect of selling a lot of books in Israel and selling the rights to an overseas publisher has tempted Olmert once again to open his big mouth (and for which I’m deeply grateful, I might add).  Further, Olmert and Ashkenazi, both of whom left their government posts are sensitive to their future legacies and seeking to burnish them in the eyes of the buying public.

What Olmert doesn’t realize is that if he’d spent more time on peacemaking and less time on warmaking (Lebanon 2006, Syria 2007, Gaza 2009) he’d have assured his legacy for generations.

As I’ve said many times over the past year in which I’ve been reporting about secret Israeli intelligence matters, the IDF censor is yet again trying to walk the horse back into the barn well after it escaped.  In this day and age, you simply cannot exert centralized control over information or military secrets as they are attempting and failing to do.  Especially, when powerful figures are chafing to expose them.

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{ 29 comments… add one }

  • Yotam September 20, 2010, 5:19 AM

    “little background: for several years up until its destruction in 2007, Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance.”

    Odd that you don’t write “allegedly” or “according to Israeli intelligence”, because of course the Syrians have denied this completely. Perhaps you’ll concede some so as to more easily obfuscate on the rest- the Iranian Nuclear Program, that is.

    “Such success may’ve emboldened Olmert to agree to launch Operation Cast Lead two years later, in a failed attempt to destroy Hamas.”

    Show me where Olmert said that Cast lead was meant to destroy Hamas.

    “Further, Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with Haaretz security correspondent Yossi Melman (Hebrew) last month and said…”

    You’re quoting an essay that Melman wrote under the headline “a speech that we didn’t hear this week”; He’s not interviewing Ashkenazi.

    And yet you casually pass judgement on the quality of Israeli Journalists…

    • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 11:31 AM

      the Syrians have denied this completely.

      That would be interesting that you refuse to believe the claims of the CIA AND yr own Mossad. Why do you think they built this? And who do you think built it for them? And why do you think Israel destroyed it?

      Show me where Olmert said that Cast lead was meant to destroy Hamas.

      That very statement was made numerous times by Israeli political & military leaders. I’m not going to do yr homework for you. You can easily find verification of this through Google & I covered that war extensively & those quotations are in my own posts.

      you casually pass judgement on the quality of Israeli Journalists

      It’s more complicated than that. There are certain Israeli journalists who aren’t really journalists but smearmeisters & propagandists. And then there are Israeli journalists who are excellent but who are prevented fr. doing their jobs by censorship & other built in limitations of Israeli society. BTW, I never claimed I don’t make any mistakes. That’s why people like you exist, to find them & correct them. But you’re the 3rd person whose done so. The others were a lot more polite than you.

      • Yotam September 20, 2010, 12:15 PM

        “That would be interesting that you refuse to believe the claims of the CIA AND yr own Mossad. Why do you think they built this? And who do you think built it for them? And why do you think Israel destroyed it?”

        Oh I certainly believe that the Syrians are lying. It simply struck me as odd that you do as well. Do you not see the parallels between the 2007 strike and the (perhaps) imminent Iran strike? Does it not show you that unilateral-indeed unlawful-preemption is sometimes necessary?

        “hat very statement was made numerous times by Israeli political & military leaders. I’m not going to do yr homework for you. You can easily find verification of this through Google & I covered that war extensively & those quotations are in my own posts.”

        Excuse me, but destroying Hamas was never a realistic goal (one has to, at the very least, reoccupy the Gaza strip to do that) and therefore was never proclaimed the goal of Cast Lead. Rather, the operation was supposed to stop or severely reduce rocket attacks and weaken Hamas. “Destroy” and “weaken” are not synonymous Richard. Words matter.

        “It’s more complicated than that. There are certain Israeli journalists who aren’t really journalists but smearmeisters & propagandists. And then there are Israeli journalists who are excellent but who are prevented fr. doing their jobs by censorship & other built in limitations of Israeli society.”

        Military censorship has a very limited affect on Israeli journalists. Had military censorship been the only thing preventing Israeli journalists from compromising national security, things would have been very different. I think you simply cannot understand the genuine solidarity that Israelis
        feel with the security forces.

        “BTW, I never claimed I don’t make any mistakes. That’s why people like you exist, to find them & correct them.”

        Oh gee, I exist to correct your mistakes! Good to know.

