The Weekend Web

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The Weekend Web

What’s Germany up to in the Middle East and why will Israel lose in Gaza? Plus, flying cars!

Not to be outdone by France and the EU, Germany on Friday sent a delegation led by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Egypt and Israel in an attempt to broker some sort of peace agreement between Israel and Hamas. By the end of the day Saturday, it seems Steinmeier had had some measure of success.

“We agreed in the next few days a group from Germany will travel to Egypt to see how we can help equip police and provide training,” Steinmeier told reporters late Saturday. According to Reuters, “The German offer is the first proposal that appears to address Egyptian objections to stationing foreign troops on its border with the Gaza Strip.”

It is hoped the arrival of a German contingent will address the disagreement between Israel and Egypt about how Egypt’s border with Gaza should be secured to prevent the flow of weapons into the Strip. While Egypt objects to foreign troops being stationed along the border, it seems willing to accept technical assistance and aid from the Germans.

Germany’s Moves Recall Christ’s Words

When asked on Friday if the German government would be prepared to send troops to Gaza should some sort of peace agreement be attained, government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters that “the government has made clear it is aware of its responsibility and will not shy away from its responsibility.”

From a prophetic standpoint, this is an absolutely electrifying trend to watch. In an article this past Wednesday, wrote this:

Berlin’s foreign policy politicians do not rule out a German military mission to the Gaza Strip. The Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the German Parliament (Bundestag) demands that under certain circumstances, Germany should furnish soldiers to a multi-national Gaza Force. The demand for German military presence in the immediate vicinity of Israel has been raised in Berlin already in 2002 and is being systematically pursued ever since, particularly via the German naval mission off the Lebanese coast. …The Chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee of the German Bundestag, Ruprecht Polenz (cdu), is contemplating a Bundeswehr deployment in the Gaza Strip. This corresponds to a suggestion made by Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who would like to establish a “monitoring system” in the war zone, for the verification of a cease-fire and the prohibition of “arms smuggling” …. Foreign policy experts of the spd are also not excluding the sending of German forces to the Gaza Strip.

Back in 2002, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder first raised the possibility of sending German troops to the area around Israel, he was backed by much of the German political class and by Palestinians. Support also came “astonishingly” from Israelis, according to Volker Perthes of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. tells of one of the few voices of caution in Germany at the time:

“It should be clear to anyone who is sensitive at all” that it is impossible for Germany to send soldiers to the Israeli borders, said Wolfgang Benz, director of the Center for Anti-Semitism Studies in Berlin, detecting a “trashing of history” in the government’s Middle East plans.

Nevertheless, the years since 2002 have seen Germany establish a significant presence in the area around Israel. Here is this article’s list of these military ventures:

Germany is militarily participating in the UN’s unifil mission in Lebanon and is using this participation to arm and train the Lebanese Army. Under the direction and with the equipment of the German Navy, the Federal Police and the German customs service, Lebanon has been fortifying its terrestrial borders, also to reduce Syria’s influence and thereby strengthen the Western positions in that country. With German participation, the EU is running a training program for police officers in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories (eupol copps). They are also furnishing equipment. On the Rafah border crossing, as well, Berlin and Brussels had stationed police officers (eubam Rafah), but this measure has been suspended. Last year the German Council on Foreign Relations (dgap) declared that the mission in Lebanon could “serve as a precedence for similar maritime missions in similar regional scenarios,” giving the example, “the coast of the Gaza Strip.”A Bundeswehr mission in the Gaza Strip, which would significantly upgrade German military presence at Israeli borders, seems now to be coming within reach.

One of Jesus Christ’s signature prophecies regarding the end of this age was that there would come a point when Jerusalem would be “surrounded by armies”—and that this would be a signal “that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20). Put this together with other prophecies regarding the downfall of the Jewish state, and it can be determined that these armies are, in fact, European armies, and that their presence around Israel signals an imminent and catastrophic double-cross.

Germany’s growing military presence in the region and discussion of expanding its role even further is a clarion signal of the fulfillment of this pivotal end-time scenario.

