You are browsing the archive for Israel.

A Secret Memo from the Israel Defense Forces to Bibi Netanyahu

11:17 pm in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

A fictitious communiqué provoked by the very real horrors of Gaza.

From: Israel Defense Forces Special Gaza Group
To: P.M. (eyes only)
Date: August 1, 2014
Gaza: Removing the Fish from the Sea.

Following your request of July 25, we believe we have an answer for Israel’s problem with Hamas. We liquidate all Hamas leaders and members. We do it by separating Hamas from the Palestinians, or, as Mao would have said, we remove the sea from the fish.
First, to restate the problem:
We (and our American allies) maintain that the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are hostages to Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
The guilt for more than 1,300 Palestinians killed so far—including hundreds of women and children—is totally Hamas’s. They are cowardly using U.N. schools, hospitals, mosques, and homes as cover for their tunnels, arms caches, and rockets.

They rejoice in the high “civilian” casualty figures. It makes them look like martyrs and us like Nazi monsters, though all we are trying to do is defend our people.

Bottom line: As we have always maintained, as long as Hamas, with its bloody-minded ideology of hate, is running Gaza, the peace—which Israel so desperately wants—will not be possible.

The solution is simple: get rid of Hamas and, while we’re at it, other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad.

These are the steps:

1.Egypt agrees to Hamas’ demand that the Rafah border crossing, currently closed by Egypt, be reopened.

2.Israel then gives one week for all Palestinians to leave Gaza. At the end of that week, Israeli forces, using rockets, phosphorous, ships, tanks, etc. kill anyone still found in Gaza–men, women or children.

3. That threat will bring about a mass flight of Palestinians from Gaza (similar to the mass flight of Palestinians from Israel back in 1948). International observers will ensure that Hamas is unable to prevent the Palestinians who want to leave from getting out.

4. Hamas (and other) terrorists who choose to remain in Gaza and become martyrs to their lost cause will be shot on sight, or captured and sentenced to life in prison. (We prefer immediate execution, since there is no risk of prisoners later being exchanged for captured Israeli soldiers.)

5. To ensure that members of Hamas are not able to escape by joining the flood of Palestinians fleeing to Egypt, the border crossing will be screened by the Israeli Mossad and Shabak, the Egyptian Secret Police, and the CIA. As you know, our intelligence on Hamas is impressive. We have lists of all the leaders. While a few low-level cadres may slip through, the vast majority would be weeded out and dealt with.

6.What will happen to the 1.7 million Palestinians now in Egypt?
They will be temporarily housed in massive refugee camps in the Egyptian Sinai. The camps will provide shelter, water, food, schooling, and freedom from the constant threat of death, currently facing Palestinians in Gaza. Though the cost will be sizable, we have been assured that the U.S. and wealthy Arab states will be willing to foot the bill. Anything to get rid of Hamas.

7.Thousands, of informants will circulate in those camps alert to any Palestinians displaying Hamas-like tendencies. Once found, they will also be disposed of.

8. Egypt, of course, will only go along with this concept if they are assured that those 1.7 million Palestinians—even if politically “sanitized” –will not become permanent refugees in their country.

9. The ideal solution would be for other Arab countries, or countries further afield –like the U.S. or Canada or Brazil–to open their doors. Judging from the fate of Palestinian refugees since 1948, that scenario is highly unlikely.

10. Instead, while the Palestinians are being held in Egypt, a massive reconstruction program would be undertaken in Gaza to provide new housing, schools, hospitals, small industry, power stations etc. etc. etc. Obviously, the opportunities for Israeli construction companies and businesses would be immense.

11. Once that program is well underway, the Palestinians would be transported—either willingly or not—back to their former homeland in Gaza.

12. We would end the total blockade of Gaza. But we would still insist on strict control of all ports, goods, and individuals entering and leaving the territory. With Hamas now totally removed from the scene, we might also consider letting certain closely vetted Palestinians work again in Israel.

13. We would allow the Palestinians to vote for a local government, but would insist on clearing all candidates based on their political views. The only issues they could discuss would be directly concerned with day-to-day life; nothing to do with Israel, the settlements, a Palestinians state, the status of Jerusalem, or any fictitious claim to regaining the lands their ancestors lost in 1948.

Thus, with the Palestinians “cured” of the virus of Hamas and terrorism, our problem with Gaza is resolved.

At the same time, the Palestinians will have achieved their aim of economic growth and an end to the total embargo. But Hamas won’t be able to take any of the credit—because they’ll no longer be there.

We might consider a variant of these tactics get rid of the more vocal Palestinians on the West Bank as well.

The majority of the high command agrees with this proposal.

The only problem raised by a couple of dissenters is: Though we wipe out the virus, how do we ensure that in three or four or ten years, a new generation of Palestinians won’t become infected?

The answer is evident: With the experience gained the first time around, we simply repeat the procedure as necessary.

OK Wise Guy, So, what would you do about Hamas?

9:28 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

“If  I was an Arab leader I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal, we took their land. It is true that God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we come and we have stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”

That statement—which would certainly outrage the current government of Israel and most of its supporters–was made by David Ben Gurion (1886-1973), revered as the father of the State of Israel.

http://thinkexist.com/quotation/if-i-were-an-arab-leader-i-would-never-sign-an/347288.html

From the very beginning that issue has been at the heart of hostilities between Israel and the Arabs, particularly, of course, the Palestinians—including the tragedy being played out in Gaza today.

Yesterday, I posted a blog calculating what would happen if the United States, with 176 times more people than Gaza—were to suffer the same proportion of casualties that the Palestinians in Gaza have borne. As of today, the figure would have increased to 105,000 Americans killed, of which 26,400 would have been children. (According to the UN, 75% of the casualties in Gaza are civilian).

My purpose in citing those figures is not to say that Hamas is right. It’s an attempt to make readers—many of whom just don’t want to know—to make them understand how appalling the situation has become, in terms they might be able to understand.

Of course, Israel’s leaders have to respond to the on-going, indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza. But Israel’s sledgehammer reaction has been totally out of proportion.

To those who judge that statement naïve or hopelessly biased, 10 Israeli human rights organizations—these are people living under the constant threat of those missiles from Gaza—have condemned Israel’s ongoing onslaught in the strongest terms, and raised concerns abut grave violations of international law.

O.K., you say, we acknowledge the horror of it all, but what the hell is Israel supposed to do, confronted with an implacable enemy like Hamas?

The answer is that slaughtering hundreds of Palestinians and wreaking horrendous carnage on one of the most densely populated places on earth is not the answer. It hasn’t worked in the past. It won’t work going forward. If, somehow, Israel manages to kill all the current generation of Hamas, they’ll be replaced by their kids in even more radical form.

Hamas rocket attacks into Israel are a direct and desperate answer to the policies of Israel (backed by the United States) to keep the Palestinians at bay, by whatever means necessary. That has led to Israel’s (and Egypt’s) stranglehold over Gaza, its economy, its people, and its government. No people or government could accept such a drastic situation without ultimately striking back.

The attempt to throttle Gaza has included a campaign to wipe out Hamas–Israel refusing, for instance, to return tax funds collected from the people of Gaza back to the government of Gaza to fund day-to-day operations. The upshot: because of Israel’s strategies, and other political upheavals in the region, Hamas finds itself on the ropes. Thus, their desperate and near suicidal willingness to lash out.

That desperation, I repeat, is not just Hamas’s. It also haunts the 1.7 million people living in what has been called an open air concentration camp.

So what to do? A simple cease-fire with no preconditions, which is what American, Egypt and Israel have been advocating, probably will not work. It would mean a return to the status quo of Israel and Egypt maintaining their stranglehold on Gaza.

If Hamas were to accept such a deal, after their own huge losses and the horrors all the people of Gaza are suffering, they’d be committing political suicide. Which is just what Israel, the U.S. and the Egypt devoutly wish.