        BTW it should have been immediately apparent to you that Ashkenazi couldn’t have said those things. So it wasn’t simply a matter of not reading the headline.

        “But you’re the 3rd person whose done so. The others were a lot more polite than you.”

        You haven’t shown much concern for politeness yourself, nor for humility.

        • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 1:14 PM

          Do you not see the parallels between the 2007 strike and the (perhaps) imminent Iran strike? Does it not show you that unilateral-indeed unlawful-preemption is sometimes necessary?

          Oh, I certainly believe that you and your Israeli jingoist leaders see such a parallel. But no, I don’t. Syria is not Iran. If you attack Iran it will be far different than attacking Syria. As usual, Israeli generals & politicians make grave mistakes by not contemplating the long range impact of their actions even on their own people and interests. You will reap the whirlwind if you attack, & deservedly so. No one will support you as you suffer revenge attacks that bleed on for yrs. Even a nation that might hate Iran will not utter a word of support.

          Excuse me, but destroying Hamas was never a realistic goal (one has to, at the very least, reoccupy the Gaza strip to do that) and therefore was never proclaimed the goal of Cast Lead.

          That is a lie. It was quoted numerous times leading up to and during the war. I don’t allow lies in this blog. So don’t do this again or you will face consequences. I didn’t say whether or not destroying Hamas was a “realistic” goal. Of course it was not. But Israeli generals and politicians are known for deluded unrealistic goals in their war strategy.

          Amos Gilad: Israel will destroy Hamas if provoked, Sept. 2009

          Haim Ramon, told Israeli TV: “What I think we need to do is to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern. That’s the most important thing.” (Jan. 2009)

          And this is from a 10 minute Google search. If Israel’s most senior military intelligence analyst & senior gov’t minister (& one of Olmert’s closest political allies) acknowledge this it isn’t hard to believe that Olmert believed it as well. There is also rampant credible speculation in intelligence circles that Israel seriously contemplated occupying Gaza on a more or less permanent basis.

          Military censorship has a very limited affect on Israeli journalists.

          That’s bull. Which Israeli journalists are now reporting about the story I reported here? None, because they can’t.

          you simply cannot understand the genuine solidarity that Israelis feel with the security forces.

          A red herring non sequitur argument. First, not all Israelis feel such solidarity if it means committing war crimes & occupying another people for decades. 2nd, “solidarity” has nothing to do with miitary secrecy underming basic democratic values as it does in Israel.

          it should have been immediately apparent to you that Ashkenazi couldn’t have said those things.

          Don’t be a dolt. Yossi Melman when he wrote to correct me was perfectly gentlemanly about the error. And believe me, Yossi doesn’t suffer fools gladly. So get down off yr high horse. I don’t a flying fig about what you think should or should not be apparent to me. When you write in as in depth a manner about American politics and make no mistakes in doing so, then give me a ring.

          You haven’t shown much concern for politeness yourself, nor for humility.

          I see, I’m supposed to be humble & polite in the face of obnoxiousness fr. people like you & those who share your political beliefs. Here’s my rock bottom rule: if you’re polite & humble you’re treated in the same manner. If you’re contentious, insulting, etc. you’ll be treated the same way. I modify slightly the old Talmudic saying: Treat others as they treat you. Insult me, my knowledge, etc. & you’ll receive precisely the same treatment.

          • Yotam September 20, 2010, 2:09 PM

            You don’t seem to like debate much do you, Richard? One doesn’t get extra points for petty insults; I recall that you were much more polite on fresh. In any case…

            “Oh, I certainly believe that you and your Israeli jingoist leaders see such a parallel. But no, I don’t. Syria is not Iran. If you attack Iran it will be far different than attacking Syria.”

            I never said they were the same. Parallels exist however, and it would be foolish to deny that. In both cases covert, unacknowledged nuclear facilities are to be destroyed unilaterally and without international pre-approval. And the IAF would be facing some of the same air defense systems in Iran that it did in Syria.

            “As usual, Israeli generals & politicians make grave mistakes by not contemplating the long range impact of their actions even on their own people and interests.”

            It’s a shame that none of Israel’s leaders were blessed with your powers of perception I suppose.

            “You will reap the whirlwind if you attack, & deservedly so. No one will support you as you suffer revenge attacks that bleed on for yrs. Even a nation that might hate Iran will not utter a word of support.”