Why Israel Will Lose

Daniel Pipes is dead-on in his assessment of Israel’s prospects for victory in its conflict with Hamas in his Jerusalem Post article today, “Israel’s Strategic Incompetence in Gaza.” While Hamas is taking hits, the outcome of this war still depends on the decisions the Israeli government makes from here, Pipes says. For clues on how it will handle those decisions, one only need look at a few key facts.

First, the team in charge in Jerusalem created the Gaza problem. Its leader, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, immortally explained in 2005 the forthcoming unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza: “We [Israelis] are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.”Olmert had a vital role in (1) initiating the Gaza withdrawal, which ended the Israel Defense Forces’ close control of the territory, and (2) giving up Israeli control over the Gaza-Egypt border. This latter, little noted decision, enabled Hamas to build tunnels to Egypt, smuggle in matériel, and launch missiles into Israel.Secondly, Olmert and his colleagues failed to respond to the barrage of rockets and mortar shells. From the Israeli withdrawal in 2005 until now, Hamas has launched over 6,500 missiles into Israel. Incredibly, Israelis endured nearly eight attacks a day for three years; why? A responsible government would have responded to the first rocket as a casus belli and immediately responded.

An excellent point. The weakness of Israel’s leaders and the prejudice of the international community against Israel both come into sharp focus in contemplating this state of affairs, in which the Jews are expected to continue to absorb such attacks and any retaliation is viewed as disproportionate.

Thirdly, a committee of the French parliament published an important technical report in mid-December, establishing that “there is no longer doubt” about the military purposes of the Iranian nuclear program, and that it will be up and running in 2-3 years.The waning days of the Bush administration, with the current president nearly out the door and the president-elect yet in the wings, offers a unique moment to take care of business. Why did Olmert squander this opportunity to confront the relatively trivial danger Hamas presents rather than the existential threat of Iran’s nuclear program? This negligence has potentially dire repercussions.

Another excellent point that has been virtually lost in general debate. We pointed out amid the Second Lebanon War that Israel’s greatest strategic mistake was to accept the error that Hezbollah was acting independently and could be confronted independent of Iran and Syria. The truth in that assessment is abundantly clear now that Iran and Syria have since restocked Hezbollah to triple its prewar armament level and Hezbollah has gained veto control over the Lebanon government. Yet Israel has made the same mistake with Hamas, exposing its unwillingness to go after the real source of the problem. Our editor in chief has identified this as “Why We Cannot Win the War Against Terrorism.”

Pipes continues,

Finally, from what one can discern of the Olmert government’s goal in its war on Hamas, it seems to be to weaken Hamas and strengthen Fatah so that Mahmoud Abbas can re-take control of Gaza and re-start diplomacy with Israel. … Bitter experience, however, invalidates this thesis. For one, Fatah has proven itself a determined enemy intent on eliminating the Jewish state. For another, Palestinians themselves repudiated Fatah in 2006 elections. It strains credulity that anyone could still think of Fatah as a “partner for peace.”

Of course, the Olmert government will be replaced soon, with Israeli elections coming up. How does Pipes view the prospects for a new administration improving the decision-making within the Jewish state? He calls the three leaders vying for Olmert’s job “of his same ilk”:

Two of them (Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak) currently serve as his main lieutenants, while two (Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu) failed badly in their prior prime ministerial stints.Looking beyond Olmert and his potential successors comes the worst news of all, namely that no one at the upper echelons of Israel’s political life articulates the imperative for victory. For this reason, I see Israel as a lost polity, one full of talent, energy, and resolve but lacking direction.

To gain more insight into the biblically prophesied lack of will within Israel, look at our recent column, “How Will the War in Gaza End?

Who Is Guilty of War Crimes?

Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi, a former crony of Yasser Arafat who teaches at Columbia today—and who is also a friend of Barack Obama—wrote a revealing opinion piece for the New York Times last week. Khalidi blames Gaza’s unemployment, poverty and malnutrition on Israel’s “blockade” of the Strip. (To read what we wrote last summer about the truckloads of humanitarian aid that flow into Gaza, go here.) He also blames the breakdown of the “ceasefire” in December on Israel—not on Hamas for raining rockets on Israeli towns the moment the agreement ended.