The problem is, as I’ve said, Hamas would probably be immediately replaced by something worse—even more radical.

The only way to bolster more moderate voices among the Palestinians is for Israel to make it evident that more moderate policies can achieve something for the Palestinian people. Otherwise, forget it.

In Gaza, that would start with an easing of the blockade and a real agreement by Israel not to attempt to destroy the government of Gaza. Such an agreement would, of course, have to contain tight controls to make sure goods coming into Gaza were goods needed by the people, not to construct more rockets and secret tunnels. That would not be easy; it also would not seem to be an impossible task.

Israel and its backers also have to find some way to help restore Gaza’s disastrous economy—currently more than 50% of its people are unemployed. What does the world expect those people to do?

There are other obvious steps that Israel could take, beginning with ending the illegal settlements on the West Bank, to actually recognizing that, yes, Israel did take Arab land, and drove out the Palestinians in 1948—a fact recognized by Israeli historians, but still denied by Israel’s government and its supporters.

Ah, but the Palestinians are not willing to negotiate. They’ve shown that over the years. Not true. Many of their leaders have been weak and incompetent. But in almost every case, when there was a chance for serious negotiations over the years, Israel’s actions—particularly the inexorable expansion of the settlements, undermined the moderates, and only strengthened radical groups like Hamas.  (Remember, it was Israel itself who helped found Hamas as a way of undermining the PLO).

But the problem is: just as Hamas cannot accept a cease-fire in Gaza at this point, without getting anything to show for the huge sacrifices the Palestinians have made, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu would also risk political destruction if he made any significant concessions to Hamas or the Palestinians, particularly after the loss of at least 29 Israeli soldiers.

And so the slaughter continues.

The tragic irony is that Israel, which has become one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, has been unable to resolve the quandary that has bedeviled it since its creation.

(Thanks to retired Egyptian diplomat and journalist, Ezzeldin Shawkat, for the quote cited above from David Ben Gurion)

 

 

 

 

Saudis Bankrolling Israel’s Mossad: More confirmation?

11:24 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (then Crown Prince) with George W. Bush (then President), 2002

In October 12, 2012, I speculated there was a strong likelihood that Saudi Arabia was bankrolling Israel’s Mossad. Those funds paid for, among other things, the assassinations of several of Iran’s top nuclear experts over the past couple of years. That cooperation was, I wrote, the latest bizarre development in a clandestine alliance between the Zionist State of Israel and Saudi Arabia, guardian of Islam’s most holy site.

The Huffington Post refused to run that blog because I only had one source, which I was not allowed to name. Instead, I posted it on my own and other sites.

That blog went viral, particularly in Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where it was picked up by several news agencies. Now that claim has received new backing from a reputable Israeli source. But before getting to that, here is my original blog.

A friend, with good sources in the Israeli government, claims that the head of Israel’s Mossad has made several trips to deal with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia—one of the results: an agreement that the Saudis would bankroll the series of assassinations of several of Iran’s top nuclear experts that have occurred over the past couple of years. The amount involved, my friend claims, was $1 billion dollars. A sum, he says, the Saudis considered cheap for the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program.

At first blush, the tale sounds preposterous. On the other hand. it makes eminent sense. The murky swamp of Middle East politics has nothing to do with the easy slogans and 30 second sound bites of presidential debates.

After all, nowhere more than in the Middle East does the maxim hold true: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And both Israel and the Saudis have always detested Iran’s Shiite fundamentalist leaders. The feeling is mutual. Tehran has long been accused of stirring up trouble among Saudi’s restless Shiites.

Israeli and Saudi leaders particularly fear Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Thus, it would only be natural that (along with the U.S.) they would back a coordinated program to at least slow up, if not permanently cripple, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

It also makes perfect sense, that, in retaliation for the cyber attacks on their centrifuges, the Iranians reportedly launched their own cyber attack on a Saudi state-owned target: Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable company. Last August 15th, someone with privileged access to Aramco’s computers was able to unleash a virus that wreaked havoc with the company’s systems. U.S. intelligence experts point their finger at Tehran.

Indeed, a report earlier this year by Tel Aviv University cites Saudi Arabia as the last hope and defense line for Israel. With most of Israel’s traditional allies in the region sent packing or undermined by the Arab Spring, the Saudis are the Jewish State’s last chance to protect its political interests in the Arab world.

Now comes further confirmation of that strange alliance, from Richard Silverstein’s excellent blog Tikun Olam. Silverstein gets many of his scoops from Israeli reporters, often confiding information they’re not allowed to report in Israel. Silverstein also closely monitors the Israeli media.

He has been following the close cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia in targeting Syria and Iran. In his latest log he reports,

Shalom Yerushalmi, writing in Maariv, dropped an even more amazing bombshell.

Saudi Arabia isn’t just coordinating its own intelligence efforts with Israel. It’s actually financing a good deal of Israel’s very expensive campaign against Iran. As you know, this has involved massive sabotage against IRG missile bases, the assassination of five nuclear scientists, the creation of a series of computer cyber weapons like Stuxnet and Flame. It may also conceivably involve an entire class of electronic and conventional weapons that could be used in a full-scale attack on Iran. Who knows, this might even include the sorts of bunker buster bombs only the U.S. currently has access to, which could penetrate the Fordo facility. It might include scores more super-tankers which could provide the fuel necessary for Israeli planes to make it to Iran and return. All of this is expensive. Very expensive.

As background to his story, Yerushalmi, cited a recent speech by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Nethanyahu, referring to the possibility that Arab states, which privately maintain better relations with Israel today than does the European Union, would do so publicly if peace were to break out.

“Nethanyahu,” wrote the Israeli reporter, “referred almost certainly to Saudi Arabia which finances the expenses of the enormous campaign which we are conducting against Iran.”

“The question” Silverstein writes in his blog, “is how far is Saudi Arabia willing to go. If Bibi ever decided to launch an attack, would the Sunni nation fund that as well? The answer seems clearly to be yes.

The next question is, given there is airtight military censorship in Israel, why did the censor allow Maariv to publish this? Either someone was asleep at the switch or the IDF and Israel’s political and intelligence officials want the world to know of the Saudi-Israeli effort. Who specifically do they want to know? Obama, of course. In the event the nuclear talks go south, Bibi wants Obama to know there’s a new Sugar Daddy in town. No longer will Israel have only the U.S. to rely on if it decides to go to war. Saudi Arabia will be standing right behind….

I don’t think this news substantially alters the military calculus. Israel, even with unlimited funding, still can’t muster the weapons and armaments it would need to do the job properly. That will take time. But Israel isn’t going to war tomorrow. This news reported in Maariv is presumably Bibi playing one card from his hand. It’s an attempt to warn the president that the U.S. is no longer the only game in town. Personally, it’s the sort of huffing and puffing that I can’t imagine plays well in Washington. But it’s the way Bibi plays the game.

Barry Lando has just written a mystery, The Watchman’s File, about an American reporter attempting to unravel Israel’s most closely guarded secret. (It’s not the bomb). Available on Amazon in soft-cover and Kindle format. Read the rest of this entry →

Israel’s most closely-guarded secret. Another excerpt from “The Watchman’s File”

8:16 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

I invite you to read the latest excerpt from my mystery, “The Watchman’s File,” specially featured on Amazon’s Kindle again this week. It’s the gripping tale of an American TV reporter, Ed Diamond, as he risks his life to to unravel Israel’s most closely-guarded secret. (It’s not the bomb) To whet your interest, I’ve been posting excerpts here.

To recap the story to this point, Ed Diamond, one of America’s best-known reporters, based in Paris, receives an urgent call to come to Israel from an old friend, Dov Ben-David, former deputy director of Israel’s Mossad. Dov has alarming information, he says, concerning the U.S. and Israel. Diamond flies to Israel, but before they can meet, Ed’s friend is blown apart by a car bomb.