            Of course blood will be shed on both sides. Perhaps the Iranians for their part will be disabused of the notion that technology from the 70s and propaganda from the 40s add up to a 2010-relevant military capability.

            “That is a lie. It was quoted numerous times leading up to and during the war. I don’t allow lies in this blog. So don’t do this again or you will face consequences.”

            Strong words. Allow me then to quote to you from the “horse’s mouth” as we say. This is from the IDF high command (Hebrew):

            המטרה: לפגוע קשה בממשל חמאס על מנת לגרום למציאות בטחונית טובה יותר לאורך זמן סביב רצועת עזה, תוך חיזוק ההרתעה וצמצום ירי הרקטות ככל שניתן.

            Google Translate’s translation:

            “The goal: to hit hard on the Hamas government to make a better security reality over time around the Gaza Strip, while strengthening deterrence and reducing the possible rocket attacks.”

            One needn’t “strengthen deterrence” if Hamas is “destroyed”, as you say. So clearly the IDF thought that Hamas would live on to fight another day.

            “That’s bull. Which Israeli journalists are now reporting about the story I reported here? None, because they can’t.”

            The story of Olmert’s allegations RE Syria? Every single one. You’re rehashing a Yediot story after all.

            “Don’t be a dolt. Yossi Melman when he wrote to correct me was perfectly gentlemanly about the error. And believe me, Yossi doesn’t suffer fools gladly. So get down off yr high horse. I don’t a flying fig about what you think should or should not be apparent to me. When you write in as in depth a manner about American politics and make no mistakes in doing so, then give me a ring.”

            Yossi is a polite man no doubt. But look at some of the stuff you had Ashkenazi saying! No Israeli chief of staff would EVER say those things, in that tone, and you know it. Or you should anyway…

            “I see, I’m supposed to be humble & polite in the face of obnoxiousness fr. people like you & those who share your political beliefs.”

            I’m bemused that you’d make assumptions about my political beliefs, knowing precisely nothing about them or me.

            “Here’s my rock bottom rule: if you’re polite & humble you’re treated in the same manner. If you’re contentious, insulting, etc. you’ll be treated the same way.”

            Contentious is fine. I’d prefer you didn’t call a person you disagree with a “dolt”, however. There are more mature ways of getting you point across.

          • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 3:26 PM

            You don’t seem to like debate much do you, Richard?

            I have 37,000 comments on this blog over 8 yrs. time & you’re so dense as to claim that I don’t engage in debate? Any reader whose been here a day longer than the 10 days you have would know this. You apparently are more interested in sophistry than real debate.

            I recall that you were much more polite on fresh.

            A lot of good it did. Banned nevertheless.

            In both cases covert, unacknowledged nuclear facilities are to be destroyed unilaterally and without international pre-approval.

            Oh, you know this how? A direct line to Meir Dagan or Yadlin? I just love fools like you who tell us what will happen w a surety that indicates they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I strongly doubt that Bibi will attack Iran, though I have no doubt that the Israeli yahoos who’d be responsible would love to have a chance to test out their doodads & U.S. supplied weapons systems which undoubtedly would be used in this adventure.

            the IAF would be facing some of the same air defense systems in Iran that it did in Syria.

            No, it would face far more sophisticated air defenses & an enemy w. considerable worldwide capacity to wreak havoc, not to mention the inevitable Iranian counterattack which would lv virtually all Israel vulnerable.

            It’s a shame that none of Israel’s leaders were blessed with your powers of perception

            I don’t care whether they have my powers or not. I’d be happy if they had any powers to see beyond the ends of their noses (which they do not).

            Perhaps the Iranians for their part will be disabused of the notion

            You conveniently forget as do all Israelis like you (not all of you thank God) that all it took to bring down two towers & kill 3,000 were a few terrorists who learned how to fly a 747, but to land it. And Iran will be far more resourceful & lethal in its revenge than even Al Qaeda has been.

            Allow me then to quote to you from the “horse’s mouth” as we say. This is from the IDF high command

            I’ll compare my government political sources which are attributed to specific senior officials in credible news sources to yr anonymous quotation fr. a military which has proven over & over that it lies & dissembles whenever it is in its interest to do so. And btw, I’d venture to say that you’d have no problem w the IDF lying if it advances what it perceives as Israel’s interests (not the same as Israel’s REAL interests, but you know I mean). Isn’t that so?