Khalidi’s world view is especially distorted and dishonest when discussing the subject of “war crimes.” He writes (emphasis ours throughout),

The targeting of civilians, whether by Hamas or by Israel, is potentially a war crime. Every human life is precious. But the numbers speak for themselves: Nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year. In contrast, there have been around a dozen Israelis killed, many of them soldiers.

Notice that he first muddies the water by saying that targeting civilians is “potentially” a war crime. As a point of fact, targeting civilians is a war crime. He then jumps to civilian deaths, implying that Israel’s “war crime” is worse than Hamas’s sins simply because more Palestinian civilians have died.

Civilian casualties in war do not constitute a war crime unless they are intentionally targeted, something Israel does not do. As Charles Krauthammer recently wrote, “Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger.”

Hamas’s soldiers, on the other hand, makes no bones about their intentional targeting of Israeli citizens—a war crime. Then, when hunkering down during Israeli strikes, these same combatants hide behind innocent Palestinian civilians—also a war crime.

In fact, Hamas is also guilty of intentionally targeting its own people. As noted here, Hamas’s strategy is to sacrifice their own at the front lines of the battle, knowing their “martyrdom” will make for a stronger case against Israel in the propaganda war.

A Good Excuse for Racism

Last week we wrote about how anti-Semites around the world were using the Gaza war as an excuse to stir up hatred against the Jews. This weekend, Mark Steyn summarizes the numerous and nasty worldwide protests against Israel:

In Toronto, anti-Israel demonstrators yell “You are the brothers of pigs!,” and a protester complains to his interviewer that “Hitler didn’t do a good job.”In Fort Lauderdale, Palestinian supporters sneer at Jews, “You need a big oven, that’s what you need!”In Amsterdam, the crowd shouts, “Hamas, Hamas! Jews to the gas!”In Paris, the state-owned tv network France-2 broadcasts film of dozens of dead Palestinians killed in an Israeli air raid on New Year’s Day. The channel subsequently admits that, in fact, the footage is not from Jan. 1, 2009, but from 2005, and, while the corpses are certainly Palestinian, they were killed when a truck loaded with Hamas explosives detonated prematurely while leaving the Jabaliya refugee camp in another of those unfortunate work-related accidents to which Gaza is sadly prone. Conceding that the Palestinians supposedly killed by Israel were, alas, killed by Hamas, France-2 says the footage was broadcast “accidentally.”In Toulouse, a synagogue is firebombed; in Bordeaux, two kosher butchers are attacked; at the Auber rer train station, a Jewish man is savagely assaulted by 20 youths taunting, “Palestine will kill the Jews”; in Villiers-le-Bel, a Jewish schoolgirl is brutally beaten by a gang jeering, “Jews must die.” …In Odense, principal Olav Nielsen announces that he will no longer admit Jewish children to the local school after a Dane of Lebanese extraction goes to the shopping mall and shoots two men working at the Dead Sea Products store. In Brussels, a Molotov cocktail is hurled at a synagogue; in Antwerp, Netherlands, lit rags are pushed through the mail flap of a Jewish home; and, across the Channel in Britain, “youths” attempt to burn the Brondesbury Park Synagogue.

The Times adds that “vicarious jihadists and attention-seeking actors and pop stars who think it’s cool to go on marches” are declaring “we are all Hamas now.”

Both the Times and Steyn point out how ludicrous this is. Steyn posts a very revealing interview the New York Times had with one Hamas militant:

“Why are you so happy?” this reporter asked. “Look around you.”A girl who looked about 18 screamed as a surgeon removed shrapnel from her leg. An elderly man was soaked in blood. A baby a few weeks old and slightly wounded looked around helplessly. A man lay with parts of his brain coming out. His family wailed at his side.”Don’t you see that these people are hurting?” the militant was asked.”But I am from the people, too,” he said, his smile incandescent. “They lost their loved ones as martyrs. They should be happy. I want to be a martyr, too.”