The next day, Ed mingles with hundreds of prominent Israelis attending  Dov’s funeral at the kibbutz of Ein Gedi, by the Dead Sea. He is stunned when Dov’s widow, Esther, accuses Ed of being responsible for her husband’s murder. To find out what’s behind that accusation, after the funeral Ed joins other mourners at Esther’s home.

———————–

It was a modest, one-story bungalow, like all the other dwellings on the kibbutz, faded yellow ochre stucco walls, roof tiles of burnt sienna, several splintered and cracked. No one came to live on a kibbutz to make a fortune. In exchange for your labor, you and your family could count on a roof over your head, three meals a day, education, health care, and—in the early pioneering days at least—the feeling that you were constructing something new and grand, fulfilling the destiny of your people. No more. The dream had been tarnished long ago.

There was a small garden in front of the Ben-David home, a few roses, a bougainvillea, and a towering banana plant that shaded the entrance. The door was open. Inside, it was cool. Esther sat on a beige sofa in the living room with a few close family and friends, all talking softly. She looked up when Ed entered. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but she gave him a wan smile.

“Mr. Diamond, please, come in. Have some coffee and cake.”

Ed poured coffee into a Styrofoam cup and took a seat by the bookcase, next to a couple of men who were turned to each other in deep conversation. A mourner’s candle burned on one of the bookshelves, its light flickering over an old photo of Dov Ben- David: a strapping young man in his twenties, dressed in short sleeves, shorts, and sandals, a Sten gun on his shoulder as he beamed confidently at the camera. Behind him, the mountains of Ein Gedi. Vintage Zionism, more than forty years ago, thought Ed. These days it has a vinegary taste.

The man sitting beside Ed, who had been talking with someone else, now turned to face the reporter. It was Arik Ben-David. “Mr. Diamond. Shalom again.” His smile was warmer than it had been at the cemetery. He glanced at the photo of Dov. “A fine-looking man, yes? And such dreams. We were so naive back then.” He took a sip of his coffee. “You know, I’ve often wondered why the Palestinian terrorists have targeted so few Israeli leaders. Maybe that’s all going to change now.” He shrugged. “It’s just something we will have to live with.”

He took a small piece of sponge cake and then glanced across the room at Esther.

“My sister-in-law says you came here to see Dov.”

“That’s right.”
“What about?”
“He wouldn’t tell me over the phone.”

“Well, then, I suppose we’ll never know.”
“I’d sure as hell like to.”
Ben-David patted Ed’s knee. “Things have changed in this country, Mr. Diamond. Even with the Wall, it’s become a far more dangerous place for government officials, past and present, perhaps even for reporters like you. Here, everything has become a fight for survival.”

”Dov never told you what was bothering him?”

“No. Dov and I lived in such different worlds. But you can’t imagine how much I will miss him.” Arik rose and extended his hand. “Goodbye, Mr. Diamond. By the way, if you do decide to look into this matter, let me know. Perhaps I can help you.” He smiled again. “I still have friends in high places.” He turned and limped across the room, said a few words to Esther, embraced her, and left.

Moshe Weinstein had been listening nearby. “I’ve known Arik forever,” he said as he sat down next to Ed. “I used to admire him tremendously. Military hero. Brilliant businessman. Grandmaster at chess. But now we rarely talk. Today was the first time in years he even shook my hand. The country is going berserk.”

“What do you mean?”

Weinstein glanced at the newspapers on the coffee table. They all carried pictures of yesterday’s bomb attack and a photo of Dov Ben-David. “I mean that the political weather around here is getting very ugly, as bad as it’s ever been: Jews against Palestinians, Jews against Jews, Palestinians against Palestinians. Some of them hate their own people more than they hate one another, and that is saying something.”

“And all sides are convinced they’re doing God’s will.” “Exactly.”

“And that’s what makes it so interesting for you reporters,” a woman’s voice interjected.

Gabriella Ben-David was standing before them. She had a tight smile on her lips as she handed them some sponge cake. “A peace offering—from my aunt.”

“Peace offering?” said Ed.
“That’s what she told me to say.”
“Thanks. How could I refuse?
“I’ll leave you two to figure things out,” said Weinstein. “Ed, here’s my card. If you’re going to be in Jerusalem tonight, give me a call.”

Gabriella took Weinstein’s place. “I can understand why you might have been surprised by my aunt,” she continued in lightly accented English. “I heard what she said to you by the grave.”

“She thinks I’m somehow to blame for what happened to Dov,” said Ed. “I’ve got an idea that Arik feels the same.”

“No, believe me,” she said solemnly. “It’s just that everyone is still so shocked by what happened. We do not hold this against you. Not Esther, Not my father. None of us.” She raised a hand to push her long hair back from her face. Once again, he was mes- merized by her emerald green eyes. He searched for something to say. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand Hebrew, but what you said by the grave moved everyone. Dov would have been proud. I’m sure your father was.”

“Thanks, maybe he was,” she said curtly. “He didn’t say.” The color rose in her cheeks. “Now come, my aunt would like to talk with you.” She guided Ed to the leather sofa across from Esther. The other mourners had departed. The widow was drawn and gray.

“Mr. Diamond, I am sorry if I am rude before. I hope you understand.”

“Of course. Please,” he put his hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to—”

“I do know it is not your fault. You are just answering Dov’s call. He insists on calling you.”

Ed hesitated. Esther was exhausted, emotionally drained, but he had to ask. “What was it about? What did he want?”

She looked away. “He—he won’t tell me. He—all I know is that, the evening before he calls you, he is here, reading the paper and watching television, like always. When I come out of the kitchen, he is very upset.”

“What was he watching?”

“I don’t know. Usually CNN. He tells me he cannot believe what is happening.”

“Happening where?”

“I don’t know.” Esther threw up her hands. “He says he doesn’t want me involved. That night he does not sleep. He is up all the time. Walking. Around and around. Like an animal in a cage. For years, I don’t see him like that. The next morning he says he is going to call you. He says he trusts you. I have bad feeling about it. I don’t want him to do it. But he doesn’t listen.”

She stared at the picture of her dead husband on the bookcase. “He doesn’t listen to me—or to Arik. He says it is too important. Someone has to make the alarm.”

“Alarm about what?”

She looked helplessly at the reporter and shook her head. “And then, he has to go back to the spa. Why? Why?”

“But I don’t understand,” said Ed. “The declaration the terrorists made today was that they murdered Dov because he had targeted radical Palestinian leaders when he was in the Mossad. What does any of that have to do with his call to me?”

Esther’s eyes widened. She bit her lower lip.
“Please, what is it?” he asked. “What’s going on?”
She looked at Gabriella.
“It’s all right, show him,” said her niece.
Esther hesitated.
“Dodah, it’s all right.”
Esther walked unsteadily to the bookcase. She opened a cupboard on the left-hand side, removed a piece of paper, and returned. “Yesterday, just before the bomb goes off, the fax rings on Dov’s desk. It is this message.”

She showed the fax to Ed. There were two sentences hand– written on it, in a script that appeared to be Hebrew.

“Can you translate this?”

Gabriella took the paper. “It’s ancient Aramaic,” she said. “It is addressed to Dov and says, ‘Warning to those who commit sins causing dissension in the community, passing malicious information to the gentiles, or revealing the secrets of the town.’ It goes on to say, ‘Next time there will be no warning.’”

“You mean that bomb was supposed to have just been a warning?” said Ed. “It wasn’t supposed to have killed him?”

Esther stared ahead.

“That’s what we think,” said Gabriella. “Usually my uncle would never have been there when the bomb went off. He went to work at the spa early in the morning around eight. Then he would come back around 11:30, have lunch, rest, go to his study, read, write. During the tourist season, he’d go back in the late afternoon, maybe four or five, to see if there were any problems. But yesterday he went back down right after lunch.”

“He has to fix the computer at the cashier’s desk,” Esther explained. “The cashier’s desk is next to the front door.”