            I’d venture to say that 99% of my readers are entirely comfortable w my characterization of Israel’s interest in destroying Hamas during Cast Lead based on my sources & others they’ve heard themselves. I wouldn’t pretend to persuade someone like you who prefers the words of military mendicants over those of his own political leaders.

            The story of Olmert’s allegations RE Syria?

            No, who since Sunday when the gag order was issued has reported that Olmert instigated the Syrian reactor attack & that Barak opposed? No one.

            Yossi is a polite man no doubt.

            Not true at all. YOu’ve never received an e mail fr. him & I have. As I wrote above he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. When he thinks I or anyone else get something wrong he tells me in no uncertain terms if he thinks my error is substantive.

            I’m bemused that you’d make assumptions about my political beliefs, knowing precisely nothing about them

            Your support of an Israeli attack on Iran has made yr political views crystal clear, not to mention yr pugnaciousness fr. yr first comment here (even before I responded in kind). I know as much as I need to know based on what you’ve published so far. I never said I know YOU (nor do I wish to). But I do know as much as I need to about yr political beliefs as you’ve expressed them.

            There are more mature ways of getting you point across.

            Caling someone a dolt when they’ve made as lame a statement as you have is immature? Would you prefer ‘obtuse’ or some other adjective?

          • Shirin September 20, 2010, 3:04 PM

            covert, unacknowledged nuclear facilities are to be destroyed unilaterally and without international pre-approval.

            And so, of course, Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear facilities are likewise to be destroyed unilaterally and without international pre-approval.

          • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 3:38 PM

            After all, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander–right? I don’t think Iran has the capacity to destroy Dimona, but if Israel attacks it why shouldn’t Iran try?

        • Shirin September 20, 2010, 1:45 PM

          the operation was supposed to stop or severely reduce rocket attacks…

          Standard-issue Israeli rubbish. The cease fire that Israel violated in November had already done a very effective job of stopping all rocket attacks by Hamas, and reducing the total number of rocket attacks to a few a month. If the objective really had been to stop or severely reduce rocket attacks, then renewing the cease fire would have been a far more effective means to achieve that goal.

          • Shin Gimel September 20, 2010, 8:30 PM

            Shirin, while the cease fire was very effective in stopping rockets and only 4 qasam rockets were fired between June 19 and November 4th , 208 mortars were fired during the same period, that is 208 mortars from Gaza to Israel. Of course since this is the official number published by the shabaK (Shin Bet) you will dismiss it nonetheless this is the number. Some cease fire. Enough with glorifying the Hamas, just few days they raided water park to prevent women from smoking nargila and wearing swimsuits.
            http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90777/90854/7145916.html
            These are your champions? Is that what you believe in? I doubt that. Hamas has done more harm than good to the Palestinian cause.

          • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 10:12 PM

            What a sack of rubbish you’re peddling. “Hamas” didn’t raid the water park. A group of 30 militants of indeterminate though non-Hamas origin did. In fact, Hamas officially denounced the action as “criminal.” There are those who accuse Hamas of not doing enough to protect the attraction fr. attack, but that’s diff. than blaming Hamas for destroying it.

            A warning to you: if you try to peddle lies or distortions here as fact or truth, you will not last long. I insist on accuracy. If you can’t manage it, then you’ll be outa here.

            The 7th eye didn’t quote the censor, they stated their own opinion.

            The 7th Eye is Israel’s leading media criticism blog. THese are serious journalists who don’t just spin fantasies out of thin air as the IDF spokesperson seems often to do. They remarked that Maariv & Yisrael HaYom are honoring the censor’s prohibition on reporting this while Haaretz & Yediot have broken ranks. The fact that the first two are bereft of reporting on this issue & that the last two have covered it are indisputable facts which you can’t argue.

            I’m telling you, 7th Eye is telling you, Ehud Olmert is telling you, Yossi Melman is telling you, Yediot today which broke the censor’s gag is telling you, that the IDF carried out the attack & that Olmert & Ashkenazi orchestrated it. If you choose not to believe it it’s you who look like the fool, but you’re welcome to it.

            everyone is speculating.

            Blah, blah, blah. You’re spouting nonsense & it’s boring me to tears. I’ve got the verbatim transcript fr. the censor forbidding Israeli journalists fr. reporting that Israel attacked Syria’s nuclear reactor. Not good enough? Tough. It’s not speculation. It’s fact. And I’m not going to waste my time arguing w. you over it. You’re done on this subject & won’t publish any further comments about this. Period. If you do, your subsequent comments will be moderated to ensure you can follow the rules.