America’s “Secret” Strategy to Sabotage Iran’s Nuclear Program

The New York Times reported yesterday that the United States rejected Israel’s request for help in raiding an Iranian nuclear facility last year. According to the article, Israel asked the United States for the bunker-busting bombs needed to take out the Iranian plant, but President Bush rebuffed the request, saying the U.S. had instead decided to employ covert action to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. According to the Times, the U.S. also refused Israel’s request for iaf planes to fly over Iraqi airspace en route to Iran’s facility in Natanz.

“Mr. Bush was convinced by top administration officials,” the Times wrote,

led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that any overt attack on Iran would probably prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran’s nuclear effort further out of view. Mr. Bush and his aides also discussed the possibility that an airstrike could ignite a broad Middle East war in which America’s 140,000 troops in Iraq would inevitably become involved.

So the United States instead opted for a covert program, which, according to the Times,

started in early 2008, includes renewed American efforts to penetrate Iran’s nuclear supply chain abroad, along with new efforts, some of them experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks on which Iran relies. …Several years ago, foreign intelligence services tinkered with individual power units that Iran bought in Turkey to drive its centrifuges, the floor-to-ceiling silvery tubes that spin at the speed of sound, enriching uranium for use in power stations or, with additional enrichment, nuclear weapons.A number of centrifuges blew up, prompting public declarations of sabotage by Iranian officials. An engineer in Switzerland, who worked with the Pakistani nuclear black-marketeer Abdul Qadeer Khan, had been “turned” by American intelligence officials and helped them slip faulty technology into parts bought by the Iranians.What Mr. Bush authorized, and informed a narrow group of congressional leaders about, was a far broader effort, aimed at the entire industrial infrastructure that supports the Iranian nuclear program. Some of the efforts focused on ways to destabilize the centrifuges.

There are several points worth making about the Times report. For one, it highlights the growing divide between the United States and Israel—a split that will surely widen when Mr. Obama becomes president. This deteriorating alliance, by the way, is prophesied.

It also exposes the weakness of America’s will to use its power. One source told the Times that the covert operations against Iran are little more than “science experiments.”

Finally, consider what this report reveals about the New York Times. If any of this covert information was published without the government’s authority, as noted at Power Line, the reporter and his editors ought to be criminally prosecuted.

Disastrous Day for Europe

Friday marked one of the most disastrous days for the European economy since World War ii. In Germany, exports and industrial orders plunged to their lowest rates on record and unemployment levels rose for the first time in three years. In Spain, the unemployment rate soared to over 3 million.

According to the Telegraph, the eurozone confidence index fell from 74.9 to 67.1—the lowest level since 1985 when data was first collected. “A potent mix of negative business sentiment, a hard-hit banking system and a global downturn is working its way through Europe with a vengeance,” wrote the New York Times.

“Europe is now rushing rapidly into a recession, faster than the United States,” said Bart van Ark, chief economist of a non-profit group that analyzes business trends.

With demands for machinery on the decline in nations like China, Russia and the Middle East, the German economy is faltering. Industrial orders have plummeted 27 percent, “heralding a drastic economic contraction this year.” Dirk Schumacher from Goldman Sachs said, “Industry is in a free-fall.” In one month, the country’s trade surplus shrunk by a third.

Jacques Cailloux from the Royal Bank of Scotland said the pace of contraction in Europe is close to that of the Great Depression. If trends continue, the year 2009 could easily resemble 1930. He said, “Even the worst-case scenarios people talked about now look too optimistic.”

We have repeatedly said that an economic crisis in Europe, particularly Germany, will serve as a catalyst for a strongman to emerge in fulfillment of a prophecy in Daniel 8:23-24. We are getting very close to that reality.

Britons Resist the Euro

In spite of a recession and a plummeting currency, Britain stands firm in its opposition to the euro, Spiegel writes. Over the last year, the British pound has lost approximately a quarter of its value. Euro advocates in the country have used this as an opportunity to encourage Britain to adopt the EU currency. Yet, despite their passionate campaigning, Britons are still overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of adopting the euro.

“Currency fluctuations do not affect the British love for the pound,” said Martin Boon, a pollster for icm. According to a recent poll, 71 percent of Britons are opposed to adopting the euro as their national currency. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has “always been a resolute euro-opponent” as well.