All expression had drained from her face.
“Do the police know about this?”
“The Shabak come last night. I tell them the same thing I tell you.”
“They took the fax with them,” said Gabriella. “I made a copy.” “Esther, I’m sorry to push so hard,” said Ed. “I hope you understand. I’ve got to go now. I’m staying in Jerusalem tonight, but I’m flying to Paris early tomorrow morning.” He took the widow’s hands and continued. “If you do find out more, please let me know. And if I can ever do anything to help, don’t hesitate to call.”

Not a very gracious exit, thought Ed, considering the circum- stances: Dov is dead because of what he wanted to tell me—but what the hell was it?

Gabriella accompanied him to the door. “I’ll walk you to your hotel.” The children were no longer playing on the lawn; the sun was at its peak. They strolled along the bamboo-shaded path toward the hotel, Ed very conscious of the attractive woman at his side.

“So that’s it? You’re not going to investigate Dov’s killing any further?”

“Unfortunately, I’ve got to get back to my office. I’ve another report to complete. And then I’ve got to get to New York. Besides, I wouldn’t know where to begin on this. Your intelligence services are supposed to be the best in the world. What could I possibly come up with on my own?” He’d almost convinced himself.

They walked for a while in silence. Her skin gave off a faint scent. Jasmine?

“You mentioned you are going to Jerusalem now. Would you give me a ride? That’s where I live. I came here with my father last night. But he had to go back early. I was going to take the bus.”

“Of course.”

“Great.” She touched Ed’s bare arm. “I’ll go and get my bag. Meet you here in ten minutes, okay?”

Ed watched as she turned toward her aunt’s house. His skin still tingled at her touch.

When he looked back, he noticed a tall, broad- shouldered man who looked like an ad for a Nautilus workout at the hotel door. He wore a white open-necked shirt, had an angular Slavic face, and appeared to be in his midthirties. He was staring at Ed and made no secret of it. Ed had seen him talking with Arik at Esther’s house half an hour before. He stepped forward to produce an ID card with the blue shield of Israel printed in the center. “Mr. Diamond, Amos Givron, Shabak. We are investigating the bomb- ing. I need to talk with you.”

“Fine. But I really don’t know how I can help.”

“We will see.” He contemplated Ed now with hard, unfriendly eyes. “Please, come with me.”

“I’ve also got to get to Jerusalem tonight.” Ed said.

As if he hadn’t heard, Givron continued into the hotel. Suppressing a brief surge of anger, Ed followed him past the gift shop, where a noisy group of tourists was trying on souvenir T-shirts, and into the cafeteria. The two men bought coffee and then sat at a small table by the window. The only other people in the room were sun-bleached teenagers, a boy and a girl in shorts and sandals, their heads close together, talking softly. The boy had a light blond beard.

Givron glanced at the couple, gazed out the window where hotel guests sat around the swimming pool shaded by giant palms, and then looked back at Ed. “As I said, Mr. Diamond, we are looking into yesterday’s bombing.”

Ed furrowed his brow. “I thought a Palestinian group has taken responsibility, the Sons of the Prophet.”

“They did—at least that’s the e-mail they sent to the press this morning.”

“You don’t think it was them?”
“I said we are still investigating,” said Givron testily.
“But why Dov Ben-David? I mean, he was retired, and he was known to favor a deal with the Palestinians.”
The Israeli looked up sharply. “Mr. Diamond, why don’t you let me ask the questions.”
Ed shrugged. “Be my guest.”
“Why did you come to Israel?”
“Dov called and asked me to come.”
“Did he say what it was about?”
“He didn’t want to talk about it over the phone.”
“I don’t understand, Mr. Diamond.” The tanned young girl cross the room began to laugh softly. Givron paused and glanced in her direction. Her boyfriend had his hand under the table; she had her foot raised between his legs. “Look, you are in Paris, and someone in Israel phones you, tells you to come to Israel, but says he can’t tell you why. And you—a very busy, very famous reporter—you simply drop what you are doing and fly to Israel.”

“No, you look, Mr. Givron. Dov was an old friend. I’d known him for many years. I trusted him. If he said ‘Come,’ that meant it was important.”

Givron’s eyes narrowed. “He helped you in the past—when he was with the Mossad, of course? Just how did he help you?”

“I can’t tell you. You can be assured he gave away none of Israel’s valuable secrets. But that’s as far as I’ll go. I’m a reporter. I protect my sources—even when they’re dead. That’s something authorities in my country understand.”

“You are no longer in your country,” Givron said flintily. “You are here, in Israel. We play by different rules. We are surrounded by enemies. We take our security laws seriously. It’s not up to you to decide if Dov Ben-David broke them by talking to you. It’s up to us. Perhaps what he revealed to you is connected with the bombing.”

Ed felt his temper flare. “Hey, I’m as interested as you to discover who killed Dov! And why! So cut the shit—and back off.” Ed rose from his chair. “Now, unless you’re going to arrest me for something specific, I’m out of here.”

The young couple stared at them across the room. Givron’s jaw tightened. He took a deep drag on his cigarette, exhaled, and smiled grimly. “Arrest you? Who’s talking about arresting you?” He spread his hands wide. “You are free to go. But if you do get any information, we shall expect you to be in contact with us, you understand? Another thing, Mr. Diamond…”

“Yes?”

“An intelligent man like you should be more cautious before he jumps into situations he knows nothing about.” His eyebrows arched. “You are dealing with crazy people here. You get in the way, they kill you.”

———————-

I’ll be publishing more excerpts, but if you don’t want to wait, you can download the book this week for only $0.99 while it’s featured on Amazon.  Also available in softcover.

“The Watchman’s File”-Israel’s most closely guarded secret-excerpt

5:40 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

 

I invite you to read the latest excerpt  from my mystery, “The Watchman’s File, specially featured on Amazon’s Kindle this week. It’s the gripping tale of an American TV reporter, Ed Diamond, as he attempts to unravel Israel’s most closely-guarded secret. (It’s not the bomb) To whet your interest, I’ve been posting excerpts here.

To recap the story to this point, Ed Diamond, based in Paris, receives an urgent call to come to Israel from an old friend, Dov Ben-David, former deputy director of Israel’s Mossad. Dov has shocking information, he says, concerning the U.S. and Israel. Diamond flies to Israel, but before they can meet, Dov is blown apart by a car bomb.

The next day, Diamond attends Ben-David’s funeral at the kibbutz of Ein Gedi, by the Dead Sea……………………

Excerpt 5:

Ed could smell  the lavender and myrrh the next morning as he passed Ein Gedi’s botanical garden on his way to the cemetery. He’d spent the night at the kibbutz hotel; the mild asthma attack he’d had yesterday seemed to have passed.

Today again the sprinklers were whirring, the vivid green of the lawn in stark contrast to the bleached canyons and parched mountain cliffs. The rows of tombstones were flat and unadorned, bearing names, dates, brief inscriptions. Several sturdy young men, in plain clothes but obviously military security, were dotted around the perimeter of the cemetery.

Ed threaded his way among the hundreds of mourners, many of them prominent government officials in dark suits or sports shirts, small skull caps on the back of their heads. Former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu shook hands gravely. Netanyahu was not aging well, thought Ed: puffy jowls, bloated waist. Ehud Olmert huddled with the current head of the Mossad, arm around his shoulders. Ed couldn’t help feeling a certain gratification as he noted the attention that he—a rising television celebrity—was also receiving.

“Ed Diamond,” exclaimed a rasping voice behind him. “What is the illustrious American reporter doing here?” Ed turned to face a slender man in his fifties with thinning gray hair, hooded brown eyes, and a vise-like grip. It was Moshe Weinstein, once the subject of a report by Ed, just before Weinstein resigned as defense minister. “I can no longer be part of a government,” he’d told Ed in their interview, “that refuses to deal seriously with the Palestinians.” It was a headline-making statement from a one-time hawk, a man who had commanded Israel’s vaunted air force. Weinstein had since formed his own “Peace Today” party.