  • Shin Gimel September 20, 2010, 7:22 AM

    I find it hilarious that a blogger reports another reporter’s interpretation as truth.
    Israel never commented on attacking the reactor but Richard who is located 12,000 miles away knows who did what base on a story in Haaretz no less.
    Haaretz has a reputation of getting many stories wrong (deliberately ?) just an example Akival Eldar stated in an article published in 5/3/2010 (Hebrew) that Netanyahu’s statement that Arab’s can buy properties in west Jerusalem is a lie (and that stamen was repeated in many versions on this site) he stated “It’s hard to believe, that Benjamin Netnyahu, who was born in Jerusalem, doesn’t know that only an Israeli citizen, or one that can become one by the law of return, can lease a land from the Israel Land Administration” (ILA manages 93% of the state lands in Israel – Translated R.P)
    Organization Ir-Amim which last June issued a report named “is it really an open city” did even better by stating “out of the land available for development in west Jerusalem and in the Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem ( 35,000 dunam) at least 79% (27,642 dunam) is managed by the ILA, hence the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have no access to them.
    What is the source to the claim by Haaretz and Ir-Amim ?
    93% of the land in Israel is owned by the state and managed by the ILA (Israel Land Administration). Anyone who wants to build a home on a state land doesn’t purchase the land form the state but rather lease it from the ILA. Lease period is usually 49 years and can be extended.
    Ir-Amim claims that the ILA can lease the land only to Israeli citizens (including Israeli-Arabs) or foreigners who are entitled for an Israeli Citizenship under the law of return (Jewish people only). Ir-Amim also claims that since the legal status of the Arabs residents of east Jerusalem is of a permanent residents and not citizens, they have no access to ILA land.
    And as stated in the report (Hebrew):
    חוזה החכירה של המינהל מגביל את אפשרויות החכירה למי שהוא אזרח המדינה, או שזכאי להתאזרח תחת חוק השבות (כלומר ליהודי התפוצות). הפלסטינים תושבי ירושלים המזרחית, אשר אינם אזרחי המדינה אלא בעלי מעמד של תושבי קבע, אינם זכאים, לפיכך, לחכור אדמות מנהל (עמוד 2).
    [...] סעיף 19 בחוזה החכירה של המנהל קובע כי היותו של החוכר, או מי שהחוכר פועל בשבילו, נתין זר (כלומר לא אזרח ישראלי ולא בעל פוטנציאל להתאזרחות תחת חוק השבות) “תיחשב להפרה יסודית של החוזה שבגינה יהיה המחכיר רשאי לבטל את החוזה” (עמוד 6).

    Reading the above lines, it seems that Ir-Amim is right in their claims; however they deliberately disregarded or just were unaware for some crucial information presented in the ILA website.
    What is it all about? Ir-Amim are basing their claim on paragraph 19 A of the lease agreement which defines a forging resident as someone:
    1. Who’s not an Israeli citizen
    2. Doesn’t meet the guidelines of the law of return
    3. Isn’t a corporation owned by 1 or 2.
    So is Ir-Amim wrong in their claims? Yes they are because in March 2008 the definitions were changed by the ILA and they now include permanent residents.
    According to ILA resolution number 1148 (March 3, 2008), permanent residents of Israel (Jewish and non-Jewish) are guaranteed the same rights with respect to leasing a land from ILA and non is considered foreigners, and shall not be considered foreigners any further.
    Mr. Silverstien, it takes more than the internet to know something about a state you don’t live in. and do me a favor before you present anything that was published in haaretz as “truth from Sinai” you better check it out at least 7 times. I know it’s a little exhausting to check the facts before you repeat them and sometimes it doesn’t even meet your agenda, but you deal with Tikun-Olam and should at least report the truth and let your readers decide about the rest.

    • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 11:11 AM

      You conveniently neglected to mention that I quoted 3 diff. sources, not just Haaretz, one of which was the military censor. Do you think the censor bans reporting on certain subjects just for the hell of it? And I’ve got news for you, in this day & age it hardly matters whether you live in Herzyliya or Seattle, you can still follow the news & developments as if you’re in Israel itself. And you also neglect to mention that I have sources within Israel who feel there is some value in sharing some of this information with me. I’m not doing this alone as you seem to believe.