“The underlying hostility towards the euro runs deep,” said another pollster, Greg Baker of Comres. “People don’t see the pound primarily in financial terms.” He cited Britons’ national pride and aversion to new things as contributors to this. Opposition is particularly strong among lower and middle classes.

Spiegel wrote, “Nothing has changed in terms of the country’s widespread aversion to the euro.”

As we wrote back in October, “The separation between Britain and the EU is growing by the day. The biblical prophecies that informed Mr. Armstrong’s long-standing forecast that this relationship would eventually end also reveal both the source of Britain’s failings and the catastrophic end of its dalliance with Europe.”

Central Inexperience Agency

“Who needs someone experienced in counterintelligence to head the cia?” asks Paul Greenberg in the Washington Times today. Apparently, not the next president of the United States.

According to Mr. Obama, what the agency largely responsible for keeping America safe needs most is a Democratic strategist with exceptional organizational skills who knows a lot about Washington and very little about Tehran, Islamabad and Mindanao.

Enter Leon Panetta, the “man with the right promises—politics first and last, national security an afterthought. If that.” While the nomination of a inexperienced politician to head the cia is alarming and will likely serve the terrorists’ quest for destruction on American soil, perhaps more alarming, as we pointed out on Friday, is what Panetta’s nomination reveals about the priorities in the decision-making of Barack Obama.

“When it comes to getting the economy out of the ditch it’s in, to h - - - with partisan politics,” writes Greenberg.

The next president wants an experienced financier who has been in the thick of (messy) things, never mind that he’ll be a holdover from the Bush team. Much like the respected defense secretary that Barack Obama chose to keep on. After all, the economy, like the military, is important, indeed crucial. Politics be damned. Experience counts. Especially if these key officials are going to be working for a largely inexperienced president and commander in chief.But who cares about the cia? Why would the next president insist on experience in that job? What counts most in filling that portfolio is his party’s prejudices against anyone associated with the current administration, especially anyone who believes in spying on terrorists, ferreting out their bank accounts, tracing their international calls and all the rest. That kind of experience may be a disqualifier when it comes to directing Barack Obama’s new-age cia.

Panetta’s nomination reveals the inward focus of the upcoming Obama administration on matters of national security. It’s the decision of a pacifist mind that has little interest in maintaining a policy of proactively preventing America’s enemies from killing more Americans.

As we noted Friday,

How comforting, then, it must be to maniacal terrorists whose war strategy is to torture and murder innocent civilians, to know that the new government in Washington is planning to roll back the Bush administration’s more aggressive stance against terrorism to a softer, ’90s-style approach to combating radical Islam.

Greenberg’s outlook was similarly grim.

As for protecting the country, well, who says the age of miracles is past? With an amateur in charge of the cia, it’ll be a miracle if the country gets through the next few years as safely as it has the years since Sept, 11.

Elsewhere on the Web

In an interview with Spiegel recently, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn reiterated the dire nature of the global economic crisis. Embedded within routine remarks about America’s role in the financial crisis and the greed of (mostly American) banks and investors, was this bombshell: “This is not another adjustment as we had in the ’80s,” he said. “This is a shift in the earth. This is an earthquake. It is not a tremor.” You can read the full interview here.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjead called on Egypt to clarify its position on the fighting in Gaza after accusing Egypt of being a partner in the “crimes” of Israel. “Cut your relations with the Zionist regime and boycott this regime. Don’t give them a chance to influence you,” Ahmadinjead demanded. Eventually, as we have pointed out numerous times, Egypt will turn radical and ally itself with Iran. See here and here for more information about what the Bible prophesies regarding this future alliance.

A British bank has illegally worked with Iranian and Sudanese banks to shift billions of dollars into and out of the U.S., according to the International Herald Tribune. And authorities suspect that at least some of the money has funded nuclear technology and material procurement activities. Robert Morgenthau, a New York district attorney investigating the crime, said the bank “went to great lengths” to obliterate any trace of where the money came from and where it was going.

And Finally …

If, like us, you loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a child, then this story is for you. It’s the world’s first flying automobile, scheduled for touchdown in showrooms sometime next year. It’ll cost you about $200,000. And right now, the only state where it’s legal to take off from a road is Alaska.