“Damn shame what happened to Dov,” said Weinstein.

“It’s so ironic,” said Ed. “Dov makes it through all those years risking his life on the front lines; then he retires and they get him.”

“You don’t know the whole story,” said Weinstein, reaching up to adjust his yarmulke.

“What do you mean?”

“Normally the spa’s coffee shop is fairly empty at the time the bomb went off—it’s the laziest part of the day. Dov just happened to be there. He took a plate glass window in his face.” Weinstein drew a finger across his neck. “It cut the carotid like a butcher’s knife, almost took his whole head right off.”

“Good God,” Ed shuddered. “What do the police say?”

“A very professional job. Nitrate-based explosives packed in a van. Detonated by remote control, probably a cell phone. We had hoped the Wall would end such attacks. It did for a while; somehow they’re beginning to get through again.”

“Do they know who was responsible?”

“Perhaps. About an hour ago a new Palestinian terrorist group, the Sons of the Prophet, claimed credit. They called Dov an ‘enemy of the Palestinian people’ for the things he did with the Mossad. They warned that all such enemies would suffer the same fate. ‘Allah is Great!’ and all that.”

“That was it?”

“More or less.” Weinstein paused. “Look, I don’t know much about them. I’m no longer in the government. They are supposed to be very small, very secret. But why did they go after Dov? They are playing by new rules. You probably heard that they’re also now involved with Al Qaeda—trying to produce biological weapons in Pakistan.” Weinstein shook his head. “Can you believe it? How do we make peace in this insane place?”

The cemetery was filling up. A heavyset man limped toward them. He had a shock of thick gray hair, a broad, furrowed brow, and a black ribbon in the lapel of his blazer. Ed recognized him at once. It was Dov Ben-David’s younger brother, Arik, much better known in Israel than Dov. He and Weinstein shook hands stiffly, with no pretense of friendship.

To fill the silence, Weinstein formally introduced Arik to Ed. The Israeli’s grip was dry, firm, his voice resonant, the tone of one used to command. “Shalom, Ed Diamond. I’ve heard of you.” His eyes were his most striking feature, a pale emerald green, like the inside of an iceberg. They bore right into you, thought Ed. Not necessarily hostile, just letting me know who’s in charge, like a rhino, or a leopard staking out his turf.

Arik Ben-David was a military hero in a country of military heroes—once one of Israel’s youngest generals. Ed knew the story: After being wounded by shrapnel in Lebanon in 1982, Ben-David transferred to the Mossad; then left the government a few years back to become involved in a variety of successful private enterprises—including some very lucrative clandestine arms deals with China.

“I’m sorry about your brother,” said Ed. “He was a very admirable, decent man. It must be a great loss.”

“Of course it is,” said Ben-David quietly. “Of course.” Something flickered in his eyes. He glanced at his Rolex. “Thank you for coming. Please excuse me, I have to greet others.”

“An interesting man,” said Moshe Weinstein as Ben David walked away. “Both he and Dov were involved with ridding us of radical Palestinians—PFLP and Hamas back then.”

“I knew about Dov.”

“Yes, well, the difference was that Dov regretted each killing. Arik, I think he really enjoyed it. He was actually forced out of the Mossad—too extreme. His son was killed by a Hezbollah rocket in south Lebanon. Deep down he hates the Arabs.

The sun was already high in the sky when the funeral service began. Across the Dead Sea, the pastel mountains of Jordan glimmered ghostlike through the haze. Like Ed, many of the men had removed their jackets. From where the reporter stood, he could see Dov’s widow, Esther, dressed in a short-sleeved black blouse and skirt, her daughter on one side, her son on the other. She gazed unflinchingly at the simple wooden coffin, apparently oblivious to the mourners around her. Arik Ben-David stood behind her, ramrod stiff, his large hand on her shoulder. Remembering the gruesome aftermath of the bombing, Ed couldn’t help wondering how much of Dov Ben-David was actually in the coffin.

There were a few traditional prayers, readings of poetry and texts composed by relatives and friends. The current prime minister spoke, as did the head of the Mossad and Arik Ben-David.

Then a tall, willowy woman who had been standing near Esther stepped forward. Even in somber mourning garb with no makeup, she was striking: her long chestnut hair framed an oval face, full lips, and the same remarkable pale emerald eyes as Arik Ben-David. She carried herself with the sort of poise you don’t learn, thought Ed. It was unaffected, almost regal. He glanced at Weinstein.

Gabriella Ben-David—Dov’s niece—Arik’s daughter,” Weinstein whispered, as the woman began to speak in Hebrew.

Ed couldn’t understand the words, but her voice, vibrant and clear, flowed over the mourners like a soothing balm. When she had finished, the silence was broken only by scattered sobs from the mourners and the cries of the starlings soaring on the currents of air that rose from the desert. Ed’s throat was tight. He brushed his eyes; Weinstein did the same.

At the conclusion of the service, each mourner placed a few pebbles or flowers on the newly turned earth; then they filed past the widow and her family to offer condolences. When Ed’s turn came, he took her hand. “Esther, Ed Diamond. You probably don’t remember me.” Her hand was limp. “I had dinner at your apartment in Tel Aviv a few years ago.” She stared right through him, dark circles under her eyes. It seemed she hadn’t registered a word. Ed stumbled on. “All I can say is I admired Dov so much, and I—”

She interrupted abruptly, her eyes suddenly ablaze. “I tell Dov not to call you. I tell him. But he doesn’t listen to me. He doesn’t listen.” She paused. Her lower lip trembled. “So now you are not making your interview with him, are you, Mr. Diamond? You make your trip for nothing.”

Ed was stunned by her vehemence. He opened his mouth but could find nothing to say. He was obliged to move on as Esther turned to greet the next mourner. Not sure what to do next, he wandered back through the gardens and ascended a gravel path to a wooden bench that overlooked the Dead Sea.

He sat there, gazing at the shimmering mountains of Moab and tried to fathom Esther’s violent outburst. How could he be responsible for Dov’s death? What was it Dov had wanted to tell him? Something to do with the United States and Israel, he’d said. But what? Ed frowned. This was not really the appropriate moment to ask Dov’s widow, even if she was willing to talk with him. But he had no choice: he’d already booked himself on the El Al flight early the next morning. He waited an hour until most of the mourners had left before he approached the Ben-David home.

To Be Continued

(I’ll be posting further excerpts, but for just a few days, you can also download the book in Kindle ebook format from Amazon.com’s U.S. store for only $0.99. The book is also available on Amazon in soft-cover).

 

 

Iran’s Nukes: The 2 elephants in the room.

4:05 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister, 1959.

You want chutzpah? This is chutzpah: an Oped piece this week in the New York Times by a prominent Israel journalist, Ari Shavit, lambasting George W. Bush—not Barack Obama—for the fact that Iran is on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power. Instead of going after Iraq in 2003, says Shavit, instead of fatally draining Americas’s resources and prestige, Bush should have organized a coordinated coalition of powers to throttle a much weaker Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Where’s the chutzpah? Well, for one thing, if you want to blame an American president for failing to prevent nuclear weapons being introduced into the Middle East—and then passively accepting their presence–the list of culprits begins with Dwight D. Eisenhower, and continues through just about every American President since.

The nuclear weapons we’re talking about are not Iran’s feared–but not yet existing-devices, but Israel’s very real nuclear arsenal.  Somehow Shavit, like most Israeli and American commentators analyzing the standoff with Iran, never gets around to the fact that Israel has had nuclear weapons for the past half a century.

The New York Time’s Tom Friedman—who also rarely mentions Israel’s nukes–points out that we’re right to distrust Iran’s assurances, because its government “has lied and cheated its way to the precipice of building a bomb.”  That’s an excellent description of the tactics Israel used to obtain its nuclear arsenal.  But it would never have succeeded without the willingness of so many leaders—American and others—to turn their back to what was going on.