      BTW, Haaretz’s track record for accuracy is a lot better than yours so yes, I’ll continue trusting them unless you can prove otherwise. Can you show me the names of any Israeli Palestinians who’ve been allowed to buy or lease land under the new provisions? If not, then there is still de facto racism in land ownership in Israel.

      Nice try, but not terribly convincing.

      • Shin Gimel September 20, 2010, 12:50 PM

        Censor banning means nothing, as sometimes the state of Israel would benefit if people would think that the state carried a specific attack. That’s the case with the Syrian reactor, that’s the case with the elimination of imad mughniyeh and others. The fact that you think that Israel carried out these actions and you spread the rumor around actually helps building deterrence.
        As for your sources in Israel, none of them as access to such information.
        As for the Arab’s having access to ILA land, it’s hilarious that even after you were presented with the letter of the law, you still yell “racism”. So just to satisfy your taste for more facts,
        The link attached (http://jiis.org.il/.upload/web%20C1009.pdf) is for a survey conducted by the Jerusalem municipality in 2008. The survey shows that there were 3596 Arab Muslims leaving in West Jerusalem in 2008, and 507 Arab Christians.
        If that is not enough for you, I’m sure that as a responsible blogger, you can contact the PR department at ILA (http://www.mmi.gov.il/IdkunKtovotMachoz/PerutKtovotVeTelephonim.aspx) , and find out for yourself what is their statistics.
        Would you do so ? I doubt that.

        • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 3:45 PM

          The fact that you think that Israel carried out these actions and you spread the rumor around actually helps building deterrence.

          Don’t be an idiot. The entire world knows what Israel did. It isn’t a “rumor.” It’s a fact to everyone except you, Meir Dagan, Ehud Olmert & Ashkenazi (who also know it’s true but can’t admit it publicly–except Olmert just did). What I write here has no deterrent effect on anyone. But if you believe that my word is so powerful & persuasive as to have Iranian generals shivering in their boots then you’ve been smoking even more powerful drugs than I thought.

          As for your sources in Israel, none of them as access to such information.

          You have no idea what access my sources have. The only way you know is fr. what I publish here. No, I don’t have access to secret documents like those Anat Kamm passed to Uri Blau. No one is violating Israeli law to pass me secrets. But you’ll have to keep reading if you want to know what I & my sources have access to.

          The survey shows that there were 3596 Arab Muslims leaving in West Jerusalem in 2008, and 507 Arab Christians.

          I don’t want to know how many Israeli Palestinians are living in W. Jerusalem. I want to know how many own or lease land or property there. That’s what I was referring to. They can’t own land. That’s racist, plain & simple.

          Ir Amin is a far more trustworthy source regarding ILA & its policies than ILA itself.

  • Correction September 20, 2010, 8:49 AM

    Ashkenazi is not talking to the press. The article by Melman is an attempt by the journalist to guess what Ashkenazi would say, if he was to say anything out loud.

    • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 11:05 AM

      Thanks, I just added a correction. My error in not reading the headline carefully.

  • mary September 20, 2010, 12:44 PM

    I’ve had a hard time believing that the story of Israel bombing an alleged nuclear reactor in Syria is what it seems.

    What right does Israel have to do this, anyway?

  • Shirin September 20, 2010, 2:08 PM

    Richard, I am a bit surprised to see you repeating as fact the story that the Syrian site was a nuclear reactor. Outside of the word of the CIA and the Mossad, both of whom have well-documented histories of making questionable if not downright false claims when it suited them or their masters (remember Saddam’s WMD’s, and his love affair with Bin Laden?), what actual evidence is there that this was a nuclear reactor? There is at least as much evidence to suggest that it was not a nuclear reactor, but something else altogether.

    As for the Israelis trying to keep it a secret that they bombed the site – huh?! I don’t recall reading or seeing a single report anywhere that questioned that at all, or suggested that Israel was trying to conceal it. On the contrary, what I remember are headlines stating clearly that Israel had bombed Syria, and stories reporting it as known, if not freely admitted, fact. And it was only later that the claims that the site was a nuclear reactor started, which I found and continue to find questionable at best.

    • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 3:32 PM

      You’re right. I can’t say this for sure. And perhaps I should’ve been more tentative in my remarks. I could’ve been wrong. But based on evidence I’ve read it seems like a plausible claim. If I’m wrong I’ll be the first to correct my error. I’d certainly like to hear the Syrians make a plausible counter statement about what was going on there. Not just a flat denial that what Israel or the U.S. says is wrong, but a substantive statement.

      By “conceal” I meant that Israel refused at every opportunity to say anything about its involvement. Yes, everyone knows that Israel did it. But they don’t know that fr. any public Israeli statements till now, which is why the story is important.

      • Shirin September 21, 2010, 1:47 PM

        There are three simple, obvious facts among the ones that tend to suggest it was not a nuclear reactor or anything else of that significance or magnitude. First, there was no visible security around the site at all – no ten foot high electrified fence topped with barbed wire, in fact no fence at all, and no military or other security of any kind. Surely if the site were in fact a nuclear reactor there would be heavy security 24/7. Second, there was no attempt to conceal the site in any way. It was sitting out there in the open for anyone to see clearly. The Syrians are certainly not stupid enough to build a nuclear reactor or anything else of serious military significance right out there in the open like that. Third, nuclear reactors need large amounts of water for cooling, and there is no large, or even medium-sized body of water anywhere near the site.

        And the fact that the site did not become a nuclear reactor in the news until some time after Israel bombed it also makes it suspect.

    • mary September 20, 2010, 3:35 PM

      Shirin is right. I remember clearly the rather fake-looking video of the alleged facility, and it was the Israelis themselves who supplied it. So much for credibility. For all intents and purposes, it looked like an empty building, partially constructed. And, if I recall correctly, after this air strike the Syrians calmly resumed construction. Funny how the Israelis didn’t bother to bomb it a second time.

      • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 3:47 PM

        No, after the air strike Syria entirely obliterated the building site. I think afterward they built another complex on the site that has no relation to a military use (as far as I know).

        • mary September 20, 2010, 4:28 PM

          I wish I could find the link, but I recall seeing photos showing the construction of the “new” building, side by side with the photos of the one that was bombed. They were nearly identical. The point is, there was nothing to indicate in either photo just what the purpose of the building was.

  • Yotam September 20, 2010, 2:28 PM

    Just to clarify, here’s a link to reporting on the Olmert allegations from Ynet (Hebrew):

    http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3957827,00.html

    The story notes Barak’s opposition to a “secret operation” and then immediately mentions that according to foreign sources one of the IDF’s most important operations in recent years was the bombing of the Syrian reactor.

    • Richard Silverstein September 20, 2010, 3:37 PM

      It appears that either Yediot is violating the censor’s directive or else the censor has relaxed it. I’m trying to discover what happened. I’d like to know if you’re doubting the existence of the censor’s statement which has been confirmed to me by two separate Israeli sources who’ve seen it?

      This is from the 7th Eye new media watchdog blog which clearly confirms the heavy hand of censorship, saying that Yediot & Haaretz are defying it but Yisrael HaYom & Maariv are “respecting” (if such a term can be used in this context) it:

      מהו אותו מבצע נועז? ב”מעריב” אין זכר לדבר, ב”ישראל היום” אין רמז לדבר, ב”הארץ” וב”ידיעות אחרונות” כותבים כי ככל הנראה הכוונה לתקיפת הכור הגרעיני בסוריה. האם בעיתונים האחרים לא ידעו על כך? ומדוע הדברים מובאים בהיסוס ובלשון שאלה? ולמה מרובים טלאי הסיפור בעיתונים יותר מאשר במהדורות החדשות בטלוויזיה? טביעת אצבעה של הצנזורה ברורה ומוחשית כאן

      • Shin Gimel September 20, 2010, 8:38 PM

        Richard, again you are drawing conclusions from one’s opinion. The 7th eye didn’t quote the censor, they stated their own opinion. And as you know opinions are just like b. holes, we all have at least one.
        As for the dispute between Olmert and Barak, let’s assume for a second that the IDF did carry the attack in Syria. The IDF carries many operations yearly, some of them away from the public eye way behind enemy lines. Since you are not privy to any classified information, and neither are your friends in the 7th eye, everyone is speculating. Your speculation is as good as anyone else’s, but should be treated as no more than speculation.

  • mary September 20, 2010, 4:32 PM

    Some interesting info on the so-called Syrian reactor site:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2008/04/syria-more-ques.html

    And to revisit the whole thing, there is a video link here:

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_04/013602.php

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