For instance, in 1963-64, Argentina played a major role in providing Israel with 80-100 tons of uranium oxide (“yellowcake”) vital for Israel’s clandestine nuclear program.

Those secret Argentine shipments were quickly discovered by Canadian intelligence officials in 1964, who passed on the news to their British and American colleagues, who passed it on to their civilian leaders. That revelation cast strong doubts on Israel’s claims that its nuclear program was completely peaceful.

So, what happened? “In response to U.S. carefully worried diplomatic queries about the sale, the government of Israel spent years dancing around any straightforward replies. The U.S. and its allies showed no appetite to seriously challenge Israel’s on-going evasions.

Theirs, as I’ve previously blogged, was the continuation of an ostrich-like policy that began under Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950’s—and continues to this day.

As Seymour Hersh chronicled in “The Sampson Option,” in 1958 or 1959 America’s U2 spy planes spotted what looked almost certainly to be a nuclear reactor being built at Dimona in southern Israel. Two analysts rushed the raw images to the White House, expecting urgent demands from the Oval Office for more information: this was, after all, a development that could initiate a disastrous nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

But there was absolutely no follow-up from the White House.

“By the end of 1959,” writes Hersh, “the two analysts had no doubts that Israel was going for the bomb. They also had no doubts that President Eisenhower and his advisers were determined to look the other way.”

France—which is now in the forefront of nations demanding that Iran forswear the right to enrich uranium to its end–was also secretly helping the Israel build its nuclear facilities.

When the Eisenhower administration finally acted indirectly–leaking word of Dimona and France’s involvement to the New York Times in December 1960, Israel’s David Ben Gurion flatly denied the Times report.

He assured American officials –as well as the Israeli Knesset–that the Dimona reactor was completely benign. French officials guaranteed that any plutonium produced at Dimona would be returned to France for safekeeping (another lie).

The Eisenhower administration, however, had no stomach to take on Israel and its American lobby. Despite the continued reports of CIA analysts, Ben Gurion’s denials went unchallenged.

That hypocrisy remains official American policy—and mainline media coverage of Israel–to this day: a wink and a nod about Israel’s nuclear program. .

The hardnosed attitude is: Yeah, o.k. the Israelis have nukes. But, what the hell. They’re threatened with extinction by their neighbors, like that half-crazed Iranian-leader whatshisname? Amunjihad?, and terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas, eager to wipe Israel off the map.

The fact, however, is that Israel also has its share of  political crazies, some of whom have been increasingly powerful over the last few years, crazies who have talked openly of using nuclear weapons on Iran, and continue to advocate a Greater Israel free of all Arabs. And as far as attacking its neighbors, Israel has invaded Lebanon twice over the past few years, swarmed into Gaza, bombed and carried out air strikes in Iraq and Syria,

But it’s not just Israel’s nuclear weapons that are only whispered about in Washington, there’s another elephant in the room: the major force driving U.S. policy on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program is not cool, rational logic, but the pro-Israel lobby.

Twenty years ago, when we did a report at Sixty Minutes on the most influential part of that lobby, AIPAC, not a single sitting senator or congressman would talk to us on the record; though all agreed on the lobby’s enormous power, second only to the NRA. (As if to prove the point, when our report aired, it generated more vicious calls and condemnation than any other report I’d ever done. )

Twenty years later, the issue of the pro-Israel lobby is still so sensitive that the New York Time’s Tom Friedman, created a sensation of sorts by stating a fact that that most mainstream columnists have are still leery of tackling.

“Never,” Friedman wrote, “have I seen more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — more willing to take Israel’s side against their own president’s. I’m certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.”

For his efforts, Friedman’s column was viciously and immediately attacked by the usual suspects, with the usual charges.

[MJ Rosenberg, who spent 20 years dealing with AIPAC as an aide to a senator and several House members, has also written several accounts of Aipac’s influence. “Initially,” he wrote, “I felt like a voice in the wilderness.”

The bottom line is this — whatever your view about Iran or Israel’s right to nuclear weapons — how can statesmen or reporters or anyone seriously discuss the current crisis over Iran when a key part of the dispute is officially hidden from view?

How can the U.S. and Israel deal with proposals for non-proliferation and a nuclear free Middle East when they still refuse officially to acknowledge that the region is not nuclear free — and hasn’t been for the past 50 years?

How can they discuss and vote on these issues intelligently when many of the congressional players are acting not for the good of the country or the Middle East but according to the wishes of a very narrow and partisan lobby—whose influence many won’t even acknowledge?
 

Barry Lando has just recently finished a novel “The Watchman’s File” about the attempts of an American TV reporter to unravel the secret behind Israel’s most powerful weapon (it’s not the bomb). The book is available on Amazon in soft cover and Kindle edition.

Photo by Cohen Fritz, public domain

Israel’s Most Closely-Guarded Secret-another installment “The Watchman’s File”

8:34 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

I invite you to read another installment of my new mystery novel, “The Watchman’s File”. It follows the efforts of  American TV investigative reporter, Ed Diamond, to unravel Israel’s most closely-guarded secret. (It’s not the bomb). Previous installments are available on my site. Here’s the last part of Chapter One. (Diamond had received an urgent call to fly to Israel to meet with an old, very reliable source, Dov Ben-David, former deputy director of the Mossad, now retired and living at the kibbutz of Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea,). 

———–

Another hour and a half to go, thought Ed as he sipped a bottle of water. He bypassed Jerusalem and continued through hardscrabble gulches, home to a few remaining Bedouins, their camels and donkeys hobbled next to their battered pickups. The road turned south, dipped into the Judean Desert. On the right, the bone-dry mountains and gorges of what geologists call the Afro-Syrian Rift; ahead and to the left, the Dead Sea shimmered in the late-afternoon heat.

Suddenly, a police car flashed by, its siren howling, dust flaring in the sun. Careening after it, with the same banshee wail, came another police car, then another.

A terrorist attack at Masada or Beersheba, thought Ed. It was just after five p.m. He turned on the car radio and found the English-language news broadcast from Kol Yisrael.

“….three other people were injured. The blast occurred at three forty-five this afternoon. According to reports, the explosive charge was placed in a Volkswagen van parked near the café. Two of the injured were tourists. No one has yet claimed responsibility.

“Meanwhile in Damascus, the US secretary of state refused comment after completing talks with the Syrian president. Sources close to the secretary were ‘disappointed’ by the lack of progress.”

Jesus, thought Ed as the announcer rattled on, how the hell can anyone live with the constant tension in this place, the threat of violence always ready to explode? A military jeep and van roared by, headed north.

At the turnoff for the kibbutz, he saw where all the emergency traffic was coming from: a few hundred yards down the highway was a cluster of military jeeps and trucks. Soldiers in olive-green battle dress had cordoned off a group of buildings by the Dead Sea: the Ein Gedi Spa.

Ed parked and walked to the checkpoint. A gaggle of German tourists had stopped, and one of them, a potbellied blonde, was chattering into her cell phone, giving a strident account to friends or family in Germany. The others were taking pictures of one another posed in front of the soldiers.

A stringy, gray-haired reservist manned the checkpoint, a TAR-21 slung from his shoulder. Ed produced his Israeli press pass.

“Only emergency workers allowed through.”

“What happened?” asked Ed.

“A car bomb at the spa.”

“When?”

“I don’t know,” the reservist snapped. “Two hours ago. Maybe less. I can’t talk to media.”

The explosion had hit thirty yards away. The van must have been parked by the front door of the spa’s café. Shards of painted silver metal, twisted steel and chrome, were all that remained of the vehicle. The blast had cratered the highway, knocked a hole in the cement wall of the coffee shop, blown out the door and all the windows.

Two investigators in plain clothes were picking through the debris, taking measurements and notes as they went. Three young men wearing bright yellow vests—ultra-Orthodox volunteers from the Zaka organization—were carefully collecting body parts and shards of human flesh, some hanging from the branches of the palm trees, to return to their families for religious burial.

There was still a thin veil of dust and a faint, acrid smell in the air. Ed coughed a couple of times. He could already feel his chest tightening. An army colonel wearing wraparound sunglasses and the double-eagle insignia of AMAN came over. Between coughs, Ed again produced his press pass.

“No comment,” said the colonel. He was obviously from the States originally.

 

“Just tell me, off the record, what happened?” Ed paused for a breath. “I’ve a friend who lives here.”

“Can’t do.” The officer nodded toward the nearby hill. “Ask at the kibbutz.”

Ed gasped again, and the officer’s eyes abruptly narrowed as the reporter reached for his pocket and withdrew a dark-blue device.

“Asthma,” said Ed. “The dust.” The last thing he needed was for this hair-trigger colonel to think he was reaching for a weapon. He inserted the inhaler in his mouth, pressed, and inhaled deeply. After a few minutes, he could feel the bronchial passages opening, but the relief was only temporary. His breathing was still labored. He had to get away from the site and the irritants swirling in the air.

****

He walked unsteadily to his car, drove back to the highway, and waited there for a few minutes until the attack had receded. Then he took the asphalt road that wound up the hill to Ein Gedi, passed a soccer field, where teenagers in blue shorts and T-shirts scampered about as if car bombs were a daily occurrence, and pulled into the parking lot by the dining hall and a newly built auditorium. Children ran laughing through sprinklers that watered the thick green lawn. Tidy flowerbeds lined the paths leading to the bungalows. This could be a middle-class suburb anywhere in the Southwest, thought Ed, if it weren’t for the Israeli flag flapping in the breeze, the security fence ringing the entire settlement, and those young men back at the blast site and their baskets of human flesh.

There was a cluster of people at the entrance to the dining hall. They stared at Ed as he approached. He stopped before a squat man wearing a Dodgers baseball cap, sandals, and khaki shorts. He was peeling an orange.

“Shalom,” said Ed, “can you tell me where is the house of Dov Ben-David?”

“Who wants to know?” The man put a wedge of orange into his mouth.

“Ed Diamond. I’m, uh, an old friend of Dov’s.”

“It’s too soon to be making condolence calls, don’t you think?”

The man squinted against the sun and tossed the orange peel into the dust. “Dov—he’s dead, alev hashalom, killed by the bomb.”

 

Another hour and a half to go, thought Ed as he sipped a bottle of water. He bypassed Jerusalem and continued through hardscrabble gulches, home to a few remaining Bedouins, their camels and donkeys hobbled next to their battered pickups. The road turned south, dipped into the Judean Desert. On the right, the bone-dry mountains and gorges of what geologists call the Afro-Syrian Rift; ahead and to the left, the Dead Sea shimmered in the late-afternoon heat.

Suddenly, a police car flashed by, its siren howling, dust flaring in the sun. Careening after it, with the same banshee wail, came another police car, then another.

A terrorist attack at Masada or Beersheba, thought Ed. It was just after five p.m. He turned on the car radio and found the English-language news broadcast from Kol Yisrael.

“….three other people were injured. The blast occurred at three forty-five this afternoon. According to reports, the explosive charge was placed in a Volkswagen van parked near the café. Two of the injured were tourists. No one has yet claimed responsibility.

“Meanwhile in Damascus, the US secretary of state refused comment after completing talks with the Syrian president. Sources close to the secretary were ‘disappointed’ by the lack of progress.”

Jesus, thought Ed as the announcer rattled on, how the hell can anyone live with the constant tension in this place, the threat of violence always ready to explode? A military jeep and van roared by, headed north.

At the turnoff for the kibbutz, he saw where all the emergency traffic was coming from: a few hundred yards down the highway was a cluster of military jeeps and trucks. Soldiers in olive-green battle dress had cordoned off a group of buildings by the Dead Sea: the Ein Gedi Spa.

Ed parked and walked to the checkpoint. A gaggle of German tourists had stopped, and one of them, a potbellied blonde, was chattering into her cell phone, giving a strident account to friends or family in Germany. The others were taking pictures of one another posed in front of the soldiers.

A stringy, gray-haired reservist manned the checkpoint, a TAR-21 slung from his shoulder. Ed produced his Israeli press pass.

“Only emergency workers allowed through.”

“What happened?” asked Ed.

“A car bomb at the spa.”

“When?”

“I don’t know,” the reservist snapped. “Two hours ago. Maybe less. I can’t talk to media.”

The explosion had hit thirty yards away. The van must have been parked by the front door of the spa’s café. Shards of painted silver metal, twisted steel and chrome, were all that remained of the vehicle. The blast had cratered the highway, knocked a hole in the cement wall of the coffee shop, blown out the door and all the windows.

Two investigators in plain clothes were picking through the debris, taking measurements and notes as they went. Three young men wearing bright yellow vests—ultra-Orthodox volunteers from the Zaka organization—were carefully collecting body parts and shards of human flesh, some hanging from the branches of the palm trees, to return to their families for religious burial.

There was still a thin veil of dust and a faint, acrid smell in the air. Ed coughed a couple of times. He could already feel his chest tightening. An army colonel wearing wraparound sunglasses and the double-eagle insignia of AMAN came over. Between coughs, Ed again produced his press pass.

“No comment,” said the colonel. He was obviously from the States originally.

 

“Just tell me, off the record, what happened?” Ed paused for a breath. “I’ve a friend who lives here.”

“Can’t do.” The officer nodded toward the nearby hill. “Ask at the kibbutz.”

Ed gasped again, and the officer’s eyes abruptly narrowed as the reporter reached for his pocket and withdrew a dark-blue device.

“Asthma,” said Ed. “The dust.” The last thing he needed was for this hair-trigger colonel to think he was reaching for a weapon. He inserted the inhaler in his mouth, pressed, and inhaled deeply. After a few minutes, he could feel the bronchial passages opening, but the relief was only temporary. His breathing was still labored. He had to get away from the site and the irritants swirling in the air.

****

He walked unsteadily to his car, drove back to the highway, and waited there for a few minutes until the attack had receded. Then he took the asphalt road that wound up the hill to Ein Gedi, passed a soccer field, where teenagers in blue shorts and T-shirts scampered about as if car bombs were a daily occurrence, and pulled into the parking lot by the dining hall and a newly built auditorium. Children ran laughing through sprinklers that watered the thick green lawn. Tidy flowerbeds lined the paths leading to the bungalows. This could be a middle-class suburb anywhere in the Southwest, thought Ed, if it weren’t for the Israeli flag flapping in the breeze, the security fence ringing the entire settlement, and those young men back at the blast site and their baskets of human flesh.

There was a cluster of people at the entrance to the dining hall. They stared at Ed as he approached. He stopped before a squat man wearing a Dodgers baseball cap, sandals, and khaki shorts. He was peeling an orange.

“Shalom,” said Ed, “can you tell me where is the house of Dov Ben-David?”

“Who wants to know?” The man put a wedge of orange into his mouth.

“Ed Diamond. I’m, uh, an old friend of Dov’s.”

“It’s too soon to be making condolence calls, don’t you think?”

The man squinted against the sun and tossed the orange peel into the dust. “Dov—he’s dead, alev hashalom, killed by the bomb.”

————

I will be posting further installments, but the book is also available on Amazon in soft cover or Kindle formats. Further information about the book, what reviewers have written, and background of the author, are available on my site.

 

Israel’s most closely-guarded secret: “The Watchman’s File” (an installment)

7:41 pm in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

I invite you to read another installment from my new mystery novel, “The Watchman’s File”, about the U.S. and Israel’s most closely-guarded secret. (It’s not the bomb). The book is available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon.

Chapter 1  

RECENTLY, IN ISRAEL

Dov Ben-David cursed as he strode down the hill at Ein Gedi. He’d been looking forward to an afternoon at home on the kibbutz when the call came. It was Hannah Ginsberg at the kibbutz’s spa, a quarter mile away by the turgid, gunmetal waters of the Dead Sea. The computer had crashed–again.

“So? Reboot,” said Dov.

“I did. Still doesn’t work.”

“What about Schmuel?”

“In Beersheba.”

Son of a bitch. The entire spa paralyzed because of a Paleolithic computer and a klutzy manager. So here he was: Dov Ben-David, the former deputy director of Israel’s feared Mossad, the man responsible for liquidating anyone who posed a mortal threat to the Jewish State—from Palestinian terrorists to Iranian nuclear scientists—here he was, turning his day upside down to deal with a problem a ten-year-old child could fix. But not Hannah Ginsberg. She’d drown in a saucer of tea.

Dov was a tall, lanky man, with great bushy eyebrows and dark, penetrating eyes; seventy-two years old, sinewy, and fit. He wore khaki shorts, sandals, and a tattered straw hat to shield his balding head. It was hot, bloody hot: perspiration was already coursing down his ruddy face. He should be at home, napping, before undertaking his daily afternoon of writing and research on one or another arcane topic of ancient Israeli archaeology.

What better counterpoint to a life dedicated to duplicity and death? Since his first years at  Ein Gedi, Dov had become obsessed with deciphering the past. Now, in retirement, he could spend all the time he wanted exploring the ancient ruins, caves, and crevices on the Israeli side of the rift valley that had been home to man for the past four thousand years. In a moment of weakness, he had also agreed to use his once-feared organizational skills to help run Ein Gedi’s Dead Sea Spa. That, he now knew, was a major mistake. He’d resign at the end of the year.

He walked into the coffee shop, glared at Hannah Ginsberg, and headed for the computer at the cashier’s desk. Hannah shrugged, brought him a cup of tea, and then went back to wiping off the countertop. Avram Levy, the graying, pudgy kibbutz security guard, was at the food counter concentrating on his daily crossword puzzle. Three tables were filled with French tourists having an early afternoon snack.

Dov took a seat at the cashier’s desk and glowered at the computer: an ancient, hulking IBM, an embarrassing relic. The kibbutz could never seem to find the money to buy a new one. Dov waited while it rebooted. It was like watching the tide come in.

Hopefully, he might still have an hour or so back at home before the American reporter arrived, a chance to shower, collect his thoughts. He was surprised at how rattled he’d been by the news. Was it age? Not at all. His mind was still fit. He’d had to deal with all kinds of alarming information during his long clandestine career. But he knew when to push the panic button, and he knew it was now.

The potential for disaster was far too fearsome to be ignored—and still he had hesitated. This was perilous ground. Let someone else act this time. He had spent too much of his life risking his skin for his country. Why put himself on the line again?

Essentially, because he had no choice: he alone understood the danger. The consequences could be catastrophic—for Israel and the United States.

He’d considered his options. He could alert old Israeli contacts; he had an impressive network. But no, that wouldn’t do. He had to reach out further for allies. He had to totally destroy the threat.

So he’d made the call.

The reporter would be here in a couple of hours.

Together they would expose the entire story to the world.

He vaguely saw the silver van come to a stop in the no parking zone next to the entrance to the spa. A young Arab-looking kid in jeans and a T-shirt got out and walked quickly away. A bit too quickly. “Avram,” said Dov, ”Why don’t you check out the van.”

He turned his attention back to the computer, but when there was no acknowledgement from the security guard, he looked up again to see the men’s room door swinging shut. He glanced towards the window again.

Suddenly there was a blinding flash.

He swore aloud, but his words were lost in a deafening blast that shattered the plate glass window before him.

He saw the silver van disintegrating as it hurtled toward him, and then there was nothing more to see.

A giant claw ripped at his throat and lifted his body into the air, slowly, as if in a dream.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Other excerpts are available at my site:

U.S. Aid to Egypt: Let them eat F-16′s

9:40 am in Uncategorized by Barry Lando

There is something almost obscene about the announcement out of Washington that the U.S. is going ahead with plans to deliver more sophisticated military equipment to Egypt, despite the military coup that overthrew President Mohammed Morsi.

F-16

F-16

With Egypt in meltdown, its economy in tatters, food prices soaring,  land and water resources disappearing, unemployment rampant, the  government a shambles, what is the United States offering in the way of aid to this basket-case nation?

Four F-16 fighter jets.

This despite that fact that, by law, the Obama administration is supposed to cut off aid to regimes that seize power via military coups. But not this coup.

In the wake of the bloody shootings in Cairo last week, and even as the military continues to arrest hundreds of Moslem Brotherhood members, the Obama administration, in a hair-splitting fashion befitting a president who once headed the Harvard Law Review, has used every semantic trick in the book to avoid calling the coup that took place in Egypt–a coup.

The shipment of those F-16’s is also justified as the continuation of an on-going program of 20 planes—eight of which were sent to Egypt in January. The final eight will be shipped later this year.

Who will benefit by that American “aid”?

Mostly, America’s own Lockheed Martin, which sells those jets at  $15 million a copy. Add a few million more for spare parts, training, and ammunition, and you’ve got a half billion dollar deal.

Who will those jets be used to defend Egypt against? Years ago, the Egyptians might have said Israel. But you can be sure that there is no way the U.S. would give F-16’s to an Arab country unless Israel had already signed off on the deal—usually in return for assurances that U.S. equipment furnished to Israel would be far superior.

In fact, those planes are part of a $1.5 billion annual package of aid that the U.S. began giving Egypt after President Sadat signed the Camp David Peace accords with Israel in 1974. By far the largest part of that aid—$1.3 billion a year—has been going to the Egyptian military, in effect an on-going bribe to convince the generals not to ruffle waters with Israel.

What purpose that sophisticated American equipment serves Egypt—other than burnishing egos of the Egyptian military—is anyone’s guess. Similarly, since the only ones with oversight over Egypt’s military budget are Egypt’s military, no one can really be sure exactly how and where all those billions have been spent.

But again, who really cares–as long as they don’t rock the boat with Israel….

On the other hand, it’s only natural that America’s largesse should take the form of military aid. So much of America’s foreign policy over the past two decades —from Iraq to the Gulf to Afghanistan–has been defined in trillions of dollars in military equipment, sprawling bases and futile campaigns.

The other recent announcement of aid to Egypt, which dwarfs Americas, is also laced with hypocrisy. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a massive package totaling 12 billion dollars.

That sum, of course, is vastly greater than any financial aid those Arab states actually delivered to the Palestinians over the past many decades, despite all their rhetoric about supporting the Palestinian cause.

Which makes sense: As the Arab leaders of those three Gulf states see it the Muslim Brotherhood and the Arab Spring are a much greater existential threat to their corrupt regimes, than Israel ever was.

Indeed, they have long detested and feared the Muslim Brotherhood. Not so much the Brotherhood’s religious fervor, as their calls for reform –for an end to the corrupt ruling cliques which have treated the vast natural resources of their states as their personal property.

Their current hope of the leaders of those three Gulf states is that,  backed by their $12 billion dollars, Egypt’s generals will somehow be able to squelch the Muslim Brotherhood in what is by far the most important of Arab countries–and turn back the threat of the Arab Spring.

Finally, an intriguing question:  Was that huge Arab aid package quickly cobbled together after the coup? Or Isn’t it highly likely that, in the frantic maneuvering that preceded the military’s move, the Gulf rulers were already dangling those billions as a carrot before Egypt’s generals–to encourage them to overthrow Mohammed Morsi?

Probably with the knowledge—and approval?–of the United States.

For further on this, please follow me at http://barrymlando.com
Read the rest of this entry →